Spain, where do I even start? It was the craziest, most exhausting 10 days but probably one of the best experiences of my life. I'll try to sum it up, but I don't think I'll be able to do it justice!
We caught the bus from Aix-en-Provence to Barcelona which as I mentioned before took 8 hours. Due to the laws over here the bus driver had to stop every 2-3 hours for somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes so the time actually passed a lot faster than we expected, I think they Disney sing-alongs helped and I'm sure the other passengers felt the same way.
We arrived in Barcelona at 9:30pm and caught the train to our hostel. Unfortunately we had a pickpocket incident within about 20 minutes of our arrival down at the train station. The thief in question was kind enough to return Alex's wallet with her passport still inside after having taken it from the bottom of her backpack but not kind enough to leave any of her cash. Bummer. So she started wearing her backpack on her front like all the other dorks around town until we went out and bought her a handbag she could wear across herself.
Our hotel room had an enormous balcony that had a pretty decent view of the city but the smallest double bed I have ever seen. Perhaps it was just in comparison to having the biggest bed I've ever seen in Aix-en-Provence... but I'm still fairly sure it was a king single. Needless to say, we had a cosy night.
Day 1 - On our second day in Barcelona we met up with our tour group at the hotel and went on a bus tour of the city. We stopped at a viewpoint where we had our first good look at the city and took some photos then we were dropped in the centre of town near 'Las Ramblas' which is one of their main streets and told to meet back in 3 hours for dinner. Alex and I wandered down this street and checked out the markets then ran into some others from our group and decided to have lunch with them. We tried our first paella and sangria here and it was definitely a good start!
We had a group dinner to get to know each other and they all seemed really great, there were 25 of us in total but it didn't actually feel like that many. Some of the others decided to head out after dinner but Alex and I stayed at the restaurant for a while with a few people then headed back to the hotel. Party poopers, I know, but we (or at least I) definitely made up for that later!
Day 2 - We had a free day in Barcelona so Alex and I headed back to Las Ramblas to try and get back into the most amazing food markets I think I have ever seen... and it was closed. Total let down. So we shopped a little more at the markets and saw some touristy monuments then took full advantage of the cultural 'siesta' experience before heading back out into town to see a flamenco show with the rest of the group. It looked like a pretty intense workout and I certainly didn't envy her in her big long dress in the heat but I was suitably impressed!
Afterwards the group went across the square to a bar where we had some cocktails, played some 'never have I ever' which got quite interesting then Alex and I proceeded to start up a bit of a dance floor inside after singing happy birthday to one of the girls on tour. I will confess that Alex and I went hard on the sangrias/tequila sunrises and rocked this dance floor (some would call it 'the beginning of the end') but we maintained this enthusiasm and over the next 10 days I would be told several times that I was everything from "a classic on the dance floor" to "nuts"... I chose to take all these as compliments. Our first night out in Barcelona was an enormous success and we wandered home as the sun came up.
Day 3 - We spent about 6 hours of this day on a bus travelling from Barcelona to Madrid. We stopped twice on the way, firstly for lunch and then in another small town for a bit of a wander. Alex and I managed to fit in some more shopping. We had a group dinner on arrival in Madrid and then we went onto a club. Alex was already feeling pretty exhausted so we bailed at about midnight.
Day 4 - Still in Madrid. We had a free day to explore after a bus tour of the city. Alex and I went with another girl, Bec, to do some shopping and sightseeing but ended up mainly shopping. We had organised with the others to meet up for dinner and then met up with the guy from the previous nights dinner who took us on a bar crawl. We started at a fancy place up on a terrace overlooking the city with free champagnes then moved on to the club we went to on the first night with free shots and sangria (Alex bailed on me at this point while I soldiered on with my new friends) and then to another place with more free shots. None of us even made it to the last place he wanted to take us, we all caught cabs back to the hotel and ended up in one persons room just chatting before heading to bed at 5ish.
Day 5 - This day we spent travelling from Madrid to Valencia. It was a 4 1/2 hour trip this time with a stop in a city called Toledo which is considered the birthplace of the Spanish Inquisition. We wandered around this place for a while, quite a number of people went inside this big cathedral that was said to be very impressive - I wouldn't be able to confirm or deny this because I went with a couple of the others who were feeling a little worse for wear and were more interested in eating ham sandwiches. I looked at Alex's photos on her camera afterwards.
We did a walking tour of Valencia when we arrived then went out for a group dinner.
