Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Spanish Rendezvous


We recently took a 2 week trip to one of the largest countries in Europe and after weeks of planning, it turned out to be an incredible experience worth sharing! We toyed with the idea of either whizzing through different countries by visiting just one city or two in each or instead staying for 15 days in one country, embracing it's culture, mindsets and gorging on the delicious food! I am so glad that we chose the latter because honestly Spain is definitely a country that deserves it's own month or more! Being one of the largest European countries, it was a struggle to decide which coasts we wanted to explore and after much deliberation, we settled for 6 main cities/towns starting with Bilbao, San Sebastian, Barcelona, Ibiza, Valencia and finally Madrid. I was very keen on adding in Seville and Mallorca to the list but it just seemed unfair to attempt to cover so much in what started to seem like so little time. So we decided to leave the South coast for a later escapade!

For all our hotels and apartments, we used Booking.com. After looking up various options, we tried to pick properties with 3 main criterias to be met - close to the city centre, local transport friendly & rated highly by reviewers. We noticed that a lot of these cities had several privately owned properties besides the usual 5 star hotels. Quirky, cosy and eclectic was the vibe we were going for. We landed in Bilbao after a 15 hour journey and headed straight to our hotel Cosmov Bilbao. Situated close to the city centre and next to one the most well known architectures of Bilbao, The Guggenheim Museum, it was the most ideal location with pretty much everything we could cover in 2 days at a walking distance. We also opted not to take included hotel breakfasts anywhere because that would push us to get out earlier and try out the local restaurants and cafes which was probably one of the best decisions! If you're in Bilbao, you have to try the unlimited Pintxos bars and the delicious Spanish wines. Bilbao is located in the northern part of Spain also know as Basque Country and is fairly surrounded by mountains and gorgeous landscapes. But this also makes the weather rather unpredictable! But if you're doing a trip around Spain, I recommend you don't skip this one. Also, you must visit El Tilo for a scrumptious breakfast and mouth watering croissants, El Fuego Negra for some new age pintxos, Coppola for an authentic Italian meal and if you're a wine lover, do try out Rioja! That's all we drank all through our trip!

Our next stop was the stunning San Sebastian. I'll be honest, before I started doing my research, I had actually never heard anyone talk about this resort town located in the Bay of Biscay. A dream destination for anyone who loves laying on the beach, taking walks down the promenades or eating the most spectacular food. We were both pretty excited for this one and being just an hour's drive from Bilbao made this super accessible too! You can take a ALSA bus or rent a car, both are pretty easy to figure out. San Sebastian is a small town but most of it's touristy stuff is located in an even more constricted area by the coast. Our hotel was rather close to Playa de La Concha which is a gorgeous beach with a serene view and a promenade that comes alive as soon as the sun rises. Our first day was spent just walking around this small town which is easily accessible on foot! Grabbing the most delicious croissants, coffee and gelatos while we strolled around. If you thought you had the best Pintxos in Bilbao, think again! San Sebastian had even more pintxo bars than Bilbao and they were just phenomenal! We recommend Gandarias, Atari & Sirimiri for pintxos and wine, Borda berri for mind boggling cocktails and Quebec Krep'Herria if you're craving crepes! And if you're a fan of croissants, make sure your find El Cafetal before you leave! A tip, try and visit the city on a Saturday because the energy & vibe of the city is unmatchable! I also recommend taking a trip to the top of Mount Urgull for an unforgettable sight of the town.

Next we headed to one of the most talked about cities in the world, Barcelona! Taking a flight was the most convenient thing for us to do but if you have some extra time to spare, I've heard the drive down from San Sebastian to Barcelona is a rather picturesque one! At Barcelona we stayed at C211 Apartments which are luxury apartments located in the heart of the city. Compared to Bilbao and San Sebastian, this was of course a much bigger area to cover and we slotted 3 days for it! Needless to say the shopping and food are two major attraction for tourists minus the epic historic sights of course. We booked our tickets in advance for Sagrada Familia & Park Guell to avoid the endless lines. Our first thought was to skip going inside Sagrada Familia but honestly, it was such a captivating experience! So if you're in Barcelona, do spare an hour for this! We also used the TMB App to get around the town by bus. Of course you can hail cabs if you're in a hurry! A sunset walk by the Barceloneta beach & Port Olimpic is a must. There are endless number of restaurants and bars to visit but some that we recommend are Flax & Kale, Brunch & Cake, Caravelle for breakfast or brunches , Espit Chupitos (for shots),  Balthazar, La Rosa Negra (mexican food), Surf House or any of the local joints for some paella for lunch or dinner!

Spain is a beautiful country with so much history, culture and the most warm people. Learning a little Spanish or just the basic words is recommended specially for smaller cities and towns! I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Will do another one with our recommendations for Ibiza, Valencia and Madrid soon!


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