We flew into Barecelona from Paris on Ryan Air. If you’ve never flown Ryan Air before, it’s a discount European airline and is the definitely NOT the rolls-royce of the air. Long lines, little to no customer service, free-for-all pre-boarding and unassigned seating kinda sucks. Without much regiment I always find Ryan Air to be pushy-shovey, and most customers are understandably cranky from the second they enter the “airports”, however, it’s cheap and if you’re a low-maintenance traveller you’ll find it just fine. Anyway, Barcelona rules. The beaches are very clean, with trash cans and recycle bins every 50 yards. Locals on the beach offer beers, massages or anything else they can get for you. We stayed at a Barcelo hotel a the end of the beach which stretched near 1k all the way down to the cruise ship ports. There are a lot of tours to do within the city, worthwhile if you’re into seeing the historical and olympics sights. The coolest thing in Barcelona, in my opinion, were the little bars on the beach. They were all over the place. Torch-lit at night, they were a awesome place to kick back after a long day.
When you think Huntington Beach, California, think Marbella, Spain. It’s full of posh-looking residents and/or tourists, nice cars, yachts, etc spread over what seems like miles of beaches. Every 100ft there’s a vendor on the beach ready to whip you up a paella on the spot full of fresh seafood which is a darn good meal. Just off the beach there are hundreds of restaurants, some pretty expensive. Overall Marbella is definitely worth a stop. We spent about 4 days there thanks to accommodation from family.
On the 2nd day we ventured about 30 minutes by bus to Fuengirola to watch a bull fight.
A little tip: locals will try and sell you “tickets” for the bull fight on your way to the arena. We found it pretty shady as most tickets didn’t have a date on them and they all looked different. The ticket booth in the arena isn’t very obvious (behind some large closed doors that were not open until about 20 minutes before the fight) but your best bet is to hunt for it and buy your tickets there. The bull fighting was very cool, by the way…I highly recommend it if you get the chance.
We found Valencia, Spain by accident. It wasn’t on our itinerary but just so happened that we stopped in for a couple of nights. We used the time to rest more than anything, but when we did journey out we didn’t find anything too exciting. To be honest Valencia wasn’t all that extraordinary (except for the large castle overlooking the city) and probably the “dullest” of all Spanish cities we visited. Perhaps the weather had something to do with it, but I recall the beaches being empty and a little dirty.
Madrid was a very cool city. I spent two days in Madrid on my own and didn’t even get close to being bored. There’s plenty of shopping and sightseeing to do, including the Parque de Retiro, Plaza de Cibelis, Red de San Luis, and Plaza Mayor. In fact, the Plaza Mayor is probably the best starting point. One thing about Madrid – it’s beautiful, warm and friendly during the day, but gets a little dodgy at night. When all the stores close for the night, they’re barred shut with garage door-like security doors and chains, the owners toss the trash into the street, the creeps come out of hiding, and prostitutes and drug dealers are everywhere. I wouldn’t recommend straying too far from the Plaza Mayor at night – I found the Plaza Mayor itself to be relatively safe at night because restaurants and pubs are open late, however stray a few blocks from those well-lit, touristy spots at night and you’ll wish you hadn’t.
While walking down the beach in Barcelona we noticed a lot of naked people. However, we were not on a nude beach. It seemed that there were naked sunbathers, volleyball players and exercisers all of the place. There are definitely designated nude beaches, but nobody seems to pay attention to that! We even saw a guy in the early evening more on a walk path than on the beach fully nude just chilling out reading the newspaper!