After the adventurous night ride on the train, I was feeling exhausted but happy to finally get out of that horrible, hot, train car.
We arrived at 6 am in Porto, Portugal.
Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t check into our Airbnbuntil about 3 pm. But, our host for our Airbnb was so accommodating, and would be allowing us to drop our things off with his neighbor Isabel, who was also his cleaning lady, until we could check in later.
So, we trekked off in the misting rain to find our place.
After a few wrong turns, probably due to our collective lack of sleep, we found the cute little street where our town home was. Isabel met us there, and she spoke maybe a hand full of English words. She was very sweet though, and showed us where we could store our back packs in a shed filled with cleaning supplies and other things.
While we were doing so, two other neighbors popped out to say hello to us, and they were some characters! They were both dressed in their pajamas still, and Angela (the only one who spoke English) had slippers on and a robe and all! She helped us speak to Isabel, and then the two of them showed us on a map the things we needed to go see in Porto.
Pouring in Porto
We were lucky that our entire trip so far it had not really rained, so I was not too discouraged about the rain in Porto. But, it literally rained alllllll day.
We left the Airbnb and the cute ladies in pajamas, and found a small cafe that was open. We charged our phones, ate pastries and drank fresh juice, and made a plan for where to go explore.
Figuring the subway was our best bet to get around, we purchased some tickets and took two stops down to the historic city center of Porto, called Liberdad Square.
We explored lots of buildings, churches, and streets all over. Everything there was so incredible! The architecture influences in Porto seemed to be mostly from the Gothic and Romanesque periods.
Despite how many chapels we actually walked through (too many to even remember honestly) what I do remember is how each one was unique in its’ own way.
Even the sidewalks had beautiful tiled and mosaic designs within them!
As the rain continued to fall harder, we continued to walk around town. We stopped into an amazing train station with incredibly intricate tiled mosaics all around the walls and the ceiling, admired so many darling streets and alley ways, and we even came across the famous bookstore Livraria Lello, used to film scenes in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. (Although, sadly, you had to wait in line for over and hour to go in and pay ten euros! Definitely not worth it…) The other sites were just as magical in Porto as the staircase inside that bookstore anyway.
More Porto Rain, and Dealing with Pain
The rain continued misting heavier as we made our way up to the top of the hillside that overlooked the Duoro river. We went that way because we wanted to check out the famous Porto Cathedral.
The cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Porto, which was fully completed in 1737. The inside was gorgeous, filled with arching ceilings and beautiful columns. The giant wooden carved doors were something to behold as well… and even though the signs said not to touch them, we all definitely did. (#sorrynotsorry)
By this time my left foot was throbbing (the one I injured the first day in Barcelona.) I also was beginning to get a migraine from the lack of sleep, and had some lady cramps coming on; quite the trifecta of pain guys!
Heather finally received a message from Isabel that the Airbnb was cleaned and ready for us! So we happily headed there, glad to get out of the rain and rest for a bit.
We were greeted once again by Isabel and Angelina and the this lady whose name I don’t think we ever learned. But they were all so welcoming and sweet! they hugged us and welcomed us, and it was so genuine and comforting that I honestly would probably go back and stay with them and I feel as if they would remember me! That’s how friendly and welcoming they were.
The town home was the nicest place we stayed our entire trip! A 2 story town home, the bottom floor included a full sitting room with a giant flat screen tv and just about any blu-ray or dvd you could think of, flanked by 2 large and comfortable couches. Connecting next was the kitchen, which they had graciously stocked with bread, fruit, and some meat in the fridge. There were also several types of teas and coffees on the counter, and some fresh juice in the fridge. The full bathroom was right next to the kitchen, and was also stocked with shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hair spray, and just about anything else you could think of!
Once the ladies left us we headed upstairs, and I took the bedroom with two twin beds (that was clearly meant for children since it was filled with toys and children’s books) and Heather and Jess took the other room with the queen size bed. We passed out and took a much needed nap.
I was hoping after we woke up I would be feeling better, but unfortunately I was feeling much worse. So, much to my disappointment, I chose to stay in for the night so I could have the energy I wanted for our next day in Sintra. Heather and Jess ventured out, and I’m sure they were happy to have some alone/romantic time without their little #sisterwife shadow following them around!
I took a shower, iced my foot, and found some ibuprofen for my other ailments. Warming up some tea from the selection in the kitchen, I settled onto the couch and watched a blu-ray. As much as I wanted to go explore the city more, I knew I needed to listen to my body and take the night off, especially if I wanted my migraine to go away.
