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Exploring Catalonia including a city break in Barcelona

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Exploring Catalonia including a city break in Barcelona.

Our trip starts at Sola airport – Norway at 7:00 am, when we check in for our charter flight to Barcelona. 





We arrive to Barcelona on a sunny day of many more to come! That day, we had  20C in the airport of Barcelona at 11:30 am.

We get greeted by the guide from a local agency, our the guide for the transfers and the tours is Swedish. 





Catalonia is an autonomous region in Spain and when I visit Spain while backpacking around Europe in 1996, it was already  obvious how much pride there is in Catalonia. I seldom heard people speaking castellano, they kept strong to their own dialect, Catalan. It is now after 18 years, great to see that signs are written most places in the main tourist areas in Catalan, Spanish and English.


We taken a bus and are on our way to Sitges, a zone with such wonderful micro climate that there are 300 days of sun per year.

The town of Sitges is located 36 km south of Barcelona. This idyllic place offers the perfect weekend getaway for locals and is a gay holiday destination.


The town is located a half an hour by train from Barcelona, in our case we are travelling in a group by bus,  it is a long weekend as the 1st of may is a holiday and most people are heading to the beach so it took a bit longer than that. 

Some of the highlights in Sitges include nice warm scenic beaches  and a charming old town. 

Day one
We start with a visit to family-owned organic vineyard, called bodegas Pares Balta, from 1790. The organic farm is located in the wine district of Penedes. Pares Balta has been featured in many magazines and awarded several prizes for their wines.




We get greeted by one of the family members, for a guided tour.
We learn that  they use several types of grapes such as: cava grapes of Macabeo, Xarel.lo, and Parellada. Then to Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon for velvety rich red grapes.


We learn by the owners that some of the factors that affect the grapes are the weather, wind, soil among others. This region due to its special climate and location near the mediterranean sea, is ideal for wine production.



Handling of the grapes, no chemicals and certified biodynamic (one step forward than bio taking into consideration moon, proved that plants grow more at night due to photosynthesis 

Bees and wind help polinization, and the that gives special flavours like rose, timian and lavender 




We then move indoors, to enjoy some tapas perfect with some Spanish cava 


2nd wine – Honeymoon wine made from parrellada grapes 

The wine is produced and sold only in restaurants and special shops, it is an intensive marketing /distribution strategy. We are now offered the bottle for a special price. 


3rd indigena wine-  Made with Grenache grapes, with a spicy and fruity delicious taste 


4tg wine, Mas Irene. A rounded spicy red wine with a hint of prune flavours which is perfect with chocolate.  This wine has received several awards.  Silver Medal at the International Wine and Spirit competition, London 2002 and 1999: Silver Medal at Mundus Vini – Germany 2003 to name a few.



We then went down to the cellar to see the  cava production. They first have sugar, yeast and still Champagne wine.  Then they freeze it, put a piece of ice and a cork. 

At then the it is ideal to have it for a long time 18 months and up, then at the end they open the cork, take out the ice cube and add the sugar.

Cavas are classified according to sugar content.

Brut nature: 0-3 g. per litre (no added sugar).
And with sugar  they can be different degrees: brut, dry and sweet. 

We then went to get some bottles of the white wine Honeymoon for a great price for visitors to the vineyards of 6 € per bottle.

16:00 we are en route to Sitges to our 4 stars hotel, Antemare. which is nicely located one block away from the sea, a 20 minute walk from the center and equipped with spa and a swimming pool.



Then from 17:00 until 20:00 that we have to meet the group for dinner we get to enjoy the gorgeous sunny beach at Stiges












Day 2 



Train € 4(2014) and it takes approx 45 min to Barcelona- Passeig de Gracia

From then we got first to see one of Antonio Gaudí’s spectacular projects: Casa Battlo.

It is really obvious that in the 10+ years from my last visit, while backpacking with my sister Belen, tourism has exploded worldwide.

There were dozens of people taking pictures in front of the house and a long line waiting to enter, opposed to when we where there or when I was there 4 years earlier, we saw just a few tourists in comparison to this. Word of advise, if you intend to enter the house, go there early.




