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Four Awesome Weeks in the North of Spain and Catalunya

Four Awesome Weeks in the North of Spain and Catalunya

Old Jun 6th, 2015, 12:08 PM
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Four Awesome Weeks in the North of Spain and Catalunya

Hi, all –

I am back from a truly awesome 4-week trip to parts of the north of Spain (but unfortunately, not Galicia) and then through the Pyrenees to Catalunya. Many thanks to ALL who helped me plan this trip, whether by responding to my questions or by sharing information through other posts – you all contributed to what was, for me, a journey through awe-inspiring places and an itinerary that very successfully indulged my interests in art, architecture, natural scenery, food, and wine. Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Spain!

Rather than offering a blow-by-blow account of my trip, I’ll present my final itinerary, review what I liked most and least, and then offer some observations to thank those who so generously offered their advice as I planned this trip. I’ll be happy to answer questions at any point.

Basic info: 

• This was a 29-day trip during which I used a rental car for 21 days (and during which I drove a bit over 3,000 km). 

• I’m a solo independent female traveler.
• This was my 2nd trip to Spain, but my 1st trip to each of these areas.
• I planned this trip with an eye to maximizing the diversity of my experiences.
• I can speak only a spattering of Castillian – not much and not well, but with a focus on civilities. I learned to try to say “thank you” in Basque while on this trip, but managed no other Basque.
• I would not recommend my itinerary to anyone else: This was a plan very specifically tailored to my interests and travel style. It was certainly not an itinerary geared toward relaxation or leisurely exploration! I spent many delightful moments relaxing over a meal, but I wanted to make full use of every possible moment I had in the glorious part of the world. On the other hand, segments of it might prove useful to others.

My basic route, defined by overnight stays, was: Burgos (1) → Laguardia / Biasteri (2) → León (2) → Oviedo (2) → Potes (2) → Santillana del Mar (1) → Santander (2) → Bilbao (2) → San Sebastian / Donostia (3) → Taüll (2) → Cadaques (1) → Girona (1) → Tossa del Mar (1) → Montserrat (1) → Barcelona (6)

I’ll post more as I can. In the meantime, thank you one and all!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 12:13 PM
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hopping on board for the ride.

I think I remember your planning thread so I'm keen to find out how the trip went!
annhig is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2015, 06:03 PM
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Welcome home, kja! Looking forward to your report.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 06:26 PM
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Looking forward to more. Glad you had a good time, and kudos for driving!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 06:48 PM
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Glad you had a great trip! Looking forward to your postings!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 06:58 PM
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"Truly awesome".. love it. Can't wait to read about it
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 08:51 PM
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@ annhig – Welcome aboard! You did, indeed, help me plan this trip and I raised a glass in your honor at the parador in León. More about that later…. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the ride!

@ Mara, thursdaysd, joannyc, & rialtogrl – Thanks, one and all! How lovely to be welcomed by so many encouraging voices.

I’ll start with a little more detail about what I actually did.

I had an itinerary written out – actually, a very detailed one (I love to plan! ) – but I viewed it as a “roadmap” rather than a schedule, so I skipped things or (less commonly) added things or switched things around as each day unfolded. I had reserved a number of things that were, for me, high priority (e.g., visits to caves with prehistoric art, guided tours in English of certain sites), and reached all of those places “on time” or even early enough to shift to an earlier option, except for one reservation I decided to cancel in advance when I reconsidered my options. So, while I remained aware of the time, I did not let the time dictate my actions: If I decided to visit something, I visited it to the extent that it met my interests.

In this “installment,” I’ll take you through my time on the Costa Verde, ending with my last night in San Sebastian / Donostia. (BTW, please forgive my many misspellings.) Note: You might want to sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and be prepared to pace your reading – I packed a LOT into this trip!

Day 0: Depart from the U.S.

Day 1: Arrival in Burgos
• I landed in Madrid and, after an ATM machine ate one of my cards! ( ), I took the first possible bus to Burgos.
• I began my exploration of Burgos by walking along the river to and from the Cartuja de Miraflores.
• I then roamed various plazas and streets of the old town, visited the mirador of the castello, and popped my head into a few churches.
• I dined on tapas at La Favorita, followed by one night at the Hotel Fórum Evolución.

