The only way to sum it up our visit to Spain is to say that Events & Adventures really does world travel well. This wasn’t a trip where we were on a clock throughout the experience; there was a great mixture of planned tours and free time. We started our adventure at JFK in New York, getting some quick introductions to the over 40 people who were taking part in the trip. And believe it or not, someone was sweet enough to bring everyone homemade cookies!
After landing in Madrid, we got to stretch our legs with a quick tour of some of the city’s most famous sights, before taking a break to enjoy a welcome lunch that offered a staggering amount of delicious traditional Spanish cuisine. Our first full day started with a tour for the presidential palace, which was spectacular. We then journeyed to the ancient city of Toledo, which is thousands of years old, and got the chance to get lost in the labyrinth of tiny streets that wind around the historic town. Dinner was a casual five-course party with several small plates (tapas) before our entrees. We learned the hard way we would have to pace ourselves with the food here because they just keep bringing it out!
We headed to towns ancient towns of Avila and Segovia. The Roman aqueducts are still soaring over the town. How can the residents just go on about their day when they have such spectacular history all around them?! After we returned to Madrid we refreshed ourselves and headed out to a popular bar area for a Tapas crawl. The bars here are more like pubs, not clubs—because those open way later. Each bar we tried different luscious small dishes, and we loved how everyone shares!
We packed up from Madrid and headed to Bunol, where the residents were preparing for the Tomatina Festival the very next day. It was such a cute little town. We spent our afternoon and evening touring and eating in this historical city by the sea. The next morning was the beginning of the adventure that is the world famous Tomatina Festival—probably the world’s largest annual food fight. Security was tight. To make sure no one got hit with anything other than tomatoes we couldn’t bring anything in. Twenty thousand people packed the long narrow streets before the dump trucks just started unloading as they drove down the street, and at the starting pistol—it was pure madness. Goggles were the best idea ever—as long as you kept them on! It was so exciting, and everyone was there for the fun of it, not to kill other with these little red bombs. As much as we laughed, it was best to keep your mouth closed though! After the ending pistol the fire department and locals brought out hoses to wash everyone off. There is nothing like experiencing world travel by being involved in the local culture. Getting smashed tomatoes out of hair proved to be the most challenging part of the whole trip. Even playing in the warm and relaxing Mediterranean Sea didn’t get it out.
Barcelona was the final hotel location for our world travel to Spain.
We took a tour of what is probably one of the biggest promenades you’ll ever see, and thousands of people were out for an evening stroll. The shopping, food, bars, and views of the Gothic neighborhood were everything you’d expect it to be. Small lanes that are no wider than one car have little bars and restaurants around each turn, with people spilling out into the lanes.
It wasn’t long before we got to witness La Sagrada Familia, one of the most incredible cathedrals in the world—and they are still building it! Every tiny detail has a meaning, and the colors the stained glass creates and projects into the building are breathtaking. Designed by several architects, the most influential being Gaudi, it has different styles in throughout the construction. Afterwards, we had an amazing tour of Park Guell. It was the original planned neighborhood. At the time it was too far out of town and too expensive but for a handful of the super elite. Gaudi’s influence could be felt everywhere we went, and he managed to translate beauty even in the unusual, as everything he produced appeared to be curved and wavy. His mosaics were everywhere and they were beautiful, even the monochromatic ones. World travel can expose you to so many wonderful things you might have otherwise never seen.
Monserrat Benedictine monastery is a historical and religious jewel. Hidden up, up, way up in the mountains, disguised by the hills, how’d they build this gorgeous place? There are still monks there and a school for boys! So after our tram trip to the ‘top’ of the mountain (there’s a small chapel and alter up even higher if your legs can get you there), we went to the coolest place ever for another never-ending lunch—a traditional hacienda (ranch house) that was turned into a restaurant. We learned the traditional Spanish way to drink wine and had never ending courses of family-style food (again). People were stuffed before they brought out the chicken, traditional sausage (which tasted like Texas BBQ!), and meats. We HAD to get to the winery so dessert was taken to go—Biscotti-like biscuits and fresh fruit!
Speaking of wine…. We had a tour of the most amazing winery I’ve ever seen, and I live in Northern California. This was not a regular winery; it was a huge commercial business that makes great wine. It was simply amazing. The tram we rode had headset options for six languages, though we didn’t use them since it was a private tour. Stories of the wineries founding and growth were projected on walls that lifted up so we could see the barrel storage. We got to walk down the original storage cellars below ground. They told and showed us how they produce spectacular “healthy” wines that don’t harm the environment. Using solar power the facility is almost entirely self-sustained! Everyone was impressed before we even started the tasting and got to try four different delicious wines. I imagine the wine drinkers were ready to move in.
Our last day of this world travel tour was spent visiting the ancient cities of Figueras and Girona. Girona is a medieval city with narrow streets, castles and ramparts. Figueras is another historical city that is such for a different reason—Salvador Dali. The museum made of his birthplace was a trip in the madness of a truly brilliant artist. The amount of art in so many different mediums was staggering. Our farewell dinner was a little different since it was in the Catalonian style. Less meat, meat, meat, more little flourishes on the dishes, but still way too much food.
The trip and tours were truly awesome, but getting to see people from the other E&A Clubs was like gathering of old friends while making new ones. There were so many people I wanted to spend more time with but the time slipped away so fast. We’ll stay friends through social media until we meet again on our next world travel trip, maybe even on an in-between trip to visit friends! We talked about the Amazon trip next month and Cuba and China trips already scheduled for next year. I can’t wait to join my Events & Adventures world travel friends in our next exotic destination.