Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer heats up in Espana and London!

Early 2012, bunch of friends and I talked about going to Europe. The initial plan was to go to the Tomatina Fest. We've been on an international festival kick. We talked about it for a bit but timing just didnt work out. This year our focus was Ibiza and the 2012 Summer London Olympic Games!

We knew that Ibiza would be our last stop before the London games so we planned backwards. We played with a bunch of options of where to fly into and fly out of but we finally decided on roadtripping!! International driving is pretty intimidating since there is a language barrier and the roads are structured differently. We first flew into Madrid, which wasnt my top choice since I had been dying to go to Barcelona.  My biggest recommendation when traveling abroad with a big group is to get phone service! We wasted too much time waiting to gather everyone and this happened in Germany too. Time is money especially when you dont have a lot of time! After we found everyone, we headed to check in at Petit Palace Italia on Gran Via. Hotel was good, nothing spectacular but it was nice because we were all together and had our own bathroom to share. Our first stop was Plaza Mayor and then of course headed to Mercado San Miguel.

As we all know from my previous blogs, that I'm a total foodie so this was the best first stop! The first thing when you walk in is mounds of fresh fruit, smoothies, different tapas, and  pan con tomato, last but not least, A LOT of jamon!!!! Anyone who was with us can tell you how obsessed I am with jamon! I'll just let the photos do its talking. After tasting the first pan, we immediately fell in love with anguillas (baby eels). Texture was smooth, not fishy at all, a little chewy and great flavor with toast.

We didnt really have much time to explore each city in depth as we were driving throught 5 cities in 5 days. The next day, we went to pick up our car rental. This was an absolute nightmare. We had to split up because we had six people, three in each car. We had no way of getting in touch with each other and my group took about two hours to find where the actuall car rental office was. It was nicely tucked away on the upstairs corner of a train station which had a very obscure entrance. The estimated time when we left each other was about 45 minutes to an hour... when we finally got the car, we circled aroud a traffic circle and just parked and thankfully the other car just kept circling until we found each other. My friend Iris and I were the drivers of the trip so we coordinated our GPS' and headed to Bilbao. Bilbao is about 2-3 north of Madrid and we were there to see the Guggenheim. Cute little town but we didnt get to spend much time there as we stopped for an hour and half and continued onto San Sebastian which was a short drive of an hour.

San Sebastian is the perfect retirement town. When we arrived and started to find our hotel, I knew this is a place that I'd have to come back and visit when I was older. It was gloomy as we arrive around early evening but in the morning, the sun was bright, the water turquoise, the sky was blue, and the sand was sparkling. Needless to say, we didnt spend much time here either. We did have an awesome dinner at Bernardo's Restaurant in the old town. We had these little seafoody creatures called barnacles and they were actually really good! I'm definitely looking forward to coming back to San Sebastian.

After San Sebastian, we start driving south towards Valencia with a night over in Zaragoza. Zaragoza is a very different type of city. It was a bit more medieval and had a lot of history and definitely a quieter city compared to Madrid or from what I've heard about Barcelona.  We had an awesome 4 bedroom apartment in Zaragoza and it overlooked town with a huge double balcony. We eventually made it to Valencia which is also a very historic town. We had to have paella of course and it was super tasty! This is where we did most of our souvenier shopping, it wasnt anything too crazy though. We did have a really nice duplex apartment in Valencia. We mainly walked around town, checked out the beaches, the port, and went to the really cool museums that were around.

Finally, the last leg of our Spain trip had finally arrived! We were flying out of Valencia to Ibiza via Ryan Air! Stay tuned for updates on Ibiza, Ushuaia and Pacha Ibiza!