I like going to holidays in February and March. It is about time, when my patience starts running out after a long, long, long winter, and I am looking for a way to bring the spring back. That exactly what happened in March 2012.
The difference was, that I didn’t have much time to spend on lengthy flight, that’s why I had to settle on the warmest place in Europe I could find. The summer wasn’t coming my way yet, but I didn’t mind a bit of spring as a compromise.
It started, when I got talking to one of the regulars in my restaurant, and I couldn’t help but notice his excellent tan. As it turned out, the March sun in Marbella was potent enough to give him that healthy bronzed look in just a few days. My mind was made up there and then, especially, after he mentioned that the hotels were charging half their normal rate as it was still out of season.
I started with the research first. The thing I really hate is the conventional way of tourism. I just can’t go somewhere for a week and settle there for the whole time, just relaxing and doing very little. I could never forgive myself for wasting precious time, doing things I might as well do at home. When I am travelling, I go for the full experience. I don’t travel to rest. It is the feeling of unrest that pushes me to travel and explore. I am too scared to miss out on things. I have a rule – never return to the same place. The world is too big, there are so many places to visit. That is why I try to cover as much as I can in one visit, so that the next time I could go somewhere else.
It is possible to have the most amazing holiday in any country of the world. There is definitely more to Spain, than Costa del Sol, with its £159 a week deals.
We decided to start with Barcelona.
It is one of those legendary cities, everyone has on their bucket list. I know I did. For most people Barcelona is synonymous with Antoni Gaudi. A rare case, when a person, pretty much created the city.
His buildings are scattered around the whole city, the underground trains made it easy to travel around, when walking wasn’t an option. All of them are stunning, and without a doubt the creation of a genius. I wish I could get into his head and see the world, the way he saw it for a day. But only for a day. As with a lot of truly gifted people, his life ended in a a very sad way. In his last days, his work on Sagrada Familia really took over his life. He worked days and nights, often staying to sleep on the site. Washing and grooming were the last things on his mind. One evening he was walking home and got run over by the tram. No one recognised him, people though he was some sort of a tramp and his hospitalisation was delayed. Without getting the immediate medical help, he died within three days. Half the city was mourning his death.
La Sagrada familia is still being built, for over a century. The new and original parts are very different in style, the one built by Gaudi being dark, dramatic and gothic.
I found Barcelona to be quite a regular grey city with some lovely buildings here and there, but I liked the centre a lot. La Rambla is worth a visit. And I was absolutely enchanted by the old part of Barcelona, the Gothic quarters. So many charming little restaurants, souvenir shops and traditional houses with sweet little yards. There are plenty of musicians on the streets and in one of the big churches they were playing classical music. Amazing atmosphere in that part of the town!!
Interestingly enough the whole park was originally designed as a housing complex for the rich and mighty of Barcelona. The park overlooks the city and it was supposed to have 12 (if I remember correctly) houses designed by Gaudi. I can’t imagine a better place to live, it’s like living in your own fairy tale castle. In the end only three houses were built and the project wasn’t completed.
Getting to the park is a bit of a hard work, especially in the hot sun. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out, that the government built little escalators to take visitors up the hill.
Along with the cultural side, there is another one, that attract visitors from all over the world – football of course! It is home to Barcelona FC.
After lining up for a considerable period of time and paying €25, you gain access to the holiest of the holly of the legendary football team, Camp Nou. There are changing rooms with lockers, jacuzzi, massage tables and even a little chapel, where players can pray before a particularly challenging game.
There is a museum with some very good relics, and a souvenir shop with outrageous prices.
You can also visit different levels of the stadium, including the shielded VIP area for the players families and sports commentators benches with an amazing view.
As much as I like some cities, they never impress me like beautiful nature. That’s why visiting Montserrat was my priority during the visit. Montserrat is a fancilly shaped mountain formation, where Benedectine monks built their abby, Santa Maria de Montserrat. It is situated 67 km away from Barcelona.
The shapes of the mountain really are impressive, and derive their name from Spanish, meaning ‘saw’. I can definitely see the resemblance in the shape.
To get there you need to catch a train from Barcelona and then switch for a cable car to get to the very top. There are a few options with different prices – you can chose a train ticket + a return cable car trip, or an unlimited furnicular use ticket, if you are lazy and don’t like walking up and down the mountains. How did they do it in the old days? Must have taken them the whole day to get up there by foot.
After visiting the chapel there are plenty of walking options for those who have a couple of hours to spare, fit enough, have no knees problems, and want to take post card quality panoramic photos. Unfortunately we needed to catch a plain to Malaga, that’s why chose a mini mountain path walk and still took some decent photos, along with a huge portion of fresh mountain air and a good exercise.