Everyone needs a yes person in their life. That friend that when you or she calls with a spur of the moment adventure idea the person of the other end doesn’t bat an eye. My beautiful, smart bestie, Sarah is just that person. While we had been scheming for a big trip, we finally were spurred to a decision by Sarah getting a new awesome job and having a narrow window available for us to go abroad. So three weeks ago we booked our tickets to Spain for ten days! Trying to coordinate landing times in Barcelona, with one of us flying from Detroit and the other from LA was proving nigh impossible with regard to convenient flights or landing times. So, upon finding a flight under $60 from DTW to LAX it was well worth it for Sarah and I to be able to fly nonstop from LAX to Barcelona together for $200 one way. This plan allowed me to have a whole day in LA before our red eye that night. Other than last minute supplies, errands, and packing, Sarah squeezed in taking me to two bookstores I’d been wanting to visit! You can check out my posts detailing the one of a kind The Last Bookstore and Skylight Books in the associated links.
The goal of this post is to serve as a rough itinerary of our wonderful trip and a compilation of my favorite photos that we took throughout. We used a combination of Rick Steve’s 2018 Spain book and helpful travel blog posts/forums to plan our trip. The photos are in no particular order other than grouped by city. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I’ll break down each city on our whirlwind adventure!
Barcelona – One and a half days (Saturday evening through Monday morning)
The first stop on our trip was the popular city of Barcelona! We left LAX at 11:30 PM Friday night on Norwegian, ultimately getting to our destination at 7:30 PM Saturday night. Ecstatic, yet exhausted from the long flight, we quickly found our Airbnb before setting out to explore Placa de Catalunya. That first night we started out a bit disoriented, but found our way to Las Ramblas and eventually wandered down to the harbor. The next morning we took Rick Steve‘s tour of Barri Gotic, repeated our Las Ramblas ramble in the daylight, found the beach, before getting lunch in El Born on our way to Sagrada Familia for a tour of the famous cathedral. We were really wandering with the roughest of directions, and now retracing our steps back on a map I was rather shocked to see that we’d walked within a street of the “Block of Discord” and the Citadel Park without realizing it. While it might have been nice to have a set route, we really enjoyed exploring without a set path. We finished our evening with a trip to Camp Nou to see Barcelona’s soccer team successfully take on Alaves. While we were ecstatic for scoring third row seats, alas we didn’t get to see much of the game due to the field being raised up. Regardless, we had a great time!
Granada – One Day (Monday morning through Tuesday midday)
Upon debating planes, trains, or cars for our journey to Granada, we ended up picking a very, (VERY), early morning flight to Granada from Barcelona. While this feat should only be feasibly undertaken in the early part of an extended trip it worked out really well for us to arrive in Granada relatively early Monday morning. Upon finding our adorable Airbnb in Albayzin, we set off to find some breakfast and some much needed café con leche. We were directed to Cafe 4 Gatos due to its amazing views of Alhambra by our host and were not disappointed. We spent the remainder of the day exploring Old Town before catching the #C3 minibus at Plaza de Isabel La Catolica to get a ride up the hill to Alhambra. We delighted in Alhambra, being continually impressed with the level of detail throughout the Palace and Gardens. Once we made our way back down to Plaza Nueva, we caught the #C1 minibus to St. Nicholas for a stunning view of Alhambra, with the mountains at sunset. After which, famished, we sampled tapas from several establishments while exploring Albayzin and Old Town after dark.
Ronda – One Afternoon/Night (Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning)
While we were wanting to accomplish a lot of travel over this whirlwind of a trip, it was important that the travel days were not time consuming or exhausting. Sarah and I fell in love with pictures of Ronda before even setting foot in the beautiful city and were excited to see it in person. We had planned a leisurely morning in Granada, before heading to the train station at noon when at breakfast I’d read in Rick Steve‘s book that there was no actual train from Granada to Ronda that you’d have to take a bus to Antequera before catching the train (pg 625). Needless to say, I had a minor (Sarah might contest the use of minor here) panic moment (30 minutes) thinking I’d missed some crucial step in the booking process. We hurried through breakfast, looking up bus routes, alternative trains, even taxis to Antequera. Sarah, thanks to some quick Googling soon figured out that this was all for naught as our ‘train ticket’ included a 1.25 hour bus to Antequera where we would then pick up our connecting train. Flustered, and our peaceful morning spoiled, we walked to the train station where we boarded our expected bus. Once on the bus, reliving our stressful morning and happy to be on our way, fellow travelers from Israel overheard our conversations, and revealing they had also been in the same panic this morning. While, we wouldn’t wish that panic on any traveler, it was a bit comforting to not be the only one confused. Perhaps this is a section that can be better clarified in either the train ticket or by Rick. Regardless, once we got a glimpse of the bridge and the adorable city, our frantic morning was instantly forgotten. Our amazing Airbnb overlooked the remarkable bridge and after getting some much needed food, we hiked down to the bottom of the bridge, with every bend affording even more breathtaking views. Hiking at dusk, we had the path to ourselves. Once we made it back up to the city, a bit winded I might add, we enjoyed a bit of Ronda’s night life, finding delicious food and fun shopping (see the red coat I don the rest of the trip).
