The Easter Break at the end of March was fast approaching which means a long weekend for us. So were up looking for next destination on our very long bucket list. A lovely friend of ours recommended Barcelona and my hubby went into…..Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara mode…so decided SPAIN was the destination….the road trip was on mind.
We booked our tickets – flying in Barcelona and out of Malaga, one was north and the other was south(P.S. – that was the cheapest combination available) and then comes the difficult part planning the 7N8D itinerary. I looked at the map of Spain again and again, checking the distance between various cities on Google Maps before finalising the two other cities as our base.
It would be wrong if I would say that I was equally excited as my husband for the trip. I did not have high expectations from Spain and besides was very skeptical about the long drive involved (I even checked the trains between all the destinations but found them rather more expensive and not saving much time). But my darling husband convinced me somehow. And I have to say this, after actually taking this trip I really need to thank him for that. It turned out to be the most astounding trip for us so far and the best part of it was the ROAD TRIP.
Car Hire – We hired Opel Mokka from Enterprise – Barcelona.
So we finalised the itinerary as:
Day 1 & 2 – Barcelona
The first stop was Barcelona or should I call it ‘Gaudi’s Barcelona’. This city took me by surprise because of the impressive and innovative architecture by Antoni Gaudi. It was such an overwhelming experience which is difficult to put in words. We spent two lovely days exploring the city. I will soon share my experience of Barcelona in the next blog.
Day 3 – Let’s go on a Road Trip: Barcelona to Valencia
It was finally the day. What a lovely morning it was! My husband left to get the car while we stayed back at the apartment to do the final packing. We have booked manual but as was unavailable got free upgrade to automatic. As my darling hubby was the one driving he mentioned it was a blessing in disguise.
We finally left at about midday for our next destination i.e. VALENCIA
It usually takes only about 3.5 hours (350 Km approx) from Barcelona to Valencia if you take the toll road(Toll- €38.90) but if you want to avoid that it will take at least 1.5 hours more. We choose the toll road as wanted to reach in time – so with an hour-long stopover it took us about 4.5 hours. We stopped at a service station which also had a children play area….now you know why it took us so long. And about the drive, it was absolutely beautiful and you know what the amazing part was….the scenic & serene seaside drive.
We reached Valencia by the evening. As days were long, we decided to explore the nearby 9km long stretch of beautiful lush green Turia Gardens and returned back when it started to turn dark.(Of course we couldn’t cover the whole 9 km of it…hehehe)
Day 4 – Valencia
From Ancient Historic Center to Futuristic Pla del Real district
We had not planned anything specific for the day. We just left the car in the parking near our AirBnB aparment and bought ourselves the 24hr Tourist Card and decided to start with the historical center of the city and ended the day with visit to Pla del Real district. We couldn’t stop gushing enough about the quirky ancient architecture of Barcelona and then there was Valencia which astonished us with not only its modern but futuristic architecture. It is recommended to explore the city using public transport as you don’t have to worry about parking all the time and besides the public transport was actually very convenient way. We had an amazing day exploring the every bit of city from ancient to futuristic.
Day 5 – Valencia to Cordoba
We had a late start on this day as day 4 was quite tiring. After having late breakfast we were all ready for our trip to discover the Southern Spain – Andalucia, an autonomous community. And our very first stop was Cordoba where we had rented a very spacious apartment with private pool for 3 nights(P.S.- We couldn’t use the pool as it was cold). It was such an amazing drive. We realised the inland is even more scenic and stunning than the sea-side drive. As much as beautiful the drive was for us, it was very difficult to keep our little one in the car seat all the time, I think it was specifically the last two hours which were difficult. We had to finally go for the last resort(check the travel tips to find about it). So in all it was about 6 hours (550 Km approx) long drive with at least two stopovers.
Being already late, our plan to explore the city was postponed for a day. We decided to head straight to our apartment where we were greeted by very lovely host who showed us around the house. They had 3 dogs which scared my daughter a bit earlier but she was friends in the end. She even cried to take one of them home. The apartment was a bit in outskirts in a village La Carlota about 20 mins drive from city center.
Day 6 – Cordoba
There were chickens on the property which means fresh eggs. Our host had already stored some for us in the fridge. My daughter was just loving the whole experience – the spacious property, pool, chickens and of course dogs.
After delicious breakfast we set out for the city Cordoba. Oh! if you remember I mentioned it was around Easter when we planned this trip. We were not aware that it is celebrated as Holy week with processions every day (usually during the evening) in Andalucia. This festival attracts a lot of tourist and thus was the busiest time of the year.
