April 30, 2018
This time last year me, my husband, Robert, and two of our dear friends, Kevin and Alex, were ending our second annual #flysturdiworldtour trip. For our first year of travels we went to London, Ireland and Scotland (one day I’ll make a blog post about that trip too – ha) and for year two we decided on Spain and Portugal. Let me start by saying that traveling is only as overwhelming and as complicated as you make it. A lot of people build up international travel as something grand and expensive saved only for rich and retired, but that could not be farther from the truth. Can you spend lots of money on travel? Yes. But us four have found that planning out your trip, tracking flight prices, and using CC points/hacks can help you make travel possible and affordable. Another big perk of traveling with friends, aside from having some amazing company, is the ability to split costs like $100/night AirBnb’s, rental cars, Tok Tok rides, etc. Just like with anything else in life, if you want something to be a priority you make it one. I informed my husband when we got married that I would like for travel to be a priority for us, and we have made sacrifices in our lifestyle to make trips like this one possible. Below is an entirely too long blog post and over-documented recap of our travels through Spain. Photos and videos aren’t perfect but I opted to leave the fanciest cameras and tripods at home in order to full live in the moment in our trip. I’m thankful for this imperfect recap to allow us to pretend we’re eating churros and walking through the tiled streets of Portugal any day we want. For those headed to Spain or considering it, I hope this helps! Feel free to reach out for any further specific information!
Narrowing down all there is to see in these countries was so hard, but we decided to focus on southern Spain and skip Barcelona for Lisbon, Portugal. Some say skipping Barcelona is a crime, others say, “eh, you saw all the good stuff!” We know no difference and loved every minute of our trip. We flew in and out of Madrid and took train, plane and rented a car in-between each of the cities. Our trip was a total of 12 days including travel and to be honest it was a lot in one trip even with that much time, but I wouldn’t change anything travel wise through if we did it again. We loved that we got to see so many different cultures of Spain and felt like each town had its’ own unique personality.
**Fair warning if you are wanting to copy this trip know that it is a lot of go, go, go and while there are spots of peace and calm it generally was a pretty fast pace travel schedule.**
Also, before you read any further, it should be made known that my dear friend and travel partner, Alex, made a more concise and efficient recap that you can see here if you want to avoid my novel of a blog post below.
Photography/Videography travel notes: It is always a struggle to figure out what it’s worth lugging around when packing for a personal international vacation. Our goal was to only bring a carry on suitcase and a personal item like a backpack or large purse since we knew we would be on the go often. Side note: thank goodness we did that because we hiked a lot of steps carrying our luggage. Since I knew I was already limited on space, I decided to bring only my back up body, Nikon D800, and my mom’s old film camera. I only brought my 50 mm and my 24mm lenses, and I put a padded camera insert into a Vera Bradly leather purse (see similar one here). It ended up being the perfect set up, but full disclosure it was a little heavy by the end of each day. I knew I wanted to get some video but decided it wasn’t worth lugging around a monopod or stabilizer to have a ‘perfect’ or ‘professional’ video. Typically iphone video shots or d800 shots did the job to help me create a great memento of our travels. While I wanted to document this once in a life time experience, I also wanted to truly experience it and not just document it.
Check out the video recap of our trip below followed by more information than you might want recapping our adventures! Enjoy, friends!
Our first day in Madrid we hit the tourist highlights: Plaza Major, Plaza del sol, Mercado San Miguel and Plaza de Oriente. They are all relatively close to each other and we walked from one place to another. The streets around the Plaza Major were so cute to walk through. Parts of this area are definitely touristy (vendors with cheap Spain coffee mugs, clothes, and scarfs), but the streets are still full of character and fun to walk through.
Plaza del Sol reminded me a little of times square. There were characters in costumes, musicians and lots of activity. These two film photos below were two of my favorites from our trip.
Mercado San Miguel is a huge market with tons of vendors selling everything from produce and paella to pizza and ice cream. I think we ate four mini-meals here alone!
