A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

Barcelona!

Lots of Gaudi, mountains, shopping, and wandering around this vibrant city.

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Drive from Teruel to Barcelona

We left Teruel after another round of pastries from Granier Bakery. This turned out to be our favorite chain in Spain. (Hey, that rhymes!) We drove a couple of hours to a beach town called Peniscola. Yes, I had fun pronouncing the town in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, everyone in Spain seems to enjoy Peniscola so our casual stop ending up being a big hot headache. It was difficult to park and wade through hordes of people. Despite that, I took a few nice pictures of the Mediterranean and some amazing sand castles.

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We gladly hit the road again and made it to Barcelona during rush hour. I don't mention enough how great my DH is at driving! We navigated to our pre-paid parking garage and left the car for four nights. There is no need to drive in Barcelona! We found our small apartment in the Sant Antoni neighborhood. There were lots of restaurants and shops nearby as well as Metro access. Check out the cute little door.

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We were hungry and made a stop at Rekon - a great empanada joint. Empanadas are all over Barcelona. They are cheap, yummy, and filling.

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Next, we decided to find a highly-rated beer place. It reminded us of our favorite spot from home! We splurged and hung out for a while eating dinner and enjoying a diverse selection of beer.

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Everyone was beat except for my mom and I. The two of us decided to check out the magic fountain. Gorgeous! We walked through some fun neighborhoods on our way back. It's incredible how late everyone stays out eating, drinking, and socializing! I had read about this but it is different actually experiencing Spanish culture. We saw lots of happy people enjoying their city. (Too bad they have this smelly sewage problem that can be common in large hot urban cities.)

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Gaudi - Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, and Flamenco Danging at Palau de la Musica

Today was the last day with my mom. She was flying out in the morning. So we decided to pack it in and see the best of Barcelona in a day. I booked tickets for Park Guell, Sagrada Familia and Palau de la Musica in advance. Our morning began with a bus ride to Park Guell.

I have seen many pictures of Gaudi sites online but it is more grand and out of this world in person. There just isn't anything like it. Park Guell was crowded but had so many photo-worthy spots.

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We moved on to Sant Pau Modernista Hospital. It's beautiful and one of the largest sites of modernist architecture anywhere. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go inside because of our entrance time at Sagrada Familia. Next trip.

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Sagrada Familia is the most unique and stunning cathedrals I've ever seen. It truly took my breath away - both the exterior and interior. The lighting inside was especially mesmorizing. I've never toured an unfinished cathedral. There is an immense amount of work being done now as they try to finish it by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. Most churches we have visited are old beyond comprehension. It was different viewing a modern basilica in progress with Gaudi's unique vision. There's nothing else like it.

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One side of the church lets in cool colors like blues and greens while the other side lets in warm oranges and yellows.

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You can see a construction guy working perilously high on this newer tower.

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We were hungry by this point and tired of tourists. We headed back to our non-touristy neighborhood and stumbled upon a really nice restaurant for lunch. Mom had a burger, DH had a spicy roast beef sandwich, I had tandoori chicken skewers and the girls shared a schnitzel with tomato sauce and cheese. Yum! We were stuffed and called it linner (lunch and dinner combined).

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After a wardrobe change and break, mom and I headed out to explore the Gothic Quarter and to do some shopping. We found ourselves on the busy Ramblas and couldn't believe how many people were in the old part of the city. We went to the famous La Boqueria Market for fresh juice smoothies.

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We eventually found a quiet cafe to share a bottle of wine before our big night at Palau de la Musica. The building was gorgeous and the dancing was incredible! I knew little about Flamenco dancing and was surprised at the intensity, singing, drama, and physicality. They moved their feet so quickly and used their arms and hands very expressively. The dance was so moody and beautiful. It didn't hurt that we had great seats in a gorgeous concert hall. What a treat!

