As the restaurant and patrons whirled around me, I was trying everything in my power not to throw up on his birthday. We had made it all the way to Barcelona from Seville on a two-week road trip adventure and roughly 90 percent of the time I was sick as a dog. About five months prior I had landed in sunny Seville, Spain, for an au pair gig, and my boyfriend decided to celebrate it’s end by flying out to see me and experiencing an epic adventure together up the Costa del Sol. Despite feeling like death, it was incredible to see more of the Mediterranean culture the country that has my heart.
It’s only about 2 and a half hours to drive from Seville to Granada. We hopped in our sad little Yaris, which we named “Patito”, and pulled into the Abadia Hotel. It ended up being one of the highlights when it came to accommodations – quintessentially Andalusian, with beautiful tiled details and wood trim. And wallet-friendly too – something I was definitely on the hunt for before I officially became a travel writer. I spent the lazy day gazing out the window at the Sierra Nevada mountains, soaking in the room’s hot tub, then hitting the street for a night of cocktails and new friends. I had been in the city 4 years prior and not a thing had changed. We skipped the Alhambra this time, mostly because I forgot to get tickets in advance. So make sure you don’t!
This is when we started traveling my whim and had no plans. It was thrilling and a little stressful to have to figure out where to stay every morning, but I loved the sense of the unknown. Denia was a small beach town I happened on four hours from Granada. We zipped past Cartagena and some other bigger spots just for kicks and ended up there. Denia has a postcard perfect coastline and at the time was devoid of all tourists – an added bonus in the off season. There’s a massive castle cliffside called Denia, appropriately, that you can explore for a few euros. This was my beginning of my illness infused weakness, so trekking up the huge hill was a struggle. But the views made my heart skip a beat and fall in love with Spain all over again.
Besides Barcelona, I was most looking forward to spending time in this city. Like a kid again I bounded through the city park, complete with a giant “Gulliver’s Travels’ model – totally brilliant, the children are like the Lilliputians! Valencia is also home to Europe’s biggest aquarium slash park slash planetarium, so I marveled at the giant tanks, flamingo sanctuaries and underwater cave. Outside the space dome-like structure is surrounded by blue reflecting pool that were way too tempting not to swim in on the 100 degree day.
Little restaurants squeezed between old churches along cobblestone streets set the mood for evenings of romance. Wink. But this was all quickly shattered after rounding a corner and stumbling into a bar full of drag queen servers. Then finishing the night shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of drunk Brits at a kabob shop. No regrets.
There might not be any staggering attractions in this little town, but the Greek looking views of sea and sky were well worth the detour. Honestly, we stopped because of the silly name at first, which eventually gave away to class as the strolled the shoreline. The beach was a highlight, as was the hilly walk up to the fort housing a pretty falconry and garden.
Before hitting the last destination, there was one more stop to make. Spanish cava is a favorite of mine – their version of champagne. The iconic Caves Freixenet is just outside Barcelona, offering a you of their spooky cellars and a tasting of their bubbly varietals. In the retail store I spent way to much time debating which clothes would be sacrificed for bringing a case of cava home. I got so delusional I almost justified having the “Nebuchadnezzar” bottle shipped home – a wopping four gallons of the good stuff.
My health was at an all-time low in this city. but we trudged forward and finished the trip with class. I have to come back as I barely scratched the surface – and at this point was just trying to keep my head from detaching and floating away.
Passing by the towering Sagrada Familia cathedral was a little anti-climatic because of the construction. But Gaudi’s talent redeemed itself when we bought tickets for Casa Batllo. Gaudi was years beyond in his forward thinking design and I couldn’t believe this home was created nearly a century ago. Smooth, liquid-like lines formed the building’s interior and exterior, giving me an almost under-water like feel for the place. Everything set up imagery left for interpretation, from the “water droplets” on the ceiling (which is also said to suggest breasts) to the blue tiles forming dreamy pictures of sleep.
Parc Guell was also well worth the visit and the hike for more of Gaudi’s trippy work and a lookout point over the whole city. We’d been trekking all day, and the guy selling freshly muddled strawberry margaritas at the summit was treated like the Second Coming.
At first we stayed downtown at Acta Mellenni – cozy and central with great amenities for a four-star, but devoid of those coastal vistas we were waiting for. Hotel Diagonal Zero was the winner there – right on the ocean and super cool, sleek decor to make you feel like a VIP. Really any hotel with sangria on the room service menu trumps in my book. We even got a free upgrade and had access to the rooftop pool and penthouse lounge that boasted panoramic lookout points.
Hopped on a plane a few days later after a not-so-tearful farewell to poor, slow Patito. I would do it again in a second, flu-like symptoms and all.
PS- We did all the accommodations through Booking.com. I booking love them.