Córdoba – Five hour layover (Wednesday afternoon)
The next morning we set off from Ronda with the end of the day destination to be the much anticipated Sevilla. Upon seeing that our train when through in Cordoba before heading on to Sevilla we booked our tickets so that we had a five hour gap in the connecting city. The train station didn’t have luggage lockers so we walked across the street to the bus station where there were signs directing us to the storage area. The lockers were big enough to hold both Sarah’s and my luggage, our bigger purses, and coats. From here we set off on a 25 minute walk to the Old Wall where we explored the narrow, winding streets of the Jewish Quarter and the Mezquita. While it made for a busy day, we never felt rushed in what we were exploring and Cordoba worked to break up what would have been our longest travel day of the trip.
Sevilla – One Day and a half days, Two nights (Wednesday night to Friday morning)
After wandering back to the train station at Cordoba and retrieving our luggage, Sarah and I napped on our quick 45 minute ride to Sevilla before making the 25 minute hike to our Airbnb near Plaza Nueva. While starting out our walk tired, our anticipation and excitement grew as we drew closer to Barrio Santa Cruz district as we were seemingly stepping through time. That night we headed out to get dinner and walk through Rick Steve‘s Barrio Santa Cruz Walking tour before wandering across the river to explore Triana, which afforded beautiful city views from the boardwalk. We love our evening out and about, even seeing the oranges being harvested at midnight from the trees in the Patio de Banderas next to the Alcazar. The next morning after setting out in the wrong direction for about 15 minutes (a regular occurrence throughout this trip) we eventually found our way to the beautiful Seville Cathedral, making our way to the breathtaking views from the Giralda Bell Tower. The afternoon was leisurely spent wandering around the Alcazar, eating a delicious dinner at San Marco (recommended by the customs agent at Barcelona), before catching a riveting flamenco show at the Los Gallos that exceeded all expectations.
Madrid – One Day, Two nights (Friday afternoon to Sunday morning)
After a relaxing morning we headed back to the train station, arriving in Madrid in the early afternoon. We got a free transfer ticket on one of the cercanias by scanning our train ticket bar code. Upon heading to the city center, and emerging from the subway in the center of picturesque Puerta del Sol, we quickly grew enchanted with Madrid. Once we checked into our Airbnb, we set out to explore this pretty city, touring the Royal Palace before wandering through yet another of Rick Steve‘s self guided tours through Calle Del Arenal whereupon we stumbled upon a bookstore that had been there since 1650! Just up the alley from the bookshop, we thoroughly enjoyed hot chocolate and churros on this frigid day at Chocolateria San Gines, as well as picked up some ridiculously affordable saffron at one of the local markets. After circling back to the Airbnb, we set out again to walk to Prado Museum. While we decided to not go in to the famous museum, we delighted in walking around the area before heading to the Gran Via to where we walked along the commercial boulevard all the way to Plaza de Espana by the Royal Palace. Following Rick Steve‘s advice, we went to the rooftop lounge of Dear Hotel to get an amazing nighttime view of Madrid.
Segovia – Half Day (Saturday afternoon)
Not wanting to spend our last day in Spain in a museum, we debated on a short train ride to either Toledo, Segovia, or El Escorial. We eliminated El Escorial despite the world renowned library within its walls due to the other two destinations piquing more of our interest. Torn between the two cities, we felt like we couldn’t chose wrong between Toledo and Segovia. We ended up choosing Segovia due to the aqueducts being so unique compared to anything we’d yet observed. Initially we’d planned on taking the train but upon additional reading the train station in Segovia was not as convenient as the bus station due to needing the extra step of taking a bus from the train station to the bus station to reach the city center. Therefore, either taking the bus or train would have resulted in basically the same travel time of approximately an hour. Granted, our bus end up getting broken down along the side of a mountain for over a half hour but such things happen. This unforeseen time crunch shrunk our window to see Segovia from three hours to approximately two but we made due. We took our time absorbing the immensity of the aqueducts before striking off toward Plaza Mayor and the Cathedral. From here we bustled to the Alcazar, which afforded some of the most stunning city viewpoints from the tower that we experienced on the trip. The palace itself was cute but rebuilt from a former burned structure. Moreover though, it was easy to see how it was rumored to have inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. After the castle we treated ourselves to Segovia’s specialty pastry the ponche segoviano at the Limon y Menta bakery. We devoured this delicious treat while hurrying back to get one last glimpse of the aqueducts before heading to our bus. While we had to hustle throughout Segovia and definitely could have used an extra hour or two, if not more. We loved this day trip that was the perfect ending to our Spain adventure!
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