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Spectacular Scenery in Spain: Barcelona, Costa Brava, Mallorca

Spectacular Scenery in Spain: Barcelona, Costa Brava, Mallorca

Old Jun 1st, 2023, 08:43 PM
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Spectacular Scenery in Spain: Barcelona, Costa Brava, Mallorca

After over a year of planning, I’ve just returned from an incredible 2.5 weeks in Spain! I love reading and writing long trip reports – and I’ve already started working on a day-by-day narrative – but as a preview or for those who’d rather just read an outline, here’s some overview info about the trip.

Dates and Itinerary:
May 15-31, 2023
Barcelona – 5 nights
Costa Brava (base in L’Escala) – 4 nights
Mallorca/Soller – 3 nights
Mallorca/Valldemossa – 2 nights
Mallorca/Palma – 1 night

Background: This is my second trip to Spain, my first being in 2017. I visited Barcelona on my previous trip, but the other places we visited were new to me. I traveled with my friend Maggie, and this was her first visit to Spain. We are both relatively well-traveled and like to pack a lot into our trips. Although we have similar interests (history, art, nature, food), we don’t mind splitting up to spend time independently. We rented a car for the Costa Brava portion of the trip. This was my first time renting a driving a car abroad, and it was less stressful than anticipated (although with all of my backseat driving, Maggie might be surprised to hear me say that!).

Accommodations: I really liked all of our accommodations and would happily recommend each of them
  • Barcelona – Hotel Gran Via
  • L’Escala – family connection apartment
  • Soller – Finca Ca’s Sant
  • Valldemossa – La Casita AirBnB
  • Palma – Bordoy Continental

Highlights: There are just too many to mention, but I’ll do my best to create a short-ish list here.
  • Sagrada Familia
  • Wandering the elegant leafy neighborhood behind Casa Batlló
  • Seeing a Castellers demonstration in Barceloneta
  • The cute medieval village in Tossa de Mar
  • Walking the Cami de Ronda near S’Agaró
  • The charming medieval village of Pals
  • The gorgeous beach at Sa Tuna and colorful town of Begur
  • Even more colorful Collioure over the border in France
  • The gorgeous coastline near Palafrugell and Llafranc
  • The botanic garden at Cap Roig
  • The breezy and wacky Dalí House Museum in Port Lligat
  • A spontaneous 2-hour coastal cruise in Cadaques
  • Staying at Ca’s Sant and taking some time to relax at the pool
  • The Saturday market in Soller
  • Getting up early to wander the streets of Valldemossa before the crowds arrive (also meeting the cats of Valldemossa)
I’ve realized that while I don’t consider myself a generally picky eater, I am picky when it comes to meat. I don’t like any fish or seafood, raw meat, or anything that tastes gamey or “animaly”…which means that at least half the options on any given menu don’t appeal to me. So that’s something to keep in mind as I give my opinions about restaurants and what we ate. Overall I don’t love Spanish cuisine; however, what I did love was all of the passionfruit drinks, desserts, and chocolate I found on this trip! With that said, here are some of my standout eating experiences:
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice – everywhere, even in grocery stores!
  • Patatas bravas from El Nacional (Barcelona)
  • Chocolate a la taza from Faborit Casa Amatller (Barcelona)
  • Crostata limón gelato from Gelaati di Marco (Barcelona)
  • Pan de tomate from Els 4 Gats (Barcelona)
  • Banana mascarpone pancakes from El Federal (Girona)
  • Mediterranean salad and coulant de chocolate with passionfruit sorbet from La Pizeta (Begur)
  • Pan de tomate from Hotel les Templiers (Collioure)
  • Coca de patata and ensaimada con chocolate at Las Molinas (Valldemossa)
  • Moroccan lamb tajin tacos and chocolate tart at Es Taller (Valldemossa)
  • Bread service with amazing olive oil at Café Miró (Deia)
  • Iberian ham lettuce tacos and beetroot pavlova at Restaurant Botanic (Palma)

I can honestly say that there is very little I would change about this trip! The itinerary was great and I liked all of our accommodations. We ate so much delicious food (I had a vacation mentality of eating pastries and gelato any time the inclination hit me)! We saw so much amazing architecture and so many spectacular landscapes. There were instances when I regretted not being able to see and do everything, but those regrets were due to lack of time rather than the regret of having chosen one thing instead of another.

