Spain (2014) - Holiday of the 3-European-Nation Adventure (ft. Russia & Portugal)
Date: July 18, 2014
Duration: 15 Days
Type: Road Trip/Free Tour
Agenda: Moscow - Malaga - Gibraltar - Tarifa - Granada - Seville - Lisbon - Madrid
Maps - Maroon 5
What Makes You Beautiful - One Direction
Celebration - Kool & The Gang
Radioactive - Imagine Dragons
We Are One - Pitbull (Happy 2014 FIFA World Cup!)
My Girl - WestLife
“As the wind rustles, the water will be cold. Once the strong man is gone, he shall never return.”
We received the summer mission from my mom’s travel plan. All of a sudden, we were going to Europe. In addition, we would be facing 3 countries at once - Spain, Portugal, and Russia, and I basically didn’t know anything about them. Therefore, not only we needed to handle English, but also Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Mandarin would be completely useless there. This was the most complicated journey I ever had in my life, so it’s pretty tough to recall everything that happened. However, Europe is such a fantastic place. What’s different about it from America is that they have such a long and classic history. The unique thing about this continent is that you can find so many churches and castles easily. It’s safe to say Europe is the heaven for archaeologists. Of course I don’t know how other countries are like in Europe since by far I’ve only been to these three. Basically all the tourists came to Europe to learn about the history, well except for me haha. I was there actually enjoying European culture, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t doing anything honestly. Their culture was very unique, relaxing and enjoyable. It’s just the currency, the euro, was so valuable. It has a ratio of 1:8 compared with RMB and it’s even a bit more valuable than USD. Seemed like I, as a crazy shopper, needed to keep it low key… The journey to Europe happened at a crazy fun time because that’s right after I finished my Zhongkao exam. That was also when the FIFA World Cup was happening. Because Spain had lost badly before our visit, my mom was concerned whether there would be something crazy there. I told her she thought too much. We went there to visit, to eat, to have fun, our journey did not have anything to do with football. As a matter of fact, our route this time looked like a hoop (China - Russia - Spain - Portugal - Spain - Russia - China). Anyway, it’s a celebration! Celebrate good time, now, come on!!!
Level 1: Moscow, Russia. It took around 11 hours to fly from Shanghai to Moscow. So far the longest flight I had in my life:
The Red Square, and the Kremlin in Moscow:
To be honest, Russia in my impression was very shiny and pretty, no matter when we talk about its architecture or its culture. One thing that surprised me was the social life. To me, after being to two foreign countries, asking the locals in English had been a piece of cake. However, Russians were the ones who were the coldest and the most ignorant to us. It seemed like they didn’t want to talk to us when they saw us speaking such bad English. The old lady at the help desk of the airport was a great example. Also at the custom, when my mom’s passport or her visa had some issue, the people at the custom left her outside of the gate for 30 minutes while doing their own stuff instead of talking to her and figuring it out together. That’s basically my first impression of people in Russia, they refused to talk to us. However, at the bus stop outside of the airport, we met a cool guy who’s kind enough to tell us which way to go. Since then, it never bothered me anymore and I guess that’s just different people having different characteristics. The subway in Moscow was really deep. I had the longest escalator ever to get down to the subway. Then, we got on a fantastically creepy subway as its engine was extremely loud like fireworks while running. My parents and I were unable to talk to each other at all because of the loudness. It scared me for a bit but got used to it fast as well. I admire this high tech very much so! And you know what else was creepy? The other people riding the subway. Their faces hardly had emotions. Some of them were reading books, checking on phones, or just sitting back on the seats. No one was talking to each other except for us three, who were trying to shout at each other to communicate due to the subway being too noisy. I started questioning whether there was a law in Russia which restricted people from talking on the subway? After a bit of roller coaster, we arrived at Red Square, which had so many gorgeous buildings, like those castles that looked like ice cream. The food there wasn’t bad as well. And the people out there were a bit more open to talk to. I knew we could always find the beauty of a country, sometimes it just takes a while.
Level 2: Flying to Malaga, Spain. The real midnight adventure began!!!
