As I sit here writing the beginning of Day 5, I’ve only had two hours of sleep. I force myself to get up and get my things together so we can catch a train at 5:15 am to Barcelona. The only song I can’t help hearing over and over again in my head is Ed Scheeran’s “Barcelona.” I know, I know, cheesy but what do you want me to sing, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas?”
At this point in our journey, life slows down a bit and we exit the party scene to enter a more relaxed tempo. This part of our vacation is really for sightseeing and relaxation.
We arrive at the train station and I was amazed at how efficient everything was; from arriving to boarding. The bell rang, and it was like Wall Street, everyone sprung into action. Waiting to board, one line forms and everyone makes their way through one by one. They scan our ticket, check our bags, and we proceed to the platform all in a matter of 10 minutes. How come we aren’t this efficient in the U.S.?
My husband and I always wanted to travel together and see the world so I’m excited to finally be on this trip with him. Looking out the window I see rain and lightning off in the distance. I use the next three hours to finish writing Day 4 of my blog as everyone else closes their eyes.
Throughout the ride, there is a scenic theme combining old and new structures from town to town. I can tell we are heading to a different elevation since my ears are popping.
With one hour left of our train ride, I attempt to close my eyes.
We exit the extremely large train station, where I can’t believe they make you pay to use the restrooms, and make our way to the hotel via taxi. Today is the first day out of our trip I’ve considered taking a nap seeing as I can feel the previous late nights catching up with me.
When we arrive in Barcelona it’s 9:30 am and we aren’t allowed in the hotel until 3 so we look for a breakfast spot around the city. Since our hotel faces the beach we look for a little restaurant near there to admire our surroundings. There’s a wide and long boardwalk that runs down parallel to the beach. Bikers, rollerbladers, people walking their dogs, and motorize scooters populate the boardwalk while taxi’s and traffic zoom by us as we eat.
The weather here in Barcelona is different than Madrid. In Madrid the temperature was a comfortably dry 80 degrees with a constant cool breeze. However, in Barcelona, I notice there’s a bit more humidity which makes for a sweaty afternoon. This weather feels more comparable to Virginia’s summers.
After days of partying and a minimum amount of sleep, we decided to save our legs and hop on a bus tour around the city hitting the major stops. I never been on one of these so I was very excited to try one for the first time. As we entered the bus, we were given headphones for listening to the audio tour and head upstairs to take in the sights.
Starting at the statue of Colon, we take the red line which is the longest around the city. As we ride, we see the World Trade Center, the Gothic Quarter, Casa Batllo and Passeig de Gracia containing two of the Gaudi structures, The Spain Square, National Museum of Catalan, Olympic Ring where they held the 1992 Olympics, Miramar and Sagrada Familia in the background.
When we pass the National Museum of Catalan, my husband and I notice a Dali/Gala exhibit. Back when my husband lived in Tampa we went to the Dali museum and knew we had to go to see this one.
Walking back to the hotel we pass a mercado and take a look at what the vendors have to offer. Many have a lot of the same items for sale, knock off Michael Kors bags and belts, decorative blankets, straw hats, and sunglasses.
I have no interested in any of these things so I head over to grab what I am interested in, olives! Beside the olives is a wine stand and I grab a glass of Cava to go as we head back to the hotel.
Unless I am going to a resort or beach, I don’t like to oversleep or take a lot of naps, especially if I’m on vacation. My philosophy is I can sleep when I get home. I’d rather use the time to explore and see what the city has to offer.
However, with the limited amount of sleep this week, a small nap is in order as the hotel is ready for us and we are ready for it!
Having rested for a bit, we get ready, eat and grab a drink before the Cabaret show.
At 7pm the lines start to form and we head across the street to grab a great seat for our final entertainment of the night, Cabaret Maldito!
Even though all of the show was in Spanish we were able to grasp most of the concepts as the actors and entertainers performed. Among the nights entertainment were contortionists, knife throwers, balancing acts, aerial silk acrobatics, and a ton of laughs!
After the show we head back over to the hotel bar to have a night cap before we turn in.
