As we get busier, it becomes a lot harder to find time to update or put it all down. Worse than that, I forget to keep record of all the small beautiful, funny, or interesting moments that happen on this journey, but I’ll try to intimate what I can. Since my last update, we have traveled to Bordeaux for a few days, followed by a lovely sojourn in España. We chose Madrid and Barcelona to get a bit of city/beach contrast and find out if the party truly is in Barca (hint: it is!) Finally, we headed to the Côte d’Azur to begin our Vitamin Sea theme. Let me explain.
Three years ago, I traveled to Cairns in Australia and met a French guy named Matthieu. He and his friend were traveling the world for a year. Our paths crossed a few times in Australia and we became friends. After leaving Down Under, we kept in touch via facebook, and two years later, my Eurotrip arrives. It only made sense to reconnect.
Madyson and I made it to Gare st Jean on a Friday evening and met Matthieu who took us to his friends apartment. We were graciously invited to his parents for dinner which seemed like a typical french meal to me. Apéro with gazpacho, escargot, cheese, pastis, cheese, melon and more… followed by salad with canard… followed by foie gras, meat skewers, a potato tart…cheese plate anyone? Non, merci, we were stuffed. After we rolled out of his parents house, we went to a rather rowdy bar with his friends then called it a night.
Saturday was one of my favourite days of the trip: Matthieu took us to St.Emilion. A historic old town in wine country, st. Emilion is both appealing for the artistic, historic, or romantically inclined. We took a tour of an underground church before heading to some wineries. Bring a GPS because the map the tourism office gives you is horrible, and we wasted valuable drinking (er, sampling) time cursing at our useless phones. When we did make it, it was quite interesting to learn the art of tasting wine, and though we’re back to drinking 4 euro bottles of red, we do feel a little classier. Do bring your camera to st Emilion as there are some great couple shots (or selfies, if youre single like me) at various look outs in town.
Sunday was another great day. We drove to Cap Ferret and checked out the German WW2 bunkers that are now sunken and graffitied over. From there we went to Dune du Pilas. This thing is just strange- a massive sand dune that looks like it was dropped in from somewhere in Egypt. There are stairs to climb up, but running back down is quite fun! Use the toilets before you leave because traffic is quite hectic.
After that it was time to say goodbye to Matthieu and head for Madrid. We took the overnight bus via ALSA who lovingly confused us with a bus stop that makes no sense. Luckily we found it, but the ride was horrible. We hit Madrid bleary eyed but determined to find our hostel. I highly recommend the Hat which is in a great location, has a great rooftop terrace with free breakfast and cool views of the city.
We wasted no time and did our favourite thing- Sandemans free walking tours! Our guide was great. We saw many palaces and parks, learned the history of famous dynasties and learned where to get cheap drinks (very important). From there we went for tapas at Mercado San Miguel. I LOVED this place. Sure, it smelled like old seafood, and most tapas was basically deep fried stuff on bread, but we got sangria for €2.50 and wine for €3. Oh, and free wifi. Score!
We spent the rest of day 1 shopping and went out in the evening for a bit. Our night was foiled by a rather unexciting pub crawl but we were grateful for the sleep. Warning: don’t buy 1L wine for 1 euro… or as Madyson is telling me, 67 cents. IF it looks too good to be true, it will probably give you a massive headache. Also, come prepared. Nothing is more depressing than getting back to your room, victorious with your cheap alcoholic purchase… only to realize you cant open it. 😦 Buy a cork screw!
Day 2 was nice but less eventful. We allowed ourselves to wander different neighbourhoods, go to a botanical garden, and shop a bit. I don’t think Madrid deserves all the hate it gets, but I also think it only needs a weekend to cover everything. We took another overnight bus to Barcelona. This one was slightly better, thanks to 2 hours sleep. Repeat actions of two days prior: walking tour!! Our guide Reuben was great. Barcelonas gothic quarter was one of my favourite areas. We learned about the Catalans and their very pro-independent nature. There are flags on many apartments showing how many of them consider themselves different from Spain. Barcelona has lovely plazas like Madrid. After our tour, we went to Barceloneta which is a neighbourhood closer to the water. We had read about a place serving 4€ bottles of champagne and decided to investigate. It was packed!! It was called Can Paixano and for every bottle of champagne you order, you order two tapas. It was very meat influenced, so Mady got reduced to peppers and pickles, but the champagne was worth it. I had really good chorizo. The first night we tried a really cool bar called Chupitos which does €2.50 euro shots. They were set on fire, or created in really cool ways! We also ended up at two bars recommended by Madysons book and had great conversations with travelers.
Over the next two days we really enjoyed Barcelona. Our guide had recommended a beach to us and we trekked about an hour to get there. When we did, we noticed an abundance of naked men… thats right. Nude beach!! We’ll never know if our guide intended that. Though it scarred us our first day, by day two we had gone back and decided to make like the Catalans! Strangely freeing.
Nightlife. We had two good nights in Barca. The first night was heading to a bar called Razzmatazz. Apparently it has five different rooms but only one was open. We ended up walking home, but thankfully we had stopped in at Can Paixano for champagne again. Night two was the better one. My phone was causing me issues and I had a bit of an off day so we decided to head out with our hostel and go to a club. It was called Opium. We got poured on and were made to stand out in the rain which sucked. When we got in it was so tight… but the night was good!! We danced the entire night with some fun Swedes and even got invited to VIP by some Americans. We barely drank and still had the best time!! We walked home and made it back at 6 am, the biggest party since Dublin. We were on our feet by 9 am so not much sleep to be had!
Biking in Barca was also fun. I definitely recommend biking to see more of a city. Even though it was difficult to navigate La Rambla and gothic quarter via bike, it was wonderful to bike along the beach and weave in and out of people. There were men blowing huge bubbles for us to run into, music was playing, people watching was endless. We loved it.
Barcelona is a special city. There is so much character and so much going on. We found an amazing vegetarian restaurant and ate there twice, Vegetalia. Anything you want you can find if you look hard enough. There are people everywhere. We found a great market selling vintage coins for Madys boyfriend. The streets and lanes are endless and beg to be discovered. I had certain expectations of Barcelona. They were not only changed but exceeded. It truly felt like the halfway point of our trip. Looking back on the first half of our trip…amazing…. how time has flown. My favourite place, Edinburgh, is so far away. Were leaving Nice now but I feel the stories piling up and think I shall leave Nice for another post. Tomorrow we fly to Rome, transfer airports, then head for Athens. Here we go!
Much love from abroad!!