A year ago I was in Europe and lately I’ve been thinking over some of the places that were the most memorable from that trip. If you read my travelogue posts from back then you already know the details of each place I visited, but I thought I’d do a series of short writing pieces over the next three or so weeks where I give my thoughts on particular cities or regions as a whole. I’m not going to talk about every location; just the ones that have been on my mind. The order that I write about them will be in the approximate chronological order of when I visited and each writing piece will feature two locations with a photo from the trip to accompany each of them. As a bonus, at the end of each writing piece I’ll note where I was, one year ago that day.
Today is the final entry in the series. Like the 2015 Europe trip, this journey must too come to an end.
Strikingly beautiful but inconveniently located, San Sebastian might be my favorite place in Spain. Thanks to its location in northern Spain, San Sebastian isn’t connected to the country’s high-speed rail lines, but making the journey is worth the time. You’ll find no cruise ships and hardly any big bus tour groups out there, mainly because there’s not much sightseeing to do outside the small old city and the fort on the hill above it. What you will find, however, is a place where stress disappears in the gentle tides lapping up against one of Europe’s most scenic beaches. During the summer San Sebastian is something of a resort town, but the rest of the year it doesn’t get a lot of visitors. I was there at the start of November, but I had extremely fortuitous timing in that I was there during a brief heat wave that brought temperatures up to closer to what the town gets in August. Walking the boardwalk, watching the surfers, and breathing in the salt air reminded me a lot of my native San Diego, and any city that induces nostalgia earns bonus points in my book. When you come to San Sebastian take a walk to the shore, forget your plans, lie down on the beach, and let the world pass you by.
The heart of Catalonia just might be Spain’s most lively city, and from my experience it is Spain’s most popular tourist destination too. Similar to how everything in Madrid seems to radiate out from Puerto del Sol, everything in Barcelona seems to emanate from Placa de Catalunya. The famous Las Ramblas road leads from there down to the harbor, along which you’ll see a myriad of street performers, shops, restaurants, and all number of things trying to grab some money from the tourist horde. It’s sort of like the Champs Elysees in Paris, but smaller and not quite as classy. Veering off the Ramblas, you can enter Bari Gotic, with its narrow, winding streets and Barcelona’s oldest buildings. There’s tons of sightseeing to do in Bari Gotic and the other parts of the city, but one of the things I like to do most when in Barcelona is ride the gondola up to the top of Mont Juic to view the whole city and gain some perspective. The landscape of Barcelona reminds me of Los Angeles, with a sprawling city by the sea enclosed by hills. Rising like a spike out of the city is the unfinished Sagrada Familia church. Sagrada Familia is the most unique large church I’ve seen in Europe, and I look forward to the day when construction is finally done. Between now and then I hope to return to Barcelona a few more times, and I suspect that each time I will discover something new about it. Barcelona is not a city you can exhaust in a single visit.
On this day, one year ago, I was back in Madrid for the second time on the 2015 journey. In the morning I happened to come across a very long train of sheep that were passing through central Madrid as part of some sort of agricultural festival. During the rest of the day I visited a few museums and I also got some tasty sandwiches from a place called Museo de Jamon.