Barcelona >>> Zaragoza >>> Pamplona >>> (Netherlands) Amsterdam
7/9 – Park Güell and Explore Barcelona
7/10 – Explore Barcelona with Alyssa and Josh
7/11 – All Night Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona
7/12 – Running of the Bulls!
713 – Flight to Amsterdam
7/14 – Explore Amsterdam: Van Gogh, Anne Frank, Flower Market
7/15 – Explore Amsterdam: Heineken and Red Light District
Park Güell and Explore Barcelona
+ Although we were really tired, we had planned to meet up with Josh and Alyssa at Park Guell around 10 in the morning. They had tickets but we didn’t, so we tried to get in to buy some only to find they were sold out until later that afternoon. But 80% of the park is free so we just wandered around that for about an hour and a half until we met up with them at noon.
+ We chose to stroll through the city and explore instead of hop on the metro. We stopped for lunch at a little cafe where we got some bocadillos (sandwiches) and they got the same and sampled the obligatory churros and chocolate Spain is known for.
+ After that they led us to a unique bar that mimicked the daily activity of the NY Stock exchange. So when someone ordered a certain drink, that price would go up and other drinks would go down. This made you want to buy the drinks that were “selling low” and avoid the higher priced ones. And every so often, there would be a crash where all the drinks were super cheap for a few minutes before resetting. It was really interesting and we had a fun time with it while we were there.
+ Continuing our walking tour of the city, we came to an outdoor food market situated in giant tents. There was every kind of food you could think of- from fruits and cheeses to seafood and part of animals you didn’t even want to see! Eventually Liz tried some gazpacho, and Josh had some freshly made juice.
+ Corey held out for the good stuff since afterwards we stopped into a brewery where we had lots of samples and drinks. The bartender was extremely nice and kept offering us multiple samples before ordering to ensure we’d like our choice.
+ Hungry again we set off in search of dinner and ended up stopping at a schmancy hotel restaurant. This was a good compromise because while Alyssa and Josh were on vacation and didn’t have set spending limits, we were trying to somewhat stick to our budget, while also realizing we’d go over a bit with our friends and we were ok with that. Liz was more impressed than Corey with our pasta entrees but everyone seemed to enjoy their dinner!
+ While we wandered through the streets looking at the different shops and bars, we grabbed some beers from the mini markets and people-watched everyone who just finished the Barcelona Pride Parade.
+ Eventually, we said goodnight and went back home and did some planning and booked our upcoming flight to Amsterdam!
Explore Barcelona with Alyssa and Josh
+ Slept in and then after the heat woke us up, we did some more research on the interwebs. Next on the agenda was an important what’s app call with the homeowners of the house sit we were trying to do in the UK in a few weeks. After talking for about 20-30 minutes, we got the job and would be watching over their Tonkinese cat and beautiful house for 2 weeks starting the end of July! Hooray!
+ Grabbed subway for lunch on the way to the metro and again relished the only cold air we were likely to feel all day.
+ Alyssa and Josh were on a tour for the first half of today and we were doing our own thing for a bit. So we went up to a labyrinth at a pretty park in the northern part of the city. While the maze wasn’t particularly large or hard to solve, it was fun playing hide and seek and just looking at the gardens.
+ Next we caught a metro back down south to near Josh and Alyssa’s hotel and ate some ice cream along the famous La Rambla street as we waited to meet up.
+ With everyone together again, we all went on an incline rail/funicular up to Montjuic park. Then they took a hanging cable car to the top and we waited for a bus to save some money. After 20 minutes with no bus in sight (supposed to come every 10), we chose to just hike to the top instead. Surprisingly, it only took about 15 minutes instead of the 30 we’d been told.
+ When we all found each other, we explored the Montjuic castle and took pictures of the impressive views of the city. When we finished exploring all 3 levels of the castle, we walked down through the gardens back to the railway and went back into town.
+ Wandered around the different streets and alleys looking for a restaurant, and just when we were starting to give up hope, we found one showing the Euro Cup final that had good food and decent prices. So we stayed there for almost 2 whole hours until the game ended with a 1-0 Portugal victory. Having just visited Portugal, we knew the Lisbon square that broadcasted the games was probably going crazy and wished we could be there to celebrate with them again!
