We’re in Figueres and didn’t dilly Dali on the way….

After another lovely breakfast at Federal we took our time and vacated the apartment just before noon. We paused to say goodbye to the girls in Federal, walked across the bridge, along to the taxi rank and in half an hour we were at our car.

I must admit it was a bit unnerving getting back into the car and driving back onto the autoroute. However, from Girona airport to Figueres isn’t a long or tiresome drive and I was soon back in the swing of things, pulling out in front of a Mossos D’Esquadra police car, like any native Spaniard. We soon reached Figueres town centre, though actually the sat nav sent me down some back roads and through an industrial estate. It’s what constitutes a ‘fast’ route apparently. We parked up outside the Hotel Duran, unloaded the luggage and drove round the one way system to the parking garage, which doesn’t seem to hold many cars, considering the number of rooms the hotel has.

After settling in, we went off for a brief explore, stopping for a lunch of patatas bravas, battered calamari and padron peppers. Look, there’s nothing wrong with lowering your standards once in a while and what we had was delicious. Susie called into the tourist office to ask where to buy more olive oil and we were directed to a lovely shop, where once the oil was purchased we were thanked by the owner with a hug and kisses. I swear we don’t know her, it’s just the warmth of Spanish people I guess.

Our room here on the third floor is clean and modern, though lacks tea and coffee making facilities. The shower is hot, the broadband quick and the bed is comfortable. We’d booked a table in the restaurant attached to the hotel, lets just say dinner was adequate but uninspiring, especially as we were only two of five diners this evening. It’s a huge dining room, very ornate, with glass chandeliers and marble floors. Sort of old world but without the charm. I’m going to look for somewhere else to eat tomorrow..

So, we are off to Cadaques and Port Lligat tomorrow, an hours drive to see Dali’s home. We have a timed ticket and have to be there at 10:30. The alarm is set for 7:20 so we can have breakfast in the hotel before setting off….oh dear, I thought early mornings were not part of holidays…

The rain in Spain falls mainly on Girona..

So here we are, our last evening in Girona, lucky not to be suffering with hypothermia or washed away down the river. Actually we’re nowhere near to those events, however it’s felt like it. Not only has it been wet but unseasonably cold too. That hasn’t dampened the ardour of the flower fans though. We did notice a slight fall in numbers yesterday but today there was a steady flow of people up and down the street outside.

To escape the throngs yesterday, we headed over to the cinema museum. We’d been last year and enjoyed it’s interactive exhibits so much, we decided to return. Nothing to do with the cold wet weather….well maybe a little. (Anyone detecting a meteorological related theme here?)

Today, we got round a lot of the floral exhibits. It involved much walking up and down steps but we did feel a sense of achievment. The displays in the ‘call’ or Jewish quarter were particularly good…

We stopped for ice cream again (even queueing for 20 minutes in the rain), just so I could have a candy floss topping. We went to La Poma last night and it was just as good as last year, plus I got to try a liquorice liqueur. Hmm…very sweet and potent and not something I’d drink every night. Tonight we dined again at Nu, met a lovely young couple from Colorado (see, you got a mention) and Susie had a delicious deconstructed cheescake and ate it all herself. Two of the waitresses asked if we were coming again next year, to which we said yes, of course. I’m not sure if they noted down my reservation for a table for two at 20:30 in 2019 but I’m sure we have plenty of time to confirm…

So tomorrow, two portly figures will be wheeling their suitcases along the cobbles, over the bridge and heading for the taxi rank. Onwards (but not upwards) to the airport, collect the car and a short drive to Figueres…….

And today was deja vu Prague…

The Festival Del Flores began this morning. Just before 10am the street outside our apartment began filling up, then overflowed. Tourists are the lifeblood of many towns like this, it’s true but I felt like this was a bit overwhelming. Not quite up to the can’t move stage but near the cathedral, where the street narrows, there was a definite bottleneck, filled with walking tours and selfie sticks. It reminded me of the horror that is the Charles Bridge…

There were queues to get into the exhibits….long queues…of Disney proportions. We managed to see some of the displays, albeit from further away and decided after a lot of pushing and shoving we’d leave most of our flower sightseeing till Monday. We crawled our way back to the apartment and lay recovering on the sofa, to the sounds of muttered Spanish curses from the street below.

We had a reservation in the evening at Divinum, where we’d dined last year. It was every bit as good as we remembered and the service friendly and talkative which we like. When we left, the heavens had opened and trying to unsuccessfully share an umbrella we got home as quickly as a 10 course tasting menu would allow….

Breakfast and Bubbles…

It should go without saying that we care about what we eat. We’re not overly concerned about ‘balanced diet, healthy eating’ options but rather the taste, texture and the way it looks. There’s a small cafe just downhill from the apartment here which opens at 8:30am, handy if your legs are sluggish from yet another multi course tasting menu the evening before. It’s very friendly and they have an extensive breakfast menu, which we sampled on our first full day. Needless to say, we’ll be visiting Federal during the rest of our stay.

Our first full day was spent strolling round, doing some essential shopping (artisanal olive oil, L’Occitane shower gel) and watching the floral exhibits being assembled, which involved a cherry picker with two workmen popping up right outside our small balcony. Well, they were finishing off the floral design that spans the street….