Tomorrow is dinner at ABaC, a 3 star Michelin restaurant with a 15 course meal by chef Jordi Cruz.
We begin the main day for the whole reason we are here. The four of us stop at Carlos bar down the street to sit outside and have breakfast.
My choice of something for consumption has to be potato in nature in order to soak up the delicious beverages from last nights fun adventure and of course coffee with a glass of water.
In Spain, when ordering water at a restaurant it’s served in a glass container. You can get it as two options, “con gas” or “sin gas,” with or without carbonation.
We head back to the apartment to start getting ready for the graduation which starts at 5pm.
A classmate comes by to ride with Anita as we catch another ride a few minutes behind them.
The three amigos arrive to the graduation location and step out into a sea of people. Two thousand bodies have applied, worked hard, and will now be receiving their MBA degrees in various studies.
We enter the auditorium and see 5 large screens a top of a very long stage. They are also broadcasting this event live all over the world so friends and loved ones who couldn’t make it can watch.
Graduates with their cap and gowns stand in the back and await their long anticipated diplomas.
Since Anita’s degree is a Global MBA she been fortunate enough to meet and network with people all over the world. My new friend Laura from Uganda sits next to me as her fiancé is also in the sea of graduates anxiously waiting.
I feel so fortunate along this journey I’ve been able to meet so many wonderful people and myself made meaningful connections with folks who live all around the world. Both sides extend invitations to visit each other whenever possible: Kenya, Canada, Peru, and Columbia just to name a few.
This event was well done and felt more like an Oscars awards ceremony instead of a graduation. A live band plays to the right of the stage and piping upbeat music throughout the venue keeps the crowd and graduates going.
After the ceremony, the graduates, family, and friends head outside to tables serving a variety of wine and tapas for the next hour or two.
We hail a cab and head back to the apartment to get ready for the 1am-5am special party at club Teatro Barcelo.
Grabbing a VIP table upstairs, everyone begins to celebrate our old and new friends accomplishments.
I can safely say I’ve never partied this much even when I was in my twenties. However, I don’t think I would have appreciated living in those moments then as much as I do now that I’m older.
As everyone dances the night away, you can tell the vibe is much different. Everyone’s stress is over. School is done!
We leave the club at 6am and watch the sun come up over the buildings. This was another first.
We schedule an Uber and head back.
Anita heads to bed as the three us head out to find breakfast before we lay our heads down as well. This is definitely a trip I will never forget.
Congratulations my friend, you earned it!
Good morning Madrid!
After two days of traveling, it’s nice to have a permanent home base for the next three days. No screaming babies or missed flights.
As we collect ourselves for the morning, the three amigos head downstairs to a small cafe for people watching and coffee.
My brilliant and dedicated friend, Anita, has been working her a$$ off for a Global MBA from the IE Business School which home base is in Madrid. With 15 months of intense course work behind her now, I am proud to say she graduates tomorrow.
While she completes her last day of classes, her husband, my husband, and I take a minor trip around Madrid before she can officially join us to relax after graduation.
Not only during this trip are we celebrating my friend's graduation but today my husband and I celebrate six years of mawage. Princess Bride anyone?
As we walk along the narrow streets of Madrid, I’m reminded of how much I love traveling and how unique the world can be outside of our tiny rabbit hole. We head to our first destination of the afternoon, El Parque Del Buen Retiro.
Also known as the Park of the Pleasant Retreat, it is one of the largest parks of the city. The park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park. We walk into the main park entrance and see a man-made lake with couples paddling boats and enjoying the beautiful day.
As we sit down to energize our bodies at a small lunch spot, across the way a saxophone player serenades us to the song of “Yesterday.” I order one of my favorite Spanish foods, Jamón Serrano. Pairing it with manchego cheese and a coke, it goes down quite nicely.
The breeze off of the lake is so pleasant that a tank top, shorts, and flip flops are all you need this time of year. The temperature stays at a comfortable 85 degrees with no humidity. Something we rarely see on a consistent basis in Virginia.
