After leaving Portugal, we had a six hour drive ahead of us to reach madrid, our first destination in Spain. And what an incredible city it was… The only way to describe Madrid is ENERGY. So much energy! Frenzied, frenetic and fantastic, it was a slap in the face compared to it’s sleepy neighbor of Portugal where we had become so accustomed.
Next item to check off our world travels bucket list – watching a live flamenco performance in the heart of the city!
And I have to say it was INCREDIBLE – and curiously enough captured this essence of the city as well: stomping, clapping, shouting, and violent hand and leg gestures resembling that of an angry horse or bull – all seeming to showcase Madrid’s showy yet authentic vivaciousness.
We spent 3 days in central Madrid, exploring the rustic old streets, rooftop sky bars, and… our favorite thing of all- enjoying the food! This time though was something truly extraordinary – because Madrid is home to the oldest restaurant in the world. So of course, we had to go visit!
Restaurante Sobrino de Botin was founded in 1725 and was converted from an old historic hotel. Most of the restaurant is underground in an old wine cellar, and you can feel the cold, cavernous atmosphere as you sit in the cellars eating the 300 year old classic dishes. Apart from using the original recipes, the restaurant has also kept the flame burning in the oven continuously ever since it was opened, never to be extinguished. The restaurant speciality of cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) is mentioned in the closing pages of Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises. Learn more about the history of the oldest restaurant in the world here. It was a fantastic experience, and the food was, of course, out of this world. As you can see below, very traditional and historic in look and taste 🙂
We quickly fell accustomed to the typical siesta schedule of Madrid and found ourselves needing a nap – every day like clockwork – around 4-5pm to recover our energy before going out again in the evening. After spending 3 days in the dry inland climate, we were ready for a true rest and relaxing recovery by the beach.
As we made our way driving through the countryside of Spain we were filled with beautiful views of flowers, old village cottages and castles on the hillside… Even if we’ve been spending 5+ hours at a time driving, the countryside landscape made it worth it!
For our next stop, Spencer found an incredible oasis for us to stay for the night – The Open Sky Villa Meditation Center. For Teal, it was just what she needed after the weariness of traveling had set in, and they spent the day reading, doing yoga, and meditation in this beautiful little ocean town of Denia, Spain.
The place was originally converted from an old castle that was built for Spain’s king’s bastard son to live in. The new owner turned it into quite a peaceful retreat.
We spent time by the ocean going on runs and trying to keep in shape after all the eating – as we realized how important self-care and exercise are still important, if not more important – while on the road.
From the sleepy Denia beach town, we made our way up the coast to our next stop of Spain, and one of our new favorite cities: Barcelona.
We stayed in a fantastic Air BnB with local expat hosts: Mark and Marina in their classy flat right downtown for 5 days. Mark was an expat from New York, and Marina from Argentina.
They welcomed us into their home and we got to participate in their annual cooking competition with 8 of their friends from around the world. Theme: Tapas!
Spencer made his homemade bruschetta and Teal made her famous family salad. Although neither won the trophy, it was so fun to interact with new friends and learn about culture in Spain.
We spent our days exploring the city – roller blading through the beach boardwalk, biking through the tree lined streets, and enjoying the little markets. We instantly felt right at home from California and fantasized what life would be like to live here.
As we were biking, we went on a safari to find all of the old historic Gaudi architecture in the city. Barcelona is well known for the famous architect who designs elaborate buildings with unique flair and style. These buildings featured below were built right next to the normal apartment buildings and shopping centers – so it was easy to find if you knew where to look!
After 5 sunny, beautiful days in Barcelona, we continued forward on our journey, driving through the beautiful national parks of Spain with one final stop to see the northern side of Spain, in Catalonian beach town called San Sebastian.
San Sebastian was recently ranked on the top 10 places to visit in Europe, and we can see why.
The town was originally built as a fortress for soldiers to keep watch of any incoming threats from France, but has now grown to be a thriving little metropolis on the northern coast. With 3 little bays, it creates a fantastic place for surfers, sailers, and beach goers to retreat to and soak up some sun.
But what San Sebastian is really known for is… you guessed it – their food! Every day, on top of being able to go dine at a restaurant, you can also go hopping from place to place and munch on “pinchos”- a special type of tapas made just in the Catalonia area of Spain. The Catalonians are quite proud of their area and their food – so of course, we had to try it!
The rest of our time when we weren’t exploring the castles or eating pinchos, we spent finding cafe’s and coffee shops to catch up on sharing all of our adventures and run our new businesses so we can continue our travels. As we sink into our nomadic lifestyle, some days are needed to catch our breath and get to work!
On to France!