Lots more to come (including photos)!

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Old Jun 1st, 2023, 10:33 PM
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Its late here so I'll read your thread in the morning -- looking forward to it. But a suggestion - you might want to click the orange triangle and ask the moderators to add a Trip Report tag . . .
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Old Jun 2nd, 2023, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Its late here so I'll read your thread in the morning -- looking forward to it. But a suggestion - you might want to click the orange triangle and ask the moderators to add a Trip Report tag . . .

Oh, goodness, the GRan Via in Barcelona! I stayed there on my first trip to the city when Ii was at school in Valencia and then returned again about 20 years ago...I read that it's been updated but it is still dear to my heart. I remember Juan Gomez, the concierge from so long ago...thank you for the memories!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2023, 06:54 PM
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Done! Thanks janisj

ekscrunchy I really enjoyed Hotel Gran Via! I was just reading KarenWoo's trip report about her bad experience there (although that was 13 years ago). I'm glad I didn't read that before I made the booking; we may have missed out on a nice room in a great location at a reasonable price.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2023, 07:06 PM
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My day started early, with a 6:45am flight from Salt Lake City to Denver, where I then had to wait eight hours for a 5:35pm flight to Frankfurt. The second flight was slightly delayed, so the 3-hour layover in Frankfurt left me a perfect cushion to get to my gate without having to rush but also without having to kill a lot of time waiting around the airport either. My final flight also ended up leaving and landing about an hour late, but I finally arrived in Barcelona at about 5pm, after over 24 hours of travel!

I took the aerobus to the Plaça de Catalunya. From the bus I could see crowds of people, and it seemed all the world was visiting Barcelona in May…but from what I’ve read on this forum, all the world also seemed to be visiting Paris and Lisbon and any number of other places too! Barcelona was busy, but I never found the crowds so extreme as to be bothersome.

I walked the short distance to the Hotel Granvia. When we started seriously planning this trip, about eight months earlier, we had intended to find a 2-bedroom AirBnB. However, by the time we had confirmed dates (about 3 months before the trip), prices had doubled, so we decided to sacrifice personal space and save ourselves several hundred dollars by booking a shared hotel room. We had a Superior twin room that was very nice and surprisingly large, with a view out over Gran Vía. There would end up being some street noise at night (from traffic), but that didn’t bother me, since I normally fall asleep with earbuds. The location was really great, the staff were friendly and helpful, and the common areas were beautiful; I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel.

Maggie had arrived in Barcelona earlier in the day, so while she made a museum visit, I showered and got myself settled. We met up for dinner at El Xampanyet – a tiny but popular little tapas restaurant in El Born. Maggie joined the line shortly after the restaurant opened, so we only had to wait fifteen minutes or so before we got a table. We ordered the Spanish omelet (pretty good), mixed olives, and pan de tomate (both great). It was a very traditional start to eating in Spain. Next we headed over to El Nacional, a beautifully decorated large space that contains several restaurants or eating areas. There was a line for the Tapería, but again the wait only ended up being 15-20 minutes. We ordered patatas bravas (very good, slightly spicy, these were my favorite of the patatas bravas we ate) and pimiento de padrón (nothing special, needed more salt).

And with that, we successfully kicked off our Spanish adventure!

Not our hotel or anything referenced in the trip report, just a pretty building we saw on our walk around town.

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Old Jun 3rd, 2023, 12:47 PM
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The next morning we were up and out the door sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 to make our way down La Rambla. It was so leafy and serene – morning is definitely the best time to enjoy La Rambla! We arrived at La Boquería market shortly after it opened; some of the stands were still getting set up. We perused the various offerings before making our selections. I ended up with a spinach and cheese empanada and a mango passionfruit juice. Passionfruit would become a theme for me on this trip; the flavor is everywhere, and I love it! We took our breakfast to the Plaça Reial, in my opinion one of the prettiest plazas in Barcelona.