Once Heather and Jess returned we all headed upstairs for bed. The next day we were heading to Sintra, one of the places I had been looking to the most! I couldn’t wait!
We woke up at the crack of daylight to catch our train to Salamanca.
It felt bittersweet that we couldn’t spend one more day in Seville, because I loved it! But I knew Salamanca would have some great things to see and explore too so I was excited to get there, especially because it was our last city in Spain before we headed to Portugal!
I think I slept the entire train ride, and then groggily followed Heather and Jess into the train station.
Originally we were only supposed to spend the day in Salamanca, and take a train late that night to Porto, Portugal. However, we got mixed up with the dates and realized our night train wasn’t until the next night. So we quickly utilized the Airbnbapp on my phone and booked an amazing little apartment a few blocks behind the train station.
We mapped our way to walk there, and as we left the train station noticed a pretty cool statue out front depicting a crusader knight riding a unicorn, also carrying a small dragon. It seemed super random, but I loved it!
Our Airbnb apartment was incredible!
Heather and Jess had their own bedroom with a Queen bed, and I did too! Plus there was even a third bedroom, a very nice front sitting room, and a full kitchen with a partially stocked pantry and fridge. We definitely scored with this one!
We were feeling pretty weary from the early morning, and since we had two whole days there, we decided it was in our best interest if we took a nice long siesta. Honestly, it was the best choice we could have made! After feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, we all put on a few extra layers and headed out to explore.
Our main goal that evening was to find somewhere amazing to eat, and to see the Plaza Mayor, which apparently was only about a 15 minute walk from where we were staying.
On our way, we made several stops which all seemed to be churches. If there’s one thing not lacking in Spain, it’s definitely chapels and churches!
Finally, we found the Plaza Mayor, which is considered the heart of Salamanca. Heather had been excited to see it, and was a little disappointed that we couldn’t see it in all its’ glory because there was some sort of stage being set up in the center for an event the next day.
However, it was still very impressive to see! Especially all lit up at night. There was even an adorable group of school girls from Scotland who we talked to briefly. They were there on a school trip… talk about a super cool school trip! (I think the coolest ones I went on were to Toronto, New Orleans, and Orlando!)
We eventually decided we wanted Italian food for dinner, and after some wanderings we found Restaurante A’Tarantella(which does not translate to tarantula as we first thought. It’s actually a dance from southern Italy).
Although we were 3 of the 5 customers in the restaurant, it took over an hour to get our food. We hoped this meant they were literally making our food from scratch. So when our food did arrive we ravenously ate everything. All the carbs!!
Our favorite dish by far was the gnocchi, which was bathed in this cheesy sauce that must have been poured down straight from the heavens. Literally, I could have taken a bath in it. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten, and I will dream about it forever.
After dinner we moseyed on back to our place, and fell into a carb induced coma.
Old Vs New
We had a long, full day ahead of us. Our host at our Airbnb was soooo accommodating and was allowing us to stay until 11 pm with our stuff, instead of having to check out at 3 pm and carrying everything with us.
So, with that in mind we started out to explore more of Salamanca in the daylight.
We headed towards a main part of the city which had some tourist hot spots, centered around the University of Salamanca. The campus itself was incredible, surrounding by narrow, stone streets and old buildings. I imagined attending school there would be such a different experience than mine in Utah.
Of course we saw many, many churches too, including the old and new Cathedrals of Salamanca. The newer part was built attached to the older one, which it’s really amazing that they decided to not tear down the old one, and preserve it as history.
The Old Cathedralwas originally built in the 12th century, and seeing the tombs and chapel rooms was incredible. Thinking that people so long ago were in there worshiping and praying was a pretty humbling thought. Although there were some particularly spooky looking carved people in the sides of some of the walls that I couldn’t even take pics of because they would haunt me forever!
The New Cathedralwas built between the 16th and 18th centuries, with Gothic and Baroque influences. It was beautiful! It reminded me slightly of the cathedral we had seen in Seville.
We wandered around with headphone audio tours, and listened to facts about each section of the cathedral. I was particularly moved by one section, which gave a quote from Blessed John Paul II on November 1, 1982 (and mind you, these are notes I quickly tried to type on a note in my phone so they are not completely accurate or complete, but gives you the general idea!):
“I ask you to widen the soul and not to shy away from your desires… open yourselves up to the future, and risk yourselves. Don’t stop until you’ve reached the source of life, come what may, whatever happens, whoever whispers, even if you die on the road to get there. At least in the end you made the effort to get there, and you’ll remain steadfast in that place that gives you life, even if the entire world sinks below it.”
