Travel Diary: Andalucía, Spain

Summer 2017

Spain

I was both terrified and completely excited for my travels across Spain. The original plan was a few days on my own in Seville and a little under a week in Marbella on the beach with my friend Izabella before heading to Morocco from there. However, the beach plans ended up falling through after I had bought all of my plane tickets, so I had about 5 extra days to fill in Spain by myself. At this point, I had not-so-great experiences solo-traveling, and I didn’t really have confidence that I could traverse across Spain solo, let alone enjoy it. After consulting friends, Pinterest, and my ever-wise mother, I settled on exploring the southern Andalucía region of Spain.

Seville

This city. Right from the get-go, I was enthralled by the architecture, the culture and the people of Seville. My friend Mary Paige studied abroad here, so I had high expectations going in. My hostel was tucked away in the center of the city, so I was able to walk everywhere I wanted to go easily. On a recommendation from a local, I explored the best barrio in Andalucía for aimless wandering, Santa Cruz. The streets aren’t wide enough for cars, so it’s basically a rite of passage for newcomers to get lost along the footpaths. Then, I took the hostel’s recommendation and joined a walking tour. This ended up being one of the best decisions I could have made because I met a badass group of gals that I hung out with for the rest of my time in Seville.

We baked in the heat for 2 1/2 hours and saw many iconic spots, including the Plaza de España (Star Wars fans, anyone?), and then we escaped into a tapas bar called La Bodeguita Romero for sangria and some traditional Spanish food. Some of the “must-taste” dishes are rabo de toro (bull’s tail), salmorejo (similar to gazpacho), espinacas con garbanzos (chickpeas with spinach), and solomillo al whiskey (pork loin with a whiskey glaze).

That night, we went to the Metropol Parasol located at La Encarnación square, in the old quarter of Seville, Spain. This giant wooden structure is popularly known as Las Setas because it looks like giant mushrooms. We made it to the top just in time for sunset, and I spent my first evening sipping wine and taking in the views with my new friends.

The next day, I spent the morning exploring the Real Alcazár de Seville, a UNESCO-listed palace complex. Game of Thrones fans will recognize it as the Water Gardens of Dorne (totally had to google that), but since I’m not a GOT fan, I could only appreciate the palace for the beautiful architecture, colors and intricate details. Darn..

I returned the Plaza de España and was lucky enough to catch an impromptu flamenco show. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to attend a real show, but it’s at the top of my bucket list on my return trip! Then my friends and I went on a mission for gelato before our daily siesta. The Spanish lifestyle is something I could get used to.

One of my favorite meals of all time was that night at a tapas bar called Eslava. It’s one of the most popular places to dine, so three friends and I waited for a table over a bottle of wine while swapping travel stories. Once we were seated, we proceeded to split more tapas than I could count, tasting everything possible. Our favorite dish was by far the Becquer’s cigar (cuttlefish and langoustines). We even ordered a second serving just to taste it one last time. I still dream of this dish… and in true Spanish fashion, we finished our meal just after midnight.

Córdoba

I took the bus to Córdoba with a new friend and checked into my hostel. This hostel is one of the most aesthetically pleasing places I’ve ever stayed, with lots of white, black and brown accents and a minimalist vibe that spoke to my heart. It felt like a spa retreat, and the workers were incredibly kind and helpful. Although, I regrettably did not take advantage of the rooftop pool….

I only had a short time in this city, so I had a couple places on my checklist. The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba is the must-see of the city, showcasing one of the greatest works of Islamic architecture……with a cathedral plonked right in the middle in the 16th century. I think it is worth reading more about the history of this stunning mosque here!

That night, I had dinner with friends I met in Seville at a restaurant called El Caballo Rojo for tapas again! I love how the Spanish have a culture of sharing food and tasting a variety of dishes, rather than each person getting something for themselves.

I also carved out a few hours of solo exploring where I wandered through the Viana Palace Gardens and the Calleja de las Flores.

Granada

As much as I loved Seville, it was only a close second to Granada. I arrived at my hostel and immediately signed up for the street art walking tour later that day. I loved how this hostel had a different community event each day that makes meeting fellow travelers so simple and fun! With some time to kill, I made quick stop in the Granada Cathedral before heading out on our tour!

Unbeknownst to me, the street art was only the first part of the tour. After seeing some famous work by Raúl Ruiz (you can read about him here!), we ended up hiking almost 8km to the outskirts of the city to tour one of the famous “cave houses” and take in a panoramic view of the city and Alhambra. It was worth the sweat, but the soles of my sandals literally fell off after that hike… RIP.

Raúl Ruiz

Raúl Ruiz

I also met a dope group of travelers in Granada through my hostel. We met and chatted during the tour and we all had the same agenda afterwards – food. Our hostel led a pub crawl that night, starting with drinks and chats on the rooftop terrace, and I haven’t had that much fun with a group of strangers-turned-friends pretty much ever. 

The next morning, I visited the famous palace and fortress complex called the Alhambra. The different rooms of the palace are absolutely stunning, and the attention to detail was unlike anything I had seen before. 

Málaga

I had one day in Málaga, and by the time I arrived in this city, I was exhausted and seriously in need of rest. After seeing a bit of the city, it was time for some of the famous churros con chocolate at Cafe Aranda. I arrived just five minutes after it opened, and it was already bustling! Eating a plateful of fresh churros with a literal cup of melted chocolate fed my stomach and my soul. 

I became a hermit in my hostel room immediately after, and I essentially slept until it was time to leave for my flight the next morning to Barcelona and then on to Morocco!

Barcelona

I had a 10-hour layover in Barcelona, which gave me approximately 6 hours in the city itself. I checked my bag in storage and took the airport bus to the city center with no real plan in mind. I originally thought about buying a ticket to see the Sagrada Familia, but since I knew I would be back to see Barcelona for more than half a day, I decided to leave that for a future trip. I walked La Rambla to La Boqueria for some fresh market seafood and to people watch. Then, I headed out to the meeting point for a SANDEMANs Gothic Quarter walking tour. 

On the tour, I met a fellow solo-traveler Lisa! Taking a walking tour is one of my tips for meeting people when traveling alone (and you can read about the rest of them here!)

After the tour, we got some drool-worthy ice cream, and I made my way back to the airport. Barcelona, I’ll be back. In my next post, I’ll be covering how I made my way across Morocco for the first time!

Looking back…

I felt like I was traveling across Spain for a month, rather than just a week! I packed so much into each day, but I still feel like there is so much left to experience in that region. I’ll be heading back to Spain sometime next year, and coincidentally, I’m looking forward to starting Spanish lessons next January. I’ll be dusting off the ol’ high school Spanish skills with a good friend of mine. Until then.. adiós y’all!

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