Spain

 

Spain

Day 1 - Barcelona: The bus was supposed to arrive to London Victoria at eleven forty five in the morning, instead it arrived from Southampton at twelve twenty eight, just two minutes before my bus from London Victoria to London Stansted. I really need to learn to drive and stop using coaches.

Landed in Barcelona. Found the place where I’m staying, unfortunately the host was away, but his mother was there. Me speaking English, her speaking Spanish, but somehow understanding each other was exhilarating. Dumped the stuff and left for a walk.

Less on-the-street hash offers than in Lisbon. Cafes and restaurants still open after one at night and an awesome amount of socialising seems to go on up until about 2am, not just in bars and clubs, but on the streets. Tried churros with hot chocolate. They were alright, but hot chocolate on its own is even better - thick and delicious. Wide streets that reminded me of Lisbon, I guess it would’ve been better if I visited Barcelona first. Found a restaurant of American and English gourmet cuisine ‘Obama’ (thanks, Obama). Also found a beer house with tiny delicious sandwiches that I’ve been to in Lisbon. ​ Saw a guy with a tattoo of death on an ankle. Unfortunately the dude was wearing socks and it looked like Death was ominously peeking out of a white fluffy sock.

Day 2 - Barcelona/Tarragona:

Lavender shower gel (I hate lavender).

The streets are empty at 9am Saturday. Crazy stuff. Checked out the Olympic stadium, at least that’s what I think it was. Looked well impressive. Words won’t do it justice, I’m not even going to try, so photos to follow afterwards. Checked out the botanical gardens. The smell there was amazing. Most of the trees weren’t. However, bonsai trees are so cute it’s ridiculous.

Walked to the triumph arc (arc of triumph?) at the same pace as a cycle tour guide dude did, his passengers were impressed, the guide was embarrassed (they weren’t, he wasn’t). Went to see Parc Guell and got a fantastic view of Barcelona. Limped from there to Barcelona Sants and realised it’s 15 and I still haven’t eaten anything. Made the mistake of eating at the station, food was microwaved, expensive and not good. Came free with a food homing fly. Drank two liters of water and never once went to the loo, this has got to be my newest trick.

Off to Tarragona. Saw a few motherfucking two storey trains! Seriously, how awesome is that?! Tried a delicious dessert that looked like a UFO and had some apple jam in it. Forgot to ask its name.

Boom, Tarragona. Small streets so far, love it, nice and cozy. So why am I here? Well… ​ Back in 2011 in Riga I’ve seen Saltimbanco. In 2013 in Newcastle - Alegria. Now - Amaluna.

Boom, Port Aventura. So many Russians. Actually, let me rephrase that: so many loud Russians!

Fragile looking woman (shouting across the bus in Russian): “Nikolai, I think the bus driver fucked us over with the ticket price!” Plump looking bus driver (shouting across the bus in Russian): “Why would I do that you silly woman?!”

Anyway, I digress. Arrived to see Amaluna two hours early, decided to have a munch. Turns out Port Aventura has loads of attractions, about half a dozen bars (that don’t serve food or serve only hot dogs or sandwiches) and no cafes with digestible food that I could find. Ah well…

Amaluna was spectacular, gave me a severe case of goosebumps, but with Cirque du Soleil it’s hardly news. It’s like every time they find a neat and really subtle way to slightly bend reality for a couple of hours. Must. Find. More. Shows.

And then, at half past eleven it turns out that none of the buses from the stops outside go to Tarragona, but to be honest, that’s hardly a surprise, I was planning to walk anyway. But also turns out I’m so tired I don’t want to. And also don’t have enough money for a taxi. And that, kids, is how Aleks first tried sharing a cab. Successfully, if you’re wondering.

I feel that my mistake with Barcelona was keeping a checklist, a small and barely organised, but still. Down with that sort of thing! ​ Home. Sleep.

Day 3 - Tarragona:

Still in Tarragona. My feet are plotting to murder me. My host made breakfast and it was easily the best (and only) pancakes and churros (from a churros van, seriously) with melted chocolate I ever had for breakfast. Was invited to join them for a trip to Valencia, but as cool as it sounded - I’m going to Valencia tomorrow and haven’t seen Tarragona at all. Had to refuse.

Checked in with my other hosts and walked around the city. There’s this balcony there that opens to the loveliest view of the seaside and ships ever. Walked around old town tracking down neat graffiti and other cool stuff. Walked by the seaside, dipping feet in water and peeking at women sunbathing without tops (yay, boobs). Ended up in a seaside restaurant munching on a delicious meal consisting of: 1. Sardines (alright); 2. Catalan Fideuà with allioli sauce (awesome); 3. Lemon sorbet (very nice); 4. Beer (meh).

