Wednesday, 23 May 2012


This weekend I welcomed my sister and brother-in-law to Tarragona for a few days.
Although they had already visited me once before during the first semester of my Year Abroad when I was living in Aix-en-Provence, I couldn't wait to see them again.

Before they arrived we had already planned a trip to Cadaqués, for the first full day of their visit.
There were two main reasons why we wanted to go; firstly, Mònica who I teach with at IES Martí i Franques, told me I had to visit whilst living here in Catalunya.
 Secondly, it was a belated birthday present for my brother-in-law, who is a very keen follower of Beady Eye (Liam Gallaghers' band) who filmed the video for the song "Millionaire" in, and around Cadaqués.

First, I took them to a café where I spend a bit of my spare time, which as a result has now become my local here in Tarragona where the staff know my usual order without even asking.
I personally think Magistral does the best coffee in the town, it's a well presented establishment, which is also pretty cheap at the same time !
After a few coffees and some mini-croissants filled with chocolate, we were ready to go...

Cadaqués is a small fishing town in the province of Girona, situated in a bay in the middle of the Cap de Creus, on the Costa Brava.
It has a special significance in art history as influential painters such as Mei Fren, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí have resided there at some point in their lives.
Cadaqués is only 171 km from Barcelona, and 260km from Tarragona, making it pretty accessible.
We took the autopista AP-7 directly from Tarragona all the way up to Figueres, which took just under two hours. Before taking the exit for Cadaqués, I was surprised to see how close we were to the French border, especially when it said Perpignan was only a 34 minute drive away !

La France, tu me manques...

From autopista to carratera, the roads became smaller, and bendier, the higher we drove up the mountain. As we reached the top, we could see in the distance behind us the town of Roses, it was a fantastic view.

Once on the other side of the mountain, the cloud and mist disappeared, the sun shone, and down in the bay ahead lay Cadaqués.

We arrived just in time for the lunch service, but hesitated on where to eat, despite being very hungry.
We eventually agreed to go to Restaurant Sa Gambina as I remembered seeing it recommended on a gastro website. Fortunately, we weren't disappointed and it lived up to it's reputation.
As we were on the seafront, we thought what better excuse to have paella and it was well worth it !

Restaurant Sa Gambina
Riba Nemesi Llorens

After lunch, the sun unfortunately disappeared and the grey clouds from the mountain earlier arrived, but, we decided to take a walk around the bay. We could still appreciate the beauty of the village, despite the rain.

"I have spent a delightful summer, as always, in the perfect and dreamy town of Cadaqués. There, alongside the Latin sea, I have been quenched by light and colour".

Salvador Dalí 

En route, we bumped into this little French Bulldog called Lucas who was sat outside one of the many shops along the seafront.
Ever since my sister and brother-in-law had spoken about getting one of these dogs, I have not stopped seeing them. I acted as a translator between my sister and the shop owner as they discussed everything, and anything about the pup.
I don't know whether it's a good or bad thing, but now I'm starting to think I want one...

After walking back to the car, we decided to drive around the bay to Port Lligat where the famous, albeit mad surrealist painter Salvador Dalí had lived.
His former house where he painted the majority of his work, is now a museum; Casa-museo Dalí.

I really wanted to visit the museum but, unfortunately, when we had arrived it was already closed (contrary to the opening hours on the sign outside).

Casa museo Dalí
Port Lligat

We took a slow drive back to Tarragona as the sun was setting, listening to the Beady Eye album Different Gear, Still Speeding, which seemed pretty apt.
I will always remember our day trip to the small fishing village on the Costa Brava.

"Sweet Cadaqués to Figueres a 40 minute ride..."

Monday, 14 May 2012


This weekend I spent a few days in Valencia with some of my friends.

Although I want to continue visiting more regional cities and towns, Valencia was one of the last large cities on my to do list whilst in Spain.
Rather than taking the train like usual, we decided to hire a car and drive from Tarragona, which was a welcome change.

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, and it's also Spain's third largest metropolitan area.
It is most famous for the Valencian oranges, the festival las Fallas de Valencia and of course, last but not least; Paella.
The city is situated on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula and on the mouth of the river Turia which leads into the Mediterranean Sea.
Valencia has a rich and diverse heritage, a melting pot of ancient monuments and buildings, as well as modern day offices blocks and museums, which make it one of the most visited European cities to date.

Thursday :

We set off just after lunch time, and before we knew it we had already taken the wrong turn and ended up in el Puerto de Tarragona.
Consequently, we had to stop, turn around and then I had to explain to the Guardia Civil officer...not before he checked our car boot because he thought we were smuggling drugs though!
We weren't off to the best start.

The advantage of taking the car was that we passed through many little towns and saw some amazing views of the coastline on the way, which we would have otherwise missed.
However, the disadvantage was that by the time we arrived in Valencia, we had to drive around the city centre in rush hour; a crazy, yet terrifying experience. Needless to say, we got lost quite a few times.

After about an hour, we eventually managed to park not too far from our hostel.