Fresh juice at the Boqueria market

Ham stand at the Boqueria market

At about 10am we headed over to Palau Guell, one of Gaudí’s earlier works. I had read mixed reviews online about whether or not this is a site worth visiting, but I really enjoyed it. There are some impressive spaces, including a central hall with an organ and a gorgeous ceiling that was designed as a space for music and even mass. There's also a rooftop with some interesting chimneys and decorative elements (which I didn't get any great photos of, despite my attempts.) It may not make the list of top sites to visit if you only have a couple days in Barcelona, but if you have more time or if you’ve already visited the more popular sites, I’d say that Palau Guell is definitely worth visiting.

Central hall at Palau Guell

Next we spent some time wandering the Barri Gòtic. On my list of priorities was a repeat visit to Xurrería dels Banys Nous. I had visited this little churro shop on my visit to Spain in 2017 and loved that they offered stuffed churros. I ordered the same thing I had back in 2017 – a dulce de leche stuffed churro and a handful of smaller chocolate-covered churros. Right next door was the other shop I wanted to be sure and visit: Librería Rodés. While I enjoyed browsing the old books, what I really came for was the cat. Rita is 12 years old and is the bookshop cat. Apparently she spends a lot of her time in the back of the shop, but I was lucky enough to catch her sunning herself outside. (Cats will also be a theme of this trip. I love them and seek to befriend them wherever I go.) The shop owners were surprised that Rita had been mentioned online and were amused that I had come specifically to meet her.

Rita the bookstore cat

El Ponte de Bisbe in the Barri Gotic

From the Barri Gòtic we made our way to Barceloneta. The beach was busy, although not many people were actually in the water. We walked along the beach for a little ways and then made an attempt at La Cova Fumada for lunch. The wait was 30-40 minutes, which was more than we wanted to spend (plus it was kind of chaotic and confusing), so we started wandering and soon happened upon the Barceloneta location of Brunch & Cake. We had another location of this restaurant on the schedule for tomorrow, so we thought we’d eat here today and then we could make a decision about whether or not to make a second visit to the other location tomorrow. I got a sandwich and drink that were good and Maggie got a mango orange drink that she really loved.

Barceloneta beach with Frank Ghery's fish sculpture in the background

Lots of clothes drying out of windows in the Barceloneta neighborhood

After lunch we took the metro across town and visited Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau. A hospital has existed at this site for hundreds of years, but at the end of the 19th century Lluís Domènech i Montaner was commissioned to build a new hospital complex. It was designed to be a hospital that used the most modern science and technology, as well as be a beautiful, bright, airy place that would aid patients in their healing. Over time the hospital facilities have been moved to a new location, and the buildings are currently used as a historical site and the offices of a few different charitable organizations.

The site was not at all crowded or busy, but I don’t think the lack of popularity is at all indicative of its beauty. The buildings, both inside and out, are gorgeous. We did a leisurely self-guided tour. They were setting up for some sort of event in the upper hall of the main building, and Maggie commented that this would be a perfect place for a wedding reception – you wouldn’t have to spend any money on decorations!

The entrance of Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau

Inside the administration building

One of the buildings on the Recinte Modernist de Sant Pau campus

If I had to stay in a hospital, I'd love one with beautiful tilework like this...but not the lack of privacy!

Don't forget to look up!

Beautiful hall where they were setting up for an event (photo from my previous visit in 2017)

Gorgeous tile mural in the event hall (photo from my previous visit in 2017)

Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau campus

This had already been a very full day, but we walked the relatively short distance to Sagrada Familia and admired the exterior before taking the metro back to our hotel.

