Spain, April 2024

James and I recently returned from a trip to Spain where we spent three nights in each of Madrid, Bilbao, and Barcelona. We visited a few museums, hiked up a mountain, and spent a considerable amount of time pounding the payment to explore local neighborhoods. Most importantly, we enjoyed our time together discussing our lives and the paths we’ve trodden to become the people we are. We also explored the ways in which we could become the people we want to be.


While our flights to and from Spain were relatively straightforward, I spent an inordinate amount of time brainstorming where to spend our nights in the country. I finalized our itinerary about a month out and easily booked hotels in Madrid and Bilbao. However, Barcelona was another story.


Our outbound flights to Spain were actually the inbound flights of a roundtrip that I booked to take us home from our last trip to Europe. Our inbound flights to the United States were booked far in advance and originally consisted of three segments with a domestic Canadian segment in between the flight from Europe and to the United States alongside an overnight in Montreal. Luckily for us, there was an involuntary change to our flight from Barcelona that allowed each of us to change to a single-day one-stop itinerary.

  • James
    • 102,808 American Express Membership Rewards points after 35% rebate
      • VCE-LHR on BA J (previously flown)
      • LHR-SEA on BA J (previously flown)
      • SEA-LHR on BA J
      • LHR-MAD on BA J
    • 68,300 Air Canada Aeroplan Points + 80.60CAD
      • BCN-YYZ on AC J
      • YYZ-SEA on AC J
  • Nicholas
    • 16,745 American Express Membership Rewards points after 35% rebate
      • LAS-SEA on AS J
    • 102,808 American Express Membership Rewards points after 35% rebate
      • VCE-LHR on BA J (previously flown)
      • LHR-SEA on BA J (previously flown)
      • SEA-LHR on BA J
      • LHR-MAD on BA J
    • 68,300 Air Canada Aeroplan Points + 80.60CAD
      • BCN-YYZ on AC J
      • YYZ-LAS on AC J


While our hotels in Madrid and Bilbao were easy to book and quite nice, the lodgings in Barcelona were much more limited when I started looking. I didn’t realize why until we arrived in Barcelona and discovered a major tennis tournament taking place at the same time as our stay.


Much to my chagrin, we took taxis twice. While I’m generally a public transit aficionado, we found ourselves in a situation in Bilbao where transit would have taken five times as long to get us where we needed to go after we’d already been delayed several hours. In Barcelona, I ran the numbers and the taxi was only 10.00EUR more than us both getting a public transit card and tickets for a single one-way journey to the airport so I decided to take the easy route. Both journeys were convenient and quite pleasant.

  • Bilbao Airport to Hotel Gran Bilbao for 36.00EUR
  • Hilton Barcelona to Barcelona Airport for 33.00EUR


April 9, 2024

Angela and I woke up bright and early and she drove me to the airport for my scheduled 0700 departure. She dropped me at the curb at 0602 and I was at my gate at 0606 only to discover that my departure had been delayed by two hours. I spent some time writing the blog post from our trip to New Zealand prior to boarding and then enjoyed a pleasant flight to the Pacific Northwest.

When I arrived in Seattle, I walked to the Link Light Rail station and took the train into the city. James fetched me from outside his apartment’s courtyard and I was greeted by the ever-excitable Bentley, whom I played with until he was tired enough to finally lay down and take a nap.

Once James was done with work for the day, he packed up and we left for the airport in the late afternoon, replaying my earlier journey on the Link Light Rail in the opposite direction. Check-in for our flight was relatively straightforward, although the staff member helping us had trouble changing the associated frequent flyer numbers for our flights and had to call on his supervisor for assistance.

We passed through security and made our way to the British Airways Galleries Lounge in the South Satelite terminal. The lounge was small and crowded with a small selection of food items. However, I really enjoyed the various sandwiches they had available, especially the Monte Cristo.

We headed to the gate about twenty minutes before boarding so we could wander around and stretch our legs before the flight. Once on-board, we both settled in and prepared for takeoff.

Once service started, I asked to skip dinner and head straight to dessert. The flight attendant said that wouldn’t be an issue, and then repeatedly came to my seat to apologize for the delay in serving me as the ovens were taking a long time to warm up. About two hours after takeoff, I was finally given my chocolate-coffee fondant cake and, thankfully, the wait hadn’t been in vain as the dish was absolutely delicious. James enjoyed his vegetarian dish quite a bit.

