Carreterra de les Aigües (Barcelona)

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“One summer, I was backpacking in the foothills of Tibidabo in the Pyrenees near Barcelona…” “Un verano, estaba haciendo senderismo en las faldas de Tibidabo en los Pirineos cerca de Barcelona…”

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Guess what, Joey Tribbiani? I actually did it! I first heard about this famous route a few years ago while giving a class to a student who lived in Barcelona. Ever since, I’ve wanted to do it, but as I usually have bad luck with weather or am wanting to see other places in Catalunya when I visit Barcelona, I never have gotten the chance to do the Route of the Waters. ¿Sabes algo, Joey Tribbiani? Lo hice de verdad. La primera vez que alguien me contó de esta ruta famoso era cuando estaba dando una clase de inglés a una alumna que viviá en Barcelona hace dos años. Desde entonces, he querido hacer la ruta, pero o tenía mala suerte con el tiempo o hay otros sitios para visitar en Catalunya cuando visito Barcelona. Nunca he tenía la oportunidad hacer la Ruta de les Aigües.

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This time, I changed things! ¡Esa vez era distina!

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Tuesday morning, March 29th, the last day of my spring break holiday, after breakfast and checking out of my hotel, leaving most of my bags behind, I caught the commuter train from Provença to Peu de Funicular…or so I thought. I caught the wrong train, and I had to backtrack. In the city centre, this didn’t take too much time. Martes el 29 de marzo, el último día de mis vacaciones de Semana Santa, después de desayunar y hacer check-out del hotel, dejando la mayoría de mis cosas en el hotel para recoger más tarde, cogí el tren de Provença a Peu de Funicula…o pensaba. Cogí otro tren que iba a otro destino, y tenía que volver al inicio casí…pero no tardó nada en el centro de la ciudad. 

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When I finally arrived at Peu de Funicular, I took the funicular to the top of Vallvidrera, and I asked for directions for the Carretera de les Aigües, an old road used to transport water in Tibidabo. I found my way down some stairs next to the pharmacy, and five minutes later I was at the 3,5 kilometro marker. Cuando por fin llegué al Peu de Funicular, cogí el funicular hasta Vallvidrera, y pedí direcciones para la Carretera de les Aigües, una carretera antigua que era usado para transportar agua en Tibidabo. Encontré las escaleras a lado de la farmacia como me dijeron, y unos 5 minutos después estaba en el marcador de 3,5 kilometros de la carretera. 

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The trail goes along Tibidabo offering views of the city. On a Tuesday morning, there were a few runners and a few cyclists, but no tourists. What a great break from the chaotic city centre of Barcelona! I walked to the starting point 3.5 kilometres away and back, stopping for many photo opportunities and to do some writing. La ruta va por Tibidabo, ofreciendo vistas de la ciudad. Un martes por la mañana, había unos corredores y unos ciclistas, pero no había turistas. ¡Un buen descanso del caos del centro de Barcelona. Caminé hasta el inicio de la carretera a unos 3,5 kilometros de distancia y volví, parando para hacer fotos y escribir un rato.

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On the weekends, it’s probably a lot busier, but it’s more used by the natives of Barcelona. It might just one of Barcelona’s better kept secrets. Perhaps I shouldn’t be giving it away, eh? Durante los fines de semana, creo que estarían más gente, pero es más usado por los de Barcelona. Quizá sea uno de los mejores secretos de Barcelona. Igual no debería decir nada, ¿oi? 

Hike #6/40 /Ruta #6/40 de 2016
Date/fecha: 29-marzo-2016
Kilometros: Around 8/sobre 8
Difficulty: Pretty easy 

 
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Tarragona. Where Rome and Catalunya collide.

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It used to be a tradition to go to Catalunya every Christmas break, so when I went back to the States in 2012 for my first Christmas with family since 2007, I wanted my flight to be from Barcelona. I was adamant about that, despite living in Madrid. On my way back, I gave myself time to tick another province off my to-do list…Tarragona.

Tarragona is a city of 138,000 people located an hour or so from Barcelona. The province is the southern most of the Catalan provinces, and the capital city is famous for its Roman monuments. Most people think of Salou and Port Aventura when they think of Tarragona, but me being me, I think of the Roman monuments. I love the Roman theatre that is right on the sea.

