Spanish Series Part IV: What I would do differently

9 Oct

Overall, my trip to Spain was AMAZING. I got to see amazing buildings, clean streets (a big change from Cairo) and shared many laughs and experiences with my fiance. But, there are a few things that I would do differently if I did it again. As a point of reference, here was our itinerary for our 10 day trip:

  • Barcelona (4 days)
  • Train from Barcelona to Sitges (just outside of Barcelona) (1 day)
  • Train back to Barcelona then to Valencia/Bunol (2 days)
  • Ferry to Ibiza (3 days)

Book all tickets in advance

We booked hotels for almost every night in advance, and we obviously had to book our plane tickets in advance. But, we didn’t book any train or ferry tickets to get from one city to the next at all before our trip. We assumed it wouldn’t be a big issue to just show up at the train station/ferry port and buy some on the spot. This was not a good idea. I am not sure what it is like the rest of the year, but when we were in Spain, many people were following our exact itinerary because so many people go to La Tomatina (more on that later) outside of Valencia. So, pretty much every train, plane and automobile was sold out.

Thus, when we showed up at the train station to get our tickets to Valencia from Barcelona, the only tickets left werye for first class, costing us a hefty 70 euros a piece. Ouch! Later, when it was time to take the ferry to Ibiza, we spent almost an entire morning searching for tickets online, calling the port, and then finally cabbing (not cheap) to two different ports before we finally got the last two (first class) tickets on the last ferry to Ibiza. These tickets cost us 100 euros a piece!

To put this into perspective, when I was looking online at the tickets before the trip, the train was 30 each and the ferry was 50. So, we spent more than double of what we would have had we just booked the damn tickets in advance. You live, you learn.

Passed on La Tomatina

Tomatina, if you have never heard of it before, is a city-wide tomato fight in a little town called Bunol outside of Valencia. Sounds like fun, right? When I heard this, I had visions of people all over the city hiding behind corners and throwing tomatoes at their friends guerrilla style; like a paintball fight but without guns and with much less painful bullets. This is not at all what it was like. Here is what my experience was like:

I have no idea how many people were crammed into the narrow streets of Bunol for the tomato fight, but suffice to say there was not an inch of space between any two bodies. Ok, so everyone is crammed in like sardines, including the three people in my group. At this point, the tomato fight is not scheduled to start for another 2 hours! People are drunk and getting restless. So, anxious to throw tomatoes but with no tomatoes in sight, people start throwing whatever they can find. Shoes, tied up shirts soaked in Sangria, bottles, whatever. I get smacked in the face with a wet sangria t-shirt. It hurts; I’m upset.

Now, people start moshing. The entire crowd starts moving back and forth and every which way, and I kept accidentally losing control of where I was standing and stepping all over some poor girl’s bare feet (why wasn’t she wearing shoes?). An hour and a half to go to the tomato fight. Things are getting out of control. I start losing it a bit, because I really REALLY hate mosh pits. I’ve had some bad experiences in high school. So, we move back out of the crowd and into an open area where everyone is having a water fight. I’ll welcome the water for a bit of space.

We people watch from the water fight for the next hour and half or so, and all is well. Finally, we hear a crack in the air (a firework or something) signalling the beginning of the tomato fight! People on a roof near us unload probably 100 boxes of tomatoes onto the crowd, but it’s not enough to really get into a fight with. We got two or three of them here and there. Then, there are no more tomatoes for about 10 minutes. Finally, a dump truck comes rolling up the street, and there are people standing in the back throwing tomatoes out to the crowd. But, we moved back away from the crowd, remember? Thus, we only get two or three tomatoes again. And, same thing happens with the next truck, and each truck after that. Then, the crack goes off again and the tomato fight is over.

And we all look at each other. “Was that it?!” Yes, yes it was.

There were beer tents and DJs on the nearby streets afterwards, so we enjoyed that. But, it wasn’t fun enough to make it worth it. We talked to a few people who were down in the thick of the crowds near the beginning of the truck route (we were at the end). They said they were up to their knees in tomatoes down there. And, since there were no bathrooms anywhere, people were peeing into the tomato gunk. Then everyone was throwing the gunk at each other. Gross! I am glad we weren’t down there.

(For fear of ruining our camera, we did not take any pictures at La Tomatina. You can see other people’s pictures here).

Stayed in Barcelona longer

As I said before, Barcelona is an amazing city, and I think we would have been happy to stay there for the full 10 days. If I got a chance to re-do the itinerary, I probably would have spent 5 or 6 days in Barcelona, then 2 days in Ibiza and then come home making a 7 or 8 day trip. 10 days was a bit too long for our pocketbooks.

Fun in Barcelona (Las Ramblas)

More Fun in Barcelona (eating delicious tapas)

Generally made more plans

For some reason, we embarked on our trip to Spain without planning a lot of activities. As my girlfriends can attest, this is not usually how I operate on vacation.  When we went to San Diego for a vacation a few years ago, I had almost hour of every day scheduled out. I like to over plan my vacations so that even if we don’t follow the plan exactly, there is still a plan to fall back on offering plenty of things to do and places to see. I am not sure why I didn’t do this for Spain? I suppose I wanted to “fly by the seat of my pants” like a backpacker. But, 10 days is not enough time to travel around aimlessly. Now I know.

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