After satisfying my sweet tooth, I laid down and promptly fell asleep until ninety minutes before we were scheduled to land.

April 10, 2024

After landing in London, we made our way to international connections and passed through transit security. We visited the British Airways Galleries Lounge (North) to rest before our flight and I enjoyed a meat pie, rice, and a couple of coffees.

Again, we departed the lounge a little early to stretch our legs before boarding our slightly delayed flight. On board, I enjoyed a tasty in-flight meal of chicken, rice, and dessert. The coffee on board was also quite tasty, which is unusual for brewed coffee on short-haul flights, in my experience.

We were the first to deplane in Madrid and walked directly to immigration which, luckily, had no line at all. After entering the EU, we made our way to the Metro station, purchased a transit card and ticket, and hopped on the train heading to Nuevos Ministerios. At Nuevos Ministerios, we transfered to the Cercanías, which took us to the Sol stop, a five-minute walk from our hotel.

Check-in at the Hotel Montera was a delight. We were offered welcome drinks, given an overview of the property and some drink vouchers, and reviewed a map of the local area with Veronica, the agent who was handling our check-in. Tired after a full day of travel and anxious to get to bed, we headed to our individual rooms to freshen up and get some shuteye. I found the rooms to be fairly small, as is usual for European cities, but extremely efficient in their usage of the available space. The bed was very comfortable and I enjoyed having a small dedicated sitting area.

April 11

We met in the gym for a quick workout before breakfast. The gym was small and very lightly equipped, but we were able to get the blood pumping prior to starting our day.

After freshening up, we headed to breakfast which was included because of our Hilton Honors status. Our morning meals were consistently filling and delicious. There was a small, high-quality buffet with meats, cheeses, breads, and pastries and we were able to order as much food as we wanted from the kitchen. I personally enjoyed the French toast and my eggs were cooked perfectly every time. We were alone at breakfast one day and I was able to take some pictures of the spread.

Once we had our fill, we headed towards Parque de El Retiro for a stroll, spending a few hours walking along its many paths. We entered close to the Puerta de Alcalá.

One of the most interesting parts of the park was the Palacio de Cristal. The structure is beautiful and the story of its construction is interesting.

From the park, we walked through a political protest on the way to the Museo del Prado. It was unclear what, exactly, the protest was about, but it sure seemed to be a good time for everyone having a drink in the middle of the day while waving their flags.

Once we reached the museum, we went directly to the entrance as I had purchased tickets in advance. When we arrived at the security check, I asked if it was going to be a problem to carry our empty water bottles around and the security person said no, but we learned later that this was not true as we were forced to bring them to coat check about halfway through our visit.

Pictures are, unfortunately, not allowed in the Museo del Prado so I can’t share much of what we saw. I did snap a picture of James before I realized I wasn’t supposed to, though.

We were at the museum from 1230 to 1955, with a short break at the cafe around 1600 for a couple of coffees to keep us going. I really enjoyed a lot of the art on display, especially the piece A Hospital Ward during the Chief Physician’s Rounds.

After leaving the museum at closing time, we walked back to the hotel to drop off my camera and our water bottles before heading to Takos Al Pastor, a strong recommendation from one of my friends. Unfortunately for us, the well-reviewed taco shop was closed as the owners were on holiday. In its stead, we headed to La Venganza de Malinche. Our server was great, giving me a lot of latitude to practice my awful Spanish, but the food was relatively mediocre and I wouldn’t specifically recommend a visit.

With our bellies full, we went for a walk around the local area. It was already 2200, but it felt like things were just getting started. For better or worse, though, we were feeling pretty tired and decided to head back to the hotel and go to sleep.

April 12

After another quick workout and delicious breakfast, we headed to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. We arrived at 1000 and departed at 1850. James particularly enjoyed the artifacts from the earliest human settlement in the Iberian Peninsula, while I preferred the items from Roman Hispania. For me, not much had changed in the time between my previous visit and this one, but it was great to see everything with the fresh eyes that James brought to bear.

We headed back to the hotel after leaving the museum and, after resting for twenty minutes, we walked to Vega for dinner. We ordered each of the shareable plates (with the exception of the tacos, which were unavailable). For dessert, we chose the tiramisu cake and Catalan cream.

Each of the dishes was tasty, but I continue to believe that even the most carefully prepared vegan food pales in comparison to the items that they are imitating. To be frank, the desserts were the best part of the meal and I’m surprised the restaurant is able to emulate the textures necessary to provide authentic representations of the non-vegan originals.