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I only had one day in Tarragona unfortunately. These things happen when you’re rushed for time and jetlagged from the flight back from the States (like I am writing this entry two years later!). I caught a morning bus from Barcelona, where I was staying. My first impressions were that it was a typical city of the Greatest Peninsula in the World, nothing too exciting. That’s the problem with the areas around the bus and train stations. They’re interchangeable in most cities. When I got to the casco antiguo (historic centre), I fell in love with the city and its history. I bought a combined ticket to visit the most important monuments and had time to see 5 of the 6. I tried to practice my catalán, which at the time I was in my first year of studying; however, they responded in castellano (Castilian Spanish) so I went with the flow. There are also various old houses worth visiting. The day went by fast, and I had gotten the return ticket for too early. I could’ve spent a few more hours or another day exploring. As it is, there are many places in the province I would like to visit one day.

One thing worth mentioning, Tarragona is said to have the most expensive taxis in all of Spain.

Set Meravelles

Tarragona Romana

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Known as Tarraco to the Romans, Tarragona still has many Roman ruins that can be visited today. I missed seeing the aqueduct 4 km (2 miles) north of the city and the Tower of the Scipios 6 km (4 miles) away. I also didn’t have time to see the Forum. I was able to see the amphitheatre on the sea, the circus, the capital/citadel, the walls and the Pretorium tower. Tarragona is one of the most important Roman ruins in the peninsula, along with Mérida in Extremadura and Cartegena in Murcia. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Catedral de Tarragona

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The Cathedral of Tarragona blends Roman and Gothic styles and was declared a national monument 110 years ago in 1905. Construction began in 1154 and the “new” cathedral began in 1331. It was restored in the 1990s. During the restoration, they discovered a temple to Augustus.

Reus (yet to discover)

The city name Reus (population 101,000) is said to come from the Celtic word “red” from “reddis/redis” which meant crossroads, or from the Latin word for prisoners, which meant it was a Roman prison. Choose carefully which tale you believe! At one time, Reus was the second-most important city in Catalunya until Tarragona and Lleida overtook it in the 20th century. Today it is the 9th largest city in Catalunya and has an airport popular with Ryan Air flights, making it a popular tourist destination. One of the sites of interest is a centre for the famous Gaudí.

Castells de Valls (yet to discover)

Catalunya is famous for its “castells” or human towers. The small city of Valls, population 25,000, is famous for both the castells and a green onion known as calçot. Although the castells are a staple of festivals throughout Catalunya, the ones in Valls are rather famous. At a calçotada, you can try recently harvested calçots and maybe see a castell.

Montblanc (yet to discover)

Located close to the Prades mountains, Montblanc is a medieval village of around 7400 people. The village is famous as the Legend of Saint George (known around these parts as Sant Jordi) and the dragon is said to have occurred here. Today Sant Jordi is celebrated in Catalunya by giving books and is connected to Día del Libro (Day of the Book) as it’s also the same day Shakespeare and Cervantes were said to have died. Today you can still see the walls of the village and take a stroll through the medieval streets.

Tortosa (yet to discover) 

Located on the Ebro River, Tortosa, home of 34,000 habitants, is the home of the Castillo de la Suda, an important castle dating back to Roman and Muslim rule. Tortosa was recaptured by the Christians during the Second Crusade. Today it is part of the Camino de Santiago del Ebro, one of the lesser known caminos. It also has a cathedral and magnificent views.

Salou (yet to discover)

 Located 10 kilometres from Reus and Tarragona, Salou is a major vacation destination for much of Spain (especially the Basque Country. I hear you can hear more Euskera (Basque) on the streets than Catalán during peak holiday seasons!) It’s home to many beaches and, most famously, the Port Aventura theme park.

Barcelona. There is a province too.

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Whenever I travel to one of Spain’s province capitals and am able to stay the night, I try to ensure that I have adequate time to visit one of the villages of the province. One of the writers from the important literary movement Generación de ’98 (I believe it was Ortega and Gasset, but I am not 100% sure on this. I don’t want to attribute it to the wrong writer, but I do know it comes from the awesome Gen 98 writers.) said the True Spain can only be found in the villages. This is so true, not only in Spain but anywhere you go. I am a hardcore left-wing liberal guy, but I know all the Republicans and even most of us lefties would agree that would agree that New York City has very little to do with the rest of the state of New York, let alone the country. Barcelona is an incredible city, but there are so many more treasures to be found outside the hustle and bustle of the city. Some of the places I’ve already discovered. Others require a car and/or more time, money and patience with public transport (IE spending the night in the village as there is only one bus a day!) than I have. At any rate, without having actually LIVED in Barcelona, I have to say I’ve done a bang-up job of discovering the Set Meravelles. 