So after about 20-25 mins (25 Km approx) drive we were in the Cordoba city. We parked our car at Parking La Mezquita which as the name suggests is near the famous Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. The city had very intriguing history, specially the Mosque-Cathedral. The preparation for a late evening procession was in full swing. But we returned early as the car was parked in the city center and didn’t want to be stuck in the procession with a tired toddler.
Day 7 – Day trip to Seville
I was so looking forward to the road trip today as heard a lot about the beauty of Seville. We got up in time and were ready to leave at about 10.00 am. So after a lovely one hour (100 Km approx) drive we were in Seville looking for a parking spot. We again preferred to park at one place and then explore the city on foot as all the major attractions were near each other.
Seville is famous for holding the most glamourous celebration during Holy week. So expect it to be extremely crowded during the holy processions with restricted and blocked entries on many streets.
We had such a great time visiting the royal palace – The Alcázar of Seville, watching the processions, exploring the city on horse carriage and of course enjoying the very famous Flamenco dance.
Day 8 – Cordoba to Malaga through Seville
It was the last day of the trip. We had plans of leaving early to spend few hours exploring Malaga but we loved Seville so much that decided to spend some more time there before heading straight to Malaga Airport. So after a good chat with our lovely host and consoling our daughter who wanted to take one of the dogs home we bid farewell to Cordoba.
We spend memorable time in Seville visiting The Cathedral and absolute gorgeous Plaza de Espana. We wish could spend some more time but had to reach Malaga in time.
We started out at about 6pm and reached around 9pm just in time before the Enterprise office closes. The journey to Malaga was an absolute pleasant surprise. We were not aware that Malaga is actually located at the foot of a mountain range. So this part of the trip was a feast to eyes, we just did not want the journey to end.
After covering nearly 1570 Km exploring five cities in 8 days I have to say I am in love with Spain and can’t wait to come back someday to explore more. The invariably stunning drive – seaside to amazing lush green inland to through the mountain ranges, the distinguished culture & traditions and most of all the majestic architecture has completely changed my opinion about Spain. Every region, every city had something different and unique to offer.
I believe the following quote sums it all.
“The Road is there, it will always be there. You just have to decide when to take it.“
Time for some travel tips:
- Car Hire – Without a doubt Sixt or Hertz are one of the best companies to hire car from but of course most expensive as well. Enterprise offers mid-range deals and then there are low-budget companies like Budget, Goldcar, etc(I haven’t heard good reviews about them so decided to avoid them)
- Here the best tip is no matter where you hire the car from always buy full cover with it – roadside assistance, tyre windshield & theft protection, etc.
- We prefer zero excess as well for that extra piece of mind.
- Driving on Right – I know this is very obvious. But for those who are used to driving on left side of road like us it will take only about an hour or so to get used to driving on right but if you are still unsure go for automatic.
- Spanish Motorways – There are broadly two types:
- Autopistas – Toll motorways designated by letters AP like AP7(Barcelona to Valencia).
- Autovias – Free motorways designated by letter A like A66.
- Service Stations between Valencia and Cordoba- We did not came across any service station which had lots of food options. So it is suggested to pack a picnic basket which you can relish whenever you stopover.
- Gas Stations – There are many self-service as well as manned stations. Petrol is referred as Gasolina and Diesel as Gasoil and without a doubt the ones at the highways are more expensive than in the city. So better fuel up when in the city.
- Road Trip with toddler – Be extra prepared to keep them busy
- Games you can play to keep them busy
- I spy – We would just say – I Spy with our eyes something Green and she would look around to see what we are talking about.
- Count – Asking the little ones to count the specific colour cars
- Singing – Of course there are these rhymes which you can always sing together
- Ipad – Even though we don’t prefer but this is our last resort. We had Amazon Prime subscription so had downloaded few of her favorite shows from Amazon Prime Videos to watch them offline.
- Snack box – This is another important part. Always carry their favorite snacks but the ones which they can easily eat themselves without any mess(whom am I kidding…kids and mess go hand in hand….I mean less messy)
- Nappies and wipes – Even if your kid is toilet trained these can come in real handy with young ones because sometimes you are literally in middle of nowhere.
- Games you can play to keep them busy
I will soon share my experience in different cities of Spain in my upcoming blogs till then keep making memories, go on that road trip you have been longing for.