Spain - Barcelona, Malaga, Granada
My first trip to Europe, meeting my brother in Spain, seems like such a long time ago. I was excited, scared, apprehensive, thought everything would be different than the States, like a whole new world. It was the longest flight I had ever been on and I couldn’t sleep a wink. I arrived in Barcelona, my bag did not. I had spent a lot time deciding what to pack and buying new things, which was not an easy feat as I was a nursing assistant at the time and didn’t make much money. As far as traveling lessons go, this would be my biggest.
They said they would let us know when my bag arrived and bring it to our apartment. The jet lag was intense, I think I slept half of the first day, I don’t even remember getting to the apartment. It was a good thing my brother had been traveling for a long time and was not suffering jet lag anymore. Our apartment was great, it was a rented room in an apartment with two single beds and a balcony, the view of the city was lovely.
The first day out, I really needed coffee and there was a Starbucks across the street. I didn’t want to make this a habit as there are cafes everywhere, but I needed a quick fix. I sat down, put my wallet on the table and settled in for some caffeine goodness. My brother was reading a Lonely Planet when two kids walked in, maybe six and eight, they were speaking Spanish and showing us maps. My brother never looked up and just said no gracias when the woman behind the counter walked over, grabbed my wallet from the boys’ hand, handed it to me and said, “watch your stuff.” Travel lesson number two.
Barcelona was great! The Plazas were lovely and plentiful. We meandered through the same one a couple of times and one day out of nowhere an art exhibition appeared, it was rows of people made of cans and trash, it was very cool. By day three though of sleeping in my clothes and wearing them daily with no bag in sight, I had a breakdown. We were going to Sitges the next day and I didn’t have a bathing suit, I couldn’t not go into the Mediterranean Sea. My brother was kind, we jumped on a train to go outside of the city and went on a shopping spree. We went to Carrefour and H&M. H&M was not in my city in the States, so this was a big deal for me, I didn’t get a ton of stuff, but just enough to get me through a couple of days. I’m happy I found a bathing suit because the Mediterranean was like bath water and we had the loveliest day. The Gothic Quarter was mesmerizing with its labyrinth streets, Parc Guell was awesome, and we had a picnic amongst the pillars, La Sagrada Familia was breathtaking and awe inspiring with all the carvings on the exterior of the church and the churros with the chocolate pudding substance, amazing.
We ventured to London for the weekend to visit my brothers friend for his birthday. I had to continually stop myself from speaking British, I love the British accent. We went to the Tate, Buckingham Palace, Camden Market, Big Ben, Parliament, walked across the Millennium Bridge, saw the London Bridge, Westminster Abbey and Piccadilly Circus. Not bad for a weekend trip, I was exhausted.
Next, we were off to Granada. My brother made reservations for us in an apartment, when we arrived they stated they did not have a reservation for us but to try upstairs. On the way out, my brother glanced into a room with the door open and my bag was there. We asked about it, and they said someone dropped it off at three in the morning. If my brother had not seen my bag, I never would have seen it again. I was excited I had my bag back, until I had to start lugging all my stuff around. I now had way too many things, and this was my biggest travel lesson. You never need as much as you think, you can easily pack a carry on and I have ever since, for well over a decade.
While in Granada we went to the Alhambra, it was beyond breathtaking. The architecture was gorgeous, there were several water features, the views were stunning, the gardens fantastic. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.
Final stop, Malaga. I liked Malaga, but it was my least favorite of all the places we visited. The highlight for me was an exhibit we found in the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Malaga of Ron Muecks, A girl. It was a lifelike three and a half by six by three feet baby that appeared to have just emerged into the world. It was fascinating and so realistic. We have found several of Ron Muecks exhibits since and I have enjoyed them all. We went to the beach in Malaga, the Museo Picasso Malaga, shopped a little in the Malaga Plaza, meandered through Parque de Malaga, visited the Alcazaba of Malaga and ate amazing food.
My trip to Spain was amazing and I enjoyed every minute. I learned so much on this trip that has helped me a decade later to become a better traveler. I will never forget the lessons from my first time abroad.