Small Words About Big Spanish Cities
For 10 days I was gone. For 10 days I was spending my time in Southern Europe, enjoying the most perfect weather, while my homebase got flooded by heavy rain and was victimized by a number of thunderstorms.
Do you have any idea of how good it feels to know this while having the sun burn on your shoulders, seeing the sight of ocean and walking around in flip-flops and shorts? Exactly. Very good.
Now I am back. Unfortunately. Spain was good. Spain was exceptional. Spain was more than I expected.
My journey started in Barcelona. For three days I could call this city my home, after which I took a short flight to the Spanish capital Madrid. An unscheduled flight, that is. Stupid me didn’t know Spain was THAT big and stupid me thought that was easy doable by train. Oh well, luckily for me airports are nearby and flight routes like Barcelona – Madrid aren’t rare, so we could easily board a flight.
Madrid was also mine for 3,5 days, after which I stepped on a bus (yes, this time the distance was doable) to, four hours later, step out of it again in the beautiful coastal city of Valencia.
I didn’t know exactly what I expected. Barcelona has felt like a familiar city for ages now. But next to the photos of Gaudi’s art I didn’t see much of the city – or remember it. Madrid sounded unfamiliar for me. Only a handful of people I know visited this city before me and told me about how non-touristic this city is. Valencia to me sounded as a student-city. seeing that I know a lot of students who stayed for half a year (or longer ) in this city.
Still, with little expectations for these three cities, I knew I all wanted to visit them badly, and I knew that the choice for visiting these three cities was the best one.
Wandering in Barcelona
Literally: wandering. Barcelona is one of the most confusing cities I’ve ever been. While the streets look pretty much similair, they are definitely different of one another. And you’ll notice that when all of the sudden you are walking through South-Barcelona while thinking you are in the North of the city.
Barcelona and I don’t connect. I expect the city to take me in. To take me in in all her bustle, chaos, warmth and culture. That doesn’t happen. I don’t know why, but partly I think it has a lot to do with the huge crowds that are constantly surrounding me, which makes it hard for me to see the city.
During the three days I spend in Barcelona I learn about the history of the city, that surprises me, makes me laugh and makes me dream. I wander through the streets and take a look at the weird creations of Gaudi and secretly laugh about the Sagrada Familia (no, people, it’s not the Sangria Familia by Gandhi – yes, really, it tends to get a lot of confusion – but just to be clear: Sangria is a alcoholic drink and Gandhi definitely isn’t Gaudi). Because, really, while the most tourists around me look at the building most impressed I can’t help but resembling it to a big sand castle. No, modernism isn’t my thing.
In Barcelona I eat tapas, try my first sangria (as well, not my thing), I relax at the beach and climb my way up to ‘The Bunker’.. twice – which I soon crown as my favorite spot in the city – from where I have the most beautiful view over Barcelona and where, for the first time, I am not surrounded by tourists.
Unwinding in Madrid
I travel with Mary, one of the most well-traveled persons I’ve ever met. While in Madrid I am on a completely new territory, Madrid was ‘coming home’ for Mary, seeing that she lived in Madrid for a longer amount of time a couple years ago. I follow Mary through the city. While in some parts she doesn’t completely recognize where she is, she quickly finds her way in different parts. She shows me different parts of the city. We walk from parks to must-see spots and from street markets to shopping streets.
Mary brings me to the best spots. From a small local bar which serves the best Mojiotos in town to the most small and beautiful spots in the centre where we can relax, and look.
Madrid is small, which makes that we have enough time left to enjoy the weather. A perfect mix of ‘city and chill’ I think. Madrid is busier than I expect it to be. But in the middle of the noise I find silence in a lot of places. Madrid is bliss. I savor.
I say goodbye to Mary and head to Valencia. After a four hour busride I step out of the bus in this small, coastal, Spanish city. Heat greets me. Bliss. A short 15 minute walk brings me to my home for the next couple of nights. I soon know that Valencia is my favorite city of the three that I visit.
Valencia is lively and vivacious. With a considerably less amount of tourists it also gets easy to walk around without bumping into massive groups of tours, schoolgroups and families. Something I can appreciate and something I definitely missed in Barcelona and Madrid.
I wander through the city and take in the old history. Definitely as interesting as the history of Barcelona, but way less appreciated by the big crowds. I see, learn and discover. Around every corner I stumble upon a new surprise – old churches, that are surrounded with newer buildings, fountains, squares and old houses. Every time I think I know my way around the city I walk into a new street. Every time I think I am walking North I am walking South. No, Valencia definitely isn’t less confusing as Barcelona.
When the Spanish inhabitants enter their Siesta the city gets quiet. Shops close their doors and the streets look empty. The beach and the park calls my name. A blissful piece of Valencia you should definitely not forget.