Vacation Files: Portugal & Spain
When Summer hits, all of us here at One Floor Up like to get our travel on. Collectively, we’ve already been to New York, Portland, Minneapolis, Idaho, Phoenix, and Crested Butte, CO. We aren’t slowing down as there are even more trips planned for us over the next few months, including (and hopefully), a work trip to Telluride for the Jazz Festival. Fingers crossed on that one.
That said, I actually took my big Summer trip this past Spring. In order to beat the summertime crowds and prices, I went to Portugal and Spain for 2 and ½ weeks this past May. The trip was centered around a family celebration and reunion just outside of Barcelona to celebrate my partner’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. Holy cow, when a 90 year old Spanish woman asks you to travel halfway around the world for a party, you go! And so we happily went.
While we have both been to Spain before, we decided that we’d take a week before the birthday party to go someplace neither of us had been and that place was Lisbon, Portugal. The draw of traveling for me, and for most of us I assume, is to experience new cultures, different architecture, unusual foods (and wines), and experiencing different traditions. Lisbon did not disappoint. We explored the city on foot and with public transportation for a very full 3 days visiting castles, museums, restaurants (with Fado music, of course), and a variety of shops. We even got into Port tasting! One of my favorite parts of the city were the majestic amounts of tiles lining walls and homes everywhere. Here is a blog post I created a while back where I shared a few of my favorites. We took a day trip to the lush and hilly town of Sintra before heading down to Lagos for a 3 day stay near the beaches of the Algarve Coast.
After another evening back in Lisbon, we hopped on a flight to my most favorite of cities, Barcelona. I can’t express how much that place moves me. However, before diving into the city, we headed out to an old converted farm house called Hostal La Serra de Llaers, near Girona, where we were to have the birthday celebration and family reunion. About 35 people all converged to wish Yaya a happy birthday. We ate, drank, talked (mostly in Catalan, of which I cannot speak nor understand), sang, and hugged. It was an amazing day of getting to see a wonderful family reunite and spend time together. After the celebration, we spent 4 days at the house doing absolutely nothing aside from eating, sleeping, reading, hiking, and taking the occasional excursion to the nearby towns of Ripoll and Camprodon. It was pure rest and relaxation.
Next, we hopped a train to Barcelona. Having logged many miles around the city in the past, we decided that this time around our last few days would be spent with no real set agenda. We’d seen so many incredible sites on our previous trip that we felt this time we could play things a little more by ear and just wander. However, I should preface this last comment with the fact that we did have tickets to spend our last day at the Primavera Sound Festival where one of my favorite bands, The National, were playing. Lucky us!
We spent time exploring a newly developed neighborhood called El Born which was rich with street art, food, bikes, and boutiques. We took refuge in a wine bar around the corner from the Picasso Museum to ride out a rain storm (we bought umbrellas hours before, but they broke shortly thereafter), we immersed ourselves in the art of Catalunya, and we hiked the hills and gardens of Montjuic, which included an amazing succulent garden the likes of which neither of us had ever seen.
Finally, on the last day of our vacation, we rocked. Literally. Surrounded by 50,000+ other music fans inside the Parc del Forum, we caught a mighty handful of an incredibly diverse lineup of bands and musicians playing at Primavera. Aside from the aforementioned pure giddiness of getting to see The National while in Barcelona, another highlight for me was seeing Colorado’s own John Grant play during a rain storm only to have the skies open up to a spectacular rainbow just after his set ended.
Phew, what a whirlwind and what a great start to Summer. Here’s to the traveling spirit, whether it’s in your own city or one far away, and here’s to your next adventure. Salud!