after an hour-long ferry ride from tangier, we arrived in tarifa, spain on sunday afternoon. only 20 miles of sea separate the two beach cities, yet culturally they are practically polar opposites of each other. after a long wait at passport control, we set down our bags and took in the scene. here, bleached hair and skimpy surfwear replaced head scarves and long pants. when it was time to find our bus, we headed to the tourist information booth, only to find it closed. apparently, it was only open from 10:30am to 1pm every day. yep...we were definitely in spain!
we eventually found the bus station and took a beautiful, winding route through the mountainous coastline to la linea de la concepcion. by the time we checked into our hotel and were ready for a bite to eat, the sun was already setting. the weather was perfect. with the marina and the rock of gibraltar as the backdrop, we were treated to a stunning view! we decided to cross into british territory for the evening and have dinner in gibraltar, where we stumbled upon an action-packed rehearsal for gibraltar national day festivities. the singing and dancing numbers, all in celebration of the territory’s right to self-determination, made for an interesting show of cultural pride on what would have otherwise been a relatively quiet night.
the next morning we took a bus up the eastern coast to the small beach town of torremolinos. we were both looking forward to the laidback culture of spain after being immersed in the lively yet chaotic hustle and bustle of the moroccan medinas. we checked into a lovely resort – a birthday gift from alex – and found ourselves not just next to the sea, but in a sea of older vacationing europeans. for the first time, our pretired selves came face to face with our retired counterparts! it was refreshing to read, nap, and while away the hours listening to the waves. the beach also offered some pretty entertaining people-watching, since most europeans didn't seem to care what they were wearing…or not wearing.
two days later we flew to barcelona a few shades darker. for the next five days, we lived in the most perfect place we could’ve asked for – an amazing penthouse we found through airbnb. it was unlike any apartment you’d find back in the states, mainly because it probably wouldn’t pass the stringent building regulations there. this penthouse was unusual in that it wasn’t on the top floor. it was literally a small house perched on the rooftop of a nine-story apartment complex that overlooked the entire city – from the sea to the mountains, and everything in between. we could watch the sagrada familia being built, right from our window! alex and i were geeking out over how lucky we were. after having spent the last week in a state of constant travel and culture shock, we were excited to spend a good chunk of time in a place that was more familiar. we also didn’t have to worry much about there being a language barrier since alex’s español is pretty good.
barcelona is one of those cities that’s fun to get lost in. it’s always nice to do your exploring on foot because you get to see the neighborhoods change. our apartment was situated near the neighborhood of vile de gracia, which quickly became one of our favorites. it felt kind of like the east village of barcelona, with its good selection of restaurants, little shops, and fun bars. we found the best patatas bravas there, which is basically a heart attack in a bowl (fried potatoes covered with thick, homemade, spicy mayonnaise). we also loved the architecture of the city. unlike the medinas of marrakech and fes – where the colorful tiles and detailed patterns are only visible from the inside – many of barcelona’s balconies, bay windows, and doors are beautifully ornate and so romantic. and of course, there is gaudi’s distinct style. i loved how whimsical his designs were, and how he incorporated a lot of nature’s patterns and textures into his work. we were blown away by la sagrada familia, la pedrera, and casa batllo. parc guell was also really pretty. barcelona has beautiful, well-manicured parks – including parc de la ciutadella, which is close to the beach. we camped out there after feasting on sandwiches and cava at can paixano, a ridiculously crowded spot that’s popular with both locals and foreigners. those were the best sandwiches of our lives! i had a great time alternating between sips of cava and bites of melted camembert, jamon, and perfectly toasted bread. we went there twice, it was so good. my friend scott gives top-notch recommendations. he also said we had to try quimet y quimet - a tiny, standing-room-only place that's popular among locals. our tastebuds were treated to another memorable meal, this time in the form of seafood tapas. the foodie in me was very, very pleased with what barcelona had to offer.
when it came time to pack our bags and leave, it was hard to say goodbye. not only did we get the chance to relax and take in everything we’d experienced up until that point, we did so in one of our most beloved cities. but we were also excited to move on to places in europe that we weren’t so familiar with. our next adventure was awaiting us in romania!
// eurotrip to date: 6 flights, 3 buses, 5 trains, 1 ferry, 6 countries