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Our afternoon was filled with a wander over the river and a return to the best ice cream shop in Girona, if not Catalunya. You can’t go wrong with Baked Apple ice cream and three different toppings…

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After a small snooze at the apartment we strolled over to our evening meal at Bubbles which is billed as a gastro tapas bar. They do have amazing, award winning tapas though. We had the V.I.T. menu (Very Important Tapas) and it didn’t dissapoint. Some of the tapas were simply outstanding, especially the Gyoza dumpling with pork. What’s more the lovely waitress remembered us again!! Just a couple of hours later, we were back here. That’s the big advantage with Girona, it’s so compact everywhere is easy to reach on foot. There’s a disadvantage too, which I’ll get to tomorrow…

An old friend at Nu and a reel Catalan…

Arriving in Girona by coach seemed very familiar, even the featureless black cavern that is the bus station arrivals hall. However, we were soon out into the combined train and bus station, finding a taxi and subsequently putting our feet up in the same apartment as last year, in the centre of the old Jewish quarter or ‘call’.

After sorting out a few things, we set off for Nu which we’d been to last year. It’s a quite modern fusion restaurant with a slight twist. We were seated then the waitress came to take our drinks order and said it was nice to see us again. Yes, she’d remembered us, after 12 months!! It set the whole evening off really well and we decided to go with the gourmet menu to celebrate…..Actually I think we go with the gourmet menu in most places….

I think my favourite was the steamed dumpling with a Yuzu centre (the one in the glass dish) but then I am a dessert sort of guy….

We left about 10:30, quite full and really happy. Very inventive and well prepared food with impeccable service. We’re booked in again on Monday evening. We turned the corner to come back and I noticed some figures in the plaza who appeared to be dancing. We went down to investigate and yes, indeed several people were dancing in a large circle to haunting singing and the playing of Catalan folk music. They finished shortly after we arrived, but an English lady heard us talking (we Brits get everywhere) and she explained that the group usually danced in the plaza each Thursday till about 11pm. The musicians are drawn from local players and college teachers. We wished we’d arrived earlier but wandered home happily with Catalan tunes echoing in our ears…..

 

Train to Tarragona and bye to Barcelona..

Yesterday we’d arranged to meet up with our young friends German and Monica, on ‘their turf’ in Tarragona. To get there, we took a train from Passieg De Gracia.

That does sound simple and in principle it is. However, when you change from metro to train at PDG, it involves lots of walking up and down stairs and a long stroll along an underground corridor accompanied by an accordian player who only knows the melody to ‘Che Sera, Sera’. The accordian player isn’t compulsory but the corridor is. However we eventually located the RENFE ticket hall, bought a couple of returns and found our way to the platform (whoopee – escalators!!)

We had a short wait for the train and just over an hour later we were being greeted on the platform at Tarragona by our friends. Tarragona is a medium sized seaside town, with several beaches and, up the hill a lively central commercial area with an indoor ‘mercat’ and long rambla or pedestrianised area. There are well preserved Roman remains and some interesting architectural buildings. German and Monica were keen to show us their new apartment, which we found delightful and then took us for a stoll round town. We had a lovely lunch in the older area of Tarragonna and wandered back to the station, saying our farewells and catching the train back to Barcelona. We really enjoyed our day out and it was a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.

So, this morning we are preparing to leave. We are always sad to say goodbye to Barcelona but know we will return, as it’s a city we love. And now….onwards to Girona..

A bumper bundle blog from balmy Barcelona…

Do not eat hamburgers which are partly cooked. Not only do they give you a really virulent form of food poisoning, they stop your blog writing for days on end..anyway..

I spent most of Sunday sleeping and trying to recover enough to fulfill our reservation at Spoonik, one of our favourite places for a gastronomic ‘experience’. Our meal began at 21:30, rather later than we are used to. However, as usual it didn’t dissapoint and we were seated with a lovely couple from Manhattan and two delightful couples from Barcelona. We didn’t leave Spoonik until well past 1am, by which time I was almost falling asleep over the petit fours….not quite, as they were delicious but I was completely shattered.

Monday was much improved, both in weather and health. We’d been advised to visit the Hopital Sant Pau, an oustanding modernist hospital begun in 1902 and completed in 1930. It’s since been superceded by a more modern hospital close by and the old site is open to visitors. It’s simply wonderful. A truly hidden gem. You shouldn’t visit Barcelona without seeing this….have I pushed it enough? I’ll let some images fill in for inadequate prose…

On Tuesday, we had arranged to meet Reuben at his shop, where we needed to finalise a purchase. We also met up with Madeline, his wife and Candela, their beautiful daughter who is just over 1 year old. We also had a chance to meet and chat with Jean Briac one of the outstanding artists whose work Reuben displays in his shop : It reminds me of something.. These are two of his works…

After business was concluded, Reuben closed the shop and off we all went to lunch!! A couple of hours later, after a stroll round the area we said goodbye and went off to Casa Battlo, where we were to meet Christina for our personal chocolate tour. We tasted different grades and types of chocolate in Sampaka, visited Takashi Ochiai, where we sampled some delicious sake, yuzu and cava flavoured truffles, finishing at Bubo, where we were treated to a lovely chocolate gateau and a glass of cava. We enjoyed our tour with Christina thoroughly, it’s a great addition to your Barcelona experience…..