Spain – Barcelona & Valencia
If you have even a basic understanding of Spanish (or if you read the dateline above), you’ve already figured out that the new country I visited in 2008 was…Spain! Yes, that’s right – the guy who had (mostly) only traveled to the UK, yet who holds an undergraduate degree in Spanish finally made it to a Spanish-speaking country (I know – kind of crazy I hadn’t visited one previously). And the story of how this trip came together is a little different than my previous trips though. Picture it – Minneapolis, late March 2008…
Right off the bat, I experienced a notable life change between my last trip and this one – I moved! Before this trip, I was living in Nebraska (mostly in Omaha, though I did spend a year living two hours north of there in Norfolk), but I got a new job with Target that moved me to from stores to our corporate headquarters in Minneapolis. I actually already knew about about the move while I was on my 2007 UK/France trip, but I didn’t move until about a month after I returned from that trip, so this was the first trip taken from my new home (notable because Minneapolis/St. Paul has a much bigger, international airport, unlike Omaha).
So anyway, a new home base and a new airport to travel from – what better way to break both in than by taking a trip? In all honesty though, I wasn’t looking to take a trip at the time, but the opportunity presented itself to me. Or rather, it presented itself to Ruth Ann and SHE couldn’t say no, so she asked me and then I couldn’t say no. I don’t remember if she was actively looking at trips or not, but she somehow found (or got alerted to) a really cheap round-trip fare from Chicago to Barcelona – it was something like $500. So she emailed me (I assume it was email, since I still wasn’t on Facebook at this point and texting wasn’t really a thing yet) and asked if I was interested. At that time, I sat in a cube across the aisle from my then-boss, so I rolled my chair over and said “Hey, what do you think about me taking a trip to Spain in about a month?” Did I mention this was all happening in March, so only a handful of weeks before we would actually take the trip? Keep in mind, I was still new to working in a corporate environment and hadn’t taken a real trip since my move, so I wasn’t sure what she would say, but she quickly said it was fine with her as long as my work was covered (which it of course would be), so the wheels started turning. Ironically, my first trip from my new international airport turned out to be to Chicago – ha! But the great airfare Ruth Ann found was, of course, from Chicago (where she lives), so I had to make the trip there. It’s a quick flight and me traveling there first allowed us to then coordinate our travel together from Chicago, which is always nice (as opposed to flying separately and meeting at the destination). So before we knew it, we had plans to visit Spain!
As seems to be the norm with these throwback posts, I’m hazy on the details of how everything came together in terms of where would be going and what we would be doing, but I know that we ended up going to both Barcelona and Valencia. I *think* that was the plan from the beginning, but Ruth Ann can correct me if I’m wrong! As I said above, my undergraduate degree is in Spanish, so I was happy to visit any Spanish-speaking country and Ruth Ann is always game to visit somewhere new, though I don’t think either of us had specific designs on Spain generally or Barcelona/Valencia specifically (I’m pretty sure we’d never even talked about Spain before she found the great airfare deal!). For our accommodation, we found a perfectly decent hotel in Barcelona, though I can’t remember the name of it. For the Valencia leg, we booked the AC Hotel in Valencia, which was an independent hotel chain at the time, but has since been bought by Marriott. Although we were going to return to our original hotel when we got back to Barcelona, we enjoyed the AC in Valencia so much that we booked the AC Hotel Barcelona Forum instead! The fact that we couldn’t use the air conditioning in the first Barcelona hotel anyway (it was still April, so they hadn’t turned on air conditioning for the building yet, which meant we couldn’t use it in our room) made me even happier to say goodbye to it.
So, hotels are covered, but what did we do with our time in Spain? My specific memories of that are a bit muddled (hey, it was over a decade ago), but as I was reviewing/editing my photos, a few things came to mind. For those who haven’t been there, Barcelona is on the coast, so there are lots of great views of the Mediterranean, so we took full advantage of that on our first day via an afternoon boat trip. I remember it being pretty breezy on the water, but the views were great! And we of course spent some time exploring Las Ramblas, a series of short streets full of little shops, restaurants, street performers, and lots of tourists! It’s a great place to walk around, but the aforementioned tourists made it pretty crowded and you also have to be very aware of pickpockets (as you do in many big cities), so be sure to visit, but exercise common-sense caution. Another must-visit spot we hit was Park Güell, a park system, home of the Gaudí House Museum, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oh, and of course, no trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to La Sagrada Familia, the always-under-construction, MASSIVE church designed by Antoni Gaudí. And I mean that literally – it’s been under construction perpetually since 1882! According to the interwebs, it may be completed by 2026, which will be 100 years after the death of Gaudí. Talk about extended timelines! I have to assume it has progressed significantly in the ten years since we were there, but I saw some pictures of it on Facebook just the other day as some friends are currently visiting and there are definitely still plenty of cranes and construction happening. Perhaps a return trip will be in order when this amazingly gothic building is complete! Also on the list for Barcelona were the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat and the Fundació Juan Miró, both of which were worth visiting. The first (City History Museum, in case you were looking for a translation) has a lot of cool Roman ruins, while the second is a museum focusing on the modern art of, you guessed it, Juan Miró. And even if you aren’t into museums or modern art, this particular museum is perched at the top of Montjuïc, a big hill that overlooks Barcelona, so you can enjoy the spectacular views instead of (or in addition to) the art. And even more fun, the museum is reached via a neat funicular, so you get to experience a fun journey and an interesting destination. Does it get any better than that?
Hmm, I guess I remembered more than I thought I did! But still, that covers just about everything for Barcelona, so check out some pictures before we migrate to Valencia.
Ruth Ann in the Plaça Reial.
This is Orígens, a restaurant we found by chance, but enjoyed so much that we went back a second time!
The serpentine bench in Park Güell designed by Gaudí.
Maybe I should have warned you that that there would be a lot of pictures, eh? Hopefully you enjoyed them though. But wait – there’s more! Did you forget about Valencia? I can’t remember exactly how long we were there, but I think it was only for two nights, so we didn’t have time to do a whole lot. We definitely explored the beach a bit (no swimming in the sea though – it was only April, after all), paid a visit to the Valencia Cathedral (including the Chapel of the Holy Grail), and also strolled around the gorgeous and futuristic-looking Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences). Oh, and of course we saw some Valencia orange trees, too! Looking back, I think we both wish we could have spent more time in Valencia as it was a lot of fun, but that just gives me a reason to go back (especially since Scott hasn’t been there anyway).
Right, picture time. There aren’t nearly as many for Valencia!
The tower of the Igelisa de Santa Catalina.
The mummified arm of Saint Vincent of Saragossa.
This is potentially the Holy Grail, though it’s usually known as the Valencia Chalice.
Outside the Plaza de Toros de Valencia bullring. We didn’t go inside, but snapped a couple photos of it before we caught our train back to Barcelona.
Monument to bullfighter Manolo Montoliu outside the ring.
The Estació del Nord (North Station).
And with that, I think it’s safe to wrap up my first-ever trip to Spain! We had a really great time and I’ve still not been back to Barcelona or Valencia, though I’m looking forward to revisiting both at some point (we already have a potential trip itinerary planned for the future that includes both cities). I did get to experience two other Spanish cities (Madrid and Toledo) with Scott though, so you can read about that trip here. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we bring that proposed itinerary to life. You haven’t seen the last of me yet, Spain!
Coming up, it’s another 2008 trip! I’ll give you a hint as to the destination – it starts with U and ends with K. 😀 Read about it soon!