Have I always been so carefree about flying and traveling? Hell. No. Surprisingly, however, I was much more ok with it as a young child and even as a teenager and young adult (I lived in New York and went to college in Arizona, after all!), but not so much in my late twenties and early thirties. Of course, there was no elfin way I was gonna let fear stop me from seeing the world. In fact, I recently gave two books I read years ago (Don’t Panic and Stop Obsessing) to my friend Nicole and, when I handed them to her, I noticed some stickies I’d written to myself on inside, one being “I have the courage to fly again.” I don’t even recall having such a strong fear, a fear so intense it led me to read books and write affirmations. But I did. And I no longer have that fear. At all.
That said, our recent trip to Spain entailed an eight hour flight from NYC to Barcelona, then a shorter flight (on a much smaller plane) from Barcelona to Madrid (please see Beauty, Charm, and Kindness. Madrid. for details about the first few days of our trip), and an eight hour return to NYC from Barcelona (in seats that did not recline).
We booked our flights on March 5th, exactly eight weeks before we’d arrive in Barcelona. With everything going on and getting ready to launch the blog, I didn’t have any time to put into planning. But we knew we wanted to go and I found an airfare that we couldn’t refuse ($400 per person round trip).
The next eight weeks were spent not thinking about our trip. As time passed, friends and family went from asking us what our plans were to urging us to book accommodations immediately. I wasn’t too worried about it, though, because with the brilliant Airbnb, I figured we could always book something last minute. And we didn’t even have our itinerary mapped out. In fact, deciding to fly to Madrid for the first part of the trip was something we decided pretty last minute and we were lucky enough to get a decent airfare on the one-way inter-city flight.
We literally did not book a place to stay in Madrid until May 1st, three days before our arrival. Thanks, Airbnb!
Travel Tip 1: PackPoint makes traveling with cognitive dysfunction (or just a regular busy life!) so easy. You just pop in your destination, duration of your trip, and activities, and it tells you the weather and what to pack. You can even add and remove items as needed. I always travel with my own pillow, for example, so I just add that to the list so I don’t forget it (which I have too many times in the past). It is truly genius!
Travel Tip 2: Having a healthy appetite and so many dietary restrictions, I always travel with my own snacks. Listed here are some of my all-time faves: Go Raw Organic Choco Chunk Coconut Crisps, Go Raw Sunflower Seed Sprouted Flax Snax, Bar de Jar Raw Organic Almond Butter Truffles, Eden Organic Dry Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Alive & Radiant Perfectly Plain Kale Krunch, Forager’s Project Greens Organic Vegetable Chips, The Good Bean Roasted Favas & Peas in Sea Salt, and, last but not least, Sole Grano Pacific Almond Mix (add more almonds to counter the sugar from the dried fruit!). Don’t forget lots and lots of H2O, too!
Here are some highlights of our trip, including my amateur photos:
Day 1: Barcelona to Madrid
Our flight on American out of JFK was delayed by four hours (with very little communication in between), so we missed our connecting flight on Vueling to Madrid. Our first encounter with the kind people of Madrid was at the Vueling customer service counter at Barcelona-El Prat Airport. What a pleasant experience! They were so helpful in getting us in touch with the insurance agency (we purchased missed flight insurance just in case), and I’ve never ever dealt with such a helpful insurance agent. They put us right on the next flight out, no questions asked. Total gems.
After almost needing to use the charming barf bag on our inter-city flight (we were in the very back of the plane, next to the loos…and, lemme tell ya, it was no smooth ride!), we arrived in Madrid. And the fun began.
Day 2: Day trip to Toledo and scrummy lunch at Ludena. It was here we met Jenny and Tom and enjoyed delicious authentic Spanish cuisine. Read more about our time in Madrid and Toledo here.
Day 3: Evening train ride from Madrid to Seville via Renfe
Our Airbnb, a sexy converted apartment with all the modern amenities one could wish for (including a rain shower head and central air conditioning), was right in the heart of the bustling historic Jewish Quarter, nestled above a delicious tapas restaurant. We had two balconies, one off of the living area and one off of the bedroom, with wrought iron railings, beautiful French doors, and rustic wooden blinds. We felt like true residents of the city, which made the experience that much more authentic.
We dropped our bags and headed straight to La Bartola. Oh. Em. Gee. Some of the best tapas and tintos we had in Spain! (See food porn photos from this amazing dining experience here).
It was pretty late, so we took a short walk after we finished indulging, then headed back to the apartment for some good rest.
Day 4: From Bull Fighting (utterly disgraceful, in our opinion) to Flamenco Dancing, the charming city of Seville had so much to offer beyond it’s historical and nautical beauty. The especially narrow streets were evidence of the ancient establishment of the city, and the stunning architecture made us feel as if we were in a Spanish fairytale. We couldn’t pass a doorway without the desire to take a photo. There should be a museum just to showcase las puertas de España!
We decided to explore Seville on foot, as we usually do on our travels. We walked to the Canal de Alfonso XIII where we explored the Plaza de Toros (but did not stay for a fight. As I mentioned before, we are both really against the whole thing. It’s murder, after all. But we felt since we were there, we should check out the arena), the University of Seville, Plaza de España, the Parque de Maria Luisa, then to the modern neighborhood of El Porvenir. On our journey, we came upon a quaint residential area where we ran into a little cafe (Cafeteria Benjamin Martin) and were forced to place our order en español. Our kinda spot!
Side Note: Throughout our travels, I realized how well Yo hablo español. Te impresioné? Bueno! 😉
We then walked back to the Jewish Quarter for an afternoon nap. That night, we walked and walked (we clocked 75 miles on this trip) to the best gelato place in Seville, La Fiorentina Heladeria. We then walked from there all the way to La Azotea for dinner (where we met fellow blogger, Anissa Prifti of The Oufti Perspective – check her out!) then hit a truly authentic and amazing Flamenco show at La Carboneria, a gem my husband scoped out along the way. SO. MUCH. FUN. The way this woman moved her feet was beyond human comprehension. And the male vocalists? Aye, yai, yai! You wouldn’t think it by looking at them in their sweaty button-downs and old-school denim jeans, but, WOW. We’d been to other Flamenco shows (where the performers were actually dressed in traditional costume) and not one of them compared. If you want to see a real Flamenco show, you must go to Seville!
Some more pics from Seville…
Day 5: We pick up our rental car at Seville airport and hit the open Spanish road. We have no plans as to where we will stop along the way. We want to wing it.
Of course, every American we encountered told us not to miss Alhambra in Granada, so, as we made our way across the south of Spain in our Jeep Renegade, we made our first stop. The park was so peaceful and beautiful, it’s easy to forget you are an earthly being. Granada’s city center also had it’s ancient charm, but I’m not sure if it was a function of not spending enough time there or if it was because we were feeling genuinely local with the car, but we didn’t love it. We walked around and saw the sites, and even had a delicious Moroccan lunch (I was surprised at the lack of Moorish influence in Seville, but once we arrived in Granada, it became obvious we were only a boat ride away from beautiful Morroco).
All throughout Spain, we met kind and delightful people; people as beautiful as the country itself, on the inside and out.
We hopped back in the Jeep around six and headed out just in time to see the sunset all around us. Next stop? Only the Spanish Gods knew where we’d end up. We’d stop when we got too tired to keep driving. Imagine driving in a foreign country between mountains and sea with only the moonlight…and your headlights to guide you?
Seeing that this post is already WAY TOO LONG, you will just have to stay tuned to find out where we ended up next…
Until then, viva España!