September Catalunya itinerary

Jul 27th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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September Catalunya itinerary

Well, I finally think I have my September trip itinerary (Phase 1, at least) ironed out.

2 nights Girona
- will arrive in the evening after long flight from LAX

2 nights Castelo d'Empuries
- daytrip to Cadaques

2 nights Vic
- daytrip to Ribes de Freser/cremmella train

2 nights Besalu
- local festival during this time

5 nights Barcelona (during Merce festival)
- daytrips possibly to Montserrat/Sitges

1 night Montblanc

2 nights Tarragona

I'm a solo, female traveler and relying on public transport. I've done alot of research on the transportation between the cities I've selected and definately did not want to spend hours on the bus/train or waiting for connections. Unfortunately, for this reason I had to eliminate Rupit. The one bus/day and timing just didn't work.
I also had to move Besalu out of sequence and backtrack from Vic due to the local festival in Besalu during the time. However, the distances are not great so it's not a major issue.

I visited this area briefly in 2002 (3 nights Barcelona, 2 Girona and 1 in Cadeques) and am excited to return. I'm not a big fan on modern art but like medieval villages, etc...

I'd particularly love to hear feed back on Castelo d'Empuries. I've seen postings on this forum regarding Empuries (nearby) but not Castelo d'Empuries. I chose this town versus Cadaques as I have already visited Cadaques, the accommodations seem much nicer, and it is easier to connect to Figueres/Girona.

Hotel recommendations would be great. I've done research and booked my Barcelona hotel (Banys Oriental) months ago.

Any other advise is greatly appreciated.
CathyM is offline  
Jul 27th, 2007, 11:57 AM
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Castello d'Empuries? I certainly would not spend 2 nights in the place. It's a nice village just off the main road from Figueres to Rosas.I am not even sure there is public transport to take you to Empuries.

From Besalu (festival or not) you could go to Olot and enjoy a tour of the volcanoes.
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Jul 29th, 2007, 02:45 PM
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Thanks for your response. I don't plan on visiting Empuries so it doesn't matter if there is public transportation from Castelo d'Empuries to Empuries. However, I did re-evaluate my decision to not stay in Cadaques and have changed my mind. I'm going to stay in Cadaques. I visited there in 2001 with some terrible traveling companions so perhaps this weighed into my original decision! Olot will be a easy daytrip from Besalu. Very frequent buses and a short distance.
CathyM is offline  
Jul 29th, 2007, 07:04 PM
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We did this trip in April, but with a car, so if you want to check out my trip report for more details and have any specific questions, I'd be happy to respond. We LOVED Empires, would recommend not skipping it, and were disappointed in Besalu, and LOVED Rupit and Pals and Girona.
artlover is offline  
Jul 31st, 2007, 04:36 PM
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CathyM, take a look at the Iberian Traveler newsletter for March 07 having to do with this area. You may find it useful.
Robert2533 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2007, 06:30 PM
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I really liked the afternoon I spent in Castelo d'Empuries. It's a real Catalonian town. It has a wonderful historic underpinning, but it's functioning as a small town, not a tourist destination. It has the rhythm of Catalonian rural town, unspoiled. I'd much rather base there than Olot -- which is gritty -- or Besalu even, which is fine and its appeal is evident, but it's a little bit precious. If you crave excitement, Castelo d'Empuries is going to bore you. If you'd like to try traditioanl Spanish life, Castelo d'Empuries is a good pick.

I adore Vic, and actually returned there the day after visit, cancelling other plans to do so.

There are few itineraries I read on Fodor's and want to write: Ooo, could I come along? But yours is one.

I had a car, so I just can't confirm for that public transportation is going to come through for you. However, you seem to have done your research.

I didn't go up to the Ribes de Fraser because I approached that area through the high Pyrenees, and I just didn't feel a need for it. Also I guess the man-made aspect of it made me not want to see it.

May I suggest that instead of Cadaques, you explore the possibility of a day trip to Callela da Palaufrugell? I have no idea if its accessible by public transportation, and unlike Cadaques, it doesn't have a high profile in terms of international culture. It's not an arts colony. It's just an especially charming seaside Spanish village. But if you want the sort of counterculture feel of Cadaques (which I find so difficult to get in and out of), you won't find it anyplace by Cadaques.