We walked to the Royal Palace to enjoy the fading traces of the sun and take in the crowds.

Returning to the hotel, we decided to stop at the hotel’s rooftop bar to redeem our drink vouchers. James ordered an old fashioned while I enjoyed a bottle of Coke Zero. The venue had great views over the city, but didn’t lend itself to excellent pictures given how crowded it was. James and I were quite amused by the woman sitting at the bar trying to capture every moment for Instagram.

April 13

We took it a little easy on our third morning in Madrid, with no specific plans prior to departing for the airport. After packing up and eating breakfast, we checked out and reversed our transit journey to the airport, arriving about two hours before our flight was set to depart. Given that it is always iffy as to whether there will be enough overhead bin space on these short regional flights, we decided to check our bags. We would later realize this was totally unnecessary, but we were glad to have done so, anyways.

After clearing security, which took less than five minutes, we headed to the business class lounge to relax before our flight. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed multiple times and we ended up leaving three hours later than originally scheduled. At least the lounge was a nice place to spend the time and enjoy some chocolate milk.

We eventually departed at 1435 and arrived in Bilbao at 1525. After collecting our luggage, we walked to the taxi stand and grabbed a ride to our hotel. The ride was quite pleasant and our driver was eager to show us his city on the way.

Check-in at the Hotel Gran Bilbao was pleasant. Because breakfast wasn’t included as part of our stay, I decided to reserve it for each morning to save 3.50EUR per day off of the standard 20.00EUR per person charge.

Our rooms in Bilbao were much larger than those in Madrid with a nice layout and comfortable bed. While less luxurious, I was quite happy with this hotel given the cheap nightly rate.

After dropping our bags off, we walked through the old town to the center of the commercial district. From there, we walked along the river towards the Vizcaya Bridge snapping pictures along the way.

We turned back after about two-and-a-half hours as James had worn a hole in his sock. We were located close to a train station, so we purchased transit cards and took the train in the direction of our hotel. We stopped at a grocery store on the way to buy some dinner.

April 14

I enjoyed the breakfast at Hotel Gran Bilbao and believe it is well worth 16.50EUR per person as long as you’re going to eat a big meal. I particularly enjoyed the freshly baked doughnuts that are served every morning. The meat and cheese spread was quite delicious as well, and the variety of bread was quite astounding.

After breakfast, we headed to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao for the day. Food and drinks, including water, are not allowed inside, but I brought my backpack with waters inside to use afterwards. I checked the bag before entering the museum. On the way to the museum, we stopped to snap a few pictures of the surrounding area, including the giant floral statue Puppy.

Inside the museum, I was able to capture some of the weird, interesting, and beautiful things we saw. Personally, I enjoyed the pop art the best as it was most aesthetically pleasing (to me). We both thought that the giant structures made of weathering steel were interesting, but did not enjoy the extremely abstract Vascular exhibition by June Crespo. One thing that I absolutely loved about our visit was the audio guide that you can listen to from your phone using your own earbuds.

We left the museum around 1515 and walked to East Crema Coffee for a pair of cappuccinos. We took them, along with a piece of banana bread, to go and found a place to sit along the river. I loved the coffee, and the banana bread was exactly what I needed after a long day of looking at art.

After enjoying our treats, we walked across the river to spend the next couple of hours reading and enjoying the sunny day.

When we started to get hungry, we walked around Bilbao for a bit before settling on Dumpling+ for dinner. They had several vegetarian dishes so it was easy for James to find something to eat. I enjoyed my meat dumplings and James enjoyed his vegetable ones alongside a serving of noodles. Overall, I really liked the meal and would recommend Dumpling+ if you’re looking for something easy at the end of the day. As a bonus, they opened at 1900 rather than 2000 like most of the other restaurants in the vicinity.

After dinner, we walked around some more of Bilbao before heading back to the hotel for some much-needed rest in preparation for a busy following day.

April 15

After breakfast, I packed up the trail pack that I’d brought to carry water, snacks, and rain jackets. We then set off for the start of the Miribilla to Pagassari hike. Of course, it started raining as soon as we stepped outside, leading us to immediately put our jackets on.

The hike technically started in a different part of the city, over a motorway from where we were staying. We walked to the starting point first before heading up to the summit. Our walk was quite steep throughout. It was foggy when we started, and it didn’t get much better as we headed up.