Day 2: From Burgos to Laguardia/Biasteri:
• I explored Burgos a bit more (mainly the Cathedral), then picked up a rental car and headed for La Rioja.
• En route, I visited the Bodegas Lopez de Heredia and stopped at El Balcon de la Rioja and a small dolmen.
• Then, as soon as I reached my delightfully charming B&B – Erletxe -- I left again for a tour of Bodega El Fabulista.
• I roamed a bit and relaxed in the B&B before a wonderful dinner at Restaurante Cueva La Muralla.
• 1st of 2 nights in Laguardia/Biasteri.

Day 3: La Rioja
• I visited Laguardia’s magnificent Santa Maria de los Reyes with a tour that included seeing its portico illuminated with English explanation and then roamed around other parts of Laguardia.
• I then visited the Dolmen of the Sorceress near Bilar;
• toured the Viña Real winery;
• joined a tour of the monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla (Monasterios de Suso and Yuso);
• drove by the Bodega Marques de Riscal just to get a glimpse of Gehry’s hotel there;
• walked around a nature preserve / bird sanctuary just outside of Laguardia; and
• ended with an OK, if overpriced, dinner in the cave restaurant associated with the Hotel Hospedería de Los Parajes.
• 2nd of 2 nights in Laguardia.

Day 4: From Laguardia through León:
• When I left Laguardia, I went first to Remelluri, where I had not been able to arrange a tour, but where I spent a pleasant hour strolling the vineyard on a mapped path they allow visitors to stroll.
• I then toured Bodegas Bai Gorri, where I especially appreciated the two delicious tapas served with the tasting wines.
• On to the Monasterio de Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas, in Burgos, which I hadn’t been able to see during my initial stay there.
• After failing to locate the Iglesia de San Miguel de Escalada – or was the stork-nested San Miguel I did find, but could not enter, it? –
• I went on to León and checked in for my 1st of 2 nights at the Parador de San Marcos.
• I had a wonderfully memorable dinner at Cocinandos.

Day 5: León:
• I visited various markets and squares and edifaces, the Basilica de San Isidoro and its magnificient museum, the Museo Biblico y Oriental, part of the river walk, the parador itself (cloister, church, museum), the Cathedral and its cloister.
• After dinner at the Parador, a 2nd of 2 nights there.

Day 6: León to Oviedo:
• After leaving León, I was glad I made it to Santa Cristina de Lena JUST in time to visit before it closed for siesta.
• I then drove through the spectacular Teverga ravine to the Colegiata de San Pedro in La Plaza, although it was closed when I got there. I did, however, get to see my first hórreo close-up – bonus!
• I reached and checked into the well-located Hotel Sercotel Ciudad de Oviedo and quickly left for
• A long visit to the Cathedral.
• I then roamed more of the Old Town and visited the more modern part of the Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias, then
• walked through the Campo de San Francisco; located the screeching peacocks in the gated property housing what seemed to be some kind of performance venue across one street, and
• had a wonderful dinner at El Restuarante Del Arco.
• I then spent the 1st of 2 nights in Oviedo.

Day 7: Oviedo:
• I visited Oviedo’s markets (indoor and out), the Museo Arqueologico de Asturias, and the larger portion of its fine arts museum.
• I stopped for cider and a small cheese plate at the Sidreria Tierra Astur Bascona (oh, the cheeses!!!) before walking to
• San Julian de los Prados and its magnificent frescoes.
• I then drove to the Centro del Prerrománico Asturiano, and visited San Miguel del Lillo (with two other people) and Santa Maria del Naranco (with just the guide). Awesome!
• I returned the car to my hotel, freshened up, and roamed around a bit before a very pleasant dinner at the Taberna Salcedo and my 2nd night in Oviedo.

