SPAIN & PORTUGAL

SPAIN & PORTUGAL

ARRIVING TO BARCELONA, SPAIN

Hola, cómo estás?! Uno cerveza por favor! I was so excited to speak some Spanish as soon as I arrived to Barcelona! I’ve heard nothing but great things about this place boasting a reputation as one of the most attractive cities in Europe. Boredom is almost unheard of as there is many activities and attractions to enjoy. The fashion, media, science, shopping, arts and skateboarding scenes are huge!

BARCELONA ACCOMMODATION

I booked a room in Barcelona via AirBnB being the cheapest option and rented a bicycle for 25 euros for 3 days! It was by far the best way to explore the city and beaches. You can search rooms in Barcelona by visiting the AirBnb website.

Alternatively, you can search for your accommodation in Barcelona on Booking.com.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN BARCELONA, SPAIN

Bars, clubs and restaurants saturate the esplanade of Barceloneta beach as well as a sea of people soaking up the hot summer rays! The ocean is fresh and it’s easy to lose hours here!

Another great spot is the Mercat market on the famous Las Ramblas strip. Excellent food and street entertainment galore. The locals are welcoming and made me feel very comfortable!

I had a few close calls when trying to cross the street as I kept looking the wrong way to check for cars and trams to be surprised by the sound of their horn. It’s the complete opposite to Australia, everyone drives on the right hand side of the road here.

The Sagrada Familia Cathedral is under construction though despite the scaffold I was blown away by this masterpiece! The stone temple invites people of all backgrounds and faiths to share in a sense of life based on love, harmony, good, generosity and peace.

SUNRISE AT PARK GUELL, BARCELONA

On my last morning in Barcelona I promised myself to find a spot to see the sun rise over the city. I woke up around 4:30 am and it took me a good hour to ride west and uphill to Park Güell. The darkness was starting to fade and I wasn’t satisfied with this spot so I scurried to a nearby hill to get a better view point!

I followed a small goats track to the peak and made it just in time to see the glowing red sun poking up from the distant horizon. There was no one else around except for a friendly old man and his dog. His english was very limited though we still managed to share some laughs and communicate through body language! I love these random interactions with people when travelling.

The city slowly became beautifully lit and I got some great shots with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II. I scaled back down the peak back to Park Güell and I could see more clearly the wonderful gardens and architectonic elements that distinguish this public park. It was till super early so I was able to enjoy it almost completely to myself.

It was a morning to remember for my last day in Barcelona. I returned the bicycle and just happened to stumble across a Barber Shop. I had my long locks chopped as I knew this summer would be a scorcher.  It was the longest my hair has ever been and the dude in the shave parlour was shocked that I wanted it all off haha! It was definitely a big decision but I feel great now! Adios Barcelona, next stop Madrid!

ON THE WAY TO MADRID

I boarded my train at Barcelona Sants for a 3 hr journey to Madrid. I am travelling with a Eurail Pass which I purchased in Australia. It covers majority of trains in 28 countries around Europe. Definitely bang for your buck, all that is required is a small fee for each seat reservation made. Choose the pass that suits you best on the Eurail website.

WHERE TO STAY IN MADRID

My stay in Madrid was short and sweet as I wanted to get out of the city scene and head for the Portuguese coast. I booked a room on AirBnB and I was hosted by Omar, who is a legend of a guy that gave me a mud map and the run down of the best things to see in Madrid.

Click HERE to see what accommodations are available in Madrid and to book online in advance.

GETTING AROUND MADRID

It is very easy to navigate your way around the city of Madrid and I recommend you explore on foot. There is a subway network to get from one place to another though you won’t get the full experience of the city. There is lots happening in Madrid, beautiful plazas, street acts, food markets, rooftop bars.. I enjoyed every minute of my limited time here!

The Parque de El Retiro is a MUST for anyone visiting Madrid. Take a picnic and spend a good couple of hours exploring this huge central park. Rent a row boat on the lake, tip a busker 1 euro, smell the flowers in the gardens and step inside the Crystal Palace! Ahhh writing about it makes me want to go back.