Now of course, Blessed John Paul II is referring to Jesus Christ as the source of life, which He is my main source of life too, but the beauty of this quote, I think, is that it can also apply to anything in your life. Drive yourself towards whatever it is that makes you feel alive… it’s so deep guys! I love it!
We wandered back through the streets around the cathedrals, and stumbled into a funny Halloween party with the faculty of the University. It made me happy that they were all dressed, some in pretty impressive group costumes, for the holiday. We also perused some gift shops, and of course ate gelato (because gelato was my life on this trip!)
Riding on the Crazy Train
The rest of the afternoon we walked and explored most of Salamanca. We decided to head back to the Airbnb, with some groceries to make dinner, and hang out until we had to go catch our night train to Portugal!
We made some delicious spaghetti (although nothing will ever again compare to that gnocchi from the previous night!) and then we took a siesta for a few hours.
Our train left at 11 PM from the train station, and it was a sleeper train which I was excited to ride on. Little did we know the adventure that was in store!
Our tickets mentioned that the cars were separated by sex, which we thought was odd. Would they seriously split up a husband and wife?? Well the answer was yes, yes they would.
When we got to the train to board, the conductor instructed Heather and I to enter one car, and pointed down to the next car for Jess.
So, Heather and I entered our car and the two girl already in there seemed more than unhappy with our appearance. Not wanting to really disturb them, we shoved our bags under the bunk beds hanging from the walls, and climbed into our beds.
I took the top, and I regretted not taking something to sleep; because I didn’t sleep at all. The train moved a ton (because that’s what trains do) and the room was so hot, especially being on the top bunk!
However, it was an adventure, and despite not sleeping I was still grateful to have had it and to now be in Porto, Portugal!!
As described in my earlier post about Alicante, we arrived in Seville much later than anticipated.
We got to the train station well past sunset, and decided to get a taxi to our Airbnb. The taxi ride was a little on the crazy side as he drive fast and the furious style through these ridiculously tiny cobbled streets! Dom Toretto would be proud.
Our Airbnb was in an adorable town square; on the third floor of an apartment building across from a church and in the middle of two restaurants. Our host, Manuel, met us and gave us the tour, which it was so sweet of him to do so since it was after midnight. He even gave us some pamphlets of places he suggested we go and see, including a flamenco show the following night.
This was probably the funniest of all of our sleeping arrangements in our airbnb’s, because my twin bed was in the kitchen right next to the table while Heather and Jess had a full bedroom. But you know what? I snuggled right up in that bed that was underneath the AC unit and I slept like a rock that night!
The Dreamiest Little Town
The next morning we woke up at 8 and were out the door by 915 to begin exploring this new place. Seville was one of the most anticipated and most recommended places on our agenda in Spain, and I could not wait!
Feeling the heavy drag of travel and little sleep, we found a cafe to grab some Cokes and croissants (breakfast of champions!)
We headed towards the main square in the city, Plaza del Triunfo, where several of the main attractions we would want to see were.
Even just walking through those small dreamy streets towards the plaza, I was instantly twitter-pated with everything. Seville was love at first sight for me! Around every corner and everywhere I looked, were adorable building, homes, and street ways.
Realizing the wait to get into the incredible palace, Royal Alcazar , would take quite some time, we bought tickets online instead for 1:30 and walked to an outdoor market place called Plaza de Espana.
You Mosaic Me So Happy
Again, even just walking the mile or so to reach Plaza de Espana was worthwhile. We made a pit stop to walk through Universidad De Seville, which was bustling with young
students, and so impressed us with the incredible architecture of the old buildings. I commented that I felt like we were in Hogwarts!
We made our way several more blocks, stopping at random buildings to admire them, and finally entered into the ever so impressive Plaza de Espana!
The plaza, which apparently was originally built for the Spanish-American Exhibition of 1929, has now become an outdoor market of sorts and major tourist attraction.
The long wings of the building wrap in a semi-circle formation, inside of which a moat perimeters the courtyard that was filled with gondolas. There is also a giant splashing fountain in the center of it all.
Walking around me admired some fans being sold by a street vendor, and then studied each of the painted tile mosaic depictions of the different Spanish provinces (in case you were wondering, there are 49!) Each ceramic mosaic was beautiful!
With tall, sweeping columns and gorgeous painted bridges, this place definitely stole a piece of my heart.
The time came for us to return back to the place I was looking forward to the most in Seville, which was the Royal Alcazar! If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, you will recognize this place as the country of Dorne from the series (and a huge reason why I was so stoked to go!) Also a word of advice: if you have a student ID that can still be deemed relevant, use it to your advantage! My ticket was only 2 euros while the other two were 10 euros a piece!
