Bar Trip 2017: Spain & Portugal

Not sure how a fitness blog turned into a fitness/law school/travel blog but here we are! Another travel post!

An unofficial post-bar exam tradition is to take a bar trip somewhere. A lot of legal jobs don’t start until the fall so we’re left with some free time before joining the real world. Luckily, I was able to do the same (THANKS MOM!). This was my 4th visit to Europe and my first visit to Spain and Portugal. I went to a few different cities but I do have to say Barcelona was my favorite. (In case you were wondering, I did leave the city a few days before the attacks, which is so heartbreaking).

Barcelona was my favorite city on this trip because it just seemed much more lively than Madrid (that being said, it’s summer and Barcelona does have beaches unlike landlocked Madrid). Plus, the beaches are right there. Lisbon is quieter than Barcelona but also on the water and has a few beaches as well. That being said, all the cities I visited are so different. It’s almost unfair to even compare them all.

I was going to do separate posts for each city but adulthood has taken over and separate posts will take forever so here are some highlights from each city.

Madrid, Spain

Our first stop was Madrid! Overall, I like Madrid. I know it’s the capital of the country but it seemed much quieter than Barcelona. However, it was insanely hot the whole time we were there – pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day.

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the colorful buildings of Madrid

The San Miguel Market is cool – all types of delicious Spanish foods are featured.  You can go in and try all different types of foods.  Even though we just had breakfast, I ended up eating this carrot chocolate tart and sangria on a random Monday morning.

Speaking of food, there’s so much Jamón ibérico. I ate a lot of it and saw it everywhere. Jamón is a cured meat that comes from black Iberian pig.

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It’s delicious but I couldn’t even order a salad without it being topped with jamón. That being said, I had a variety of amazing pork dishes in Madrid including the oldest restaurant in the world – Sobrino de Botín. There’s a kitchen where a lot of the food is prepared and then a separate room where the pork is prepared as you can see below.

Segovia & Toledo, Spain

Segovia and Toledo are both an hour away from Madrid – in the opposite directions. Toledo to the south of Madrid and Segovia to the north of Madrid.  We were on a huge tour that took care of the transportation for the day.

First, we went to Toledo, which was beautiful and very hilly. The Tagus River passes through Toledo and then empties out into the Atlantic Ocean in Lisbon.  So I got to see the Tagus River in two cities.

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View from the top in Toledo

We went on a two hour walking tour of the city once we got off the bus.

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We then got back on the bus for an hour and half and went to Segovia and aqueducts are so cool! We also stopped at the Alcázar of Segovia, which is a huge castle that also has a museum in it.

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Segovia

Barcelona, Spain

Next stop after Madrid was Barcelona! Barcelona is less than a 3 hour train ride from Madrid so it makes getting there very easy by train.  The train was very nice and reminded me a lot of the trains in Japan (or the train that took me from Tokyo to Kyoto and back).

I love Barcelona! One of the things I saw a lot of was lots of Gaudí.  Antoni Gaudí designed a ton of buildings and is most famous for the Sagrada Familia, which is a huge basilica.

I went to the top of it which has great views but I do not recommend it for anyone who is claustrophobic or not in good physical health.  There’s only an elevator going up, not one going down.  So to get down, you have to walk down a narrow, dark spiraling staircase to reach the ground floor. It might have taken me 15 minutes to get to the ground floor and I hated every second of it. Even though it was 3pm in the afternoon on a sunny day, it was really dark and humid in the staircase.

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Gaudi also designed Casa Batlló, which is a very cool experience. Admission includes this guided audio tour, which features this app that shows you how the room looked like back then.  Plus if you go to the top of the building, you get some good views of Barcelona.

Finally, he also designed Park Guell. It’s a huge park and you will get lost (like we did)  Plus it’s hilly. But you get great views of Barcelona!

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Lisbon, Portugal

We took a short flight (2 hours) to Lisbon from Barcelona. Since it’s also part of the EU, we didn’t have to go through immigration again.

One of the first thing I noticed about Lisbon is the tiles.  TILES EVERYWHERE! But seriously, tiles everywhere.  Look up, look down and there they are. Okay, maybe the streets aren’t all tiles but it’s Portuguese pavement and a lot of pedestrian areas look like this – sorta tile like but it’s all stones.

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A lot of streets looked like this

Lisbon is gorgeous and not as touristy as Barcelona.  It also seemed a lot more low key than Barcelona.  Of course we had to stop by the Belem Tower because as a tour guide said “if you don’t go to the Belem Tower, did you really go to Lisbon?”

Our tour guide also recommended going to the National Tile Museum.  It’s definitely underrated and unlike other tourist sites, not as many people.  It’s not the easiest to get to so we took an Uber.  I would definitely recommend going here because it is very cool and unique.

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The coolest room at the tile museum

As for food, Portugal seems to be big on ginja, pastel de nata, and seafood.  Luckily I got to try all three.  The airline we flew from Barcelona to Lisbon (TAP Portugal) served pastel de natas on the flight as well.

Pastel de nata is an egg custard dessert.  The consistency is firmer than a flan since it’s baked.  That being said, I also noticed that a lot of desserts in Portugal were custard type ones.  Ginja is a sour cherry liqueur that’s served in a edible chocolate shot glass. Some people I knew hated it but I actually really liked it.

I also tried a Francesinha and I was not a fan. Yes, that’s a sandwich covered in cheese and sauce.

North of Portugal – Fátima, Batalha, Nazaré, Óbidos

We went on a small tour that took us to all these cities from Lisbon.  Highly recommend doing this and getting out of the city.

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Fátima is pretty cool but way more interesting if you’re Catholic, which I am.  Some friends who’ve been here said it’s not of much interest if you aren’t. It’s a holy site where the Virgin Mother appeared before three kids.

The next stop was Batalha, where we stopped at the Monastery of Batalha. If you go inside, it was amazing stained glass windows.

Nazaré was up next.  It’s right on the water so of course this was a favorite for me.  We went to the top of Forte da Nazaré, which gives you amazing views of the coastline.

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Óbidos was the final stop and about a 45 minute drive back to Lisbon.  It’s a charming, medieval town that’s also very hilly but just so cute.

Overall, it was an amazing trip and I definitely want to go back since there’s so many other cities in Spain and Portugal I want to visit like Porto or Malaga or Cordoba.

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view of Lisbon on the way back to America

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