Spain was a Salvador Dali-like experience for me of time moving like melting clocks through a landscape of history, culture, and modern life. The persistence of memory from 12 days wandering or being guided through Catalonia left me with a trail of traveler impressions.
My wife explains learning in this way to 5-year-old children she teaches – “your brain becomes wrinkly with memories as you learn.”
Places I have been and the things I have seen made my brain “wrinkly with memories” of cities and villages in Catalonia.
Catalonia or Catalunya (regional name in Catalan) is the northeast region of Spain from Barcelona to the border of France, from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Sea. This is a land of beaches and mountains, Iberian and Roman excavations, medieval fortresses that have protected the land from invaders for centuries and cathedral bells signaling a timely order in a place where dinner might begin at 11pm.
Wikipedia Map outlining Catalonia region of Spain.
Google maps approximation of where I traveled.
Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain with 4.5 million people within its metropolitan area. Barcelona is the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea.
View of city center Barcelona from the Three Crosses on the hill at Park Güell.
While in Girona, the TBEX Europe travel blogger conference location, I stayed four nights at Hotel Carlemany.
Hotel Carlemany, Girona, Spain
From Girona I took a Costa Brava tourism sponsored day trip to the Nuria Valley in the Pyrenees with about 20 other bloggers. There was lunch provided at the Hotel Vall de Nuria, but I did not see any rooms while there.
Hotel Vall de Nuria in Nuria Valley, Pyrenees, Catalonia, Spain.
The all day Pyrenees excursion was followed by being one of nine TBEX travel bloggers on a totally packed three day sponsored trip with Costa Brava tourism.
The three sponsored hotel nights where Costa Brava Tourism picked up the tab were in the beach town of Blanes at Hotel Horitzo, the Vegas-like party town of LLoret de Mar at Guitart Gran Hotel Monterrey and the rural village of thermal springs Caldes de Malavella for one night at Balneari Prats Hotel and Spa with a 15 minute spa treatment included.
View from Hotel Horitzo, Blanes, Costa Brava, Spain.
Hotel Guitart Monterrey, Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava, Spain.
Balneari Prats Hotel-Spa, Caldes de Malavella
My last night was spent at the Four Points, Barcelona, a category 2 hotel at 4,000 points for a Thursday night. I loved the fact that I woke up Thursday without a room reservation for Barcelona and spent less than five minutes to book the Four Points through spg.com.
Unfortunately, I was so tired that I forgot to write down the address and directions to the Four Points hotel. I confused the location Avenguda Diagonal. the miles long major road bisecting Barcelona with the name of the Diagonal Metro stop. I exited the train in central Barcelona and spent 30 minutes asking people to look up the address on their cell phones. Big city, busy people and a lost tourist is not much concern to locals. I finally walked into a 5-star hotel on Passeig de Gràcia where the doorman was able to provide this sweat-dripping American with proper directions to the Four Points Barcelona Diagonal on Rambla del Poblenou many metro stops away from Diagonal Metro Station.
Four Points by Sheraton Diagonal Barcelona
In addition to the hotels where I stayed were visits to at least three other hotels I will write about over the next month or two with photos to share on hotel locations for Costa Brava travel.
Hotel Diana, Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava
Club-Hotel Giverola, Tossa de Mar
Sant Pere del Bosc Hotel & Spa, Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava, Spain.
The press trip was a grueling timetable if you can call a 9am to midnight sightseeing agenda interspersed with eating two 3-hour feasts daily real work.
Coherent blogging is rather difficult when the downtime was generally less than an hour and filled with jumping into the shower, a change of clothes and dashing off a few emails before the next dining feast.
Seafood paella, some tasty fried little fish, calamari on bread, fried shrimp, wine and more twice a day was totally worked off with the busy schedule of activities.
Activities included several walks, electric bike riding in the hills, four wheel driving in the back of a truck on dirt roads to see archaeological sites and a couple of castle tours.
4-wheel driving to a hill top to see an Iberian culture (pre-Roman) excavation site.