Had a stunning realisation that I haven’t been in countries that would aggressively give me a sunburn in ages. So ended up with a minor case of a major sunburn. Itching and burning set out to find a place that would sell sun screen and sunburn treatment cream (no idea what the proper name for it is, never used it before). Found the stuff in the nearest 24/7 supermarket, so it was definitely less of an adventure than I expected. Came back home and absolutely drowned myself in the stuff. It was 6pm, the sun was raging outside - got scared and took a nap for an hour.

Woke up and found that my skin no longer wants to leave me to deal with the sun on my own, so I gathered my stuff and went to a lighthouse I wanted to check out. Nothing too far away, about an hour walking distance if your feet already hate you. I also checked the sunset times to make sure I get there in time to see the sun go down - which totally reminded me of that time, when I (fifteen, drunk and a hopeless romantic) went to the seaside somewhere in Latvia to check out the sunset, froze my ass off waiting, only to realise that it has, in fact, gotten quite dark some time ago and the sunset must’ve happened in the direction opposite to where I was looking (specifically - behind all the trees). Well this time it was all better planned, I got there twenty minutes early, the sun went down hidden by Tarragona, but the sound of waves, the bright red of the sky, the slowly appearing lights of the city, the sight of all that stuff at the same time, all happening simultaneously - that was delightful. So I stayed there another hour, looking, listening.

The plan after that was to walk around Tarragona some more, maybe find a Cervezaria and grab a drink. Unfortunately my feet told me to go fuck myself, so I had to settle for an ice-cream sandwich and a can of beer on a bench overlooking the marina. Still awesome. ​ Sleep.

Day 4 - Tarragona/Castellon de la Plana/Valencia:

Woke up a lot less red than went to sleep yesterday. My hosts made me breakfast consisting of eggs, sausages, spicy beans and toasted bread with jam. All of which was delicious, although not as cool and homely as yesterday’s pancakes with a different host.

Felt absolutely shattered and was contemplating not doing anything. Just take the planned train to Castellon de la Plana, sit there for four hours and take the next train to Valencia. Luckily my feet and burnt skin started feeling better by the time I got there. Unluckily it’s 35 degrees and no clouds in sight. Nothing on the map looked interesting enough to visit, so I tried my usual technique (and bare with me, this is a complex algorithm, it takes a while to explain) of randomly wandering around until I come across something interesting. Tried to stay in the shadows and explore the city that way. Ran out of shadows. Decided to find a shop to continue my exploration operating on ice-cream. An hour later gave up searching, shops are mostly closed, the ones that aren’t don’t have ice-cream. Bought some chocolate sweets instead and made my way back to the station, keeping away from the sun.

To sum up - it looks like a whole bunch of neat looking scenery that was diluted by a town that doesn’t look particularly special in a touristy kind of way. I might be totally wrong, but the stupid amazing weather is impeding my exploration.

Two and a half hours until my train to Valencia.

So, obviously I’m typing this up after I’ve arrived and the day ended. About to go to sleep, in fact.

Valencia is cool. I don’t think I’ve seen enough of it to warrant a full blown category of “cool”, but so far I liked it. Why?

Alright, so it feels slightly bigger than Tarragona, but not big enough to feel overwhelming. I love the architecture, although I didn’t dedicate my whole attention to it. Here’s the selling point, and it might very well be not that original or eye-opening - a pound a dozen to you, but to me it isn’t.

There’s a river that isn’t there anymore. In place of that river is a long narrow-ish park. If you’re walking from one end of it to another (to the oceanarium) the walk will take about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. What will you see while you’re walking along this park? Well… you’ll see people jogging, playing football, playing golf, kick boxing, walking dogs, playing tennis, practicing yoga, chilling out, juggling, messing around with long pieces of silky looking cloth - climbing it and stuff (I really don’t know what the right name for it is), and slacklining. And here’s where I ditched my unsociability, my cautious approach to talking to people I don’t know. I approached the person with the slackline. I told her that I’ve started to slackline a couple of months back and we had an enjoyable conversation followed by me faceplanting a couple of times and deciding to leave. Maybe I was wrong all along, maybe no man (or woman) is an island. Maybe people actually don’t mind human contact with a random stranger over a common interest. I really hope this feeling stays after I’m back. Really. This does require some tedious analysis and perhaps a longer post than I can muster on a mobile phone. Or at all… ​ So after that I walked back to the vicinity of the apartment where I’m staying, past a bullfighting arena, into the lovely illuminated by the evening lights narrow streets of Valencia, where I got a cheap meal that I didn’t care about and a beer and another one, both helped me care less about the fact that I’ve spent the next hour and a half staring at people and their interactions with each other.