Day 8: Oviedo through Potes:
• I left Oviedo and reached the impossibly packed Congas de Onis – oh, right: it is a spectacularly beautiful Sunday, relatively early in May – of COURSE everyone has been waiting for just the occasion to drive into this area! With patience,
• I visited the Puento Romano and the fascinating Ermita de Santa Cruz
• Before heading to the Lakes of Covadonga. And let me take this opportunity to offer a sincere apology to anyone who got stuck behind me on that road! (As noted below, under “things I liked least,” I could barely coax my wimpy rental car up those roads!)
• I thought I would have time for the “classic circular walk” of the Lakes of Covadonga, but by the time my little car made it to Lake Ercina, and by the time I could find a parking space (nearly a mile away), I decided to just roam around a while. What a glorious place! Instead of the full walk, I walked about an hour at the top and then made several stops on the way back downhill (e.g., at Lake Enol). It is a beautiful place, and it was a perfect day to see it!
• Once I left the Lakes, I went to magnificent Tito Bustillo.
• And then stopped very briefly at the Playa de Cuevas del Mar
• Before driving through the Desfiladero de la Hermida
• To Potes and the 1st of my 2 nights at the Hotel Valdecoro (which, regrettably, I can not recommend)
• And the first of two dinners at la Asadore Llorente, which I recommend wholeheartedly.

Day 9: Potes and the Picos de Europa:
• I roamed Potes, including its Monday markets,
• Visited Fuente De (on a PERFECT day for it!),
• Visited Santo Toribio de Liébana and its Ermita de San Miguel, and then
• Roamed Potes a bit more.
• I then took a taxi to Valmeo and walked back to Potes on a very pleasant path that wended its way above and to the side of the river, before
• A 2nd wonderful meal at la Asadore Llorente and my 2nd of 2 nights in Potes.

Day 10: Picos de Europa through Santillana del Mar:
• I left Potes in the morning, stopping first at Santa Maria de Piasca,
• And then at Santa Maria de Lebeña.
• My next stop was the Ceuva El Soplao, for its very beautiful “eccentric” geological formations.
• I spent several very enjoyable hours in Comillas, where I visited El Capricho and the Cemeterio Ruta Modernista, and then roamed along the harbor and beach and through the Old Town.
• I drove on to the Parador Gil Blas in Santillana del Mar, where I stayed for just one night.
• I enjoyed a lovely meal at La Villa on Plaza Gandara and then returned to the parador, where I poked around a while before retiring.

Day 11: From Santillana del Mar to Santander:
• I began the day by exploring Santillana del Mar, including Santa Juliana, the museums of torture and dioscesan art, and otherwise just strolling around.
• Then drove on to the impressive recreations of the Museo de Altamira and from there to
• The Hornos de la Peña, where I am eternally indebted to my guide for an extraordinarily in-depth tour.
• I then made my way to the OK Hotel Bahia in Santander, where I checked in and freshened. (WARNING: beward of DCC at the Bahia!)
• I had an enjoyable evening stroll and meal at Bar Marucho before the 1st of my 2 nights in Santander.

Day 12: In and around Santander:
• I explored Santander -- the Iglesia del Santíssimo Cristo, the Cathedral, and markets,
• Including the city’s excellent Museo de Prehistoria y Arqueologia de Catabria, and then drove to:
• the Cuevas Las Monedas and El Castillo of Monte Castillo. Awesome!
• After returning to Santander, I walked from my hotel along the waterfront to the Peninsula de la Magdelena, from which I caught the sunset through the trees nearest the point, and then continued my walk toward the Playa Sardinero.
• A quick taxi ride brought me to Bodega Cigaleña and a delightful meal before
• I walked back to my hotel for the 2nd of my 2 nights in Santander.

Day 13: Santander to Bilbao:
• I drove from Santander to Castro Urdailes, arriving during a windy rainstorm. Santa Maria was closed, but I walked around it to the lighthouse and from there to the interesting Ermita Santa Ana.
• I also stopped at the ruins of 3 adjacent Roman houses.
• As the wind and rain began to diminish, I went on to the Hotel Conde Duque in Bilbao.
• Once I had checked in and freshened, I walked along the river into the Old Town and began my explorations – the Museo Diocesano d Arte Sacro, the Cathedral, Plaza Nueva, Basilica de Begona, Funicular de Artxanda….
• Later, I had a lovely dinner at La Vina del Ensanche before spending the 1st of 2 nights in Bilbao.

