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Trip Report Short trip to the French Riviera and Espanola

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We are an Indian couple in our late 20s living in Bangalore. We are vegetarians, which sometimes limits our food options outside of India. Traveling and the associated planning instantly makes me happy and we try to travel as often as possible. Considering the Euro was equivalent to 82 Indian Rupees, we were on a tight budget on this trip.

On this occasion, we traveled with another couple (the husband is a non-vegetarian), and a friend joined us for a part of the trip from London. However, since his plan was a last minute one, he did not stay with us in most places. We were 4 from the beginning and from Ibiza till the end, we were 5 people.

I cannot write any further without thanking all the genuinely helpful, kind folks on this forum who had posted their own experiences of travels to the same regions earlier, without which this trip wouldn't have been possible. I would like to thank indiancouple specially, for our scenarios seemed more of a match in terms of food and expenses (although we definitely tried our best to reduce further).

Here's a gist of the itinerary that we made :

Nice - 2 days
Marseille - 1 day
Toulouse - 1 day
Bilbao - 2 days
Madrid - 2 days
Seville - 3 days
Ibiza - 2 days
Valencia - 2 days
Barcelona - 3 days

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    Day 1 :

    We had an 8 hour flight from Bangalore to Frankfurt, where we had a long layover of 8 more hours, and hence decided to go explore the city. Lovely little place - we visited the Main Tower for a bird's eye view of the city, walked along a(tributary of the Rhine?) river, walked through a pedestrian street filled with cafes and went to the beautiful square with the Alte Oper (Old Opera).
    A short flight later, we landed in charming Nice. Our hotel - Hotel Cresp - was in the Old Town, near the Cours Saleya market. We took the slightly expensive bus from the airport to the city. Our flight only landed by 6 PM, so by the time we walked through the narrow intriguing honeycomb of alleyways of the Old town to our hotel, it was nearly sundown.
    We were quite tired after a whole day of travel, so we decided to take it easy and walk along the famous and beautiful Promenade des Anglais. We then went into the pedestrian street of the Cours Saleya area, lined with beautiful cafes and restaurants serving delectable cuisines and lots and lots of seafood, brimming with well dressed people. This area is an absolute delight for people watching. However, it isn't very easy on your wallet, and is even more difficult when it comes to finding vegetarian food. So we wandered off into the winding side streets, found one little pizzeria and had a decent meal there. We decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel. It had a terrace which overlooked the vibrant promenade. We stood with the slight cool breeze blowing through our hair, watching down on the various street entertainers performing various acts from street dancing and singing to skating and even magic shows. We fell in love with the city almost instantly.

    Day 2 :

    We had a packed day, to visit all there is in Nice plus travel to Monaco. We woke up pretty early, took a dip in the beach which wasn't too comfortable since the waves were too harsh and the pebbles were quite hurtful as well. As the saying goes, while in Rome do as the Romans. We should've stuck to just sun bathing on the pebbles. We rushed back to the room, got ready, had breakfast on one of the cafes on the main street and left to see the views of Nice from the Castle Hill. On the way we visited the famous Cours Saleya flower market. Gorgeous hues and flamboyant colors of flowers and vegetables filled the entire street. They even had some lovely handmade soaps from Marseille (which we were going to visit next and hence didn't get any). We walked through clicking pictures every now and then and finally got to the entrance of Castle Hill. Since we had little time, we took the elevator up. We were awed with the breathtaking views of the promenade and the old city on one side and the vieux port on the other. We just couldn't put our cameras down. We were conscious that we had to go back down quickly and head to Monaco. We took the 45 minute bus ride into Monaco. Walked up to Monte Carlo and spent a couple of hours gawking at the expensive fancy cars. We caughy glimpses of the dramatic cliffs and then went towards the Grand Prix circuit and walked a small distance through it to the Marina and looked hungrily at the multi-million dollar luxury yatchs. We didn't really have time to head into the city and check out the Palace. Having seen pictures of them online, I don't feel too bad missing it. It was close to 8pm, and we took a bus back to Nice. We then once again walked through the main street buzzing with people waiting in lines to get a table on the street and delve into scrumptious seafood. We split into 3 ways to try various cuisines - piquant Indian food at Delhi Belhi, Seafood at La Storia on one end of the main street and vegatarian salads on one of the narrow inside streets. It was a good day filled with lots of walking around making us too tired for the Nice nightlife. To our luck though, it was some sort of festival that day at Nice (August 15th?), and they had fireworks going off over the sea from boats. We just stood there staring in amazement. We crashed into bed right after.

    Day 3 :

    We were going to hire a car for 3 days to take a roadtrip through the country side of Provence. Our next stop was Marseille. We started by about noon, and drove all day through different landscapes and terrains. We stopped by at Cannes for a couple of hours, got into the beach, visited the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. and grabbed a quick lunch. By late evening we reached Cassis and decided to stop there to check about the Parc National des Calanques. They told us that we could only visit them early the next morning. Cassis is one of those smaller towns, where ideally we should've spent more time than in the bigger cities like Marseille. Cassis was enthralling, I wanted to stay there much much longer than the one hour that we actually did. If there is ever a chance for me to go to France again, I'd definitely stay in Cassis for atleast 2 nights. We walked through beautiful small roads to the port area, with wonderful views of the sea, the chateau and the Cap Canaille - the tallest rock on the Mediterranean which became a golden red during twilight. It was dark now and we still had to drive to Marseille and find our hotel for the night, so we left immediately. It was close to midnight by the time we reached Marseille, thanks to our useless GPS in the car. There were very few people, and even fewer shops open to ask for directions or help. We managed to find one really really helpful and kind group of people at a cafe called CAPANA Café. Their kitchen was closed, so we just bought some apple pie from them. They looked up our hotel on the internet and drew a map to give us directions, and even offered to come with us in case we weren't able to find it. Alas, we managed to find it - Citadines Castellane. It was a simple and cozy one-bedroom apartment which had everything one could ask for. It was unfortunate that we had to leave the very next day. After a long tiring day of mostly driving with a screwed up GPS, we had to make some instant noodles and heated up some ready-to-eat food that we had carried with us from India. Life saver!