Plaza de Oriente is the plaza in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid (big white building below). There are lots of statues and beautiful gardens to walk through. The palace was surprisingly low security as far as we could see.
We wandered back to the Plaza Major (seen above) to eat… again. We really enjoyed people watching here as well. It just so happened that one of my best friends, Grace, was living and working in Madrid while we were visiting, so while the Robert, Kevin and Alex relaxed in the Plaza Major, I went to meet up with Grace. I got to see her apartment and life in Spain as she finished up work, and I went from there to meet back up with the boys and Alex at sunset in Parque de El Retiro. This was by far one of the most breathtaking experiences of this trip. The park is HUGE and we gravitated towards the lake area near the center of the park. We wandered along the lake area eating churros, sitting on the marble steps, and watching boats roll by. Walking through this park at sunset was beyond what any photograph is able to capture – if you can believe it.
I did find myself wishing I had a cute engaged couple that I could photograph right here…
Look at these funky trees (bottom right below)!!! Technically this park was called Buen Retiro Park but it’s connected to the larger Parque de El Retiro. Our sunset walkthrough was pure luck but if you have the opportunity to go at sunset I highly recommend it.
For dinner we headed out to the Palacio district of Madrid. We considered our friend Grace a local and she suggested going to this area, walking in any place on the street, and checking wait time. It sounded like you couldn’t really go wrong with anything around here. We ended up in La Concha and had a traditional tapas style meal with wine and many rounds of food; a style of eating that would become very familiar by the end of the trip.
All of the above was just day one in Madrid. Like I said, we move fast, but looking back each location still feels like it’s own full day of memories. Day two started with crossfit. Yep, your read that right. Grace had been going to a crossfit gym in Spain and if you know my husband you know he loves crossfit, so naturally that is how we (he and Grace worked out and I watched) started day two in Madrid. After an early morning workout, Robert was craving a heavy American breakfast. I had read about La Rollerie on a blog and since it was only a few blocks from us we headed there to fill up before another full day. Alex got a cinnamon roll that was covered in nutella… none of us complained about that ha!
After breakfast, we headed to the Museo del Prado. The last hour the museum is open you can get in free but the line was never-ending and didn’t seem like a good use of our time vs. money for our short visit. We had read and heard that typically is a line, but we did not have to wait long. We opted not to do a guided tour. In the paper guide you get in the museum, there is a list of ‘masterpieces’ and what room they are in, and that is how we navigated through the museum. Fun fact: copies of several of those masterpieces were in lots of cathedrals that we visited later on in the trip, so it was cool to see, read and learn about the original art at the start of our trip.
For lunch we went to the Cortes District and accidentally ordered starters as our meal – whoops. #languagebarrier 🙂 My friend Grace told us about a roof top bar with a great view so we met her at Circulo de Bellas Artes. There is a line that grows quickly after 4 PM so I recommended getting there around 3 or 3:30 PM.
From the roof top, we headed to the famous Chocolateria San Gines for churros! The cup of chocolate you see below is basically chocolate syrup but they call it hot chocolate and locals drink like it’s coffee. I could have sat here all day with our cappuccino and churros people watching on these quaint streets.
There area around our Airbnb was so cute with a whole square full of flower vendors. We took a siesta then headed out for dinner on a terrace at a place called El Viajero.
Madrid was a great starting point I think. There were big bustling squares or quaint small streets to get lost on. We spent two days there in this Air Bnb, and we were happy that our place seemed central to most of the sites we visited. The airbnb culture was different in Spain compared to London and Ireland experiences. Each host wanted to sit down with a map and show you were you were and tell you a lot about their favorite parts of the city. I think the American in me was originally surprised by this and not prepared to slow down and talk through this paper map – because I knew everything already through all my research clearlyyyy – but throughout the trip some of our favorite experiences came from the advice of these locals taking the time to talk with us. Each host had so much pride for their city and culture. I’m so thankful for their time with us and thoughtfulness to give us the best experience possible in their city. We woke up really early on day three to take the train to our next stop, Cordoba, Spain. We took an uber to the train station and overall it was super easy to navigate. Security scanned our bags only, and our gate wasn’t announced until 30 minutes of departure so we probably didn’t need to get there quite so early but better safe than sorry!
