Six months after I left Spain I was on the next 12 hour flight to Barcelona. I was so homesick for Europe, for countries that spoke different languages, for a time zone that I was never quite able to adjust to. So there I was again, March 2017, my second Euro trip but this time with another.
I planned the majority of my vacation as a solo traveler but three weeks prior to my departure date my ex-boyfriend joined the ride. At an incredibly awkward time in my life where I wasn’t ready for literally anything and where this was the first time we had spoken to each other in months, we spent 24 days together traveling throughout Europe.
The trip was planned around specific dates; Las Fallas in Valencia, Real Madrid fútbol game at the Santiago Bernabéu, Drake concert at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and whatever museums, monuments, and structures I could fit in between.
The whole trip in itself was actually a lot of drama considering you could have cut the tension between my ex and I with a baby’s spoon. Anyways, back to traveling.
Rome, Florence, Italy
Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of cigarette butts embedded into the cobblestone streets of Rome. The incessant fear of being pick pocketed and weird smell of European garbage left an unflattering first impression. To say the least, I was also incredibly hungover from going out the night before with my flatmates from the hostel.
I roomed with five males for the weekend where two (my ex being one) were part of a tour group I signed up for. On our first night of introduction with the group we ate as the Romans did, feasting on traditional style bucatini, drinking Italian red wine and ending the night with craft made gelato. Of course, the night didn’t end there. My flatmates and I ditched the tour group and went on a midnight excursion to see the Coloseo.
What a magnificent beast it is. Right in front of my eyes the ancient history of the Romans, a structure so old and so beautiful that the moon only shone its light above it. No tourists, no guides, just us and the locals drinking 2€ beer.
If the Colosseum is the amphitheater for the gladiators, then the Vatican is the gallery of the Renaissance artists. The Catholicism and Roman mythology manifested through marble sculptures and oil paintings of grandeur sizes was worth the pilgrimage to the holy site. In fact, it brought meaning to the art history course I took in junior college!
By the time we were in Florence I think I had enough of Italy. My ex and I were crammed in a one bedroom Airbnb and barely had any stretching room. It was raining and all we wanted to do was sleep. On the particular days we were there, the museums were closed and my whole trip to Firenze was to see Michelangelo’s statue of David. Still, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore was enjoyable and I do intend to go back to the city.
The worst part about traveling is traveling. The consistent movement from one place to another via 5 a.m. plane rides, two hour long train rides, and dragging your luggage along like a dead body, it’s not intended for the weak.
But arriving in Berlin is how I envision all my future travels.
We upgraded from a shared six person room hostel and a cramped Airbnb by booking a last minute room at the Hilton (also because my hostel reservations fell through). It was actually my ex who saved our lives.
As I said earlier, the reason I went to Berlin was to see Aubrey Drake Graham live in concert. His Boy Meets World tour was the theme for my trip and let me tell you, I was the only person practically singing and dancing to every song. American Girl Meets European World.
The German capital didn’t feel so strange to a SoCal Mexican girl like me. We were spoiled to have almost every German we interacted with speak English. We’d wake up in the morning, get ready, have a few morning cocktails at the hotel bar and spend the rest of the day shopping or eating. We even found a Stone Brewing in the outskirts of the city. Although I wasn’t quite culture shocked, I did feel an overwhelming sense of being when we visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Brandenburg Gate, and remnants of the Berlin Wall.
Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, Spain
Spain. My second home. When our flight departing Berlin was cancelled because of an airport strike, we had to literally trek across the Deutschland to find one flight landing in Madrid. A 3 a.m. call time, a 5 hour train ride to Dusseldorf, and a 2 hour flight later we were in España de nuevo.
Something about this country resonates a deep feeling of belonging within me. Maybe it’s the midday siestas or the Iberian peninsula, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is.
The day of the Real Madrid vs Real Betis game was the best day of my life. You know, it’s rough being a Cristiano Ronaldo fan when everyone around me loves Messi ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Anyways, the Santiago Bernabéu is my holy Mecca. Finally being able to sit in the stadium that I’ve watched so many times online streaming games during class and even at my college graduation was a tremendous feeling. Sitting alongside lifelong fanatics and listening to them scream and yell in Castilian had me wishing I knew all the Spanish curse words. Even better was when Ronaldo scored a header and when Sergio Ramos scored in the 81st minute taking a 2-1 lead for los merengues.
Our weekend in Madrid turned into weekdays in Sevilla. The rain followed us everywhere from country to country but at least in the south of Spain we were graced with one day of radiant sunshine. On that sunshiny day we visited the Real Alcázar of Sevilla. There in it’s great moorish architecture and royal gardens was the palace of the old Muslim kings and the city of Dorne brought to life. Later in the day, I even found my tacos de pastor in the Andalusian city but never did make it to a Flamenco show.
The last weekend of the trip was dedicated to Las Fallas. It was very odd to me to be in Valencia again since I practically lived there over the summer. Only this time, the once empty streets I took to walk to my internship were packed with vendors and tourists. I kid you not, the amount of people filling the streets was insane. To get to one block from another was to push and shimmy your way through families and hordes of people and maybe step on a few sitting on the ground. But hey, it was a day long party and night time fiesta and any place I could drink sangria before noon was ok with me.
Although we left before we could see the mascletas being blown up, it was nice to finally stay in one place for the remainder of the trip. Obviously I have a love/hate relationship with Barcelona because of our rivaling soccer teams, but there is a reason why beachside city is the number one tourist location of Western Europe.
The culture of Barcelona differs from any other city in Spain. It’s deep Catalonian roots reach far beyond the port and into the pueblos surrounding the city center. A pride and love for the patria of Catalonia is represented in the form of its red and yellow flag with a lone star flown on every street corner. A paradise to some but to locals it’s home. Rich in every artistic platform you can’t overlook it’s delicacy for artisan food. Even in the simple pa amb tomàquet (pan con tomate) you never realize how delicious bread with tomato and olive oil can be. But lets not forget about La Boqueria market either. Fresh pressed juices, Spanish charcuterie, patatas bravas and Spanish tortillas are introduced as the staple food we’ve been missing in our European diet all along. Meanwhile, the fresh seafood served on coastal restaurants is compared to none.
The last day of the trip we went to a bunker site of the Spanish Civil War. A panoramic view of my last time in Spain was what I needed to end my travels. A small, Mexican-American girl looking over the landscape of a city so alive and with an ambiance so encompassing that I knew I was going to be back. Maybe not now, but eventually in my worldwide travels to come.