We had dinner reservations at La Pepita. I had the eggplant fritters (okay), Argentine beef skewer (good flavor but the meat was a bit tough), and corn ice cream dessert (sounds strange but it was really good)! Maggie had the croqueta, pan de tomate, and artichoke hummus and said that the artichoke dish was her favorite. Despite this restaurant’s good reviews, we weren’t overly impressed. The food was fine, but there wasn’t anything I’d particularly recommend. I don’t eat fish, but the calamari seemed to be a favorite, from what I could see looking around the restaurant.

Last edited by memejs; Jun 3rd, 2023 at 12:52 PM.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2023, 01:29 PM
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I am happy to hear that you enjoyed your stay at the Hotel Gran Via. Our visit, as you mention, was 13 years ago, so I would not discourage someone from staying there. The staff have obviously moved on, and I am sure the unfortunate incident we encountered is not a common occurrence. The location is very convenient, and I remember that we had a good-sized room which is surprising for European hotels.

I am enjoying your report and photos. I may not be able to keep up to date as we are currently traveling around Scotland and having a wonderful time.
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Old Jun 4th, 2023, 05:51 AM
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Thanks KarenWoo I hope you're having a great time in Scotland, and I'm looking forward to reading your subsequent trip report!
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Old Jun 4th, 2023, 06:13 AM
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This was only the second full day of vacation, but I still had trouble getting going this morning! I could blame jetlag, but I think it's just that we had a really full day yesterday. Maggie left for a 9am entrance to Casa Batlló. Since I had visited previously, I decided not to buy a ticket again this time. Actually, I should say that I was originally interested in visiting again, but when I saw all of the ticket options (extra rooms, early entrance, virtual reality, etc.), I got decision paralysis and decided my previous visit was sufficient. I’d love to hear opinions about whether the more-than-basic options are gimmicky or actually worth it.

I had a slow start to the morning with a visit to the Faborit café at Casa Amatller. I had what is possibly the best hot chocolate in Spain! This is the thick, rich chocolate that you practically have to eat with a spoon – definitely worth stopping in for. (No ticket to the house is required to visit the café, but I did the house tour on my previous visit and would say that it’s definitely worth visiting.) After finishing my chocolate, I visited the little gift area and spent way too much money on chocolate…but I don’t regret it, the quality of the chocolate is really good. They even had these little milk chocolate and passionfruit leaves that I snacked on throughout the trip! We later found that there is another shop around the corner from Casa Milá where everything is slightly cheaper, so I recommend walking just a couple more blocks to that location if you plan on buying Casa Amatller chocolate.

Casa Batllo - an amazing building, inside and out

The facade of Casa Amatller

The most amazing chocolate a la taza!

After my indulgent start to the day, I wandered through the leafy streets behind/to the west of Casa Amatller and Casa Batlló. This neighborhood has a serene and elegant feeling that I really liked. We liked Brunch & Cake enough the previous day that we kept our plans for brunch at the Carrer d’Enric Granados location. They don’t take reservations, so we waited in line for about 20 minutes before we were seated inside. After looking at the menu yesterday I was really excited to order the smoked lemon pancakes….but they were out, how disappointing! I’m still curious about whether they would have been as delicious as I was imaginging. I ended up getting the french toast, which was very good. I don’t remember what Maggie got, but I do remember that she ordered the orange, mango, passionfruit drink she had liked so much yesterday.

Pretty buildings in a quiet neighborhood of the Eixample

Next up was the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. It was International Museum Day, so the entrance to this and the other museums we would visit this day was free! Despite the fact that entrance was free (with a reserved ticket), the museum didn’t feel all that crowded. I went chronologically through the museum and took quite a bit of time in the Romanesque section, where they have a number of frescoes from churches in Catalonia. I watched a short film that showed the fascinating process of how frescoes are removed from the walls of churches to be preserved in the museum – it’s a process that has basically remained unchanged for over one hundred years. I spent a little too long in this section, because by the time I got to the 20th century art, I had to breeze through more quickly than I liked, and then I made a very rushed trip up to the roof to take in the views of Barcelona.

