As was mentioned on my previous post, I recently made my first trip to Spain in September. The trip was divided into 2 parts: 5 days in Castilla y Leon and 4 days in Madrid with a side trip day tour in Barcelona. My original plan was to stay only in Madrid for 5 days so I didn't have much time to prepare the first half of my journey. Although I did some pre-planning by reading travel books and checking travel blogs on the internet, but I didn’t really know what to expect prior to arrival.
Castilla y León
Lonely Planet describes this region as Spain without the stereotype with vast brooding plains, spectacular mountain peaks, with charming towns and castles. 5 days are not enough to explore the region but I managed to visit Valladolid, Burgos, Salamanca, and Segovia with a side trip to Pedraza y Tordesillas. There is much to be said about the scenery and I was very impressed with the sights starting day one. I like the history vibes and the ancient feeling of the medieval towns I had visited. I don’t get to see on a daily basis buildings from the 11th or 12th century which are still functioning. It felt like stepping back in time. It was awe-inspiring. My favorite part of the trip was walking through winding streets twisting up and down the hill with well-preserved medieval architecture and charming bar and restaurants in every corner.
Madrid was quite a revelation for me. It is lively, with great architecture, so much culture as well as history. Unlike Castilla y Leon where I had to adjust with the temperature, the weather was warm and sunny and comfortable to get around. It´s a vibrant city with lots to do and see: it is beautiful to look at in the day, more so in the evening. I think there is no shortage of nightlife in Madrid. The highlight for me is that you can get anywhere by foot as most of the attractions are within walking distance. I just walked and saw a lot: narrow streets leading to eating places, historical spots, shops and tapas bars. My only regret was that I wasn’t able to visit the El Escorial as was initially planned.
Barcelona is resplendent with the creative modernista architecture. Even if you don’t know anything about architecture or modernismo en general but when you walk the streets of Barcelona you will intuitively be able to identify a Gaudí building as they are unmistakable. What I was not prepared however was the huge number of tourists in the city.
The Food: Prior to visiting Spain, the closest thing I experienced in the Spanish gastronomy was at the Instituto Cervantes. Most of the cities I’ve visited are like huge tapas bar as there a lot of options to choose from.The food was varied and flavorful. The eating schedule was different and takes time getting used to. I was overly impressed with the quality of food and the service and was even offered a glass of sherry after dinner, compliments of the house. It’s interesting to note that I felt like I was constantly eating when I was there. ¡A tapear!
The people: The people are vibrant and fun-loving. I didn’t expect such warmth. I think the people in Madrid are as equally friendly, knowledgeable and supportive as the people in the places that I had visited in Castilla y Leon. I didn’t have a hard time asking for direction or restaurant recommendations as they were always friendly and will go out of their way to help. Although I really made a lot of blunder, they took my attempts at Spanish as a compliment.
Anticipation was my constant companion when I went to Castilla y Leon as I was traveling alone. Despite the initial fears, the good thing about traveling alone is that the trip becomes more flexible and it is a good way to think and reflect. My trip to Spain was full of fun, and I had a great time appreciating life and culture.