    Day 4 :

    Today we planned to do nothing but Calanque du Sugiton. After a short bus ride to Luminy University Campus, we hiked for an hour to see breaktaking sights of the Calanque. Amazing place!! Huge limestone mountains forming cliffs over the crystal clear azure mediterranean coastline. This was the highlight of our trip. If I could, I would replan the whole trip to give 2 or 3 days in Cassis/Marseille to see all the Calanques. There is apparently a boat that takes you around to see all the calanques which is quite cheap as well. If only we had the time - Sigh! We got into the water in Sugiton, the cold clear unbelievably gorgeous natural swimming pool. This again like the promenade in Nice, is rocky with pebbles all over. No sand whatsoever, but who cares when it is this insanely beautiful! Definitely a must visit. We went back to our room, cleaned up, packed and left. We dropped into a patisserie on the way out and picked up some really awesome desserts. I realized why France is one of the pastry capitals of the world. We also picked up some sandwiches from Subway for eating on the way to our next destination - Toulouse. The drive was long and painful. We did not take the toll road until we reached Carcassonne because we wanted to drive through the Camargue to see the white horses and the pink flamingos. And, boy were we disappointed or what! There were a few horses in a couple of ranches. Once again, we reached Toulouse by nightfall. My husband and I shared a pizza at a restaurant at Place Wilson at midnight! Stayed at Royal Wilson. Nice hotel, good location. Had bought a bottle of wine from a supermarket near Arles on the way which we drank that night before going to sleep.

    Day 5 :

    Capitole, Saint Sernin Basilica - a beautiful lady singing wonderfully along with the guitar right outside - now that is the Europe I wanted to see. Drive to Biarritz to drop off the car and take the bus to Bilbao. We were smarter by now, and decided to take the motorway inspite of the toll since it is way faster - and what a wise decision that was! The toll was absolutely worth it. The drive was quicker and easier, with definitely more traffic and lesser scenic beauty, but we were too tired of sitting in the car all day. Once again, like Cassis, I would've loved to stay in Biarritz. It seemed like a quaint little town nestled between luscious green hills on one side and the Mediterranean coastline on the other. We went to the SNCF train station and dropped the car off there. Had a little difficulty finding the Pesa bus stop at Biarritz. Most people did not know about pesa and did not know how to communicate either. With very little time left in hand for the bus, we took a chance based on our instincts and decided to go into the center since we heard most out station buses start from there. Once we reached the center, we found more confused people like us, which certainly gave us some relief. We found a tourist office there who confirmed that the bus stop was correct. The people there at the Office du Tourisme were very kind and sweet and went out of their way to try and help us. Once the bus arrived, we had a wonderful journey to Bilbao. That part of France is extremely pretty - balanced between the mountains and the sea. I wanted to get some shuteye as we were running around quite a bit, but I was scared I'd miss seeing something. By around 10pm, we had reached Bilbao. As we went there during the Semana Grande (Aste Nagusia), the Basque town looked very lively and there were hoards of people there. We managed to find our way to the Bilbao Centro Hostel pretty easily. We wanted to experience the hostel way of life and hence got ourselves booked in a 6 bed dorm. This hostel was quite good, rooms were big and clean and there were plenty of bathrooms. We went out for dinner around midnight, and were surprised to see the place so lively. Luckily enough, we found a bar at a plaza, where the guy spoke perfectly good english. We explained to him that some of us were vegetarians and asked what we could get. After some help, we decided to go for a vegetal sandwich and a cous-cous curry. From here on out, we ordered a jar of sangria (understandably called a Jarra) with almost every meal we had. The cous-cous was almost like rice with a very nicely spiced curry that tasted a lot like indian food which made us happy. The vegetal sandwich looked good too - normal bread unlike most of what we got in France - the dry hard baguette type bread which is harder to eat. However, when we took a bite into it, we realized there was an anchovy (fish) in it! We were perturbed with it, and asked to return it. It was then that the englishman came over and told us that he had forgotten that the vegetal or vegetarian sandwich here has fish - and that is not considered meat or non-vegetarian. So we got that cancelled. Time to get back to the hostel for a slumber.

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    With this, the France part of our trip ends. Now, moving over to Spain.

    Day 6 :

    Our plan for the day was to see various festivities going on for the Aste Nagusia - mainly the gastronomic competition and the giant heads parade before evening. But we were not able to get ready on time for either of these events, but instead went into the old town. The festivities were on full swing, people drinking everywhere, watching street performances and competitions - drama, music, poetry even. There was an impromptu band playing on the street - this was amazing and we really enjoyed it. Next we went to the Guggenheim museum. This was a very interesting place, and we particularly liked the Yoko Ono exhibits. She seems like a really creative and amusing person. I'm glad we didn't miss out on visiting this museum. It will easily keep even simpletons like me engaged for about 4 hours. We had booked tickets to watch the bullfight at Bilbao, as we heard that there would be no bullfights anywhere else in Spain during summers. This was a unique experience for us. How seriously the audience takes this spectacle! They were completely unabated while watching the bulls bleed to death or during a close encounter with the matador or the horse. This was a special occasion for which there were 2 matadors fighting 3 bulls each making a total of 6 rounds and 6 dead bulls. One matador is the regular one who fights on foot, and the other on a horse. They each have their own team to help them kill the bull. We were initially very queasy, but soon turned into typical Spaniards, enjoying the show (while also feeling guilty about it and feeling sorry for the bull). We kept clicking pictures while the Spaniards were intently watching their moves and commenting amongst themselves. After this unique experience, we went on to walk towards the Ayuntamiento Bridge to watch the pyrotechnics. Before this, we wanted to grab dinner. While my friends went into a crowded by-lane for some local food, we found an indian restaurant nearby called Gandhi. We stuffed ourselves up with Chana Masala, Naan and Matar Pulao. It was completely satisfying, little did we know this would be our last indian meal for this trip. When we came out, the entire road was filled with people all walking towards the bridge to watch the fireworks. A few minutes after we found the right spot to watch from, the street lights went off in the area and bang started the amazing array of colors in the sky. It went on for around 20 minutes. We stood staring, stunned. That's all the energy we had for that day. We went to bed early that day.