I think Montserrat is kind of boring. Others disagree. I blew in and out of Rupit, because I misjudged my own time and got there and realized I had to leave. That said, it is a "sight," but not a place, if you know what I mean.

I think by the time you get to Barcelona, you will know you want from the town. As a solo femaile, you have watch your purse everywhere in Barcelona and all of yourself in the Barri Gotic, especially around Las Ramblas -- which for my money is eminently skippable.

Have a great time.
fall06 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 04:59 PM
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I agree with the previous poster about Palaufrugell over Cadaques, and would also suggest Pals, another incredible midevil village. Both are closer and unless you're a huge Dali fan (like my DD who traveled solo in that area), you'd be better off. Also, Gila's villa in Pubol was, for me, more interesting than Theatro de Dali.

I also agree about watching you purse, but would go so far as to say, don't carry one--use a money belt instead (or inside pockets of a jacket).

For me, the best part of Montserrat (besides the funicular that takes you there and the dramatic setting) was hearing the boys' choir sing--they do so every day at 1.

Have a great trip.
artlover is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 05:36 PM
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I investigated both Pals and Peratellada and the issue was transportation. There is absolutely nothing to Peratellada by bus from Barcelona or Girona in September and only 3 buses a day from Barcelona.

However, for some unknown reason I didn't even look into Calella de Palafrugell! I just pulled up bus schedules from Sarfa and it's definately a possibility - easy transport from Girona even on Sundays. Or I could go here first for 2 nights then Girona. I'd have to go to Palafrugell then transfer buses to Callella de Palafrugell but again easy connection times. Hmmm.....there's even a festival in Begur that weekend.....I could perhaps do as a daytrip.

Just when I had everything done 6 weeks in advance this opportunity presents itself!

Looks like I'll be researching Calella de Palafrugell this weekend - may come back with more questions.

Glad to hear that Vic is a nice city. I'm using it as my base to take the cremella ride versus Ripoll or Ribes de Fraser. Everything I read about Vic described it as a lovely city but there's not alot of postings on it.

Also, my hotels so far:

Girona: Hotel Historic Barri Vell
Cadaques (?) - Hotel Playa Sol
Vic - NH Ciudad to Vic
Besalu - Hotel Comte Tallaferro
Barcelona - Hotel Banys Orientals
Montblanc - Fonda cal Blasi
Tarragona - Hotel Imperial Tarraco

Thanks everyone. This is awesome feedback.
CathyM is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 09:18 PM
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I stayed in the Playa Sol in Cadaques and it's a fine hotel. The rooms are very nice and the location is good, but it's a bit removed from the party, but just a stone's throw away from everything.

Besalu is so tiny it's hard to imagine one hotel is better than another. I stayed at place right at the bridge which was rather oddball (a converted mansion of some sort) but it was just fine. Besalu is actually in the middle of an intensely agricultural landscape. The day I arrived they had just fertilized the fields with manure, and the stink was incredible! I'm sort of a back to nature type, so I took it in stride, but be aware that this is not strictly tourist territory.

I think Vic is an essential part of any education in Catalonian culture. It's a rather severe town - although architecturally quite gracious. But it is the seat of Church-driven Catalonian nationalism. But the history it has preserved of Catalonian culture is worth pondering.

I don't want to mislead you about Calella da Palaufrugell. It's a sleepy beach village, with cafes on the seafront. It's just not built up like the other Costa Brava seafront. I didn't visit its spectacular botanical garden, but aside from that, it's a place to just loll (quite often topless) and eat a lot and swim. I drove there, and did note the bus stops, but it's quite a long road from the main highway to the sea. I could imagine waiting quite sometime for a bus in and out. If you want a very charming seaside location, I prefer to Cadaques, but I do appreciate the special international counterculture feeling tha Cadaques posseses. Calella da Palaufrugell is more Ava Gardner, and retro. It's depends on what you want -- and of course there are even other more down to earth seaside places (like Tamiru) if you want to avoid the "specialquot; altogether.

