It’s been a whirlwind tour of Spain, and, in a way, this coach tour is like the US road trip I’ve always dreamed of taking. Within four days and three nights, I’d been in nine cities. I hope to go back and share some more detailed info on some of the cities, but for now I have some quick facts to share on a couple of these places.
Peñiscola—A little beach town that’s popular with Spaniards going on their vacation. A climb up to the castle which was used in the 1961 film El Cid provides good views of the city and beach, but going inside isn’t quite worth it. You have to look hard for a good place to eat as almost everywhere is one of those touristy places with pictures of food and multilingual menus. It’s an okay stop if you’re driving from Barcelona to Valencia but otherwise just iffy.
Valencia—I loved Valencia and will probably write a post on it at some point later. A lot of sites are uber cheap (1 euro for students). The architecture seems like a hodgepodge of styles, there are many plazas with relaxed and trendy looking restaurants. Valencia’s also known for horchata (with xufa nuts and different from the Latin American version) and paella. The city is also quite modern, showcased by Santiago Calatrava’s Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias.
Guadix—A little town with examples of cave homes you can find in Andalusia. All you really need is five minutes (it’s near a rest stop).
Granada—Another city for another post, Granada is a big hub of the romanticism I studied thanks to its Moorish citadel, the Alhambra. Get a drink (perhaps a tinto de verano—a red wine and seltzer drink with lemon) at El Huerto de Juan Ranas next to the Mirador San Nicolás (which isn’t too crowded in the early evening/late afternoon). Both give you an incredible view. Stopping at the bar/restaurant also lets you relax and sit on a nice couch on their terrace in a quieter setting than the lookout point. Tour the Alhambra but make sure not to miss the city’s impressive Gothic cathedral and the old Moorish section, the Albaicín.
Torremolinos—The first Spanish package deal resort, Torremolinos boasts pretty beaches with chiringuitos (beach snack bars). I went to a Burger King for lunch here to avoid spending more money and more time trying to find a tourist restaurant of questionable quality. At least at BK you “have it your way” and know what you’re going to get. Not to mention the fact that you can be a Mighty Kid.
Málaga—A city on Spain’s Costa del Sol, Málaga has beaches next to high-rises as well as a nice historic area. I bumped into some Spanish girls learning English and they wanted to practice their English with a guiri (English-speaker), so they showed me around their city. For a simple dinner in an unassuming location, try Los Marfiles: good value, Andalusian dishes and tables next to Spaniards eating out. Maybe try fried eggplant with honey (berenjenas fritas con miel) accompanied by an Alhambra beer.
Gibraltar—Gibraltar really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting much except for a rock with tourists and famous monkeys on it, but I was met with a pleasant surprise. There are minibus tours that take you to Europa Point (where you see Morocco, Spain, and the Strait of Gibraltar), St. Michael’s Cave (not worth it—if you go on your own, just skip this), and then back down into town, hopefully seeing a Barbary monkey on the way. They say the day the monkeys leave the rock it will be ceded from the UK to Spain, so Britain takes very good care of the rock’s primate inhabitants. Gibraltar’s downtown has a British feel similar to Bermuda with its shopping drag on Main Street. For a cheap, simple pub lunch head to Star Bar. Note, they use Gibraltarian Pounds here, though they accept Euros as well.