Thinking back over this past year, I did a trip nearly every month. It got to the point where I was trying to make plans with friends in Barcelona and our schedules rarely lined up to do something. “I’m not avoiding you, I swear!” I apologized “I just travel a lot.”
So where have I been this year? Here’s my year in travels alphabetically:
This was the first stop on my weekend trip to Castilla y León, and definitely worth a visit. Ávila‘s nickname “The City of Stones and Saints” comes from the huge number of churches in the city – and that’s really saying something in Spain! It’s most famous sight is the city walls, which are over 2,500 meters long and go back to the 11th century.
No, I didn’t put the same city twice. Avilés is a small town on the river, and was the final stop on my trip to Asturias. It’s extremely pretty, and home to the very cool Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Center, which features funky buildings and celebrates culture, education, and peace.
I jetted off to Berlin for the weekend with my family when they came to visit, and all of us loved Berlin. We accidentally ended up in a gay pride parade in the city center, visited an amazing chocolate museum, and ate at traditional German beer halls – and that was just in one day. I got to see the nightlife too, as a local friend met up with me and took me to a real Kreuzberg house party. It’s impossible to see Berlin in a weekend, so maybe I’ll be back there soon!
I started off the year at home for Christmas for the first week of January. I was really glad to be in the California sun after freezing my way through chilly December in Barcelona! In April, my dad arranged a surprise trip to California to see my mum for her birthday. She didn’t expect I was coming at all! The look on her face was priceless.
I’m really, really lucky to be able to come home so much – it’s all thanks to a very flexible job and lots of frequent flier miles and credit card points, which add up to make travel easy and affordable. Woo hoo!
Covadonga & Las Cangas de Onís
These misty little towns were my absolute favorite parts of Asturias. I haven’t finished up my main post about these two little places in Asturias yet, but I’m really excited to share it! Here’s a photo preview:
I was in the U.K. in June to visit my family. This year was a big one for British pride – the U.K. had their soccer team in the Euro, the yearly Wimbledon tennis tournament, and of course, the Olympics! Patriotism was in full display, and it was a really great time to experience the country.
This is Asturias’s biggest city and has a gorgeous port. The city itself wasn’t my favorite Spanish city I’ve seen, but the stunning, wild Asturian coastline is unlike anything else I’ve visited.
Ibiza & Formentera
Ok, let’s not pretend I went here for the culture*. I took a giant party cruise to the island from Barcelona and spent a week in paradise. From going to a legendary foam party to hitting up a nightclub that houses 15,000 people to cruising around the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen, I had an amazing time. But you know what they say – “Lo que pasa en Ibiza, ¡en Ibiza se queda!” (Whatever happens in Ibiza stays in Ibiza!)
*Although Ibiza’s city center IS a UNESCO World Heritage site!
How could I miss out a trip to Spain’s capital? Madrid is definitely one of my favorite places in Spain, and again it’s really different from other places I’ve been in the country. This was my third time in Madrid, but there’s always more to see. My favorites this time were the Egyptian Temple of Debod and the Royal Palace. It looks like I may have to go again in 2013, because I STILL haven’t been to the Thyssen!
Asturias’s capital is really, really beautiful….and the food is good too! After spending a weekend drinking sidra and visiting the countryside, I spent my last day in Asturias touring its capital. Filled with pretty sculptures and surrounded by green hills, this lovely little city was just as pretty during the day as it was at night, when the old city center filled up with happy revelers.
This was one of the places I most wanted to go in Spain, and it definitely lived up to its gorgeous reputation. Despite the cold, Salamanca charmed me instantly with its glowing golden buildings. It’s also home to the oldest university in Spain.
The university town is touted as the best place in Spain to learn Spanish, and it’s easy to see why. Or rather, hear why: their accent is very easy to understand. I felt like a Spanish language genius all weekend! (And then I went back to Catalunya and got knocked down a peg again.)
I can’t decide which I liked better, Salamanca or Segovia. Both were so pretty, but different. Segovia has an amazing Roman aqueduct that STILL works and a fairytale castle that Disneyland’s castle is supposedly based on.
Segovia also introduced me to a bizarre food (for me!) – cochinillo. It’s an entire roasted baby pig. I’ve heard it’s delicious, but it was so cute I felt too awful to try it.
In 2009, I studied abroad in Sevilla, and as I didn’t get to see the famous Feria de Abril I went this year. The city is absolutely stunning, but the Feria wasn’t my scene at all. It’s a fun spectacle, but the social status game and private party atmosphere isn’t for me – and that was from inside a caseta with local friends. And getting asked questions like “What are you doing at my party, foreigner?” isn’t my thing either. Oh well!
Sitges has a legendary party scene (it’s called the ‘gay Ibiza’), and Carnaval is a massive celebration, so this was a biiiiig night. I took the last train of the night out there around midnight and every single seat was taken. As soon as we stepped off the train into this pretty beachside town, the craziness started.
Between the costumes, crowds, and pounding music, you could spot revelers of all ages gleefully smiling at the spectacle. The party went all night, but I turned in early – around 5:30 a.m. Sorry, I meant early for Spain!
I’m finishing out my year of travel right where I started 2012 – in southern California. I’ll be dancing in the new year at the massive White Wonderland concert (Aviici – yay!) when the clock strikes 12 this year.
Here’s looking forward to another travel-filled year in 2013! Happy New Year y Feliz Año Nuevo a todos!