Day 6 - Today was a free day in Valencia so we went with some of the others to, once again, do some shopping and then did a 'frozen yogurt crawl' instead of a bar crawl because in the city centre alone we found 9, yes NINE different yogurt places - Alex and I were in heaven. We also checked out some tourist sites and climbed the gates to the city and saw a great view.
This evening we all met in the hotel bar before deciding to go out to dinner where Alex and I befriended 2 Dutch boys also staying at the hotel but not in our group, invited them to dinner with the group and they even joined us to the football match we went to afterwards. The football wasn't actually part of our tour, it was just something one of the guys in our group wanted to do so he organised it and we just turned up! It only cost us 15 euros for a ticket and we had great seats. I had no clue what was happening most of the time but the crowd was so intense and that was by far the best part. I definitely knew when someone had scored a goal!
Day 7 - We caught a ferry from Valencia to Ibiza on this day. Going to Ibiza was the main reason a lot of people were on this tour so there were some high expectations! The ferry ride was about 3 1/2 hours and it was stinking hot. One of the guys on the tour, Robby, suggested shots at about 11am to most peoples dismay but I definitely enjoyed my shot of cognac before some baileys on the rocks, I think it helped pass the time while we played UNO and prayed for land and cool air!
We arrived in Ibiza at approximately 3pm and had barely checked in before there were talks that we all had to get ready straight away and head back to the foyer because someone was selling us tickets to a pre-party then a beach party with David Guetta. So it was a crazy half hour while we tried to locate everyone and get in taxis because we were all on a spontaneous trip to see David Guetta! No one really had any clue what we were doing or whether or not these ticket-selling guys were legit BUT we all went and thought that at least if it crashed and burned, we crashed and burned together. It didn't.
What ensued was a fairly incredible evening. We arrived at this pre-party which turned out to be pool side and right in front of the beach with free cocktails from 4 till 6. Unfortunately for 1 girl, who was actually the most excited to see David Guetta, she drank sooo many cocktails that she fell asleep on the toilet floor at a restaurant and ended up going home... the rest of us headed to the real party!
It was 6 hours of non-stop dancing but absolutely fantastic. I'm not usually one who could be considered into the whole music scene and I don't know if it was the atmosphere and the fact that I was in Ibiza but I had an absolute blast. Once it was all over we headed back to our hotel and a few of us ended up chilling out on our balcony - super successful night.
Day 8 - Still in Ibiza. We spent the day down at the beach at the front of our hotel where we lounged around then participated in some extreme water sports (namely donuting or 'tubing'). There were so many moments during this day when I literally had to stop, take a moment and remind myself that I was in Ibiza, having insane amounts of fun and this was my life right now. In the words of a guy on tour, Kado, "we're living the dream!"
In the evening we all went to Cafe Del Mar, a famous strip of cafes and bars along the beach, where we watched the sun set then went to one of the bars to celebrate Darcie turning 18 at midnight. We had a huge line of shots provided free by the bar, which was very nice considering there were 25 of us! Then several people wandered to the piercing/tattoo place across the road as Darcie got her ear pierced and others got all sorts of things... when in Ibiza!
We headed back towards our hotel after a while and went to the bar across the road because the previous day we had spotted a mechanical bull. Needless to say, one of the funniest experiences of my life seeing how people went. I took videos AND it was myself and another girl who stood equal first at being able to stay on the longest. Skills I never knew I had!
Day 9 - We said farewell to Ibiza and flew (thank god, couldn't have handled a repeat of the ferry) back to Barcelona. We had one last group dinner and then went for a massive night out. Alex bailed on me again and I wandered in at about 5:30am before having to leave at 6am for our flight to Italy.
Day 10 - I didn't get a chance to do anything, I literally shoved everything on the floor I could find into my pack and we caught a taxi straight to the airport. Unfortunately we ended up at the wrong airport as it turns out I booked us flights from some obscure Barcelona airport and not the main one. So, we missed that flight and had to make alternative plans. We book another flight to Milan instead of Pisa like the original flight and waited for 5 hours in the airport. We found some chairs where I set myself up under them, put my handbag down as a pillow, borrowed Alex's scarf for a blanket and fell asleep for 4 hours. When I woke up Alex said to me "you look like you haven't gone home after a bender". Unfortunately there was not much I could argue with about that statement!
We made it to Milan then caught a train straight to the Cinque Terre at approximately 10:30pm - only about 10 hours later than planned, found our hotel then crashed.
Gracias Espana for the most exhausting 10 days I will probably ever experience!