+ Sadly, we now had to say our goodbyes and head separate directions (them to Rome the next day, us to Zaragoza/Pamplona). They were generous enough to agree to take back some heavy items we weren’t using any longer which freed up some space and weight in our bags (and made our backs and muscles happy I’m sure!). After multiple hugs (but still not enough, according to Liz), we caught the metro back to our place and did more planning and packed up our bags before going to sleep super late.
All Night Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona
+ Packed up and checked out by 10 and for once we didn’t have a mad rush to make it in time to our bus/train/plane/ferry. Ate some yummy croissants and donuts from a bakery on a park bench while watching people rush to work or walk their pets (which seemed like a very European thing to do). Jumped on the metro to the bus station and settled in for a trip that would retrace half our path back to Madrid.
+ Rode the bus 4 hours to Zaragoza, then bought tickets for that night to go to Pamplona. Not sure how far it was to walk to the place we’d booked, we rode the city bus to our hostel, Pension Fuentarrabia.
+ Checked in and then went to get lunch. Stopped at the first place that was open and it ended up being perfect. We ate HUGE (about 20 inches) durams (like kebab subs) with fries and a drink for only €6! Completely stuffed, we waddled to the nearby supermarket to get breakfast food, snacks and water for later.
+ Liz then took a shower while Corey set off in search of white clothes for our trip to the Running of the Bulls festival! After an hour he returned from a successful mission with the goods in hand. He’d found them at a little store run by Chinese ladies who didn’t speak a lick of English or Spanish so communication was really hard. But he managed to find white shirts, shorts, and red sashes to compile the typical festival outfit.
+ With only about 2 hours to spare, we did some research for our next 24 hours and the event itself, then Corey took a shower and we headed back to the bus station to catch our bus to Pamplona!
+ Rode 2 hours to Pamplona and tried to sleep as much as possible to be ready for our all night adventure before the San Fermin Festival. When we showed up in town around 11pm, a fireworks display was already beginning so we watched with everyone at the park. We also discovered a surprising revelation- it was cold! Where did this weather come from? We would’ve killed for this in Barcelona and now, only a few hours away, here it was and we didn’t have a single item on us to stay warm. Oh well, we’d have to stay with the crowd and drink beer to stay warm! Lol.
+ After about 20 minutes, we made it to the main square where a concert was going on and got some drinks to walk around with. People were hanging out on the grass and partying everywhere and one of the first things we saw was a group of Aussies dressed up in funny outfits playing cricket in the corner of the square. Drunk people randomly joined in and it was entertaining to watch them swing and miss and just generally not know the rules.
+ After walking through the city for a while longer and getting Liz a hot dog to munch on, we found a band that was getting ready to play in one of the random back alleys and we decided to hang out and watch. To our surprise, when the music started, the crowd broke into synchronized dances! For the next 45 minutes or so, they did a bunch of different dances to all the songs and made us wonder how they knew all these different dance routines! It was really fun ended up being our favorite part of the night!
+ Over the next few hours, we ate some pizza, drank some more beers, marched along with some other bands through the streets, and used the free Burger King bathroom multiple times. Then around 4 am the cold and sleepiness started to take over and we retreated to the parking garage to keep warm. Although we’d wanted to stay up all night, we had gotten almost no sleep the night before and that combined with the freezing cold outside made us decide resting up for the run was the best idea.
+ The parking garage was warm, but extremely dirty and uncomfortable and we were forced to move once by the night guards but did eventually catch a couple hours of shut eye before it was time to go. Obviously not our most glamorous evening, but oh well.
Running of the Bulls!
+ Still very tired, we relied on pure adrenaline to get us going in the morning and head back out into the cold as we hurriedly walked to the stadium.
+ First we bought 2 tickets for entry into the Bull ring (even though Corey was going to run, we didn’t know if he’d get into the ring with the bulls or not). Then he dropped off Liz to find a seat inside and he went to line up on the route the bulls would run. The 8 am start would soon be here!
