IVAM- Institut Valencià d’Art Modern.

Fallas is in full swing with all the madness and overwhelming sights, sounds and people. I had wanted to escape València for the day, but I wasn’t fancying being packed in like a sardine in public transport. I decided to take advantage of it being Sunday and visited the IVAM as it has free entrance on Sundays. Fallas está a tope en Valencia con toda la locura y sitios, sonidos y gente agobiante que aporta. Estaba mirando escaparme de València por el día, pero no me apetecía estar como una sardina en el transporte público. Decidí aprovechar ser domingo y visité el IVAM, como los domingos la entrada es gratis. 

The Institut Valencià d’Art Modern is a museum of modern art located near the Barrio del Carmen and Parque del Río Túria. It was Spain’s first modern art museum and opened in 1989. It is ranked #52 on the top 100 most-visited museums in the world with over a million visitors in 2013. The museum has 10,000 items in its permanent collection and offers many temporary exhibits. L’Institut Valencià d’Art Modern es un museo de arte moderno ubicado por el Barrio Carmen cerca del Parque del Río Túria. Era el primer museo de arte moderno en España y abrió en 1989. Es #52 en la lista de los 100 museos más visitados en el mundo y tenía más de un millón de visitantes en 2013. El museo tiene unos 10.000 obras en su colección permanente y siempre hay exhibiciones temporales. 

I went on 11 March 2018, and I was able to see temporary exhibitions on Joan Miró (there until 17 June 2018) and Federico Guzmán (until 18 May 2018). I’m not much of an art person, as I prefer writing, reading, films and series, but it was an interesting morning nonetheless. Fui el 11 de marzo de 2018 y pude ver exhibiciones temporales de Joan Miró (está allí hasta el 17 de junio de 2018) y Federico Guzmán (hasta el 18 de mayo 2018). He de admitir que no soy mucho de arte, como prefiero escribir, leer, el cines y series, pero era una mañana interesante. 

The museum is closed on Mondays. General entrance is 6€, students are 3€ and it’s free on Fridays after 19:00, Saturdays after 15:00 and all day Sunday. El museo está cerrado los lunes. La entrada general es 6€, la entrada de estudiantes cuesta 3€, y es gratis los viernes a partir de las 19:00, los sábados a partir de las 15:00 y todo el día domingo. 

 

 

Barcelona in Times of the Flu and Quests for Independence.

Barcelona Novembre 2017

We arrived to Barcelona from Rome…without my backpack. I honestly feel like I could write a whole entry about how horrible Vueling is (they make Ryan Air and United look like they have top-notch customer service), but I’d rather not waste energy being negative about this company and just say: DON’T EVER FLY VUELING. Llegamos a Barcelona desde Roma…sin mi mochila. Creo que podría escribir una entrada solo sobre lo malo que Vueling es (Ryan Air y United parece tener la mejor atención de cliente del mundo en comparación), pero prefiero no gastar energía en ser negativo sobre esta compañía y solo decir: NUNCA JAMÁS VOLAR CON VUELING. 

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Then we got to the hotel at 18:01. If we arrived after 18:00, we had to go to the hotel’s other location a few blocks away. My poor mom was exhausted, and of course, when I arrived, I had forgotten her passport, so I had to return and then go back to the other hotel. Después, llegamos al hotel a las 18.01. Si llegáramos después de las 18.00, tendriamos que ir a la otra oficina del hotel a unos manzanas del hotel. La pobre madre estaba agotada, y, desde luego, cuando llegué al otro, se me había olvidado su pasaporte, y tenía que volver y ir otra vez. 