Set Meravelles

1. Montserrat

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The mountain, abbey and sanctuary have become as popular of a destination as the city of Barcelona itself. For those who want to be in touch with nature and avoid the tourists, this is not the place to go. However, it really is worth the hour train ride and the massive packs of people setting out to see this incredible place. Montserrat, Catalán for “saw” due to the edges that appear to have been sawed into the rock, is part of the Catalan Pre-Coastal Range and actually has three peaks, so it could be possible to go hiking and find solitude. Nevertheless, it is the abbey and sanctuary of the Virgin of Montserrat, reached by a funicular or the Montserrat Rack Railway. The train from Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona will leave you near the funicular. For me, despite the tourists (we know I like my solitude to get in touch with nature!), it is perhaps one of the Set Meravelles of the entire Greatest Peninsula in the World.

2. Sitges

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Sitges, 35 kilometres (21 miles) from Barcelona, has a reputation of being a gay and lesbian vacation destination, but there is so much more than the nightlife here. It’s a picturesque village on the sea with white buildings and cobblestone streets that could actually find itself at home in Andalucía. However, the natives would much prefer to speak Catalán than here “Sevilla mi arma”. It has 17 beaches, and it is said that 35% of its 26.000 permanent residents come from outside the Greatest Peninsula in the World. I found myself here by coincidence during a Carnival parade in 2011. There are a few museums, and for me, it is easily to imagine artistic and creative types finding themselves a home here.

3. Vic

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Vic is a city of 41,000 people located 69 kilometres (41 miles) north of Barcelona and 60 kilometres (36 miles) from Girona. It is a crossroads of sorts in Catalunya. The Catalán film (and the first film in Catalán to be considered for the Best Foreign Film Oscar) Pa negre takes place here, and it was an important focus during the beginning of the War of Spanish Succession. It offers a glimpse of the Real Catalunya and is a quaint place worth exploring. It also has a lot of old Roman ruins as it was an important Roman city back in the day.

4. Arenys de Mar y su mar

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A small town of 15,000 people, Arenys de Mar is a small city on the sea. “Arenys” is Catalán for Sand (arena in Spanish), and “Mar” is sea in both of the official languages here. The woman in the tourist agency was impressed with my Catalán, and this town is a place to practice your Catalán. For me, the best part was the hike along the coast. The tide was coming in, and at one point I had a choice of taking the boring sidewalk/pavement along the train tunnel or jump across the rocks. The tide won, so I had a very wet trip back to Barcelona.

5. Cardona (to be discovered)

Cardona was almost my village daytrip destination during my November 2014 trip to Barcelona. Located 90 km/51 miles northwest of Barcelona, it has a castle and a Parador. It is also home of a major salt deposit. Located in the mountains, the town of 5000 people seems to be a perfect place for nature and to practice Catalán. One day, one day…

6. Rupit i Pruit (to be discovered)

Rupit was another major consideration for the recent trip. 98 km or 59 miles north of Barcelona, the village of 300 people is located 800 metres above sea level. It’s one of the northernmost villages of the provinces and is extremely hard to arrive without a car. It would be worth the effort due to its natural beauty, medieval streets and incredible views. The best places are often hard to get to!

7. Puente de Diablo/Pont de Diable de Martorell (to be discovered)

The bridge between Martorell and Castellbisbal over the Riu Llobregat is an old Roman bridge originally constructed around the year 10 BC. Destroyed by a river in the 12th century, it was reconstructed with Gothic architecture soon after and restored in the 18th century. The Republicans of the Spanish Civil War destroyed it in their retreat from the fascists, but it was reconstructed in 1963 with the Gothic design of 1283. According to a local legend, the Devil himself offered to build the bridge overnight for an elderly Señora who crossed the river by wading daily. Of course, the Devil being who he is, would do it only in exchange for the soul of the first person to cross the bridge. The bridge was built overnight, and Satan awaited the Señora to cross the bridge. She came around with her bucket to fetch the water, but instead of crossing the bridge right away, she let a cat cross it first. The Devil had to be satisfied with the cat’s soul, and to this day, the cat’s soul accompanies whoever crosses the bridge. I knew I was a dog person for a reason! (Meaning…the Devil has cat’s souls? The soulless creatures once had souls? xD)