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Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in the world. A fine mixture of classic architecture, fine weather and good tapas.
- La Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's amazing, and still unfinished Gothic cathedral
- La Rambla - The 2km street running through the heart of the city, full of artists, markets and a few surprises. Watch out for pickpockets though.
- The Gothic quarter - Small and dark allay ways, lined with buildings dripping with history and mystery
- Beaches - few cities have such nice beaches within an easy 15 minute walk of the centre
- Parc Guell - Gaudi's alternative city park with stunning buildings.
You can see the central sights of Barcelona my walking. For La Sagdra Familia, and Parc Guell, take the metro. Hiring a bike is a good option.
Barcelona has a great Metro system. For longer stays buy the T5 or T10 tickets which gove 5 or 10 journeys at a reduced rate. For short stays consider the Bus Turistic (€16) which stops at all the major places.
I'd recommend the 4Fun hostel in the Gothic quarter. It is run by nice south American owners, is a few minutes from the Rambla, 10 minutes from the beach, close to the 'tree bar' and around the corner from one of the best tapas bars in Spain.
Ibiza is a wonderful island to visit. Now famous for its often outrageous nightlife and clubbing scene, Ibiza has lots to offer anyone who enjoys mediterrean island life.
Costs in Ibiza
Despite what people may tell you, Ibiza is not an expensive destination. There are lots of places on the Island that charge well above normal prices. With a little leg work it is easy to find the places that are charing normal prices. Most things in Ibiza are the same cost, or cheaper that Spanish cities such as Barcelona and Madrid. Below is a guide to the important things.
The price of groceries in Ibiza varies greatly depending on where you buy them. The cheapest place to buy groceries is from the big name supermarkets: Suma, Maxi, Dia, Euroski. You can find small stores of these big names in the most populated ares of the island. The most expensive places to buy groceries is from the independent corner stores. These stores charge up to 3 times the normal price of goods, knowing that people will pay them.
Below is a guide to typical grocery prices.
|Item||Supermarket cost||Corner store cost|
|Can of beer||€0.60||€0.35|
|Bottle of vodka||€7||€12|
|Bottle of water, 1.5l||€0.30||€1.90|
Restaurants in Ibiza
The bars and restaurants of Ibiza generally fall into two categories: tourist and Spanish. The tourist restaurants and normally good value, €7 - €10 for a meal, and a reasonable value for drinks, €2 - €3 for a drink. These prices are typically for main land Spain. The menu is normally the same at all of these restaurants, although it is varied. The waiters will all speak English and Spanish, and sometimes other languages. The tourist restaurants are normally in the highest profile places, along seafronts and bust pedestrian areas.
Hidden amongst the tourist restaurants and shops are a number of Spanish restaurants. These restaurants are catering for the Spanish residents, ans those looking for some authentic cuisine. Many are fairly bland, and of equal or often higher price than the tourist restaurants. Some are outstanding though, and worth investigating. The staff are likely to know some English, but having an understanding of Spanish will help greatly. The Spanish restaurants typically have cheaper drinks that the tourist restaurants.
There are many themed restaurants on the Island, particularly in Ibiza town. These generally offer excellent food, but are more expensive. Look out for the fancy seating and decor as you wander around.
The typical fast food establishments can be found in the busy tourist areas, if that is your thing.
Ibiza is a beautiful island, and I recommend exploring at least some of it. There are regular buses between the resorts, such as Ibiza town and San Antonio. Taxis are plentiful and good value. However, if you want to get off the beaten track and explore then renting your own transport is a must.
Small cars cost €50 a day, but are difficult to park at beaches and in built-up areas. Cars are normally the best option for groups of 2 or more.
Scooters cost €25 per day, and are an excellent way to explore the island. Scooters can be parked anywhere and use little fuel (a lap of the island uses about €6). Scooters are more than quick enough to explore the twisty hills and coastal roads. Although you are better avoiding the main roads with scooters.
Many rental companies rent vehicles in 24 periods. This is often the best way to rent a vehicle. If you collect the vehicle at 4pm you can use it for the afternoon and evening. The following day you still have the majority of the day to explore. This effectively gives you 2 days worth of hire for 1.
Andalucia has a lot of offer: the fine cities of Cordoba, Seville and Granada, The Sierra Nevada, Spain's highest mountain range and beaches on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. The popular Spanish images of flamenco, bullfights, sherry and ruined castles are at their strongest in Andalucia.
Cordoba. Seville. Cordoba.
Easter is the biggest celebration in Andalucia. Semana Santa (holly week) sees massive parades and celebrations across the region. The unique processions of costumed priests are a spectacle worth seeing. However, during Easter week accommodation in any of the cities are large towns is very difficult to find. Staying in smaller towns are travelling to the parades is often a better option. Camping also gives more options during this time.
The Alhambra palace in Granada, the Mezquita in Cordoba and the Alcazar in Seville are the finest Moorish monuments in Spain.
