The week or so we took to drive from Madrid to the Spanish Mediterranean coast was very pleasant with some ever-changing landscapes but nothing too dramatic. Of the small towns we visited en-route we stopped at Toledo & Cuenca. Having felt like we have visited every church ever made it was only fair to visit the two remaining medieval Spanish synagogues in Toledo (apart from the small one in Cordoba mentioned in a previous post).
Unfortunately, the more photogenic of the two was shut that day but the one that was open had an exhibition around the side which was artwork pertaining to a relatively new Christian order founded by a French Jewish convert. The exhibition was manned by a nun whose attire appeared normal (for a nun) in every way except for the ’Star of David’ that was mounted to the centre of the wooden cross suspended around her neck……left me more confused than Rolf Harris in a witness box.
Cuenca has an amazing old quarter full of brightly coloured buildings surrounding the restaurant filled plazas with a large cathedral at the top of the hill. As the surrounding landscape is quite hilly many buildings are perched precariously along cliff faces that appear as if they may tumble at any moment into the ravines below.
We finally hit the coast just north of Valencia and enjoyed a scenic drive up to the town of Salou where we had arranged to spend a week with my cousin from the UK and his partner Gail. My cousin & I were both named after our grandfather and therefore share the same first & last name, so as not to confuse you I shall refer to him in this post as MM (Manchester Mike).
Salou was not only a great beach resort in itself (similar to Surfers Paradise, but with more Brits) but it formed a great base from which we could explore the local area.
First up was an excursion to the town of Tarragona, a delightful place with an old quarter, Roman ruins and a beach.
A few days later we undertook the 2 hour coach ride to spend the day in Barcelona. There are way too many things to do in Barcelona to fit into 1 day so we thought we would select some stuff that the 4 of us might like and then Deb & I would return later after MM & Gail went home and we were passing through on our way northeast.
If you are going to spend only 1 day in Barcelona then at least half of it is going to be about Barcelona’s favourite son, Gaudi. His unique style & architecture is everywhere from cathedrals to apartment blocks.
The other half of your 1 day visit should be spent strolling down La Rambla, the main drag through the city ending up at the port and beaches. Along the way you’ll pass a myriad of shops, markets & cafes. Maybe because it was a Sunday afternoon but it felt like the city’s entire population was in La Rambla that day and I’m sure the wine & food festival also helped.
Not being ‘morning people’ one thing that works in our favour on this trip is nothing seems to get going until late afternoon and most things stay open late, even the sun obliges by not going down ’til around 9:30pm. So this meant we had time to squeeze in one more Gaudi related visit to Park Güell. The park is divided into two areas, a free area that has fantastic views of the city and wonderful walks and picnic areas, and a ‘monument area’ that has paid entrance but unfortunately was full.
After the exhausting previous day the 4 of us individually had a relaxing Monday doing absolutely ‘sod all’ before getting together for a farewell dinner that night at a beach cafe and watching a World Cup match in the sports bar.
Unfortunately we never made it back to Barcelona but we did find a few more picturesque beaches travelling up the Costa Brava and enjoyed some of the small towns there that have not yet sold their tourism soul. The last highlight was the town of Figueres whose claim to fame as the birthplace of Dali and the place where he chose to spend his final years and build his museum.
With the foothills of the Pyrenees in the distance it was now time to leave Spain, Deb was getting itchy to see her baby who she knew was just on the other side in Southern France. But first I wanted to see a country I’d never heard of!
For those interested you can view the May-June flylights by clicking here.