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Curious what backpackers do in Spain? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day21

    If anyone is following... Sorry for all the notifications, but I had to straighten out my day numbering.

    We are starting to get tired out! We docked about 1 but none of us were ready to get off until after 2. Then, we were all happy to pay the 15 euros each to take the shuttle instead of walking a few blocks to see if we could figure out the cheaper city bus system. Finally, after wandering around for only an hour, we were all happy to hear back to the ship!

    Still, it's another beautiful spot.

    We were reminded again of Mexico's roots. Narrow streets, narrow, stuccoed, tall houses, cobblestone streets.  However, the stucco is in good shape, the cobblestone streets are actually made of smooth, flat 6" square stone tiles and everything looks almost perfect. 

    There's a photo-worthy scene around every corner.

    Bought a couple of small souvenirs and headed "home".

    Had the unpleasant task of packing up. We broke it up by spending some time in the arcade and getting a few more photos taken... for which we have been given account credit as a bonus. Then a final dinner and last stop at the Cavern to listen to a band called Siglo from the Philippines.  They quickly became our favourite at the start of the cruise, playing old and classic rock.
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  • Day68

    Last couple of days out in the countryside and driving around! Had a hotel breakfast at our accommodation in Andorra before leaving fairly early around 9:30 am. The drive to our world heritage site for the day, Poblet Monastery, was about 2 hours 40 minutes almost directly south, which passed mostly without incident. Had to hurry though because the monastery was closing at 12:30 for siesta, and missing that meant we'd have to wait around for 3-4 hours until it re-opened. No thanks!

    Anyway we arrived at 11:45 and bought tickets for the 12pm tour, which although in Spanish, the guide also spoke a bit of English and let us essentially wander around while she explained for the Spanish (we had a pamphlet pointing out various things of interest).

    Poblet was an important monastery for the kings of Aragon and Catalan over the years, and includes a small palace as well which isn't open to the public. The most interesting part about this one was a large area of royal tombs at the centre of the main church - they were located in huge stone cross-beams just near the main altar, which seemed like a very odd place to house them!

    It's also interesting because it was a monastery for Cistercian monks, and their ethos is based around simplicity, humbleness and plainness of decoration. So the church was quite large, but very very plainly decorated, aside from the royal tombs. No stained glass or intricate windows and archways, just large blocks of stone.

    The tour lasted about an hour and was quite interesting - there were a couple of signboards talking about the role it played in political upheavals of the late 18th century (which I know absolutely nothing about), but the info was only in Spanish so I guess it'll continue to remain unknown!

    After the end of our tour we tried to grab some lunch from the restaurant across the road, but they weren't serving food on the terrace and Schnitzel wasn't allowed inside. We decided to put him back in the car with the windows wide open (it was a warm day and I'd moved the car out of the shade it was in previously), thinking he'd be fine if we had a quick lunch. But of course the waitress went to every other table in the restaurant first before taking our order, so we ended up just walking out.

    Drove into the closest town and found an open restaurant, where for the first time I encountered someone who had no idea what I was saying in Spanish. I think he only spoke Catalan, as another man at the bar could understand me. Managed to get out an order, so we ate our food and left with no problems!

    Onwards to our accommodation for the evening, a farmhouse about 40 minutes away to the south. Our host Ricard was super chatty and had good English, so we spoke with him for quite a while. Unfortunately no wifi as the system was getting replaced, but he activated tethering on his phone for us to use for a while. He busied himself around the farm (he grows chillis, lavender, lettuces and other things) while we relaxed and did a few things.

    In the evening he offered to help us cook paella, which we readily accepted. Drove into the nearby town to get the ingredients, but not before stopping at a large aqueduct known as Punt Del Diablo (Devil's Bridge), a Roman-era relic that was part of the world heritage site we'd be visiting tomorrow (albeit well out of town). This aqueduct is unique in that you can actually walk across the top of it! We walked partway out onto the span, but there were a couple of unsavoury looking characters hanging around the centre so we turned back.

    Picked up supplies at the supermarket before heading home, where Ricard said the paella would take about an hour or so. He obviously operated on Spanish time though, since we started the BBQ fire at about 8pm, and didn't eat until after midnight! Funny how that works. It was absolutely delicious though, a huge serve and a shame that we couldn't take any of it away with us.
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  • Day69

    Strict timeline to stick to today as well, since we had to have our car back at the depot in Barcelona by 3pm. So we were up fairly early and heading out by around 9am. Ricard hadn't surfaced yet so we skipped breakfast, although it was included! He woke up just as we were leaving so we at least managed to say goodbye - what a fun stay.