Once we arrived by train in Cordoba, we picked up our rental car at the train station. The streets are small and don’t have lots of room for cars, so we parked our car in the garage by the Alcazar. There are lots of shops around there so we just popped in the first coffee shop we could find – we were getting cranky. We ordered breakfast which was an entire loaf of bread with cheese and ham baked on top – genius. Lucky us that this little shop, Roma MMXVI, ended up being the boys’ favorite breakfast of the trip. The main attraction of Cordoba is the Real Alcazar and Jardines and it didn’t open until 10, so we went ahead and met up with our AirBnb host. Let me tell you, we chose well with this adorable place and the location couldn’t have been better. It was SO CUTE.
The Real Alcazar and Jardines is beautiful. If Spain taught me anything, it’s that if given the option tour the garden of a site, always say yes. We got there shortly after the Real Alcazar opened and it wasn’t super crowded but by the time we left there were photoshoots right and left and school tours pouring in.
I love the shots below that Alex captured!
After the Alcazar visit, we went to La Judería (the city’s oldest Jewish neighborhood), a place that is known for it’s white buildings and colorful flowered pots hanging all along the outside of homes. I decided this is definitely a trend we can all implement neighborhood by neighborhood here at home, right? Wandering through the streets here was so fun and I think I took a way too many photos of flower pots. Do you blame me? It’s so cute! There were lots of places to eat, lots of cute small shops, and lots of helado aka ice cream! We ate lunch and people watched again, and we kept seeing these groups of young women coming by all dressed alike or all in the same theme. Apparently Cordoba is known as quite the bachlorette spot and all of these groups were brides with her bridesmaids. They went all out with their themes and it looked so fun.
After lunch we walked to the Cathedral of Cordoba. There is no way these photos capture the depth of this cathedral. These red arches seemed never ending and our audio guide told us so many interesting facts about the architect who dreamt up all of this beauty. I have photos but they do not at all do this place justice.
There was an option to climb up some steps to get a panoramic view of Cordoba that the boys considered doing, but we opted to save our legs some energy. I’m glad we did because our next stop was Granada, and we had no idea what we were in for with this town built on a hillside. The boys found out about a local brewery, Cerveza Califa, so we stopped by for a cerveza and then had a delicious Italian dinner at Restaurante La Tagliatella. The next morning we went to the Plaza de las Tendillas and had breakfast. It was a surprisingly big square for this small town and seemed like more of the business area. Just for travel information there is a parking garage right near there that we kept our rental car at during our stay!
Cordoba gave me a lot of creative inspiration. Between the cathedral, bold colors, and elegant design, I really did feel super inspired by it’s unique beauty. While we were sad to leave this small, cute town, it was time to start our drive to Granada. The drive was beautiful; there were lots and lots of olive trees!
Oh, Granada. While it was beauty like I had never seen, it was definitely the most stressful part of our trip. I won’t go into all the details, but we had our one and only bad AirBnb experience here and it was a doozy. Lets just say it involved a minor apartment fire, a language barrier and AirBnb cooperate emails. For that reason, I will not be linking to where we stayed in Granada, and if you ever want to hear a crazy but good story, ask me about our friend, Jose.
People come to Granada from all around the world to see the city’s main attraction, The Alhambra. Parts of the town can be touristy but if you let yourself wander you’ll find some wonderful mom and pop shop surprises.
Here are two of the least known but MOST IMPORTANT travel tips I’ll give for this trip and for Granada in particular.
1. Driving through this city is near impossible. The city is literally built on top of each other and when you think google maps is wrong by taking you all the way around to the top of the city then back down… it’s not wrong. There is no cut through, and you might have a near anxiety attack and stop traffic trying to fit through the streets (see photo of Kevin below). Look for the yellow roads on google maps; those are typically the bigger two lane roads.
