My cousin Maia and I went adventuring around France, Spain, and Portugal for a couple weeks in August. We started in Paris, making our way to the coast, then through Spain, until we finally got to Lisbon and the surrounding towns in Portugal.
Our first day was in Paris. We walked over 15 miles, despite being severely jet lagged and exhausted from our red eye flight. I guess we were just so jazzed to have landed in such an incredible place and wanted to take advantage of every moment we had! We walked along the Seine, through the grounds outside the Louvre, and down a good section of the Jardins des Tuileries. We walked by Notre Dame, through the Latin Quarter, found some Rodin sculptures, Space Invader graffiti, and Jim Morrison's grave.
We stayed at the Auberge de Jeunesse MIJE Fauconnier, a very cool hostel close to Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter. We shared a room with four other girls, two of whom we made good acquaintances with. In the two and a half days we were in Paris, we managed to walk ~36 miles.
Maia and I sampled crepes, gelato, coffee, and croissants. We avoided most long lines and expensive tours, but were still able to see a huge portion of landmarks and historic sites. Below are photos of the places we saw. I tried my best to title each photo with the relevant name and description!
Next we headed to Arles, a small town just south of Avignon, and west, sharing the same coast as Nice. It is most well known for being a place of inspiration for Van Gogh. Many of his most famous paintings were done there, including a cafe, bridges, gardens, etc.
The main village center is small, but dense with shops, cafes, restaurants, museums, squares, gardens, churches, and a couple ruins, and ancient amphitheaters. There is an old city wall, fish and produce markets, and many walking and biking paths around the city and along the Rhône River, whose delta starts in Arles. It is also a point along one of the routes of Camino de Santiago, the widely known pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of in Galicia in northwestern Spain.
We managed to go on several misadventures, from within the village center's many winding alleys and streets, to getting lost in the countryside. Our hostel was sandwiched between the main amphitheater and the 'downtown' strip of restaurants and shops. We shared our third story space with one other girl. Maia experienced her first of many low ceilings, and we both encountered several near death experiences while climbing up and down the tiled spiral stairway. We walked ~24 miles during the two and half days we spent in Arles, then headed to Barcelona, with a quick stop in Nimes.
Arles & Nimes
We got to Barcelona after a long train ride through southern France and eastern Spain. Our hostel was just a block away from Gaudi's Casa Batlló. It was a shared room with 12 other men and women.
We spent two and a half days in Barcelona, exploring the architecture, walking all over the city, through the gothic quarter to the coast, up and down La Ramblas, and over to Sagrada Familia. We walked by all the high end shopping areas, through parks, drank coffee at small cafes, and tried paella and tapas when we could. We shared pitchers of sangria and got our fair share of people watching accomplished while in this super diverse and bustling city. During our stay in Barcelona we clocked ~34 miles.
We experienced being in the city during and just after the terrorist attacks. The city immediately responded by coming together to support one another through this devastating time. It was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever witnessed.
After Barcelona we went to Córdoba for a night, a small city in southern Spain, sitting just between and west of Madrid and Granada. We stayed at a really amazing hostel, the best one so far on our trip, situated in a traditional Spanish style home with a courtyard and Spanish tiles decorating the floors and walls. We got our own room for the night we were there, and were able to catch up on some much needed deep sleep after having to share a room with so many people for several nights prior.
Maia is in school for Middle Eastern studies at Tufts University in Boston, and had studied a mosque in Córdoba that was basically taken over by the Catholic Church. The building is sort of like a nest, the original masque holding inside of it an ornate and dramatic cathedral full of relics and catholic paintings and sculptures. There are still objects, including the architecture, that are clearly Arabic, and related to the original mosque, but the Catholic Church made sure to fill the building as much as they could with catholic influences.
It was between 102℉ and 108℉ while we were in Córdoba. We managed to walk ~7 miles through the heat, ending up at the train station headed to Madrid for our next destination: Portugal.
Unfortunately we missed our overnight train to Lisbon, due to our connecting train to Madrid running late. The train company ended up giving us each a room to ourselves in a super cute hotel in Madrid for the night. We slept in, walked ~6.5 miles around Madrid for the day, explored the botanical gardens and some nearby parks, and then headed to the train station to catch our overnight train to Lisbon.
Córdoba & Madrid
The last leg of our trip was spent in Portugal, with some family friends in Cascais. We explored a bit of Lisbon, Cascais, and Sintra. Maia and I got to hang out at the beach, slept in when we wanted, walked at a regular pace, saw some cool architecture, and hung with some cool people.
The architecture in Portugal was whimsical and ornate, and because they remained a neutral country through WWII, there was no damage to the original buildings. The people were very kind to us and we had amazing baked goods and coffee.
We ended up walking over 145 miles in 16 days, I ate gelato every single day, we saw countless cathedrals, amazing art, met stunning people, tasted incredible food, coffee, and drinks, and experienced landscapes and cities I could never have imagined.
Thanks to everyone who took us in and helped us along the way, especially Terry and Ann, you guys are the best (and thank you for taking photos of us in Portugal)!