    Day 7 :

    We took the Renfe train to Madrid, reaching in the afternoon. After checking in to our hotel - Hostal Las Cortes, we changed and wanted to get something to eat before going to the Prado Museum. We stayed very close to the museum, so started walking towards it. On the way in a small Plaza, saw a few restaurants and sat down for some Gazpacho, patata bravas and a jarra of sangria. It was a tad bit expensive, but we enjoyed the wine. We then went into the museum since entry is free everyday from 6pm-8pm. It is a huge museum and if you are into paintings, I would suggest you split it over two days. It would take atleast 4 hours if you really want to see them properly. They have paintings by various artists on display like Goya, El Greco, Velazquez, Rubens and the likes. We spent around 2 hours, rushed through most paintings and still covered only half the museum. After the closing time, right behind the museum is a beautiful church "San Jerónimo el Real". I just wandered inside, found it very peaceful. We went back towards our hostal, found a 100 Montaditos nearby and being a wednesday everything was at 1 euro. So we drank a couple of mugs of sangria along with some montaditos. We then went on to explore the famous nightlife of Madrid at Plaza Santa Ana and Plaza Mayor. Stopped by once again at another 100 Montaditos and had some wine and sangria with nachos and it was then time to head on home.

    Day 8 :

    We went to visit the Palacio Real in the morning. Very ornate interiors, very well decorated and fit to be the king's abode. We had heard of a vegetarian restaurant called Yerbabuena which was very close to Plaza Mayor, so we walked there for lunch and had a good meal of vegetarian paella which came with a portion of salad (the only one we had in Spain and it was good, a lot like the indian biryani) and some mexican rolls. Good food, and decently priced although it was purely vegetarian. They also gave an apetizer which seemed like a falafel in a small cup with some mayo and salad. This was really good. They also kept some bread for each of us. Obviously since we didn't order any, we assumed that it was complementary as well, like the appetizer. We were in for a surprise when the bill arrived. We told them that we didn't know it wasn't free, but because of language issues we really couldn't argue much either. Since 2 of the 4 breads weren't touched, they took them back and reduced the amount for them. The other two were barely touched too, but we still had to pay for them. Had we known, we wouldn't have even tried them. We thought this was a tactic used only this restaurant, but after another meal in Madrid, we realized this is a more common occurance. Anyway post lunch, we wandered over to the El Retiro Park. Beautiful park covering many acres of Madrid, with a lake and a nice structure behind it, again with street performers, hawkers and people watchers. We took our siesta here listening to the live music being played right next to us. As it got dark, we went towards Plaza Mayor for another round of Sangrias and montaditos. We wanted to have a falafel sandwich at Maoz, but we never found it even after searching a lot. Picked up a little dinner for our friend at the Museo del Jamón. Tried looking for some Indian food for my DH, but it was out of our reach. The Indian restaurants in Madrid were way overpriced compared to the ones at Bilbao and Nice even. So he just had one aloo paratha and we headed home. Right below our hostal was a vegetarian place called "Al Natural" where my friend and I shared a cannelloni pasta. It was great, albeit a bit expensive. Like all of Madrid :) DH once again had some ready to eat Indian food.

    Day 9 :

    Time to move on to Sevilla. We took the early 8 am Renfe and reached Sevilla by 10:30am. A really sweet old man, out of the kindness of his heart saw us totally confused and lost about how to buy tickets in the bus and offerred to help us out. He said he would swipe his multiple ticket pass 4 times for all of us, and we could pay him the cash directly. After a short bus ride, we arrived at the Jardines de Murillo. He got off with us, and walked us through to our hotel through the park. We thanked him for all his help and off we went to keep our bags. Since the apartment only had checkin at 5 pm, we left our bags there and went to the Catedral. It was beautiful and ornate and we enjoyed the lovely panoramic bird's eye views of the old city from the top of the Giralda Tower the most. The area around the catedral, and the Barrio Santa Cruz is a wonderful area. It is a maze of narrow alleys with mostly white houses with beautiful flowers in every patio. There are many horse carriages around, the Alcazar on one side, catedral on another, and the labrynth of cobbled streets in all directions all adding to the charming old world feel of the area. We spent about 4 hours inside the Catedral. We were ravenous when we came out, and to our luck found a great little New York pizza shop right outside. We each grabbed a slice of it - the pesto particularly was excellent. We also took a serving of nachos and shared it. We then walked back through the lovely narrow alleys (of which we'd never get tired!) to our apartment since our room was ready. It was time for the afternoon siesta. After a nice bath, we wandered in the evening to find dinner. We checked online about a nice Mexican restaurant - La Cantina. The place had a happy hour offer of 2 Margaritas for Eur 4.50, so we walked right in. Luckily this place caters very well to vegetarians as well. So we ordered a couple of dishes like the Guacamole with corn chips, the Flautas de Zanahoria (deep fried corn tortillas with carrot filling in a mole sauce which our experimental side decided to give a shot). Everything was perfect and the host Oscar was very welcoming and kind. We enjoyed our pre-dinner here and then headed on to walk near the Catedral once again, passing by a street filled with cafes and people sitting on tables on the street. Then we grabbed a falafel next to the New York Pizza place to eat on the way to La Carboneria to watch the flamenco. When we arrived around 10 pm, we found most tables were already taken. We found some place very close to the stage on the second row and immediately went for it. We had some sangria, olives and nachos until the program started. It was a soul-stirring performance. So much expression in both the singers voice and the lady's dance. I only wish I understood what he was singing. It would have quadrupled the experience. We ordered more drinks - lemon beer which was famous there (and it was great!) and some gin and tonic. We then left and walked to Plaza de Espana. I had heard this place looks beautiful at night with all the lights and the fountain etc. and that it is very lively. When we went there, it was around 12 and I actually doubted if we had come to the right place. There were barely any people around and we could not see any fountain or lights either, infact it looked quite shady and we got out as soon as possible. It was a huge disappointment.

