Way back in the day (2003) hand in hand with my prima, I ventured off on my very 1st “grown up” international adventure to explore Spain and all its beauty. It was quite a remarkable trip that allowed me to see how diverse and culturally rich the country really is. Our five-week excursion included time spent in the following cities: Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Cordoba and Madrid. We chose to stay in a combination of apartments and hotels, (if you’re going to be there for more than a few days, renting an apartment totally makes you feel like one of the locals). I’ll share a few of the awesome things we did in each city!
Ah Barcelona, what can I say, the city of Gaudi, Las Ramblas and beaches (nudity on the beaches is NOT forbidden, just a FYI) was charming at first sight! We spent a total of 5 days in this wonderland and let’s just say it was some of the best five days of my life! The architecture and museums here are not to be missed. Home to Gaudi, his artistic work can be seen all over the city, from La Sagrada Familia Basilica to Parc Guell. Rich in art, food and culture, this city is a must see on your Spanish adventure.
Valencia Biennial, shopping, and bullfights! We hit the ground running in this city since we only had three days to explore all of its glory! The Valencia Biennial, (Valencia’s bi-annual art expo/show throughout the city) was happening during our stay, which made the city even more vibrant. The city was full of contemporary art exhibits, one in which I got my hair cut and highlighted (in a Museum) for free! In addition to exploring all the art related events, we shopped, a lot. This city offers plenty of options for any shop till ya drop type of person. From cute little boutiques to local Spanish stores like Mango and Zara (we went a little crazy at these two for sure, this was pre-USA openings!) to antique fairs, Valencia has a little something for everyone. It’s every shoppers dream come true!
Valencia will also hold a special remembrance because it was the first city where we saw a traditional bullfight at the famous Plaza de Toros de Valencia. Now this isn’t a type of activity for the faint at heart so be prepared, or opt for something a little less morbid. We however were enamored by the talent and skills of the matadors. It really is like seeing the last flamenco dance between a man and a bull. We were also told that they give the meat of the bull to those who need it. On a lighter note, Valencia is where Pallea originated (a traditional Valencian rice dish, usually with a combination of meats and seafood), so it’s also definitely worth trying while in the city, Que rico!
I think this city still holds a piece of my heart. Granada, in my opinion, is where the diversity of Spain really shines. The Moorish influence in southern Spain definitely left its mark in Granada. Traces of the Moors is exemplified by the Alhambra Palace, originally a fortress, the architecturally magnificent sight has been around for many centuries. While walking the palace grounds you feel as if you have taken a step back into time. Paella and tapas are notorious in Spain and up until we reached this city that’s mostly all we had experienced (no complaints). Until that is, I had one of the tastiest shawarmas (an Arabic pita sandwich) I’ve ever had, from the local, late-night street vendor. In fact, it was so deliciously delicious, it became our regular late-night spot for the remainder of our trip.
Now all of this sounds great and believe me it was, but what topped off our stay in Granada, was experiencing a traditional Flamenco dance in a, wait for it, CAVE! (the stomping and clapping of the performers really is intensified when it bounces off the cave walls). This passionate form of dance and song is the kind that leaves you with goose bumps for days and wanting to experience more of it. The icing on the cake was when we were invited to hang with the performers after the show. We politely declined after we realized three of us were going to be transported on a scooter to the next destination, (safety issues and what not)…none the less the experience was one of a life time.
Córdoba is one of the eight provinces of the Andalusia region. We only had a short three-day stay in this beautiful city. We took the opportunity to unwind a little during our stay in Cordoba. We spent a good amount of time relaxing at our very “fancy” hotel and definitely took advantage of the pool, both day and night… (we sneaked in after hours)… BUT Cordoba is known for much more than mischievous girls getting up to no good. We did get to take in some sites, such as the Mosque of Cordoba which is breath-taking to say the least. Córdoba is a much smaller, charming alternative than its Andalusian neighbors Granada and Seville.
Finally, we ended our five-week adventure in the capital of Spain, Madrid. Now this is a city and a large one at that! One of our highlights was when we celebrated in the streets of Madrid when Real Madrid (Madrid’s futbol team) returned from beating their rivals. We literally saw Beckham and Ronaldo doing their victory dances on the top of their Real Madrid double-decker bus. I could not imagine leaving Spain in any other way. The city was packed and it was a pretty big deal, and it was quite obvious how passionate Madrileños and Spaniards in general are ALL about futbol! In addition, we checked out the awesome Museo Nacional del Prado that is home to some of the world’s classic pieces of art. Madrid is a gorgeous, fast pace city and is a must see if you are making your way through Spain.
I hope that my little adventure in Spain has inspired you to venture out and see this beautiful country that I have clearly fallen in love with! Buena suerte chicos!
By Priya Randhawa, Former Barcelona SAE Master’s Intern