The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

View from the museum out over Barcelona

The process of removing frescoes from Catalonian churches for preservation is amazing

One of my favorite works in the museum: Reflected Shadow by Lluis Masriera i Roses

The interior of a dome inside the museum

The reason I had to rush is because I had a 1:00-1:30 entrance time to the Fundacio Joan Miró. The collection is housed in a really cool space. Unlike the Museu Nacional, this museum did feel crowded. It was still fun to see the gigantic scale of some of Miró’s works. There was also a temporary exhibit on the theme of imaginary friends, which I really enjoyed.

While I was at the Fundacio Joan Miró, Maggie visited the Mies van der Rohe pavilion. It’s a small site, but according to Maggie, it contains a lot of information. On my way to meet back up with Maggie at the metro stop, I took the opportunity to have a quick meander through the Jardins de Laribal.

Terrace of the Miro museum

A textile work by Miro. I wish I had a person in the photo to show scale. This work is huge!

View from an outlook on Montjuic. You can see Sagrada Familia in the distance; it's scale is just amazing!

Normally I would never group three museum visits in one day, but because of the opportunity for a free entrance, we made our way to yet another site: The Picasso Museum. This was the most crowded of the museums! Everyone else must have been feeling as tired as we were by this point in the day, because it seemed like everyone was doing “drive bys” of the art: very casual perusing with the occasional photograph.

Interior of the Picasso museum

Portrait of Velasquez by Picasso

With a few hours to go before our dinner reservation we needed a pick-me-up, so we went to Gelaati di Marco, which I can heartily recommend! They have somewhere around two dozen flavors of very good gelato. After finishing my cone, I knew I’d need to make it a priority to return before we left Barcelona. There were more flavors I needed to try!

Dinner that night was at Tapeo. We shared patatas bravas, asparagus tempura with Romanesco sauce, and glazed beef cheeks. The food was good enough, but not amazing. We deemed it our least favorite of the restaurants so far.

Last edited by memejs; Jun 4th, 2023 at 06:19 AM.
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Old Jun 4th, 2023, 09:12 PM
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Thank you, brings back memories from our trip to Spain almost 8 years ago!
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Old Jun 5th, 2023, 04:39 PM
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We had tickets for the earliest entrance to Park Guell, so we hopped on a bus that would get us there about 15 minutes before our 9:30 entrance time. We joined a small crowd of people (including 2-3 tour group) to wait at the gate. Once inside the park, we went first to the open terrace area that looks out over the gatehouses. It was a beautiful, sunny morning, so we had great views of Barcelona. We spent the next couple of hours wandering our way along the various paths within the park. By the time we left, the area between the gatehouses and the dragon statue was packed with people. This is one site where it’s definitely worth it to visit early in the day.

We had a short bus ride + walk to Casa Vicens. This is one of Gaudí’s first works, and it’s so delightfully colorful! It’s a small site and it was relatively busy, which means it was all but impossible to get good photographs without people in them, but I still really enjoyed the experience.

Casa Vicens from the street

I really liked this tile pattern from the facade

The day had turned gloomy and a bit rainy. I was also in some pain due to a nerve issue that shows up when I’m on my feet a lot, so the rest of the day I wasn’t feeling my best. It wasn’t that I was unhappy, but I did feel low on energy.

We had lunch at Beryti, a little Lebanese restaurant in the Gracia neighborhood. We had the menu del día, which was a really good cucumber and tomato salad; a warm couscous and chicken main, which felt like comfort food on this rainy afternoon; and a dessert of little fried balls of dough with honey and tea made from fresh mint.

Luckily the rain had mostly stopped by the time we walked to Sagrada Familia. We had purchased our tickets online ahead of time for a 4:00pm entrance with 4:30 entrance to the Nativity Tower. Sagrada Familia was crowded (is it ever not?!), but the church is so big that it rarely feels like people are in the way of anything you want to see. Visiting Sagrada Familia was a highlight of my previous trip to Spain, and while I don’t think the awe of seeing it for the very first time can be recreated, I still loved visiting again. I felt so lucky to be able to revisit a site that had made such an impression on me previously. And you really can’t overstate the scale of the building. It’s huge! When you see Sagrada Familia from a distance—at various points around the city—you realize just how much it towers above everything near it.

