Is it possible to take a holiday in Spain and not get that Counting Crows song stuck in my head? Not for me! That CD was worn out on repeat in my high school years, it’s engraved in my brain. Still, don’t let the melancholy of the song fool you! It was a fantastic trip!
Yes, this post is a little overdue. Okay, a lot overdue. I got back from Spain…two months ago?! Is that possible? Yeesh. Anyway, I typed most of this up and then, in typical fashion, never finished it. So here it is now! And hopefully my Peru trip report will not be quite so delayed. I’ve been a little busy over on my new physics/grad student blog, but don’t worry, I will still be making my (very sporadic) writing/lifestyle posts over here. So, Spain:
Travel there. From Charleston to NYC passes in a blur. A blandly friendly Uber driver, muted excitement and disbelief about embarking on the trip that I have definitely not prepared for. The flight is barely long enough for beverage service, but then we get to go into a holding pattern while the minutes of our short layover trickle by. We land just in time to speed-walk 20 gates to board our plane for Madrid. The long overnight flight passes in a haze of fatigue and airplane food rendered surprisingly edible by hunger and boredom. My six-four frame has had the bad luck to be behind a recliner, and I can barely move for most of the hours. I have bruises on my knees by the time we land, late at night for my body’s time but just bright morning in Madrid. Somehow we have to navigate public transport and my rusty Spanish to get tickets to our first destination: sunny Málaga, away down on the south coast. Aside from a few moments of panic when I discover I have dropped the (rather expensive) train tickets, this goes better than hoped for. We arrive in Málaga feeling prepared to battle through fatigue for a few more hours until we can go to bed in the local time.
Málaga. Our stay in Málaga is at an adorable bed and breakfast with a friendly host whose English is far better than my Spanish. The city is small enough that we walk everywhere, enjoying the sun on our faces and racking up steps on Fitbit. Things here feel magical, from the ruins of Gibralfaro Castle that make me want to write to the cool breeze coming over the Mediterranean. We even sunbathe, despite the lowish temperatures. We try paella to disastrous effect, as picking the lobster is beyond our skill. A stubborn claw lands in my lap and ruins a pair of khakis I have owned for almost a decade. I could just wash them but it fits my pique better to just throw them away. They aren’t very flattering anyway. We stop at pastelerías every chance we get and eat so much at breakfast that I worry the other patrons won’t have anything left, but we don’t care because it’s so delicious. Some of the best croissants I’ve ever had, and as many cafés con leche, whipped up on the spot, as I could want. It is hard to leave Málaga.
Gibraltar. The bus that takes us to La Línea de la Concepción is dirty and a little smelly, like most buses. The Spanish countryside through the windows is beautiful. I try to enjoy it, since reading on buses makes me queasy and sleeping is impossible. We walk from La Línea, and poor information on our Airbnb booking leads us on a merry chase through the city. Eventually we end up in the right spot. The views from the balcony are magnificent, but the place was recently partially flooded and smells of mold, and the toilet stops working for several hours. Aah, the fun of travel. We eat the best fish and chips in town and enjoy being able to speak more English. Our stay here is short, so we have to hurry to see the Rock in the morning. We opt to hike the Mediterranean Steps, which are beautiful and strenuous and breathtaking in more ways than one. The monkeys end up being rather terrifying, and when one yells at my boyfriend I genuinely worry about what will happen. Our train doesn’t leave until the afternoon, but we have to be out of the Airbnb, so we lug our backpacks to an Indian restaurant and wait for them to open so we can have lunch. It’s delicious.
Granada. Our stay here is little more than an overnight layover on our way back to Madrid. It feels more like a city than the previous places. My biggest impression is of graffiti. It’s everywhere, interlaced with historic architecture and corner shops. Our Airbnb overlooks Basílica San Juan de Díos and we find some wonderful pastelerías and spend the evening watching The Little Mermaid in Spanish. We look into visiting the Alhambra, but it turns out you need to plan way more in advance for that. We opt against trying our luck in line at 4:30 AM and instead just walk around the city for the morning. It’s a pleasant visit, but I think we’ve reached that inevitable point in every trip where we’re kind of sick of each other and becoming reciprocally irksome. We leave less than 24 hours later to continue on to Madrid.
Madrid. After a string of Airbnbs, it’s nice to stay in a proper hotel. The shower is a weirdly glassed enclosure in the middle of the room. We’re nicer to each other again and have a lot of fun exploring the city. A charming tour guide who learned her English in Scotland gives us a tour of the city in her unique accent. We eat at some amazing restaurants, although we’re still not quite used to the strange dining schedule. Dinner at 9 PM is a little late, even for me! We ramble the paths of El Retiro and daydream about being royalty. The impending end of vacation looms, bittersweet. I’m looking forward to be going home but sad to be leaving this wonderful country. We daydream about living there and traveling the world long-term.
Travel home. We get a little delayed on the way to the airport due to some closures on the subway. By the time we reach the check-in counter, the agents don’t want to let us through. Our flight is an hour away. We persuade them to give us a chance and we rush to our gate. We end up not even being the last people on, but it’s definitely a close call. The long flight passes in a blur. Our layover this time is in Atlanta; I don’t remember it now. My boyfriend’s dad picks us up at the airport back home. It’s nice to be home. I miss Spain.