Heat Wave 2015: Spain & Portugal

I wish I had blogged about our last year’s trip to Spain and Portugal sooner but blogging wasn’t really part of my priorities back then. Now, nine months later, I am trying to gather all the photos we have taken, checking my journal to refresh my memory, and collecting our invoices from that trip for the prices of our activities to share it all with you.

Planning

At the start of 2015, and by that I mean literally on New Year’s Day, we have chosen our summer getaway destinations, picked out the dates, and booked our flights. The plan was to leave for Barcelona and come back from Lisbon two weeks later. Then we hit the maps to find some other cities between these two that we can check out along the way. So that day we had come up with these cities, and in this order:

Barcelona → Valencia → Madrid → Lisbon

That was the easy part, though. The hard part was, of course, the waiting game! Waiting seven months for a holiday was just dreadful but, on the bright side, we’ve had enough time to organise everything else like transfer from city to city, accommodation, and the like. Also, knowing you have something to look forward to has helped a LOT.

Outline

July 16-20, 2015 – left for Barcelona from Berlin SXF with EasyJet. Booked a private room via Airbnb for four nights (but ended up having the place to ourselves because our host was away). Airbnb 92 € for 4 nights / EasyJet flight – 133,58 € for two BER – BCN

July 20-23, 2015 – left for Valencia via ALSA Bus (ca. 4h bus ride). Booked a private room via Airbnb – 51 € for 3 nights / ALSA bus ride – 20,- € each

July 23-26, 2015 – left for Madrid with Avanza Bus (ca. 4h bus ride). Booked a private room via Airbnb – 58 € for 3 nights / Avanza bus ride – 29,75 € each

July 26-27, 2015 – left for Lisbon via Renfe Trenhotel (night train, ca. 10h 30m ride). Standard tourist bed in cabin for 4 people 37,80 € per person.

July 27-28, 2015 – Arrived in Lisbon. Booked a hotel room with shared bathroom for three nights – 40 € per night. Ended up canceling after first night without refund.

July 28-30, 2015 – Rented a car and drove to Sintra. Booked a private room via Airbnb (more like a suite for we had our own bathroom, and the place had a garden and swimming pool). Car: 165,- € for 3 days. Airbnb – 112,- € for 2 nights.

July 30-31, 2015 (night) – watched a movie until around 3:00 AM then went to the airport and stayed there until it was time for the first flight out back to Berlin SXF.

The highlights of each city can be found in individual post with the links below:

Barcelona → Valencia → Madrid → Lisbon

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!