{Barcelona Highlights}

Adam and I had one full day in Barcelona and we made sure to see as much of it as we possibly could! We started at La Boqueria market, which was very nice and busy, but we both agreed that we preferred the market in Valencia because we felt that it was less touristy. After perusing the market and enjoying the sites, smells and atmosphere, Adam and I walked up La Rambla to the Placa de Catalunya where Adam was interviewed by some school kids on two different occasions (for basically being a tourist). We then walked to the Arc de Triomf (yes, there is one in Barcelona!) and down the promenade that leads to La Cuitadella Park. The park was my favorite part of Barcelona and is absolutely worth visiting. I loved the greenery, beautiful fountain and relaxing environment. From the park, we walked down to the beach to sit and enjoy the ocean air. When we were ready, we took a (very) long walk to La Sagrada Familia, probably the most famous of the Barcelonan sites. The structure was beautiful, with incredible intricacies and design – don’t miss it!
It was around this time that I started to get extremely hungry. We started to search for food, but nothing looked appetizing or like something that I could eat (note to all non-meat eaters out there: I had a incredibly hard time finding foods that did not contain ham or red meat in Spain). We decided to take the metro back to where we were staying and found an Indian fusion restaurant where we split Sangria and ate a big dinner. Afterwards, we went to our favorite bakery Granier (that we had found in Valencia) and got fartones for dessert.
Overall, Barcelona was not my favorite city in Spain. I wanted to love it, but I just enjoyed Madrid and Valencia so much more, but at least the pictures are really pretty!

















{Beach and City of Arts and Sciences: Valencia}

Our second day in Valencia greeted us with gorgeous weather and we decided to walk through the Jardin de Suria, a scenic park full of paths, greenery, sculptures, bridges, fountains and orange trees. At the end of the park, we reached the City of Arts and Sciences. It was very hard to miss as all of a sudden we were facing a building that looked like it fell from space. This area was very cool; each building was more futuristic than the next and the bright white color of the structures contrasting with the blue Valencian sky made me feel like I had traveled forward in time. The museums were too expensive for us to go in, but the architecture alone is worth the visit.
We walked through the City of Arts and Sciences towards the port (stopping to take pictures by the abandoned F1 race track) and made our final stop at the beach. The water was too cold for me to swim, but the ocean and surrounding skyline made it the perfect spot to relax (and write). We sat around, enjoying the cloudless sky and warm ocean breeze before heading back for some dinner and a well-deserved shower. In total, we walked over 8 miles that day and were certainly feeling it when we got back to our hotel!










{Valencia// A Little Known Gem}

Before doing the research for this trip, I had never heard of Valencia. Adam had found out about it online and suggested we check it out in between visiting Madrid and Barcelona, and I am certainly glad that we did. Valencia is gorgeous and our first day there was spent exploring the old city, marveling at the churches, castles, and beautiful buildings that decorated the streets.
We ate lunch al fresco at a restaurant that was tucked away on a small side street. The large number of locals enjoying their late afternoon lunch assured us that it was going to be a good spot. We ordered Aqua de Valencia (a traditional Valencian drink of orange juice, cava gin and vodka), Paella Valenciana and Ajoarriero (a salted cod dip). I really love the Spanish dining culture of taking your time and enjoying your food, company and the moment, and Adam and I followed this way of life during our meal. After dinner we found a bakery called Granier where we picked up some fartones (a traditional Valencian dessert). We devoured them and were practically giddy from how delicious (and cheap!) they were.
The next morning Adam and I had breakfast in the gorgeous Plaza de la Virgen. We each had pan con tomate, a café con leche and the most delicious fresh squeezed orange juice I have ever had (that says a lot coming from a Florida girl). If you are in Valencia, do not leave without having a glass of their life changing orange juice! Afterwards, we explored the Mercado Central. The market was huge and we walked up and down the aisles marveling at the meats, cheeses, nuts, olives, fruits, and vegetables before buying some salted pistachios and fried almonds to snack on later. We loved the market because it was distinctly non-touristy and you could tell that real Valencians shopped there every day; it really gave us an idea of the Valencian lifestyle.


















{Madrid// Snapshots from Around the City}

Madrid is a small city with a lot of charisma. Much of our first night was spent walking around marveling at buildings and enjoying the vibe of the city. We had dinner at a small restaurant near our hotel. Our waiter spoke no English and our mediocre high school Spanish failed us when we accidently ordered bottled water instead of tap and weren’t sure if we were correctly ordering our dinner. Despite the language barriers, dinner was delicious. Adam and I ordered paella (because, well, we were in Spain!). It was presented family style in a massive pan; we couldn’t believe the size of it. Despite being shocked at how absolutely ginormous it was, we managed to finish most of it no problem. Don’t miss out on the paella experience when you visit Spain! After dinner we wandered around the city before heading back to the hotel.
We began our first morning in Madrid with a to-go baguette and a walk to the Plaza de Mayor. From here, we took a tour through Madrid learning about its history and seeing its most popular and important sights. Our favorite piece of information from the tour was learning about equestrian statues (sounds nerdy, I know). When you see a statue of a man on a horse and all four of the horse’s hooves are on the ground, it means that the rider died of causes unrelated to battle; when one hoof is up, the rider died of wounds related to battle, and when two hooves are up, the rider died in battle. The equestrian statues are scattered all throughout Europe and it was fun to know what they meant everywhere we went.
After the tour we made our way to El Reteiro Park, stopping along the way for lunch and a churro. The park was beautiful and full of people soaking up the summer sun. After a quick break in the shade and a cup of ice cream, we wandered around Madrid some more enjoying the sights and ended at the Museo del Prado (which has free admission from Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 8pm, and Sundays and holidays from 5pm to 7pm, and is worth a visit). We raced around the museum in search of Greco, Rafael and Titian and then left in search of a bar. We had learned on the tour that Atletico Madrid (one of the local professional soccer teams) was playing their rivals Barcelona in their league finals and wanted to partake in the excitement. We managed to watch the end of the game, which resulted in Atletico Madrid winning their league! All Madrid fans raced to the Plaza Canovas des Castulo to celebrate, and so did we. The atmosphere was such fun, everyone was singing and cheering and fans kept pouring into the plaza. Around 8:30pm, Adam and I realized that we hadn’t eaten dinner (quickly getting into the Spanish tradition of eating late dinners) and went to a bakery called Uvepan. We ordered a lot but the definite highlight was Adam’s croissant with tomato puree and Iberian ham (he said that it was one of the best things he has ever eaten!). Our last night in Madrid was a lot of fun and the city was certainly a great introduction to Spain.