Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar
I didn't really know what to expect from the Iberian peninsula, I don't know a lot of people who have been and showed me photos or said much about it. For me, it felt like a great unknown, and I have found all three destinations filled with incredible scenery, cities oozing with history and culture, delicious food and some of the best beaches in the world. Each city I visited was so different from the next, so I think that's the best way to write about them.
I started my journey in Barcelona. Once I had navigated my way to the hostel, I walked down to the Arc de Triomf, the stunning Parc de la Ciutadella and had a bit of a wander around La Rambla. It was quite overwhelming on that street so I preferred to wander around some of the others...especially because there was really good shopping!
The next day I did a free walking tour of the city and the free Gaudi & Modernism walking tour. I didn’t go into any of the Gaudi buildings sadly because they’re so expensive and for Sagrada Familia, you have to book well in advance which I didn’t realise. Gaudi's work is so incredible and unique, you can see why people flock to it from all over the world. I hope to go back in 10 years when the Sagrada Familia is finished and recreate a photo I took where the front entrance will one day be. I also went for a little journey and walked up to the Bunkers del Carmel where I was treated to a spectacular view of the city with big looming clouds overhead.
Next was Valencia where I really enjoyed the hostel, they cooked us dinner and made sangria for free! The beach was ages away and super busy so I didn’t swim, nor did I spend much time there. On the walk back to the hostel I decided to swing by an area that looked kind of interesting on Google Maps and it turned out to be the City of Arts and Science. It was a really quirky area with some really futuristic looking buildings and is part of the 12 Treasures of Spain, I recently learned. Later that night I actually went to a nightclub inside one of the buildings which was an awesome experience!
Then I headed to Alicante which is a bit like the Gold Coast; touristy and not much to see. It's not the nicest of cities but there were some good beaches and I walked up a huge hill to the castle on top which had an amazing view. I was staying at X Hostel Alicante and I loved it so much that I stayed an extra night! I met a lovely Danish girl with whom I watched the Denmark vs Croatia FIFA 2018 game...it was not a good result sadly! Later on we played some beer pong and an X-rated version of Jenga at the hostel before going out, it was a fun way to meet people and make new friends. I got up really early the next day to catch my bus to Granada.
Granada was wonderful but I had a few really blonde moments there and messed up some of the things I was meant to be doing; I forgot about a food tour and woke up half an hour after it started, I got the wrong time for my Alhambra entry and I left my awesome Moyork powerbank there when I left.
When I finally made it to the Alhambra it was incredible! I wish I had an audio guide so I could learn about the history of it all. I need to stop being so cheap sometimes! Oh well, the architecture and gardens did the talking anyway; there were so many amazing things to see and I'm glad I got to visit. If you go, make sure you book it in advance because it gets a lot harder to secure a spot closer to the time.
I did the Taste of Granada food tour as a guest of Molly, who I know through Instagram. She gave a fantastic tour through the city of Granada, showing us local stores and a giving a bit of their history and how food relates to the culture of Spain. I often skimp on food due to budget reasons so this was fantastic; I think I do miss out on a lot by buying my food from the supermarket. There are often so many incredible stories behind local dishes and when you do a tour like the one I did, you find out all these wonderful facts that would otherwise go unheard.
Gibraltar is a fascinating place. I went there to help out a friend with her fashion event, Runway, that she started years ago while living in Spain, so most of my knowledge of the place came from someone who has spent a lot of time there, but had her own idea of things. It's located on the southern coast of Spain but is a British Overseas Territory. There you can use British Pounds or Gibraltar Pounds, but the Gibraltar Pounds can only be used in Gibraltar, so having those is a bit of a pain. Apparently, Gibraltar used to be an island but is now connected to Spain via reclaimed land, and Spain wants it back. As a middle finger to the Spanish, the British built the airport right across the entrance to Gibraltar, which you can walk across, and because there are no taxes, a lot of Spanish workers live in La Linea de la Concepcion and cross the border each day for work. The locals speak a mix of Spanish and English, and there's even a term for it; Rock English.
It's a very small place, you wouldn't have to walk more than half an hour to reach most of it. I mostly stayed around the harbour area which had a lot of restaurants and pubs, but my favourite part was going up the Rock of Gibraltar and seeing the apes. Legend has it that the apes are protecting Gibraltar from the Spanish and when the apes leave the Rock, the Spanish will take it back. Probably not true. The apes mind their own business for the most part, but I did encounter a gorgeous little guy who kept climbing on me and showing off with backflips and other stunts.
I headed to Seville for a couple of nights and it was as beautiful as everyone says. I thoroughly enjoyed the Plaza de España and Torro del Orro, but part of the allure of the city is just wandering around and taking in its charm. I would love to go back in the shoulder season when it's not so hot so I can enjoy it a bit more; I was overheating and couldn't handle doing too much there sadly.
Lagos blew me away. I had so much fun there, I should've stayed longer! It was such an incredible place for natural beauty and I am constantly telling people to go there. To the point where I think I should just work for their tourism board (send me an email if you read this!). The town itself has a really chilled, fun vibe and I enjoyed the social side of it. But, it was the surrounding beaches that wowed me. The whole coastline is so unique, made up of limestone with a karst topography which gives it all the holes and caves (thanks for the help on that one, Wikipedia). I really wish I'd kayaked around but I was stoked with the drone footage I got anyway.
I have a love-hate relationship with Lisbon. We got off to a bad start when I got lost on arrival and spent an hour and a half wandering the streets with my heavy pack, mostly walking uphill until I found my accommodation. It was a lovely place but really out of the way so I didn't really leave it, except to go to Sintra. I only had two nights and on the full day in between, I went to Sintra and explored the Castle of the Moors and the Pena Palace. Both of them were incredible in their own rights. The whole area is on its own hill surrounded by beautiful forests so it felt really mystical and peaceful. On several occasions I was the only one around when I was in the forest and it was so beautiful. I would love to go back one day and give it a proper chance, because I've heard people rave about Lisbon.
My stay in Porto felt like two different places entirely. The first two nights I spent in the city centre. It's a really neat little place that is relatively new to tourism and it looked unlike any other I had experienced so far. The historic centre is a UNESCO heritage site and down by the river are heaps of wineries that specialise in Port wine. I really wish I'd done one of the tours there! For the second half of my stay, I was about 30 mins out of the city staying near the beach for three nights so I could go surfing. Sadly I could only afford to surf for one day, but it wasn't the best surf ever so I wasn't too disappointed. And I'd made some really great friends so that was a bonus!
Overall, I had a fantastic time in Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar! I think they are such beautiful, unique places and I would highly recommend you give them plenty of time to explore if you get the chance. Just be warned, it gets super hot there, especially when you head in land. I don't know how I would've handled Madrid if I'd gone there, Granada was hot enough. Apparently they had one of the hottest days on record after I left, it was early 40s!
Have you ever visited Spain? What was your favourite part?