Sagrada Familia on a sunnier day earlier in the week

The Nativity Facade

Part of the Passion Facade

Joseph of Arimathea on the Passion Facade

I love the emotion of the sculptures on the Passion Facade

View from the park next to the church

Closeup of towers still under construction

I didn’t go up either of the towers on my previous visit, but I wanted to do so this time. I couldn’t find tons of information online, but from what I could find, it seemed that the Nativity tower was the preferred one, so that’s what we did. One we got off the elevator, a bunch of the people in front of me walked across the bridge fairly quickly, maybe just pausing to take a picture or two. This left me confused. Why weren’t they spending more time looking around? I just hoped the people behind me wouldn’t expect me to go that quickly; I wanted to enjoy and take in the experience! Luckily the people behind me were as interested in taking photos as I was, so I didn’t feel rushed. Later, one of the women that had been ahead of me saw me in the church and asked if I had taken my time on the bridge. Apparently she, and a bunch of other people, didn’t realize that the bridge is the main part of ascending the tower visit. I was glad I had watched a couple of YouTube videos and knew that the little bridge is basically all there is to it. I can see why some people say the extra cost to go up a tower isn’t worth it, but I liked having the opportunity to glimpse at some of the construction that is still being done on the towers. I don’t think the tower ticket is a must-do, but I’m glad that I did it, and I’m especially glad I knew what to expect.

View of Barcelona from the Nativity tower bridge

A glimpse of ongoing construction

I love all of the details that human eyes will rarely see

No amount of photos can ever truly capture the experience of Sagrada Familia. I wasn’t feeling my best physically this day, so I didn’t take the time to photograph the building as thoroughly as I could have, which in hindsight, I regret.

After the Sagrada Familia visit, we stopped in at the hotel briefly to make dinner plans. We ended up first at Xurreria Laietana for chocolate and churros. The chocolate definitely wasn’t as good as what I had at Casa Amtaller, but we were hungry, and it hit the spot. After dessert we proceeded across the street to dinner at Ristorante Luigi. I got their margherita pizza, which was very good, and I regretted that I was too full to finish the entire thing.

The final stop on a very full day, was the Carmen, Carmen, Carmen flamenco show at the Palau de Música. I had previously done the Palau de Música tour, and this time around I wanted to experience the concert hall during a show. The Palau de Música is a jewel that I would put as a must-do even for a short visit to Barcelona. I know that the home of flamenco is Andalucía and not Catalonia, but I liked the show! I’m glad that it was energetic, because I probably would have fallen asleep had it been a soft and lulling classical music concert.

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Old Jun 5th, 2023, 06:05 PM
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I'm loving your photos, reminding me of things I oved, and showing me the places I missed.
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Old Jun 6th, 2023, 05:47 PM
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Thank you margo_oz !
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What a difference feeling good physically makes! Yesterday I was tired and in some physical pain, and that really affected the day. Today I was feeling much better and, as a result, so much more alive and happy.

We started the day at Casa Milá, another of Gaudí’s creations. Although I can see why Casa Batlló is often recommended over Casa Milá (you see more of the house and the house is more colorful and ornate), I felt the audioguide of the site was especially well done and definitely worth the visit. There is one floor of furnished rooms, some pretty courtyards, and an attic with informational displays about Gaudí’s career and works, but the star of this site is the rooftop with the famous warriors.

One of the entrances to Casa Mila (looking from inside the courtyard out)

Looking up from a courtyard

The living area of one of the apartments

The whalebone attic

The fantasic rooftop

The famous warriors. I love how each one is unique

An arch on the rooftop framing Sagrada Familia

We stopped in at the Turrons Vicens and Chocolate Amatller shops next door to pick up some treats and gifts, and then ended up taking about a 30-minute break back at our hotel when a quick peek at the hotel courtyard turned into a longer stay so that we could take advantage of the outdoor lounging area. I really did enjoy this hotel!

