Barcelona

The first leg of last summer’s trip was Barcelona. My wife and I had never been to Spain before so this trip was pretty exciting, considering we have waited since the start of the year for this trip.

Planning out our itinerary for our stay in this city was not that difficult since Barcelona is filled with tourist spots and it’s one of those places that a lot of people had already been to. I’ve gone through different blogs and travel websites for tips and must-see’s until I had come up with a list of our chosen destinations.

July 16, 2015

We have arrived at our Airbnb home at night and we were welcomed warmly by our host, Claudia. We had only booked a private room but since she was going to be away for the time of our stay, we had the whole place to ourselves. It was literally just across the street from Sagrada Familia. Location-wise, it was perfect because from there, it was pretty easy to get to anywhere.

Airbnb private room right across Sagrada Familia for four nights: 92,- €

IMG_3706An alley behind the building of our Airbnb home, right across the street from Sagrada Familia. We’ve felt pretty safe walking around even late at night.

July 17, 2015

Mercat de la Boqueria was our first stop the next morning. It’s an old market hall that dates back to as far as the 1200’s. They sell fresh goods including lots and lots of fruits, even tropical ones but they were quite pricey and understandably so, since La Boqueria is one of the foremost landmarks in the city. Because of this, we had to stop ourselves from splurging on our very first day for some fruit we’ve been missing so much from back home (the Philippines). Instead, we did our shopping at a regular grocery store for the meals we will be having at our Airbnb home for the next couple of days.

Okay, maybe we did splurge on half a kilo of rambutan but only because LOOK AT ALL THESE FRUITS

Beach. The weather in Barcelona was, at some point, literally too hot to handle. We nearly melted during this constant 38°C temperature we’ve had during the day. The good thing, though, is that there’s a 4km long stretch of beaches right by the city! We had chosen a spot on Platja del Bogatell beach and stayed there for a few hours of siesta and a cool-down soak in some salty beach water. Unfortunately, we hadn’t found any lockers nearby so we had to go in the water individually so the other could look after our stuff but that was the least of our worries. There’s no entrance fee for the beach but you have to pay for a beach chair and umbrella if you would want them. Alternatively, you could just bring your own beach paraphernalia with you. What you should not forget, though, are drinks! The announcement from the speakers had constantly reminded us to drink some water because of the heatwave, which was very thoughtful of them. Drinks are being sold there, of course, but those were just too pricey for us.

Two benches and one umbrella: 24,-€
   I guess it’s pretty clear to everyone now that I am not in any way a beach person.
A refreshing glass of Sangria after spending the afternoon by the beach.

July 18, 2015

We have spent the day walking around the city and, when we got tired of that, we rented some bikes and toured around Parc de la Ciutadella. When we were done with the bikes, we just sat under a tree and waited until it was time to go to Font Màgica de Montjuïc, where they do sets of lights display Thursdays to Sundays from 21:30 onwards. You will find the fountain below Palau Nacional. It’s really hard to miss for there is a wave of tourists headed towards the fountain. Viewing of the lights display is absolutely free but the tricky part is finding a spot where you can actually see it.

Bike rental (per hour): 2,- €

July 19, 2015

For this day, we had planned to go to Parc Güell mostly because it felt necessary. It was our last stop since we were leaving Barcelona the next day. When we got there, we’d realised it was smarter to buy an entrance ticket online. We didn’t do this because we were worried we might not make it on time since you may only enter the park on the time you had chosen in your booking. When we got there at noon, we were told that we may only enter as early as 16:30. So we got our tickets and took the bus to Catalunya to have lunch there until it was our time to get inside the park.

Parc Güell entrance fee (per person): 7,- €

I feel really silly to not have known before that it was going to be this hot in Spain! A constant 38-40°C for a couple of days was just extreme. I had assumed that, given we’re still in Europe, it wouldn’t be so bad but was I wrong! What’s fascinating is that, whenever we go down to ride the subway, we expect to feel some cool air from the underground but, to our surprise, it was like an oven there! We were to leave the next day and we could only hope for a more comfortable temperature at our next stop → València!