There is a small paperback called "Costa Brava" and I cannot remember if it is Lonely Planet or Rought Guide (are they the same?) that publishes it. It is readily available on Amazon and I found it to be a spot-on guide to the region. It's really worth ordering to help make these choices.
fall06 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 09:25 PM
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PS, about purses and such:

I never carry a purse in Spain. After someone tried to grab my bag in Barcelona, I switched to carrying an ordinary plastic shopping sack -- you know, they kind you get when you buy something in a drugstore. I keep nothing valuable in it. I keep valuables in my hotel safe.

I acquired a small wallet/purse made by Yasmena called a "Yazzy bag." It has a velcro wrist band and a loop that hooks over my middle finger. I can keep a credit card and keys and small amounts of money in it. It's made for joggers, but I found it the most reassuring way to carry essentials in Spain without fear of being pickpocketed. Unfortunately, it is a shade too small for a passport.
fall06 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 10:47 AM
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Well, I've had a night to research and here's what I came up with:

Palafrugell is a good hub for bus transfers (Pals, Begur, Girona, Calella de Palafrugell).

Begur is haveing a festival(Santa Reparada Festival) on the 15th and 16th (Sat/Sun) of September. I could easily swap out Cadaques and head in this direction Sunday, Sept 16th. If I base myself in Begur I'll be right there for the festival on the 16th! I could do a daytrip on Monday to Calella de Palafrugell and perhaps even Pals. I'd miss Cadaques but this seems like a better alternative.

The only issue is with the bus connection between Begur and Palafrugell. There are only 4 buses a day and the last bus from Palafrugell to Begur is at 13:45. So, I'd have to do my daytrip early and be quick. Alternatively, it's only 7 km between Palafrugell and Begur.

Is taxi an option? Are they available and how expensive would this be (I can't imagine it would be too much for 7km)? If taxi is an option it may even be doable between Begur and Pals leaving out the bus altogether.

The alternative is basing myself in Palafrugell since it's a better hub for transportation but I'd miss out on being in Begur for the festival and it seems like Begur is a nicer place to stay. The Iberian Traveler newsletter (thanks Robert2533!) highly recommends Begur. Given the sponsor of this newsletter, that means alot to me!

Regarding pickpockets and safety: I don't let possible problems with this bother me too much but I take extra precautions particularly in larger cities (Madrid/Barcelona, etc...). I've never had an issue with safety but I just use good common sense. Never carry anything valuable in my daypack/purse including credit cards and alot of $. I never carry my passport with me when I'm sightseeing - only a copy with the original back at the hotel. I have a homeade "pouch" that hooks around my bra with velcro and is just large enough for my credit cards and larger bills (I should try to market it someday as I hate the bulk of $ belts and this little pouch is lightweight and doesn't show!). I keep small bills in a place where I can easily reach without having to unzip my daypack/purse. I also put a large safety pin just where the zipper starts as a deterent - if someone has to unhook the safety pin then undo the zipper to get to my stuff they'll likely move to someone easier first. I go out at night but like to have central hotels and as the night progresses I move closer to the hotel. If the worst happens, and I'm robbed completely of my daypack/purse and my hidden pouch, I have a copy of my passport and credit cards in my suitcase along with a spare credit card so I'll be able to continue spending $ and having fun!

Thanks again for all of your help.
CathyM is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 01:42 PM
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Well, I took the advice of many of you and changed my itinerary again. I've swapped out Cadaques for 2 nights in Begur. I'm staying at the Aiguaclara in Begur. I contacted the TI office and they confirmed it is easy and convenient to get a taxi from Palafrugell to Begur. Will only cost 12-15 euros. It's also possible to go from Begur to Pals for approx the same cost. So, this is very exciting. Not only will I be able to attend the festival in Begur but I can also visit Calella de Palafrugell and Pals!

With 5 weeks left for my trip I actually have time to plan restaurants and read move about the area. Thank you all so much.
CathyM is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 02:12 PM
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Sounds like a great trip. There's a lot of creative cooking around there, so while restaurant research is always smart, I think you'll find that asking the locals is very rewarding.

If you are at all interested in art and art artifacts, do leave yourself sufficient time to tour the museum in Vic, which is just jammed with treasures.
fall06 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 02:27 PM
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Thanks, fall06!