Day 14: Bilbao:
• I began my day by visiting the excellent Museu Vasco and Arkeologi Museo,
• Then the Guggenheim,
• And then the Museo de Bellas Artes.
• I then walked through El Parque de Doña Casilda and along the river.
• After freshening, I headed to the Restaurante Etxanobe, where I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, right until I was charged in US dollars, even after explicitly stating that I wanted to pay in Euros. Unfortunately, that left a VERY bad taste in my mouth.

Day 15: Bilbao to San Sebastian / Donostia:
• I drove to the fascinating Puente Colgante (Biscaya Bridge) in Getxo, toured it, and
• Then stopped briefly (not long enough!) in the Old Port of Getxo.
• I drove to the area near, and then hiked into and explored, the Oma Forest. Oh my!
• I drove to and roamed around lovely Lekeitio.
• I found a place in San Telmo from which to view the flysch of Zumaia.
• And then I found my way to the very basic – but well-located and servicable – Pension Aida in San Sebastian / Donostia.
• After freshening, I went to Casa Urola for a lovely meal and leisurely stroll before returning to the pension for my 1st of 3 nights in San Sebastian / Donostia.

Day 16: San Sebastian / Donostia & Hondarribia
• I began my day with a visit to the Catedral Buen Pastor, then
• Walked through the Alderdi Eder Parkea, roaming nearby streets and plazas, to the Mercado Bretxa.
• After visiting San Vicente,
• I found some wonderful breakfast pintxos, including the jamon at Bar La Cepa.
• And then I began a long walk of Monte Urgull. Some of the trails to the east had been damaged by recent mudslides, but I did a decent job (I think) of finding my way up and around various battlements and miradors and (of course) the Cementerio de los Ingleses to the upper reaches. I skipped the Castel itself.
• Instead, I headed down and around the waterfront to the Palacio de Miramar and its gardens,
• And then down and around the waterfront to the spectacular El Peine de los Vientos.
• I took the funicular up and, shortly thereafter, down Monte Igeldo (stunning views!).
• At that point, I took a taxi back to my parking place where I claimed my car and drove to
• Hondarribia, where I drove along some of its waterfront and walked around some of the Old Town.
• Upon returning to San Sebastian / Donostia, I freshened up and then had a wonderful meal at the Restaurante La Muralla.
• And then I enjoyed a late, long meander back to my pension for a 2nd of 3 nights.

Day 17: San Sebastian / Donostia and the Pasaia (Pasajes)
• I walked along the riverside in Gros and then the “surfing beach” to its east end,
• Where I found some delicious breakfast pintxos at La Guinda.
• I then hiked to the Pasaia and took the little boat to Donibane,
• Where I had an absolutely delicious lunch at Restaurante Txulotxo.
• I took a bus back to San Sebastian / Donostia, where I visited the excellent Museu San Telmo
• And the Basilica Santa Maria.
• I then joined a number of interesting people for a pintxos tour through the old town
• Before returning to my pension for a 3rd of 3 nights.

To be continued….
kja is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2015, 06:59 AM
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Eagerly awaiting more!!
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 07:31 AM
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Thanks, kja
you do move fast...like the way you outline your day...waiting for the rest.
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 12:27 PM
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What a pace but to the point ;-)
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 01:02 PM
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I raised a glass in your honor at the parador in León. More about that later…. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the ride!>>

I hope that means that you enjoyed staying there. It sounds like a terrific trip.
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 07:59 PM
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@ ekscrunchy – Thanks for reading along! I don’t think I have quite your palate, but I certainly ate well on this trip.

@ danon – Thanks for the kind words! Yes, I did move FAST on this trip – so much to see, so little time! And at the end of every day, I felt that I had earned the right to savor every bite and sip of a leisurely meal without any regard to its caloric content. ;-) Life can ge good.

