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Captivating Coves on the Costa Brava

Captivating Coves on the Costa Brava

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us in Bath in November for the Mozartfest?

Where were you when the world changed with the spread of Covid-19? We were happily isolated on Spain’s glorious Costa Brava, perched in a tiny but perfectly equipped apartment on the 10th floor, overlooking the bay of Roses. With views like this, we were happy to quietly keep to ourselves, stepping out of the almost-deserted building daily to wander a lonely beach or a rocky path. We’ve spent time previously on this beautiful coast closer to Barcelona, but this time we’re researching the area further northeast, almost to the French border, for an upcoming private tour…and we’ll include these enticing sights in our Wonders of Barcelona tour as well.
The flamboyant Surrealist artist Salvador Dali called the Costa Brava home for 50 years, and we’ve taken previous tour guests to the Dali museum in Figueres, which was so crowded that several of us quickly walked through, then sought out a cafe in town to relax with a drink! Our visit to Dali’s house-museum in Portlligat, a tiny hamlet on the next cove from lovely Cadaques, is a polar opposite, with only 8 guests allowed at a time. Inside and out, Dali’s quirky creativity is obvious – a polar bear in a salon? Why not? Eggs on the terrace? Why not?
Also obvious is his appreciation of a view – both outside, and in, where his bed is positioned so that he was “the first person in Spain to see the sun rise” – via a precisely positioned mirror. He knew just what he wanted to see, and to convey with his inimitable art!
Days of exploring are followed by breathtaking sunsets from our little balcony, and perhaps a moonlight stroll to complete the day.
Cadaques, adjacent to Portlligat, is often called by Spaniards “the most beautiful village in Spain”, its whitewashed buildings clustered around a delightful cove.
Cobbled lanes lead to quiet paths along the water, where we stroll before stopping for a sublime seaside lunch.
Heading west along  Roses Bay one day, we pause at Sant Martí d’Empúries, a tiny walled village crowned by a stalwart church. Flanked by a pine forest on one side, on the other spreads a long sandy beach, with views back to Roses.

We fit in one more hike along Cala Montgo before catching the last United flight to the US from Barcelona – we know we’ll have two weeks of self-quarantine ahead of us so we’re enjoying this freedom and the beautiful views as much as we can! Our hiking guide pamphlet warns of steep cliffside paths, and we scramble upward for a while, look back at where we started, and decide that the safer option would be to head back towards the flatter boulders, where we pause for a selfie to look back on until we can return to the Mediterranean  – when will that be?!?

Roman Relics and Magic Fountains

Roman Relics and Magic Fountains

May 2018 – Music and Markets Barcelona Tour
Tarragona & Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

About an hour west of Barcelona is Rome’s first outpost in the area, the city of Tarragona, so we head out from nearby França Station for a trip back in time to this Unesco World Heritage Site.
We approach the city right along the coast, waves nearly lapping at the train tracks, and as we walk up to the center from the station we get a great view of the Roman Ampitheatre.Our preferred approach is along the Roman walls, entering near the archeological park entrance to take a look at the excellent Maquette of Roman Tarraco, which gives a clear impression of what the city looked like centuries ago.
Walking through the city, we appreciate the traces of ancient Rome incorporated right in to daily life – a bit of a wall here, an impressive cathedral up the steps where the ancient temple was. We even eat lunch in the shadow of Rome – in Les Voltes (The Vaults), tucked right under the arches of the Circus in the middle of town.
Pilate, of Biblical notoriety, is said to have been born in Tarraco – his statue stands not far from exposed tiers of the Circus. Another of Tarragona’s claims to fame is their expertise as Castellers, a Catalan tradition – giving them the name  City of Human Towers. Sure hope we can see it in person someday!
A watery musical extravaganza ends our day  back in Barcelona as we join the crowds to take in the Magical Fountains of Montjuic, the lavish flow choreographed to snippets of music.

 

Palm Sunday in Barcelona

Palm Sunday in Barcelona

Sunday, April 9, 2017
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer –  why not join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast , in Provence, or Amsterdam?

