Castles, Tapas, Markets, Football and a Bullfight!! Viva España!!
Before leaving on this trip, we didn’t plan on visiting to Spain. While in Scotland, our first month on the road, we were contacted by a Spanish couple in Madrid. They wanted us to come help them converse in English. We jumped at the opportunity and Im so glad we did.
Our Spanish journey began in San Sebastian, a Basque town in the North. Unfortunately, we only allowed 2 days in San Sebastian which wasn’t nearly enough time.
San Sebastian is a coastal town and has a lot of flavor and culture. It’s a very walkable city and has fantastic architecture.
We stayed in a hip new area called Gros, 2 blocks from the surf beach (Zurriola Beach) and 2 blocks from the city center. Gros was hopping from the moment we arrived. I don’t think Basque people ever go to sleep. Every night, we could hear people eating on the streets well past midnight.
On our full day there, we went on a free walking tour in the morning to learn more about the Spanish culture and the Basque people. In the afternoon we hiked to the top of Urgull Park to Castillo de La Mota, a 12th century fortress overlooking the city. From the top we were able to see the Isla de Santa Clara and Bahía de la Concha, San Sebastian’s iconic beach.
After a quick stay in San Sebastian, we jumped on a bus to Madrid to meet Berti and Leti, our 3rd Workaway hosts.
Since our task was to teach them English for only 1 hour per day, this gave us a ton a free time to explore Madrid.
Madrid is a very walkable European city with a great metro system. We would usually start our day by riding the metro to the Sol stop (city center) and start exploring from there. Even if we got lost, we always found a metro stop close by.
Madrid is where we first discovered the brilliance of tapas. On our first night in the city, Berti and Leti took us to their local spot where we received wine and a tapa for €2.50. Tapas would continue for the rest of our time in Spain. Almost every time we ordered a drink, we received a mysterious tapa to our table a few minutes later. What an amazing idea!!
During our free time we really enjoyed exploring Madrid’s mercados (markets). I think we went to 12 different mercados in total. Each mercado was different than the last. Some mercados were more traditional, selling fruits and vegetables and some were selling wine and craft beer.
After exploring all of the neighborhoods and museums, we had to see what bullfighting was all about. It was very interesting and mildly entertaining. It seemed like a good mixture of tourists and old Spanish men. Overall, I see why drama and passion involved but I don’t think I would ever go back to watch another one.
One of our highlights from Madrid was going to watch Real Madrid play and Barcelona in the 2nd Leg of the Super Cup Final. Although Ronaldo was suspended, we still got to see Messi play and watch the home team win 2-0.
Before leaving this wonderful city, we enjoyed a day trip from Madrid to Toledo. Toledo in an ancient medieval city built within castle walls. We spent the day learning about Don Quixote and taste testing Manchego cheese.
Click here to see all of the other reasons we love Madrid.
After 16 days in Madrid, we rode south 5 hours south with Berti to Lucena, in Andalucía. Andalucía is the southern region in Spain and is crazy hot during the summer and they haven’t seen rain in nearly 4 months. Majority of the world’s olives are grown in this region. Olive trees can be seen for miles and miles.
We only stayed in Lucena for one night and from there, we took a Bla Bla Car to Granada for next 5 nights. Granada is a college town with lots of character and history.
While staying in Granada, we went on my favorite hike in Spain, called Los Cohorros. To get to the trailhead, we had to take a bus 45 minutes outside the city to the base of the Sierra Nevada’s. From the bus stop we were able to walk 1 km to the trailhead.
This hike was magnificent. It reminded us of other hikes we had completed at Zion National Park in Utah. We followed a stream up the valley and into a canyon. As we hiked further, the stream formed natural pools along the way. These were perfect spots for a picnic or if you needed to cool off. We crossed multiple suspension bridges and saw one large waterfall.
The trail narrowed at times which meant you had to grasp on to handholds, drilled into the rock face, to avoid falling into the water. This was our favorite day in Granada.
During the rest of the time in Granada, we explored the old Moorish neighborhoods, watched a Flamenco show and at a lot of tapas.
We left Granada on a bus and were off to Alcalá la Real for our 4th Workaway experience. Alcalá la Real was in the heart of olive tree country. It’s located in the Jaen province which is home to 60 million olive trees.
At this Workaway experience, we were there to help Ricardo and Anton with their B & B. They were the kindest couple and their place was so peaceful and relaxing. Ricardo took us on a few afternoon hikes and the rest of the time, we were able to relax by their pool.
Spanish people seem to live a pretty simple life and are very content with it. Everyone is very nice and people are always willing to help. Tapas are a great invention and are a fantastic way to enjoy food, wine and beer for very little money.
Spain was amazing and we were able to make life long friends there. We’ll go back to there at some point but now it’s on to Portugal!!!