04.06.2014 - 27.06.2014 26 °C
For the final stage of our trip we headed to Spain but first we were to stop at Perpignan for 2nights and say goodbye to our closest friend and guide for the past six months, our Peugeot car. Perpignan was a location Bret was meant to visit one of his friends back in the days before he had meet his better half but never did. It has a beautiful town centre and a strong Rugby league history with many Australians having played there. It would also be our first introduction to the Catalunya region, more known at our next stop, Barcelona.
Barcelona was one of our must do’s for this trip and on first impressions I knew we were in for a good 8 days. The weather was good (just like home – hot and humid), the World Cup was about to kick off and Bret’s cousin Cameron (currently living in Scotland) would be joining us for the week.
Barcelona is a fantastic city. Modern beach culture and traditional Spain, all within minutes of each other. On our first day, after settling into our apartment, we headed down to the beach area, Barceloneta, and were lucky enough to come across a street festival with hundreds of musicians and dancers. The participants were mainly male of varying ages, unfortunately we were not able to find out what the festival was about, but there was a hint of Mardi Gras in the air!!!
A real highlight of Barcelona was seeing the formation of a human tower in front of the town hall. After seeing this on TV many times, nothing can compare with seeing it take place before your eyes. Without any safety equipment, the strength, agility and courage of the participants of the tower was nothing short of impressive.
Our time in Barcelona was filled with many more highlights, including exploring Gaudi landmarks, walking the La Ramblas and visiting the Nou Camp. We would tempt ourselves to Paella, tapas, beers and icy cold Sangria at one of the many bars that line the beach and of course the beginning of the World Cup.
No doubt the highlight for the boys was seeing Australia v Chile (and especially Tim Cahill’s goal) in the Irish Pub at midnight with a handful of Aussie expats and fellow travelers.
After Barcelona we started heading across Spain to Morella for two nights, a beautiful hilltop village, known for its cherries. Back in the day, dinosaurs also roamed around these parts and the village has a small museum housing complete dinosaur bones that had been found in the area.
Next stop was a two night stay in Madrid, Spain’s capital. Another beautiful city, Madrid was abuzz and preparations were underway for the new Kings inauguration that took place within days of our visit. The palace was exactly how you would expect a palace to be, but the definite highlight was lunch, recommended to us by our host. Calamari on a bread roll (very typical in the area) eaten in a small noisy bar full of Spaniards for 2.70Euro. On our final morning in Madrid, we indulged in a breakfast typical in Madrid – churros with Coffee or chocolate. We went to where the locals go, standing up at the crowded bar. I found them a bit disappointing, but Ben was so impressed with them, he headed back to the bar that same afternoon only to be told they were only made for breakfast.
Salamanca was next on our agenda, the home to one of the world’s oldest universities. The town is stunning; full of old sandstone buildings and monuments. After spending the afternoon walking around the city, it was time for more World Cup action. We headed to the town square (possibly the most beautiful we have seen) and saw that all of the bars, cafes and restaurants had televisions set up. We would be watching the game under the stars! Unfortunately, the results did not match our backdrop with Australia losing to the Netherlands and Spain losing to Chile.
After Salamanca we headed to Porto in Portugal. Our apartment was right on the river with the spectacular iron bridge set right outside. Porto, has a completely different feel to it than any other town we had visited, it feels quite dark and the houses and churches are covered with tiles which gives it a unique look. It feels quite rundown with many renovator delights to be had and first impressions were not great but the place grows on you and after exploring the town for a full day we were happy that we spent 2 nights in this town as it gave the boys something different to experience again.
Back into Spain we spent our final days in San Sebastian, known for its beach and surf culture. The beach was just like we have at home and the water was crystal clear and very inviting, however the weather was not on our side – wet and windy, not great for swimming.
One day we headed back into France to Biarritz, a very classy area, again with great beaches but unfortunately more bad weather.
Food has without a doubt been a big part of our trip and we have tried to indulge in the local cuisine whenever possible. The specialty of San Sebastian is Pintxos (Basque country tapas). The way to enjoy Pintxos is to go bar hopping – one Pintxos and one drink at each stop, a fantastic way to enjoy a light lunch.
Next stop Paris for our final weekend.