2. They recommend buying tickets to the Alhambra 3 months or more in advance and in all of our research for this trip we never got the message. We arrived on Sunday to Granada and planned to see the Alhambra on Monday (we had heard it took most of the day to do the full tour) and then planned to leave Granada Tuesday morning. Our plans changed when we realized we didn’t have tickets to the Alhambra and we were told it was sold out and basically we should have no hope of getting tickets within 24 hours of our visit. We visited every tour-guide shop we could find in Granada in hopes that they might miraculously have 4 tickets left. Granada City Experience (in the City Center) answered our prayers and had exactly 4 guided tour tickets left for Tuesday morning. We later found out that this business doesn’t sell tickets online so if you end up in a scramble like us they are your best bet for getting them in person. You can arrive early in the morning to the The Alhambra ticket offices in hopes of getting some of their reserve tickets for same-day sales, but people start lining up for those as early as THREE (!!!) o’clock in the morning. You can walk to the Alhambra from the city, but I recommend getting a taxi- it is a pretty steep walk up the hill and you will do a ton of walking once you are inside. After getting your ticket, you will need to hang onto it because you have to show it at all of the palace entrances and the entrance to the gardens. I also suggest you do a guided tour for The Alhambra and make sure you have the add on option to your ticket to see the GeneraLife Gardens as well. I have heard the night time tour is really cool but we didn’t personally do it.
On Sunday afternoon, we started our trip in Granada by eating paella in the Albaicin Quarter by the river (look how amazing the wisteria was!) before setting out to find tickets for the Alhambra. Here is a peak into how small the ‘roads’ were here. Since the tickets we got were for Tuesday morning, we had Monday free to leisurely explore the town. I loved the simplicity of design in this city.
^ Where Kevin is standing is the road we almost got our car stuck on. It’s a MIRACLE we didn’t scratch it like almost every other car that has driven through here.
While I don’t recommend our Airbnb based on our experience, it did have an amazing view. The big building on the hilltop is The Alhambra.
Dinner on Sunday night made up for our rough start. We ventured out to a viewpoint called Mirador San Nicolás and then walked down to Ristorante El Balcón de San Nicolás for dinner. This place had the most amazing view of The Alhambra. We enjoyed a delicious, semi-fancy dinner while watching to sunset. It was magical.
On Monday, we just wandered through the streets. We toured the cathedral (we opted for the free audio tour), stumbled upon some old bath houses with an amazing few, and found a cute little square that brought the best lunch experience. We thought the pizza place, Bar Miguel Bajo, we found was a hole in the wall mom and pop shop, and while it is that, it is also in the Rich Stevens Spain travel guide! We sat on the steps of this little square and ate pizza right out of the box and topped off this great meal with the most amazing ice cream at Helados San Nicolas. If you know me you know I love ice cream! I ordered a cone with a scoop of honeysuckle and a scoop lavender ice cream. The owner told us she grows and picks most of the plant/herb bases for all her ice cream flavors. I dream of this ice cream it was that good.
So much simple but beautiful design.
We ended our night on Monday with a traditional Spanish dancing show, the flamenco, and dinner at Jardines de Zoraya. I think my favorite croquetas de jamon of the trip were at this place, and I know I ate my weight in them that night.
Tuesday morning we got up bright and early for our tour at The Alhambra. I’ll be honest, there was a lot of hype about this place and I don’t think I truly understood the significance of it. The beauty, design and architecture was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. After touring it, I can’t imagine being in Spain and not seeing this place. In my opinion, if you are anywhere in the country it’s worth making the trek to this small town to see this massive piece of history and art. The Alhambra is truly breath-taking.
Remember when I said to make sure to do the garden tour as well? This is why….
^ The view above is from the gardens looking back at The Alhambra building. Below: I loved this gray-green funky tree we passed on our walk back down to the city. We left The Alhambra and jumped right into our rental car to head to our next stop, Malaga.