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Goodbye to Mom, Tibidabo Mountain, tapas and more empanadas

I woke up early to take the Aerobus with my mom to Barcelona's main airport. It was wonderful having my mom along for the majority of our trip. She is always up for anything, is in a consistent good mood, and ready for any adventure. I'm so lucky that she likes spending time with us! We can be a challenge at times all in our different ways. I was sad to say goodbye but am thankful that we live so close in Oregon. We will see you soon, mom!

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The Aerobus was a breeze and I made it back around 10:30am. We decided to ride the Tibibus up the distant mountain called Tibidabo. (I just like saying Tibidabo.) The bus ride was long, windy, and steep. What great views over the vast city of Barcelona! We climbed up a tower on main church for a real bird's eye view over the city. There is an amusement park at the top with several rides. It was expensive so DD#2 and I just rode the iconic ferris wheel.

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We rode the bus down and DH found a bar to watch the Tour de France. The rest of us took a leisurely walk through some shopping neighborhoods.

We met up once again and decided to check out the hip Blai Street for dinner. Our apartment manager suggested this street for lively tapas. It was hard finding an available outdoor table. Once we found one, we selected a few pintxos and ordered an average paella. I was hoping to find a more authentic paella on this trip but it wasn't in the cards. Oh well. We were still a bit hungry so we stopped in for empanadas again.

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Montjuic, Barceloneta, more shopping, & jazz at La Pedrera

We had a slow start at another cafe for more pastries and coffee. The morning pastry diet is about to come to an abrupt end!

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We started our day at the Las Arenas mall. It's a disused bull-fighting arena that has been changed into a modern shopping mall. DD#1 scored a cute shirt at a store called "Teenager". The 12 year-old was thrilled. There were some great views from the roof of the Las Arenas including Tibidabo from yesterday.

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We took a subway and a funicular to Mount Montjuic to find some green space and yet another view. The castle looked nice but we didn't go inside. There were some nice views of the cruise ships and port of Barcelona.

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We took the funicular and bus to the Barceloneta neighborhood for a seafood lunch. Unfortunately, the rest of Barcelona wanted a seafood lunch on this sunny Saturday. We tried three different recommended places (all busy) before settling on a more pricey place. It was just nice to rest our sore legs by this point. I liked the narrow and livable streets with laundry set out to dry.

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DD#1 and DH went back to the apartment to watch some Tour de France while the rest of us did our last bit of Barcelona shopping.

We had a quick pizza dinner at a restaurant across the street from our apartment. They sold the pizza by weight kind of like frozen yogurt back at home. Interesting!

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I was spoiled tonight and had pre-purchased a ticket to see a jazz quartet on the rooftop of La Pedrera (Casa Mila). It's another one of Gaudi's buildings. The rooftop was stunning and it was difficult to focus on the music. The sun set and the scenery kept changing by the minute. What a memorable night! I only wish DH could have been there with me. Next time. And believe me, there will be a next time in Barcelona.

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Posted by familyineurope 22:59 Archived in Spain Tagged fountains barcelona mount park las la de montjuic sagrada familia magic guell musica empanada pedrera arenas palau tibidabo Comments (0)

Segovia, Teruel, & Albarracin, Spain

More castles, amazing ancient little towns, cathedrals, and food.

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Segovia, Spain!

We had a long drive from Nazare, Portugal to Segovia, Spain. After washing the car and getting a picnic, we powered through with just one short stop. The drive was around 5.5 hours. We saw a few of these giant bulls along Spain's desert highways.

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We were pleasantly surprised with our the yard of our airbnb. We had some outdoor space for lounging and playing games. We were staying in a town called Torrecaballeros just outside of Segovia. We found a nearby pizza place and ate outside despite the heat. We were all beat after a hot day.

Segovia's Alcazar, Aqueduct, and Cathedral

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We started off the day with a small breakfast in our apartment. We had an ambitious plan to see several big sites in Segovia. We began with the giant Alcazar Castle. Apparently, this castle inspired the Walt Disney logo. I can see why! We climbed to the top of the tower and explored the interior of the castle. Each room had elaborate ceilings and medieval decor. We saw great views over the town of Segovia including the huge cathedral and the sparse desert landscape surrounding the town.