After we exited the airport in Malaga, we felt a bit relaxed because the communication in Spain was a bit more fluent. We quickly grabbed our rental car, and rushed to our first hotel due to it already being past midnight. However, that drive, was long, very long, so long that I couldn’t even tell which country I was in. My mom was having trouble finding the location of our stay from her files. Yep, we were lost in the city at the dark night, going loop after loop within it, just to find a mysterious resort that was surrounded by farms. Why did I say “loop”? That’s because in Spain, there were plenty of roundabouts which made me dizzy a lot. At that point, I was super sleepy because we had not had a good sleep on a bed for almost 3 days. Then I couldn’t deal with it anymore, so I got out of the car and entered a random hotel to ask for the way. The staff of that hotel listened to our issue very patiently, but they also had no clue where that was. At least, they pointed at a rough direction for us but they didn’t know the exact spot. After we thanked them, we got back in the car and checked around the direction they pointed, then we realized that’s where we just passed. There were some bushes around, but we didn’t see any hotel whatsoever. It was almost dead silence around us and it also had a small hill for us to check. Thank god there was no fog, otherwise it would be the same incident back in San Francisco… On the path of the hill, there were hardly any vehicles driving around. I looked at my “Green Tea Watch”, it was already 2am. We occasionally came across some strangers, but they didn’t know where it was either. Then we had no choice but to loop around the hill, see if we could find anything. All we saw was a neighborhood filled with private households. It’s driving us crazy!!! Then, we saw a bar that was still in service. It seemed that they were open from midnight to the next morning. So we went there and asked for help. We encountered an old man named “Kevin”, who seemed to be the manager of this bar. He checked our travel files carefully and found the answer. He pointed upwards, at that point I thought he’s pointing at Heaven?! Actually, it’s on the second floor. Finally, we took a deep breath and thanked for his help. We rushed up there and saw an office. The office door was closed. Beside the door, there was a security box, where it had some keys and letters they left us in there. YES! This was the right place. On the letter, there seemed to be a handwritten code: 415B, which totally looked like our room number. That’s when we realized that the resort was part of this hill, and those private households we saw earlier were actually the houses of the resort, wow, good game… After that we were so ready to rest, but where was the room? Jesus Christ, we couldn’t find it. 415B? 415B? 415B?! As we saw the other room numbers were so different from ours, so we went in deeper until we reached a dead end. While we were going the other way, the number was getting smaller. Switching to another way, we still couldn’t find our 415B. What in the hell was this? So we stopped under the streetlights and started analyzing the code they wrote us. As it was 3:30am and we were about to pass the heck out, I realized something. Could this actually mean “4/5B” instead of “415B”? That symbol was just a vertical line and because what they wrote to us was too vertical, it made us think it was “1”, but it might actually mean “/”. Then we started looking for “4/5B”. As a result… that’s right, WE FOUND IT, 4/5B!!! At that point I realized Europeans had such a unique handwriting style. We finally found a home for us to sleep. I took a selfie in the bathroom and passed out on bed immediately without even cleaning up my body. Anyway, that was such a thrillingly fun experience. Let’s get our actual trip started… (Later when I searched on Google Map, I found this resort called “Ona Club Bena Vista”)
By the way, I have to say this: Driving in Europe was such a tough challenge for Asians like us. It’s not as easy as it looked. Maybe it’s because the car we rented was too old, that midnight we were stuck at a gas station after we grabbed our car. There was just a small ramp outside of the gas station, it made our flame turn off so many times and we just couldn’t get over it. More vehicles were coming behind us and they were all waiting in the line for us to go. I started to panic a little for my father, who was the driver at that time. After several tries, we finally did it. After that night, we encountered the same trouble for a couple of days during our trip, as we found there were many huge ramps in Europe, which were about 30 degrees angled. We got stuck basically every time on those ramps. Some of them were a success, but one time we just weren’t able to make it. Then the European driver behind us got out and tried to help us. I saw him getting in our car, stepping on the accelerator first and then controlling the hand brake. The car was easily moved up. Maybe that’s why many westerners were saying Asians were bad drivers haha..
For our first day in Spain, we just wanted to rest and chill around our resort. And this is Kevin, the bar manager who helped us last night. He was working at this bar with his wife. We went there for breakfast the next morning and we became friends with them immediately:
We were located at Estepona, an actually pretty remote area in Malaga. We took some shots of this place, and occasionally went to the beach of the mediterranean sea. The ocean was brilliant, second of Sanya, I would say:
On that night, Kevin was holding a party at his bar. I went there and performed a rap song - “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, which I’ve been practicing for a year. That was my first rap performance ever. It was pretty bad.. Luckily most Spanish people over there did not really understand English and they didn’t rap often either, so in the end they still clapped and thought it was such a sick performance haha. I became famous in Spain just for a tiny second..