Next up was Santa Caterina market, where I picked up a paper cone with cheese, ham, and some crunchy breadsticks as well as a mango juice. Maggie grabbed some food as well, and we took our lunch to Ciutadella Park, where we sat on a bench and watched the rowboats, as well as one large, long-legged bird who seemed to observe the area as if it were his kingdom! The large fountain in the park was turned off due to the current drought, but the pool below the fountain is still filled with pretty green water.

Fountain at Ciutadella Park

Arc de Triomf built for the 1888 Universal Exposition

We walked down the boulevard to the Arc de Trimof and then split up, as I had a ticket to the Moco Museum and Maggie did the tour of the Palau de Música. I was more impressed than I thought I’d be with the Moco Museum! I kind of assumed that it was just designed for the Instagram photos and not really serious about art, but I came away with an appreciation for how social media is influencing art. Sometimes it seems like contemporary art primarily focuses on problems and dark aspects of life (which is important), but I appreciated how the collection at the Moco Museum includes works that celebrate life and focus on the positive, as well as works that hold a mirror up regarding social and political issues.

Moco Museum

The Empress, Guillermo Lorca, 2020 - strange and beautiful

Digital immersive art experience by Studio Irma

After the museum it was time for a second visit to Gelaati di Marco, where I got some life-changing crostata limón (lemon pie) gelato—one of the best things I ate on this entire trip!

Another highlight was observing a Castellers demonstration. This is something Maggie found out about; I really had no idea what we were in for. The Castellers are community groups within Catalonia (and some other regions of Spain) that make formations of human towers. Men, women, and even little kids are involved. It’s incredible! They climb up each other to make each new level, with 1-3 little kids at the top – and they seem to climb without any hesitation! There were at least a dozen men at the base, making up the support, but there weren’t any nets. I can’t imagine what the learning process is like! As we were making our way out of Barceloneta after the demonstration, we came across a parade of giants. I read that this is something that usually happens at the Le Merce festival in September, so I’m not sure what was going on this particular weekend, but it was fun to observe.

Amazing Castellers demonstration in Barceloneta

Dinner this night was at the historic Els 4 Gats – a restaurant designed to be a gathering place for modernist artists. Picasso held his first exhibition here in 1899. We went for the historic value and not necessarily the food, but this was my favorite dinner in Barcelona! The extra crispy pan de tomate would tie (with a restaurant in Collioure) for my favorite of the trip. For my main, I had the vegetable paella, which was delicious!

And with those four very full days, the first phase of our Spanish adventure was complete. On to the Costa Brava!
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Old Jun 6th, 2023, 08:06 PM
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I’ve got to go to Spain one day, following along with interest.
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Old Jun 6th, 2023, 08:41 PM
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Thanks Adelaidean ! I love Barcelona but the best to yet to come - the Costa Brava and Mallorca are both spectacular!
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Old Jun 7th, 2023, 12:19 PM
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I'm going to Barcelona next week and am LOVING your report - thanks so much for posting! Eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Also thank you for the food recs for those of us who are not omnivores - very helpful!
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Old Jun 7th, 2023, 08:19 PM
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Fleur_de_Lis Thank you, I hope you have a wonderful time in Barcelona!
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Old Jun 7th, 2023, 08:53 PM
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We said an early goodbye to the hotel and used our return aerobus tickets to travel back to BCN. Once there, we found the Enterprise rental desk and picked up our car for the next five days: a black, automatic, Volkswagen Golf. I’ve never driven internationally, so I was a bit nervous, but overall I found it pretty comfortable. (Although with all of my backseat driving, Maggie may be surprised to hear me say that!) I think a big degree of that comfort was due to my being able to read and understand Spanish, I may feel differently when I drive in another country. We switched off drivers, with me taking the first turn to drive us out of Barcelona and into Girona. I liked having the Maps app on my phone give me verbal directions, and I definitely appreciated being able to circle more than once around a roundabout when I wasn’t sure which exit to take…although I certainly took a number of wrong exits - usually not a big deal, there’s always another roundabout shortly ahead!

