No Pain in Spain


Landing in Malaga at 11:30, I sat in the baggage claim and waited for my dad and sister to arrive. We said our hellos and set off to Granada, a 2.5-hour drive from the airport. Being the only one with data, I served as the navigator.

We quickly learned not to trust any GPS routing in Spain as it considered many pedestrians-only streets as roads. We also realized having a large car in Spain is another impracticality. The roads in Granada were so narrow the car could barely pass through.

After a harrowing parking job which took 30 minutes, we learned the travel agency my dad used booked our room for the following year. Thankfully, this hotel had space and we subsequently learned each of the following hotels was booked for 2023. Recovering from the travel day, we spent the afternoon grabbing dinner and drinks and doing laundry.

Land of tapas and Iberian ham

Granada is the land of tapas. You don’t even need to purchase food here. It was amazing.

View from the Alhambra to the old city.

The following day, we grabbed breakfast and headed up the hill to the Alhambra. We thought it was a cathedral, but it served as a fortress for the city of Granada. This was one of my favorite places to visit with Moorish architecture and beautiful gardens.

Alhambra gardens

That evening, we discovered Iberian ham and that salads do not have lettuce in Spain. I don’t think I ate a single vegetable in Spain.


From Granada, we drove 1.5 hours to Cordoba. With a quick stopover here, we were grateful for wider roads and the hotel parking the car for you. Our stay at the Hospes Palacio Del Bailío was the best by far. But also, I can’t complain about anything as I’ve been in hostels for the rest of my time.

Influencer-esque photo in Cordoba

We dropped off our luggage, grabbed a quick bite, and headed for our afternoon tour. Here we learned our second mistake of booking an afternoon tour in the middle of summer in Spain. The tour consisted of the Alcazar, the Mosque-Cathedral, and the town.

Interior of the Mosque-Cathedral

Despite the heat, the Mosque-Cathedral was another top visit as there is truly nothing like it. The Alcazar in Cordoba was not as large as other cities we visited but it was still nice to see.

Alcazar gardens in Cordoba

We finished out the day with ice cream, swimming, and helping some French tourists who had driven down a pedestrian walkway get out. They also happened to be staying at our hotel. Before heading off to our next location, we ate breakfast looking down at the Roman ruins the Palacio was built over.


Another hour’s drive landed us in Sevilla with another afternoon tour. By this point, we were pretty burnt out on tours, Cathedrals, and Alcazars. Yet, we persisted!

I loved the Sevilla hotel with its white and aqua color scheme. A fun fact from the tour was seeing Christopher Colombus’ remains (his “real” ones, so they say). And once again learning he begged for money from Ferdinand and Isabella here.

Hotel interior

Our evening consisted of dinner at a boujee little spot called El Traga recommended by our tour guide, but it was still less than any American fine dining meal I’ve had. The following day was our relaxing day with walking around the city, shopping, and swimming at the rooftop pool.

Christopher Colombus’ “remains”

On the rooftop, we met Sister Jean, a Catholic nun from Boston, who said “I hear English, where are you from.” After talking with her for an hour, we met her travel companion Tom – who was trying his hardest to get out of mass with her that night. Tom joined us for dinner to give dad, Avery, and I a break from talking to each other.


Not much to say about Ronda because it served as a stopover to break up the drive. This city usually serves as a day trip from Marbella or Sevilla. There is a massive bridge connecting the old and new town which is the main sight to see.

The hike viewpoint

Our afternoon in Ronda consisted of hiking down to the bridge viewpoint, hiking back up, and walking through the old town. We finished out the day with dinner and lounging on the deck as our hotel overlooked the gorge and bridge.


Another day means another drive. This one was a stomach churner through a mountain pass to the beach. Marbella was probably the biggest letdown.
Upon arrival at what we thought was our hotel, we learned there was no booking, and we never got any updated information on where we were staying. After an hour, we got word of our stay and headed that way to a very outdated resort, Los Monteros. Again, can’t complain since it isn’t a hostel.

We were very isolated from the town of Marbella, tired from trying to figure out the booking, and stuck at the resort for dinner. So, we took a quick golf cart trip to the resort’s very low-tier beach with untreated sewage being pumped out onto it. Despite this, we got lunch at a local beach spot and decided to go full scammer buying beers at Aldi.

Selfie at Fuengirola

This experience drove us to the Fuengirola a nearby town the following day. Here we rented cheap beach chairs ($6) compared to Marbella’s beach clubs ranging from $45-$200. A few hours spent here wore us out and we returned to our hotel to lay by the pool.

Both dinners at the resort were mid as the service was incredibly slow and we saw people giving up on eating halfway through. But it was free from the agency’s booking mistakes so we weren’t ones to complain.


Closing out our European family vacation, we flew from Malaga to Barcelona. Our travel agency goofs persisted with a giant sprinter van picking us up from the airport to drive 20 minutes for $150. Even the driver was baffled it was three of us.

Barcelona’s Botero Cat was the only not ticketed attraction.

We arrived at the hotel, dropped our bags, and walked the Gothic Quarter. We stumbled into a local brewery for Moritz beer just a block from the hotel. I consider Barcelona another flop with not much to say as we tried to book tickets for the Sagrada Familia and couldn’t. We also walked to Park Güell thinking it was a free park, but it was sold out for the day.

I said bye to dad and Avery here and set off to Madrid by myself!


I thought going back to solo travel in hostels would be difficult, but Cats Hostel I stayed at in Madrid was the most social of them all. Recently, I’ve felt anxious about being alone and the trip coming to an end so when I arrived in Madrid I walked around for hours. I was content with just calling it early the first night, but I met two twin sisters in my dorm from Colorado.

Selfie at the club !

They convinced me to go out to the hostels pub crawl from which we befriended a trio from a nearby hostel. The “pub crawl” included no pubs only clubs. We gave up on trying to go to the final club at 2 a.m. and went back to the hostel to sleep.

Waking up late the following day, Lauren, Faith, and I grabbed breakfast and decided to go to nearby Toledo. A 30-minute train ride brought us into a small, but beautiful train station.

Toledo’s train station

From there, we walked up what had to be at least 150 stairs to the old town. Later, we learned there was an escalator. We walked around the town for a bit admiring the city and went into the San Juan de Los Reyes Monastery which was another lovely building.


After a hot afternoon in Toledo, we headed back to Madrid for showers and dinner with our new friends Paul and Sam. We visited Retiro Park before our meal and watched the sunset over Madrid. Enjoying my last meal in Spain, I got paella and sangria!

We said our goodbyes – and then I was off to Milan the next day!

Leave a Reply