A cozy corner in Poble Sec, the neighborhood near Montjuic where we’re staying, is the perfect place for our last Barcelona  breakfast – I’m inspired to serve our yogurt and fruit at home in such an elegant goblet!We’ll fly back to France later today, and our final hours are spent in the Barri Gotic, the old quarter. Petritxol is one of my favorite strolling lanes – with several recommended chocolate shops, churrerias, and boutiques – love the over-door decor of this bookshop! And a highlight of the street is the ceramic tile vintage cartoons  – such as this one exclaiming that from dawn to dusk all the people walk by. As we’re walking to the cathedral to see the post-mass dancing of the Sardana, we’re sidetracked by the thump of drums, and find a Palm Sunday procession winding through the narrow streets. We quietly walk alongside the solemn marchers, and catch up to the heavy float being carried through the streets by a hefty group of men. Semana Santa celebrations are so beautiful in Spain – we’re glad that our travel schedule has us here on Palm Sunday!
The Sardana, a traditional Catalan folk dance, takes place every Saturday evening and Sunday morning in front of the cathedral. The band is ready on the steps, and the dancers join hands and begin to circle to the music, the steps as familiar to them as their names.
Barcelona, what a pleasure! We’ll be back in a few weeks, bringing new guests eager to experience your delights!

 

Monserrat Magic

Monserrat Magic

Spring in Spain – – Sunday, May 13, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour in Provence or our featured (and expanded!) 2012 Amsterdam/Belgium tour!
 

Today the trains are running to the base of Montserrat – hope that strike earlier this week accomplished something! We get off at the cog-railway stop, and zigzag up to the hilltop sanctuary, arriving in time for Mass.

Although we won’t get to meet with the director of the boys choir, since they’re now traveling in France, we WILL get to hear the younger boys, who aren’t touring, sing during the service.


The gilded interior is jam- packed this morning but we find a few spaces to squeeze into beside a family who explains to us that it’s a special Sunday, with many pilgrims from Barcelona and surrounds here for the day. The pure voices of the few boys “in town” delight us with a final number.

As we’re waiting for our 1:00 appointment with one of the Brothers, who will show us around the museum, we hear a jaunty tune and look outside – the Geants, giant folkloric dolls that we noticed standing by the door as we entered the church are dancing to a lively flute and drum band! A fellow watcher tells us that these are very special Geants, the oldest ones in Barcelona, and they are brought here one Sunday a year for a special celebration. Wow are we glad we’re here today instead of Thursday – a serendipitous treat!


On a plaza one level down another group has gathered to watch boys and girls sharing a traditional dance  – yet another treat today.

Have I mentioned that the theme of this trip has turned out to be more Music and Museums than Music and Markets? We visit museum number five today, a collection gathered and guarded through the years by the monks of Montserrat. Our guide is an enthusiastic art lover who studied medieval and renaissance art before taking his vows. A young assistant of the museum translates his interesting tales for us.

We swoop down, much more quickly than the railway up, and head back to Barcelona.

Ruth and I have been craving a particular Spanish treat, and head out on a churro hunt. There’s a particular street in the old town that is known for its chocolate shops, and we check out a few til we find just the right one… and have no trouble polishing off a mound of crispy sweet twists, dipped in thick, rich chocolate. Yes, we’re looking forward to a terrific dinner tonight, but we HAD to have our churros!

Stephen, who celebrates a birthday this week, has a delightful surprise from Hotel H10 Montcada – a chilled bottle of sparkly cava! He shares it with us before we walk to Pla for dinner.

Bar del Pla, not far from our hotel, was our last stop on the Tapas Tour, and the same owners have a lovely candlelit restaurant, Pla,  near Santa Maria del Pi in the Gothic Quarter. We ooh and aah through the menu, make our choices, and Sam announces a special event… a poem he’s written to celebrate our week together. Then he pulls out another surprise from the group – a gorgeous necklace I had admired yesterday at a Tarragona shop (check it out in the final photo). I wondered why they had to go back to that shop… now I know – how very sweet!

Lots of smiles and laughs later, we sample our first appetizer – paper thin zucchini topped with shavings of parmesan and toasted walnuts.

From beginning to end the meal is fabulous – add Pla to your don’t -miss list in Barcelona! Gotta have some foam, of course, here where the nouveau fluff started…

and this seared tuna on sweet potato purée is as delicious as it looks.

What a terrific group this has been – we’ve enjoyed every minute of our week together on our first Barcelona Discoveries tour!