For two weeks, I spent my days in Spain and Portugal, soaking in the sun and warmth while I had the opportunity. Springtime there is so beautiful, with the trees beginning to bloom and the weather being nice enough to sit along the beach and enjoy the day. After being in chilly Ireland, it was so nice to take advantage of these southern countries.
I began my trip in Barcelona. After an early flight and a late night before, I was exhausted when I arrived. But my tiredness was quickly wiped away when I got my first look at the Spanish culture. Everything is open late, restaurants boast their specialties of tapas and paella, and the scenery is amazing. I walked through garden after garden, getting lost within the acres of trees and flowers. I could see the entire city from a hidden spot in one of Barcelona’s most famous parks. And I was perfectly content.
I visited Parc de Montjuïc, the Olympic Stadium, Park Güell, Port Vell, Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, and of course, the world-famous Sagrada Familia. I’ve been in many churches in Europe, but I can easily say that Sagrada Familia was the most magnificent that I have seen yet. Designed by Gaudí, the church stands high above most other buildings in Barcelona. Every detail of the church has importance to religious aspects. It was so incredible to hear about how everything meshes together for a distinct reason. The stained glass windows face different directions to get the glow from sunrise and sunset, the pillars are made to resemble tree branches supporting the earth, each facade of the church displays a different section of the Bible, along with many more aspects.
I also had a chance to reunite with a friend I met in Dublin. Deana and I took a day trip up to Montserrat after enjoying a nice pancake breakfast together. Again, the weather was perfect for a day to stare off a mountain. I was so happy to get to see part of Barcelona with someone I knew. I always love making those great connections with people.
I took my first night train to Lisbon, Portugal. It wasn’t the greatest sleep I’ve had in my life, but it was definitely a useful experience. I had a top bunk bed, and once I climbed up there, I didn’t even come back down all night. The room I shared with three others was almost too small to even fit my backpack through, so there wasn’t much space to move around. Also, as the train rocks all night long, so does your bed. Needless to say, I missed out on a few hours of beauty sleep, but arriving in Portugal was enough adrenaline to keep me going.
It was a Sunday in Lisbon, so most shops were closed, but the city center was busy with people out on their leisurely strolls. There were also street markets set up for their annual Easter sales. Lisbon has very antique looking architecture that seems to take you back in time. The city also has seven hills, three of which I unknowingly walked up to get to my hostel. My legs were burning but the cityscape was breathtaking.
I met up later in the afternoon with a friend I had met in Northern Ireland, Teresa. She showed me around the beautiful area of Sintra, and through her home of Cascais. Lisbon and Cascais sit on the coast, so I could feel the ocean breeze and hear the waves crashing. Everyone was outside walking around and spending time on the sand, even into the later hours of the evening. I loved getting to see an area outside of the big city!
After a guided walking tour and walking several miles on my own through Lisbon and its surrounding neighborhoods, it was time for me to move on back to Spain. I had the chance to stay with an amazing family in Madrid. Mayte, her family and her friends were all immediately kind and welcoming towards me. I loved every second that I spent in Madrid with them.
They took me on tours of the city’s most famous areas, as well as to the medieval city of Toledo. Stone towers and narrow streets make up Toledo, and it’s even more impressive at night as all of the structures are illuminated. Madrid itself is also very stunning, with grand palaces and gardens lining the city’s realm. I also visited El Escorial and watched the annual Easter procession.
Throughout my stay in Madrid, I was introduced to so many typical Spanish dishes and drinks. I think I tried more new foods in four days than I had in months. I had churros dipped in chocolate, a four-course Madrid stew, tapas, croquetas, patatas bravas, squid, pig ear, calamari, sausages, octopus, other pig parts, cakes, torrijas, tiramisu, sangria, vermouth, cider, and probably more things that I’m forgetting. Could that list get any longer or more interesting? I was so excited to try everything and surprisingly, there wasn’t a thing I didn’t enjoy.
I felt so much love in Madrid by staying with such an amazing and down-to-earth family. I would definitely love to visit again. Spain and Portugal were two of my most favorite places on the trip so far. Although I don’t speak any Spanish or Portuguese, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of maneuvering through cities and meals by complete guesses. I’ll miss the overwhelming amounts of sunshine and of course, the great company. Now, onto Berlin and Eastern Europe!