London, UK – Madrid – Sevilla, Spain – Porto, Portugal – 2019 – Day 4-6

09/14/19

Madrid – Sevilla, Spain

We had an early morning flight from Madrid to Sevilla via Ryanair.

We arrived to the lovely temperature of 27°C – full of sun for the most part but also a little bit of sunny showers. From the airport, we took the bus into town for 4€ to the very last stop – Plaza de Armas. Started off walking over to Triana Bridge and Triana Market where we grabbed pastries and 2€ fruit platters.

We went to Edificio de La Adriática, checked out the outside of Catedral de Sevilla (line was way to long too go in) and Calle Sierpes – cute little shopping Street. We continued to Plaza de España where they have live flamenco dancing on the main steps. The place is massive and a mix of beautiful tiles with a giant fountain in the middle.

We stopped for a late lunch at Berrinche where we ate fried swordfish strips, pork cheek with truffled potatoes and mixed fried veggies.

After lunch, we decided to check out Torre del Oro (not worth the 3€ to go up). We then went across to Plaza de Toros & Museo Taurino but they also had a line and we didn’t want to spend 8€ each. We wanted to rent bikes or scooters but ended up walking by the river and watching a video production being filmed with flamenco dancers. We continued our walk north alongside the river and right by the bus station of Plaza de Armas, we ended up watching a youth in-line skate competition.

We went back to the Airbnb and around 530PM we were famished and decided to go back out in search of a grocery store to get food for breakfast but to no avail. We ended up walking around for a bit in search of dinner but if course, we went out too early for dinner as dinner hours start around 630PM earliest and many of the tapas restaurants we had looked into opened at 830PM. 630PM is prime time for drinking and socializing.

On the long thin strip of Plaza Alameda de Hércules (the popular hang out spot), we did eventually find a place called Casa Paco to have dinner. We ordered the butterfish, cheese board, potato brass, cuttlefish with black garlic and mushroom risotto.

09/15/19

Sevilla, Spain

A late sleep-in type of morning with brunch at La Cacharreria de Sevilla. We got the Spanish and the Cacharreria combos that include a yogurt and daily smoothie – presentation and food itself was delicious. We smelled cookies right across and got some too. Continued down the street to see Las Setas De Sevilla. Setas means mushrooms in Spanish and they indeed looked like such. The outer level is raised but is a cool place to hang with a playground.

Since Royal Alcázar was closed yesterday, we tried again today but the line went so far around the building so we opted out. Walking around on a Sunday is a much different feel than any other day as many businesses are closed on Sundays and are more so reserved as family time. It was a beautiful 29°C outside nonetheless.

My dear friend Irene who I met through a travel experiment called Yuujou joined us with her boyfriend Benjamin. She is originally from Madrid and was road-tripping through Spain and attending a friend’s wedding. Luckily timing worked out that we were able to be in the same place at the same time. She now lives in Zurich with Benjamin. This was the first time I was able to meet Irene in person after months upon months of chatting and it was such a fun experience connecting in person.

Since they had been on the road, they dropped their things, changed and off we went to grab a quick clara (beer with lemonade/lemon fanta) and watched the basketball finals between Spain and Argentina (Spain won!). We went to Catedral de Sevilla and La Giralda (when they tore down the mosques to build cathedrals, they left the towers that are of Muslim origin and have no steps but ramps so the generals could send donkeys and horses up with all the necessities as it is 37 floors). It was a lot of winding up a somewhat narrow ramp all the way up with little windows that give you sneak peaks outside. Up top, they still have working bells and 360 views of the city. The main entrance to just the towers are closed for construction but you can enter the tower via the Catedral.

When we finished, we decided to go see a flamenco show at Cuna Del Flamenco. We tried to get in line at Las Setas De Sevilla to go up top for sunset but I hate lines and the sun was already setting. We opted out and kept going.

We walked across Triana Bridge and had a lovely dinner at La Caseta Nonina. We got Irene and Benjamin to order for us. We ordered an array of croquetas, tortilla de patatas con cebolla (Spanish potato omelette with onions), bastones de berenjena con miel de cana (fried eggplant with honey – this was my favourite) and Tinto de Verano (red wine with lemonade/lemon fanta.) We walked around a bit and stumbled upon a procession before settling down at Alameda de Hercules where we played Spot it / Dobble past midnight while we were still surrounded by many people out and about like a group of university students having a jam session.

09/16/19

Sevilla, Spain – Porto, Portugal

In true Sevillian style, we eased ourselves into the morning. We ate pan con tomate (bread with tomato and olive oil) by the nearby church before parting ways with Irene and Ben.

Onwards to Porto, Portugal.

When we arrived in Porto, we picked up our car rental from the airport – we rented a Mini Cooper. Drove into town and then walked everywhere. We really wish we stayed longer in Porto because the Airbnb we stayed at had such lovely vibes and access to the rooftop. The temperature in Porto was cooler than in Sevilla the previous day.

Walked over to Mercado Bom Sucesso and grabbed our first pastel de nata (Portuguese Egg Tarts). Continued on to Jardin do Palacio de Cristal where they were having a huge book fair and further into the park you go, the prettier it gets especially closer views of the water and the town.

We walked by Igreja do Carmo – twin baroque churches (one for the nuns and one for the monks) with a tiled facade and also has the narrowest house in between. It has been said that the narrow house that is built between the 2 churches was built because there was a rule that churches cannot share the same wall or another story stipulates that the house was built so the nuns and monks couldn’t cozy up with one another.

