Ibiza: Friends & Burglars

Stag weekends are not something that warrant too detailed blog posts – be it that we were probably way too well-behaved for such a big occasion. Sean is gonna marry his Jen this year and it was a great occasion to meet many of the faces that make up his large group of friends.

Sean & Jen: Picture from our Ascot outing in 2016

Laptop preferred to stay in Barca …

My journey to Ibiza didn’t start off too well, as I somehow managed to leave my laptop in the security area at Barcelona airport. Well, it has thankfully been recovered.

Nice villa, nice vibes…

The flight was only an hour and upon arrival I right away joined the guys at the beach. Most didn’t look too bad after the previous night and many only made it to Ibiza that day (well, apart from one whose plane got hit by a lightning). The beach atmosphere was great as you would expect in Ibiza. A bit of music, drinks and nice weather. Cant ask for a lot more. The boys also picked a nice Villa so we all could stay in the same place, talk, get a few drinks, BBQ and occasionally sleep.

Burglar alarm!

Aside from the party aspects, which I will skip here, the biggest highlight was an attempted burglary at our residence. Thankfully we had a by now heroic fellow staying behind and nothing got stolen. Subsequently police joined us for a while to record details.

What happened here? MEX-GER 1:0

My personal low point of the weekend was certainly Germany’s world cup opening match against Mexico. We played poorly and lost deserved 1:0 (at the time of writing we have at least managed to beat Sweden and now have our fate in our own hands again).

Great weekend! Thanks to the organisers. See you all in Scotland!

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Barcelona: Hasta Pronto!

The second week in Barcelona went even quicker than the first one after an eventful weekend outside the city. Days pretty busy at school, evenings often in either Born or Gracia barrios – usually after a brief and well deserved siesta. Highlights included a really nice dinner at Carpe Diem, visits to Monjuic fortress, Tibidabo and La Boqueria market. Russia was also off to a spectacular start at the world cup. Next stop is Ibiza for Sean’s bachelor party after saying goodbye to Laura who returned home. I certainly need to come back to Barcelona – two weeks don’t do this great city any justice.

La Boqueria Market

I love hanging out in this market be it that its central location make it pricey and a rather popular tourist destination. Felt a little bit like our outdoor spanish class in Medellin’s Minorista market to train fruit & vegetable vocab. You can sample all sorts of fruit, jamon and other artesian stuff at La Boqueria. I wouldn’t recommend coming here for your weekly shopping trip though :o) anyway, a beer with a bit of serrano always lightens up my mood.

Tibidabo

Tibidabo is the highest mountain in the city (512m) offering superb views. There you find the pretty Sagrat Cor church and, if you are into this stuff, an amusement park (felt pretty deserted compared to the masses of tourists elsewhere in Barcelona).

Monjuic fortress

Hidden well behind the more prominent National Art Museum of Catalonia lies the historically important Barcelona fortress. It is very well maintained, offers great views over port as well as downtown barcelona and it worth a visit.

Inside you find pretty informative rooms laying out the history and importance of the fortress to Barcelona and Catalonia overall. There was also an exhibition on the history of education in Spain and Catalunia with some interesting facts. Not quite the size and prominence of my home town fortress, but really well maintained and worth half a day of your time.

This fortress is to Barcelona what the Bastille was to Paris or the Peter and Paul fortress to Saint Petersburg.

– Joseph Kessel, Argentina

Spanish school finished

Admittedly my spanish has come a long way in the past two weeks as grammatical options as well as vocabulary stepped up a level. It was also great fun and well organised… I really recommend Camino Barcelona school!

 

Dali museum & afternoon in Girona

Given the great weather in Barcelona throughout my two weeks stay, I visited museums a lot less than I did in Holland. However, a chance to visit Salvador Dali’s hometown Figueres and a stroll around nearby Girona were tempting enough.

Figueres & Dali museum: Slightly disappointing

It took about 1,5h to Figueres where Dali was born 1904 and died 1989. His crypt is part of the museum actually. I booked tickets a few days before. You purchase specific entry time slots – already an indication that it is quite a well frequented place. And so it was… literally filled up with busloads of tourists.

At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.

– Salvador Dali

Inside, you have some 3-4 floors with mostly Dali art, but also other artists Dali worked with. On display are drawings, wall paintings, sculptures etc reflecting Dali’s manifold interests and skills. However, I felt some of the more well-known works were not on display there and are probably on display in some of the larger galleries in the world.

Overall a little disappointing after the great visit to the van Gogh museum (Vincent van Gogh: A fascinating story) where the curators managed to combine van Gogh’s life story and his art so incredibly well. In Figueres it felt quite crowded in the way the art was on display and I found it hard to link it to Dali’s personal background and life story.

Back in Girona: This time at day time…

Last time i was in Girona almost exactly one year ago. I was start and finish of a circular hike i did around the wedding of Marta & Tom in S’Agaro (Hiking the Circular Ronda (Girona/Costa Brava) & a wonderful wedding).

This time I could explore the city a little more though also not in huge amount of detail. The one sight that jumps straight into your eye is the Cathedral, a magnificent building overarching the city and offering fantastic views. There is also a white basilica nearby.

Otherwise Girona is a cosy little town with decent food options. Signs of the ongoing independence movement are as present here as elsewhere across Catalunya. Worth a visit anytime.

Exploring the Pyrenees around Queralbs

The first time I encountered Pyrenees mountains was in 2015. The first stage of my camino de Santiago took me right over them (see here). This time was a little more relaxed and just a day trip to Queralbs and a 800m hike up to Nuria. Views were stunning and fresh air & exercise made for a really nice day out. On the way home also a quick stop in the town of Vic.

The journey to Queralbs, close to the french border, took about 2h including a mandatory breakfast break. The village is the last place you can reach by car in that parts of the Pyrenees at some 1200m altitude. From here you either hike up to c2000m altitude to reach the village Nuria or you hop on the train like many tourists do (what a waste that would be in my eyes).

The hike is some 8km in distance and about 800m climb. A real pleasure and even at a relaxed pace doable in 2,5h. Once you get to the top there are further hiking options to the surrounding peaks, boat trips on the reservoir, pony riding for kids or a visit to the sanctuary of the virgin of Nuria. More here.

After a good break with bread, cheese and jamon iberico and a little rest in the sunshine we made our way back down and drove an hour to the town of Vic for a bit more food. Seems like nice town with a large square in the historic center, but nothing to spend more than a few hours.

An afternoon in Monserrat

The Montserrat mountain range and its Abbey are a popular destination and home of legends. It’s about an hour outside of Barcelona. There are plenty of organised trips and even a direct train connection from BCN. I preferred renting a car to get there. Views on the way are stunning and driving through the countryside is a welcome change from the bustling city life in Barcelona.

There is plenty of history about this place. The Benedict Abbey of Santa Maria hosts the virgin of Montserrat Sanctuary and has even been considered a holy grail location in German legends and the nazi’s even looked for it under Himmler in 1940.

Montserrat literally means ‘saw mountain’, which pretty much matches the shape of the mountain range.

The mountains itself are an interesting piece of geology and look a little pink-ish. The sedimentary layering is clearly visible. It’s a popular spot for rock climbers offering altitudes of up to 1,200m. I kept it to a bit of hiking this time (and that only after taking the funicular) just to get to the spots that offer great panorama’s of the surrounding countryside. There are several hiking options at the top ranging from 45min to 2h taking you along former eremit housing and to the best viewpoints. Take a jacket – can get windy!