We had the pleasure of the Leverts’ company this past week! We got to explore Barcelona, Girona, and Madrid with them. It was great to get a bit of Texas and Aggie love in Spain!
Rachel and I met in college through my roommate Ashley Teel, and it was fun to both re-live college antics and make new memories, too.
Mike is a phenomenal photographer, so his photos are also scattered in here – thank you, Mike, for letting me borrow them for the blog!
Rachel and Mike did great with adjusting to jet lag, and we kept them busy their first day to make sure! I did up what we decided was my “charcuterie” plate before we headed to a tour of the La Pedrera, Guadi’s apartment complex.
The consensus of the tour was, “Yes, I’ll take this apartment.” If only. Each apartment is huge and beautifully outfitted. Plus, you’ll never find a terrace quite like this one.
Later, we got to watch a live jazz show on the roof of the La Pedrera, which is just so magical. It’s like you’re on the moon overlooking the world (or maybe just Barcelona).
The next day, Rachel and Mike headed off to explore Guadi’s treasures of Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, while Grant and I took care of some stuff around the apartment (and ate the charcuterie board made for Rachel and Mike while we were waiting on them 🙂 ).
We got to eat at my favorite restaurant in Barcelona – Elsa y Fred – for dinner before heading to the Palau de Musica for a flamenco show. I had never seen a flamenco show before, and boy, was it intense! It was almost a stressful experience watching these people stomp around. Grant snuck us into some seats closer and less crowded than our tickets, which gave us an up-close look at the performer’s faces as they danced as well as the gorgeous and detailed Palau de Musica stage muses. The muses on the stage are sculptures that represent all the world cultures and are primarily there to inspire the artists and performers before they enter the stage. It was an intimate way to experience the intense flamenco show, and it felt like we almost experienced it from the performers’ perspectives. The highlight of the show for me was when the performance group made the guys who play instruments who don’t dance, dance flamenco in front of the whole theater. Hilarious.
We headed to Girona on the third day! It is one of the charming, smaller cities in Catalonia and is easily accessible by train.
We walked the castle walls, which are well preserved and show bright views of the city. Rachel and I (self-admittedly, NOT directions-people) insisted that we knew the way to get on the castle wall, and Mike and Grant went a different way. We’re not a stubborn group at all. As it turns out, Rachel and I’s way was a bit longer, a bit windier, and bit wronger. We had to circle back to the start (or as we told the guys “move forward around to the entrance to the castle walls” because we don’t admit that we back-track).
^also this photo is a prime example of “t-rex arms”, which is something I do when I’m walking sometimes and apparently don’t know what to do with my arms. I’ve got a little bit of dinosaur in me.
Anyway, the castle walls offered expansive views of the rooftops of the city, as well as the mountains beyond the city.
^ Grant and I are perfecting our awkward couple shots
The walls led us into the Jewish Quarter and the old cathedral. The cathedral was Gothic-style, and it held an archive of historical objects in it. Random fact: the nave is the largest Gothic nave in the world and takes second place only to St. Peter’s Basilica. Who knew?
We were floored by these stairs when we first approached the cathedral, because it was the first thing we did after lunch.
^Great photobomb, Grant
The most random part of our visit to the Girona Cathedral was looking out the window and seeing people dressed in medieval clothing. Why? Internet to the rescue! We found out that they were currently filming Season 6 of Game of Thrones right there! Here is a sneaky photo I took:
^Winter is coming!
There is a river that also runs through town that we strolled along. What makes the walk along the river so beautiful is the reflection of the colorful houses from the water.
And of course, no trip to Girona would be complete without tasting the famous ice cream! We each treated ourselves to Rocambolesc. They serve frozen yogurt with either delicious toppings or a patented warm crust that contains the still-cold ice cream and toppings inside, called panet. I opted for the toppings, while everyone else went for the panet. I had to fight to get this photo before the treats were gobbled up!
We were exhausted after the day of walking around and gorging ourselves (it’s a tough life). There are “silent” cars on the train that we had joked about getting on….and it just so happens, our tickets were for the silent car! Perfect napping environment.
We wrapped up the day by filling our bellies with various types of paella – from pig’s ear to black rice to rabbit to shrimp!
Ah, our travel day to Madrid started as any good travel day should – with a heart-racing competition about which way was the fastest to the train station. Rachel, Mike, and I took a metro with no transfers but more stops, and Grant took a transfer that required walking with fewer stops. Grant won. Although he also got the prize of being slightly panicked that we had left him in Barcelona when he didn’t see us immediately in the train station.
We got discounted train tickets for buying four at a time, so we got to sit in the first class train section! This included free drinks and a meal, which was surprisingly hearty. My favorite part of the whole experience was the tiny little clips that came with the salt and pepper, and the tiny little olive oil bottle. Why are miniature things so cute?
Madrid was very relaxing! We explored much of the city on foot, just taking in sights as we went. I would say we assimilated there pretty quickly:
Before sunset, we stopped by the Palacio Real and weaved our way through parks to the Templo de Debod. Pro tip: We bought some port wine at the market before sunset and enjoyed the end of the day by sipping on some delicious Tawny.
Instead of clubbing (which was a close second), we decided to get stuff our faces with chocolate con churros at the famous San Gines.
The last day in Madrid we got to see the Prado museum and walk all around the giant El Retiro city park, which is larger than Central Park in New York.
The Prado is HUGE, and has a magnificent collection of artistic works. Literally, there wasn’t one painting I saw there that I thought “Eh, I could just keep walking.” They were all amazing. I could spend days in there.
We visited the extensive botanical gardens next door, where Rachel impressed us with her plant-naming party tricks.
In El Retiro park, we took a quick cat nap in the grass under the perfectly sunny blue sky before getting ice cream and renting a paddle boat in the park’s lake. We took turns rowing each other around and narrowly dodging other incompetent foreigners rowing boats before we safely returned to harbor.
Sadly, Grant and I had to jump on a train back to Barcelona that evening.
It was such a great trip, and we are so thankful you came, Rachel and Mike!