We had the BEST Airbnb host here that spoke great English and had such an interesting story! He hung around and chatted with us for a while and the pride he had for Malaga made us all but ready to cancel the rest of trip and just hang out with him in his city. He walked us to an open air market, Mercado Central de Atarazanas, to his favorite vendor who had “the most fresh seafood we would ever eat!” Some of us got brave and tried octopus tentacles, tuna, and salmon. He was right. It was the most fresh seafood I’ve ever had. We had read that Malaga was a small costal, beach town, so we were expecting something totally different. Malaga was a big city with lots of shopping malls and modern architecture, and of course I found a well known ice cream shop called Casa Mira. We did find a beach but it was more of a pier/dock with one small corner of a beach.
For dinner, we settled for a touristy mexican restaurant on the pier and then ended the night watching the sunset at La Terrazzo de la Alcazaba. Lots of people recommended El Pimpi but it was pretty crowded when we were there. We were able to squeeze in a little later for some desert though.
In case you’re lost, this is was the end of day six. We were sad that our time in Malaga was so short because it really was a city rich in stories and personality. On day seven, we woke up in Malaga and had breakfast at Cafe Central before heading to Sevilla. When planning our trip, Alex and I begged to boys to stop at a small town called Ronda on our way to Sevilla. It extended our drive by about 45 minutes but it was worth every extra minute of the drive and then some.
If there is one thing Alex and I would change about our trip it would be to move to Ronda. HAHA! Just kidding, but really. Ronda is almost indescribable. The main attraction of the town is a huge bride over a deep stream. For as tall as the bridge and hillside was, that is how deep the stream was. You have to see this in person to truly understand how truly miraculous it is. We found a public parking deck and left our rental car there and walked an easy walk into the center of the city. It’s almost exclusively cobbles stone so, ladies, keep that in mind when picking shoes for the day 😉 We only had time to stop here for an hour or so and then we got a quick meal for the road and headed on to Seville.
Look how tiny the humans are in the photo below! It’s helpful to attempt to grasp the perspective of how large this place is.
The photos below were at a lower vantage point. There are several look outs at different levels and viewpoints.
Sadly, we left Ronda after an hour or so, grabbed some food for the road, and finished our drive to Sevilla.
Our first stop was to the bull ring to buy tickets to that night’s bull fight, then parked our car at a public parking deck. I highly encourage you drop a pin or mark where your car is. There are several public decks that can lead to confusion later on as to which one your car is in. Not that we would know from experience – lol. We got settled in the cutest Airbnb and then headed to the Santa Cruz area. We got ice cream at Rayas – yum – and then headed towards to bull ring. FYI the attire for bull fights is a little dressier than you would think. There were lots of guys in suits or sports coats – think southern football game day attire. I think there are a total of 6 rounds, but we watched 3 bull rounds felt like we had seen the full bull fight experience so we left early. All in all the bullfight was a fun experience and we enjoyed googling and learning how the multiple rounds worked, but it is not for the faint at heart and is honestly a little sad. That being said, it is a long standing Spanish tradition and we are glad we got to experience it.
Our AirBnb in Seville had a rooftop that looked directly at the Cathedral. At night, we watched the bats circle around the nightlight of the Cathedral and as odd as it sounds it really was beautiful.
On day eight, we woke up and got a quick breakfast nearby so that we could get in line to get tickets to the Alcazar and Cathedral de Sevilla. The Alcazar line was long but it moved fast and seemed to be the same length as the pre-purchased online ticket line. We didn’t do a guided tour but kinda wished we had only because there were so many groups we were dodging all throughout the Alcazar. Alex and I loved and were so inspired by the design here as well. There were so many hidden corners full of beauty that we could have wandered through here all day. We laughed as the boys raced through the maze then headed on to the Cathedral.
One of my favorite photos from our trip. It cracks me up every. single. time.
