Where to go on holiday for 18 days in August without spending your life saving? Me and my boyfriend Seb chose Spain for holiday this year! Both of us adore visiting new places , in addition to lying on the seashore, so we decided to go by car in order to see as many cities as possible.
Starting from Milan, we chose the stop-overs in order to not to drive more than 5/6 hours for leg: Google MyMaps has been fundamental and very useful to organize all the journey and this is the final map of our road trip:
Period: 1st-18th August 2016, departure from Milan. 3000 miles to do!
Total costs: around 1,500 € per person, including hotels, car expenses, dining out for lunch and dinner, and shopping!
Stopovers + hotel (to book hotels we used Booking with free cancellation until a few days before departure and payment directly in the hotel):
- ARLES 1 night Hotel Le Belvedere
- FIGUERES 1 night Hotel Plaza Inn (We didn’t included Barcelona because both of us had already seen it, but if you’ve never been there, you should definitely put Barcelona instead of Figueres in your itinerary and stay there at least 2/3 days)
- VALENCIA 3 nights Hotel NH Valencia Las Ciencias
- ALMERIA 2 nights Hotel Torreluz Senior
- ALGECIRAS 2 nights (we chose it to visit Gibraltar and Tarifa) Hotel Mirador [this was the plan, but we decided not to go to Gibraltar in order to do one afternoon at the beach more in Tarifa]
- SEVILLE 2 nights La Casa del Maestro Boutique
- MADRID 2 nights Hotel Mediodia
- BILBAO 2 nights Hotel Sercotel Gran Bilbao
- TOULOUSE 1 night Residence Adagio Access Toulouse Jolimont
- AIX-EN-PROVENCE 1 night Hotel Campanile Aix en Provence Ouest Jas-De-Bouffan
To choose the hotels, we have selected two basic filters: air conditioning ( because the temperature in Spain in August rises over 104°F) and parking (because I read in various guidebooks that in Spanish cities the parking areas often have a maximum stay allowed of only two hours!)
Comida. This probably is the word that best embodies our trip: food! As well as exploring the beautiful and quaint Spanish cities, we made a food culture among Galician octopus (pulpo a la Gallega), cod cooked in every way, tapas and pintxos (that are the same thing), paellas and fideuà (a paella with pasta, not rice). Fortunately we were able to avoid gaining weight since every day we walked for 15 miles! But let’s start from the beginning that is exactly 3000 miles ago.
1st stopover ∼ ARLES
We arrived in Arles in the afternoon and, after leaving luggage at the hotel, we immediately began to wander the narrow streets of the center. I don’t recommend this hotel for more than one night, it is centrally located, but the room was very small, the air conditioning was shot on the face and turning it off you had to open the window that overlooked a noisy square = we didn’t sleep at all. Arles is very pretty, you can quickly visit it in a day and it seems much more Spanish than French despite the location. In fact, in the center there is a bullfighting arena and in the restaurants you can eat the flesh of the bull! We chose to break up the journey towards Spain in this town because, as a graduate in art history, I could not miss the places painted by Van Gogh: there is an itinerary to follow to see all views protagonists of his paintings.
2nd stopover ∼ FIGUERES
To see something extravagant, eccentric, upset and outrageous, in a word, something surreal, what could we choose if not the birthplace of Salvador Dalí?! From the moment we arrived at the hotel we quickly realized that the surreal atmosphere went far beyond the walls of the famous Dalí Museum, in fact our hotel was perhaps the strangest ever seen! Anyway perfect and comfortable hotel for visiting the city, it also has a terrace from which you can admire the view of the museum.
Having only one afternoon to visit all, we went first to the museum [here all the practical info]. The museum stands on the ruins of the city theater, which was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War: the mayor of Figueres and Dalí decided to rebuild it with the function of museum dedicated to the most famous citizen of the city. Already from the outside you can imagine that this museum is unlike any other seen before:
In the evening we finally ate tapas! We chose Tony ‘s Bar in the square near the museum and we remained very satisfied:
3rd stopover ∼ VALENCIA
The next morning we left Figueres in direction to Valencia, where finally we would have stayed for 3 nights! NH hotels are always fantastic and the ours was just opposite the City of Arts and Sciences, so the first day we took the opportunity to go to the Oceanographic, the largest marine park in Europe [here all the practical info]. The spectacular transparent tunnel lets directly go through the shark tank!
On the second day in Valencia we decided to give ourselves a little well-deserved relaxing on the beach in Valencia (Playa de la Malvarrosa) and for lunch, running away from the tourist restaurants along the beach, thanks to Tripadvisor we found a really unique place: the Bodega La Pascuala, where we ate a mega sandwich spending very little! In the evening we saw the old town and we ate the fideuà (if you go to Valencia you must eat his traditional dish that is the paella).
On the third day, unfortunately, we had to visit the old town under the rain taking refuge occasionally in the fantastic Central Market, among hams, scents and colors (like fuchsia fruits in the picture that are called pitaya or dragon fruits). In the afternoon the sun came out and we went to the Bioparc (it’s very nice because the animals are much freer than in a normal zoo).
