I'm FINALLY finishing my Spain series. After conquering Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville... and eating ALL the food, we were off to Madrid! Once again we took a very early train so that we could see as much as humanly possible. Because who needs sleep? Am I right?
First stop was The Museo Reina Sofia, the modern art counterpart to The Prado. We chose this museum because it has an exhibit housing one of Picasso's most famous murals, Guernica. The exhibit was absolutely stunning. I wasn't allowed to take pictures but it looks like this:
Except better. Obviously, it's more magnificent in person. It also takes up the whole wall. Imagine me standing in the lower right corner only covering that one dude's foot.
We then walked through the other exhibits and got to see another personal favorite, Salvador Dali. I'm dying to make a trip to Figueres, Spain someday to see the Dali Theatre and Museum.
After a great morning of art we were famished but didn't have a lot of time. So another jamon sandwich it was! I still can't get over how something so simple is so frickin' good. It must be how they dry age their prosciutto. We were ready to start our trek through Buen Retiro Park, which is Madrid's version of New York's Central Park. There were so many beautiful spots to stop at. One of my favorites was The Palacio de Cristal.
This palace made of wood and glass was built in 1887 for The Exposition of the Philippines, then a Spanish colonial possession. After marveling at its beauty, we wandered past another grand pavilion, Palacio de Velazquez before making our way to Retiro Pond.
Since we had already conquered rowing in Seville, we skipped it this time. But it still looked fun! We then left the park and wandered past the Puerta de Alcala, a grand archway, on our way out of the park when I spotted them. Twinkly lights. I told you before and I will tell you again, nothing does it for me like twinkly lights. They are like fairies dancing on my soul. Oh, and pitchers of sangria never hurt, either. So of course we had to stop.
When we last left off on my Spanish adventure, we had completed a jam-packed, fun filled day in Valencia. And once again, on minimal sleep, we were up at 6am to make it to the train station for our next leg: Seville! (pronounced Se-bi-ya not like The Barber of Seville. Come on, don't be THAT American.)
This time we had a four hour train ride so we got in a decent nap which was good because I was dying. This was the first time that the thought, "Dear God, what have I done?!?" popped into my head. I had a dreadful feeling that I had bit off more than I could chew in my itinerary planning.
That is until we got into Seville, dropped our bags off at the hotel, and ran to a restaurant as fast as we could. We were starving. Did I mention how much I love Spanish tapas? Yes? Too bad, I'm going to say it again. I LOVE SPANISH TAPAS. OK, now I'm screaming at you. But look at this.
Grilled octopus in squid ink. I'm getting hungry just looking at it. I will tell you that the moment they put this in front of me all my sleepiness went right out the window. Good food just makes my heart beat fast like that. And it tasted even better than it looks! We also had skirt steak with chimichurri sauce. Both were delicious.
With our stomachs full we felt recharged enough to explore beautiful Seville. Our first stop was The Plaza de Espana in the Parque de Maria Luisa. This was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.
If you visit make sure you have Euros to pay for the row boats, which I desperately wanted to do. We were both fresh out and hadn't had time to stop at an exchange center so I bartered with a local vendor to exchange U.S. dollars for a small fee. And, even though my boyfriend and I weren't the best rowers at first, we got the hang of it and it was so worth it!
After walking through the beautiful park we made our way to Hotel Alfonso XIII, a very expensive luxury hotel our cab driver had told us was worth the visit. He claimed they had the best cafe con leche in town so, obviously, I had to check it out. The hotel was amazing and very upscale. I felt a little like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman as I squealed in pleasure at the wide array of scented lotions in the bathroom. We sat in the central courtyard which had natural sunlight and a serene atmosphere and got ready for our pick me up.
Barcelona was a dream. Breathtaking architecture and mind blowing food. Read about it here. Now, on to Valencia!