It was around 40 degrees and summer was in full swing so choose your time wisely when planning a trip here or bring a wide brim hat and lots of sunscreen.

The Gay Pride Festival was on at the time and half the city was decorated in rainbow streamers and the atmosphere was amazing! I love just sitting back and listening to the local tongue, the Spanish language is beautiful to the ears.

I booked an overnight train to Lisbon, Portugal so I said farewell to Omar and thanked him for the mud map and to pass it on to the next lucky traveller!

CROSSING THE BORDER IN TO LISBON, PORTUGAL

12 long hours later and a sore back from trying to sleep in the upright position, I made it to Lisbon! I realised that there are sleeper carriages available on the long haul train trips. I would of definitely reserved a bed if I had known before hand haha! Anyway, I am still smiling and stoked to be on my way to Carcavelos beach in search for some waves!

CARCAVELOS BEACH + WHERE TO STAY

The train hugs the pristine coastline as it leaves Lisbon and head west towards Carcavelos and finally terminating at Cascais.

I stayed at the Surf Hostel which is operated by Jose, a local Portuguese surfer who I got along with extremely well! He took me out to dinner one night to try the local cuisine, snails and barnacles. Surprisingly they didn’t taste so bad because they are cooked in a delicious broth. The staff at the hostel are all “work aways” and everyone who arrived was welcomed in as part of the hostel family!

Click HERE to book accommodation at the Carcavelos Surf Hostel.

THINGS TO DO IN CARCAVELOS

I was keen to go for a surf asap as I’ve been deprived for the last 2 months only to discover that the swell only arrives in the winter months haha! I should have done more research.. Nonetheless the beaches in the area are magical and there is always something to do! I made some really great friendships in the hostel and decided to extend my stay because it was hard to leave and it also gave me some more time to explore.

DAY TRIP TO THE MOUNTAINS OF SINTRA

I took a bus from Cascais to Sintra, a place full of magic and mystery where nature and man have combined a perfect symbiosis! The town is high in the mountains with gushes of cool breezes and a spot to breathe in the clean, crisp air.

THE PENA PALACE IN SINTRA, PORTUGAL

The Pena Palace is my favourite pick of attractions in Sintra. A colourful castle perched high in the forest surroundings. The entry fee was quite steep and I almost wasn’t prepared to pay the price. I don’t like the increased prices in the summer months, these places must be making a motser. The Palace was well worth exploring and hosted incredible views of the village below. Be sure to take the long bush walk route back down towards the entry gates.

QUINTA DA REGALEIRA PALACE IN SINTRA, PORTUGAL

My 2nd pick of things to see is Quinta da Regaleira Palace. The underground tunnels and inverted wells makes the historical site very interesting. I spiralled down the staircase of an inverted well that lead me via a grotto to a surprising lake hidden in the middle of the gardens!

GUINCHO BEACH, PORTUGAL

The following day a trio of Italians arrived to the hostel and were keen to head over to Guincho beach for some surf lessons. I told them to save their euros and I’ll give them some free lessons if I could tag along. Yay some new friends!

It wasn’t the best conditions and the water was cold but we all managed to have a great time sharing waves and frolicking in the sun! It was very rewarding seeing them all stand up on a wave and they were super grateful for the lessons!

CABO DA ROCA – MOST WESTERN POINT OF MAINLAND EUROPE

After a surf we went to Cabo da Roca, a lighthouse lookout and also the most westerly point of mainland Europe. Incredible cliffs and panoramic views up and down the coastline! We spent the afternoon in the beautiful Cascais, watching the sun go down over the ocean before having a delicious meal in the main square! Thanks for the day trip guys!

OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST IN LISBON, PORTUGAL

I woke up the next day to some wet weather but I was fine with it because I needed to organise more of my trip ahead. I hadn’t put together an itinerary before leaving Australia, I tend to just go with the flow. I prefer travelling like this because I never know who I’m going to meet and what opportunities will arise and having a free schedule makes it more spontaneous and exciting!