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    Day 10 :

    We planned to do Granada in a day - and now I wouldn't recommend this to anyone (like most recommendations that I saw and ignored). If you really want to see it, give it more time and stay over for a night in Granada. If not, just explore Sevilla more, it looks like it has a lot to offer which we couldn't cover because of the day trip to Granada. Our train was at 12 noon from San Bernardo train station. We picked up breakfast muffins and donuts from a grocery shop right outside the station. It took about 3 hours to reach Granada. We took a bus from the Renfe station to the area near the Alhambra. There was a La Caixa machine right opposite and so we decided not to stand in the queue and instead get it from the machine. We then grabbed some pasta, pizza and croquettes from a place called "Il Gondoliere" on Calle Gran Vía de Colón. Then we walked to Alhambra as we were confused and did not get proper guidance about where to take the bus to the Alhambra entrance from. Luckily since we had the tickets already, we didn't have to go till the entrance. We had booked a slot for the Nasareth Palace at 4:30 pm to be on the safer side. However, after a pretty sleep uphill climb, we managed to only get there around 5, but when we saw the line we realized that people from even the 4 pm slot had still not gone inside. So we stood in line, ate some pasta and bought the audio guide. Nasrid Palace was lovely no doubt, but we have similar palaces in Rajasthan in India, so it wasn't as magical to us as felt by many. It is beautiful indeed though, especially the patio of Lions and the other end of the patio with the reflection of the building in the water. After this we went to the Alcazaba - the fort area with the maze like ruins of the barracks. This place give great views of the city down below. In all of this, we spent most of our time and hence could barely cover one eighth of the Generalife Gardens - which we came to realize was a big loss. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous! If only we had the time to cover all of it! But our legs were killing us by now (like most of the days in Spain) and we wanted to get back and sleep on the train which was to start at 8:58 pm. One word about Renfe here - they run an excellent service. Cheap fares if you book early enough, comfortable seats, really quick and always always punctual. We used Renfe a lot on this trip - I think about 5 journeys. And I was completely impressed. So we reached Sevilla back by midnight. After the rest during the journey, we had recuperated and were ready to experience some of the Sevillan nightlife but were not willing to walk. So on the way to our apartment, in front of the entrance to the Murillo Jardines, we found a nice little restaurant bar right on the main road on the pedestrian walkway (Are they even allowed to do that?!). Well, for us, it was a blessing in disguise. After a long and tiring day, we wanted to cool our heels off, so we decided to just sit there and have some sangria and tapas. We sat for almost an hour and a half, drinking and talking and envying the people who get to live in this wonderful city. It was almost closing time for them, that's when we decided to call it a day, and finished our last round of drinks. We had delicious food here, served with a great smile! These guys were really friendly, and although we didn't understand the language we could tell they were being very sweet. At the end, they even gave us a round of shots free! We had ordered patata fritos, espinacas con garbanzos (which I heard were famous here but never got to try them until now and I loved it). They gave us a variety of bread, and one particular kind that I'd like to call bullet bread was really interesting and went really well with the espinacas curry. We then walked around through the beautiful Plaza Santa Cruz and the narrow mazes to our hotel to enjoy a sound sleep.

    Day 11 :

    We took a morning stroll through the Catedral towards the Guadalquivir River. It is supposed to be quite lovely here, maybe in the night time. During the day in summer, it is too hot to enjoy the cruise for which there are more than enough operators making offers nearby. We strolled back through the Catedral again in awe (considering that this was the last time), and bought pizza slices in the same New York Pizza shop, sa falafel roll, a paella to have at the airport on the way to the hot and happening Ibiza and a gazpacho to cool us down. We went back to the apartment, packed and left for the Seville airport to catch our flight to Ibiza. We took the Vueling flight which goes through Barcelona making it a pretty long 5 hour flight including the waiting time. At the Barcelona airport, we shared a pasta and some garlic bread. Meh, airport food. We took a taxi from the Ibiza airport to our Apartmento Lido in the Figueretas beach, since we heard its cheaper and way more convenient by taxi especially considering we were 4 people with quite an amount of luggage. One more of our friends flew down from London and met us in Ibiza. He joined us here on for the rest of the trip. He had come down the previous day and got himself slightly acquainted with the town (atleast so he thought ;)). So after we went to our rooms, we freshened up and changed and met him for dinner. We walked a lot, and went to the old town away from the beach where things are less pricier. We came to a huge castle like structure and right opposite were many small cafes. This was called Plaza del Parque. We went into one of the crowded ones called Madagascar Cafe, found ourselves a table and ordered some blanco Sangria (made of white wine) along with some food. We ordered a vegetarian pizza for us, and the non-vegetarians ordered some jamon item for themselves. They dont really give any plates or cutlery (may be if asked...), but it is a nice cozy place to just come with friends and hang out, relax and enjoy the atmosphere. This time, not being the first, the vegetarians won. And our order was repeated, along with another pitcher of Sangria. I very much enjoyed the blanco version too. For being in Ibiza in a nice pedestrian plaza like this, the price was well worth it. We walked back to our respective hotels, ours was 10 mins further than his and crashed into bed immediately.

