Spain

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My family hates going on tours because it goes against everything a holiday should be. A holiday should be relaxing, full of good food and getting lost. Tours have the most hectic schedule, I remember sleeping at 12am and waking up at 2am in Cairo to catch a domestic flight when I went on an Egypt tour, and provide shitty chinese food when there’s amazing Italian food next door. After our bad experiences with tours, my family has sworn off tour groups and always goes free and easy on every single trip.

Free and easy in Spain was a bit of a challenge for us because my father had never driven on the right hand side before and we had to plan for all 15 days. So we took the easy way out. We copied the Chan Brother’s itinerary hahahahaha and tweaked it a bit.

Here’s how we traveled: Barcelona –> Alicante –> Granada –> Cordoba –> Sevilla –> Segovia –> Madrid –> Barcelona We drove in the end which was really fun because you get to see the different sides to Spain, like how some parts are near the ocean while other parts are dry and very Mediterranean like. A road trip is always fun. So here are the highlights of my trip and places you definitely should go to if you are visiting Spain!

Top 10 highlights

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia Exterior

Sagrada Familia Interior

1. Sagrada Familia {Barcelona}

Carrer de Mallorca, 401,
08013 Barcelona, Spain
+34 935 13 20 60
Nearest Metro: Sagrada Familia

When you visit Barcelona, you definitely have to visit this gothic church. When you see the construction scaffoldings, don’t freak out. The church is not undergoing renovations, it’s being built. This unfinished church was designed by Gaudi, an extremely talented Spanish architect, in the 1800s and everything is so intricately designed. If you think the exterior is stunning, wait till you see the interior.

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

2. Parks {Barcelona & Madrid}

Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona
Nearest Metro: Arc de Triomf

The Retiro Park in Madrid
Nearest Metro: Retiro

Maybe it’s because I come from Singapore where we do not have large parks to laze around in but I love European parks and always make it a point to visit them. They are fascinating, especially on Sundays when the locals gather for some fun under the sun.

Alhambra

Alhambra scenery

Alhambra

3. Alhambra {Granada}

Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n,
18009 Granada, Spain
+34 958 02 79 71

The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage site which has a limited number of tickets everyday, so it’s best if you could either reserve online or buy the tickets as early as possible. There’s a specific timing each person is allowed to enter the Nasrid Palaces so be sure to take note of yours. The grounds contain a mix of Muslim and Catholic influenced architecture, reflective of Spain’s past. All the intricate geometric designs representative of Muslim art and carved onto walls and ceilings were mind-blowing. The craftsmanship and splendour of the palaces kept me constantly intrigued the entire time I was there even though I was tired from all that walking.

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

Mezquita

4. Mezquita {Cordoba}

Calle del Cardenal Herrero, 1,
14003 Córdoba, Spain
+34 957 47 05 12
10:00 am – 6:00 pm

This is another place which captures Spain’s history. What is so special about this place is that a cathedral is built inside the mosque. Forgive me but it gets a tad boring seeing cathedral after cathedral so the Mezquita fascinated me.

5.  Attending mass in Sevilla Cathedral & Cordoba Cathedral

We didn’t have time to see both the Alhambra in Sevilla and the Cathedral so we did not have the chance to see the cathedral during normal opening hours. After dinner, we saw a bunch of people standing outside the cathedral holding candles and became curious of what they were doing. Turns out there was a mass for youth being held and haha we decided to join in the fun because we could also see the insides of the cathedral (for free). We sightsee in unconventional ways haha.

We were in Cordoba on a Sunday and being Roman Catholics, we can attend mass anywhere which meant that we could attend mass in the cathedral. The mass was held in a small chapel with only 10 people and we were the only tourists. You have to try attending mass in a foreign country because the feeling is totally different from mass here in Singapore, perhaps because of the murals. It really is an experience.

Aqueduct

6. Aqueduct {Segovia}
The massive scale and splendour of the aqueduct just blew my mind away. A Unesco World Heritage site, it is well preserved. It transports water from the mountains 17km away into the city and there are signs carved onto the ground for you to follow the route of the water.

7. Museo del Prado {Madrid}

Paseo del Prado, s/n,
28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 30 28 00
10:00 am – 8:00 pm

If you appreciate art, then Museo del Prada is your place. If you don’t appreciate art, you still have to visit the Museo del Prado simply because it boasts one of the finest collection of European art and is considered one of the greatest museums in the world. I spent hours wandering the galleries of del Prado and especially enjoyed the royal paintings of Velaquez; I can’t imagine the number of layers he painted for the skin to look so life-like.

8. Museu Picasso {Barcelona}

Carrer de Montcada, 15-23,
08003 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 56 30 00
10:00 am – 8:00 pm

I’m being biased because Picasso is one of my favourite artists. This small museum, located along the alleys, houses collections that provide great insight into the beginnings of Picasso as an artist. There were sketches and oil paintings Picasso did as a student and also clay work which we seldom associate Picasso to. The collections document the various phases Picasso went through, such as the Blue period where all his paintings were blue. A really fascinating museum for all Picasso lovers.