    Drove the 20 minutes south into the city of Tarragona where today's World Heritage site was located, a collection of Roman ruins and some other heritage stuff as well. We parked near the amphitheatre which is a large Roman building, dramatically located right on the waterfront. Tarraco (as it was known back then) was a major Roman town, the capital of Hispania and centre for worship of the emperor, and had all of the requisite buildings to befit that.

    The most interesting part about the amphitheatre, though, was that after a bishop was martyred in the arena, a century or so later the Visigoths built a basilica right on the arena floor, which was later converted into a typical Christian church. It's very odd to see the large crucifix-shaped stone outline in the middle of the arena, but very cool at the same time.

    As for the rest of the ruins, unfortunately they weren't super impressive. There was some stuff from the Circus Maximus, and it was really clear and interesting how the modern city had essentially been built directly over the top, but being our fourth or fifth Roman site in Spain by now we'd sadly seen better ones I think. Some of the walls still remained (though only as foundations for larger medieval walls), and a small corner of the Forum building which was later converted into a monastery, but otherwise there wasn't a huge amount to see. Amphitheatre definitely the highlight.

    Back to the car and in a slight rush now, as it was 1pm and about 90 minutes to Barcelona where we needed to meet our host first before returning the car at 3pm. Everything went smoothly which was nice, though the apartment itself isn't great. Gloomy since the only windows look directly at other buildings, lots of maintenance needed (eg peeling paint, light bulbs not working), and the owner has a lot of their stuff cluttered around. But we'll manage.

    Thankfully the car depot was only a few minutes drive away which I managed no problem, though I got a big surprise when the staff told me it was actually due back tomorrow!! I think we'd originally planned to arrive in Barcelona a day later, or maybe having the car available for a day trip or something. Regardless, we were in a pedestrian area and had nowhere to park, so I just left it at the depot. 6200 kilometres in 25 days is a pretty good effort for our little Mercedes, though I think all things considered I still prefer the Golf I had back in Sydney!

    Relaxed in our apartment for a little while and caught up on internet since we'd been semi-without for a couple of days. Headed out in the evening to explore the area and found a lot of nice little restaurants and bars. As usual it seems like we're in a locals area, not a touristy area so the food is more genuine. And thankfully, a little more varied - outside of the big cities, cuisines that aren't Spanish or Italian are basically non-existent.

    Went to a nice restaurant where we sat outside on a square and ate; I had a burger while Shandos had a prawn pappardelle. Few spots of rain around which is ominous, and the weather forecast for the next couple of days isn't looking good either!
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  • Day70

    Woke up to find an overcast, rainy city hidden outside our brick windows. We discovered this when taking Schnitzel out for his morning business! After a bit of deliberation we decided to catch the metro to the Eixample district where a lot of the early 20th century stuff is and have a look around.

    Schnitzel came too, and had his first non-carrybag ride in a subway train! He got carried the whole way and seemed a bit scared, though he was also sulking because he had to wear his muzzle. Downtown we had a look at a few things, including the Palau de la Musica Catalan and a nearby Gaudi house, but with the drizzle it wasn't super pleasant or conducive to good photos/videos.

    Stopped for a coffee and a snack in a dog-friendly cafe where Schnitzel sat on our laps very patiently while we shared a small plate of vegetarian nachos. Wandered over to La Rambla which is the main shopping boulevard in the city. Very crowded with tourists despite the rain. Ducked into a large marketplace where lots of stuff was happening, again very crowded but we tried a few things for lunch including a small box of noodles from a Korean stall, a beef burrito, and a juice. We also managed to get a chicken neck for Schnitzel from one of the butcher's stalls inside, which the lady gave to us free of charge! He wolfed it down as usual, first time he's had a chicken neck since we left Australia!

    Continued walking down La Rambla until we eventually arrived at the waterfront where not a lot was happening. There's a large shopping centre on a pier in the bay, but neither of us felt that inclined to visit since it all felt a bit Darling Harbour. Wandered around a little more before we jumped on the subway to head back. Schnitzel was brave enough this time to go on the floor, but still cowered between Shandos's feet.

