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  • Apr5

    One less bucket list item!

    April 5 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 64 °F

    Ballooning! Wow, just wow!
    We were thrilled to be invited to go ballooning with a hiking friend of Paul’s who has her own balloon and pilot’s license.

    It’s hard to find the right words to describe the quiet and the majesty of flying above the earth in this manner. It was a super morning for ballooning (and fun to watch two commercial companies launch their large balloons from the same field we used). There are many parallels to sailing (yes, wind matters!)

    I had to pinch myself a couple of times to overcome the surreal feeling and freedom of soaring above fields of apple blossoms and glowing canola, while being able to see the sea and mountains (such a welcome antidote for being locked down for so long!)

    Afterwards we shared a champagne picnic brunch with Jackie and her husband who was our “chaser”.
    We are so very thankful for this unique opportunity, especially since it’s something that we have both been wanting to do for a long time.
    Wow, what a perfect Easter Monday morning!
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  • Mar28

    Base of the Pyrenees

    March 28 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 55 °F

    Building on recommendations from several different friends, we decided to make today’s destination Camprodón and then loop back home. Current restrictions prevented us from crossing over into France.

    Paul met a friend for an early morning hike (retuning with a bunch of wild asparagus!!) and we then set off.

    The single lane (one-car-width-passing-only-in-certain-areas) mountain road from Castellfollit to Beget and on to Camprodón might prove daunting in the high season or in a large SUV, but it was deserted and relaxing today.

    The style of houses changed dramatically as we wandered deeper into the mountains, with steep roofs and deep overhangs hinting at the amount of snow this area gets in winter months.

    Popular as a mountain ski resort, this destination near the French border was lovely! We explored the town, took photos of the old bridge, and were lucky to find a sunny spot on a quiet plaza for lunch.

    Catalonia feels very different than the rest of Spain. Politics and their desire to separate from the rest of Spain aside, the area we explored on this trip inland feels vastly different in a geographical sense. It boasts old volcanic cones, and is lush with fertile valleys and beautiful meadows (currently featuring fluorescent fields of canola which fondly remind us of spring in Scotland!) Did we mention the rice paddies just outside of Begur?
    http://bravamagazine.cat/the-paddies-of-pals-the-worlds-tiniest-rice-growing-region/
    More on that another time!

    Until the next adventure!
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  • Mar27

    Castellfollit de la Roca

    March 27 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 57 °F

    After a nippy but tasty continental breakfast on the hotel’s outdoor terrace (watching hot air balloons drift overhead; something we both want to try sometime soon!) we set off for Castellfollit de la Roca. Dating back to the Middle Ages, this tiny village sits perched on a dramatic cliffside peninsula. Still off-season, we couldn’t find an outdoor patio for lunch and decided to return to Besalú for some additional sightseeing and another lunch option that would again eliminate the need for dinner (or take-out, hotel-room-dining).

    A “lost in translation moment” resulted in meeting 2 expats (from California) who had recently moved to a town near Begur, and we invited them to join us for lunch. It’s always fascinating to hear the stories behind why people move to Spain. In our case, we never set out to move abroad permanently, it was originally an educational adventure for 1-2 years. And here we are still... ever grateful for these adventures.
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  • Day11

    Last Day

    July 16, 2020 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 75 °F

    “What about this place?” Sarah asked, handing me her phone. I saw a picture of a white stone farmhouse. There were very few reviews, all of them one liners. That should have alerted me. But we were trying to choose a hotel for the last night of our trip, in Dénia, and, well, I let my guard down. “Looks good,” I said, “book it.”
    And so here we are, entering Dénia. The town has a dramatic location beneath a mountain range. As we turn away from the sea, I am imagining a farmhouse nestled at the base. But no, the GPS has other ideas. The further we go from the beach, the more the neighborhood declines. “Are you sure the GPS is correct?” I ask. “Yes,” Sarah says, “there it is.”
    After reviewing hundreds of hotels around the world, I have found a simple rule to be true. The quality of a hotel is reflected in its sign. The sign for the Boho Suites is 4 boards framing a rusty metal plate. I am not sure if they are trying to be rustic chic, or were simply out of money. In any case the lavish photos on booking.com are not materializing. We are looking at a suburban corner lot, lots of traffic, very hot pavement. I ring the bell at the gate, only to discover that the advertised “free parking” was being offered courtesy of the town hall, i.e. on the street. We then dragged our luggage down a long driveway to the reception, where a young woman, call her Wanda, is waiting. Like a spider spotting a fly in a web, she scuttles toward us and immediately launches into a sales pitch for an Ayurvedic Massage. “Oh, this is great, just great, the woman who does it is great, you don’t want to miss this, she has been to India, she is — what do you call it? — a goo-roo.”
    Wanda then takes us to the interior courtyard of the hotel, which looks like a suburban lawn that has not been cut in some time. There is no one to be seen, just a few yoga mats, various plastic chairs, and two banks of rooms. A distant pool peeks through a hedge, the only thing separating us from the street. Wanda leads us to the door of our suite and bolts, leaving us to discover its mysteries on our own. We open the door and there she stands, an enormous naked African tribeswoman. The photo dominates the sitting area, a powerful statement of how globally -minded Wanda and her goo-roo really are. COVID-19 seems to have put a dent in the furnishings, as the floor is entirely cement. Oddly, there is an ash tray, as we had previously received a special email from the hotel letting us know that no smoking is allowed under any circumstances. In the middle of the room is the bed, with little more than the headboard separating it from the bathroom. No walls at all. I wonder if I have ever slept with my head so close to a toilet. But of course this is a far more natural mode of living, a contemporary bush hut, imagined from a suburban garage, and all this for only 160 euros. I am starting to think I may need to speak to the goo-roo after all. The thought is confirmed when we spot the sign on the wall that says the solar hot water is being rationed.