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We also arrived the day of a massive protest about the current crisis (clusterf***) going on in Catalunya. I haven’t written about it as I know a lot of people need a political break, and the situation is so complicated that it would turn into another Quijote. It is the cumulation of centuries of political conflict, made worse by the prohibition of Catalán during the Franco dictatorship, the inequality of the current Spanish constitution (the Basque Country has more autonomy than Catalunya), and the ineptness and corruption of the current Spanish government. I would prefer a unified Spain, but I also understand the frustration of the Catalan people. The Catalan politicians and Spanish politicians have worked together to ensure that the complicated situation has got a million times worse. También, llegamos el mismo día de una manifestación gigante de la crisis catalana actual (un gran lío total). No he escrito de ella porque sé que a mucha gente les hace falta un descanso de política y la situación es tan complicado que la entrada sería tan largo como el Quijote. Es la cumulación de siglos de conflicto, empeoraba mucho durante los años de Franco cuando hablar catalán fue prohibido, la constitución española actual no se trata todas las CCAA igual (Euskadi tiene mas autonomía que Catalunya), y los ineptos y corruptos del gobierno español actual. Prefiero una España unificada, pero también entiendo la frustración del pueblo catalán. Los políticos catalanes y españoles han trabajado juntos para asegurar que la situación delicada sigue empeorando cada día. 

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The Barcelona portion of the trip was not off to a good start. La parte barcelonesa había empezado de mal pie. 

Sunday was better, as I returned to Montjuic for an afternoon of meandering the mountain. The mountain name comes from “Mount of the Jewish” and is 173 metres (567 feet) high. There is a famous castle that was one a prison, and it also is home of the Palau Sant Jordi, Olympic Stadium, an art museum, and various other activities and things to see and do. Domingo iba mejor. Volví a Montjuic para pasar una tarde de explorar el monte. El nombre del monte viene de “monte de los judíos” y tiene 173 metros de altura. Hay un castillo famoso que erase una vez una prisión, y también se encuentra el Palau Sant Jordi, el Estadio Olímpico, un museo de arte, y mucho más. 

Barcelona Novembre 2017

Monday I already wrote about here. That evening, however, while meandering the mean streets of Barcelona, I began to feel really cold. I got back to the hotel just before vomiting. Tuesday was spent unconscious. Wednesday, as we had to change hotels, I was at least mobile enough to take my mom to see the Sagrada Familia before checking into the new hotel and going to the doctor. The doctor said it was just a virus (what American doctors would say was the flu, but Spain always says “virus”, which the flu *is*) and would run its course. Ya he escrito sobre el lunes aquí. Este lunes por la tarde, sin embargo, mientras estaba caminando las calles barcelonesas, empecé a tener mucho pero mucho frío. Llegué al hotel justo a tiempo, porque empecé a vomitar. Pasé el martes durmiendo. El miércoles, como tuvimos que cambiar de hotel, estaba un poco mejor, suficiente para llevarle a mi madre a ver la Sagrada Familia antes de hacer check-in en el otro hotel y ir al médico. El médico me dijo que era un virus y iba a estar bien dentro de unos días. Era un virus del gripe, pero en España, siempre dicen “un virus”. 

Barcelona Novembre 2017

The Sagrada Familia is a minor basilica designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. Construction began in 1882 and is predicted to be finished between 2026 and 2028. I had never been inside, and I went inside Friday afternoon. I might be the only person on the planet to have this opinion, but I disappointed by the interior. It’s a far too expensive ticket (18€) for what it is. I think a lot of Catalans might agree with me about the price. Of course, the tickets contribute to the work, but I really am against paying to enter any house of God, no matter what the religion is. I’d feel the same about a mosque, a temple or any other place to worship. La Sagrada Familia es una basilica “menor”. El arquitecto de su diseño es Antoni Gaudí. Las obras empezaron en el año 1882, y dicen que acabarán entre 2026 y 2028. Nunca he entrado, y fui el viernes por la tarde. Puedo ser la única persona de la planeta que opino así, pero me decepcionó dentro. La entrada es demasiada cara por lo que es. (Quizás algunos catalanes estén de acuerdo conmigo sobre el precio.), Claro, las entradas contribuyen al precio de construir el edificio, pero estoy de contra pagar por entrar una casa de Dios, no importa la religión. Opino igual de una mezquita, un templo o cualquier otro casa de Dios. 