    Day 12 :

    We went to the beach right behind our hotel - the Figueretas beach. There is a lot of weed which although harmless, feels really disgusting on your feet. But once you get past that, you get clear beautiful water. We spend an hour on the beach and in the water and hunger struck us. We had planned to go for the David Guetta closing party at Ushuaia that evening, and knowing the prices of drinks there, wanted to get loaded up before the party. So we walked to a nearby Spar and bought many bottles of wines and sangria and some snacks to go along with it. Beer was now below us :P We only had wines while in Europe ;) We then went to our hotel, showered and changed and went to the restaurant right opposite the hotel. We didn't want to walk anymore. We ordered some patata fritas and pastas to have there immediately since we were dying of hunger, and ordered 2 margarita pizzas to take away to have with our drinks. We drank all afternoon, and we were drunk enough to enter the party. We got all dressed up for the party and started walking towards Ushuaia. It was quite far to walk in our drunken state and we boarded a bus from the Club Mare Nostrum hotel to Ushuaia. There were a few people already at the venue, but it was not nearly as crowded as it would later be. We got into the small pool and danced for a little bit as more crowd kept entering. We checked out the prices of the drinks, and were glad we filled up before coming. We got ourselves tattoed with the David Guetta stamp. We danced for a couple more hours and then when it was dark, we went to the balcony sort of stage from where we got the view of the whole pool party. It was great! We then went down and went to the front of the stage, grooved to the tunes being belted, getting lost in the stage smoke and the scores of drunk people swaying away without a care in the world. By this time, it was so crowded that we could barely move. It was time for him to set the stage on fire. I had to crane my neck up towards the sky to even breathe! I think I must've been the shortest person in the entire party. After we could take it no more, we came back to our original place to cool our aching heels off in the little pool towards the back. There were balloons floating, with a girl in a ballet costume dancing with it. It was insane! Tired and hungry, we sat for a bit until the party ended and then boarded the bus back to our hotel. We walked straight to an Italian pizzeria next to our hotel. We ordered some pizzas and they arrived after a while! The smell only making us more hungry, we gobbled down the pizza quickly and washed it down with some sangria again and then got a good night's rest.

    Day 13 :

    Beach hopping day. We decided to rent a car, because from what we gathered, it isn't easy to do so many things in the given time by public transport and some of them are not even connected by buses. We started off with Playa den Bossa. Beautiful beach, wish we had discovered it the previous day itself instead of the Figueretas. We enjoyed in the lovely clear water for an hour or so, and then it was time to head to the next destination. We stopped on the way to fill up fuel, and bought some food from McDonald's takeaway. They were nice enough to cook us some vegetarian burgers, and we could tell they put some effort into it. We enjoyed the little tidbits of the burgers and headed into the water at the next once again azure beach on our plan - the Ses Salinas beach, which is supposed to be dotted with the rich and famous, but we weren't lucky enough to spot any celebrity there. Our next hop off point was Cala Conta beach - recommended by a person at the hotel we stayed at and also from some of the forums online. This beach is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes! Red rocky mountainous terrain with the clear blue water in the backdrop. We loved it! It was too expensive to eat or drink anything there, so we all decided to get into the water. We played around for some time and decided to leave quickly because we wanted to go to the famous Cafe Del Mar on the West Coast of Ibiza. We were in for a total shock, when as soon as we got to our car, realized that some of our stuff was stolen from the locked car!!! We could clearly make out that the front door lock had been tampered with, and unfortunately our friends had left a couple of things which were stolen including his mobile phone and money from his wallet (about 60 euros gone, but the cards were intact luckily), another guy lost his wifi internet dongle and portable mobile charger. Thankfully, we had taken all of our stuff and left it on the beach openly, which seems to be a much safer option however unsafe it sounds. We were very upset for sometime, we asked around to check if we could report the incident to the police. We wanted to do our part atleast, even if it wouldn't help us much. We heard there was one in Ibiza town near Cafe Del Mar, but when we got there, he said they don't take complaints from foreigners unless they had their passports and we obviously hadn't carried it with us. By then, it was getting a bit late for us to visit the Cafe Del Mar and head back to our apartment to pack and take the flight out.

    We got wonderful views of the ocean from the Cafe, and decided to sit down on one of the many empty tables at that time for a quick snack before heading out. The waitress told us the sea side tables were reserved, so we gladly got up and sat on one of the tables on the next row. We decided to order one vegetarian dish like nachos and one plate of a non-vegetarian variety. However, the waitress was quite rude and told us we had to order drinks or we couldn't sit there. Considering how the drinks were expensive, and the time of day wasn't tempting us to order, 3 of us decided to walk out to the town area and explore while our friends still wanted to order drinks and experience the place. We saw an Indian restaurant near the car park, and walked in. Armed with an absolutely charming ambiance, we thought it must be overpriced but the menu outside suggested otherwise. And I had to use the restroom quite badly (my small bladder was quite a pain on this trip!!). My friends sat down, and wanted to order 2 curries and some rotis since we were in a hurry. But we were told that the only thing on the menu was the full meal for which we had no time, so the boys walked out and waited for me. Once I caught up, we walked around the area, did a bit of shopping for La Tomatina (my friend bought crocs because he'd forgotten an old pair of shoes), picked up a little something to eat from Subway and headed back to the car, by which time out friends also were done. They informed us that they were roaming the streets was San Anotnio as well for a bit, after being ignored by the waitress at Cafe Del Mar, after repeated attempts at calling her to give the order. They gave up, clicked a few pictures and left the place. We had an uneventful drive back to our apartment, after which our friend drive off further to drop off the car. We then freshened up and changed and quickly boarded our taxi to the airport. Our taxi driver looked like a really rich old guy (a bit like Mick Jagger), dressed in white linen clothes. With little time left for our flight, we got more anxious if he was the right fit for our situation. Oh and how he proved us wrong! He drove like a rockstar! Once we hit the highway to the airport, not once did he got below 80 kmph and we were getting off before we knew it. We paid him, thanked him and bid adieu. We checked in and waited for our boarding call. After a (slightly eventful thanks to the rude Vueling Airhostess who refused water to my friend) short 45 mins flight, we were in Valencia mainly for La Tomatina. Four of us took a taxi since they didnt allow 5 people in, while my friend took the metro and had to walk a fair bit being new to the place and not knowing where exactly to get off. After getting off (and being overcharged a bit saying there is a surcharge for airport pick ups), we were in front of Pio XII Apartments where we'd booked for all of us (2 bedrooms with a double and single bed, and 1 sofa bed in the hall). Seeing as the door was locked, we were getting a bit worried. We had also called the reception and informed her of our late arrival. She said that as long as you reach before midnight, it would be okay. Then a nice man helped us enter, once he realized we had a booking there. The reception was closed, but we tried by ringing the bell, and to our relief, the shutter suddenly opened. We were checked in and shown to our apartment. We were very hungry by now and went out to check if we could buy some dinner but most places were just closing down and we had to get back, still hungry. We ate a bit from our ready to eat food and made some noodles as well. We had to get an early start the next day for La Tomatina, so we went to bed almost immediately.