Alcazar was originally built by the Moors in the 13th century as a fortress, but then when Peter the Cruel of Castile became King in the 14th century, he expanded it to the palace it is today. He apparently earned the nickname because he married and quickly abandoned several wives; he may have been terrible but he had some good taste when it came to designing a castle!
The name Alcazar stems from the hispano-arabic word Alcasr which translates basically to “royal house” or “room of the prince.” And it was indeed, a royal place to behold.
Since the fortress has Moorish beginnings, the architecture and tile-work through out is breathtaking; from arched doorways decorated with colorful tiles to the incredibly decorated domed ceilings.
We walked through every room, admiring every corner and courtyard to its’ fullest. I was blown away with how beautiful it all was. And we had not even made it out into the gardens yet!
The gardens have been added to and developed over the last few centuries, and are so worth walking through. Walking across the high walled walkway, the Galeria de Grutescos, we had a great view across the expansive grounds. Parts were unfortunately closed off for preservation of the plants, but we could still at least admire it all from above.
We were able to make our way through the hedge maze in the back, which literally only took us 2 minutes to solve. So either we were super smart OR the maze was ridiculously easy so children could play in them.
My final thoughts as we finished exploring, was that if and when I ever get married again I would love to take photos in this magical place; maybe even get married there! Can you just imagine how cool it would be to get married somewhere with so much history and with this kind of scenery as your backdrop??
Take Me to Church
As sad as I was to leave the Real Alcazar, I knew we had so much more to explore! We headed across the Plaza del Triunfo to check out the The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See; or more well known as Seville Cathedral.
It was GIANT! It took up 2 whole blocks I think! And it was soo tall! I mean, it was not nearly as massive as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, but it was definitely still a sight to behold. Currently, this cathedral is the 4th largest in the world!
It is a Roman Catholic Church, the highest point standing 138 feet above the plaza. And we should know, we snuck up the tower with a Chinese tour group and hiked up the 35 flights to the top! It was windy but beautiful!
As we made our way back down it began pouring outside, so we took our time walking through the church admiring the over-the-top intricacies and the super gaudy decors.
I mean, does the pulpit really need to be made of gold?? Although, for the most part, it was very beautiful.
One of the most interesting things inside was the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Yep, you read that right! Good old Chris Columbo is laid to rest in Spain.
My brother in law served an LDS Christian mission in the Dominican Republic, and he says the locals swear they have the remains of Christopher Columbus buried close to La Romana. In fact, when I was there a few years ago I remember seeing advertisements to go tour his tomb there, which we decided against.
So the question is, who really has him? Spain or the Dominican Republic?? My bet is on Spain, and I’m sure since it was such a popular tourist attraction in the DR that they still pretend that they have his remains so they can still bring in some tourists and money.
Whatever the case, it was cool to see his tomb. It humbles me greatly to think of the incredible bravery it took for explorers like him to take those journeys back in the 1400s. I mean.. let’s not get into the whole “He really landed in the DR and not the Americas and raped and pillaged and murdered many of the locals” topic though… but it’s still very humbling nonetheless.
We finished the day exploring more of Seville. We ate a tapas lunch at a bull fighting themed restaurant that had dozens of bull heads lining the walls (I think they’re so cute and it made me sad!)
Then we walked to the golden tower which was not worth the 5 euros to climb, and then made our way to the bull fighting arena which was also not worth the 10 euros to see the inside of. We walked across the bridge to the other side of the river, walked a few blocks, and decided to just head back to the Airbnb until it was time to go to the flamenco show!
Our host, Manuel, sold us on buying tickets to go see a local flamenco show, and it was beyond my expectations! The dancers literally left me speechless!
They exploded across the stage with quick footwork and big, flowy dresses! Literally, the entire hour I had goose bumps across my body, and I was literally mesmerized by them! There were two female dancers (one of which was beautiful and curvy, and Jess referred to her as “big sassy”), and one male, and they were accompanied by a female singer and a male singer who also played the guitar. And when I say he played the guitar, he legit was the most insanely talented guitar player Ive ever heard in person!
We walked home through the small alleyways (like the one pictured!) This may look super sketchy, but I never once felt unsafe.
We also wandered through a few shops, ate more gelato (because gelato is my life on vacation!) and then went to bed.
Tomorrow we would leave for Salamanca, and after that we would be heading into Portugal! I loved Seville, and I definitely could have spent at least another day there exploring. You always learn things while you travel, because sometimes you never know what a city will be like until you get there. So if and when I am in Spain again, I will for sure return to Seville.