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Thursday my mom and I made it to the Picasso Museum, which has free entrance on Thursday afternoons. I had been in 2003, but I enjoyed it a bit more this time. They had a wheelchair so my mom didn’t have to walk. It was crowded, but a must for any fan of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. El jueves por la tarde, mi madre y yo fuimos al Museo Picasso. No sabía, pero hay entrada gratis todos los jueves por la tarde. Había estado una vez antes, en 2003, pero me gustaba más esta vez. Dispuso de una silla de ruedas para mi madre, y ella estaba contenta de no tener que caminar. Había mucha gente, pero es algo que los fans del artista español Pablo Picasso tienen que ver. 

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Friday afternoon, after finally going inside the Sagrada Familia, I made my way to the Bunkers del Carmel to see the sunset. The view was made famous in the 2010 Spanish film A tres metros sobre cielo, and it was quite crowded with tourists. The views were worth it. El viernes por la tarde, después de entrar la Sagrada Familia por fin, fui a los Bunkers del Carmel para ver el atardecer. La vista se hizo famosa después de la película española de 2010 A tres metros sobre cielo, y había muchas turistas. Las vistas valen la pena. 

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Saturday morning, I was finally feeling completely better. I finally visited a place I wanted to see for YEARS, el Poble Espanyol. Poble Espanyol is an outdoor museum dedicated to the various regions of Spain and their culture and history. This was well worth the 14€ entry! It even had a part dedicated to the Camino del Santiago in the section for Galicia. I loved travelling through the various regions of Spain so quickly. It’s located on Montjuic and was built in 1929. It also has places that make wordworks from the region and shops where you can try and even purchase various foods from the region. I was quite content to have visited. Sábado por la mañana, por fin, estaba 100 por 100 mejor. Fui a un sitio que llevaba años queriendo ver, el Poble Espanyol. Poble Espanyol es un museo sin techo dedicado a las comunidades autónomas de España y su cultura y historia. Eso sí, valía la entrada de 14€. Incluso tenía una parte dedicada al Camino de Santiago en la parte de Galicia. Me encantó viajar por las CCAA españolas tan rápidamente. Está ubicado en Montjuic y fue construido en el año 1929. También tiene tallares de artesanía de la región y tiendas donde se puede probar y comprar comida típida de la región. Me alegro mucho haber visitado Poble Espanyol al final. 

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I had wanted to revisit and take my mom to Montserrat, Sitges and go to a village in the Pyrenees called Puigcerdà. I have a few visits to Barcelona planned in the next few weeks, so hopefully I can make it then. Being sick while travelling is no fun a’tall, but at least it happened in a city that I know so well, and I made the most of it. Quería visitar de nuevo y llevarle a mi madre a Montserrat, Sitges, e ir a un pueblo del Pirineo que se llama Puigcerdà. Tengo unas visitas pendientes a Barcelona en las próximas semanas, y espero poder ir. Estar malito mientras estás viajando no es nada divertido, pero al menos me lo pasó en una ciudad que conozco bien, y intente aprovechar lo que podía. 

I was fully recovered the next day for the first part of the road trip! Estaba recuperado para el próximo día para empezar el viaje de coche. 

A continuación…

Barcelona Novembre 2017

Alcoi, Alacant

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Even after nine years in the Greatest Peninsula in the world, I am still able to find cities that impress me with their beauty and charm. I am so glad I had the opportunity to cross out Alcoy (Alcoi en Valenciano)  from my Valencian Bucket List, as it is a treasure. Después de 9 años en La Mejor Península del Mundo, todavía puedo encontrar ciudades que me impresionan con su belleza y encanto. Estoy muy alegre haber tenido la oportunidad para tachar Alcoy (Alcoi en valenciano) de mi Bucket List valenciano, como es una joya. 

From Valencia, there are two options without a car. There are a few trains that leave from Valencia Nord (you may have to switch trains in Xàtiva), and there are several buses with the Travicoi company that leave from the Valencia bus station. As of June 2017, the train was a bit cheaper, especially if bought as a round trip. Alicante probably offers the same options, seeing as it’s in the province of Alicante. Hay dos opciones de llegar desde Valencia si no dispones de un coche. Hay unos trenes que salen desde València Nord (quizás tienes que cambiar de tren en Xàtiva), y hay unos autobuses con la compañía Travicoi que sale desde la estación de autobuses de València. En junio de 2017, el tren sale un poco más barato, especialmente si compras un billete de ida y vuelta. Alicante probablemente tiene las mismas opciones, como Alcoy está ubicado en la provincia de Alicante. 