I agree with you on the cooking statement. When I first started traveling to Spain I did all kinds of research in books/forums, etc... on restaurants. Then I'd spend time tracking down the restaurant and it was often closed or now "discovered" and not as good. When I relaxed and just let my instinct kick in or asked a local, I often found the best places. Of course, the one resource I'd never neglect is Maribel's guides. She's never pointed me in the wrong direction!

You really have me intrigued by Vic. It was one of the places I debated about but with your input have inked it in my itinerary. There's not alot written out this city (compared to others) nor were there alot of hotels. The TI website has some great pictures of the city. I'm going to arrive there on Tuesday so I can see the famous market.

CathyM is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 02:53 PM
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I think the Plaza Mayor in Vic is one of the most interesting I've ever seen and it's reall grand public space. But Catalonians -- especially the cosmopolitans in Barcelona -- have very mixed feelings about Vic because the separatist feeling there is so strong. People in Barcelona are proud of being trilingual and open to global culture, which they think is the right Catalonian attitude, but in Vic, apparently, people don't want speak anything but Catalan and are extremely conservative in religious views. But nothing takes away from the artistic treasures of Catalonia and rich historical remains from so many different epochs.

Many of the places you are going to are places that people in Barcelona like to travel to for nice rural lunch on Sunday or spend a romantic weekend, so the food can be fantastico, but pricey if you aren't careful. But I ate very well by and large in all price ranges. I prefer helados to gelato, if the weather is warm, it's good. Wine in area is good too. I agree with your assessment of Maribel's rex.

I'll be traveling myself in September and beyond so I doubt I'll see your trip report. But I'm sure future travelers will benefit from knowing your reactions to these places. Hard to find info.

fall06 is offline  
Aug 10th, 2007, 07:34 PM
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Will you be staying at the Parador in Begur? Hope so, it was great and very reasonably priced AND the restaurant was really good!
artlover is offline  
Aug 10th, 2007, 08:00 PM
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I had not planned on staying at the parador as I won't have a car and the festival will be right in the center of Begur on Sunday (the day I arrive). I have reservations at the central Hotel Aiguaclara.

How far is the parador from the city center? Is there anything to do in the evenings around the parador area? Since I'll be traveling solo I didn't want to be too isolated.

Ironically, Catalunya is an area of Spain that I was not too sure I would find enough to interest me for 2.5 weeks when I started planning my trip. I couldn't have been more wrong. I am so excited about exploring this area in depth!
CathyM is offline  
Aug 16th, 2007, 02:36 PM
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It would be difficult to stay at the Parador without a car, and no, there really isn't anything to do around the Parador itself at night.

Hope you have a great trip!
artlover is offline  
Aug 21st, 2007, 12:10 PM
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fall06, I think keeping political or religious bias out of reviews is the wisest way to ensure potential travellers have an objective opinion about a country or region, especially when ill-founded and incorrect.

I am a non-Spaniard, have lived in Barcelona for years, speak Catalan and Spanish and each of your statements about people from Vic, Barcelona and their opinions is offensive not only to Catalans, but to anyone who has ever had your kind of prejudice thrown at them. I’m sure you can understand - a similar type of prejudice is currently being thrown at all Americans.

When you say "People in Barcelona are proud of being trilingual and open to global culture, which they think is the right Catalonian attitude", have you met them all? Aren't you forgetting the majority Catalans who have pushed for years against the continuous oppression of their language and the culture you seem to admire? I’m confused at how you can admire a “culture” in one statement and openly insult the people who created that culture in another.

"...but in Vic, apparently, people don't want speak anything but Catalan and are extremely conservative in religious views" again, I doubt you've met them all, and although I am atheist I feel your insulting the religiously conservative (which most people in Vic, and in Spain in general are not, contrary to your clumsy logic) equally offensive.

Maybe paying a little more attention to the “culture” and its people rather than the artefacts and pretty buildings will send you away with a more accurate overview of a country, so that instead of spewing cultural, political and religious insults visible for all the world to be offended by, you can educate yourself and others more accurately.

Or just stick to talking about the pretty buildings.
SteveDC is offline  

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