+ Liz watched a bunch of pre-run events inside the stadium such as a band, a slack liner, and eventually the whole run on the big screen. Corey talked with an older American who had done this run 17 times before! He gave him some good advice and although Corey tried his best to follow it, when those bulls got close, he couldn’t hold his antsy legs still any longer and took off running.
+ Before he even knew what happened, the bulls had already run past him and he hadn’t even gotten to see them next to him or experience running with them. He’d been situated at one of the narrowest parts on the course and this had the reverse effect of not many people in front to slow the bulls down and they just blew right on by. Not knowing what to do next and still wanting to make it to the ring before they closed the doors, he continued to jog to the stadium and made it inside. Then he discovered there was a second group of (slightly smaller and slower) bulls that were let out a little bit later and if he’d waited another minute or 2, he could’ve run with them! So that sucked.
+ The only saving grace was that in the ring, he discovered they would let out a young bull one at a time (with buds covering the horn tips) and they’d run around trying to get everyone. These ones were really fast and Corey managed not to get hit or trampled over, but he did get close enough to touch the bull one time.
+ The riskiest thing he did all morning was lay down in front of where the bull would come running out. About 8-10 people would lay down head first towards the charging bull as he came out of the tunnel and before the bull entered the ring, he’d leap over the people! Corey made sure to get a bottom position to minimize the chance he’d be hit in the head by a hoof or something. It was quite the thrill rush to see the bull charge and leap over us, and then to dodge it in the ring!
+ After 5 different bulls had run themselves to exhaustion and returned back down the tunnel, the morning festival ended and everyone exited the ring.
+ With 4 hours to kill until our return bus ride to Zaragoza, we found a cafe and had some breakfast and used the internet for a while. Then we walked around the city a bit more and took pictures at the popular bull running statue. Finally we boarded the bus and pretty much immediately fell asleep for the entire 2 hour ride.
+ Back in town we bought our bus tickets for the next day to Madrid then walked back to our hostel and scarfed down the pastries we’d bought the day before. Then after some much needed showers to wash off dirt and parking garage grime, we took a wonderful nap!
+ Around 9pm we forced ourselves to wake up and head out to go get dinner. We stopped at the grocery store first for some more items (including some sangria and beer) and when we went to check out, we were told you couldn’t buy alcohol after 10pm (it was 10:04). The store was closing and we had gotten in line at 10, but now couldn’t buy it, what a stupid rule!
+ The restaurant right next door was our choice for dinner and we split a few tapas and a weird burger. Then it was back to our room where we turned our sink into an ice cooler for the drinks we needed to drink before our flight and proceeded to do some work online. We managed to book some upcoming accommodation and plan out our Amsterdam itinerary before falling asleep.
Flight to Amsterdam
+ Today we were officially leaving Spain after spending a total of over 3 weeks in the country! (split in 2 parts with Morocco in the middle) So we packed up and quickly walked to the bus station and rode the 4 hours directly to the Madrid airport. Along the way, we even used the rare wifi to be productive instead of sleep!
+ With almost 4 hours left until the plane departed, we hung out at the airport and did some work before we headed to our 3rd European country: The Netherlands!
+ Before boarding we grabbed some “Linner” at McDonald’s and then boarded the plane. The weird thing was, nobody ever checked our passports or that our names even matched the boarding passes! Crazy!
+ On the plane, Liz read her book, “The Poisonwood Bible” and Corey watched Spectre.
+ Once we landed we had a 30 minute wait before we could get off the plane (which half the people felt the need to stand up the entire time for some reason), but we eventually got off.
+ Figuring out the train/tram/bus info to get to our hotel was tricky. In the end it costs us €10 and nobody even made us scan our tickets or checked them! We could’ve just saved the money and rode for free! (We were later told this is definitely not normal and we were just lucky).
+ The walk to the hotel was quick but before we did that we were both starving for dinner and we ate at a place called Smullers where you could get your food from a giant vending machine type thing. How interesting!
+ Since everything was so expensive in Amsterdam and the cheapest we would’ve been able to get would’ve been €70/night for 2 crappy dorm beds, we splurged and used some of our credit points to book a room at Teleport Hotel Amsterdam. We were happy we did because it was nice and big with a super comfortable bed, a kitchenette and comfy chairs too!
