Category Archives: Spain… on the road Again

One last hurra! at Costa Brava

My last weekend in Spain just passed (the end is near!!! wahhh). I arrived in Barcelona 5 pm of 26 July. I visited my Colombian friend Oscar, who is now doing his internship in Barcelona. He fetched me together with his girlfriend Elly at the Barcelona Sants station.

We roamed a bit in Las Ramblas by late afternoon and had dinner at the Plaza Real (Plaça Reial in catalán). We had a stroll at the Barrio Gótico at night. Being the Gothic architecture lover that I am, Barrio Gótico is one of the tourist attractions I like in Barcelona. I wasn’t able to take photos because I don’t have a camera. Or at least a good one that could take night photos. I had my flatmate’s camera with me but that is mostly for daytime use.

 

27 July, Saturday.

Oscar, Elly and I, took the train leaving Barcelona Sants station at 7:46 am and we were at Girona by 9. Oscar’s uncle Gus, who lives with his family on the next town of San Feliu de Guíxols, picked us up at the station

We then dropped by first at his uncle’s flat to get some things and to get her wife, Clara, who was waiting for us at the house. Their little boy, Pau, is an adorable child. I’ve only seen him before in Oscar’s photos in Facebook but now I’ll be spending an entire day with him. 🙂

Costa Brava is this stretch of coast in northeast of Spain that faces the Mediterranean Sea. Oscar was telling  me we are going to a nice beach where there are not so many tourists. I was thinking, hmm.. Let me see to believe. Spain is the beach capital of Europe during the summer and a beach hidden from northern European tourists? I wasn’t too sure about that.

We had a lunch of hamburgers, fries, and my summer drink sangria by a chiringuito, an open air restaurant by the beach. Our conversation circled on life in general, with Oscar’s uncle Gus pitching in what life is like in your 30s and 40s.

 

Here is Pau making sure I don’t get burned. So cute this kid! And speaks straight too at 2 1/2 years old.

We arrived at a little before 11 am. There were not much people then but by the afternoon, the beach lovers started pouring in. There were quite a few Germans, French and English.

Me with Oscar, one of the good friends I’ve made during my stay in Spain.

 

We were back in Barcelona by 10:30 pm. We have free entrance to this popular beach side club called Opium. We were in the guest list to come in before 1 am. Elly and I were able to get in before 1 am while Oscar was waiting for Christian, his flatmate and also our classmate at our MBA, to get dressed. We waited for them in the club.

I borrowed one of Elly’s high heeled shoes. I came to Barcelona only wearing flip flops, didn’t know we were going to a bar. Even with my aching feet I still enjoyed my last night of clubbing in Spain. 😉

The following day, 28 July, my bus leaves at 11:30 am for Madrid. We arrived on time at the train station. But the wrong one! I forgot that my bus leaves at Barcelona Nord and not at Sants!

The train prices are horrible. 110€ for a single trip. Had no choice but to go by bus and the only bus schedule that still has available seats leaves at midnight. Gahhh!! I was wanting to sleep Sunday night at my room so I’ll be fresh the next day to pack my luggage. No choice, leaving at midnight and arriving at 7:30 in Madrid.

 

As they say in Spanish, no hay nada mal que por bien no venga. In English there’s no literal translation but the meaning is “every cloud has a silver lining.” I know that Barcelona has an Arc de Triomf and I haven’t seen it yet. The Arc is a five-minute walk from the Barcelona Nord station and since I missed my bus and will be taking the night bus, I could now have a photo taken with it. 🙂

Here’s my summer song 2013. It is the soundtrack for a tv ad of Estrella Damm, the beer from Barcelona.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qd32xY6_90c

I’m gonna miss Spain, lots. Can’t help but cry a bit seeing this video. This is not the last Spain. ¡Hasta la próxima!

Segue to Segovia

One of the famous day trips from Madrid is Segovia. One can easily reach this city from Madrid either by train or bus. We took the bus leaving from the bus station of Príncipe Pío that cold Saturday of 8 June. Bought the tickets on the same day we were leaving that the bus leaving at 10:15 was already full. Gabi and I, my Korean travel buddy for the day, waited for an hour for the next bus that leaves at 11.

Segovia is famous for this.

It’s the city’s landmark. You can tell from the number of tourists having their photos taken with it as a backdrop (yours truly included).

When we arrived, it was raining so we had to wait for at least 30 minutes inside the tourist information center which is just on the corner of this side of the Aqueduct. When we finally went out, my camera started acting up again. I got it to work 2 days before this trip you’d never imagine how thankful I was and then it was starting to fail me again. Luckily, this bad start didn’t last as it opened to life after my 8th attempt or so. Thank my camera for taking these:

 

A specialty this side of Spain is the cochinillo.