As an aside, we noticed a ton of vociferous support for the Palestinian cause during our time in Spain and specifically in Bilbao. I’m not sure why, but it was very noticeable in the display of flags and graffiti.

We passed several people as we kept a fairly rapid pace throughout the hike. You can see in the photos that we took how little visibility there was on the trail. At the summit, we could barely see thirty feet ahead of us.

On our descent, we stopped to take some pictures of interesting slugs before stumbling upon some horses. I gently rubbed the muzzle of one of the horses even though James was quite sure it was going to bite me. Luckily, the creature was gentle.

The suggested time for the hike is four-and-a-half hours, but we finished the ascent and descent in two-and-a-quarter hours. We didn’t spend much time at the top given the gloomy conditions, but I can imagine it is exceptionally beautiful on a sunny day.

Once we returned to town, we stopped at the hotel to rehydrate and rest our feet for a few minutes while taking the opportunity to see what James would look like as an influencer.

After a short rest, we walked to Kafic for some cake and coffee. As we sat drinking our cappuccinos, it was cool to see all the locals come in and buy their fresh bread for the day.

After our snack, we popped into the train station and took the metro to see the Vizcaya Bridge. I was particularly interested in visiting the bridge because it is like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Effectively, it is a cable car ferry used to move people and vehicles across the river rapidly.

We walked to the end of the nearby wharf and viewed a couple of cool statues along the way, including one that depicts the city of Bilbao vanquishing Neptune by their taming of the sea.

The area was interesting so we spent some time exploring before hopping back on the train and returning to the hotel for a bit.

At 2000, we visited Himalaya Tandoori & Curry Restaurant for dinner. The owner was quite friendly, although a little more talkative than is probably necessary. The food was acceptable, but not something I’d go out of my way to have. I ordered the mixed momos and lamb biryani while James opted for the vegetable samosas and the chana masala. We split an order of garlic naan. To be frank, my biryani was pretty disappointing, but I’m glad we were able to find something nearby that was sure to cater to vegetarians.

April 16

We ate breakfast and then worked out before packing our luggage and checking out of the hotel at 1145. Walking towards the train station, we stopped at a Starbucks close by that had plenty of room to sit and store our bags to chat for a couple of hours prior to our train departing.

At 1430, we walked over the train station to find our platform and check the boarding time for our journey. Once we figured out the situation, we stopped to take a couple of pictures of the giant stained glass mural close to the platforms.

After boarding, we settled into our seats for the seven-hour journey to Barcelona that would take up the majority of the day. We were seated in first-class and the journey was comfortable. We ate leftover snacks from our dinner a few nights ago. The train ride was intended as a forced rest day after our big hike and it was definitely successful for that purpose as James and I mostly sat and read for the entirety of the journey.

When we arrived in Barcelona, we walked to the Hilton Barcelona, a short fifteen-minute trek from the train station. We checked in and were informed of the breakfast and lounge hours as well as the hotel’s amenities. To me, the Hilton Barcelona felt like the quintessential business hotel with a comfortable room, including a nice bed and desk, alongside an acceptable breakfast that will fill you up but not really satisfy you.

We were both quite tired by the time we checked in so we said our goodnights and headed to bed.

April 17

Before breakfast, we stopped in the gym to get a quick workout in. With various cardio machines and dumbbells up to 25kg, it was easy to get some good exercise in.

After a mediocre breakfast, we packed up and headed towards the waterfront, stopping first at the World Trade Center Barcelona to get some harbor views.

From there, we walked along the waterfront to a park adjacent to the Barcelona Zoo before cutting up towards La Sagrada Familia. It was a beautiful day for the walk and we loved every moment of it.

Finally, we arrived at La Sagrada Familia. We were thirty minutes early for our timed entry, so we wandered around, stopping in a supermarket a few blocks away to use one of the only public restrooms in the area.

Returning to the basilica, we passed through a security checkpoint before scanning our tickets and entering the fenced off area. As we stood in line for entry, we both downloaded the official app to our phones because our tickets gave us access to the audio guide.

We spent an hour exploring La Sagrada Familia before getting in line to head up the Passion Tower facade. The tower entry is via elevator and then you walk down a spiral staircase from the top.

After exiting the tower, we spent a bit of time in the underground museum examining artifacts from the early days of construction before taking a selfie with a bust of Antoni Gaudi.