@ kimhe – Ditto what I just said to danon. I was able to focus my days in large part because of the wealth of information that you and others provided – what a gift! I’ll try to avoid providing unnecessary detail in my descriptions and trust that if you, or anyone else, would like more detailed information about what I did, you’ll ask.

@ annhig – Oh my, yes! The parador in León was, IMO, well worthy of the splurge, and for me, a two-night splurge at that! (I initially thought I would spring for just ONE night, but ribeirasacra and others convinced me that León needed more of my time….) Leaving aside the service and amenities, I would have wanted to visit that building even if it were not a hotel. To be able to sit in its cloister at any time of day or night, to catch up on my journal while sipping a glass of wine in its extraordinary library, to sit by the balcony in my room and watch the birds in the trees beside the river…. honestly, what have I ever done to merit such wonderful moments? I truly am a remarkably lucky woman.

Actual itinerary, continued:

Day 18: San Sebastian / Donostia through Taüll:
• I left San Sebastian / Donostia without further sightseeing. Although I had planned to stop in San Juan de la Pena, a variety of navigational problems prevented me from reaching it in time to visit prior to siesta.
• I went on to Torla, where I spent an enjoyable hour or so roaming around. And then
• I headed to Taüll.
• After checking in to the delighful Hotel Rantiner, I had time to freshen and walk to
• Restaurant El Caliu, where I had a delicious meal from a most welcoming hostess.
• I then returned to the Rantiner for my 1st of 2 nights there.

Day 19: Taüll:
• I made it to Sant Climent de Taüll just in time for the 10:30 “video-mapping” – awesome!
• I admired the surviving mural fragments and mural recreations of the 4 open churches of the Vall de Boi – Sant Climent and Santa Maria de Taüll; Santa Eulalia d’Erill la Vall, and Sant Joan de Boi.
• And I stopped at the visitors’ information center, where there is additional information about these churches.
• I drove to a number of the other churches that are only open during high season, including the churches in Còll, Cardet, Barruera, and Durro.
• At the info center, I had learned of an easy hour-long walk from the main church in Durro to a hermitage – St. Quirc – just outside Durro. I was game! But an hour later, when I realized that a sign about half-way there had routed me by a different path back to my origin, instead of to the hermitage itself, I was ready to say I’d had a pleasant enough walk for the day.
• I returned to one of the lovely common rooms of my hotel for a bottle of wine and a long “catch-up” session with my journal, all while watching the light change over Sant Climent and the valley and mountains beyond. Glorious!
• I had a pleasant dinner at El Restaurante Mallador before the 2nd of 2 nights in Taüll.

Day 20: Taüll to Cadaqués:
• The route from Taüll to Besalú was not short. I wish I had programmed it better.
• Besalú was well worth a visit of several hours IMO, particularly for the Pont Fortificat and San Pere.
• Despite the ways in which the winds whipped my little car (and me, when I stepped out!), I’m glad I drove to the Cap de Creus. Wow!
• I eventually found my way to the Hotel Octavia in Cadaqués, where I spent just 1 night.
• I had a lovely dinner at Es Baluard and a late night stroll around town.

Day 21: Cadaqués to Girona:
• I enjoyed roaming Cadaqués for a while, and especially liked the “cat sanctuary” upon which I inadvertently stumbled.
• I did NOT like the wind-whipped drive to Sant Pere de Rodes, but OMG, I loved the monastery itself! Well worth braving the drive to see, IMO.
• I drove to Santa Maria in Vilabertran, but got there just after it closed for siesta.
• I then went to Figueres and its Teatro Museo Dali and Dali-Jewels. Fascinating.
• And on to Girona, where I checked into the Peninsular for my 1 night in Girona.
• I meandered around for a while and enjoyed a slow, relaxing meal at Cal Ros.

Day 22: Girona to Tossa del Mar:
• I roamed delightful Girona, visiting the Cathedral, Museu d’Art, the Banys Arabs, gardens and walls, Sant Feliu, Sant Pere de Gailligants, and the Call. Lovely city!
• I then drove to Lloret de Mar, where I savored a short amble along a beach and then a leisurely stroll through the glorious Jardins de Santa Clothilde.
• I made my way to the charming Hotel Cap d’Or in Tossa del Mar and, after a brief walk around the town,
• Had a wonderfully memorable meal at La Cuina de Can Simon.

