Last time I covered my experiences from 4(?) days in Portugal - not exactly a huge amount of time, but enough to make broad generalisations about a country of 10 million people.
From there I board a plane (TAP again) and flew across Portugal and Spain to Barcelona, to begin 3 weeks(ish) in Spain.
Oh, and about the flight - it wasn't full at all, yet, it got delayed because there was a problem with two seat belts… on seats that didn’t have people sitting there. Flying is the best!
(Months later this will become much clearer when I am catching trains around Europe and it is awesome)
… but before we get to Spain, something that probably should have been mentioned in Portugal, and absolutely came into play all over Spain as well - not enjoying seafood really hurts your experience of this country (according to people who do enjoy seafood). From what I saw most bars/restaurants have very seafood heavy menus, and if you aren’t really into that, well you might be missing out on good stuff. I, of course, don’t agree at all - but I also don’t really see eating as a key part of anything ever. Whatever your opinion on the matter I feel it is fair warning to mention that there is seafood everywhere.
You know the best time to be in an airport? Really late at night.
See, in the middle of the night there are only a few flights arriving - that means there are less people around, and that means there are less problems. People are the cause of all the problems at airports.
This is what I was thinking when we arrived in Barcelona in the middle of the night.
Unfortunately I didn’t account for the fact that there are also less staff around to help with things like unloading bags from planes.
Speaking of bags - apparently LOTS of people forget their bags when they fly.
At the end of the day all the bags that were left behind are just laid out, and there are lots and lots of them:
Sure, this could be the fault of airlines not putting bags on the right planes, but I prefer to think it is people who get off the plane and just leave, forgetting they had bags in the first place. In my mind people are that stupid.
Safety in the streets?
I guess the negative thing about arriving to a new city in the middle of the night is that sometimes public transport stops working, meaning it can be difficult to actually leave the airport (as nice as the airport was when it was empty, sleeping there wasn’t my first choice for accommodation).
Eventually we did get into the middle of Barcelona - but that was when we realised that we didn’t exactly know how to get into our accommodation. Everything had been nicely booked, and eventually would work out perfectly, but when you are wandering dark alleyways off La Rambla at 2 in the morning, tired, and carrying bags it doesn’t exactly fill you with nice feelings.
After walking from our accommodation to another hotel a few km away and back we eventually got inside and could pass out.
And what to do in Barcelona?
Once you have settled in to your accommodation and are ready to explore Barcelona felt like a city that was really easy to get around. Also, despite the fact I still have no grasp on the value of the Euro (my accounting background only works on countries that use dollars - any kind of dollars. The ‘Euro Dollar’ doesn’t count) it felt cheap to use public transport.
Anyway, there are bars, and there is the beach (which seemed pretty busy), and then there is an unfinished Sagrada Família. Apparently almost everything in Barcelona was designed by this architect Antoni Gaudi, and this building is no exception. I don’t really know what to say about it, and apparently the photos I attempted to take of it were, well, terrible. It’s a huge church (type building?) that is really worth a visit. Book online before you go (saves standing in big lines), and allow some time to wander around and take it in (inside and out). Well worth it.
(Related - this has been in construction for a really long time. 132 year long. Why has it taken so long to build? Probably because using slaves is frowned upon these days (but was likely a stable of construction in early Europe), and because they are lazy. They just don’t work hard at it. I guess?)
(See - I am totally educational! Also worth noting, lots of other churches and cathedrals took really long times to build as well, but they were built much earlier than this was)
Speaking of Gaudi (as we did a little while ago), he also has a whole park filled with other sculptures and buildings that is worth checking out. It also has good views out over the city.
After a few days in Barcelona we boarded a train (because this is Europe), and headed off to Valencia (or Valenthhhicccccia - as the locals might pronounce it?).
Though traveling by train is slower than plane, you don’t have to go through any security (at least I don’t remember doing that), and you get to see a lot more on the journey (or, if you’re me, you play more playstation).
I don’t know for certain if it is true or not, but I was told that the rain in Spain falls mostly on the plains. If that is true (and I am told things that rhyme are), then Valencia is presumably on the plains, because the night we arrived it rained. It rained something fierce.
You can’t really capture ‘wet’ in a blurry photo at night, but just trust me. It went from dry, to really not dry in a very short space of time.
After drying off, there was some football to watch in Valencia. Where better to watch Columbia play Brazil than a nice, very little, Colombian bar? I would tell you more about that, but really this surprisingly coherent drunken note I took kind of sums it up:
“Screw Brazil. If people knew they were going to see the Globetrotters playing the Generals they would have been OK with it. Hell, people love WWE. But people don’t like being lied to. This was meant to be a competitive game. Fuck you FIFA”
I mean, I guess I was still kind of entertained. But probably not the kind of entertainment I was meant to be having.
Valencia is also home to a gran prix track (which when there aren’t race cars/bikes on it really seems just like roads), a nice looking beach, and an empty Americas Cup Village.
Now, I think the Americas Cup is stupid at the best of times (I disagree with the public funding to enter into a billionaires pissing contest), but seeing a previous venue that has essentially turned into a ghost town kind of highlights the money and waste that goes into it all.
Though, this was nearby:
Valencia does have one other quite cool feature - a dry river. At some point they apparently diverted the river, and that meant they had an empty river running through town that was turned into parks and interesting buildings. Good for a run.
What is (maybe?) more interesting, is that this strip of green space (and the few very cool buildings along it), make you think the whole place is wicked, when really the rest of the city is kind of sameish to every other major center.
I still liked it.
Then on a very hot and hungover morning, five of us (not all of us hungover) squeezed into a car and began a long(ish) drive to Cartagena, which in my state I think I believed was somehow related to Carthage.
Tune in next time to find out more!