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Next was the central part of Segovia. We found a casual cafe for empanadas and sandwiches. It was a hot day but we still meandered, shopped, and eventually found the famous aquaduct. Amazing engineering!

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We were really thirsty by this point so we found a scenic spot for beer and a break.

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We were rejuvenated enough to see one last site - the huge Segovia Cathedral. We walked around looking up with our mouths wide open once again. It reminded us of the cathedral in Burgos. Simply stunning attention to detail both inside and out.

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It was a hot day and we were tired. We found a giant Carrefour grocery store where we bought dinner and loads of fun snacks. We made a lovely antipasto plate with bread and olives and called it dinner. We played lots of cards on the back deck and got some much needed sleep.

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La Granja, Swimming, and Burgers

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Our town was very close to the palace of La Granja. It's a smaller version of Paris' Versailles. We weren't allowed to take photos inside but we took several of the grounds and fountains. It was very hot once again so we were moving more slowly than usual. Even though we took in one site, it was more of a down day. We got caught in the palace's huge labyrinth at one point.

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We had a small lunch of leftovers before walking to the nearby pool. Mom and DH stayed back for some R&R. The pool felt great and I am pretty sure that we were the only non-locals around.

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We headed back to the same restaurant that we ate at on our first night in Segovia. This time, it was good old hamburgers.

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We enjoyed Segovia but were hot and ready to move east toward Teruel.

Teruel - More Driving, Tracking Down a Ronaldo Jersey, and Parking in an Elevator

Today started with a few minor mishaps. We were caffeine-deprived and a little cranky. (We'd run out of the special coffee pods for the machine.) We stopped at a grocery store that didn't have a coffee shop (many do) and realized that one of the kid's Chromebooks was left at the apartment 15 minutes away. Ugh! After emailing the owner, we were able to get access to the apartment again to rescue the computer. By this point, we needed to hit the road. We drove about an hour to the outskirts of Madrid to a Real Madrid Official Store. My mom bought a jersey for my soccer-loving niece.

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We found the jersey at an upscale outlet mall that had a Starbucks. I don't usually drink Starbucks at home but a giant 16 oz mocha never tasted so good!

We drove another 3.5 hours to the relatively unknown town of Teruel. We picked this town because of its proximity to Albarracin, a beautiful desert hill town that my brother and sister in-law had recommended. Teruel was a hit! We scored a beautiful apartment just around the corner from its main square. DH was a little apprehensive of the unique parking arrangement at first. He had to drive down a skinny mostly pedestrian street to turn into an elevator. The elevator took the car below street level to a reserved parking spot. It was tricky at first and the apartment owner didn't speak any English. She was sweet but the process was nerve-wracking.

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Once settled, we found ice cream and beer on the main square. We did a little shopping and wandering around the town. Mom, DD#2 and I split off for a while and explored. There was an old aqueduct, many beautiful towers, and gorgeous buildings. People seemed relaxed and friendly. We finally decided on a restaurant on the main square where we shared three combination plates of meats, different potatoes, and veggies. Sharing a bottle of wine usually costs between 6-9 Euros. What a treat!

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Albarracin, More Teruel, and a Police Incident!

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I woke up sort of early (that's 8am these days) and went for a lovely run around the town of Teruel. It wasn't the most aerobic workout due to my many stops to take pictures.

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We had a nice breakfast at Granier Bakery right on the main square. It was just over 6 Euros for pastries and coffee for all of us. Such a deal!

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Of course we had to try the fartons. Ha!

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We drove a short 40 minutes to the beautiful town of Albarracin. On the way, we drove by the strangest airport. Google informed us that it's a maintenance and storage airport for commercial jets that opened in 2013. Interesting.

