Spain – Catalonia

From winding mountain routes to sun-drenched coastal roads: there’s nothing like exploring Spain by the open road. There’s such a variety of landscapes in this region—lush green mountains, medieval towns, enchanting coastal villages, amazing beaches, all within a couple hours of each other.

Spain’s undiscovered small towns are appealing and romantic — swathed in centuries old cobbled lanes, whitewashed cottages, and cathedrals. You’ll be transported back in time to a quainter and simpler version of life.

Friday/Saturday May 5/6th: Arrival in Barcelona! Rest up this evening and be ready to tour Barcelona and visit some of the local markets on Saturday. Despite being such a big city, most of the must-sees are relatively close together. 

We are right in the heart of Barcelona, in the most historically rich neighbourhood in the city, the Gothic Quarter, and a pedestrian area.

Of all there is to see in Barcelona, it’s the phantasmagoric buildings created by legendary architect Gaudi that are arguably the biggest stars of the show. The still unfinished La Sagrada Familia with its spindly towers, and oddly shaped buttresses is the most visited of his creations. Visit Park Güell a beautifully surreal and artistic public park that offers wonderful views of the city.

Get lost in the Gothic Quarter which has narrow medieval streets filled with trendy bars, and charming Catalan restaurants.

The Palo Alto Market, is a new and trendy kind of street market where you can buy unique design, decorative and clothing items.

Sunday, May 7th: After breakfast, we will pick up the rental cars, and head an hour to Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. The charming mountain road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair-pin turns, high elevations and steep grades.

The monastery was founded in the 11th century and rebuilt between the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1811 and 1812, the abbey was burned down twice by Napoleon’s troops. Around 80 monks still live here today.

Montserrat is home to one of the oldest boys choirs in Europe. I am hopeful for a the opportunity to see a performance.

An hour away are our accommodations for the next two evenings; an old farmhouse with historical records dating back to 1366. This country hotel is located in a heritage property outside of Ripoll, Girona. Rooms have a rustic feel with exposed beams, wooden floors and upcycled furniture. Enjoy a vermouth by the cozy hotel fireplace, listen to vinyl in the living room, relax in front of the fireplace, admire the views, or have breakfast in the dining room next to an old well.

At breakfast, taste the local products; cheeses, mato, brossat, tupi, and yogurts, homemade jams, gengibre apples, citrus fruits, muffins and assorted breads, along with homemade sausage and eggs.

In the tradition of mountain dishes in the area, experience an interesting menu of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Offering the best local products for dinner; seasonal vegetables from an organic garden, mushrooms found in the environment, with the combination of cod and homemade tiramisu with the chicken eggs.

Monday, May 8th: Relax this morning and take in the peacefulness of the surroundings. Breakfast is served until 1pm:) Later, visit a local payoyas goat farm and its surroundings, then indulge in the products.

Only about 30 minutes away is the medieval village of La Roca, built during the 12th century on a rocky outcrop. This village, at its narrowest point, is just two houses wide! The houses are pushed precariously close to the edge of a 165 foot vertical drop, and wind along the cliff looking over the countryside and rivers that flank the town below.

Tuesday May 9th: Today we drive towards the foothills of the Pyrenees, to Besalu. Once the capital of Charlemagne’s 8th and 9th century feudal Spain, Besalu is a charming, well-preserved medieval town, with bumpy cobblestone streets and ancient stone buildings. The center is Placa de la Lliberat, full of cafes and artisan shops. Get lost in the tiny side streets and visit the Jewish baths.

Our next destination is Tossa De Mar, a pretty little sea-side village with narrow cobbled lanes, quirky boutiques, and rustic restaurants.

For the next two evenings, stay in a luxurious, romantic boutique hotel. Situated in a two century old mansion that once was family property of world famous director Enrico Granados, you will be within easy walking distance of the beach and right next to Tossa de Mar’s historic old center.

Wednesday May 10th: Spend the day shopping, dining and enjoying the delightful seaside town of Tossa De Mar.

Thursday May 11th: Every Thursday is Tossa de Mar’s famed street market. You can buy anything from food to ceramics, clothes to accessories, jewelry to souvenirs.

After visiting the market and having lunch, we’ll make our way to Peratallada, one of the most picturesque and best conserved medieval villages in Catalonia. Unlike most medieval villages and towns, which have grown and expanded over the centuries leaving the original village centre surrounded by newer buildings, Peratallada has retained its original defensive walls and remains largely untouched.

Our hotel for the next two evenings is a restored sixteenth-century house, located in one of the narrow, stone streets of the village.

Friday May 12th: After a relaxing morning, we will drive up the coast an hour and a half to Cadaques, a village with a reputation as one of the most painted in the world. This once isolated sleepy fishing village in Costa Brava attracted artists and writers such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Marcel Duchamp. They came for its whitewashed buildings, vivid colors, and rugged beauty.

A small curvy road leads to this remote village, made up of clusters of whitewashed buildings, overlooking a sweeping bay filled with boats. Cadaqués has many galleries, shops and excellent restaurants for us to explore!

Saturday May 13th: Our last day will be spent visiting the medieval treasure of the Pyrenees, Girona. The Onyar River divides the older section of the city from the modern side, so make sure to cross the water to visit the old town. Here, you can wander past historic sites, charming shops and award-winning restaurants, where we will have lunch.

Each May for one week, the city of Girona is filled with plants and spectacular flower displays known as the Girona Flower Festival. The floral exhibition coverts different monuments, courtyards, streets, bridges, shops, patios – basically anything, into unique ornamental gardens. You will be enchanted by a combination of wonderful colors and aromas.

We’ll also visit Girona’s markets, held every Saturday morning. With over 200 stalls, selling everything from fruit and vegetables to local food products, clothes, footwear, gifts and accessories, you sure to find a little something.

Sunday, May 14th: Return flights home. Flights booked must be after noon on Sunday.