4th stopover ∼ ALMERIA
Almeria is very pretty, is a typical village on the sea, we have chosen it as a stopover because we had seen on the web photos of a heavenly beach called Playa de los Muertos, a few km away from there. Unfortunately the beach wasn’t so idyllic: we arrived on a Sunday so it was very full of people, furthermore you needed to do 20 minutes of a steep hike in the midst of the stones to get there (you should bring sneakers) and to make matters worse the waves were so high as to be impossible to swim. Surely going out of season will give a completely different impression, so if you want to see this beach, avoid going there in August!
5th stopover ∼ TARIFA
I will start by saying that we wanted to take the hotel directly in Tarifa, but the prices were high and we opted for Algeciras half an hour away. On the way from Almeria to Algeciras we made a stop in Benalmádena to visit the Castillo de Colomares, but unfortunately we arrived at 1.30pm and it was closing and would reopen at 5pm! So we had to settle to take a picture from outside:
The hotel in Algeciras I think was the worst of the whole holiday, the room was large, but the cleanliness left much to be desired, furthermore on Booking there was written that every room had a nice balcony with sea view, however some rooms (like obviously our) faced the street. The first day we arrived in the afternoon and the choice was between going to Gibraltar or do an afternoon more of sea in Tarifa . We chose Tarifa, but that afternoon the wind was so strong that I could not stand up and the sand hurt us, even there was no one doing kitesurf because of too powerful gusts. We took the opportunity to buy souvenirs and take a tour in the old city, really beautiful. The night we ate meat at the restaurant Vaca loca in the old center, a bit expensive but very good.
The second day fortunately the wind was more clement and we had a day at the beach in Playa de los Lances visiting two chiringuiti : a sandwich for lunch at Chiringuito Agua and late afternoon for a drink at Chiringuito Carbones 13. The beach was spectacular, very long, with few people sunning and a lot kitesurfing. The night we ate the most delicious tapas of the whole holiday around Spain at La Burla, especially the cod with tomato and olives was great, we would come back in Tarifa just to eat there again!
6th stopover ∼ SEVILLE
We agree in saying that Seville was the most beautiful city of the whole trip, despite the heat shocking, although there wasn’t the sea, we left there our hearts. We loved everything , from the hotel very characteristic since it was the home of a flamenco teacher. We wandered around without a map through the alleys of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, we sweated, we visited Plaza de España ( one of the most beautiful squares we’ve ever seen ), we sweated, we went on the Metropol Parasol, more commonly known as Las Setas (ie mushrooms), which is the largest wooden structure in the world from which you can see the panorama of Seville from above and we really sweated a lot!! We couldn’t see the cathedral for too much queue and we were about to miss even the Alcázar, but, going one hour before closing time, we were able to get inside and we ran to admire it as much as possible (recommend buying tickets online to avoid the long queues under the sun). Little curiosity: in the fifth season of Game of Thrones, Seville is Dorne and the Alcázar, with its fantastic gardens, represents the Martell Palace.
7th stopover ∼ MADRID
Perhaps we were wrong to visit a city like Madrid after Seville, unfortunately we both lived Madrid negatively. The first impression was that of a city just like Milan, the hotel was in the center, very comfortable and beautiful, but there was written “parking nearby” on Booking without specifying that was the station parking that cost more than 37 euro a day so we threw € 75 only to leave there our car for two nights. We were a short walk from the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia, we visited both, but after being in the Louvre in Paris probably we had high expectations and we didn’t like them so much; you can not even take pictures inside these museums, thing that instead in the Louvre you can do. Instead the tour of the Real Madrid Stadium, the Santiago Bernabéu, goes in favour of Madrid, it is a bit expensive, but it’s worth doing it both if you are football fans or a girlfriend in love willing to accompany your him through trophies and changing rooms! Another thing that we liked in Madrid is the Retiro Park with inside the beautiful Crystal Palace, home of free exhibitions of contemporary art.
8th stopover ∼ BILBAO
Bilbao immediately gave us the impression of a country of the comics, in fact we called it Mouseton, because the bus was called Bilbobus, the ATM Bilbocash, the bike rental Bilbobike, a square was called Biribila and so on! Upon arriving we went to see the famous Guggenheim Museum, really beautiful even if you are not an art lover. Already outside there are magnificent works such as the famous Puppy by Jeff Koons and the giant spider Maman by Louise Bourgeois. [Here the practical info]
The second day was August 15th and we went to the beach in San Sebastián… never choice was more wrong than this! We had seen pictures of the beautiful bay of San Sebastian and when we arrived it was so packed with people that we couldn’t find a hole to lie down!
9th and 10th stopovers ∼ TOULOUSE & AIX-EN-PROVENCE
About Toulouse I have nothing to say, the hours of car began to make itself felt, and after having bought something for dinner at a Carrefour supermarket in front of our apartment we haven’t moved from there. The next day however we visited Aix-en-provence which was very pretty and the scent of lavender has been with us throughout the tour in the city streets!
This was our trip, tiring, but unique! We saw lots of new places, tasted the most different foods and already can’t wait to leave again for a new adventure! Let us know with a comment if you’re planning a trip like this or if you have already made one in another state!
Here the video of our trip (in italian):