    Day 14 :

    We fought our sleep and managed to wake up, get ready and leave by 7 am. We took a picture of ourselves - the clean before shot :) We took the metro to Sant Isidre station and bought tickets for the train to Bunol. The crowds there gave us a glimpse into what we'd experience at the event. We bought some juice and a few chocolates from the vending machine while waiting for the train and we were off to Bunol. The train ride took just about 45 minutes and we were all getting off at this quaint little village bubbling with youngsters thronging from all corners of the world (which would be more like a ghost town at other times). With so little food in, our tummies were still rumbling so when we saw the first shop selling food, we stopped and bought the only vegetarian item there - the Tortilla Española Bocadillo. Eating the sandwich on the go, we followed the crowd towards the town center where we could collect our entry pass based on our online booking. Here we bought a slice of pizza as well to eat before the fight starts, as we were still a good 3 hours away from the main event. There were so many small stalls selling sangria and beer in huge 1 Liter cups. The atmosphere was quite different and electrifying. Our friends bought and drank more than a Liter of beer before 8 in the morning! By the time we soaked in the feeling and walked around all over the little town, it was close to 10 am, and we decided to walk towards the Ham on a Greasy Pole. This event is a lot of fun and starts about an hour before the trucks start arriving. A huge ham is tied to the top of a well greased pole. The person who manages to climb up and take the prized ham, gets to keep it. We managed to wade through the huge crowds that already thronged the area. This is the main street through which the trucks carrying tonnes of tomatoes come and throw them out. Many small groups of people from various countries were singing songs in praise of their country, and we decided to do the very same. Once we started singing the Hindi version of "We shall overcome", we heard more voices from behind join us. It was a great feeling singing a Hindi song in a small sleepy town in Spain with other Indians who were strangers bonded in that moment :) A short while and a few clicks later, the bong was sounded for the ham up a greasy pole competition to start. Loads of people tried, some fairly (who received a lot of cheer from the crowd, especially when a few girls gave it a shot), others did by going over others and pulling down the ones on top (whom the crowd booed!). Many attempts, and an hour later the ham was still safe in its place. It was now time for the world's biggest food fight. The bong was sounded and we could see the food trucks starting to arrive in the distance. It was amazing fun and nothing like you would've experienced earlier. Many trucks followed after a short time gap, and threw crushed tomatoes at the crowd who lapped it all up, threw some back at the trucks and some at each other. It was the dirtiest we had ever been, but it didn't bother us even the slightest bit. We played for an hour until the trucks stopped. Then slowly we walked through the crowds towards the water hoses. The locals are really kind and keep pouring buckets of water from as high as the terrace of 4 floored buildings. The water hits you with so much force, we loved it! Some left their hoses running and the passersby took turns under it to clean themselves up a bit. The final bath was at the official hoses. This was well organized and we got rid of every piece of tomato skin from our body and hair. It was almost 3 pm by then, and we started to head back to the train station. We almost dried up on the way but the hunger was killing us. Bought another liter of beer and danced a bit as the tiny afterparty place in Bunol. Then we walked further down where we bought the Bocadillo in the morning and our friends had the seafood paella. We sat around, lazing just like the locals and let ourselves dry up a bit more before getting the train back to Valencia. We reached by evening, changed and showered. We weren't really up for more partying and decided to forego the famous afterparty in Valencia, and instead head into the old city for a quiet dinner among the locals :) This was a memorable dinner at "Bar Caracoles". The place was already quite full, but since we were too hungry we took a table inside the restaurant. The guys were quite adventurous, and wanted to try some of the famed seafood. The ordered the mussels, while we lesser mortals ordered a patata bravas (by now, a standard order), a dish of spanish padron peppers (essentially fried salted peppers) and a dish of setas or mushrooms (again lightly flavoured, salted and cooked). We enjoyed everything we had here, and downed it happily with jars of sangria. The guys were tempted by the fact that almost all tables at the restaurant had a portion of what looked like snails. They went ahead and bravely ordered it. They enjoyed both the mussels as well as the snails quite a bit! And we were quite mesmerized by just watching the tiny little things on their plates and seeing them lap it up was very amusing. We got a metro to Turia station to head back. Once again, it was the end of a tiring but unforgettable day and we were off to bed.

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    Day 15 :