Cycling in the cute mountain village St. Hilari.
Exploring 1000 year old fortress castles like Castell de Montsoriu with an archaeologist who explained the strategic defensive location and the past 30 years restoration process currently in Stage 4 of 11 phases.
Castell del Montsoriu, Arbucies, Spain.
Santa Clotilde Gardens, Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava
Gran Casino Costa Brava, Lloret de Mar at midnight during a private room lesson on how to gamble. I think I have a 60 Euro bet on the table. Easy to bet stress-free when there is no actual cash backing up the chips on this table.
Best of all about the post-TBEX Costa Brava Surf and Turf tour were the other travel bloggers and Costa Brava tourism professionals. Generally I prefer to be a reclusive, go-on-my-own traveler. I discovered traveling with a group of writers is rather fun when you spend days with people loaded with travel tales of places around the world.
It is nice to be with a group of people who hear the words Blue Lagoon and immediately make the association with Iceland rather than Brooke Shields and a South Pacific island.
You may want to check out some of these bloggers.
David Lee – GoBackpacking.com (USA) Enjoying Oktoberfest in Munich right now. David also has traveled extensively in Colombia.
Alexandra Kovacova – CrazySexyFunTraveler.com (Slovakia) – She is all that and more. Spanish media loved her since she is fluent in Spanish and English, frequently the life of the party, and she does not drink. She does some crazy photography too.
St. Hilari Sacum horse drawn carriage ride (Alex on right).
Leyla Giray – Women-on-the-Road.com (Canada) – Leyla lives in France, works with the UN in Geneva and speaks five languages fluently. She says she is retiring in a couple of years. Her blog is quite young, yet her experience is vast. Her focus is encouraging women to travel and feel safe about it, even if on the road alone. Leyla helped me out quite a bit translating Spanish to English.
Leyla Giray (center), Kate McCullin (left), David Lee (right) at Castle Montsoriu.
Jeff Dobbins – NYCxplorer.com (New York, USA) – His comment “Twitter followers doesn’t mean shit” resonated with plenty of people in a TBEX seminar where there was a presentation on calculating the value of a blogger posting a story compared to traditional print media journalists. Jeff and Alex were a funny pair who kept us frequently laughing on the Costa Brava trip.
Jeff Dobbins and Alex Kovacova climbing stairs in Lloret de Mar.
Larry Closs – LarryCloss.com (New York, USA) – I only learned the last day Larry has written his first novel Beatitude. Looking over his site and seeing names like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg had me wishing I had used more of our time together to discuss his stories. Larry also shared stories about trekking in Nepal.
Clockwise Alex, Jeff, Dave, Kate and Larry Closs (right).
Lauren DiMarco – LolasTravels.com (Boston, USA) – Lauren left after Day 1 of the 3-day trip so I only spoke to her briefly over one dinner.
Lauren returning from the beach at Hotel Diana, Tossa de Mar.
Frances ??? The Catalonian Instagram Guy
One of the sad aspects of the trip was a comment translated for me during the last dinner that Frances said there was a wall between us for the three day trip due to my inability to speak any Spanish. He was an enjoyable character to have on the Costa Brava trip with his clowning around. Or maybe he was being serious here .
I have never used Instagram, but the other bloggers were amazed at his rapid photography, editing and posting of trip photos. He kept showing me photos from his camera, however, I couldn’t tell him I am far-sighted and usually he was taking camera photos again before I could put on my glasses.
Ric Garrido – Loyalty Traveler
Castell del Montsoriu
Big thanks to Sandra Perich, Costa Brava Tourism Board guide
Sandra (black shirt) as we learn the medicinal properties of salsifi (goatsbeard).
I am truly appreciative of the efforts Costa Brava Tourism made to pack our tour with great experiences. We jammed a month of fun into 72 hours.
Seriously, I will be back to my blog focus of hotel loyalty promotions this week. I’ll spread the Costa Brava and Barcelona stories and hotel reviews out over the next six weeks or so.
Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.