It has been six years since I've travelled internationally, and longer still since I've taken a vacation that has lasted anywhere near a week. For these reasons, and many more, I was ecstatic to plan a trip to Spain with my dear friend Hannah - and Spain did not disappoint.
It is beautiful; it is mysterious; it is unexpected; it is delicious; it is warm.
I went into this trip being pretty tightly wound. It's been an insanely busy summer. But over the week, I watched myself unwind walking cobblestone streets and sitting in coffee shops eating warm pastries. The pace in Spain is considerably slower and I enjoyed embracing the Spanish siesta as much as possible! I also had the chance to meet new people from around the world and was reminded, once again, how much I enjoy being in cross cultural groups of people.
But traveling is a humbling business. More often than not, it seems to point out all of the areas where I am lacking: my lacking directional sense, my lacking Spanish (despite studying it for years), my lacking presence in a moment, my lacking patience with plans gone awry. The list is truly endless.
I would be remiss without pointing out that I've come back from Spain with as many thoughts to unpack as clothes.
And this is really why I think everyone should travel. It's an amazing way to learn so much about yourself and other people. It's an amazing way to grow.
Below are moments captured in Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona. I've included links and recommendations for experiences that were especially awesome.
I highly recommend staying at the Hat if you're planning a trip to Madrid. The rooms are spacious and clean (we stayed in a 10-person mixed dorm) and the staff are friendly and helpful. There are fun activities available if you need something to do and the actual location of the hostel is super convenient.
Ruda Café (Madrid)
Just like a caffeine dependent New Yorker, the first thing I needed to find was a good cup of cold brew. Coffee drinks are not as common in Europe (more espresso based), so Hannah introduced me to third wave coffee (a movement to produce high quality coffee around the world). Our Google search took us to Ruda. Sufficed to say, Hannah and I spent every morning there while in Madrid.
Tartan Rooftop (Madrid)
If you're looking for a tasty meal and sweeping views of the city, look no further than Tartan Roof. Make a reservation!
Bluebell Coffee Co. (Valencia)
Bluebell is a picturesque café (verging on a restaurant) with a equal mix of non-Spaniards and Spaniards. They bottle their own coffee (shown below) and their baked goods were delicious, which got Hannah and I up every morning :)
Hannah and I found a fun indoor activity at one of the largest aquariums in Europe! We saw dolphins, sharks, penguins and a variety of other fun sea characters here.
Mi Paella En El Huerto (Authentic paella cooking class in Valencia)
I have to highlight the awesome experience we had with the people at Mi Paella. We were picked up at our AirBnB and taken to a small pueblo outside of Valencia where paella was originally birthed. There we learned from a chef how to cook authentic paella while drinking wine and scanning the awesome Spanish countryside.
Gothic Quarter (Barcelona)
The Gothic quarter in Barcelona is a romantic look into the rich history that goes back to the Roman Empire. No, really, you can see the underground ruins at the Barcelona City History Museum. If you're not into museums, simply walking around will give you a look at stunning architecture. There are also cute shops and cafes everywhere.
Plaza Mayor (Last night in Madrid)
Since our flight departed from Madrid, we trained back for a final night in the city. We ate tapas and drank sangria at an outdoor café in Plaza Mayor. It was the perfect way to end our trip.
La Mallorquina (Madrid)
I don't care how touristy this was. I fell in love with the Pepito de Crema (not pictured above...that was also delicious though). You must grab a pastry from here - there will be no regrets!