Hôme Youth Hostel is situated in the barrio el Carmen, the northern quarter of Valencia. A great location which is within walking distance of many bars and shops, as well as tourist attractions such as la Catedral de Valencia and the famous el Mercado Central.
The hostel was spacious, vibrant and lively. When we arrived in the lounge to check in there were people from all over the world; Americans, Germans and Italians to name but a few - such a great student and backpacker hostel.
The staff were very friendly and helpful, especially when they recommended places for us to visit, as well as where to eat and to have drinks.
(If need be the staff speak good English, if you can't speak Spanish).

As for our room, it was spacious, light and cool - nothing better when on a night time the temperature was still about 18°C!
We also very lucky to have a fantastic view from our balcony of the Lonja de la Seda, which is a World Heritage site.

If you are planning a visit to Valencia, I would recommend staying here.

Hôme Youth Hostel
C/ la Lonja, 4

Once we had unpacked and showered, we decided to go out and explore a little. Walking around Valencia made me feel like I was in the Spain that I wanted to be living in, the Spain I'd always read about in books, or seen in t.v. programmes.
People might think I'm being naïve, but living in Catalunya I don't really get that feeling, and I've only had it once before this semester when I visited Madrid, and when I was in central Málaga last year visiting a friend on her year abroad.

After spending the majority of the day in the car, we decided to just chill out and soak up the Spanish nightlife. Whilst walking around we discovered a little bar called Zume, which specialises in freshly made juices, as well as cocktails and crêpes.
The average price of a juice was €3,50 - €4,50 depending on the size and ingredients, and for an extra €2,00 you could have alcohol of your chose added.
The cocktail prices averaged between €5,00 - €8,00 which I didn't think was too expensive.
I must admit since moving abroad I've started to drink mojitos, which is odd because at one point I could never stand the taste of them.
But they're really refreshing, especially when it's so warm.

The staff are very friendly, there is free wifi and a corner of the bar is low-level seating covered in cushions which is pretty quirky.
If I lived in Valencia I would spend the majority of my money, and time here. We went quite a few times in the three days, even to the point where they recognised our faces and knew our order!

Carrer Valencians, 4

Friday :

Friday was always going to be our busiest day in Valencia, because it was the only full day we actually had there.
We got up early and made the short trip across the road to visit el Mercado Central, which is like a mini version of la Boqueria food market in Barcelona.
Although it was impressive to see all the fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish presented so nicely, I think that once you've seen one market, you've seen them all.
However, they are just so much more pleasing on the eye than food markets back in the UK.

After breakfast we headed into the town centre to have a walk around and saw la Plaza de Toros, el Ayuntamiento de Valencia, el Estación del Nord and el Correo.

As I am a lover of Vespa scooters, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this little beauty parked outside the train station...

After looking inside the cathedral, we decided to walk up to the top of the tower to see a different view of the city.
The 360° view was incredible, you could see as far as la Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, la Mestalla and los Torres de Serranos.

As we were walking down a little side street, Alex stopped in a shop doorway to grab something to eat. Neither Ant, nor myself were hungry, but once we saw what was inside, that soon changed.

Comida Artesanal de Chile is a very small shop in the el barrio Carmen district of Valencia.
Run by a crazy, yet hilarious little old lady and her daughter, the shop sells home made, traditional Chilean foods such as empanada, pizza (okay not very Chilean I know) and tartas.

I can't describe how good they were, so I'll just let the pictures do the talking instead.

Comida Artesanal de Chile
C/ Alta, 12

By mid-afternoon, it was far too hot and humid to be outside, so we decided to go back to the hostel and have a siesta. I completely understand why it's so popular now, as it just gets far too hot to do anything at all.

Later on that evening we went out for something to eat at a restaurant not far from the hostel, explored a bit more of the city while it was cooler, and somehow ended up back at Zume again.

Saturday :

We had planned to get up early and make the most of our last day, but as a result of the mojitos and agua de Valencia intake from the night before, it was safe to say we were slightly worse for wear.

When we eventually got up we made our way over to el Centro Nuevo to have some breakfast and to do a little bit of shopping. It was good to get out of the midday sun as well, which reached a sweltering 31°C - a hangover is never pleasant, even more so in heat like that.

After having some lunch, we made our way to la Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencas. This area of Valencia is probably one of the most famous and best known as a result of the futuristic style architecture by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela.
La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) is a cultural and entertainment based complex which is split into six buildings that house an exhibition area, an Opera house, an IMAX 3D digital cinema and full dome as well as an aquarium.

Palacio de las Artes Reina Sofia
Mueso de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe

I found the architecture a little too extreme at first, but after walking around and being able to appreciate it, I think it's very impressive and definitely worth a visit.

We decided to have a drive along the sea front and then make our way back to Tarragona after visiting la Ciudad des las Artes y las Ciencias.
En route we stopped at Benicàssim, which I must admit I only know of because of the music festival which is held there each year.
Of course it was out of season so it wasn't very busy, but it seemed a nice town with surprisingly no English speakers anywhere to be heard.

I had a great few days in Valencia and I will certainly go back and visit in the future, as I know there is just so much more for me to explore, experience and see.

 ¡ Hasta pronto Valencia !