València

You’d probably think of going to Barcelona first before planning to go to Valencia. That’s alright! I mean, that’s what we did. Luckily, this third largest city of Spain is only a few hours away from Barcelona! You may take the bus, the train, or a car to get there and travel along the coast of Spain. In our case last summer, we took the bus after staying in the Catalan capital for four nights.

Bus ride Barcelona to València per person via ALSA Bus: 19,60 €
4h ride

July 20, 2015

When we got to our Airbnb home, we were just in time for siesta. This fact, however, did not work in our favour. We were a bit early to meet with our Airbnb host and we had no place to go to kill off some time because most establishments are closed for the afternoon. Eventually, we have found one small bistro in the area, the only one that was open among about three others. We took a seat and waited for service. A nice young woman approached us and started speaking in Castilian Spanish. When we answered her in English, giving away that we did not speak Spanish, she just smiled and tried to say some single English words. With a little sign language, we started asking what they are offering for lunch. She started enumerating what I assumed were different types of meat. Pollo for chicken, one I could decipher. Then, she started mentioning caballo. This, too, we understood because in Filipino, the word kabayo means horse. So in the end, we had caballo and pollo for lunch because those were the only two we could understand, even though we were not really sure of what to expect from horse meat since we’ve never tried it before (that we’re actually aware of).

Lunch was really good and a fun experience. We had no idea of how much Spanish we actually understood by being native speakers of the Filipino language. We’ve felt like we could actually survive there, even if it meant eating horse meat. 😉

Finally, our host, Jackie, has finally arrived and we got checked in. Again, we have only booked a private room, only this time, we’ve had some company. In the evening, we went downtown and checked it out a little bit. Valencia is definitely not as crowded as Barcelona and it was actually really nice to walk around their old town and explore some churches and old buildings.

Airbnb private room 10 mins away from old town (for three nights): 51,- €

July 21, 2015

Valencia, of course, is known for their famous Paella, which is a rice dish cooked in a pan and mixed with meat and spices and all that good stuff. Another thing to look forward to, though, is Horchata, which is a traditional Valencian beverage you can find in most restaurants, bistros, and cafés to enjoy on hot summer day. It is made of chufas or tigernuts.

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A glass of Horchata enjoyed with a glazed doughnut and churros with hot chocolate.

Much like Barcelona, Valencia is also known for its marketplace or Mercat Central. It was much less crowded than Boqueria market in Barcelona so it’s another place one can check out on their way to the old town. Right across you will find La Lonja de la Seda, which is an old silk exchange building, and probably the most famous tourist spot in town as it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Entrance fee La Lonja de la Seda (per person): 2,- €

While walking around town, we’ve spotted something familiar almost immediately. We are aware that the reason why about 40% of the Filipino language consists of Spanish words is because of three centuries of colonisation. What we didn’t know, and maybe never really thought about was, what our native ancestors have taught our colonisers during those years. There is actually a list of Spanish words of Austronesian origin on Wikipedia, and on that list, you will find the Filipino word paypay, which is a type of fan.

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A local store old town Valencia selling paypay for three euros each.

At some point in the afternoon, when we have decided we’ve had enough of our day’s siesta time, we took the bus to Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences). It was in our plan to go there the next day but we had the time so we just went. Our only stop here was Oceanogràfic, an oceanarium. In fact, the largest of its kind in Europe, which is why tickets are really pricey for my taste. You can get combination tickets if you wish to enter other establishments in CAS.

Entrance fee Oceanogràfic (per person): 28,50 €

July 22, 2015

It was a day for another rather too-pricey-for-my-taste establishment. We just didn’t know what else to do in the city so we just went to the more obvious ones. We were also in the middle of a heat wave and exploring by foot without a specific destination in mind was torture. So on this day, we went to Bioparc and we’re glad we did! It’s probably nicer than your local zoo and the animals just don’t look too bored. It’s more like a sanctuary than a zoo, actually. So here, were had the pleasure to see some animals up close.