    It was time for our final destination in Spain and of our trip. And what better than the vibrant multicultural city of Barcelona. We took our last trip on the most impressive Renfe service and reached Barcelona by around 2 pm. Bought a T10 ticket (probably one of the best things about the city!). We went straight to our apartment Arago565 on Calle Arago after picking up a paella and a pizza for lunch from an Italian restaurant called Toscana on Calle Independencia. To our surprise, when the pizza was given to us, the guy spoke in Hindi. By then, we didn't know how many Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis live in Barcelona. It was on a huge main road, which seemed quite a residential area. We had many a grocery stores, some small cafes and a few night haunts nearby. We like the apartment quite a bit. Nicely decorated, all possible amenities and very close to the metro station. We had the pizza for lunch, then showered and changed and were ready to explore the streets of Barcelona by evening. We decided to go straight to the most iconic emblem of Barca - La Sagrada Familia. We met out friend who was staying in a hostel, near the entrance and stood at the ticket counter to buy the tickets. It takes quite a while to see it properly, and we took an audio guide to walk us through the whole place, so we do not miss any subtle nuances of Gaudi's artwork. We were in awe of the place and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was 8 pm by the time we were done, also the closing time of the place. It was close to twilight, and we all had only one thing on our minds - La Rambla. The famous tree-lined pedestrian street stretches from Placa Catalunya all the way until the port. You have to be there to believe it. The atmosphere is electrifying. One spots so many amusing things while walking along La Rambla - from florists shops, souvenir shops selling magnets and other trinkets to carry home, to cafes and icecreams shops. The buildings also are quite beautiful, if you glance at them. We even spotted Marilyn Monroe there (more about it on Day 16). One can spend hours getting lost in the crowds at Ramblas. But we had walked a lot and wanted to rest our legs and have some sangria. We went into a local bar on the La Ramblas. We were already warned that anything on the main street here would be pretty expensive. So we decided to do a Tapa tour on our own, thinking that we could order 2 or 3 tapas at each bar we went to that night. Our plan didn't quite work out as expected because when 5 people walk into a place on La Rambla, they expect you to order much more food plus drinks. Having spent a lot at Ibiza, we did not want to drink at expensive places. So we got up and walked away. Then we realized that we cannot find anything in our budget on the main street, and even if we do, it was too touristy and would not give us an authentic feel of local Barcelona. So we wandered into a by-lane and found many shops and small bars there too. We walked into what looked like a bakery and managed to find patata Samosas there!! They had all Indian and Pakistani sweets as well. We could not resist the samosa, and we all bought one each. We bought some sangria and breezer from the grocery store next door, and drank while walking through this street, occasionally biting into our samosa. After finishing this, we needed to find a place to relax and eat and drink. We walked past what some of my friends thought was a "shady bar", but another friend insisted we go inside and see what its like. So we came back for it, and walked in. This time it did not look so bad. Within a couple of minutes, our feeling about the place had completely turned upside down. We can't be blamed what with the friendly ambiance, very kind host (who didn't know english, but still tried to communicate with us), good food and great sangria. We ate and drank a lot - a dish with mussels (which was too raw and smelly for our liking), a vegetarian platter consisting of six dishes including onion rings, patata bravas, olives, mushrooms, padron peppers and more, a dish of iberico jamon, over 2 jars of sangria and a couple of individual drinks - oh yes, we had a gala time! The place is quite cozy, not very brightly lit and feels like you're in a cave. We left the place comepletely satiated in all our senses. We had a lot to explore in this city so we headed straight back to our apartment and hit the bed.

    Day 16 :

    Today we planned a typical touristy day to see all the sites that Barcelona had to offer. Our friend told us about Sandeman's free walking tours and it piqued our interest. So we managed to wake up (albeit pretty late and had to make a run for it!), quickly grabbed some breakfast and started in the direction of the walking tour that our friend was guiding us to. We learnt a valuable lesson here - if you are late for a walking tour, you are most likely to miss quite a bit of it since you are new to the place and are not aware of where you need to go and meanwhile, they are always on the move and obviously the guide knows where he's taking the group. But luckily, we managed to catch up at the second stop in front of the Barcelona Cathedral. We missed the guide's narration of the story behind it, but managed to get a summary from our friend who was on time for the tour :) We covered the Gothic Quarter, El Born district, Roman ruins, Catalan history and independence, and walked through many beautiful squares, each one better than the previous like the Sant Felip Neri’s Square which can be seen in more than one Woody Allen movies, the Placa Reial ("royal square") that connects Las Ramblas and Barri Gòtic, the bridge under which we walk in Carrer del Bisbe, huge wire structure near placa jaume, seeing the gopal vegan restaurant, the history about the Square which used to be lined with drug traffickers and the monument dedicated to the same - I remember it all vividly. We sat at the Fossar de les Moreres and listened to the touching tales of the War that led to the many souls buried under this plaza and the finally moved on to the Ciutadella park where the tour ended with a topography of which direction the beach, the zoo, the Arc de Triomf were. I must say we enjoyed the tour a lot. Definitely gives you an overview of the city. One should ideally take the tour on the first day of their stay in Barcelona to get an idea of the history and culture and the main sites of the city beyond which you can explore on your own. So after the tour, we did just that. Our friends decided to go another way to relax on the beach, European style :) We started a full day exploration of Gaudi that day - Casa Batlo, Casa Pedrera and Park Guell. Before this we headed for the famed Picasso Museum. Of course, who could come here and miss this one? We grabbed a quick sandwich and Naranja zumo (orange juice) at a bakery nearby and then stood in line to enter the museum. We enjoyed was a couple's musical performance with guitars right in front of the line. We spent over 2 hours inside admiring the talent that only a handful of people in this world have. We then found our way to Casa Batlo with the help of the maps. We found the entry cost too overbearing, so we decided to just view it from outside. May be that was a mistake, but we would never found out. Since we didn't understand the details of the place, it didn't make much sense to sit down and stare at the building from outside. We clicked a few shots and started walking towards La Pedrera. It is funny how the smallest of things end up amusing us more than the actual place we wanted to visit. While walking, we enjoyed watching people rush past us, the little tiled benches on every street corner oozing Gaudi, and the intricate designs on many unknown buildings. To our disappointment, at that time La Pedrera was undergoing some renovation and was closed.

    We walked past it to the nearest metro station and took the train to Lesseps, the stop closest to Park Guell. We loved the sights as we got out from the underground metro. A dog park with the animals playfully enjoying with their owners on one side, ***** aqueduct type thingy with flowers *****. We starting walking in the direction of Park Guell and all the walking that day made us hungry again. We stopped at a bakery and bought a sandwich and some almond cupcakes which we devoured once inside the park. They were delicious! It took us 15-20 minutes to reach the elevators up to the park, the last part of which was a very short but a very steep walk. The top of the elevator gave us stunning views of the city with the sea in the backdrop. We bought the entry tickets to the Park. The main arena was surrounded by people sitting on the circumference wall. The other end of the arena was the main terrace that had a wavy mosaic wall which were made up of the typical Gaudi style tiles with benches, right behind which were the two buildings that are seen from the entrance. They looked like chocolate houses and no, we were not hungry anymore :) There are so many aspects of architecture that can be seen at this park - the stoned pathways, the columns of the Hypostyle hall, the mosaic frog symbolizing Gaudi. It was mysterious and magical. It was beginning to get a bit dark so we decided to start heading back to meet our friends. On the way back, we felt like we were walking through Seville. We coulnd't imagine Barcelona having such an area - quiet and peaceful, with the old world charm. We joked that it might be the area mainly with retired people. We found our way back to Lesseps metro station, and got off at Clot station. We bought a few packets of the local noodles (some Chinese noodles which had a vegetarian version) from the shop opposite our apartment which we cooked for dinner because we were all quite tired and our friend was a bit sick due to the change in water.

