Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Spain

Apparently the weather in Nice, France was not hot enough for me, so I decided to take a trip to Spain to enjoy the heat. The heat…I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a place so sweaty and sticky. But, Spain was so beautiful, and every city I travelled to was so different than the other, so it was worth the sweat stains.

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I flew from Nice, France to Madrid, Spain the second week of July. The plane ride was something I’ve never experienced. First, as expected, it was running on Spanish time, which meant it was obviously delayed. Next, the plane ride was SO loud. It was actually funny, because I spent the semester with Spanish people who were always on Spanish time and always listening to loud music, but to actually experience it in Spain was hilarious. The plane played Spanish music the entire plane ride and everyone was so loud- you can’t even be mad because it was so funny.

Sim and I were staying at my friend Antonio’s house, who I was on exchange with. There were a lot of exchangees from Madrid, so it was nice to see everyone again, even after being apart for only a few weeks. We took the train from the airport to meet Antonio, and only took about 45 minutes. The lifestyle in Madrid was definitely something I could get used to. They go out and stay partying until 5am, wake up late, eat, have a siesta, and repeat.

For those who don’t know what a siesta is…It’s a break (essentially nap time) in the middle of the day, usually because it’s so hot. Stores and restaurants close down so employees can go home to sleep. It’s not a just a few places…it’s everyone. It’s the most genius concept, but I can’t imagine it ever happening in Canada. I remember one of the days we woke up at 2pm, ate lunch…had a nap. Then, started getting ready to go out. Unreal. I thought people were exaggerating when they told me about this lifestyle, but it was so real. The food in Madrid was nothing short of amazing. It was all fresh seafood and super delicious. They sell sangria like a mixed drink in a bottle, and it was still better than anything I’ve attempted to make …

I was in Madrid for 3 nights before heading to Valencia. I said bye to Simmy, who was flying to England to see her family, and I was on my way. I took a bus from Madrid to Valencia. I was so excited to begin my solo travels for the next 2 weeks before meeting up with my dad!

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Realistically, this is how the day went: We got home from our night around 5am, and I had a bus to catch at in central Madrid at 8:45, which meant I had to leave at 7:45. So, I was running on no sleep, AND I was starting to get sick. The bus from Madrid to Valencia was about 5 hours. The bus was packed with a lot of student travellers, so that was a pretty comforting feeling. I slept the entire bus ride so I would be able to explore Valencia as soon as I got there.

I arrived at the bus station, and jumped on the city bus which took me right to my hostel. I stayed in the Purple Nest hostel, which was a perfect location. It was a 5 minute walk from the city centre, so it was close to everything.

I got to my room, locked up my backpack and went to reception to get a map of the city to start my trip. I only had a day and a half in Valencia, because I wanted to spend more time in Barcelona. However, I ended up falling in love with Valencia and spent an extra day there instead! Travelling alone is really fun, and it’s something I never thought I’d be brave enough to do. You can wake up as early as you want, go where you want, and it’s so much easier to meet people when you’re solo.

I spent my first afternoon walking around the city, and it was beautiful. Valencia is known for being “artsy” and modern. The aquarium is what Valencia is really well known for, which was beautiful to see. Also, all the building are inspired by Gaudy, and every building was so different. I had an early night, so I could wake up early for a walking tour.

Like I’ve said before, walking tours are so essential for me. They can really make or break a trip. It’s the best way to meet people, and get a feel for the city, so you can go back to places you liked later. My tour in Valencia was by far the best. It was a free walking tour by a local chef, who was so passionate about the city. There’s a huge difference in free walking tours, who are part of a big organization, compared to those who just belong to a hostel. This guy was really relaxed and easy going, as a tour guide should be. At the end, he took us to his favourite bar and everyone on the tour got to know each other. We all ended up meeting up later to go for drinks.

Earlier that day, I saw an ad in my hostel for a small scale Running of the Bulls festival about 90 minutes from Valencia.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll notice that I really want to seem adventurous because “when in Europe…..” I just want to experience it all, without having a death wish. So this was the small scale version, which in comparison to San Fermin in Pamplona, it should be fineeeeeeeeee! This was only about 15 euros to spend the day there with a tour guide so I said WHY NOT. I extended my stay in Valencia and completely grabbed life by the horns. Get it? Anyways…One of the girls I met the day previous from Brazil during my walking tour was staying another day as well, so I somehow talked her into doing this so I’d have a friend. I had no idea what to expect, but c’mon…was this the best idea or what? We met at the same place that the walking tour commenced, and there was a whole group of nervous looking people who had the same questions on their brain. First, why am I doing this? I’m too young to die. Second, should I tell my parents? I definitely should not. Third, who convinced me to do this?

Honestly, I had so much adrenaline and was so amped.

Our tour guide was a local, but was originally from Mexico. As we were getting ready to walk to the train, he gave us some tricks and  tactics to remember so we wouldn’t die. As he’s explaining how to cover your while lying on the ground if the bull is running at your and you have no where else to go, I’m thinking to myself, WHY am I doing this?! But I never thought to myself that it was a bad idea, just a rather stupid one. There were so many people from all over the world being as stupid as I was, from the UK, Australia, South America, and a few Americans.

We get there and it’s 2 streets that have cages in front of the bars and restaurants. There’s bleachers set up and cages below them, with people selling beer for a euro everywhere you turned.

So basically, they would release the bulls and you would start running. And if it was too close, you’d run in between the cages and watch all the stupid people getting THIS close to the bulls. I think I ran once or twice, just because common sense clicked in. And that always ruins the fun.

At the end, these huge bars opened up, and there had to be a few hundred people inside this empty room with music blaring and the fire sprinklers cooling everyone down.

It was one of those moments where you just have to stop and look around in awe. Life is not going to get better than this, because I’m so incredibly happy right now. It was so much fun, it had to be one of the best experiences. And then you think to yourself, I’m having such a good time, surrounded by people I just met today. It’s a really cool feeling.

From then, we headed back to the city centre in Valencia. We all hung out for a bit at a local bar, before heading back to my hostel to grab my stuff and head for the train station and go to Barcelona!!

Okay, on to Barcelona. This was my last stop in Spain before I headed to Croatia for Ultra Music Festival.

Barcelona was much anticipated. Everyone wants to go to Barca because of the beaches and markets. It met all my expectations, but I have to say that I enjoyed Valencia the most.

I stayed at a beach hostel, which was less than a minute walk to the beach. The beach was amazing- the water was the warmest in comparison to Portugal, and previous beaches I had been on. The beach seemed to go on forever, and there was any space to put my towel down. It was nice being so close to my hostel, so I could leave my phone and wallet locked up in my room, and go to the beach with just my towel and a book.

I got a 2 day subway pass, which was perfect. Really cheap, I think it was under 20 euros. I was only about 5 stops from the centre of Barca, which was perfect.I was really excited to explore Barca, so I started the first day with a tour. Remember how I mentioned earlier that walking tours could make or break a city? Unfortunately, mine broke it. I was so disappointed! It was a free walking tour, led be a student from the UK,  and all he did was promote other  paid tours, and talked about tipping. It seemed to drag on for so long, but I felt so guilty leaving early.

Some positives besides the beach, was the market! It was massive, and full of fresh fruit, juices, and overall delicious looking foods. It was a great and cheap place to go for breakfast and lunch. I love going to markets, because it’s the most authentic and real way to get a feel for the city.

I spent 2 full days in Barcelona, and head out early the next morning for Croatia!

Until my next adventure,

Larissa

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