A group of girls from the hostel invited me to join in on their afternoon adventures. We went to see some of Picasso’s works in an art gallery in Belem, turns out there was only one piece of work by him in the entire exhibition haha but it was a masterpiece.

We then went to a local store to try the world famous treat called Pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg tart pastry. Topped with icing sugar, these little treats are mouth watering! The line was out the door and down the street, thats how popular they are!

EXPLORING LISBON, PORTUGAL

We jumped on the tram in to Lisbon city and went to the LX Factory, a re-developed complex of buildings with funky stores, cafes, libraries and rooftop bars. We order a cocktail each to sip on as we watched the sun set from the rooftop! Incredible views of The 25 de Abril suspension bridge that was almost within arms reach and really set the scene! It is almost identical to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

LAST DAY IN CARCAVELOS, PORTUGAL

My last weekend here in the hostel and Jose threw a party for his girlfriend Gemma. The sangria was flowing, the bbq was cooking, tunes were hot and it was a fun last couple of days with the hostel family! I will definitely come back again soon to visit, most likely when there is some swell! Obrigado Portugal!

LISBON TO SAN SEBASTIAN BY TRAIN

I watched the sunrise from the window of the train somewhere between Lisbon and San Sebastian. Another 12hr journey and again I totally forgot to book the sleeper carriage, haha my bad!

ARRIVING TO SAN SEBASTIAN + WHERE TO STAY

I stayed 2 nights here in San Sebastian at an AirBnB which was walking distance to the beach! The city is stunning and I fell in love with San Seb within the fist hour of being here. It is cool and happening by night, charming and well mannered by day!

Click HERE to see what accommodation is available in San Sebastian and to book online in advance.

WHAT TO EAT IN SAN SEBASTIAN

The famous pintxo (tapas) is unmatched anywhere else and the best I’ve ever tasted. Each plate of tapas costing around 2-3 euros.

The beaches are lovely for a swim and a surf on a hot day and everything else is within walking distance. I took a bush walk up one of the surrounding mountains for panoramic views of San Seb and the coastline. Somehow I lost the path coming back down but managed to make my own tracks along the cliffs and back down to the beach!

I watched the sunset from one of the beachside bars as the sail boats rocked gently from side to side. The sky was on fire and the pastel colours from the last rays of sun were mesmerising!

NEXT STOP, RUNNING OF THE BULLS FESTIVAL IN PAMPLONA

I could have easily spent a few more days relaxing by the beach but I had to make it to Pamplona for the San Fermin Festival (running of the bulls).

I arrived just in time for the opening ceremony and the releasing of the Rocket that signals the start of the week long festivities. I have never seen a street party as big as this one in Pamplona! A sea of people wearing white and red, the traditional colours of the festival, soon to be all red with the copious amounts of red wine and sangria getting splashed around! I had the most fun dancing in the streets and chanting alongside the locals. What an experience!

RUNNING OF THE BULLS, PAMPLONA

The following day was a struggle thanks to all the sangria though it was the event of the first bull run through the streets at 8am sharp. I dragged myself down to the arena to watch all the action. I wish I participated in the run but by the time I got there the race was already in full play, plus there is a high level of risk involved. Perfect for the adrenaline seekers!

The arena quickly filled up with people running through the gates as fast as they could trying to avoid the bulls horns up the backside. The atmosphere in the arena is next level. Most people were still partying from the night before and chanting louder than ever!

LEAVING SPAIN – NEXT STOP ITALY

I had a flight booked and bound for Venice, Italy the following day so it was easier for me to take a train from Pamplona to Barcelona and spend the night there before my morning flight! If I was to attend the San Fermin Festival again I would stay for the full week of celebrations!

Till next time Spain and Portugal you treated me too well!

If you have any questions about travelling in Spain and Portugal, drop me a line and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Happy Adventuring 🙂

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