We were thinking about the weather in Sitges when we left the hotel, but Barcelona does not have such a warm weather in addition to the shadow from all the buildings. So, our next stop, was now Corte Ingles. Instead we found Zara and after 45 minutes because there were some lines to try the clothes we had our nice jackets and I got a pair of nice formal shorts.



Then we took the metro (ticket for €2,10) towards Lesseps station in order to visit Park Guell


This metro allows you to the access to the hill,  and I found something new… In the past I have done everything walking, now to my surprise they had electric staircases on the way up.


Park Guell 
We there found out that now we could not access the terrace, as they sold Tickets now(last 6 months) to enter main areas. 



Instead we were advised to walk a bit further up to the free access area, in order to get a very nice view of the surreal park Guell and admire the view of the terrace which is formed by a long bench with colorful mosaics and from then you get a gorgeous view of the city including Sagrada familia. 
 


We enjoyed some snacks with the view.

Then we found on the way down a nice street that took us to the main door in order  to take pictures of the facade and admire the long bench made of mosaic tiles, the columns and part of the iconic lizard. 

Our next stop was Barri Goti, but first we saw Las Ramblas where we visited the old walls and what was part of the Roman aqueducts dating back to 1c AD. 

Then the Palau Episcopal, bishops palace which is a great medieval church and next to it the casa de l’Ardiaca, the city’s archives, which used to be the archdeacon’s residence. Interesting to see a postbox by C de Santa Llucia with a carved swallow and toirtoise


And then we walked towards urquinoa stop to meet Isa, my school friend who is now studying in Barcelona and we had not spoken in many years. It was nice to catch up on our lives in gorgeous Barcelona. 

We made it at 20:00 pm to enjoy a noce dinner with the group. We were having a nice time, some dancing by the senior group of ladies. One was so active and in good shape that has now convinced me to hurry up and sign in for some yoga. 






Day 3. A visit to Monserrat monastery, an impressive place of pilgrimage located in a very special mountain formation 


930 am our Swedish guide is waiting by the lobby to take us on board our bus to Montserrat.


From Montserrat you get some inspiring views, including the snow-capped Pyrenees.



In the background the mountain formations, of volcanic creation which have such an special form that Gaudi got inspiration from them. As you can see, the top resembles the towers at Sagrada Familia. 




Inside the church in the monastery, mass was in catalan.




We then went to a nice charming restaurant enjoy some some traditional food from catalonia al fresco.




We learnt a pretty tasty way to eat the bread/ toasts the catalan way!

1.- Get a piece of garlic and spread it over the slice of bread


2.- Cut a nice cherry tomato in two, and squeeze it on top.



3.- add some nice olive oil…  



4.- Last step, add some salt and… Listo! 
Ready to eat! 


For dessert we got some nice hard sweet bread with almonds, nuts and raisins served with a delicious fruity dessert wine from the house: Mezquital 




Many were happy about the whole meal and specially the wine, got some of these bottles to take back to Norway.


Day 4.

We checked out and left the hotel at 9 am. We then headed to Barcelona where the tour started with a visit to Montjuic, a mountain top offering some amazing vistas over the downtown area and the marina.









Our tour then included a stop at Sagrada Familia, the most impressive work of Gaudi and a landmark. 


 


We got then 50 minutes to wander around Las Ramblas “solo” and we decided to visit a bit of the Meddieval part of town “Barri Gotic”



 


This is the church Santa Maria del Pi, from the 14th century, built in gothic catalan style. It is claimed that it has the biggest rose stained-glass window in the world.




Here is las Ramblas work/addition by Miró!




 


We managed to buy some jamon serrano and a couple souvenirs and then went back to meet the group. Our next stop was for lunch, by the mediterranean seaside.




We enjoyed our lunch at restaurant el Cangrejo Loco.



A perfect day, with lovely weather made for the perfect end of our trip.



Our last glimpses of Spain, the snow-capped top of the Pyrenees. 


Spain, far more than wine, beaches and sun! 

Thank you for reading. 
Cristina


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