I was excited to leave the hustle and business of Barcelona, and head south to our next destination of Alicante. However, we made 2 mistakes and nearly missed our train south.
After some major mishaps trying to navigate the metro system (which is so damn confusing in Barcelona!) we made it to the train station, Sant Estacio. A very kind local man helped us through the final turnstiles with his metro pass, because we had not purchased enough “stops” on ours and were stuck behind the closed automatic doors. This was mistake numero uno (yeah.. that’s about the extent of my Spanish!) That man deserves all the good karma in the world for helping a few stupid tourists out of a jam!
So just a word of advice for anyone traveling in Barcelona, make sure to get enough stops on your metro pass! May seem obvious… but it wasn’t to us! You’re welcome 🙂
We nearly missed our train too, because here is where we made mistake numero dos! We had pre-purchased our euro-rail train passes which in the long run saved us a tonnnnn of money with reservation fees. However, our mistake was we didn’t realize the first day we used them we have to get them validated with our passports before we could get on the train!
So after waiting in line to board and being told we needed validations, we hurried and waited in another long line, all the while trying NOT to majorly lose our sh*t about missing our train!
About twenty anxiety-induced sweaty minutes later, we did in fact make it onto our first train of the trip, and headed south for Alicante!
So another word of advice, make sure your tickets are validated BEFORE you try to board your train! Or else you may end up just hopping on the hot mess express instead!
Riding the Loco Bus
I’ll be honest, I slept most of the train ride! Although I did take a quick journey with my sister Heather up to the snack car and ordered a delicious croissant egg sandwich! The views that I did see out the windows included beautiful beaches on the left side, and gorgeous green hills and mountains to the right.
Once we arrived, we had to take a bus to our Airbnb. As we waited at the bus stop we laughed at the fact that since Barcelona we kept seeing giant ads for a European clothing company showcasing Jon Hamm as the model. Apparently Spain is in love with Jon!
While we waited at the stop, we were trying to figure out which bus to take. This insane old witch lady decided it was her personal mission to ‘help us’ get on the right bus. Jess (my brother in law) said she wasn’t really speaking Spanish, but that is was more like gibberish. She kept shouting excitedly “bush.. bush!” (pronounced boosh). We figured this meant bus?
So, we stupidly followed her onto the next bus and quickly realized she was insane and probably didn’t even know where she was going herself! After arriving at the bus station and watching her walk away, hysterically laughing and snorting while still saying “bush”. A few more euros later and we finally got on the right bus.
Our Airbnb was located pretty close to the heart of town, so we walked a few blocks to grab the keys from a pre-determined lock box location, and then made our way back to our flat.
This place was a one room studio, on the first floor of an apartment building, which also had a bathroom that opened out onto a small patio where we could hang our laundry. Immediately I started laughing when I saw my sister and Jess’ real bed by the front door, and then my ‘couch bed’ right across from it; because it wasn’t a couch at all but instead was a bunch of wooden pallets with cushions on top! In fact, all the other furniture in the flat was made from pallets! Honestly, it was pretty impressive what the owner made from them!
Jokes aside, though, my crate couch bed was surprisingly comfortable. We all decided to take a short siesta while we ran a load of laundry and then we would go exploring!
The City of Light
Alicante has a very old history, the earliest signs of settlement coming from artifacts around the Castillo de Santa Barbara that date back to 3000-5000 BC. Over the centuries they were populated by the Greeks, Phoenicians, the Romans, and then the Moors in the 11th century. The Moors gave the city it’s modern name, Alicante, which in Arabic means ‘city of lights.’
This amazing fortress is set right on top of Mount Benacantil, and once we started walking up towards it we quickly realized how steep this climb was. By the time we reached the top were were hot and sweaty, especially since it was a humid 83 degrees outside!
The castle is amazing, and it was humbling to walk around and realize how old the history was under our feet. There was also a display of pottery pieces from different time periods, some of which dated back to the Bronze Age.
There was a wall display of all of these broken pieces of pottery, from all different times, on this one wall.
I stood and stared at it for awhile, feeling like these broken pieces of pottery were literally speaking to my soul. Remember in this post how I explain that my heart is like a broken piece of pottery, and I am constantly finding new pieces and putting them back together?
Yeah. This wall spoke to me. It was so beautiful. I even stood there when everyone else walked out, and touched a few of the pieces with my eyes closed. (Even though there was a sign that said NO TOUCHING in Spanish… but I don’t speak Spanish so… oops. #sorrynotsorry
Sometimes I hope that I will feel the energy from someone else, feel a part of their story, their heart, from whatever has been absorbed into it. Maybe I’m a little crazy, but hey, I believe that stuff can really happen.
