Christmas 2013 it was decided that we would take a siesta from Canada’s harsh winter and head to (at the time) the only place in the world I wanted to see.
I had an idealistic vision of what Spain would be like… every building would be a castle and the colorful architecture would be blinding and men in hilariously tight pants would be on the street selling me bread. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I had two weeks to spend in this colorful Spanish art land.
December 23rd 2013: MADRID
We first went to the Museo I deal prado to see the Valasquez exhibit followed by the Contemporary Art Museum of Spain.. I am ALL about contemporary art, and it did not disappoint (La Guernica 😉 .
We spent the afternoon walking through a mostly dead from the winter season botanical garden (that probably should have waved the fee considering the state of all the contents…)
Drank a quick 2-3 bottles of $1.75 wine and called our first day a success.
December 24th 2013: MADRID
It’s Christmas Eve in a strange city so we decided this was prime shopping time for the tourists! Only…. we didn’t see any tourists and we counted ourselves lucky. After a quiet breakfast in a fancy hotel bar overlooking Madrid we noticed that all of the shops on our street remained closed. By late morning we came to realize that either people in Spain start their days much later than we do in North America…. or much like us, they take Christmas Holidays.
As Shopping was out of the Question we decided on a rainy sightseeing day to explore the city, we walked through the main square and did a lap of the architectural housing. It was gloomy for the majority of our trip (on top of not looking into holiday shop schedules we also neglected to check the forecast further than the temperature). It turns out winter in Spain means rain, rain, rain.
As dinner time rolled around we noticed that along with the shops being closed the restaurant owners were also having Christmas dinner with their families….. we were starting to get nervous about tomorrow’s meal and entertainment prospects. Were we going to have Christmas during a thunderstorm alone in a hotel room?
During the walk back to the hotel room we stumbled across the Hemingway Bar… had this been open it would have been really exciting for us given our literary interest. But it was not, and instead further aggravated our Christmas Blues.
Upon return to our hotel room we decided it was time to get out of dodge, and booked a train to our next destination a few days early… thankful that we got all the museums in before the city shut down.
December 25th 2013: BARCELONA
We woke early Christmas morning to leave town in an attempt to salvage our day….surely Barcelona would have something exciting to offer us this holiday season!
A short 3 hour Christmas morning train ride later we were about to find out! Barcelona!
Delight! Our hotel (that we booked on the train) was in the center of Boutique Alley. There were grocery stores open for this chick to buy her apples and wine/cheese, and finally Christmas was starting! Following our Drinks+Pomme meal we set off to explore this buzzing city.
Barcelona was huge, and beautiful, and much much busier than Madrid. It had a more historic feel and everyone it seemed was in the streets.
The sun had set and the alleys were lit by Christmas lights, streets gleaming from fresh rainfall that had briefly taken a break for Santa to come (no?) All the shops were open and mostly selling Christ themed carvings.
We found a gorgeous church (pictured) and attended a midnight mass. I am not at all a religious person, but man was it ever beautiful to witness this scene.
December 26th 2013: BARCELONA
In true art lover fashion we spent boxing day at the Peredra Museum in the main part of the city, the afternoon was spend hiking Mount Monjunic (pictured). The view reminded me of what I imagine Greece to look like, all orange and peach colored rooftops overlapping each other. At the top of the mountain we came across the Miro Museum…closed until tomorrow. This museum was on J’s list of things he HAD too see, but the thought of committing to this hike a second time was horrifying.
So down the mountain we went, taking a walk along the waterfront to our next stop… some wine bar for afternoon reads. Spain is notorious for it’s tapas meals, which we hated but ate often during this trip. Near to our hotel was the conveniently located “Best tapas in town” where we went in and ordered a plate to split (it’s mostly rice/cheese and the portions were huge) unfortunately for everyone involved our waiter took it upon himself to count the people sitting at the table and bring us 2 servings. Pain ensues, we request to only pay for what we ordered, he tells us that if we can’t afford to travel we shouldn’t…. we won’t be returning to the Best Tapas In Town.
December 27th 2013: BARCELONA
In Spain most places are open 10:00-2:00 then closed for Siesta, and re open at 4:00, this was a tough adjustment for an early bird like me.
We decided mid morning to check out the famous La Ramblas Boulevard, known for it’s shops, entertainment and local food markets. We have the luxury of checking into the Guiro Hotel– a hotel designed by a Spanish Artist whose work is littered around the country, its kitchy and loud and exactly what you would imagine. A dream. It’s also (surprise) a rainy day in Spain…. so we decide to head back up the Mt. to visit the Miro Museu. Totally worth it, did not disappoint, and funnily enough the Miro stuff was the least whelming of the content, there was a wonderfully curated Horizons exhibit that I still think about to this day (3 years later!).
We made our way back down the mountain, and hiked over to Park Guell, (Güell and Gaudí conceived this park, situated within a natural park. They imagined an organized grouping of high-quality homes, decked out with all the latest technological advancements to ensure maximum comfort, finished off with an artistic touch. They also envisioned a community strongly influenced by symbolism, since, in the common elements of the park, they were trying to synthesize many of the political and religious ideals shared by patron and architect: therefore there are noticeable concepts originating from political Catalanism – especially in the entrance stairway where the Catalonian countries are represented – and from Catholicism – the Monumento al Calvario, originally designed to be a chapel. The mythological elements are so important: apparently Güell and Gaudí’s conception of the park was also inspired by the Temple of Apollo of Delphi.)
