Calling all available Spanish men: Please be my ticket into living in your beautiful country permanently!
When you’ve been living in England for the last few months, there is nothing better than escaping to a sunny, warm oasis called Spain. My visit to Madrid and Barcelona lived up to and beyond my expectations and has made me a firm believer that the Spanish have got the perfect lifestyle sorted!
Think of pulsing sunlight, warmth, bustling vibrancy, clear blue skies, piping hot churros with rich pure chocolate, fresh seafood paella, deliciously sweet sangria, the beach…I’m grieving for my past Spanish vacation already!
When in Spain live as the Spaniards do and really embrace their culture. This means you’re free to sleep in without feeling guilty, indulge in delicious pastries and cheap coffee, go for leisurely walks and laze about in the sun, have a mid-day siesta, a late lunch, an afternoon of frozen yoghurt and fresh tropical fruits and finally a late dinner that starts from 9pm with plenty of tapas and drinks. Really, what’s not to love?!
These are my top suggestions for spending your vacation in Madrid and Barcelona:
Palacio Real Madrid
This opulent Palace was home to a long line of Spain’s royalty from Carlos III back in 1764! Walk around the palace and its gardens for some touristy shots and feast your eyes on Spain’s version of architecture fit for royalty.
Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Almudena
After visiting the Royal Palace, wander just down the street to find this beautiful cathedral that took a century to build.
Churros con chocolat at ‘Chocolat’
For the best tasting churros without the long line (like the famous San Gines Chocolateria), there’s no better place than Chocolat. Eat the churros fresh and warm early morning or come back in the afternoon from 5pm. There’s no greater accompaniment to these fried long doughnuts than a cup of hot chocolate. Forget the powdered, watered down versions too- ‘Chocolat’ serves mugs of delicious pure thick dark chocolate. It’s well worth the stomach ache for such indulgence!
Sangria and croquetta at El Jardin Prohibido
If you order sangria at just one place in Spain, make sure it’s at El Jardin Prohibido! They get the balance between sweet and strong just right, delivering the most perfect tasting alcoholic beverage laden with fruits. The staff are extremely friendly and most speak English, so ordering is not a problem and if you’re lucky enough you might just score a shot on the house! The standout dish is their croquettas; pillowy fried potato balls filled with cheese and jamon. Simply to die for!
Paella at Taverna Alhambra
Calle de la Victoria, 9
Look no further than Taverna Alhambra for fresh, satisfying Paella filled to the brim with perfectly cooked seafood. Just don’t arrive before 9pm or the Paella won’t be ready and you’ll likely be the only guests in the restaurant! Even better, enjoy some drinks and nibble on free tapas that might include herbed chicken wings and dishes of olives while you wait for your main.
Day trip to Toledo with Julia Travel
Whilst there always seems to be something happening in Madrid, there’s not many touristy things to see. So, if you’ve got time, take a day trip out to Toledo which was once the capital of Spain. I recommend Julia Travel which offers either a half or full day tour. Just a short 40 minute bus trip away, Toledo is truly like walking into an ancient city. Called the ‘city of three cultures’, Christians, Arabs and Jews all lived here together for centuries behind its famous walls. Be sure to see the Cathedral, El Greco masterpiece and the famous swords and knifes as you wander through winding cobbled streets.
Park Guell is the masterpiece of Antonio Gaudi. Originally designed to be a self-contained community with houses, schools and shops, building of the site began in 1900! Today, Park Guell is a ‘Dr Seuss‘ style playground full of colourful mosaics, quirky houses and captivating paths and plazas. Relax in the sunshine and take in Gaudi’s distinct style- you will see nothing quite like it!
The gothic quarter of Barcelona is full of narrow, winding little streets gothically beautiful in style. Once home to Picasso, the area is an art and architectural lover’s dream. Must sees include the stunning Gothic Cathedral as well as the Jewish quarter.
La Sagrada Familia
One could stare at La Sagrada for hours and still find something new to gaze upon in wonder. The masterpiece of the modernist architect, Antonio Gaudi, is still a work in progress after more than 100 years! Expected to be finally completed in 2020, the church will eventually include 18 towers representing the 12 apostles, four evangelists, Mary and Jesus. Although still a ‘construction site’, the building may just be the most impressive in the world!
Las Ramblas & Mercat de la Boqueria
This famous boulevard is the place for experiencing the pulsing, energetic beat of Barcelona! Lined with street vendors, cafes, restaurants and tourists, there is never a dull moment here. Running off Las Ramblas, is the fresh food market La Boqueria. Even busier than Las Ramblas, the market is the place for stocking up on fresh produce and trying out some empanadas! Load up on goodies here for a delicious feast back at your hotel. Continue on down Las Ramblas and head to the beach!
Antonio Guadi’s houses- La Pedrera and Casa Batllo
If you fell in love with Guadi’s Park Guell and La Sagrada and are craving more, check out his other finished famous works! La Pedrera is named because of its uneven greystone facade with a wave like effect of elaborate balconies. Casa Batllo is just as unique in its design, with a facade reminiscent of skulls and bones!
Spain’s vibrant culture and easy-going nature easily make this one of the best places for the perfect vacation!