The view from the top of the castle was incredible. On one side is the ocean, and the other you can see the entire city and beyond to the mountains rising in the distance. It really was worth the climb.
For all you other GOT fans out there, this place was considered to be used for some scenes with Daenerys in one of the first seasons. However, Alicante declined to have them shoot there in order to preserve the castle, which I can’t say I blame them.
The rest of the night we walked to a local mercado and grabbed some stuff to make dinner (obviously including four delicious warm baguettes, because carbbbbssss!) While we made dinner, we closed all the large wooden shudders covering the nearly wall length windows. Every so often I would look up and notice that some of the had opened again, and I would go shut them again. This happened repeatedly.
I asked Heather if she had been opening them again and she said no, and neither had Jess. Then we started noticing they continued to open spontaneously on their own. After dinner I showered first, and thought I saw a shadow several times go by the glass doors.
Heather and I started joking that there must be a ghost who lived in the apartment, who we named Ferdinand. When we eventually went to bed, I tossed and turned because of the loud and rowdy men who hung out across the street at the kebab place until almost 3 am. So, since I was awake I noticed the lights constantly turning off and on in the kitchen, and the bathroom. I also heard things moving and falling in the kitchen. Heather heard them too. Ferdinand is apparently a night owl!
More Bus Probs
The next morning we were supposed to catch our train to Seville. Our train left at about 10 am, so we packed up and said our goodbyes to Ferdinand and the crate furniture, and headed to the bus stop. Unfortunately, we got on the right bus but going in the wrong direction (and this time we had no crazy old lady to blame!) Once we realized we couldn’t make our train, we changed our tickets when we finally arrived at the station and had to kill about 6 hours until the next train at 5 PM.
I always believe things happen for a reason, and while we were all frustrated that we missed our train I think it ended up being a happy accident. Because of our extra time we got to explore more of Alicante, including the old town neighborhood and the really beautiful walkway and outdoor market by the ocean, called La Explanada De Alicante.
So we made the best of our extra time. We looked at some local merchants’ tents, we sat by the ocean, ate some delicious gelato (obviously!) and grabbed some lunch at a local little shop.
There was a moment by Postiguet Beach where Heather and I noticed a very disabled man sitting on the sidewalk with a cup, hoping people walking by would spare some change. He had a severely deformed foot, which made walking very difficult and I’m sure incredibly painful for him. As we sat there waiting for Jess to meet up with us, the wind picked up and blew his cup away. He frantically tried to get up and walk after it as best he could, but instantly Heather and I knew he would never catch it. We watched as no one helped him, and without even speaking it out loud we both knew we needed to help him.
In my best Spanish I asked him, “necesitas ayude?” which means “do you need help?”. He said yes and Heather and I dashed after his cup which was about to blow into the busy traffic of the street. We were successful, and we brought it back to him, and he was very grateful. We each put a few of our coins into his cup, to help him out and especially to weigh the cup down so it wouldn’t blow away again.
Honestly, I like to think that maybe this small moment was the reason we were meant to miss our train. Maybe if we hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have been able to get his cup back, and maybe he wouldn’t have been able to receive enough money to eat that day. My heart aches for him, and for how awful people must be to him on a daily basis, or how most people choose to look right through him instead of seeing him as one of our brothers who needed help. I wish I could have done more for him than we did, but I felt good about the fact that we helped him at all.
We boarded our train for Seville, and we snagged one of the 4 seated sections that face one another with a table in the middle so we could all sit together. Of course Heather and Jess sat together across from me, and the seat next to me was empty (and I hoped it would stay that way.) Alas, I was in for a rude awakening.
An older gentleman boarded the train, and took one look at Heather and I (Jess was currently in the bathroom) and immediately sat next to me, diving into speaking a blur of quick and excited Spanish. I started laughing and tried to tell him in Spanish that we did not speak the language. He then tried speaking with us in very broken English.
His name was Juan. He was a local farmer heading to visit his mother. He also loved to paint. What else did he apparently love? Me. Oy.
When Jess returned he spoke with Juan in Spanish, and started laughing, relaying the message to us that Juan thought we were both married to Jess. Juan was offering Jess money to take me off his hands, the one with the “hair the color of the sun” and my apparently long eyelashes that Juan just could not get over.
At this point I was becoming rapidly uncomfortable sitting next to Juan. He was allll up in my personal space, and every time I tried to look at my phone he would lean over wondering what I was looking at. He begged me to add him on Facebook, and even gave me his business card, promising to paint me in a picture and send it to me.