The Sierra Nevada is Spain's highest mountain range, and an impressive sight. There is a ski season between December and April with equipment for rent. From March the weather is often good enough to ski in the morning and then drive to the south coast to swim and sunbathe in the afternoon. There are many great walks not only in the Sierra Nevada but also in the Sierra Morena, south of Seville.
The coast de la Luz has good surfing potential, especially during the winter months.
I try the breakfast at the hostel. The buffet selection is a classic Spanish breakfast of breads, cheeses, hams, chorizo, cereals, juices and coffee. This suits me fine. Whilst I am eating a mass of kids staying at the hostel descend on the dinning room.
I have been a bit disappointed staying at the hostel. Although reasonable new the hostel is in bad condition. It isn’t a good place to meet people either.
I wander through the streets of the told town again. The Arab baths are not open until 10:00, so I wander over to the gardens. I walk and find what I think are the gardens, but am disappointed with them. On my return to the town I find the real gardens. Although smaller than I had imagined, the canopy of the trees offers shade from the already hot sun. Several pathways have been cut into the heavily wooded area. There are a number of sports facilities in the park. One of these buildings suggests that it was connected with the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. A small version of the Olympic rings hang on the flag posts, and it is called Olympic Girona. The building does not suggest its purpose though.
I wake up at 07:30. It was a much cooler night. I had to shut the windows. I pack and make my way to the bus station. I catch the bus to Girona. My flight home is from Girona airport. Before seeing the town and flying home, I will take a day trip to Figueres, to see the Salvador Dali Museum.
Girona is a pleasant city, calmer than Barcelona. The temperature is 26 degrees, much cooler. I get to the tourist information office and get a map. I make my way to the youth hostel. On entry I see a sign saying they are full. I ask and the lady says they have one more dorm bed, it seems I am lucky. I leave my bag in the cupboard, and head back to the train station. I buy a train ticket to Figueres, which coasts €2.55. Whilst the ticket machine gives some instructions in English, the tariffs are unclear. I ask a cute girl at the tourist information at the station, but she does not know the difference in the tariffs. I opt for the express (blue) button on the machine, and then the top option, assuming this is a full adult single fare. The price suggests so.
I have a coffee and a pastry at the café. I had my typical fruit and sesame biscuit breakfast on the bus to Girona this morning.
The train leaves platform (via) 2 at 10:36, 2 minutes late. I see an English speaking couple with mountains of bags, including what looks like a laptop in a hard case. I can’t imagine backpacking with so much stuff, or a laptop. I guess a laptop is ok if you stay in hotels. The view is ok, being a mix of built up areas and countryside. The train is fast, modern and air conditioned. The ticket inspector comes through asking for tickets, and seems happy with mine, so I must have made the correct choice at the ticket machine. I am looking forward to the Dali Museum.
We stop at Flaca. The seats in the express trains have a slide-able back part, so they can face in either direction. It’s a clever idea. They also tell you the name of the next stop. The trains in the UK are becoming very dated now, in comparison.
My stay in Tossa was good value. Maybe €20 per day, excluding my €13 ferry ride, which was paid for my picnicking, and not eating at restaurants. The cash I took out in Tossa is almost untouched. [It later turns out that my credit card was copied in Tossa, but the bank cancelled it, so it was OK in the end.]
Figueres is an old town that offers little in the way of attractions, with one exception. The Salvador Dali Museum, which is real treat for anyone with an interest in the Spaniards art. Dali was born in Figueres, and although he lived for many years in the USA and France, he also lived nearby on the coast. His decision to build the museum in his birth town secured its fortune and a share in the tourist income. The building is full of delights, but you do find yourself walking back on yourself on more than one occasion. The sculptures are as impressive as the paintings. Many of Dali’s famous paintings are housed in the museum. I found it interesting that some of my favourites where postcard size, and yet others where 20m square. There are many sketches and non-abstract paintings in the galleries, showing his obvious “regular” artistic skills. Upstairs can also be found some of Dali’s collections of other artists work. I particularly like the painting of an artist painting a subject in front of a mirror. A sort of abstract self-portrait.
I walk Figueres for an hour after, killing time before the next train back to Girona. It is a town with a series of charming shady squares and a small rambla. I catch the 14:30 train back to Girona. It is 36 degrees.
In Girona, I go back to the youth hostel and check in. I have to buy a stamp to start YHI membership. I rent sheets, the total for a dorm bed is €25. The hostel is an YHI hostel and has strict rules. Quite different to the hostel in Barcelona, which was all about fun. There is no curfew, but there is a night staff. The price includes breakfast. The hostel also offers half-board and full-board. The hostel is very lively, with many young people. I have read that the hostel provides accommodation to the students of Girona. This seems to be the case, and there are loads of kids here. In the reception there is a sign stating that they are full, however my five bed dorm room is empty? A German man behind me in reception comes into the dorm shortly after me. It occurs to me that Girona is not regular backpacker territory. The last few days have taught me quite a bit about where to go and not to go to meet backpackers.
