Summer Travels 2022 - The Friendship Tour - Chapter 7 - Viva España!

Besalú & Barcelona were just slightly off course from our trip, but we had promised our daughter we'd go to at least 1 new country for her on our European Summer Road Trip. 

It had been 21 years since Scott & I had last been to Besalú and Barcelona, criss-crossing the Pyrenees with our Italian friends all stuffed into a Fiat on our way to Sebastian's wedding, and it had been such an adventure. 

If you don't know it, Besalú is a quaint medieval village that you access from a fortified 11th century bridge right out of a Disney movie. I booked us a family room at the Els Jardins de la Martana, which is located at the start of the bridge overlooking the Fluvià River and the bridge itself. It's a great location, has a cool library, and the breakfast the next morning on the terrace overlooking the bridge was really lovely. The room itself was pretty basic, but it was big enough for the 4 of us, and the staff was very nice. We would have booked the bed & breakfast we had stayed at so many years ago, but it has since become a whole house let (rental.)

This is us 21 years ago sipping wine in Besalú, writing a postcard to my Canadian bestie. Photo taken by Monica.

While I have studied 5 languages formally, Spanish is not one of them, and I have only a basic command. Especially in Besalú, where we did not find much English, I relied on the kids and Scott translating and interpreting for me. I think of the 3 of them, that Julien might have been the most useful, or should I say the most willing to be useful. I really need to send his Spanish teachers a thank you note! 

Walking out the front door of the hotel right onto the bridge

There's not a whole lot to do in Besalú, but we only had 1 night planned, which started with a late lunch, and continued with a long stroll exploring the medieval town. We stumbled upon the remains of the Jewish bathhouse dating from 1200 by the river, in what was once upon a time the Jewish Quarter, which was interesting. We wandered the narrow cobblestone streets but found most of the shops closed, and hung out by the river. Come dinnertime, the restaurants were packed, but we found a spot outside at a bar in a plaza with a stage where a local band started to play. (I say local because their audience seemed to know them.) I get the feeling that during the day the town has a lot of tourists, but at night it's mostly locals. We were enjoying the night and our spot and weren't very hungry for dinner, but the bar managed to rustle up some tapas as we listed to the music and sipped our drinks. One of my favorite moments was when I realized the crowd was singing along to a song they all seemed to know. It was a chill, relaxed evening and a beautiful walk (that turned into us breaking into 2 teams to see who could find their way back to the hotel first.)

Sometimes dancing ensues when we hear live music

The next morning was a dreamy breakfast on the terrace before heading to Barcelona. I was so in the moment that I didn't get a photo...there was a gorgeous café latte, fresh fruit, views and sunshine. 

We decided en route to Barcelona to stop at Figures and visit the Dalí Museum, which had been Salvatore Dalí's home. It is such a cool, interesting-looking building - exactly what you'd expect for Dalí. Here's where I learned a lesson, and it's today's Travel Tip: Check to see if a museum requires a reservation or timed ticketing before visiting. We did not have a reservation, and the next available tickets were not for another 4 hours. Bummed, we left and continued our drive to Barcelona. Still in the mood to take in some art (and some air conditioning) we went directly to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.

The view of the city from the museum

This museum was a WOW! The scene outside overlooking the city was amazing too. We started with some cool drinks and snacks at the kiosk outside the museum to fortify ourselves while we did some people watching (there was a wedding party arriving, all decked out in formal wear) and headed in (there were tickets!) to explore the many rooms and exhibits. 

Barcelona has such a different feel from other cities, and the kids really took to it. I had expected we'd do more of the first-time Barcelona touristy things that Scott & I had done years ago, but they didn't want to visit any more churches or museums at this point. They had no interest in seeing Parc Güell or touring the Sagrada Familia, which our apartment terrace overlooked! I had suggested a food tour, which is one of our traditions in a new place, but even that got vetoed. So, what did we do in our 2 days in the city? We explored by foot, saw stunning architecture, drank sangrias, ate local foods, shopped at the grocery store around the corner from our amazing apartment for snacks, and soaked in the city. 

Brunch stop at the sweetest little café we found tucked off the beaten path. The frappés & freshly squeezed orange juice are a must when visiting this area!

By the way, our AirBnB rental apartment in Barcelona deserves some recognition. It was a nice 2 bedroom apartment in a secure building and the star feature was the terrace overlooking the Sagrada Familia. Pretty much any time we spent at the apartment was on the terrace... evening wine, morning coffee, tapas...listening to the bells, watching the sunset, and people watching below. Highly recommend this apartment!

The view from our terrace was stellar!

We spontaneously decided we needed another beach day on the Mediterranean as we'd be heading north next, so we cruised to the nearby Costa Brava where we stumbled upon the beaches at Blanes. Blanes is more than just a beach town with a population of over 38,000 and is considered the gateway to the Costa Brava. We had an absolutely gorgeous afternoon there of just relaxing and playing in the water. There were all these restaurants along the beach and at dinner we settled on a Greek restaurant that did not disappoint. It was nice because it seemed to be a thing that everyone there took an evening stroll along the esplanade, so there were lots of people around, and it was very lively. The Costa Brava is a really beautiful area, and I'd definitely spend more time enjoying that part of Catalonia. If I had done any research on Blanes ahead of time, I might have convinced my family to stop at one of the botanical gardens there, or visited some of the historic sites.

After dinner stroll along the esplanade on our last night in Spain

This part of the trip flew by and next it was time to drive back through the Pyrenees to head to Bordeaux, France, on our way north to attend the wedding in Bretagne.