Day 5 - Valencia:

Walked around the city a bit. Found the central market and ate some dried/caramelised hibiscus, oranges and mangoes. Finished off with some strange yet yummy bread stick covered with chocolate (fartons, I think) and a nectarine. That was breakfast and it wasn’t too bad either. Hibiscus was especially nice.

Valencia feels weird. I know I have only seen a fraction of it, but somehow I have the feeling that I’m absolutely happy with what I’ve already seen hereand just want to go to the park and read a book or something.

Before doing so I’ve checked out paella Valenciana (chicken and veg, if you’re wondering; it was good if you’re wondering) looked at quite a few awesome-looking buildings around the place, drank a few liters of water, found that most supermarkets here only sell ice-cream in multipacks and finally registered the fact that there’s almost as many parrots flying around as doves. Also British doves - white “necklace”, Spanish doves - smaller and black “necklace”. Although there’s also the kind with no jewellery at all.

The morning weather forecast promised a mild 28 degrees and sky obscured by clouds, unfortunately I personally witnessed the clouds dissipating and the temperature climbing up to 37. Now I am become a man of shadows. Also blister count per Spain increased to five so far.

Closer to the evening I decided to go to the river that’s also a park and catch up on my reading. Which I did for some ten to fifteen minutes before admitting that for some reason I’m very attractive to local flies. I like to think it’s because of my sunscreen or me being sweaty, not because I stink and am a piece of shit. There’s also a Spanish fly joke in there somewhere. Anyway, gave up on reading and continued my casual stroll. And who do you think I come across? The very same Maria who was slacklining there yesterday. I recognised her because she was slacklining, was wearing the same kind of trousers, had the same body build and answered to the name “Maria”. So I casually walk over and start a conversation only to find out that it’s a totally different person. Embarrassing? Maybe a little, but inadvertently playing along with my yesterday’s aspiration to be more sociable.

So anyway, ate a lovely mango ice-cream, read some more, got annoyed by flies some more and went to a Cerveceria (I think I might’ve been misspelling it previously).

On my way there I saw a waitress freak out on the street at the sight of a cockroach the size of the half of my palm until her colleague came over, squished it and brushed it off with a broom. Isn’t the ubiquity of responses to certain situations lovely? ​ I think I have a general idea of what I like about exploration of foreign cities. It’s that point when you’ve walked enough of a city to stop checking the map on the mobile phone at all, dive into just focusing on people and buildings, already intuitively knowing which way is home.

Day 6 - Valencia/Murcia:

So following yesterday’s idea that I’ve seen most of the stuff that I’d like to have seen in Valencia in my current arrival, I kind of just woke up, gathered my stuff and went out for a lazy walk along the tiny [kind of] hidden away streets. Found a whole bunch more interesting graffiti (seriously, after this trip is done I’ll sit down and split all the photos into categories and graffiti is going to be a major one). Following a friendly advice tried a horchata with a couple fartones at the ‘Horchateria Santa Catalina’ (my spelling might be off). Horchata was actually not too bad, it’s a sweet milky drink based on nuts - almonds, I think. Also, following a culinary urge and not wanting to miss out, and following another friendly advice, this time by a Catalonian - tried crema Valenciana. It’s sort of like custard, but more fluffy and cold underneath, but kind of flamed at the top. Yummy, but not too dissimilar to custard. So it was good, but wasn’t a revelation.

Also visited a church and the cathedral. It’s sort of my hobby, I tend to ignore most touristy stuff, but love checking out the churches. For, I don’t know, ambiance and decor and the feeling of history unweaving underneath it all. The cathedral was impressive, the choice of colours (mainly white and gold, sometimes blue) with no decoration of the ceiling (plain white, even the windows, but with some carved patterns) were unusual. There was also a Russian mum in there with a four-year-old (I’m guessing, I suck at determining baby age, but he was in a baby carriage, so I don’t know - maybe younger?) who kept crying because he was bored. And she would say: “Oh shut up, we’re leaving” and get back to walking around the cathedral. I’ve timed it (yes, I had nothing better to do) the kid was crying and they were leaving for 15 minutes - and it’s not that big of a cathedral.

