Say Yes To The World – Spain: Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia | Summer 22’
The year is 2022, it’s summer in Europe and it’s been three years since my good friend Nic and I went on a journey together. During this time nothing much has really happened, just a global pandemic, what could possibly be the beginning of a new world war and our hair getting a little greyer – so we decided it was the perfect time for an adventure.
We agreed that Spain would be the perfect summer getaway, as we had never been there, and will be a good addition to my channel. We planned this trip quickly, within a few days, booked our flights and accommodation and soaked up all the excitement prior. The plan was to meet in Barcelona, catch a train to Madrid, on to Valencia, catch a flight to Palma de Mallorca, and ferry over to our last and final stop – Ibiza, where we would celebrate Nic’s birthday.
Nic arrived in Barcelona a few days before me, as he flew from South Africa and could afford a little more time than I could. Leaving Bulgaria, I arrived safely in Barcelona. Being renowned for my bad luck when travelling (I have never been on a trip where everything has gone 100% smoothly and as planned), I was quite disappointed to find that my luggage has been lost. This has happened to me before in Italy, where I did not even have a spare pair of underwear, so this time I was a little more prepared with an extra set of clothes in my carry-on bag. I got an Uber from the airport and met up with Nic at our accommodation. We wasted no time and began exploring the city.
First up we headed to Park Güell, as most tourists would. The place is an architectural wonderland, with phenomenal attention to detail. Despite the crowds of people, this is a must-see.
What is a trip to Barcelona without going to the coastline? Las Ramblas, the city’s promenade, is approximately 1.3km long and is popular among everyone and anyone, from sports enthusiasts to elderly lovebirds. Have a cold beer at one of the seaside bars, enjoy a nice walk, play some volleyball, or simply soak up the sun, there is something for everyone.
The Gothic Quarter has narrow medieval streets, cosy Catalan restaurants and trendy bars. The quarter boasts the oldest parts of the city, including the remains of the city’s Roman wall and other medieval landmarks.
Barcelona is quite different to your average European city. While in most major cities, all your points of interest are within close proximity of the city centre, in the Catalan capital they are scattered all over and being a large city, getting from one point to another may be a little challenging and time-consuming. The city’s official Hop-On Hop-Off Bus is an excellent way to get around and explore all your desired landmarks. Put some sun cream, enjoy the open top and do not waste time waiting at public transport stops.
The most notable landmark in Barcelona is La Sagrada Familia, currently, the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world stands tall above the city skyline.
Construction began in 1882, with Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi, having devoted his entire life to this architectural masterpiece. He is buried in the church’s crypt. When he died in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.
To this day, construction is still underway as per Gaudi’s original design and the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next up we got onto the fast train and headed over to the Spanish capital, Madrid. I wasn’t sure what to expect and honestly, I didn’t have high expectations. However, I was left very impressed and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
We took a walk around the city centre and were pleased that everything was within walking distance, unlike Barcelona. The city is very well looked after, and the atmosphere is buzzing. On our first attempted visit to El Retiro Park, the park was closed and there was a large red sign saying that the park was ‘closed due to extreme heat’, which was a little strange because it wasn’t even THAT hot. The following day we decided to try again and luckily it was open. The park has several picturesque gardens and fountains. If you enjoy people-watching, El Retiro Park is the perfect place to get a cold drink or ice cream and do just that. If you enjoy canoeing, there is a lake to take this step. The park is without a doubt a place where all people can enjoy the atmosphere, the fresh air and simply have fun.
We got onto the train yet again, but this time we headed east to Valencia. Our taxi driver took us to the AirBnB and was kind enough to advise us to avoid next-door neighbourhood, as it is known for drugs and other crimes. Being a fitness enthusiast, I researched some outside-fitness areas close to us and found one only a kilometre from our apartment. It turned out that this was right in the middle of the neighbourhood that our taxi driver had warned us about. Not only did I stick to my training schedule on a daily basis, but I also made some local friends. At the end of the day, people are just people, no matter what their job titles are, or their financial status.
We did zero planning for Valencia and had absolutely no idea where to go, or where the popular landmarks were, we just wanted to ‘wing it’. We thought that it would be a good idea to go on the Hop-on Hop-off bus, like we did in Barcelona, as the route would cover all important places and the audio guide would tell us about them.
The city centre is fun to explore on foot, with architectural styles varying between gothic, baroque and Romanesque. Valencia has a very bohemian feel to it, your typical laid-back coastal vibe. Oceanografic is a large oceanarium and interactive museum, where one can learn more about the mysterious marine world.
Malvarrosa Beach is Valencia’s main beach, and possibly one of the largest that I have seen. It was so wide that from the promenade, people in the water looked like ants. I have not seen any mention of this anywhere online, so perhaps maybe I had too much direct sunlight, but it was BIG. The sand was pristine, and it was not overcrowded. Along the promenade, there is a wide variety of restaurants and bars.
In my next article, the journey continues to Palma de Mallorca and the world party capital, Ibiza. Stay tuned!
View on my YouTube channel Spain part 1: Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia
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