I take a walk amongst the buildings of the old town. The Cathedral is impressive, as are many of the other surrounding buildings. Of particular note are the various gardens and the tree lined entrances to the buildings. Not being catholic, or religious, I find the plants and trees of more interest than the buildings themselves. The Arab Baths are closing by the time I get there (18:55). I will return tomorrow. I walk along the top of the high town walls, which mark the boundary of the medieval city. The views are good. The walk takes me to the south of the city. I walk amongst the people and buildings of the newer city. The pace is much more frantic than the ancient part of town I have come from. I buy some supplies at the supermarket.
I walk back to the old town. The cash machine refuses to give me any cash [I later find out my credit card was copied, and the bank terminated it.] I return to the hostel and grab my other bank card, and then get some cash. I walk for a long time, around the streets of the old and new towns. I have reserved too much time for Girona, and find myself with little to do. There is a good contrast between locals and tourists. I catch up with my journal at a café. Tomorrow I will walk to the park, before catching my bus to the airport to return home.
In the evening I get a falafel (€3) from the kebab shop next to the youth hostel. It is excellent. Make with great produce and great care. I then get a beer from a café. I love the Mediterranean street life, with late night snacking. I enjoy the way I can grab a beer at a café, occupy the table on my own and take my time. People always seem happy and chatty, eating and drinking into the night. You almost never see a drunk Spaniard though.
I wake early and wake around the town whilst eating breakfast. I walk over to the beach. It is not possible to walk very far, as the bay comes to a rocky end and there is nowhere to walk. I enjoy a coffee at the beach bar, which is becoming a favourite.
I decide to take a ferry ride, as there are many good destinations. I pack a bag and buy a ticket to Sant Feliu de Guixols (€13). The 40 minute trip is pleasant with some great scenery. The weather is still great. There are lots of apartments on this part of the coastline. The mountains paint a lovely backdrop to the coast.
The item of interest in the town of Sant Feliu de Guixols is an arch. The arch once was part of a monastery, which was very important to Spanish history. Buildings are being erected near the arch and I can’t help but think that one day the arch will be lost amongst someone’s apartment.
I write my journal in the shade, on a hill, whilst watching a crew tug a concrete marine structure into place in the harbour. I stay for 2 hours before catching the ferry back to Tossa.
I spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach, swimming and sunbathing. That evening I picnic on the beach. I walk the town, enjoy an ice cream, and retire to bed.
I leave the hostel and catch the metro to the northern bus station. I wait 30 minutes for a bus to Tossa de Mar. It costs €8 and takes 1:15 hours. The bus goes through Lloret de Mar which is very touristy.
Tossa is busy with tourists but the bus stops right next to the Tourist Information office and I get a useful map of Pensions in the area. I find a room at the Pension More within 30 minutes. €13 for a night, and I pay for 2 nights. The landlady doesn’t speak English but her husband does and we chat briefly about the Tour de France which he is watching on his TV.
I have come to Tossa as the beach and coves are very nice and there is an ancient monastery here, which is very much intact. There are lots of tourist bars here which I avoid. I have a beer at the bar on the beach. I take a swim in the sea which is very warm. I take a walk around the old village. I buy some picnic things and go to the smaller beach around the bay. I sit in the sun and enjoy the food and beer.
It is strange not having any company after meeting so many people in Barcelona. Without youth hostels or a common area in the hotel it is difficult meeting fellow travellers. I search out a bar which is inviting. I don’t find one and instead watch the local volley ball tournament on the beach, which proves to be very exciting.
Most of the bars have not got going yet. I intend to get up early though and he off to bed.
I walk around the large park near the beach. I spend a few more hours at the beach.
I go to the Aquarium which is pretty good. I think it is over priced at about €12.
I go the Picasso museum which is excellent. I particularly like the porcelain plates he decorated.
I meet a nice couple, an Irish guy and a Kiwi woman. They have just come from France and said Paris was amazing. This has got me curious of a visit.
I meet a Finnish couple called Pina and Kelle. We go out for dinner but the excellent Tapas bar is shut and we go to another, which is not so good.
I have done what I wanted to in Barcelona and decide to move on to Tosa de Mar.
I get up late and head down to the beaches. They are beautiful for being so close to a city. It is busy but easy to find a spot. I have walked past the various marinas which have a lot of boats, and various stalls selling things.
Gabriel and I have lunch at the excellent Tapas bar near the hostel. I love it, and am now a huge fan of Tapas.
In the evening I go to Gaudi’s Park Guell. I am surprised by the slum like area that it is in. The park is beautiful and worth the effort of getting here. I have a good walk around. The buildings at the bottom are excellent. It is worth entering the park from the top and walking down.