But anyway, all good things come to an end. I had to finish my exploration of the tiny streets, grab my stuff and go to Murcia. In fact, here I am now.

I don’t know whether I’ve become spoilt by Valencia, Tarragona and Barcelona, but it feels like Murcia isn’t as interesting. The architecture is far from being as glorious as in those other cities. The parks don’t look as recreational, there’s a bit of trees then loads of sand and a playground - that’s the whole park and so far I’ve looked at five of them. Also, and it’s really not a complaint, honestly, more of an observation - none of the people I’ve spoken to so far… Alright, all but one person that I’ve spoken to so far don’t speak a word of English. And I think there’s a reason for this. The same as the reason for there not being as many cool bars and cerveserias, and the parks being, well, crap. It’s not a tourist city. Which is fine, I’m here for any kind of experience and don’t see any problems in using the six phrases I know in Spanish and making gestures to explain the rest.

But anyway, I did find a cerveseria and did try a Murcia lager, and did try a Murcia pie (I think it contained sweet peppers and tuna and stuff), so all is well. Plus, as much as I would like to walk miles and miles of streets, exploring the cities I visit - turns out I do need a rest. So perhaps tomorrow is going to be about reading in one of those parks and drinking local beer.

Day 7 - Murcia:

Walked around for about five hours, found nothing worth mentioning. Read in the park, had a few beers with a bull’s tail burger with payoyo cheese (quite good, actually).

Day 8 - Murcia/Albacete/Madrid:

I have to admit, I was being a bit cheeky with the Murcia description yesterday. Of course it’s not as bad. The cathedral there is quite impressive, and with a painting of a guy being flayed alive placed strategically right at the entrance - how can it not be. There were about five interesting looking buildings there as well, and I did find a couple of streets that sort of exploded with people late at night. It’s just that the few cool places are extremely saturated by newish shoebox buildings. It doesn’t seem to be for tourists (and Wikipedia calls Murcia a services city, whatever that means). And perhaps it’s also a neat experience to check out a non-touristy location, it’s just that maybe two nights were a bit too much.

So off to Albacete. It’s going to be a three hour stop. If you look at a map, you will probably notice that Albacete is kind of midway between Murcia and Madrid. That was the initial reason for picking it. It’s lovely. The first thing you see are lovely buildings. Then cool statues, fountains, green parks. All very lively. I didn’t realise how much I’ve missed the stuff. And the cathedral is an interesting combination of old architecture and modern-ish art (paintings, cubist stained glass). Although it does look like the neat stuff is only in the city centre, however the city is not that big, so all is forgiven. The lunch there was disappointing though, I have to admit. Having ordered a sandwich with jamon, I got some out-of-the-tin ham between two pieces of toast. Ah well, I guess you can’t have everything.

I’d like to digress though. Smoking. It feels like there’s more of it going on in Spain. I wonder if that really is the case, or I’m getting this impression just because I can smell people smoking. E-ciggs don’t seem to be quite popular here, I’ve literally only seen one guy with an electronic cigarette. I wonder if that’s because people are allowed to smoke in cafes… And whilst I’m on the subject of cafes - sprinklers! The contraptions under the umbrellas of street cafes that automatically spray a mist of water on everything underneath. Wickedly cool, just not when you’re sitting under one of the valves that decided it wants to spit a few drops of water at you before going crazy with the mist thing. And whilst I’m on the subject of random things I’ve noticed - it delights my eyes to see so many people with well made, imaginative, almost-alright-to-stare-at tattoos.

Right, where was I? Madrid. So I arrived to Madrid Atocha train station and what do I see? A huge motherfucking garden right inside the station! Seriously. My photos won’t do it justice, go and google it right now, I’ll wait. Well, I didn’t wait, but then again you didn’t google it, did you?

Madrid looks cool. I can spend a whole day just staring at the buildings. The parks are huge and green and pulsating with life - people rowing, kick boxing, jogging… The cathedral is impressive, interestingly the ceilings inside aren’t uniform white like in the other cathedrals I’ve seen so far.