On our second day, we were going to Strait of Gibraltar, the road to Africa, plus Tarifa:
Third day, we headed to Granada, where there was a famous castle we went, I think it’s called Alhambra:
4th day - Ronda and Marbella, a town where was built at the edge:
5th day - Mijas and downtown Malaga:
6th day - Córdoba, featuring the mosque, Roman Bridge, and Alcazar:
The resort at the daytime actually looked peacefully beautiful:
We spent around 50% of the journey in Malaga, during that time we were doing road trips with our rental car. Now it’s time to leave Malaga and we also returned the rental car, as we were going to the next city - Seville. Before we left, we also went to say goodbye to Kevin. His wife gave me a kiss on both of my cheeks, suddenly I felt the love from Europe.
Taking the train to Seville, for the first spot we headed to the Plaza of Spain:
Next day in Seville, I rode the classic carriage for the first time in my life. After that we went to some churches and castles:
That night in Seville, we went to a bar for dinner, where currently a night performance was happening - the famous Spanish flamenco dance. Every week, you were able to see it in most of the restaurants in Seville. My hot take from it was they were just tapping the floor really, really hard:
City No.3 - Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. We saw Rossio Square, featuring the second Golden Gate Bridge (also by the original designer, based on his first version in SF, USA):
Sintra Gardens, over there we reunited with the fog on the hill. This time I had climbed to the top of the hill on foot. The killer fog shall not hurt me! After 2 years, I finally got my revenge and victory!
Here’s the most southern point of mainland Europe - Cabo Da Roca. Finally I saw the Atlantic Ocean in my eyes:
The view from Lisbon Sao Jorge Castle. Honestly at that point I became a bit tired of castles.. Moreover, we tried the famous egg tarts in Portugal. Many of the egg tart stores were more than 100 years old. That was a great impression. The egg tarts were very sweet and crispy, that’s what made it the best in the world:
Next city - Madrid, the capital of Spain. Slowly we were turning around on the journey. We went to the Royal Palace of Madrid, different kinds of stylish streets and squares…
Next up is the juice. Because we had not yet ensured the route to Toledo and our hotel was booked in a rush, we had no idea how long it would take for us to go there from Madrid. So we decided to go somewhere else for our last full day in Madrid. As we heard there was a Universal Studio here in Madrid, it woke me up. No matter what, let’s go check first. Then we got on the subway, where we encountered a family of saviors. It was a 4-member family from Malta, which is a tiny island country in the mediterranean sea, and they were also traveling in Europe. They told us they were also going to that Universal Studio, so we decided to group up. Thanks to them being fluent in the languages, we followed them to the bus which led us straight to the studio park, it was fast and snappy. It’s always great to make friends while traveling. We took some group photos together at the entrance. That’s when I realized that it's actually a Warner Bros amusement park, which is honestly one of the best I have ever been to. The park was themed with a bunch of Warner Bros movies and shows, just like in Hollywood. They had plenty of rides, even there were around 5 or 6 roller coasters. Because there’s no single-rider line this time, plus the amount of visitors was not small, I basically moved on to the next ride after finishing one. Therefore, the record of 11 times of roller coaster was still standing. I had so much fun that day and that’s definitely an unforgettable moment in my life.
It was night time when we got out of the park, we reunited with that Malta family again and decided to go back to Madrid together. Their little son asked us a lot of questions about China, especially animals like pandas because there’s no zoo in Malta. We were also exchanging languages. There was so much chit-chat and laughs until our farewell on the subway. Slowly I had fallen in love with Europe, to be honest.
For our last day in Spain, we went to downtown Madrid and Prado Museum:
After leaving Spain, we were back to where we started - Moscow, Russia. The “cold” country lol… However, I had a good time on Arbat Street, where I got a portrait drawn by a street artist. Plus the subway station in Moscow was still the prettiest I had ever seen. Shout out to those designers:
Ladies and gentlemen, your flight home has arrived. Please keep your baggage safe and well. On your way home, please watch your step and don’t forget to turn around and appreciate the trip you just went on. Our journey has ended, thank you very much!
That's a wrap for my TEENAGE JOURNEY. To all the friends I made in Europe, thank you, you all are the best!
“We are not afraid of saying goodbye, we are afraid of not having each other in our hearts”.
Thank you all for reading!