Casa Batllo

Mosaics

541A9520

9. Casa Batllo  {Barcelona}

Passeig de Gràcia, 43,
08007 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 16 03 06

It stands out from the regular buildings in Barcelona in a funky way. One of the most renowned masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi, it was designed to reflect nature, as seen from the roof arch resembling a dinosaur’s back. The audio guide was comprehensive and explained every feature of this unique piece of art.

10. La Ramblas {Barcelona}
Shopping!!! ZARA, Stradivarius, Bershka.  Need I say more?

Top 7 food highlights

Salad

Bamboo Clams

Grilled Cod

Collage

1. Tapas at Cerveceria Catalana {Barcelona}

Cerveceria Catalana
C/ Mallorca, 236,
08008 Barcelona, Spain

In my opinion, the best tapas in Barcelona. It was so good, we went there thrice. After trying other tapas restaurants along La Ramblas, we felt that Catalonia was the most value-for-money. This place is constantly crowded which means a high turnover rate and freshly prepared food. Most of the dishes were cooked on the spot and had just the right amount of seasoning, not too salty but not too bland. My favourite dishes were the grilled cod, the bamboo clams and the grilled cuttlefish. Just keep ordering their grilled seafood because it is reasonably priced and fresh. The cuttlefish was so tender and juicy.

Appetizers Main Course

2. La Catedral {Madrid}

Carrera de San Jerónimo, 16,
28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 915 23 35 56
http://www.la-catedral.es

Admittedly, the decor of this restaurant put my mother and I off. One look at the wooden furnishing and we branded this restaurant as ‘traditional’. That, to us, meant that it was probably a dirty place which should be shunned. But the menu drew us in. It charged 13 Euros for a 3 course set meal, inclusive of wine, a deal unheard of and the place was brimming with people (mostly locals), indicating its popularity. Each course was delicious and came in large portions, another plus point. Try their mixed fish platter and the seafood pasta! Also, choose their yogurt for dessert because it tasted so amazing that I wished they gave me a tub.

Yog & Bluffin
3.  Froyo {Alicante}

Yog & Bluffin
Calle San Ildefonso, 11
03001 Alicante, Spain
https://www.facebook.com/YogBluffin

This frozen yogurt may not be part of a chain but it has the right amount of creaminess and sourness that I love. It’s not icy at all. The best part is that it’s about S$2 for a small cup of yogurt, just enough for one person, with a free topping 🙂 How awesome is that!!! Cheap and good froyo makes me very happy.

Los Diamentes

4. Free tapas in Granada

Los Diamentes
Calle Navas, 26
Granada, Spain

Getting free tapas with drinks somehow only happens in Granada. You order a drink and you get a free plate of tapas. It’s that awesome. Los Diamentes is famous for its seafood and the place is always packed. Although you can’t choose what free tapas you get, everything’s probably delicious. It’s strange to be served red wine in a cup but fine dining isn’t what you’re looking for in Los Diamentes. It’s the experience that you’re going for when you come to this place- squeezing together with the locals just to drink and eat. Pray hard that you get the simmered clams in white wine, they were delicious.

Sardines

Grilled Squid

Grilled Sole

5. Seafood in Alicante

Miramar
Calle Juan Bautista Lafora, 9
03002 Alicante, Spain

The sardines here were so delicious that we ordered them twice. Spanish squid is amazingly tender when grilled. Top it up with that smoky smell, it’s one of the best and simplest seafood dish Spain offers. Once again, just keep ordering their seafood! If you want to enjoy the sea breeze and sunshine and people watch, you’ll love sitting outside.

Recommended Hotels 

1. Hotel Jazz {Barcelona}

Carrer de Pelai, 3,
08001 Barcelona, Spain
+34 935 52 96 96
http://www.hoteljazz.com/‎

It has a great location being situated in La Ramblas and being near the train station. The beds are comfortable and the rooms are clean. It’s a new modern hotel worth staying in for the few nights you spend in Barcelona.

2. Alhambra Palace {Granada}

Plaza Arquitecto García de Paredes, 1,
18009 Granada, Spain
+34 958 22 14 68
http://www.h-alhambrapalace.es

Alhambra Palace is within walking distance of the Alhambra, which is to your advantage if you would like to visit the Alhambra multiple times (day and night) or you would like to be early in the queue for tickets that are quickly snapped up, especially during Summer. The best part of staying in Alhambra Palace was definitely the view. It is situated on the hill and overlooks the entire town. It was really relaxing sitting at the cafe, waiting for the sun to set and for darkness to blanket the entire town.

3. AC Hotel Cordoba by Marriot {Cordoba}

Av de la Libertad, 24,
14006 Córdoba, Spain
+34 957 76 83 80
http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/odbco-ac-hotel-córdoba

I love how its just opposite the Jewish quarters which means free time is spent wandering around the Jewish quarters. Once past the Jewish quarters, you will arrive at the Cordoba Cathedral, another tourist attraction. The breakfast in Marriot was one of the best throughout my holiday, as expected of a 5 star hotel.

If you wish to maximise the money you paid for your airplane ticket, you could also travel to surrounding countries like Portugal and Morocco, a little something we learnt from other travellers. There’s still so much more to explore in Spain, especially Northern Spain. But I have enough of cathedrals for now (never enough of tapas though), so another holiday to Spain would probably happen later.

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