How Spain? Owie and I decided that if we were going to take a trip together, we should see if we could find one that would satisfy one need each: she wanted to go somewhere warm and beachy, and I wanted to go somewhere with buzzing cities. And, due to this and that, we’d only have a week to pull something off.
We went with Spain– famous nightlife, Travel-Channel-level beaches, and top notch food. Oh, and why not see one of the most popular sports teams in the world play some soccer!
I’d say we f***ing nailed it.
- Drive from Grand Rapids to Chicago, take the El to ORD
- Fly overnight to BCN
- Spend the day getting used to Barcelona, end up on rooftop bar
- Sprint to the train within 3 minutes of departure to Valencia, Spain
- Bike around the city a few days
- Joined a hostel pub crawl (til 3am…)
- Find paella in its origin city
- Meet some hometown friends back in Barcelona
- Walking/drinking tour through the districts
- Walk to a peak to view the city
- Watch Barcelona beat Real Betis at Camp Nou
- Visit the beach to wind it all down
- So, so much Spanish food in-between
We spent one night in Barcelona before heading to Valencia. After traveling overnight, we didn’t have much in the tank, other than wander around to drink wine and eat seafood (very easy to do as it turns out). However, the days we returned to Barcelona were booked almost end-to-end, accidentally for the most part.
We walked through all the city districts on a walking + food tour with some friends from the States. Our guide Pri (from Brazil) introduced us to tinto de verano, the best red wine concoction I’ve ever tried. We also discovered spicy patatas bravas and pan con tomate, which became a bit of a staple through the trip.
The day after, Owie and I hiked to burn off our calories in the hot Spanish sun – only to end up stranded at a spot where the metro was under construction. So, we had a couple mile walk back to the hostel after that (for reference, it was above 90F/30C), and we had to move fast to make it to the soccer game later. We watched Barcelona kick the crap out of Real Betis at 5-2, so naturally we went to the nearest bar to celebrate with strangers – and end up staying past the metro’s closing time. So, again in the same day, we had a couple mile walk back to the hostel…
The last full day in Barcelona was full recovery mode due to that, so we managed to eat, beach, and eat our way back to recovery.
Barcelona is loud, it stays up late, and it eats like a king at every single meal.
Valencia was the origin of the most amazing food in Spain, and possibly, the world: paella. Or at least, that’s what we knew about it. And it turned out, while there, we did find the most amazing slab of saffron, scallops, and rice. Every rumor you’ve heard about the Spanish dish is true. However, that was by far the smallest surprise to come on the trip.
spain’s biggest surprise
In the fall of 2017, I went on a trip around Europe. While there, I stayed at a hostel in Budapest, Hungary, and became fast friends with a guy from Brazil named Thom. That also happened to be the wildest hostel I’ve ever stayed at, and I met many one-night friends from around the world – so when he left the next day, we said “safe travels” and that was that.
Cut to fall of 2019, and I’m on a similar style pub crawl (that didn’t even start until 11pm!) in Valencia, Spain, with a whole new hostel and no one I know within 500 miles. I knew this guy looked familiar, but that was an unconnected trip in an unconnected country to our current scenario – there’s no way I’d run into someone I knew on a previous international pub crawl. When I finally drank up the nerve to ask what country he was from, though, he responded with “you’re that guy from Michigan!” – followed with two very loud cheers from two very loud men.
I don’t know what the odds of that intersection are, but it’s without question the least likely thing to ever happen in my life.
Owie and I bailed at 3am, and it kept going for another few hours, we found out the next day.But, we had to rest and reset for a biking day. Which…required a lot of water and stopping.
We biked, ate (shocker), and explored a beautiful cityscape, and I finally got to pull another person into the wonderful world of hostel life. Well, skimmed it. Every minute spent in Valencia was sweaty, eventful, and exciting.