    Relaxed in the apartment for a while, and I went out to a nearby hipster barber shop for a long overdue haircut. Still raining steadily into the evening as I wandered a few streets looking for some toiletry supplies. Partly successful in my mission, but I also managed to find an excellent cake shop selling Oreo brownies and delicious choc-chip cookies. Lots of cool shops in our area which is quite nice. Big contrast from the apartment!

    Stayed in for dinner as neither of us felt like venturing out, and had a pair of Spanish tortillas for dinner.
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  • Day71

    Still no let up in the rain today, and if anything it was actually worse. So we decided that we'd make the most of it, and focus on indoor attractions. Headed out moderately early heading for the Picasso Museum, since obviously it was entirely indoors.

    We'd booked fairly early tickets, since as with most things on tour it's better to get in earlier and avoid the large groups. The museum was quite good, though different from what I was expecting. I went in expecting a fairly retrospective style collection, with artworks from each of his various periods. But a lot of the collection focused on his early years, before he got into the cubism and surrealism. There were a couple of other periods exhibited (the "Blue Period" where he painted entirely in hues of blue for a year or so), and a large study of "Las Meninas", a Renaissance-era painting by Velazquez in Madrid's Prado museum which we'd visited about 10 days earlier. Picasso's study involved endlessly painting and repainting both the full thing and smaller parts of it (individual people etc) in his own style, which was really interesting.

    But I guess it's important to remember that although Picasso was Spanish, most of his key creative output and influential periods came later in life when he was living in Paris and Cannes. He left Spain fairly early in his artistic career and only returned a couple of times. Still great to see a lot of his works, but not sure it was entirely up to expectations. I guess museums can only exhibit what they can acquire, and despite Picasso's enormous output, very little of it goes on sale so it's almost literally priceless. Alas!

    We headed back outside into the rain and retreated to a cafe where we had a hot drink and shared a croissant. Had a couple of hours before our next booking, back at the concert hall (Palau de la Musica Catalan) so without the option of walking around in the rain, we decided to just amuse ourselves in cafes and restaurants.

    Eventually ended up back at the same cafe opposite the concert hall we'd been to with Schnitzel the day before, where we had a more substantial meal (I had a Mexican egg dish and Shandos had a salad) and another hot drink.

    Finally at 2pm our concert hall tour was ready, so we set off inside. Although the outside is interesting, it's in a couple of fairly narrow streets and is difficult to really get a handle on. But the inside is absolutely stunning. The main concert hall is large-ish, holding about 2200 seated patrons, but it's decorated absolutely beautifully.

    The long sides are decorated with stained glass windows depicting Catalonian folk tales, there are statues of Greek muses around the back of the stage playing various world instruments, the proscenium arch has on the left scenes of nature and a huge bust of a Catalan folk hero, while on the right is a smaller bust of Beethoven and a sculpted scene of the Ride of the Valkyries from Wagner's Ring Cycle. Ironically, this arch takes up so much space it's impossible to have scenery on stage, so it can't actually host operas (nor is there an orchestra pit either).

    The roof is made of stained glass as well, with an inverse dome patterned like the sun, reflecting both light and sound through the entire hall. It's incredible, and I'd 100% recommend anyone who comes to Barcelona visits and tours this building. Also of interest was the way Catalan Modernisme architecture finds its voice here (the lead architect Luis Domenech i Montaner was a leading exponent), the way that natural motifs like roses, leaves, trees, stars etc are brought inside the building. Fascinating stuff.

    After all that we were fairly exhausted, so we hopped on the subway back to the apartment where we stayed the rest of the evening. I tried to cook a fresh supermarket pizza in the oven, but while it was heating up I noticed billowing smoke - there were a bunch of filthy pans and trays stuffed into the oven, some still covered in oil and food scraps! Gross. Thankfully we also had a small toaster oven, so I cut the pizza into slices and cooked it in there. This place isn't going to get a good review from us, that's for sure.

    Off to bed around midnight after watching a boring and uninspiring Manchester derby in the football. But at least United didn't lose!
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  • Day4

    Arab King Miramamolin chained his elite guards together surrounding his pavilion so they couldn't retreat.
    But the great Sanchez VII el Fuerte, King of Navarre, with the blessings of the pope and God on his side slew them all and put those chains in the chapel of San Agustin.

