Gunnarolla is a video-genius, national treasure, musical sensation, Contiki veteran and constant source of laughs and inspiration on ALL of his social channels. He gets us just as much as we get him, and on his recent Mediterranean Highlights trip we watched in awe as he explored and fell in love with everything that is Spain.
We asked him 12 questions to truly sum up everything he loved about Spain, and if this doesn’t inspire you to make 2017 the year YOU get there yourself, we don’t know what will…
My favourite sightseeing spot I found was…
We took a half-day trip out to Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), a Catholic basilica located just an hour outside of Madrid.
It’s fairly isolated and serene, tucked away in nature. We weren’t allowed to take any photos inside, but ironically, it’s the places that we aren’t allowed to document that always stand out in my mind, maybe because I end up paying more attention and living in the moment.
The basilica, cross, and abbey are impressive feats in architecture, and the surrounding hills and forests really take your breath away. Beautiful views and a significant spot for many reasons.
The most memorable meal I had was…
After a pretty long bus ride from Barcelona to Madrid, we were treated to paella at a local restaurant and it was absolutely incredible. I love seafood, I love rice, and it was a beautiful fusion of the two.
Combine that with sangria and calamari (my one true love) and we’ve got ourselves a good time!
The best person I met while there was…
Everyone on my trip was great, but I formed a really tight-knit group of friends on this particular trip: Tiare, Jessica, Lauren, Elyceia & Jonty.
That’s the great thing about group travel with Contiki, you go in expecting to see and do all these things but I don’t think anyone is expecting to make best friends. It’s really the connections that you make with other people that last really with you forever.
It’s was nice to feel like you belong to something, and we had so many profound discussions on busses, trains, and late nights at the hotel. We were so extra with our friendship – always trying to sit together and taking a million photos together – I’m sure that it was obnoxious to some. But I love them, and we were basically the definition of #squadgoals.
I also met up with Marina, whom I had met on a previous Contiki (Eastern Road). She’s from Brazil but happened to be in Barcelona at the same time as me, so we planned to meet up at La Boqueria Market. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years so it was great to connect with her again.
The craziest thing I did was…
Too crazy to publish on the Internet
The best night out we had was…
Every night out in Spain was legendary.
The clubs played some really great music and were usually packed. Our local guides always had some kind of hook-up. I think it was our last night out in Madrid that I’ll remember the best. Emotions ran high, and it was a last chance to connect with fellow travellers.
From the group dinner to the clubs, there were many shenanigans that night.
The best thing I bought was…
I’m not really big on souvenirs! I really only spend money on food and experiences.
I definitely had calamari every chance we got. We found a really chill and modern café called Singular just a few blocks away from La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – which, by the way, is worth paying admission to go inside.
We also rented a rowboat at the Parque del Retiro in Madrid, which was such a fun experience.
Clothing retail brand Zara also originated in Spain, so I definitely raided the store any chance we got, since you can get items there for a bit less than you would pay in North America.
The most beautiful thing I saw was…
My reflection in the mirror the morning after a night out in Barcelona. Iconic.
The best thing I smelled was…
During some free time, we made a trip to the famous Chocolateria San Gines – not going to lie, we got a little lost along the way – this place is known for churros and chocolate, so you can bet it produced some of the best smells I experienced on the trip.
I still dream of it.
The best photo I took was…
I took a group shot at Flormar Arenas de Barcelona. We were feeling great after a hilarious group dinner, and it was golden hour, so the lighting was perfect.
Someone once told me that if you take photos of scenery, it’s to remember places, but if you take photos of people, it’s to remember feelings.
In the end, I guess that photo could have been taken anywhere but it has personal significance to me because it captured a feeling, and a special moment in time. And let’s face it, it basically looks like it could be an ad for the next Contiki campaign.
We also went to a flamenco show called El Tablao de Carmen. The cast were beautiful, but one of the dancers was particularly stunning. I captured a great photo of her.
The weirdest thing I saw was…
This isn’t really weird, but Gaudi’s architecture is pretty distinctive and may be unusual to some.
It can be found throughout Barcelona, specifically the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. We didn’t have a chancel to visit the latter, though I would have liked to. It’s an optional stop so make sure to get your tickets and make time for it in your schedule!
The best part of the trip was…
Honestly, every moment of the trip was a highlight. But there was one moment during our tour of the Royal Palace in Madrid that stands out to me, because we had serious case of the giggles.
Jessica and I were so bad for that. But I think the combination of being exhausted and having to go through a rather “serious” tour just set something off, and we couldn’t stop laughing.
I don’t think either of us had laughed that hard in a while. It just goes to show that moments will be whatever you make of them, and in that moment, we decided to laugh.
I will always remember Spain as…
Sunny, friendly, and laid back.
Spain was the last stop on our tour, so we were all pretty close friends by then. It was the best country to explore with a group of friends.
Barcelona and Madrid are walkable, have great public transit, and feature all the best of city life, arts & culture, nature, incredible food, and beautiful people. I’m a bit partial to Madrid, because it felt like a city that I could actually live in.
It was the perfect end to our Mediterranean Highlights trip, and I can’t wait to go back and explore some more.