Spain

One day after being hit with a Nor’Easter here in New England, I’m daydreaming about our trip last summer to Spain for our one-year wedding anniversary. It’s been a while since our last trip to Europe, and it did take some planning since we wanted to visit several cities throughout the country. The difficult part was choosing which cities made the list! We ended up doing a food and architecture tour in Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla and Madrid. It was fairly easy getting from one city to another via Rail Europe. Our itinerary was as follows:

Barcelona

We absolutely loved Barcelona – the laid back culture, the food, the cleanliness of the city, and the fact that everyone seemed genuinely happy. We had a glass of sangria or wine with every meal, and the weather was perfect – sunshine every day in the 60s and 70s. Our hotel was centrally located in the downtown area so we were able to walk around to many of the major sites and restaurants. My husband has an architecture background and appreciated Gaudi’s work throughout the city. Our first visit was Casa Mila (or La Pedrera) where we found the rooftop sculptures and wavy design of the building to be intriguing (Jon was fascinated; the extra few Euros for an audio tour was well worth it).

From there we walked down to the pier and found our way to the outdoor market, La Boqueria.

Of course, you have to visit La Sagrada Familia, which is breathtaking in size and scope, and if you have some time, Park Guell is a great way to admire more of Gaudi’s work in a natural environment.

As for food, one thing we learned very quickly was that lunch can last two hours and does not start until 1pm, which means dinner starts on the later side as well, usually after 9pm. This didn’t bother us at all since we were a bit jetlagged and loved being able to take our time dining and wining. Our two favorite tapas restaurants were Quimet & Quimet and Cervecería Catalana. Quimet & Quimet was recommended by Anthony Bourdaine (we actually went to few places he recommended throughout Spain) and is a family-owned hole in a wall tapas restaurant/bar. We loved it. Everything is made right there in front of you, and you seriously cannot go wrong with ordering anything off the menu. Below is a few highlights of our meal, including salmon, yogurt & truffle honey, razor clams and artichoke anchovies, and stuffed baby squid.

Cervecería Catalana is a huge restaurant and you can always expect a line. We went there around 2pm and had to wait 30-45 minutes for our table, but it was absolutely worth it. Jon and I both agree that we had the best patatas bravas ever there. A few highlights below, including their popular grilled octopus, beef and pepper on toast and fried anchovies:

Andalusia: Granada and Sevilla

We wish we had spent more time in Granada and Sevilla, and we cannot wait to do another trip to Southern Spain and visit more cities in this region. The architecture here has a Moorish influence, quite a contrast from Gaudi’s work in Barcelona. In terms of food, we had heard that when you buy an alcoholic beverage here, you get served a free tapa, and we were very happy that this indeed is true! We also got to try some amazing paella here. Our primary reason to visit Granada was to see Alhambra, but unfortunately we got there a bit later in the day and tickets had sold out already (so make sure you get there as early as possible!). We did have access to some of the gardens, including the impeccably maintained rose gardens and had access to a great view.

The one tapas place we did make an effort to go to was Taberna La Tana, which is located in a dense area among other great restaurants. Honestly, food was great everywhere, especially when it’s free with just a 2 euro purchase of beer or wine!

The main sites in Sevilla that we got to see in the short two days we spent in there were AlacazarPlaza de Espana and the Cathedral. The Plaza was stunning, and we got sucked into doing the tourist activity of rowing the boat around the palace.

Madrid

We ended our tour of Spain in Madrid, which quite frankly, was a bit underwhelming as the city lacks the charm that Barcelona, Granada and Sevilla have. That said, we happened to be in the city on the same day that major soccer championship game happened between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. The city was packed with locals rocking flags and jerseys of their choice team, and there was a large projector in a park streaming the game live. We also saw a Flamenco show,which if you have the time and interest, I would recommend. We did treat ourselves to a “fancy” meal at a 2-Michelin-star restaurant, La Terraza Del Casino, which is one of the prettiest restaurants we’ve ever dined at.

Travel Details:

Granada is 1.5-hour flight from Barcelona on Vueling. Tix cost $71 each.
Sevilla is 3-hour train ride from Granada on Rail Europe. Tix cost $38 each
Madrid is a 2.5-hour train ride from Sevilla. Tix cost $104 each.

We used United miles for our flight into Barcelona and back from Madrid but I think you can find decent tix in the ~$700 range if you book in advance.

Total cost per person: ~$2,000 (excluding airfare into Spain)

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