A Travellerspoint blog

Beautiful Barcelona 1

..the Costa Brava and Besalu.

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Fri 20 September. We headed south towards Barcelona, via a planned overnight stop on the Costa Brava. On the way, we visited the unbelievably quaint, and former Jewish, village of Besalu. This place could have been a film set for a medieval film. We spent a lovely couple of hours walking, snapping, and buying some souvenirs and gifts from the array of well-stocked shops. Magic!

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Then onward to Palafrugell and a slightly flasher hotel than normal – to belatedly celebrate Phil’s birthday. Lovely spot saw us on the beach for the afternoon, though MC took off for a walk (!!) and a few photos, incl Phil back on the beach. Where's Wally? Lovely seafood dinner at a gorgeous cafe on the waterfront in the evening. Suitably romantic! Hotel room had a spa-bath on the balcony!!!

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Sat 21 September: Phil was woken early by what he at first thought was the surf. Turned out to be thunder, and we spent the rest of the day enduring a major electrical storm that went on and on and on. Clear as a normal Costa Brava day that the beach was not going to be happening! The hotel's ground floor was flooded! But it’s an ill wind.... – because for Phil, Saturday morning’s priority was always to be the All Blacks’ opening– and major pool - game against South Africa at the Rugby World Cup!

ITV in the UK were broadcasting free-to-air, and with the help of Express VPN – originally purchased to access US Netflix – Phil settled in to a far more trouble-free viewing than we subsequently learned was the norm in NZ for the Spark-Sport afflicted. And a good result! With that over, we headed south in the rain, stopping briefly to have a nose around Torro del Mar, another beach resort with a castle that looked like it would have been gorgeous in the sun!

Then south to Barcelona to spend a long-planned six days with a Servas friend and his teenage children in an apartment in the heart of beautiful Barcelona. We were given a great welcome and humbled to discover our host had moved himself out into a single bedroom to give us his own bed for the duration!

Before we forget again, we need to mention one of the odder regional food fads. In Catalonia (Figueres, Barcelona etc) the thing is 'bread with tomato'! What? Everyone has bread with tomato! Not like this. In Catalonia, they use tomato essentially like butter. Half a small tomato is rubbed and squeezed onto a slice of bread -maybe both sides - or baguette, then often olive oil and salt, and maybe some meat or whatever else you would normally put on a sandwich. It's just routine. Always, everywhere, when there's bread! Have a look

Sunday 22 September was Catalonia’s patronal feast day – La Merce, for Our Lady of Mercy, established in 1223 to celebrate the release of Christian captives of the Moors, or something like that! We headed into the main square to join the celebrations. The square was vibrant, packed to the gunnals. Main focus was “castelling”. Here are a couple of photos. We took our own video but it won't load, so here's a longer you tube clip...; same day, same place just a few years earlier. However, all the castells we saw were successfully completed! No-one fell!

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Note the political banners, also in many other Catalatan photos (Figueres, Besalu etc). Catalonia is proudly independent of Spain and when we were there, it was suffering the aftermath of Madrid's brutal supression of its independence referendum. The official 'regional' Catalonian flag is a simple affair of red and yellow stripes. Add a Cuban-style star, and you've got a revolution! These flags, and the yellow ribbons displayed in solidarity with the democratically elected politicians and supporters exiled, or imprisoned by Madrid, were everywhere. Madrid had sought elsewhere in Europe to have the exiles extradited but everywhere in Europe where there's an independent judiciary (UK, Belgium, a couple of others) the courts have thrown the cases out as ridiculous. Spain's judiciary on the other hand, still smelling of the Franco era, is anything but independent, subservient to the Government and ridiculous sentences have ben imposed. The more we hear, the stronger are the parallels with the brutal and stupid English stance in Ireland in the early years of the 20th century. Look where that led! Our thoughts and prayers are with those who continue to peacefully struggle for their nation's freedom in the face of ridiculous Spanish oppression. How this injustice and thuggery is tolerated within the EU is a mystery. As we say down here: "Kia Kaha".. (Stay strong).

But an hour and a half standing in the baking sun was enough, so we headed away into shadier side streets for a bit of an explore. Some shady characters in a nearby shop window!

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Then a recommended church, Santa Maria del Mar, St Mary’s by the Sea. Nice place, and we climbed the tower to get some great views, including of the Sagrada Familia in the distance. St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and the famous ‘spiritual exercises’ was at one time a parishioner. Interesting contemporary statue with which MC had a bit of illicit fun :) Phil headed home and miraculously found a craft beer bar on the way! MC did some more walking. Familiar theme #3 :)

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Monday 23 September was Sagrada Familia Day. There’s an earlier separate post about this; you can read it here: for both of us hands down our tour highlight

Tues 24: We decided we need to recover our planned second swim on the Costa Brava so back in the car for the 90 minute trip back north.
Mary Clare had researched the target beach – Platja (beach) 'Cala Alguablava' near Begur; just beautiful. We spent a lovely day there on the beach; in and out of the water; great temp.
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Too much this week for one post, so more to come, highlighting the wonderful Montserat and Gaudi's other achievements! Thanks for reading!

Posted by philandmc 18:23

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