  • Day5

    We crossed the pass yesterday (the wooden lamppost points to the coll,) and Hattij from Amstelveen, who volunteers at the Roncevaux hostel, told me that 300 pilgrims were arriving this evening. Now the hostel can accommodate 185 and last Sunday there were an extra 120 places in the basement and in external cabins, but on Monday these were no longer usable by order of the Navarre state administration. No explanation. One of the 4 remaining Roncevaux clerics (for it is still a monastic town) was going to Pamplona to argue the case but he is 94 years old and may not survive the experience. Panic all round.Read more

  • Day5

    I crossed the Sorginaritzaga, (Oakwood of witches where some of the most famous witches covens of the C17th met,) 3 times because I had forgotten my water bottle being engrossed in French conversation with Anne from Carnac.
    No problems thanks "la cruz blanca de Roldan" (Roland's white cross erected in the C17th to guard pilgrims who forgot their belongings,) or to the fact that 9 witches were burnt.
    Only about 200m vertical distance but 30 kms all up.
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  • Day4

    We're in Spain! Recieved our second Compostela stamp at the Rufugio de Peregrinos de Roncesvalles. It is 12 euro / night plus 10 euro for dinner (@ 7pm) and 5 euro for breakfast. It has 183 beds, Tom and I were assigned 114 & 116, both top bunks. The bunks don't have a safety railing so Tom offered to sneak into my bed (which is directly across from his) and sleep on the outside to make sure I don't roll off and fall 6ft down to the floor in my sleep. It's offers like this which remind me that I picked the perfect life partner. 💓

    Tom arrived around 12:30pm and both of us were quite hungry. Unfortunately, there are no stores here that sell food. There are 3 restaurants, none open before 2pm, all of them expensive. Have I mentioned how cold it is yet? It is very, very cold. It was 39 degrees this morning when we set off and it has warmed up to the high temperature today, 54 degrees.

    We couldn't check in to our Refugio until 2pm today (apparently, all the businesses here are owned by some sort of creature who ceases to exist until 2pm) so Tom and I paid 4 euro each to visit a museum, entirely so that we could have some relief from the frigid temps and frightfully cold winds. You can imagine our dismay when it dawned on us that the museum was mostly outdoors. There was one room, but it held the sarcophagus of some holy person or other. So that was what we were working with today, huddle next to the dead guy and random "relics" (ie: bone shavings, finger nails, etc) in a creepy cloister or freeze outside.

    Jet lag is still present (and awful)...goal is to stay awake until 8pm today.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Kingdom of Spain, Spanien, Spanish State, ስፔን, 스페인, ܐܣܦܢܝܐ, สเปน, スペイン, 에스파냐, ສະເປນ, እስፓንያ, ସ୍ପେନ୍, អេស្ប៉ាញ, ประเทศสเปน, An Spáinn, An Spàinn, Caxtillan, Esipaɲi, Esipanye, Espaañ, Espagne, Èspagne, Espaina, Espainia, España, Espangne, Espanha, Espania, Espanja, Espánjja, Espanya, Espânye, Espay, Estado Español, Hesperia, Hisipaniya, Hispaania, Hispania, Hispanio, Hispanujo, Hiszpania, Isbeyn, Ispagna, i-Spain, Ispaña, Ispanija, İspaniya, İspanya, Ispuanii, la Madre Patria, La pell de brau, La piel de toro, Nsipani, Orílẹ́ède Sipani, Pain, Paniora, Pāniora, Regne d'Espanya, Reino de España, sangue, Sbaen, Sepania, Sepanyol, Sepeni, Sipeini, Sipen, Sipeyini, Spagn, Spagna, Spagne, Spain, Španělsko, Spania, Spánia, Spania nutome, Španielsko, Španija, Spānija, Španiska, Spanja, Spanje, Spanjë, Španjolska, Spánn, Spanya, Spanyän, Spanyol, Spanyolország, Spayn, Spen, Spēna, Spéonland, Spēonland, Spuenien, Szpańskô, Tây Ban Nha, Uhispania, Yn Spaainey, أسبانيا, إسبانيا, اسبانيا, اسپانیا, اسپین, ہسپانیہ, سپین, هسپانیه, ئیسپانیا, ئىسپانىيە, ספרד, שפאניע, Ισπανία, Гішпанія, Испани, Испания, Испониё, Іспанія, Шпанија, སི་པན།, སིཔཱེན, སིཔཱེན་, Իսպանիա, ესპანეთი, स्पेन, સ્પેઇન, સ્પેન, స్పేన్, ಸ್ಪೈನ್, ஸ்பெயின், സ്പെയിന്‍, স্পেন, စပိန်, ස්පාඤ්ඤය, 西班牙