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The scenery was so dramatic as we approached the town.

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Albarracin is a desert hill town that still seems 500 years old. It was so much fun weaving in and out of the narrow streets much like a maze. There were stairs, steep ascents, and little alley ways everywhere. It still seems relatively undiscovered by tourists. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring despite the heat.

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At one point, DH and I left the rest of the crew with ice cream and beer on the main square so we could climb up to the old fortress walls that once defended the city We were the only ones up there hiking! It was hot but the views were remarkable.

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We found a pretty riverside park for a picnic lunch before heading back to Teruel for siesta and dinner.

On our way back to Teruel, I had the bright idea of finding a municipal pool. This little detour took us through a small neighborhood near a police precinct. Just as we spotted the pool, three police officers pulled us over. We were not speeding or doing anything out of the ordinary. Our car has tourist license plates that were unfamiliar in this small Spanish town. The officers looked at our passports, car paperwork, and made lots of phone calls. They took several pictures of the license and the car and had many questions. After 15-20 stressful minutes, they finally let us go. It wasn't exactly scary but kind of unnerving. I think we provided them with some training for the day. BMW European Delivery was obviously a new concept to the Teruel Police Department!

Some of us climbed the scenic San Salvador Tower in Teruel. The outside of the tower is decorated with colorful tiles making it one of the prettiest towers that I've climbed. There are five similar towers in town. You can climb through some of the towers because they straddle the street.

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We found a grand historic staircase that lead to a park where the kids let off some steam.

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We had some yummy tapas for dinner including things like lamb meatballs, scallops, chicken spring rolls, and the most popular Spanish tapas, patatas bravas. We started our dinner outside but a huge and windy thunderstorm rolled in forcing us to move inside.

Teruel was a great surprise. It's such a lovely and pleasant Spanish town. On to Barcelona!

Posted by familyineurope 13:46 Archived in Spain Tagged alcazar cathedral la teruel aquaduct segovia granja albarracin Comments (0)

Burgos, Salamanca, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Lisbon

Cathedrals, towers, tapas, and scenery!

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Burgos and Salamanca

We left lovely San Sebastian for a short two hour drive to Burgos. We found a great place for a yummy lunch and enjoyed the relaxed pace of Burgos after the many tourists in San Sebastian. After lunch, we toured the amazing Burgos Cathedral. I had read that it was a historic and gorgeous cathedral but none of us were prepared for how much we enjoyed the many chapels inside the cathedral. It was a great stop and helped our 4.5 hour drive go by quickly despite some heavy rain.

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Mom even found her first pair of Spanish shoes. I have a feeling that there will be more.

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The weird public bathrooms in the main square weren't such a hit. At least we haven't had to pay to pee in very many locations this time.

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We made it to Salamanca after driving through some boring Spanish flatland. Our airbnb had three bedrooms and a funny choppy lay-out. The narrow hallway had eight different doors to various rooms. I kept getting lost!

We found a nearby tapas place for dinner where we had a second dose of patatas bravas. We had enough potatoes for one day! DH and the kids went back to the place while my mom and I headed to the old town. We wandered the busy streets of this college town and saw the impressive plaza mayor. We found a cute wine bar for some vino tinto and were amazed at how late people were out and about walking, drinking, and eating.

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Salamanca Tower Climbing, Art Deco Museum, Parks, & One Great Meal

After a scenic run along the river and through the old town, we walked to a coffee shop where the kids mistakenly ordered hot chocolate. They thought it would be the kind they were used to but it was the thick pudding stuff again. Oh well.

We continued to the large cathedral and climbed one of the most unique towers I have ever climbed. This one was special because it allowed you to climb along parts of the rooftop as well as walk along the upper balconies inside the cathedrals. We all enjoyed getting to see this cathedral in a special way.

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We found the nearby art deco museum. The building was the most interesting part. The huge doll display was just a little odd - especially the doll with four detachable heads. Wish we were able to take a picture!