    Having had our fill of the room, we go to the pool, where we find three other couples socially distancing. Every few seconds the peace and quiet is broken by a car driving past the hedge. And so we slink back to our room, and out for dinner. It is late when we return and the lawn is dark. Now it is the morning and time to leave for the 6 hour drive to Soto. We are going to have to pass on the massage. Maybe next time. After all: the parking is free!
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  • Day10

    On the way home...Denia

    July 15, 2020 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 79 °F

    After an incredible breakfast at Federal Cafe (hands down THE best breakfast I’ve ever had in Spain 🇪🇸... and for those of you who don’t know, breakfast is my favorite meal!) we packed and started our journey home. We were fortunate to have an uneventful drive guided by Waze (who took helped us avoid a 5 mile traffic jam at one point). Dénia is about midway... more on this adventure from Paul in our next post (you’ll soon see why I’m sticking to education as a profession- I’ve just been fired as a hotel finder).Read more

  • Day9

    Girona

    July 14, 2020 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 75 °F

    After an early morning country-walk outside the village of Mont-ras we packed up and headed to Girona, 45-minutes inland. This quaint city was a wonderful surprise. We did not visit any indoor tourist attractions even though several art museums beckoned (this has been our rule the entire trip- too many new indications about possible Covid-19 aerosol transmission). Shopping also wasn’t on our agenda but I would love to return someday to visit the charming boutiques that are scattered throughout the old town.
    The River Onyar cuts through the city, although very shallow, it’s full of carp (fishing for carp features large in our early dating experiences).
    Climbing up to the top of the old city walls with a mask on was not a particularly pleasant experience. But the views from the medieval walkway that surrounds old quarter made the effort worthwhile. We loved wandering the cobblestoned streets in the Jewish Quarter and the food is outstanding here (yes, they had Vermouth on tap as you can see in the photo!) The Nord 1901 hotel was a block away from the main plaza and the hidden courtyard pool was a welcome relief after sightseeing.
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  • Day6

    Alt Empordà

    July 11, 2020 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 79 °F

    Today we began with a quick trip to the coastal city of Palamos, which we thought was really tired. So on the spur of the moment we decided to drive the coast of the Alt Empordà, basically the northern half of the Costa Brava. Our first stops were L’Estartit and L’Escala, two similar beach resort towns now packed with holiday goers. Then we had lunch in the small and incredibly charming Sant Marti de Empúries, a medieval village on the great arc of the Bay of Roses. From these sublime heights we descended into the enormous horror known as Empuriabrava. Sadly, this enormous marina development with over 30 km of canals could have been fantastic but is now a showroom for plastic sharks, go-karts, mini-golf and the most hideous waterfront apartment building in Spain. We left feeling like we needed a shower, and that is just what we got, in the form of a beautiful serpentine drive through natural forest along the peninsula to utterly charming Cadaqués. Sparkling white on the sea, it is the perfect weekend getaway. We ate and drank too much, including a pit stop at a local creperie, before walking across the headland to tiny Port Ligat, the fishing village where Dali lived. We took a Polaris ATV back, which was fun.

    The only regret was that we didn’t get in a swim today so tomorrow is a full beach day!
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  • Day5

    Medieval Villages

    July 10, 2020 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 82 °F

    We got a late start and visited the Palafrugell markets this morning. As you can see from the first photo, we’re sporting the new faces of travel (what you can’t see is the ever-present hand sanitizer juggle)—ah, the “covadventures” in social distancing whilst traveling! Overcast skies cancelled our swimming plans today but that didn’t dampen our quest for the most idyllic medieval town. Today the hands down winner was the tiny village of Monells (a recommendation from the pharmacist in Palafrugell!) Pals, a much larger village, but no less charming, came in a close second and tempted us with lovely art and ceramics shops. To our foodie followers unfortunately nothing special to report today—we brought a picnic lunch and had a quiet dinner back in the apartment. Heading north tomorrow!Read more

  • Day4

    San Felix de Guixols

    July 9, 2020 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 81 °F

    We continued to explore this beautiful coastline today. The beach photo is actually from where we swam at Sa Tuna yesterday. We didn’t get in a swim today but are going to make it a priority tomorrow afternoon! The boys tease me about so many food photos but a large part of the travel experience for me is local cuisine and new food combinations. This papaya soup with lime and celery sorbet was incredible!Read more

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