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Like, really close.
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View from our lunch table.
Bioparc entrance fee via Groupon (per person): 18,50 €
Regular price (per person): 23,80 €

After our visit to Bioparc, we were done with all our planned activities in Valencia so we just went to our favourite spot in Jardìn del Turia. This park, for me, is the most interesting part of the city. What was formerly  the Turia river flowing through the whole city is now a sunken park. The riverbed was turned into several gardens so wherever you are in the city, you’ll not be far away from the park.

And, while we were there, it finally rained.

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Hard.

But, sadly, it did not really cool down.

It was our last night in València and we still had trouble sleeping at night because of the heat.

Our next stop → Madrid!

Madrid

July 23, 2015

We were up for another bus ride and, this time, it was headed towards the nation’s capital, Mardrid!

Bus ride València – Madrid per person via Avanzabus: 29,75 €
4h ride

We arrived at our Airbnb sometime in the afternoon and our host was nice and friendly. Her name is Pilar, and she just set the bar so high! We booked another private room but she actually made sure we had everything we needed, and more!

Also, this:

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We took a lot of showers, obviously.

We were just really tired from not getting enough sleep the nights before so we just rested and called it a day.

Airbnb private room 10 mins away from Palacio Real for three nights: 68,- €

July 24, 2015

We didn’t have anything special planned for this day so we just walked around a little bit and bought some stuff that we needed. In the afternoon we decided to see a movie because I guess we were just tired of being tourists for the past week and a half so we did something locals would do on a day like this.

July 25, 2015

I guess we just felt so at home in Madrid that we even forgot that we were to leave the next day! Pilar had to remind us that our booking had only one night left so we rushed to do something out of our stay. And, quite obviously, we had to hit the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid). We had hoped to come here on Monday afternoon for free entrance but since we will be gone by then, we were forced to pay for the entrance fee.

Entrance fee per person: 10,- €
Check out free rate conditions on their website.
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Palacio Real

After that, we went to Real Jardìn Botànico (Royal Botanical Garden), mostly because I like plants. And it was pretty fascinating to me.

Entrance fee (per person): 4,- €
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I mean, these Agaves are taller than me.
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And we met this little critter on his siesta.

Abanicos

Walking around town, you will find many a souvenir shops selling fans much like this one for 4 € to 6 € a piece. But, if you look long and hard enough, you will find some vendors selling them for 2 € each! Just try to explore around and do take your time. I easily took ten of them home. They also come in many different colours and designs.

July 26, 2015

We said our goodbyes to our lovely Airbnb host and went ahead to Chamartin train station to leave our luggage in a locker. We still had the whole day to stroll around because our train wasn’t leaving until 10PM and we just didn’t want to take so much stuff with us. Pilar has told us about the Teleférico so we checked that one out. It’s basically just a cable car that takes you from the city to Casa de Campo Park in a ten-minute ride. The view, of course, is amazing. They let you out at the park where you can stay for a picnic or just some siesta time before heading back.

Teleférico ride (per person): 5,60 €
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Manzanares River

Misfortune

We finally went back to Chamartin station and just had dinner there and waited for our train. Just around 45 minutes before our train was scheduled to leave, Joan sent me to the ATM to withdraw some cash but the machine asked for some six-digit pin from me which I didn’t have because I was only familiar with the four-digit pin (it’s still a mystery to us what the machine even wanted from me) so, unsure, I canceled the transaction but the machine refused to give me the card back! Which is bad enough if it happens to you in your own city, but how much more in a strange city you were supposed to be leaving in less than an hour! So we had to make do with the cash we still had left and withdrew some cash from another card in another city. All that stress, though!

Trenhotel

Taking the night train was something we had yet to try. We were placed in a room for four females to sleep on our bunk beds and to wake up in a different city. It was a fun experience and we met this girl who was in the cabin with us whose name we’ve never gotten but she was very friendly and we got to talk a lot about politics and history and life. Now, the great thing about taking this train was the combination of transportation and a night’s accommodation. It’s something we would love to do again if it’s available in any of our next travels.

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It’s not much but what more do you need for a night’s sleep AND transfer, amiright?
Renfe Trenhotel tourist bed for one night per person: 37,80 €
Madrid to Lisbon

Next stop → Lisbon!

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Couldn’t resist having my own dog tag made by a machine at Chamartin train station
Dogtag: 5,- €