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We found a hamburger place for lunch where I ordered the weirdest nachos. I guess we all needed a taste from home. The weather was becoming worse so we decided to do a little shopping. DH went back to enjoy the Tour de France. We enjoyed a quick drink/ice cream on the main square before climbing yet another church tower. I can't get enough of these things!

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We put on a few more miles to find the best park in the city. 30,000 steps a day has become the minimum on this trip!

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Mom agreed to watch the kids so DH and I could enjoy a fabulous dinner. We found a great place called Cuzco Bodega. We ordered course after course of tapas ranging from amazing raw seafood, pork steak with roquefort sauce, and the famous Iberico ham. We splurged on the meal and still only paid 31 Euros. Such a treat!

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Ciudad Roderigo and Lisbon Nightlife

We left Salamanca feeling like we saw the major sights. We drove an hour to the old walled hill town of Cuidad Rodrigo. We had coffee and churros on the main square before exploring the parador, an old castle turned into a hotel. Luckily, we were still able to wander the grounds and climb the tower. I think I'm averaging a tower a day!

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A very scenic swing.

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I scored some Spanish espadrille shoes!

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We wandered into a market before heading out of town where we saw the famous young suckling pig and other piggy parts. I prefer my pork cooked and on my plate!

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We drove another three hours through some very beautiful rolling hills in Portugal. Our first impressions of Portugal were good ones. We had a quick picnic at a rest stop before making out way into Lisbon. Thanks to DH's skillful driving, we found our apartment easily. We are staying in Lisbon for four nights so we were extra thankful to see our large three bedroom, two bathroom flat. All for about $100 per night. Nice!

After settling in and buying a few groceries, we took the metro into the main part of town and found Lisboa Bar - a place my brother and sister in-law recommended. We sat on the roof and enjoyed a great sangria!

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We lucked out and found a recommended place for dinner. Everyone loved what they ordered (hasn't always been the case on this trip). We had things like octopus salad, cod in cream sauce, steak and pork. DH and the kids went back to the apartment while my mom and I explored the Bairro Alto and Chiado neighborhoods. We tried the famous Ginja liqueur sold at many places. It has a sour cherry flavor and was pretty delicious!

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Another full day with lots of steps!

Exploring Lisbon Neighborhoods

We enjoyed a relaxing morning in the apartment before heading back to central Lisbon. We started in the lesser-known Intendente neighborhood in the Alfama District. We found a nice little square where we had a small lunch and shopped at little craft market. We actually bought some really nice things made by local people.

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We rode the famous trolley #28 for a short while. Unfortunately, they were crowded, hot, and touristy so we jumped off after a short ride. We wandered the Alfama district taking in some great views of the sprawling and colorful city.

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Even the urinal had a fancy sign.

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We wandered down toward the water and took the ferry across to Cacilhas - the neighborhood across the water. We hopped off and decided to have a drink and snack before heading back into Lisbon. The area across the ferry seemed far less touristy than central Lisbon so we were glad to explore for a while.

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Once back in central Lisbon, we hauled ourselves up more narrow streets in search of a restaurant that wasn't closed on Sunday. We found a tiny little tapas place and called it a day. We headed back and relaxed after feeling like we had a better feel of this great city.

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Posted by familyineurope 00:15 Archived in Spain Tagged lisbon burgos rodrigo salamanca ciudad Comments (1)

San Sebastian, Spain. Basque country!

Pintxos, beach time, and great views.

Beautiful San Sebastian

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After another long six hour drive, we arrived in San Sebastian around 5pm. We rented a three bedroom flat which was about a 20 minute walk from the old town. The owner of the flat, who spoke almost no English, met us and helped us park the car at a nearby lot. He spoke in rapid Spanish (or Basque?) and we missed a lot of the information he gave us. We still managed to get by. It was a hot evening but we decided to walk to the old town to experience pintxos (Basque tapas) for dinner.