Continuing to walk, we come across the Palacio de Cristal, a glass and metal structure built in 1887. The Crystal Palace was built in the shape of a Greek cross and made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework on a brick base, decorated with colorful ceramics across the bottom exterior. The original purpose of this interesting structure was meant as a greenhouse, however, it is now turned into an exhibition space for art.
Fair warning, if you do go by and check it out, don’t use the bathrooms! Almost a glorified porta potty with the trapped air and gases down in the bottom of the building.
We continue further into the park and catch a street performer. As I get closer to the creature, I was hesitant to snap a photo without the zoom and maintained my distance. I mean have you seen the movie Predator? If you haven’t, let me just say it doesn’t end well for the majority of the characters!
Throughout the park are all kinds of vendors, many with handmade items for negotiation and purchase. One piece caught my eye and I had to get it.
Before we headed to the central point, I was made aware earlier in the day of an interesting statue located in the park titled, “The Fallen Angel.”
This statue is arguably the only public statue in the world dedicated to the devil himself. In my mind's eye this creature would be grotesquely depicted with the body of a reptile and the head of a serpent. Who wants to imagine the devil looking like themself? But true to the story of Lucifer falling from Heaven he was an angel before his fall from grace.
Built in 1877 by the Spanish sculptor Ricardo Bellver, it was inspired by John Milton’s poem, Paradise Lost. What’s especially interesting is this sculpture sits at 666m above sea level. As controversial as this work of art is, it won First Medal at the Spanish National Fine Arts Exhibition in 1878.
Everywhere you walk in the park people are relaxing on blankets either reading, eating, or sleeping and why not. If I lived here I would definitely make sure my siesta was taken at this park.
After a couple hours of exploration, we leave to our next destination, El Mercado de San Miguel. All around are tall colorful buildings that allow beautiful flora and fauna to grow up the side adding a touch of natural beauty to these old man-made structures.
Inside the market we are met with tons of options; seafood, tapas, beer, olives, fruit, jamon, vegetables, desserts, and anything else you could imagine! The smells filled the location of each individual tienda with all walks of life enjoying the variety of the offers. I purchase a sampling of olives with ham and cheese along with two grape leaves. My compadres try the fresh strawberry juice and raw fish options.
We grab an Uber and head back to the apartment to meet Anita. At this point she is finished with her classes and we are ready to get dressed to head out for tonight’s events.
Our first stop of the night is at a delicious restaurant, Marina Ventura, with one of Anita’s classmate from Columbia, Manolo. Now you have to understand, Manolo is a foodie so anywhere he suggests you have to go and he doesn’t disappoint with his suggestions. Dinner here is usually eaten around 8 or 9 pm and the sun doesn't set until later so to me it feels earlier than it actually is.
Vino, vino, vino! With almost every meal I've had here, I've enjoyed a glass of wine, vino tinto or vino blanco. Tonight we ordered a bottle of vino blanco with an appetizer of foie gras. I’ve never tried foie gras before but this trip is about a lot of food firsts for me.
The foie gras was paired with a gingerbread miniature cut of bread, a side of balsamic vinegar to spread or a rose jam. I tried both and as much as I enjoyed the two options, the balsamic was my favorite.
For our meal we shared two paella entrees; one seafood themed with shrimp, mussels and sausage and the other a duck with wild mushroom in truffle oil.
If you know me well, I can drink coffee any time, day or night and the coffee here is incredible. I end my delicious meal with a cafe con leche.
After dinner we head out to meet Anita’s colleagues at Fortuny which offers both an outside and an inside area for conversation, drinking, and dancing.
We begin our late night adventure in the outside part conversing and catching up with the students of the IE Global MBA program talking about the final day of classes and the excitement of graduation finally happening for them tomorrow.
After short conversations, everyone eventually makes our way inside where the music is pumping. There's definitely not a lot of sleep happening here in Spain for us travelers since the disco-tech doesn't close until 5am.
Ladies and gentleman, the one thing I can be absolutely sure of, we definitely don’t party in the states like they do here. Bueno!