We arrived in Girona and parked in a garage just outside the old town. It was the final day of the flower festival, so even foot traffic was limited to a single direction on some streets and bridges. It was also raining off and on, but that didn’t seem to do much to reduce the crowds; the city was teeming with people! Our first stop was El Federal for some fantastic banana mascarpone pancakes and fresh-squeezed orange juice with passionfruit. I wish going back for that meal were in easier reach, because it was truly delicious!

Our stomachs full and umbrellas open, we made our way up the narrow streets to the cathedral. We considered going in, but once we saw the display of flowers cascading down the hill, we abandoned the line to go inside and instead focused our eyes and lenses on the view. The stairs leading down from the cathedral into a square were carpeted with live flowers and grasses, along with larger-than-life statues of flowers. We admired this installation from both above and below. We continued to wander, with the aim of finding an entrance to walk the walls of the city. I believe that on a normal day there are a few access points, but several different festival officials all pointed us to one spot with a very, very long line. As much as we would have liked to have walked atop the walls, with a couple more stops on our agenda for the day, we didn’t have time. So with that brief introduction to Girona, we left the old town via the Eiffel Bridge (Pont de les Peixateries Velles), retrieved the car, and continued on our way north. Although Girona was super crowded and rainy, I liked what I saw and would love to visit again to see the city more thoroughly.

About to cross the bridge into the old town

The historic center of the town looks colorful from the outside, but inside it's a medieval stone village.

From the cathedral looking down

From the square looking up; the canopy of umbrellas adds a colorful touch!

A glimpse of the crowds on this final day of the Temps de Flors (festival of flowers)

Our next stop was Tossa de Mar. This is where I really worried that the rainy, chilly weather (with more in the forecast) could put a serious damper on our plans. This gray view wasn’t what I had envisioned when I pictured the sunny Costa Brava! But I guess being at the beach in Spain, even in the rain, was better than being back at my desk at work, right?

We easily found parking in a lot near the beach and got out for what we thought would be a quick look at the beach with the castle in the background. We hadn’t planned to take the time to climb up to the castle, but we soon found ourselves doing just that. I’m so glad we did! It eventually stopped raining and we saw some gorgeous views looking out and down at the coastline below. We also discovered a charming medieval stone village as we made our way from the castle down into the town. It turns out that the weather didn’t ruin this visit after all; I really enjoyed it.

First view of the beach and castle in Tossa de Mar

Not too many boats in the water on this rainy day

Looking down at the coastline

View from the castle from the opposite side

Picturesque cove

Cute medieval stone village - the first of many we'd see

Next we drove to S’Agaró, where we would walk a bit of the Camí de Ronda – a footpath that runs along the coast. We found a lot where parking was free until June (something we’d encounter several times; parking always available and sometimes free, a benefit of traveling before high season!). I think I’ve already written this, and I’m sure I’ll repeat myself several more times, but the coastline on the Costa Brava is just spectacular! When it came time to turn back, I realized that I actually hadn’t walked that far along the path, because I kept stopping to take photos and videos. If I ever return to the Costa Brava (and I hope I do), walking all, or at least more, of the Camí de Ronda will be high on my priority list.

Colorful beach shacks in S'Agaro

Gorgeous views along the Cami de Ronda, even in less-than-ideal weather

We ended the day in L’Escala, where we would be staying at an apartment owned by a family connection of Maggie’s. We actually never even went into the town of L’Escala, so I can’t comment on whether or not it’s worth taking the time to visit, but we found the location to be convenient and central to all of the places we planned to visit, plus you can’t beat a free place to stay!

Last edited by memejs; Jun 7th, 2023 at 08:56 PM.
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Old Jun 7th, 2023, 10:00 PM
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Enjoying this TR, and some great pics too !
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