Next up, we tackled Spain. I’m going to break this stage into 2 parts, as we spent almost three weeks in this amazing country.
Our first stop was the capital of Spain, Madrid. We found Madrid to be an incredible city, with a communal charm and plenty of hidden bars for us to make ourselves comfortable in. By bars I mean jazz bars, and it was our first jazz bar experience, which I loved!
We stayed in a hostel for two nights and on the first night we met a group of Americans before we all set out on a bar tour of Madrid. They were an odd bunch of people, brought together by a girl who looked like Jasmine from the movie Aladdin. She was seeing one of the boys and I think the others in the group were mutual friends and cousins. The girl that looked like Jasmine was friendly and fun, until she and her boyfriend (I think his name was Chris) got into a heated argument at one of the bars. The group disappeared but we weren’t too upset about it. Jasmine was now a memory.
I remember eating Churros dipped in chocolate sauce late at night and indulging in copious amounts of tapas and our newly discovered favourite, montaditos. We quickly learned that a montadito is a small sandwich like snack which can have a variety of fillings, from smoky fish to roast beef.
After Madrid, we caught a bus to Malaga, a city in the southern Spanish region of Costa del Sol. Here we had arranged to stay at a popular hostel, and were keen to explore. We arrived and were shown to our room, the only private room in the whole vicinity. There was a bed that was extremely low to the ground with messy looking bedding next to a large window with bars on the outside. A dirty bathroom could be seen through an open door and there was a lot of noise, as the walls were paper thin. Tired and hot, we weren’t impressed.
After one night of discomfort, we went in search of somewhere else to stay. We trekked through the main streets of Malaga but struggled to find anywhere with vacancy that was of a decent price. We decided to try our luck down a narrow street and were excited to find a small establishment with a ‘Hotel’ sign. Down a steep but short staircase, we found ourselves in a room that resembled someone’s living room. There was an elegant looking man at the reception desk. He confirmed that there was vacancy, and we told him that we would be back soon. We hurried back to the hostel and stretched the truth in saying that we were meeting friends in another part of Spain and had to leave that day, hoping that we would be able to get our money back. They refused to give us a refund but we had worked out that we could afford to stay at the hotel anyway.
We settled into our new room and lay back on the firm bed with its crisp white sheets. We still had two more days in Malaga, which we spent exploring the castles, swimming in the ocean and dancing the night(s) away at the local clubs.
Next we took a short flight to Valencia, Spain’s third largest city. Our taxi driver took us up and down narrow streets and we looked excitedly at the balconies and windows that towered over us. It was much more close-knit than Madrid had been but I was sure that we would get our bearings after a few hours, we always did. The taxi driver drove past the place we were staying a few times before announcing our arrival. I think he was confused himself!
We went exploring straight away, though we weren’t entirely sure where we were going. The lady at reception didn’t speak very good English so we acted out that we were eating food and she pointed us in a direction, mumbling the name of a restaurant. We left the hostel and walked in the vague direction she had pointed. We stopped a local to ask if we were going the right way and luckily, the young lady responded in English, telling us to go straight, then turn right, walk past two major streets and turn left and then the place we wanted to go was down an alley. We thanked her and set out, trying to remember the directions. We soon figured that we were lost so we ate at the next restaurant we passed, a small shop front with a few people inside. We were served some fragrant seafood Paella, which we watched the chef cook in an enormous pan.
The next day we took a bus to the beach. We had been told from a young Australian couple at our hostel that the best place to eat paella was right near the beach, and to order the traditional rabbit dish. Feeling hungry, we sat down at the first restaurant we came to and ordered the rabbit paella and some wine, which went down quite well. It was a change from the common seafood paella we’d eaten the night before.
Throughout lunch, we were keen for a swim, amazed at the crystal clear, calm water we could see in the distance. We felt the soft white sand between our toes before wading into the warm water, which was around 26 degrees Celsius.
On the way back to the bus stop we had a drink at a trendy looking restaurant. We hung our travel towels on the backs of our chairs to dry and enjoyed a bottle of wine before leaving in time to catch the next bus back to our hostel. We were walking in the shallow water, both happy and a little bit sleepy when I realised I had left my towel on the chair at the restaurant! Losing things is a pet hate of mine and the towel was a birthday present given to me just before we left for Europe! So we made our way back to the restaurant with the warm sun on the backs of our necks. The waiters watched us enter the restaurant, confused, but seemed too understand when they saw me happily retrieve my towel from where I had left it.
The first part of our Spanish stay was nothing short of fabulous. We discovered the delight of jazz music, enjoyed some traditional Spanish dishes, saw some brilliant Gothic architecture, met some interesting people and spent hours swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.
After seven days, Part 1 of Stage 2 was complete.