He told me he had never really left his home town, and had never been to Seville where we were going. I told him “You can’t miss out on life Juan, you gotta YOLO it up!” And he asked “What is this YOLO?” and I explained what YOLO meant. I told him, “Now you say it, ‘YOLO’!” He did and seemed to not really understand it, but it was funny to try and explain it.
The train gods looked down on me that day with kindness, and thankfully Juan got off the train on the first stop after 20 painful minutes. As he left he kissed us all goodbye on the cheeks, and then shouted happily as he left, “ADIOS! YOLO!” That moment made all of the awkwardness worth it.
Way back in April, my sister Heather and I started plotting a trip to Spain. One night she called me with an incredible low fare she found on Norwegian Air that was only $350 RT from Newark to Barcelona! That was just too incredible to pass up, so I said “YOLO” and bought the ticket 15 minutes later. In 6 months I would be heading to Spain and Portugal with my twin sister and her husband Jess! #thirdwheel
Well, October 12 came more slowly than I would have hoped, but it did finally arrive and we were on our way to Newark, and then to Barcelona!
1 Flight… 2 Flights
Heather and I had free flights thanks to the miles we both had on our Alaska Airlines credit cards (check them out, I promise you won’t be disappointed with the miles you can accumulate! Plus you get a free companion pass very year!
Unfortunately, though, we had to take a very annoying route to get to Newark since we were flying Alaska Air, so we first took a 6 AM flight to Seattle, then a 1PM flight to Newark. Sooooo annoying, but both flights were great so that made up for it I guess.
Landing at 4 PM in Newark, we met up with Jess who had been lucky enough to take a direct flight there. We had about 7 hours until our next flight, so we hung out in the airport and made the best of our time. We played lots of Monopoly on our phones, watched football, grabbed some food, and Heather and I even did some lunges and squats up and down the hall of the international terminal.
I had never had the pleasure of flying Norwegian Air until this trip, and I was so impressed with them that I will always fly them in the future when I can! Their service onboard is amazing, the seats were comfortable and had a lot of leg room (even for us lowly coach fliers) and did I mention how ADORABLE the flight attendant outfits are??
We were finally on our way to Barcelona and I was beyond excited to get there!
Bienvenido a Barcelona
I was worried how I would do on such a long flight (sometimes I am an anxious flier) but I actually slept for a majority of the flight, and when we landed I felt fantastic! This is also due to my secret weapon for jet lag: Miers Lab No Jet-Lag Pills! These amazing herbal pills helped me when I traveled to Scotland last year, and they helped me again on this trip. You start taking them right when you get on your plane, and take them every 2-4 hours during your flight, then continue to do so for your first day. They only contain natural herbs and vitamins, and are a fantastic and safe way to not feel fatigued on your trip!
Immediately walking off the plane we could feel the heat and humidity and I was stoked! Customs was quick and easy, and my heart skipped a happy beat when I received my Barcelona stamp in my passport!
We headed via the metro to our Airbnb, which was in an adorable town nestled in a foresty hilled neighborhood south of Barcelona, called La Floresta. There were green vines growing everywhere, and parrots singing in the trees above us; it was simply magical!
I swear by staying in Airbnb‘s when I travel, as do my sister and Jess. She booked us this adorable 2 bedroom place, with our host Pilar. However, we began to notice that a “bedroom” can mean a tiny closet that a bed is shoved into! I honestly was happy as can be in my tiny closet bed, because I was just so content with being in Spain!
Sant Cugat Monastery
Despite feeling slightly fatigued, we were determined to get out and see something that evening. We headed back on the metro and two stops south we got off at Sant Cugat to visit a monastery there that dated back to 9th century.
First we walked around the town, grabbed some food at a bakery (Heather and Jess) and a vegan acai bowl (me.) Then after walking in the wrong direction for 20 minutes (thanks a lot Spanish Siri!) we finally found the monastery.
It was a gorgeous building, sitting next to a big shopping square filled with people and children playing soccer (who were beyond adorable!) The architecture is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic influence, and I was mesmerized by the giant arching ceilings and beautiful artwork inside. There were even glass paneled tombs on the floor that you could walk across!
I lit a candle by the prayer table, and accidentally burnt my finger, which I prayed immediately wasn’t bad luck!
Back to Barca
After an amazing night’s rest, and a delicious breakfast we had picked up at a local market including a baguette, jam, and apples, we headed back to Barcelona!
