Where did I Go? Avila, Barcelona, Madrid, Segovia, and Montserrat, Spain
When I Went: May 19 to May 27, 2010
Was that the Best Time of Year to Go? Yes. Europe is best in spring and Spain is no exception.
Why I Went There: My ancestors are from Spain, therefore it was always a place that intrigued me. There is also a direct flight from DFW to Madrid and lastly, a friend, who also just returned from her holiday there, recommended it.
Who Went With Me? This was a holiday I did solo.
I Stayed Here: I stayed in hostels the whole time I was in Spain. Two of them were in Madrid and one in Barcelona. The first one in Madrid was Las Musas. I stayed here for one night. It is about a five to ten minute walk southeast of Plaza Mayor. The closest metro is Tirso de Molina. This was a nice hostel. The rooms are well kept and the staff is very friendly and helpful. The price includes a modest breakfast of toast and cereals (typical with hostels) and they also provide nightly activities that allow residents to mingle with each other. Way Hostel served as my second home away from home in Madrid. It too, was located minutes from Plaza Mayor. Way is a better in my opinion. Its location is more accessible to Las Musas and the rooms are bigger. The room I stayed at also had single beds instead of bunk styles (something I prefer since my bed’s usually the one on top). The price also includes breakfast and the staff here is equally welcoming and friendly. I would recommend Way for a budget place to stay. My hostel for Barcelona was Hello BCN. This was a suitable hostel to stay at however I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for a single traveler. Despite the relatively safe areas immediately surrounding the location, you will have to pass through some of Barcelona’s unpleasant streets in order to get to the foot of Las Ramblas. The staff here is friendly and knowledgeable and the hostel itself has quirky designs which suit the city it’s in, but its location was definitely a disadvantage. When staying in Barcelona, choose a location north of Paral-lel and east of the Carrer Nou de la Rambla.
You Won’t Want to Miss: The must see list for Spain travels include a Roman aqueduct, a mountainous place of religious importance, and a foodie market. The aqueducts in Segovia are some of the most well preserved Roman aqueducts outside of Italy. Its official construction date is uncertain but was estimated to be somewhere between the 1st and 2nd centuries. It is an impressive structure and a feat of engineering that put it in the world heritage list. Montserrat is a sacred town just outside of Barcelona. It’s named so because of the serrated structure of mountains surrounding the town. It’s home to one of the oldest monasteries in Spain and is a Catholic pilgrimage site. It’s also a popular hiking destination for Catalonians. Mercat de la Boqueria is Barcelona’s famous outdoor market. They have everything here from fresh seafood to abanicos (traditional Spanish hand-painted fans). You can get fresh fruits, cheese and cured meats here at very reasonable prices and picnic by the seaside on a nice day.
Things to Do: Montserrat has plenty of hiking trails suitable for any levels. The Spanish are also very proud of their football so try to catch one of the matches if time permits. Spain is the current Euro and World champions having won both in 2008 and 2010 respectively.
Eat Here: When I was in Madrid, I signed up to join a tapas night tour, which I enjoyed immensely. The best one of those was El Lacon located on Calle Manuel Fernández Y González. This was place populated by locals. I don’t quite recall everything our guide ordered here, but this was the place we stayed at the longest and tried the most food (all of which failed to disappoint). If you’re craving for excellent paella without wanting to pay a fortune in Madrid, head to La Alhambra. This small taberna was recommended by the guys from Las Musas and located on Calle de la Cruz. I ate here with a couple of ladies I met and we ordered the paella mixta. They also have a very good handmade tiramisu offering for dessert. My last night in Barcelona, I went to a tapas restaurant frequented by locals in the university district called La Flauta. They offer a pretty good selection of seafood and Catalan offerings on the menu. It is also not terribly expensive.
When I go again: On my next Spain travels, I plan to head south towards Seville, Cordoba, and Granada. This southern portion of Spain varies greatly from its sister cities in the north because of Muslim and Moorish influences. Seville is the capital of the Andalucía and is the birthplace of flamenco. It is also home to the third largest cathedral in the world. Cordoba is a city about an hour and half north east of Seville. It was once a provincial capital for Rome and the Arab state and the coexistence of both Christians and Muslims here is evident through the architecture of the city. The main draw in particular is the Mezquita; built originally as a mosque but is now a Christian cathedral. Granada is said to be the city that makes visiting Spain worthwhile. With its colourful and rich historic past as well as its picturesque location, this once Moorish center for commerce is home to Spain’s most impressive and most visited site, The Alahambra.
Other Tips for Fellow Travelers: If going to Madrid, it might useful to obtain a Madrid card. You can buy a 24, 48, or 72 hour pass and includes entrance fees to Madrid’s most popular destinations such as the Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Palacio Real. It also includes the hop on hop off tours buses as well as unlimited use of the metro and bus lines for the same duration.