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The ride took about 2 hours. The advertised wifi wasn’t working, but I had a book to entertain myself with. I got off the bus in front of the train station, and I would later return by train. The train ride is much more scenic, by the way. El viaje tardó unas dos horas. Aunque dijo que había wifi, no funcionó. No pasa nada como tenía un libro para entretenerme. Bajé del autobús en la parada enfrente de la estación de tren, y volví a València por tren. El viaje por tren pasa por paisaje más bonito, por cierto. 

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Alcoy has a lot to see and do. The views of the older part of town from the bridge crossing the River Serpis, or River Riquer (not sure which it was) are amazing. I crossed the Pont de Sant Jordi and explored the old town. I stopped at the Tourism Office, and they suggested a route I take through the city in order to fully take advantage what little time I had there. Alcoy tiene mucho para ver y hacer. Las vistas de la parte más antigua de la ciudad desde un puente que cruce el Río Serpis o el Río Riquer (no estoy seguro de cual era) son impresionantes. Crucé el Pont de Sant Jordi y exploré el casco antiguo. Visité la Oficina de Turismo, y me surgieron una ruta por la ciudad para aprovechar bien el poco tiempo que tenía allí. 

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The city has 95,526 residents, but it feels bigger and smaller at the same time. It’s famous in Spain for its Moors and Christians festival every April (it’s the closest weekend to Sant Jordi, April 23). La ciudad tiene 95.526 habitantes, pero se siente más grande y más pequeña a la misma vez. Es famoso en España para su festival de Moros y Cristianos en abril (es el fin de semana más cercano a Sant Jordi, el 23 de abril.) 

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I started my city route in the Plaça de Dins, which is quaint and offers a lot of places to have a relaxing café con leche or tapas or whatever. I then went past some of the unique buildings. Most were closed to tourists, or I had arrived late and they were already closed for the weekend. Ah well. They were still beautiful on the outside, and I can imagine how they would appear on the inside. Empecé la ruta de la ciudad en la Plaça de Dins, que es pintoresco y ofrece muchos sitios para tomar un relaxing café con leche, tapas o lo que quieras. Después, deambulé las calles y vi unos edificios únicos. La mayoría estaban cerrados, o llegué tarde y ya estaban cerrados por el fin de semana. Bueno. Todavía podía verlos por afuera y eran bonitos. Puedo imaginar como son por dentro. 

There is a part of the old city walls, but it didn’t impress me much. My introduction to Spain was a semester in Toledo, so city walls are hard to impress me.  Still, I love seeing them. Hay una parte de las murallas antiguas, pero me decepcionaron un poco. La primera vez que viví en España, viví en Toledo, y por eso, las murallas lo tienen difícil para impresionarme, aunque todavía me encanta verlas. 

Alcoy would be a great place for hiking opportunities. The nature parks Carrascal de la Font Roja and Sierra de Mariola are nearby, and the Castillo (Castle) of Barchell is located in the Valle de Polop at an altitude of 800 metres. I saw it on the way there and would have loved to have time to climb up to it. Alcoy sería un base genial para hacer senderismo. Hay dos parques naturales a lado, el parque Carrascal de la Font Roja y el parque Sierra de Mariola. También hay el Castillo de Barchell, que está situado en la Valle de Polop con una altitud de 800 metros. Lo vi por el camino y me habría encantado disponer del tiempo para subirlo. 

Basically, Alcoy has too much to do in just one day, but I am grateful for the opportunity to have finally visited it. Basicamente, Alcoi tiene demasiado para hacer en solo un día, pero agradezco el hecho que tenía la oportunidad de visitarla por fin. 

