When I think back on my time in Spain, perhaps one of the things that sticks out is its various vibes and landscapes. Take, for instance, Valencia, where I stayed. Situated on the east coast and not quite in southern or northern Spain, you’re tempted to call it a beach town. The funny thing is Valencians don’t make a ton of use of its beach unless it’s summer time. When we first arrived a native told us, “After August we forget we have a beach!”
This proved to be pretty true for me as well; my house was a 15 minute run to the Malvarrosa (although typically I biked there), yet I probably only went once or twice a month despite the awesome weather in Valencia (it almost never rains). If you go a little further north to Barcelona, you’ll still be on the coast, but the energy and pace there are different. While Valencia is the third largest city in the country, it is very laid back. There’s plenty to do, but it doesn’t have a major city feel, and that combination appealed to me. Barcelona on the other hand has lots of people everywhere and more of a chic, international feel to it. Also, their beach is all about the night life – open air clubs abound.
The capitol, Madrid, is huge in comparison to the other two – smaller than New Orleans but with more than 3 times the population. That was the first city we visited, and it’s a miracle we didn’t get (more) lost. Granada in the south had the Sierra Nevada mountains and was really unique; everywhere you look there you can see influences from Morocco and other North African cultures, from the amazing Alhambra to the hookah bars to the tapas (little plates of often free food you get when you order a drink).
The influence of the Moors from Africa has never left and is unlikely to ever do so. Lastly there is Toledo, which is like going back in time. It’s tiny and there are buildings there still standing from the 13th century. It’s amazing that a country the size of Texas has so much variation in the identities of its cities. I plan on going back soon for more.