We were fortunate to be in Barcelona during an interesting time in their history, as they had only days before our arrival vote to secede from Spain and have Catalunya become its’ own country. The Catalonian region has
had a long history of not wanting to be under the Spanish rule, and they pushed to finally become independent.
They even speak a slightly different version of Spanish in Catalunya, which my brother in law Jess picked up on as he tried to speak to them with his Dominican Republic taught version of the language.
However, things are no longer so peaceful in Barcelona as Madrid chose to overthrow the vote for secession, and civil unrest and riots continue to erupt in Catalunya. I hope and pray that things there can become peaceful again, and that they can win their independence.
Now, a word to the wise about tourist attractions in Barcelona: MAKE SURE YOU PRE-BUY YOUR TICKETS!
We were beyond bummed to not be able to see the inside of La Sagrada Familia, or the incredibly colorful parts of Park Guell, because they were both sold out! So please don’t make the mistake of missing out on these like we did! And yes, I bolded this entire paragraph because it is important to know!
You’ve Gaudi Be Kidding me!
Hopping off the metro at Provence, we walked first to La Pedrad Casa Milo, which is an apartment building designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi, who was from Catalonia, Spain.
I had learned all about Gaudi’s work in a History of Architecture class I had taken at Utah State University, and I had been waiting since 2003 to finally see his work in person; and it definitely did not disappoint! We only admired the outside of this building, because we were more determined to see our next stop.
We walked a few more blocks to Gaudi’s next design: La Sagrada Familia. seeing those tall and unusual spires break through the tops of the trees above us was truly breathtaking, and I had to take a moment to literally fight back some tears of seeing something I had been dreaming of seeing for so long!
Even though I was heart broken to find out all the tickets were sold out for the day to see the inside (which still makes me sick to my stomach that we didn’t get to go inside), seeing the outside was still very much worth it! There is so much detail on every square inch of that church, it is quite the sight to behold! I could have stood there and stared at it for hours, literally!
Trying not to feel too defeated, we bought some churros with dipping chocolate at a stand behind the church. I have to say, the churro was delicious but I don’t know who the hell decided that brown stuff was chocolate?? It tasted like coffee mixed with dirt. *sigh*
Walking literally almost 2 miles we hiked uphill to Park Guell, which was Gaudi’s expansive residence that he filled with his incredible designs. As I previously stated, the tickets were sold out for the afternoon, and we could have come back after 6 PM (after the daily siesta which everyone takes very seriously in Spain) and tried to score some. At that point we decided to just wander through the parts of the park that we could, which was still so worth it. It was a total bummer, but oh guell…. what can ya do!
The Proclaimers Sang It Best…
The rest of our day in Barcelona we literally walked 500 miles! Ok… clearly that’s an exaggeration, but we walked EVERYWHERE and saw EVERYTHING since that was our only day there! In fact, my left foot never recovered from wearing some sandals that were not the best to walk in, and the rest of the trip it was swollen and hurting. It still hurts, but have I gone to the Dr’s yet? Mmmm.. nope!
We walked to a restaurant recommended by a local and ate some tapas. Then we headed past Casa Battlo, another of Gaudi’s incredible and unusual buildings.
We worked our way though the maze of narrow streets and alleys in the Gothic District, and then out to the waterfront by the Christopher Columbus monument.
Then we thought we were going towards the Font de Monjuic, but ended up getting lost in a botanical garden and then caught a bus by Hotel Miramar, which actually ended up being a beautiful accident we happened upon with a great view above the whole city.
By this point, our feet and legs were aching. We sat at a bus stop and jumped onto a bus (to be more accurate we really snuck onto it without paying) and got off at the stop for the fountains.
Waiting an hour for the fountains to start was nice, because we were able to just sit and relax. Then the fountains lived up to their name, because they were truly magical (and absolutely put the Bellagio fountain in Vegas to shame!). Although we did end up getting almost completely soaked where we were standing by the water! There were a few moments in the show where the waters were flowing so high above us that the wind took them right over top of us! Jess had started a time lapse video on his phone and was determined not to move, so he sat there holding strong while the waters poured over him and Heather and I died laughing watching him!
Just the Beginning
Laying in my tiny closet bed again that night, I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion and tearing up thinking how lucky I felt to be in Spain, experiencing everything I had so far.
As I have talked about before, my heart feels so much joy when I get to travel and experience and see new things. There is just something so healing to me about it all, and I was feeling so confident that I would find so many new pieces of myself on this journey. If I hadn’t been so exhausted I probably would have stayed up all night obsessing over the hundreds of photos I had already taken on my phone, but thanks to the 14 miles we walked that day I was out almost instantly.
Stay tuned for the next exciting days of our trip!