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Spoon Me! Cullera and its mountain

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Located on the Mediterranean Sea about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the Valencian capital, Cullera, population 22,461 (2014 statistics), is a popular summer beach destination. It’s located on the mouth of the River Júcar. Its name is proudly painted onto the Cullera Mountain/Fox Mountain (Monte de los Zorros), which can be seen from a long ways away. Situado en el Mar Mediterraneo a unos 40 kilómetros al sur de València capital, Cullera, población 22.461 (según estadísticas de 2014) es un destinto popular en el verano para su playa. Está ubicado en la boca del Río Júcar. Su nombre está pintado en el Monte de Cullera, también conocido como el Monte de los Zorros, y se puede ver desde mucha distancia. 

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Its name is Valencian for spoon. Su nombre significa “cuchara” en valenciano. 

I had once visited when I previously lived in Valencia, in 2011, and it was one of my favourite villages. I hiked out to the lighthouse on a nice spring day, and I’ve always wanted to return for further exploring. I wasn’t about to leave Valencia without visiting it once again. Había estado una vez antes en 2011, cuando viví en València antes, y era uno de mis pueblos preferidos. Caminé hasta el faro en un día bonita de primavera, y siempre he querido volver para explorarlo más. No iba a irme de València sin vistarla otra vez. 

As 1 May is a holiday in a large part of Europe, I took advantage of a free Monday to go hiking near Cullera. The route I took starts near the cemetery, which is near the train station. I arrived around 10:15 (I slept in) and took off. Como el 1 de mayo es festivo en mucho de Europa, aproveché de un lunes libre para hacer una ruta de senderismo cerca de Cullera. La ruta que hice empieza cerca del cementerio, que está cerca a la estación de trenes. Llegué sobre las 10.15 (dormí tarde) y empecé la ruta. 

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The trail, for the most part, is easy to follow and well-marked. I came to a point that had a steep drop or went up the rocky mountain side. I backtracked to see if I could find the marks…reply hazy. I climbed the rocks a bit, and I saw nothing. I decided to go with my instinct and went down on the obvious trail. Lo and behold…a few metres later I saw the yellow and white mark. La ruta era fácil seguir y buen señalado…para la mayoría de la ruta. Llegué a una bifurcación que tenía un pendiente abajo o pendiente arriba por una parte rocosa. Volví para ver si podía encontrar los señales. No. Subí por las rocas un poco, y vi nada. Decidí ir con mi instinto y seguí por abajo. A unos metros después vi el señal de amarillo y blanco. 

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The route took me around the mountain to the castle. There is a much shorter access to the castle and sanctuary, along with a parking lot, near the castle. This had a lot of people. I stopped for a breakfast of café con leche and tostada before at the nearby café. It was only 2€. I was shocked as it was at such a touristy spot. La ruta me llevó por el monte hasta el castillo. Hay una ruta mucha más corta al castillo y santuario, con aparcamiento, cerca del castillo. Había mucha gente. Paré para desayunar una tostada con tomate y café con leche a lado del castillo que solo me costó 2€.

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I continued the route along the mountain, which is 233 metres tall (764 feet. Not that high but still!) and made good time to the lighthouse, which said it took about an hour and a half. I did it in about an hour and ten minutes, stopping for photo opportunities of the nearby Albufera Natural Park and the Mediterranean Sea. Seguí la ruta por el monte, que tiene 233 metros de altura) y hice buen tiempo en llegar al faro. El señal dijo que tardaría sobre una hora y media. Lo hice en sobre una hora y 10 minutos, parando para hacer fotos del cercano Parque Natural de Albufera y el Mar Mediterráneo. 

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The lighthouse was just as I remembered it. I went back into the town (the lighthouse is about 3 kilometres away by my calculations. The train station is also a bit far out from what’s considered the centre, and I went walking there after lunch). El faro era como lo recordaba. Volví al centro del pueblo (el faro está a unos 3 kilómetros según mis calculas) La estación de Renfe también está lejos del centro, y volví a la estación a pie. 

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I’ve had quite a lot of opportunities for hiking, and this has been one of my favourites yet. He tenido bastantes oportunidades para hacer senderismo, y este ha sido uno de mis favoritos. 

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Hike #16/40 of 2017
Date/Fecha: 1-mayo-2017
Kilometres hiked: 13
Mountain/Route: Monte de Cullera/los zorros. El castillo-el faro. 
Difficulty: Not too difficult.

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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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

Arenys de Mar 012

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)