Summer Nights in Spain & Portugal: Candidate Blog

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Lily A., blogger and intern in Barcelona shares a few travel stories around Spain! As Lily continues her internship in Barcelona, she’s settling in, and loving what the newly-awakened city has to offer. 

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Lily A., 2021 Journalism Intern in Barcelona, Spain. 

My feet haven’t touched the floor since my last blog. The weeks have flown by, quite literally, with weekend trips across the peninsula and the easing of restrictions in Barcelona. I moved flats with the help of my new friend, the metro- which is certainly not constructed with heavy suitcases in mind-, and have now become heavily invested in the outcome of the Euros with far greater enthusiasm than I’ve ever expressed for England’s football team before; perhaps it’s the homesickness talking.

Valencia was my first destination outside of Barcelona, famous for its local delicacies of paella and xorcata. After a four-hour train journey between the two major cities on Spain’s north-eastern coast, we walked straight into the 150-year-old Bullring that has had a key role in the city’s history. Our hostel, although not the most comfortable of stays, was centrally located and a sufficient shelter that rainy weekend. Despite the weather, we got to see most of the old city as well as the Botanical Gardens, the City of Arts and Sciences and the beach. Although Valencia still had a curfew, we visited some great bars; our favourite was definitely Apotheke, a speakeasy-style establishment, that served their take on afternoon tea (obviously a winner).

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Mallorca required an antigen test, taken in time for an early Friday morning flight. We spent most of the day shaking off our tiredness by exploring Palma city. With its grand cathedral looming over the port and collection of museums and churches, there was lots to see. The Arabic Baths were also a treat, both an oasis in the bustling city and a chance to learn about the Muslim occupation of Mallorca centuries ago. On the recommendation that restaurants with names including ‘Celler’ would offer typical dishes, we dropped into a side-street to grab a ‘menu del dia’ lunch- one of the cheapest ways to have a full authentic meal. 

Once we’d had our fill of Mallorcan culture, we caught the bus to our apartment in Palmanova. The seaside town is on the main strip frequented by hordes of Brits in normal years, where we have made a name for ourselves as disrespectful drunks and degenerates. I bought vintage clothes from Salvation Army, a well-known thrift shop in the UK, and gorged on a classic English breakfast the following morning; on both occasions, stilted Spanish soon revealed the proprietors to be British settlers. However, although I could definitely feel the British influence on the town, its sleepiness prevented it from becoming overwhelming.

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Weekend trip to the Balearic islands – Mallorca, Spain. 

On our last day, we took a trip to Alcudia. This beautiful town lies on the other side of the island, and on Sundays hosts a market that covers its streets with white tents and sells classic Mallorcan leather and pearls. The beach is long with clear water revealing thriving mackerel and jellyfish, a bittersweet positive outcome of the loss of tourism last year.

The following weekend was spent in Porto, Portugal. Despite initially feeling smug about the open border (something lost the week before for my British acquaintances), the price of PCR tests brought me back down to earth. However, the prettiness of Porto soon made up for it. There are so many ornately painted churches, bright murals, and cobbled streets to explore on both slopes of the river. I didn’t have an appetite for the francesinhas, a stack of meat, cheese, bread and fried egg on a bed of fries so stuck to trying out new ice creams flavours and the iconic pastel de nata. The highlight of the weekend was definitely watching the sunset from the bridge. The whole city lit up with pink hues and bright lights while flocks of birds swooped overhead. We spent nearly an hour under the thundering sky, taking in the view.

Exploring Portugal during the weekend!

After three packed weekends away, I’m very happy to settle down in Barcelona especially with the opening of nightclubs next week. My new apartment in Gracia is in prime location to explore new restaurants and bars, and I’m expecting to spend lots of afternoons down at Barceloneta beach as it gets hotter. The city is alive with the European cup, instigating old rivalries and uniting new friends. I spent Saturday evening on a boat party, organised by Stoke Travel, returning home on the back of a YEGO moped. I feel like I’m finally going to see Barcelona for the party capital that it is known for, and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. 

-Lily Alford

2021 Journalism Intern in Barcelona, Spain

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