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The beach was beautiful at twilight. We were surprised at how many people of all ages were out walking in the evening. Most women wore dresses or skirts and even folks into their 80s and 90s were out enjoying the summer evening.

We were quickly overwhelmed at the number of bars and restaurants in old town San Sebastian. It was difficult to choose a place to start! Many people poured out of restaurants onto the pedestrian-only narrow streets. Our first pick was so-so. Luckily, the second one was much better. We tried such a variety of foods: octopus, mussels, iberco ham, shrimp, other random seafood, croquettes, and much more. Most of the food was not labeled and set out on the bar counter for self-service. You simply grabbed what looked good and enjoy.

We laughed a lot, found a neat old square that used to host bull fights (the balconies were still numbered for special ticketing seating), and slowly made our way back through the crowds and somewhat deserted beach.

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We were especially excited to buy beautiful paintings on the street from a man who paints with his fingers. Each painting took him about 2-3 minutes. And they're gorgeous!

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We got back to our apartment late and eager for a full day in San Sebastian

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Old Town, Mount Igeldo, Beach Time, & More Pintxos

We walked to the Old Town and had churros and chocolate for breakfast. The chocolate was as thick as pudding! Such a healthy way to start the day.

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Today was a hot one. Over 90 degrees. We walked nearly three miles to the Mount Igeldo funicular. This old cable car took us up the steep hill for some incredible views.

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Once at the top, DD#2 and I climbed a tower for even more views.

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The girls and I rode an old time roller coaster with incredible views. You can see the part of the scenic track in this picture.

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We had a snack and rode the funicular back down before heading to a somewhat calm spot on the busy beach. The girls and I jumped right into the Atlantic for an afternoon swim. The water was cold at first but was much warmer than Oregon's frigid coast! The beach was packed with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. I think I was the only one wearing a mom tankini. Most women wore bikinis, with or without the top section! DH and my mom enjoyed some people watching while we swam.

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We dried off, found some ice cream, and had a short break at our apartment before heading out for dinner.

We took a taxi to a different part of town called the Gros District. We went to a recommended restaurant for the best pintxos of the trip. Delicious! We still didn't know what we were eating most of the time but it was sure yummy. After dinner, we found a nice social square with a playground in the center. The kids happily played for nearly an hour (they met some kids from Texas) while the rest of us enjoyed an outdoor drink.

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DH and DD#1 were exhausted and headed back around 10pm. The rest of us were eager to see the sunset and what old town was like after dark. We found a restaurant that served shark! We couldn't resist trying that!

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We had a very full day. DD#2 was ecstatic to reach her fitbit record of 40,000 steps in a day! Needless to say, we all slept pretty well.

Mount Urgull & More Wandering San Sebastian

On our last day in San Sebastian, I knew I had to run. I went for one of the most scenic six mile runs ever! Afterward, we got a late start and found a cafe and playground to help us get motivated for the day.

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We encountered many lovely churches and parks. We took so many pictures.

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DH and I loved hearing this unique bassoon trio. They had serious chops!

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We began a slow hike up Mount Urgull. There was a large statue on the top along with even more views of the ocean and city below. Some clouds had rolled in so it was a different view from the day before.

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DD#1 was seriously worn out after all the walking.

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Check out the man-made giant cube rocks along the shore and jetty!

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We made our way down the mountain and had to find a place for a late 3pm lunch. We settled on our last pintxos experience. The small tapas thing is fun, but I think we were all eager for a normal meal. DD#1 and DH headed back to the room for some R&R while the rest of us did some shopping and more beach time. DH has had to trek to the car every evening to reload the parking pass (good for 24 hr).

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We have enjoyed buying fruit everyday from local markets. The white nectarines have been everyone's favorite. Eventually, we all connected back at the flat for pizza and much-needed sleep. Off to Salamanca tomorrow!

Posted by familyineurope 22:58 Archived in Spain Tagged beach san sebastian pintxos igeldo urgell Comments (0)

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