Plaza Mayor is cool (it’s a square, one of its sides is a building with neat stuff painted on it, it has little shops and restaurants tucked away in its sides). Also checked out the Mercado de La Boqueria It’s cozy small and has a ridiculous amount of foods and drinks I wanted to try. I think I’ve spent at least half of my planned daily spend there (I regret nothing). Here’s what I tried: Galician dry cider ‘Maeloc’ (very nice); gulas sandwich (looked like horrible slimy worms, turned out to be delicious baby eels), a sandwich with non-tinned jamon and non-toasted bread - now that was a nice sandwich; some sort of a pastry sandwich with whipped cream in the middle (this was actually so good I accidentally bit off and swallowed a tiny bit of the plastic fork I was eating it with); and brazo de Gitano (I think that’s what it was called) - holy crap this was so amazing I’d be willing to get my salary in these things - imagine a thin pancake kind of thing, wrapped, with cooled thick cream inside.

Wandered around some more, got tired and spent another hour and a half wandering around looking for a cerveceria that: 1) would have a wide range of beers; 2) would have tables outside; 3) would be in a place with loads of people to stare at. Surprisingly took a while to find one (this was at 10pm). When I did find a place that matched what I was looking for - the waiter was a dick. So I finished my five euro beer, like a civilised person left him a tip (and called myself weak for it) and went to a busy ‘Cerveceria Soo Montaditos’ (an inexpensive chain of cervecerias across Spain and Portugal, at least), where there were people, tables outside and a 1.5 euro beer. ​ Blister count to date: 7.

Day 9 - Madrid:

So today was my last full day in Spain and the only full day in Madrid. I guess it might be dramatically appropriate to say that I was a bit sad or something, but really I wasn’t. Business as usual. As a matter of fact I feel a bit relieved that my conversations after Sunday will stop starting with a: ‘¡Hola! ¿Habla Inglés?’ that in 4 out of 5 of cases since Murcia is inevitably followed by a ‘no’ and me trying to say and gesture stuff anyway. I guess it’s my fault, really, that I don’t follow up with questions about Russian, Latvian (what would be the chance of that?!) and French (yes-yes, a badly spoken language is better than a non-spoken language, so totally counts).

That was a bit of a long start, wasn’t it?

Let me continue not talking about today for a while longer. Here’s how I like to travel: I like to have close to zero expectations for a city, if someone gives me advice on stuff to check out - food, pub, market - sure. I prefer to walk around the city, ideally without using the metro or other means of public transportation, because that’s cheating. It’s like using a teleporter to move between sights, you don’t see anything in between. When I walk - I pick a straight enough route and get away from it as soon as I see something interesting on a side street. Maybe not the most efficient approach, but hey, I’m still perfecting it. What that gives me, I like to think, is a more honest and less touristy view of the city. Museums, monuments and historical sights are only a fraction of what a city is, you see. It’s the streets in-between, the people on them, the cafes and bars that make up the rest. That’s how I fall in love with a city.

So today I went to three museums. Madrid (its central area, at least) gives me an impression of a very tourist-focused place (in Valencia and Tarragona and maybe sort of, kind of Barcelona I could pull off barely behaving like a typical tourist), it gives off a tourist vibe strongly, almost to the point of me wanting to buy a Nikon and going crazy snapping hundreds of pictures that will never be seen again by anyone. But I did actually go to see stuff that I find interesting. The Museu National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia had an exhibition of the cool peeps of the 20th century: Hans Arp, John Heartfield, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Huyghe et al. And the Museum of Modern Art had some… well, you guessed it - modern art. I suck at names in the modern art department, but some of the works were really-really cool (but not the jpeg installation, compression artifacts in pure, unchanged form are not art no matter what you say). And the National Library had an exhibition on Vicente Carducho’s sketches (so neat) and another one on Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda [in the National Library of Spain in Madrid] which I didn’t understand much, because I can’t read Spanish, but looking at the early editions of Don Quixote was fascinating. Then, since I was behaving like a tourist - I dropped in the first cafe I found and ordered an [apparently] traditional Madridean (is that a word?) food - a calamari sandwich (battered calamari rings in a baguette, that’s it). Which, after the fact I found to be 150% more expensive than in some other places I’ve seen later. Major sense of frustration. Moral of the story: don’t buy anything in cafes in close proximity to the train station.

Then I checked out the Puerta de Europa (two neatly leaning buildings you can see in a photo below this post). Since the buildings are quite a way from city centre - I walked around that area a bit. And, yup, my suspicions were confirmed, a lot less neat buildings, no tourists, hence, just like in Murcia - almost completely empty streets in the middle of the day.

So then I kind of just wandered back to the centre, walked around there, looking for nothing in particular. Took as long walk along the partially dried up Rio Manzanares and saw flocks of bats, which are neat and quiet little things, it turns out. The sun went down, so I slowly made my way back to Puerta del Sol and grabbed a pint of Paulaner (which came equipped with two delicious mini-sandwiches). ​ And that was that.