The first mistake my boyfriend and I made planning this trip was over-ambition. We made it back to our hotel from our amazing fourteen course meal at Moments at 1:00am. And then we had to pack. Our reservation had been at 8:30pm, which was also the earliest possible dinner time. Spaniards do things late. My kind of people but not when I foolishly schedule a train to Valencia at 7am the next morning.
So a little loopy, we woke up at 5am and were on our way! Luckily, we got to sleep two and a half hours on the train because then we were off and running.
Our first stop was the Valencia Cathedral. Inside, we took a tour and saw some beautiful art work. And then the piece de resistance, the Holy Grail.
Apparently, this is the chalice Jesus drank out of at the last supper. The Moors brought it over on a ship when they conquered this area in 715 AD. But who knows for sure. There are eight different chalices around the world claimed as the Holy Grail. But I'm gonna go ahead and say this one is real. Because this is the one I saw.
We also saw this:
This is the real human hand of Saint Augustine. It has never fully decomposed. I was unhealthily obsessed with this piece. It was gross and amazing at the same time. OK. Enough about that. I promised you food.
We rented bikes and rode through old town into the City of Arts and Sciences. We were starving at this point so we stopped at a little outside cafe for some sangria and jamon sandwiches. Jamon sandwiches are literally just prosciutto on a baguette with a little butter. But they are DELICIOUS. I also must note that in the U.S. I am not able to drink milk. (I'm an almond milk girl.) But in Spain I had all kinds of dairy products like butter and cafe con leche and I never had a stomach ache! My theory is that there are too many antibiotics or other preservatives put into our food. So thanks for that U.S. Thanks. Oh, and by the way, this was our background during lunch.
Yes, that is real. And no, we didn't only have one bike. It was just nicer for the picture.
I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of our jamon sandwich but you can see a typical one in the photo at the top. Next, we rode all the way down to the beach and had a delicious meal of cod fritters (left) and grilled cuddlefish (right). Everything melted in your mouth and the flavors! I can tell you one thing, Spanish food is not bland.
I've taken a two week hiatus. I'm not going to lie, things have been tough. Like I'm sitting here on my couch with greasy hair in my pajamas at 4:30pm tough. I just got back from a vacation, which was wonderful. I originally planned to write an article about how we need to be nicer to ourselves. How stressing about work is ruining our ability to actually enjoy life. But three days back and I'm once again feeling overwhelmed in my job search. And I just can't be the cheerleader today. So I'm going to write about something totally unrelated, my love of good FOOD.
Last April, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Spain. It was AMAZING. When I got back I excitedly called my mom to tell her all about it. After the conversation she said, "But you've only told me about what you ate." DUH. Isn't that the only thing that matters? I've always been a foodie. And when I go to new locations I like to totally immerse myself in their food culture. Today I'm going to take you on a whirlwind tour, detailing how I ate myself through Spain.
When we arrived in Barcelona, after travelling for 16 plus hours, we immediately went to the Picasso Museum. Because, you know, who needs sleep? The museum was awesome. My boyfriend and I are both big fans. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed. But me being me, I didn't read the signs. I snapped this.
I was immediately tackled by security.
Not really. But I was VERY strongly warned. I'm pretty sure I heard the curator mumbling, "Stupid American" as he walked off.
After this we wandered the beautiful winding streets around the museum, full of enchanted alleyways, twists and turns. We were looking for something to eat. After looking at multiple menus we settled on a cute, tiny tapas place and that's when it happened. I realized I was in love with Spain.
To be honest I didn't really know what Spanish food entailed. I ignorantly thought it would be similar to Mexican. I now know that Spanish food is one of my favorites on the planet. Give me tapas any day and I'm golden. At this first spot we ate veal sweetbreads, grilled octopus, and braised oxtail. Everything was out of this world. My only complaint was I didn't have a bigger stomach. I wish I could show you a picture, but at that point we were trying to play it cool and not act like tourists.
That lasted for about 3 hours. Then we took this.