While the inside of the Alcazar was amazing, coming from just seeing the Alhambra I think we were a little jaded. I don’t think you should at all skip this but I just wanted to note that. It is amazing but to us and due to the order in which we saw the Alcazar in our trip, it just seemed like a smaller version of the Alhambra.
The Alcazar is right next to the Cathedral. We did the free audio tour here. Again, photos don’t do the detail and scale of the cathedral justice. It was a stunning church with a long and rich history; the tomb of Christopher Columbus is here. The walk up to the top is amazing. Just when you think your view can’t be topped you go up another flight of steps and end up at a different vantage point. I highly recommend it!
After our big morning of tours, we headed to Bar Alfalfa for lunch. This place was recommend on lots of online blogs for lunch. It’s super small and we had to wait for a minute or two, but the fresh paella was the best and most authentic we had of the whole trip! So. good. We left there and went to Al Cartuehito to pick up some wine, cheese, and ham to enjoy at our flat on the rooftop. Kevin was determined to rent a bike so he did and he rode it through town while the rest of us chilled and had a siesta. Here is a view of the streets around our flat.
After our siesta, we headed back out to an odd, modern structure Metropol Parasol, nicknamed ‘The Mushroom,’ that was recommended and sparked our curiosity. You have to pay to go up on top of it and since we had just gotten amazing views at the cathedral that morning we opted not to go up. It was cool to see in person though!
We went from here to the Plaza de Sevilla. This place is beautiful and I felt like we were transported back in time. The hand painted railings and details were so meticulous. It started raining so we ran to Maria Lusa Park into the park restaurant for some tapas to kill time before heading to Futbol!
They didn’t have Uber in Seville so we quickly discovered how hard it was to catch a taxi when it was raining. Luckily and unintentionally our seats were under the only covered section in the stadium! While Robert and I wouldn’t ourselves think to go to a Seville Futbol Club game, we loved the atmosphere, chants, and cheering on the win of the home team. Big thanks to Kevin and Alex for signing us up for this experience! We were all singing the Seville, Seville, Seville cheer (however poorly) the rest of the night while we walked along the Triana bridge and ate more tapas. Our last morning in Seville was my birthday! We lucked out with a table at Bar El Comerciodid known for it’s mouthwatering churros. They did not disappoint. After we did a lot of walking (or maybe you could call it lost wandering) in the rain trying to find our car and the right parking deck, we headed to the airport to drop off our rental car and catch our flight to Lisbon, Portugal.
Awe, Lisbon! That is the response we got from anyone we met when we said our trip would end in Lisbon, Portugal. No doubt, after visiting, that will now be our response as well. Lisbon the cutest town full of inspiration around literally every corner. There are tiled walls, colored doors, and overlooks galore. We only had a little over 24 hours in this adorable city and we squeezed as much in as we could. **Travel note: If we had more time, I would have added a day trip to Sintra where there is a place called Pena’s Palace that looks like a castle out of a Dr. Suess movie or Disney movie.**
As far as the language barrier went, we found that most people spoke either Spanish or English and had no problem communicating. Portuguese is their first language and a culture they are so proud of but Lisbon locals seemed to welcome visitors with open arms! We flew into Lisbon on my birthday so naturally once we landed our first stop was Santinis for birthday gelato followed by some shopping in the area nearby. Around sunset we headed to the Bica overlook. It was a gorgeous view, especially at sunset, and there were drink stands to get wine, beer and fresh squeezed juice as you took in the view. The overlook seemed full of young adults winding down after work and there was lots of activity, musicians, and generally lots of characters – ha!
This city reminded us so much of San Fransisco. The architect that built the SF Bridge also built the bridge in Lisbon. Lisbon is a city built on hills, and they too had trolly cars to take you up and down this hilly city. Below on the left you’ll see a picture from our adorable AirBnb. The host was so flexible with us and let us drop our luggage off early while we wandered the city. I loved this little piece of history hung on the wall.