So beautiful. We trudged back to our hilarious art hotel and did some sink laundry. woo travel! And then of course, wine bar wine bar wine bar.
December 28th 2013: ZARAGOZA
We checked out of beauty Barcelona and take a train to the grossest place I’ve ever been–Zaragoza. A filthy city in Spain comprised of restaurants that don’t serve alcohol and bars that don’t serve food. They had a lovely contemporary Art museum with a gorgeous panoramic view and a hotel outside a fish market that was mostly under construction. There is nothing that makes you feel more like you’re about to be slaughtered than walking down a litteral plank, pushing through plastic sheets to enter your hotel room. We decided to spend approx. 11 hours in this city, break our way into a bottle of red using a butter knife, and leave the place looking like a massacre occurred. BYE Zaragoza!
December 29th 2013: San Sebastian
We hopped aboard our bestfriend the thousand dollar train to plough into San by 1:30. This place, man, this place is exactly what I dreamed Spain would be. Bordered by water, high climbable mountains, nude beaches, freezing temperatures and still kids and dogs were surfing, stone crosses on mountain tops casting shadows over the city… and a treck through a valley to get from the train station to the town. (Fact about travelling with us- we walk everywhere. no matter what). SO. it’s pouring rain in a strange city, yep we’re walking 2.5 hours to check in. We were soaked and luckily found some resto advertising American food where we have a chicken leg covered in rice and proceed to the hotel.
At the end of this long day we are exhausted, find a grocer and buy our yog/apples for the mo.
December 30th 2013: San Sebastian
On this day, I feel like we did it all. Every single thing. I can feel the end of the trip clooming and I am desperate to soak in all the Spain I can. We walk all 3 mountain peeks in record time, saw many churches, visited “Olde Town”, saw live music at a cute wine bar and owned this vacation. The infamous ” you treat vacation like a job” incident.
December 31st 2013: San Sebastian
We spent our last morning in town meandering through Olde town, this is the point in the trip when travel partners really start to wear on eachother.. we’ve never spent this much time without a break from another person, and boy did we need it.
I’m not proud of this, but we were so annoyed with eachother that we went early to the train station to wait for the day to end. At 11:30 am. Tired and feeling like I was wasting a full day in a beautiful spot I took off to shop & explore alone. I found out later that during this time J scaled a mountain that I had wanted to see…not a great day. At 4:30 our train arrives and we’re looking at 6 hours of quiet train time. Spending New Years eve angry on a train? Segovia here we come!
January 1st 2014: SEGOVIA
Our train arrives in Segovia at 11:30 pm on the 31st… it’s nearly NY and we are eager to get to a bar to ring in the new year Spain style. We are the only 2 people on our train car by this point, and the only two who exit the platform in Segovia (mythed to be haunted, this was the part of the trip I was most excited for, the city is primarily castles and most are rumored to be inhabited by ghosts and witches. Gimme.) Cut to us exiting the train alone, onto a dark platform in the middle of the night– train pulls out, we see one dimly lit staircase and mount it into a DARK, EMPTY, train station. Not one human. It turns out the place is motion lit, and as we moved about the station odd lights would turn on and off. Not scary, we’re fine, right?! We exit the front door of the station and see…. nothing. No road, not lights, no town.
In. Every. Direction.
Finally a security guard appears, he speaks no English and if I haven’t mentioned this yet, the Spanish phrase book we have at our disposal and the limited Spanish that I speak are in an entirely different dialect than the one that is spoken in any part of the country we’ve travelled so far.
He points us to a pay phone with a cab number on it, we mime to him that we’d like to walk… he laughs in our face. Taxi arrives and drives us for more than 20 miles before we begin to see a sign of life. Drops us at our hotel (also dark and empty) There is one visible human inside, lit only by the computer screen in front of her. We check in at 11:55. Now we are frantic, “Let’s get to a bar STAT”.
We are running through deserted streets and seeing only cats. and I mean, like MULTIPLE cats. So far we have seen the same amount of cats as minutes we have been in Segovia, and only 3 other people. (Security guard, cab driver, hotel woman)…. we’re now afraid. No bars are open (obviously, this town is inhabited only by cats and witches) so we decide to climb the Aqueduct (pictured) and ring in the new year just the two of us with a beautiful view of the town that surely would kill us.
At 12:30 we decide to call this horrible day and head back to the hotel for what we thought would be our last night being mauled by cats.
We fall asleep…..And at about 1:00am, the gunshots started. I wake to (what I thought) was the balcony door being blown in. The loudest noises and brightest explosive lights I’ve ever seen sent me screaming across the room. J has never been paler, but still braver than I opened the drapes to see…..a god damn street parade. As it turns out, in Spain it is custom to eat a large midnight meal with your family at home on NYE and then the party starts…so every person in this city was nowhere to be seen until 1:00am when they all emerged to scare me worse than I’ve ever been scared. Well played Segovia. Cut to the real morning of the 1st, where we explore many gorgeous castles with Witch Hat turrets, complete a pretty serious Pub Crawl and got the hell out of there as one more night in this haunted den may actually have driven us insane.
Train back to Madrid.
January 2nd 2014: MADRID
Back in Madrid to close out the trip we spent our last full day enjoying the shops that are now open! Dining at the places we missed due to Christmas and getting in whatever last minute sights we wanted to see.
January 3rd 2014: MADRID
Flight Home day…. we “slept” at the airport as we had a morning flight, if I can teach anyone anything it’s that this is NEVER a viable option.
We have jobs, sleep in a bed.