Sunday, 4 March 2007

SPAIN - Alicante to Girona (& French border)

Flight from London (Luton) to Alicante with Easyjet. Collected hire car and hit the autovia, northwards. First stop for a beer at Cullera (photo), but with all shut – out of season!
Arrived in Valencia and shecked in to hotel. Walking tour of the old town centre, taking in the Miguelete (tower) and cathedral and Torres Serranos (city gates), narrow streets and squares.
Evening meal outside the cathedral –Valencia Paella.

Check out and drive across town to the massive L'Oceanografic, oceanarium.
An amazing aquarium, featuring marine mammals, fish and birds.
Drive northwards again to Tarragona. Walking tour of the ancient town walls and streets. Beer in front of the town hall building. On departure, coast road taken to Barcelona.
On arrival in Barcelona (at rush hour) manage to locate the hotel quite easily, half way up Ls Ramblas and one block back. Once checked in, we stroll down Las Ramblas with the evening crowds and street performers and eat tapas at Café De l’Opera (excellent).
A short stroll after and back to the hotel for an early (11pm) night.

Once out and about, start our walking tour of Barcelona. First, down Las Ramblas to the Christopher Columbus monument and along the harbour front with a coffee stop. Visit the Cathedral Santa De Maria del Mar. A stroll through the narrow Bario streets and a visit to the Picasso art museum brings us to the main cathedral and another visit. Unfortunately, the exterior is clad in scaffolding. After, we head off to Gaudi’d Segrada Familia with a beer stop at a street café at L’Arc de Triomphe. The Segrada is fascinating insight into the building process and humbling to know we will not live to see it’s completion.

We stroll back across town to the top of Las Ramblas and walk it’s length down to the port, where we rest (more beer). After a pit-stop at the hotel, we are back out, checking out restaurants and the market, but are again drawn to Café De L’opera again and are not disappointed. After another stroll on Las Rambas, we turn in for the night.

Once out and after a refuel, we hit the autovia again for an hour, before joining the coast road at Blanes. The Costa Brava coast road calls at Tossa de Mar (photo), Lloret de Mar, Llfranc (spot the El Far hotel / bar and must return – the views!), aigua blava (check out the parador). We drive as far as L’Estartit for a beer, before returning south to find our hotel in Begur. The road is a driving must, hard work but incredible views. This is a lovely small town and we eat a magic if pricey meal at Un Poc de Tot restaurant. The hotel Aigua Clara has to be
seen to be believed – tall ceilings, acres of dark wood, tiled floors, all very old and wonderful.

Leaving Begur, we stop nearby at L’Escala for coffee. Further up the road, we stop
at Empuries to visit an astonishingly large area of ruins, some Greek and some Roman. This is a full size town reduced to rubble. Good museum on site.
Finish the drive via the coast to the France / Spain border. Turn around and drive back to Cadaques, the coastal town where Salvador Dali lived and painted. Stroll the streets and harbour – beer on the beach watching the sea lap the shore.
Drive into Roses to our hotel and sit on the balcony watching a pink sunset. Evening meal in a local bar – cheap but great with a few games of pool. Sit in the hotel bar after with the bar staff, watching Ice Age 2, in Spanish with English subtitles. Very surreal.

Check out and head back through Roses to Montjoi (a hairy coast drive – no barriers and big drops!) Check out the secluded bay, before returning in land. Visit Castello d’Empuries , old town and church. Head back to the 1960s leisure port town of Empuriabrava where every house has a marina berth instead of a back garden. After a beer in the sun, head to Figueres to find that the Dali museum is closed! Drive out to the ancient walled town of Besalu – worth the drive to this protected UNESCO town. Short visit to Banyoles to see the lake where the rowing was held during the Barcelona Olympics. We then found our hotel in Figures and walked into town. Found a nice back street Italian restaurant for a change.

Dali museum open. Interesting visit, if hard to comprehend at times – very surreal. Drive to Girona and visit the walled town, including the cathedral, a walking tour of the lower town and river, followed by an unusual walk along the top of the city wall, from one side of the town to the other. Later, return to Girona airport and fly home to London Luton with Ryanair, which felt like sitting on a bus for two hours - stiff vinyl seats with bright yellow paintwork. Oh, and the heat!
1250kms covered in 7 days (6 driving). Land at 2330hrs, back at home at 0200. Out to work by 0530!

Next month – Madrid….

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