    Day 17 :

    This was our last day of the trip. We planned to see the Olympic park and the Montjuic Castle. One of our friends wanted to visit the F1 Circuit and went his separate way. We woke up late and decided to meet our friend near La Boqueria market on La Rambla. We were very keen on visiting this market as we had heard wonderful things. We did enjoying walking through the lanes and admiring how the locals go about their business. We got some fruit salad and juice for ourselves and packed some olives and saffron for folks back home. When we were done, we bought some pasta to go from the market and met our friend outside on the Ramblas. Everytime I strolled through this street, the sights and sounds never failed to amaze me! This time we saw a girl dressed like Marilyn Monroe in white with the blonde wig et al waving at the crowds below. And funnily enough, she was standing right next to the symbol "Museu de L'Erotica". We all had a good laugh at this. We headed back to our apartment as we had to pack our luggage and shift to hostel Sun & Moon just off La Rambla (we did not feel like paying full price of the apartment as we had to leave at 3 am for the airport that night). We ate the pasta there and went to the new hostel. We left our luggage there, collected free dinner coupons at a nearby cafe bar and wandered off towards Montjuic. We took a bus to Plaça d'Espanya, a huge square with fantastic views on all sides. There is the Les Arenes building which used to be a bullring but is now a shopping center, the two pointed Venetian towers, Palau de Congressos, the Four Columns symbolizing the four stripes in the Catalan flag and in the distance the beautiful Font màgica. But we decided to rush past all that directly to Montjuic and visit all of this on the way back. So we caught another bus to Montjuic Castle, seeing all the Olympic sightings on the way up and spent about 2 hours there. I would say it is nothing spectacular but the views are great and you definitely wouldn't get bored. It's a great way to kill time, but I'd give it a miss if I were short of time. The thing that I wanted to do but couldn't is the furnicular ride up. We imagined it must've given great views of the city. We took the bus back down to Placa Espanya and walked back towards the Font Magica. We took countless number of pictures at every step towards the top, spent over two hours here as well and then headed back towards the hostel by 8. We met our friend who had spent a day at the F1 circuit which he would term as "a perfect day". We freshened up, met our hostel roommates from Germany and Uruguay and headed down to Travel Bar Port for our free meal. We stopped on the way at many a shop and made some purchases for India. We bought a few fridge magnets, some favourite football team caps, t-shirts and met many Indian shopkeepers this way. We thought since the meal was free, it wouldn't be of great quality either taste or place or quantity wise. Oh how wrong we were! Albeit limited options - only one item each in veg and non-veg, the place and the stuff was fantastic. We strolled the promenade at the port seeing the sculpture of the giant shrimp and the small yatchs that were anchored for the night. Right by the port on the opposite side of the road, the place was very nice. We liked it so much that we ordered a jar of sangria and some patata bravas and spent a jolly time there. We walked back to our hotel through some narrow by-lanes and enjoyed every breath of our last day in this amazing city. After bidding adieu to our friend, once back at the hostel, we went to sleep early as we had to wake up at 2:30 am for the morning flight back to India.

    It was an unadventurous journey and everything went as expected. I felt a different buzz being back here in my own city. The traffic noise, the way everyone is always rushing, the spicy Indian food, the familiar language all felt out of place suddenly. I missed so much being back in Spain. It took me a while to get adjusted back to reality and snap out of the dream that is Europe. I hope to return back and see all the plethora of countries it has to offer, and someday hopefully re-visit the French Riviera and Spain.

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    This is a very detailed report and I am very sorry for it. But I was unable to do any justice to the sights and the feelings in even these many words. One has to be there, and experience it to believe it.

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    Wow! I am so impressed! And tired from just reading all that you accomplished. Sounds like a wonderful trip. We did the Calanques boat trip 2 weeks ago, it was indeed wonderful. Cassis is lovely and a bit more time is a good idea. Thanks for sharing.

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    Thank you so much DebitNM. Coming from a seasoned traveler like you (yes, I have stalked your profile too! :)), it means a great deal. I have just started traveling outside of India recently, and have a lot to learn about how to research and make use of such forums and information from people like yourself. I will post reports of some of my other trips (those are closer to or in India) as and when I find time. I'm not sure how many people would find it useful, but my hope is that it would inspire more people to travel to this part of the world :)

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    Thank you for the beautiful trip report - to include such detail takes as much energy as you expended on your trip. I really felt drawn along with you on your action-packed days (and nights) - it was a real pleasure, and I wish you many more such trips that you so obviously enjoy.

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    Wonderful trip report. You probably enjoyed reliving it by sharing your adventures with us.
    For me, this is what Fodors Forums are all about and I'm sure you have inspired others focusing on thiis part of the world.

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    blueridge, TPAYT - thank you so much for patiently reading it. I know it is painstakingly long, but I didn't have the heart to miss out the details. There are still a few stories that I have not mentioned here. I came back from this trip by September 1st, and had to recall everything as I sat down to write this after 2 months. This brought back so many pleasant memories and I'm so happy to share them. You are all very kind.

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    travelzombie,
    I'm absolutely loving this travel report! I'm breathless as I read this, but your details are perfect for capturing the enthusiasm and delightful craziness of your travels!

    I know that your experience with traveling in India will be appreciated. It may surprise you to know that there are many others who love traveling to India! Look at the "Asia" forum and you'll see. My husband and I had a wonderful time in Rajasthan & Varanasi 2 years ago and plan a return trip (someday!) to the south.

    Thanks for a wonderful read -- keep traveling!
    Paule

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    Paule,

    Thanks for the wonderful words. I'm so glad to know that you have visited some parts of India. There are plenty of amazing places right here that would take your breath away - Andaman Islands, Chikmagalur, Hampi in Karnataka, Thrissur and Bekal in Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Leh to name a few. I'm hoping I can cover a lot in my lifetime. If you do plan a trip to South India, do let me know. I can surely be of some help :)

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