We passed by Livraria Lello (an old bookshop with intricate wooden detailing) which was right around the corner however there was a line and admission (I hate lines) so we skipped it. I believe it is 5€ for entry. This bookshop is incredibly popular because it is where J.K. Rowling got inspired to write her critically acclaimed book series – Harry Potter. Really cool hang out spot right beside that is raised up as well.

Second stop for pastel de nata was Manteigueira. Then on to Sao Bento Train Station that has beautifully painted white and blue tiles. It is still an active hub that sits at a pivotal point in the city.

We continued across the Luis I bridge to have a better view of the city from above and looks over Cais da Ribeira and Ribeira Square. We finished off the night having dinner at Pedro dos Frangos where we had port wine (obviously you gotta have some port in Porto) with sardines and a full roasted chicken.

I heard about this tour company after I left called “The Worst Tours” that don’t have a route set but also, they cater to you and take you on the off-beaten path of the lovely city of Porto. It started with a group of architects.

London, UK – Madrid, Spain – 2019 – Day 1-3

09/10-11/19

London, UK

To start the trip off, I flew into London’s Heathrow Airport via Air Canada and went to meet my friend Winnie (my travel partner for the next month or so) at Liverpool Station.

Once I got to the airport, I purchased an Oyster Card and filled it with 25£. The underground sure covers a lot but since it is an older transport system, its not the most accessible and also very hot and tight (at certain times, can feel claustrophobic). Parts of the underground metro system reminded me of my hometown Scarborough’s RT train system..

After meeting Winnie at the station, we went to Spitalfields – a quaint outdoor market space filled with little shops and food vendors. We ate at Leon – good food for a good price. We also walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with our bags in tow (I really missed my Northface Basecamp Duffel). We didn’t have anything really planned for the rest of day and also thought we could just arrive early and sleep at Stansted Airport but luckily we sat down and checked to realize Stansted actually closes between midnight and 2AM. We also realized that we were incorrect about the time of our flight and we actually booked the 830AM not 625AM.

We debated if we wanted to stay up and out all night or book a hostel to sleep for a few hours and drop off our bags. Originally, we opted not to put our bags in storage or book a hostel but after walking around for 2-4 hours and running out of things to do, we booked Smart Hostels – a 15 bed mixed dorm and put our stuff down.

We wanted to try this cool ramen place called Kanada-Ya but there was a super long line so we went across the street to Ippudo Ramen instead. Winnie got the Yokohama ramen and I got the Unagi Chirashi bowl. Delicious.

09/12/19 

London, UK – Madrid, Spain
Apparently having a bed doesn’t always mean you can sleep through the night. We went to bed at 10PM thinking we could get in 8 hours of sleep before waking and leaving for 3AM. I did not sleep well at all. We hopped on our bus ($20.40CAD) for an 1.5hr ride to Stansted Airport from Russell Square and that ride was really great time for sleeping. We booked with Ryanair and unfortunately that means the airports we are flying out of are not the main airports and are smaller airports that are out of the city centres. Also, as a Non-EU passenger flying in and out of UK requires you to print your boarding pass to get a Visa check.

First stop on our Eurotrip from London was Madrid, Spain. Our first stop was to the Greenhouse Atocha – a train station with an indoor Tropical greenery area. We also stored our luggage at this train station for 3.10 Euro. We had some ordeals with the machine to buy the ticket but all was fixed after 15 minutes. We changed into shorts and just went to town (literally).

We walked over to check out Caixa Forum (Vertical Garden Wall). Next stop was El Retiro Park with the Crystal Palace and watched people row boats while drinking horchata.

Finally checked into our Airbnb in the suburbs and then walked over to Parque Cerro De Rio Rio (Parque de las tetas – The park of the tits as locals like to call it because of the book-shaped hills) for sunset. Highly recommend with multiple hills to watch from.

Went to dinner at Bar Don Manolo – tapas with beer and wine. Ended the night with gelato – Mora (blackberry) and hazelnut.

09/13/19

Madrid, Spain

We woke up later than we had planned but good thing we did as we checked the weather and changed from shorts and tanks to pants and rain gear.

Did the rain stop us? Of course not!

We were still able to walk over 40,000 steps. Started off walking through Rocodromo Pasarela Parque. We walked to Matadero (a former slaughterhouse turned into a art centre), Embajadores neighbourhood – saw the church, Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel & Mercado San Ildefonso. Continued to Puerta del Sol (it is Spain’s belly button) with a stop to San Gines chocolate for churros! (BTW, hot chocolate literally means liquid chocolate not milky hot chocolate drink) and made our way to Gran Via shopping street & El Corte Ingles then meandered to the neighbourhood of Malasana.

Went to an awesome cafe call Cafe Federal. The sun eventually came out and we returned back to Puerto De Sol on our way to La Tabacalera de Lavapiés – a former tobacco factory that now houses underground tunnels with graffiti and artists. We then took the metro to the Templo de Debod in hopes of catching a beautiful sunset but unfortunately it was a weak sunset.

For dinner, we walked back towards the Royal Palace and made our way to the Tapas Street (Calle de la Cava Baja) but before that, we popped back into Mercado de San Miguel (much emptier than earlier when it was raining) where we met Rick who works for NASA. Watch out for helicopter drone 2020 next mission out to Mars. We finished off our night having dinner at La Perejila and had the smoked cod, octopus with potato and ham and tomato paste.