Day 23: Tossa del Mar to Montserrat:
• After watching the sun rise over the beach and sea from my room,
• I roamed Tossa del Mar and its walls briefly
• before leaving for Barcelona, where I took my rental car through a car wash and returned it to Avis without incident.
• I took a taxi to the hotel where I would be staying in Barcelona, with which I had made arrangements to leave my main suitcase, and proceeded to Montserrat via the metro and then the rack rail (Cremallera) with just an overnight bag.
• I checked into the Hotel Abat Cisneros and freshened up before
• meeting rialtogrl
• We attended vespers and listened to the magnificent boys’ choir
• And then enjoyed an evening of great food and wine and conversation with a group of very interesting travelers.

Day 24: Montserrat to Barcelona:
• Rialtogrl and I toasted the sunrise with mimosas before visiting the Black Madonna. I’ll look forward to my next visit with each of these wonderful women!
• I then visited the monastery’s museum before taking the rack rail back to Barcelona, where I officially checked into my hotel in Barcelona.
• I stopped in La Boqueria on my way to
• A brilliant meal at Can Culleretes.
• I visited the delightful courtyard of the Antic Hopstial de la Santa Creu i Sant Paul,
• and then Santa Maria del Pi, Palau Guell, Plaza Reial, and Sant Pau de Camp before
• A long stroll through Parc Guell
• And an “early” night of rest on my 1st of 5 nights in Barcelona. (Oops – did I say 6 above? It was 5.)

Day 25: Barcelona:
• I strolled the Passeig de Gracia to see its various mansions and
• Visited Casa Batlló;
• Took an English tour of the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau;
• Spent hours and hours at the Sagrada Familia, and
• Had tapas at Cerveceria Catalana before
• An evening visit to Casa Milà.
• 2nd of 5 nights in Barcelona.

Day 26: Barcelona:
• I took a bus to Montjuic, from which I took the
• Teleferic to the castle (which I did not visit), and then ambled along the Cami del Mar.
• I then walked downhill to the Fundacion Joan Miro.
• I spent most of the day at the magnificent Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
• After a brief stop at the Mies van der Rohe Pabellon, I went to
• El Poble Espanyol, where a few crafts shops were still open.
• I enjoyed dinner and a wonderfully passionate flamenco performance at the Tablao de Carmen and
• Caught the Font Magica before returning to my hotel for the 3rd of 5 nights.

Day 27: Barcelona:
• I began the day with an English tour of the glorious Palau de la Musica, then
• Strolled through the Mercat de Santa Caterina.
• I spent several very interesting hours exploring at the Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat, including the Roman excavations under Barcelona, various important eccelesiastical and governance structures, and Santa Agata.
• I also visited the Cathedral, Museu Frederic Mares, and Picasso Museum.
• I took a LONG walk along the harbor area and then the beach before
• Eating the BEST paella EVER at Restaurant 7 Portes.
• I stopped quickly at the Sagrada Familia to see it illuminated at night before
• heading to sleep on the 4th of 5 nights.

Day 28: Barcelona
• Anticipating an early departure the next day, I first packed insofar as possible and made sure that I hadn’t neglected gifts for anyone on my list.
• I tried to find the Fundacio Francesco Godia, but if it still exists, I did not find it.
• I did stop in the Fundacio Antoni Tapies for a brief time.
• I visited Santa Maria del Mar and El Born and Ciutadella Park with its glorious fountain.
• I was thrilled by the performances of four different troops of castellers at the "Fes-te al carrer" a Sants. Awesome!
• I savored a last meal of tapas at Tapeo and then
• Enjoyed another flamenco performance at Tablao Cordobes.
• Finally, I made my way through the drunken sports celebrants clogging Las Ramblas back to my hotel for the last of my 5 nights in Barcelona.