When we left the basilica, we walked back in the direction of our hotel, purposefully zigzagging around the city to enjoy the scenery. I was quite happy that we took the route we did because we discovered La Cava Cakery where I had an absolutely delicious chocolate cupcake alongside a double espresso and James had a strong cappuccino.

Returning to the hotel, we stopped at the lounge for some drinks. After about an hour, we decided to head to Aloha Poke, a Spanish chain, for dinner. We both loved our poke bowls and had to resist the urge to return the following day.

April 18

After breakfast, we walked to the Spotify Camp Nous for the FC Barca Immersive Tour that I had booked. We entered the interactive museum at 1000. I was quite entertained by the informative exhibits and enjoyed the way that the museum is laid out. Even as a non-soccer fan, I appreciated the information presented and the historical artifacts chosen. I also liked the profiles of current players that you could access from large video screens located on columns halfway through the museum.

Before exiting the museum, you enter a large circular room. On the walls is projected what is essentially an FC Barca hype video. After seeing it, I’m ready to return to Barcelona for a game in 2026 when the new stadium is completed!

Our next stop was the Robokeeper challenge that James and I were slated to attempt. I purchased six shots for each of us against what proved to be a formidable opponent. Of the sixty shots that we personally witnessed, only two made it cleanly past the automated goalie. Luckily for me, mine was one of them!

We returned to the hotel to grab some water before heading out into the city. We walked to the Arc de Triomf where we took some pictures.

Leaving the arch, we walked through the surrounding parks before ducking back into the city’s side streets. On the way to the hotel, we stopped to grab some Argentinian empanadas at Tio Bigotes. They were just what I needed to continue powering through the day and there was a good selection of meat and vegetable flavors to choose from.

We returned to the hotel where we worked out, refreshed ourselves, and then headed to Beirut for dinner. It was relatively early so the restaurant only offered an abbreviated menu, but it was more than enough for us. I enjoyed the labneh and shawarma while James opted for the hummus and patatas bravas Beirut. We finished off the meal with a delightful piece of baklava.

Returning to the hotel, I had to take a call with one of my clients before heading over speak with James about the logistics for the following day.

April 19

After packing up and eating breakfast, we stopped at Starbucks for a good cup of coffee because the coffee machines in the restaurant had lines five-people deep from the moment we walked in to the dining room. Unfortunately, my cappuccino was disappointing and James’s Americano was brewed with a huge side of attitude.

We grabbed our bags and hopped in a taxi to the airport. When we arrived, we stopped at a kiosk that did a digital document check and printed our boarding passes. Afterwards, we headed through immigration and security before making our way to the Joan Miro Lounge. While there was a ton of seating, the buffet looked like it had been attacked by a pack of wild hyenas. While in the lounge, we received notice that our flight’s departure was delayed by two hours.

Leaving the lounge about twenty minutes before boarding, we walked to the E gates to find our plane. Boarding was straightforward and, before long, we were homeward bound. I liked the seats and the food on our Air Canada flight and was able to stay comfortable the entire journey to Toronto.

When we arrived in Toronto, we followed the signs for United States connections, cleared security, and passed through USA pre-clearance. James’s flight was (fortunately, for once) delayed so we didn’t have to hurry through security to make a short connection. As such, we headed to the trans-border Maple Leaf Lounge to relax for an hour. The lounge had plenty of seating, tons of natural light, and a decent buffet selection. I was more interested in the desserts, which were delicious!

About ten minutes before James’s flight, we wandered down to his boarding gate and said our goodbyes before he got in line to board.

With that, James and my time together was at an end. My flight didn’t depart for another hour, so I walked several laps of the airport terminal to get some exercise before sitting down on the four-and-a-half-hour transcontinental journey. I boarded, was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me, and enjoyed a relaxing flight back to Las Vegas, getting picked up by the most beautiful chauffeur in the world.

Thus ended another awesome trip with my brother. During the trip, it felt like we weren’t really doing as much as we have on previous trips, but looking back at the totality of our journey, we were active for the entirety of our nine full days in Spain. It is really incredible to think about how fast the time flies where you’re engaged with someone whose companionship you enjoy so much. I look forward to whatever our next adventure together will be!

5 responses to “Spain, April 2024”

  1. Loved reading about your adventures in Spain and seeing the photos. Way to go scoring against the robogoalie! Pretty cool that you got to go to a few different museums, took a train (those train station glass windows were stunning), see the famous church and go on hikes together. I love that you went together and enjoyed lots of conversations.

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