Day 10 - Madrid/London/Southampton:

Well, this is day ten of the trip and I didn’t get my organs harvested after all. Maybe it’s been a slow week for the industry.

Not a lot to tell, actually. Woke up early. Went to the Parque del Retiro and just walked around for a couple of hours. It’s pretty big though, so not like I’ve been doing circles around a fountain or something. It’s got a lot of stuff, by the way. Curious cool people stuff like people doing some sort of an ancient looking Chinese dance with fans; reading books with other people, but silently and sitting in a circle (don’t ask me, I have no idea, maybe it’s the company). But not just that, this park also has differently themed fountains, alleys with statues, mazes, and, check this out, an area with real live peacocks, at least ten of them. They have a really annoying call, by the way, all the more annoying when like five of them decide to get vocal at the same time.

So after that I went to see Caixa Forum, it has a pretty impressive wall with a vertical garden growing on it, that was cool.

There was also a flea market thing going on, but it looked mostly like clothes, repros of the famous photo of Che, stamps, coins and used vibrators. So instead I decided to catch up on my paella and got an Arròs Negre (which, if you’re curious, is a black paella made with squid ink, hence the colour, added to it is a bunch of sea stuff), delicious. Asked the waiter for the bill, to which he responded with a number and no actual receipt. So, being tired and slightly annoyed, I did insist on one, and, sure enough, the amount in the receipt was smaller by half a Euro. And that, your honour and the members of jury, is why I didn’t tip him. Which is ironic, really, because otherwise he would’ve gotten a tip of 1.5 Euros.

The time to leave for the airport was fast approaching, so I decided to drop by a bakery and get that delicious pancake thing I’ve tried a couple of days back. Didn’t taste so good today, basically was like slightly sweetened soft cheese wrapped inside a thin pancake. I guess there’s no decisive recipe to it. So, to make up for that, went and got myself a small tub of frozen yoghurt from Llaollao (they’re delicious and you get to pick multiple toppings and a sauce).

I think that pretty much sums it up. Took a bus from Atocha to the airport, bought a bottle of Licor 43 a delicious not-too-sweet Spanish liqueur, boarded a plane, did not get seated next to a crying baby. The plane was supposed to land in London Stansted around 8pm, then a coach and another coach, and I should have been home (what a sweet-sweet word) around 1am. Then wake up and go to work at 7am, if you’re wondering. Well the plane was late, the coach was late, the other coach was late. Was home at 3am. Still woke up at 7am. But who cares, really.

To sum up - I think this was a cool trip. I enjoyed most of it (yup, even Murcia). And I enjoyed staying with all these people I’ve never met before (Airbnb hosts) and getting to know them a little bit (and learning a recipe for hot chocolate, boom!). I think it’s amazing what they’re doing - letting people they don’t know into their homes. I know absolutely for a fact that I would never be able to do the same. Nope, too afraid of psychopaths.

The trip did get a bit tiring at the end, I guess I overestimated my love for walking around, plus, perhaps, seven cities in ten days was a bit too much, in the end it all kind of started blending together. Next time, perhaps, 3-4 cities in ten days might be better, and definitely less walking. Say, a day or two of active exploration and a day of lazy chilling out might be the way to go.

Here’s a list of cities I visited in the order of my preference based on my current experience (ordered most to least favourite): Valencia, Tarragona, Barcelona (tentative, definitely needs more checking out), Madrid, Albacete, Castellon de la Plana, …, …, …, Murcia.

Now for the statistics:

Total nights in Spain: 9

Cities visited: 7

Total cost of accommodation: £228

Cost of travel between cities (trains): £95.85

Cost of travel to and from London Stansted: £42.10

Cost of travel to and from Spain (Ryanair): £196.42

Pocket money: £300

Trains tickets bought: 7

Train tickets used: 6

Stuff I took with me: 5 shirts, 5 pairs of socks, some underwear, long shorts, swim shorts, passport, tickets, Nexus 7 tablet, mobile phone, charger, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ by Richard Dawkins, a pocket dictionary.

Number of times the pocket dictionary got used: 2

Total blisters: 8

An estimate of average hours per day walked: 6

Paellas tried: 2

Fideuas tried: 2

Deserts tried: more than I can remember.

Buses used (not counting coaches to and from the London airport): 1

Churches/cathedrals checked out: 10