As a Filipino, I know well that this this particular delicacy, that is the star of every fiesta in my homeland, is a Spanish influence. Lechón is the name used in the Philippines. I learned here though, that lechón is the name of the baby pig used for roasting and cochinillo asado, refers to the way of preparing the lechón. In Spain, a lechón, the baby pig, is the one used for roasting but in the Philippines, it’s normally an adult pig that is roasted

We dined at Duque, one of the best-known restaurants that serve the best cochinillo in town! Gabi and I checked the price first before entering. The cochinillo is priced at 21€ and we agreed that we could share it and we’ll order a salad to also share. The serving portion is perfect for 2 people. It’s too much for one person and with it’s high cholesterol content it is wise to share it.

 

After lunch, we headed to the Mirador de la Pradera de San Marcos. I looked it up online the night before our trip. It says it provides a good vantage point of the Alcazar de Segovia – the fortress-castle said to be an inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Cinderella.

The entrance for the castle is 4.50€ but we we’re not interested in going in. What I wanted was a good photo of the castle from the outside, with its blue turrets in full display to capture that Cinderella Castle look. And I got it. *sings Cinderella-like: a dream is a wish your heart makes.. ♪ ♫

 

We also passed by the Cathedral.

We stopped for merienda because I was feeling cold and wanted to sit down for some hot tea or chocolate con churros. The restaurant we went into didn’t have the latter but I got me a tea and chocolate crepe. It was nearly 6 in the afternoon and we still got time to kill before our 8 pm bus for Madrid. We went to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vicente.

They have an exhibition of the Prado Museum entitled: El museo del Prado visto por los artistas españoles contemporáneos (The Prado Museum seen by contemporary Spanish artists). The exhibition showcases paintings of contemporary artists that were called on by the Prado to create their interpretation of the museum. This happened in 1990. 12 artists were selected. And then again in 2005.

 

Upon entering, we were told that there’s a free tour of the said exhibition starting in 5 minutes. It’s always good to know the explanation behind the paintings so we joined the tour. It was really interesting. The guide has asked several times if we’ve seen this painting, that painting in the Prado since it was chosen by a contemporary artist to depict in his interpretation. I was mentally scolding myself for still not being able to find the time to go in the Prado. There were some really curious interpretations and a favorite among these contemporary artists to re-create was Velasquez’s Las Meninas. It was the guide’s words that pointed out that the female artists’ depiction of the paintings has more depth, story-wise. It was true. There was a creation by Soledad Sevilla that I particularly like. She has chosen a painting of the artist Guido Reni entitled Hippomenes and Atalanta.

 

The museum was a nice way to cap off the day. I was feeling inspired and feeling intellectual after the paintings I’ve discovered hehe. 😉 We walked back to the bus station and we’re there by 7:30, just in time for our 8pm bus. I went back to Madrid with a worsening throat (I totally blame the weather) but it was still worth the trip.

Inside Valencia

One of the few good friends I’ve known here in Spain is now living in Castellón, a province of Valencia. Last week, the day after my Peñalara hike, I went to see her.

So there we were the whole Sunday strolling around Valencia. We did a lot of catching up while hopping from one place to the next.

The true proof I’ve been to Valencia is having a picture by this cultural and entertainment complex that is the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. It has museums, a center for the performing arts, an ocean park and the L’Umbracle, a public garden of contemporary design characterized by the parallel arches in the form of a walkway covering the palm trees and plants. Anna said there’s also a bar/club by the garden. I would have loved an opportunity to go there, must be really majestic.

 

 

The heat of the sun was taking it’s toll on us so we decided to break for merienda in one of the several horchaterias in town. Horchata is a refreshing drink typical to Valencia made from tiger nut. This is absolutely one of my favorite summer drinks, next to sangría of course. 😉

 

It was Corpus Christi that Sunday so we saw a Catholic procession. In addition, the gigantes also made an appearance. I had the assumption that they were mainly a thing of Pamplona.

 
By 19:30 we left Valencia by train going to Castellón which was an hour’s ride away. There, I’ll be staying the night at Anna’s place in Benicàssim, one of the municipalities of Castellón.

The following day was a day of pure leisure. There’s a bike lane that hugs the entire coast. We rode a bike to our breakfast destination with a view of the sea. Rode our bike afterwards all the way to the other side crossing the border of Benicàssim with Castellón and stopping by a bakeshop for some sweets refueling. It was a good morning workout. I super enjoyed the bike ride with the sea breeze blowing in my face. I was a happy camper. 😀

 

Benicàssim is a coastal town and there were few people as normally these are people who work in Madrid and just come there during the weekends. During summers, droves of tourists flock for the annual Festival Internacional de Benicàssim. This year’s line-up actually includes one of my favorite bands, The Killers. But no, I don’t have any plans of attending this music festival as I’m not familiar with the rest of the performing bands. Plus, I’d rather watch The Killers in concert as they would probably sing mostly only 5 songs in the festival.

After lunch we took a quick dip in the sea, just to test out the waters. We didn’t really plan to swim there as it’s more convenient to swim in their pool.

 

The biggest of the 3 photos above was taken in their balcony. I would love to have a house with this kind of view. When I woke up that morning, the smell of the sea breeze greeting me was enough to make my day.

I was so happy to have been able to visit Anna and got the chance to know her adoptive town. This is my kind of weekend. Out and about with an outdoor activity and away from mobile gadgets. 😉