Thanks to Alex for this cute picture of us above! After wandering through the streets for a little while drooling over all the unique colors and design, we went to the Time Out Market. It’s a giant, new food hall and market with tons of vendors. The front wall had five well-known, famous Portuguese chefs with a menu made to blow your taste buds and along the sides were local restaurants and shops. It was really hard to choose what we wanted for dinner that night! I highly recommend making this a part of your visit in Lisbon!
The next morning we stumbled upon a small mom and pop place for breakfast and tried some of Portugal’s famous pastries “pastel de nata” and filling ourselves with a big breakfast and lots of espresso.
We made the steep hike to Castel de S. Jorge to see the best panoramic view of the city. Randomly, there were lots of peacocks here and we enjoyed watching them strut their stuff, fight with each other and fly! I had no idea peacocks could fly that high.
Lisbon is famous for its’ handmade blue and white pottery so I was determined to find some. We wandered around the castle in and out of a few shops comparing prices and styles and ended up returning to the shops beside the castle to pick out some souvoneir pottery. Through some online research, we had heard about this huge outdoor flea market, Feira da Ladra, that was only open on Saturdays. From vintage stamps to hand made pottery, this place had everything and it never ended. Seriously, we walked and walked and never saw the end of it.
Check out Alex’s find above – a collection of colorful Portuguese stamps! The pink wall below was too cute not to take some photos celebrating the end of our tip and our time in Lisbon.
I think the photo above captures Robert and Kevin’s bromance and the dynamics of our trip pretty perfectly – haha! Not going to lie, by this point in our trip we were dragging a little. With only a few hours left we decided on a leisurely lunch at Barrio Avillez and then pastries and coffee at Confeitaria Nacional (it was really hard to decide on a dessert here).
Lisbon is known for its’ tiled walls and buildings. There are so many unique designs literally on every corner I could literally do an entire blog post on that alone, but instead here is a collection of my favorite doors, tiles, and corners of Lisbon.
We were determined to ride a Tok-Tok (kind of like big golf carts) before leaving Lisbon, but they are a little pricey. The full tours take you on 2 hour + tour all up and down through the hills of Lisbon with a local guide. Low on euros and time, we bartered with a driver to take our few remaining euros in exchange for a short ride through the city; he shared all kinds of info about Lisbon as we zipped through the streets. It was the perfect way to end our time before flying to Madrid to fly home.
I’ll end by stealing from Alex a summary of the things we learned on this trip. I couldn’t have said it or summarized things better myself. If you’re planning a trip through Spain, feel free to reach out! I would love to reminisce and chat about this amazing experience. I hope this post is helpful for you! Ciao!
Things we learned:
Language: There aren’t many English speakers in Southern Spain, but almost everyone speaks English in Lisbon, Portugal. We were very thankful that all of us had taken some Spanish classes in the past. *I’m not naming names (cough: boys), but speaking louder and slower English is not helpful when communicating with a non-English speaker. Over-dramatic hand gestures ARE helpful when communicating.
Food: Two words: churros & chocolate. Eat whenever available. Other foods to try: papas bravas, paella, croquettes, all. the. tapas.
Dining: Prepare to dine very slowly in Spain. No one is in a hurry and the waiters will never bring you a bill without being asked. To receive the check, you must get their attention and ask for it (la cuenta). Restaurants will almost always put bread on the table without asking, but they will also (almost) always charge you for it. Europe doesn’t really do American coffee- the closest you can get is an americano (basically watered down espresso), but I usually opted for café con leche (latte).
Driving: Just because you see a van go down a very narrow road does not mean you should follow them. Sometimes “roads” are more like alleys. You may also be charged for a speeding ticket via traffic cam for going 10 km (= 6 miles) over the speed limit in the middle of nowhere. When in doubt, drive slowly.
Random: Spanish soccer chants are catchy. Bull fights are gory. Comfortable shoes are necessary. Dealing with OCD Airbnb hosts will end badly. Rooftops are always a good idea.