Explore Amsterdam: Van Gogh, Anne Frank, Flower Market
+ We had booked tickets for the famous Van Gogh Museum today at 11, which meant waking up earlier than we wanted to. But with only 3 days to explore the city, we knew we had to make the most of our time. So we bought an all-access transportation card and caught a tram across town to the museum.
+ For the next 3 hours we meandered through the museum learning about the colorful history of Van Gogh and what inspired his different works. Liz enjoyed the visit and layout much more than Corey, who thought it was one of the most boring museums he’d ever been to.
+ Liz had seen a delicious looking picture of a specialty pastry dish here in The Netherlands called poffertjes that looked too tempting to pass up. So we headed to that restaurant and ordered one to split between us. It was like a bunch of small fluffy pancakes with powdered sugar, syrup, and strawberries piled on top and it was very yummy!
+ Although it was delightful, we weren’t full so later we stopped at a restaurant chain we’d seen called Wok the Walk that served Asian stir fry. That proved to be delicious as well and we were glad to finally try it.
+ The next stop on our Amsterdam tour was the floating flower market. Liz especially had been looking forward to it and although it was very nice, it wasn’t what we had pictured. It might have been due to it being the off season, but there weren’t a ton of flowers blooming (mostly fake ones or bulbs and seeds to could buy) and it wasn’t exactly floating. Still, it was nice and we saw a ton of really unique types of flowers in bulb form.
+ After that we walked through the canal zone to see the city and historic buildings. We also stopped in a few different Amsterdam specialty shops like “cafe” shops and cheese markets. We even found ourselves wandering through the infamous red light district at one point, though it was way too early in the day for any crazy stuff to be going on.
+ After grabbing some drinks from the supermarket, we headed to the Anne Frank House where she had famously hid out with her family and written her diary so many years ago. Unfortunately online tickets had sold out long before we even knew we were coming here and so we were forced to stand in the general admission line which stretched around the block (and the next block!). The weather was much colder than anywhere we’d been since the mountains of Peru and we almost froze our butts off waiting for the 90+ minutes it took before we managed to get in!
+ The historic house was much more informative and interesting than either of us thought it would be. The set up was really well done with lots of pictures, videos, and interviews from people close to the situation themselves reporting on what life was like before, during, and after the horrible events took place. The only downside was it was so crowded you just felt like you were in a queue the whole time as you shuffled forward inches at a time.
+ When we exited it was almost dark and even colder than before we went in. We wanted some drinks and food for back in the room so we found a supermarket nearby and grabbed some stuff and then caught 2 different trams back to the station next to our hotel. We saw a restaurant that looked appealing enough and grabbed a pizza doner, kebab, and fries for back in the room. Then we walked back and relaxed into our comfy chairs.
+ After we scarfed down our food, we used the internet and drank some local Dutch beers while watching TV until the sleepiness took over.
Explore Amsterdam: Heineken and Red Light District
+ With this being our only day to sleep in for a while, we took advantage of our lush hotel room and comfy beds until well past noon! Then we had brunch, printed some stuff at the hotel reception and caught a metro into town.
+ The cheapest option to visit our upcoming attractions was to buy a bundle of the tickets from a tourist shop so we did so on our way to The Heineken Brewery. This was one of the most popular places in town because it was so interactive and you had the chance to “become a beer”. That’s where they shook you up, subjected you to heat, sprayed you with water, and bottled you!
+ The Heineken Experience turned out to be a fun event and we got 2 free beers each at the end, including a new beer they were releasing soon with wild yeast from the Patagonia area! We each much preferred the new beer over the traditional Heineken beer. The most interesting part of the whole tour was seeing how well they marketed their brand. It almost bordered on brain washing.
+ When we finished that we got some dutch fries (loaded with joppie sauce and samurai sauce) and relaxed in the square for a bit then walked over to the red light district. Here, they had a museum about the history of the red light district. We visited that for a while and learned about what life is like for the girls and working in the windows.
+ Hungry again when we exited, we grabbed some pizza and McDonald’s before finding our way to the central station to catch a night bus back to our side of town.