Day 29: Flight back to the U.S

As I said, this was not an itinerary for someone who wants a leisurely experience! I admit that I was tired by the end, but I wouldn’t have given up a single experience.

Next up: What I liked most.
kja is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2015, 08:13 PM
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Wow, I admire your stamina!

Thanks for the details. I will be putting some of those places (e.g. paella!) on my list. I'm splurging for the parador in Leon too, your description sounds fabulous.
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 08:20 PM
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Loving your report, kja!

And so glad you took my suggestion for mimosas at sunrise!!! Great way to start the day, eh???
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 09:36 PM
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This is great. I'm in the process of planning our visit to Spain, which will be in 3 weeks' time (can you say last minute?) and after having read your planning threads, I can't wait to read more of this trip report. Especially the drive to/through the Pyrenees.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 01:40 AM
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Impressive itinerary! You pack a lot in, but plan so well and it obviously fits your personal travel style.
I always feel inspired by solo travellers too.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 05:40 AM
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I am curious about the museums in Bilbao. Could you elaborate on your experiences of the Museo Diocesano d Arte Sacro, the Museo de Bellas Artes, the Museu Vasco and Arkeologi Museo? We are planning on the Guggenheim (obviously!) and will, I hope, have time for at least one other museum. I am impressed and a bit envious of your trip, as your interests seem similar to mine.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 07:23 AM
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@ thursdaysd – I’m glad you are finding some useful details in this account! If your experiences have been anything like mine, then finding paella that is served for one can seem like seeking the Holy Grail, so to find it, and to find that it was excellent, was a delight! The suggestion to go to 7 Portes for “rice” was one of the MANY recommendations that kimhe made that I was happy to pursue on this trip.

@ joannyc – I think I can safely speak for rialtogrl when I say that we were both thinking of you as we sipped our sunrise mimosas! Thanks for the inspiration.

@ noe847 – Oh, you are in for a wonderful trip!

As for the drive to/through the Pyrenees, two bits of advice: (a) I hope you have a car that is more powerful than an Opel Corsa, or at least, more powerful than the one I rented. More on that coming up…. (b) Even if you have a really good GPS system, do invest in a good road map. I updated my TomTom maps in the week before traveling, but the latest versions I was able to access were well behind the times for that part of Spain, creating some interesting challenges until I turned the TomTom off and pulled out a paper map.

As for Bilbao’s museums: (a) Like the Telmo Museum in San Sebastian / Donostia, the Museu Vasco is devoted to Basque culture. If you have any interest in these fascinating people and their heritage and traditions, then I would strongly encourage you to visit one or both of these museums. (b) The Guggenheim focuses exclusively on modern art, with very few permanent installations in a huge space that is, perhaps, better known for its architecture than its art. (c) Bilbao’s Museo de Bellas Artes is a traditional museum of fine arts with a focus on Spanish arts through the centuries (and a bit more international coverage of modern art). Small enough to be comfortably seen in a half-day, IMO, it features just one or two masterpieces by each of the artists it includes. It was, I believe, the most comprehensive collection of Spanish art that I visited on this trip. (c) Bilbao’s Arkeologi Museo has a small, thoughtfully displayed collection of prehistoric and archeological finds from the area. And (d) Bilbao’s Museo Diocesano d’Arte Sacro displays religious art and sacred objects. If the guidebooks with which you are working don’t cover these museums, you might want to look at the Michelin Green Guide.

@ Adelaidean – I think the biggest trick for ANY of us who travel is to learn our own travel style and plan (or not!) accordingly. I do enjoy planning my trips, and had so much really wonderful input from fellow Fodorites that it was surprisingly easy to develop my plans – well, aside from the hard decisions of what to skip! I think of solo travel as a great self-indulgence: I get to do EXACTLY what I want, and I get to do it when I want to do so. Hard to beat that! If you haven’t seen it and are interested, here is a link to a superthread with solo travel reports:

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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 07:38 AM
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What a lovely trip!!! We also move around a lot when we travel to new places. Looking forward to your recap.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 12:34 PM
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Re: paella for one. Yes, like risotto for one or zabaglione for one.
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