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5 Quirky Things to do in Barcelona

If you’ve ever gone on any Barcelona weekend breaks in the past, then you’ll know that the city is replete with amazing unique cultural experiences, from its tasty regional food to its numerous beaches, and iconic buildings such as the Sagrada Familia. But the capital of Cataluña has plenty more to offer those who’re willing to make their way off the beaten path. 

Barcelona Park Güell

If you’re going to Barcelona and want to discover a few strange but great things to see and do, here are 5 of the quirkier spots to head to.

Park Güell

This public park located on Carmel hill is composed of a mixture of gardens and strange architectonic elements, including a variety of Gothic inspired buildings that might remind you more of a scene from Willy Wonka than a park at the heart of one Europe’s great cities. But with brilliant features like animal sculptures and bright mosaic patterns, along with stunning panoramic views of the city, you’ll find that a trip to this park is both quirky and oddly romantic.

Parc del Laberint d’Horta

Few visitors to Barcelona make their way to this historical garden, but if you’re looking for a unique experience, this labyrinthine park that sits on the former estate of the Desvalls family comprises both an 18th century neo-classical garden as well as a 19th century romantic garden.

Amanecer en la Playa de Barcelona

Head to a Nudist Beach

If you’re feeling a little adventurous then consider head down to the Playa de Sant Sebastia, Barcelona’s primary beach for anyone wanting to ditch their swimwear and bathe in their birthday suit. The beach offers everything you would usually expect from a city beach, including showers, toilets, and lifeguard stations.

Ice Barcelona

For those after a unique and cooling drinking experience in this usually toasty city, a trip to Ice Barcelona might be just what you need. Found on the beach at Port Olimpic this chilly spot serves up both delicious cocktails and warm parkas to keep your night going. The bar tends to get quite full after 11, so get here early or be prepared for a bit of a wait.

The Giants of Santa Maria del Pi

Santa Maria del Pi is a 14th century Gothic church located in the Gothic Quarter of the city, but what it is perhaps best known for is the giant statues that greet visitors when the enter the church. at the entrance, inside a floor to ceiling glass case, you’ll discover huge wearable puppets, some of which date as far back as the early 17th century.

If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona but think you’ve seen all this city has to offer, then think again—there are plenty of fun and strange things left for you to see and do.

Images by Wolfgang Staudt and Antonio Tajuelo used under the Creative Commons license. 

Top 5 Spanish Coast Destinations

Spain remains the beach destination of choice for summer holidays. Offering an ideal blend of seaside charm and exotic flavour, it’s hard to go wrong yet, if you’re looking for a bit of guidance, here are five of the best Spanish coast destinations to consider: 

Spain - Benidorm by Night, photo John O'Nolan

Benidorm by Night, photo John O’Nolan, Flickr

Benidorm

Benidorm knows how to do tourism right. Though the destination specialises in catering to British tourists, with seaside resorts offering Brits their favourite amenities from back home, Benidorm isn’t void of local charm. Head to the old town if you’re in search of an authentic Spanish experience, the poniente beach area is usually much quieter and if you’re looking for real seclusion away from the crowds head to La Cala, a world away from the hustle and bustle of benidorms main strip. 2014 Benidorm holidays are the perfect retreat this summer.

Barcelona

Barcelona isn’t just one of Spain’s best destinations, but one of the most beloved cities in all of Europe. Whilst chic, cosmopolitan and rich in culture, the Catalan capital still retains the laid back charm of a seaside city. From relaxing on the sandy shores of the Mediterranean to dining on fresh seafood (cooked Catalan-style), Barcelona will exceed your expectations in every aspect of your visit.

Ibiza

One of the world’s most renowned party hotspots, Ibiza has perfected and defined the Mediterranean club scene. Its clubs, such as Pacha, Space, Amnesia and Privilege, are famous across the globe for their sheer size and always attract big-name celebrity DJs. Beyond San Antonio Bay, the rest of the island’s beautiful beaches and viewpoints offer some much-appreciated tranquility.

Spain - Costa del Sol, Kevin Poh

Costa del Sol, Kevin Poh

Malaga

This seaside metropolis may reside on the Costa Del Sol, yet it’s vastly different than the nearby resort towns that the famous coastline is best known for. In many ways, Malaga has far more depth, with plenty of historical and cultural attractions making it a class above its neighbours. Must-see attractions include the Gothic Malaga Cathedral, the Museum of Glass and Crystal, and the La Concepción botanical gardens.

Majorca

A stunning natural gem of the Mediterranean, the island of Majorca offers far more than generic tourist fare. After spending plenty of time on its golden sands, take a break from the beach and explore the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. Hiking and cycling trails offer brilliant views of the winding coastline and lead you to one charming village after the next.

It’s easy to see why, for many throughout Europe, particularly British families Spain comes number one when planning your summer holiday, with a wealth of choice, beautiful weather, and friendly locals it’s the ideal destinations for families and groups alike.

 

 

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Travel Memories – Barcelona

Most travelers have a trip that’s so full of travel memories, they recall it over and over, like fishermen obsessing about the one that got away. I’m one of them.

My three-month stay in Barcelona was the flowering of an idea that had become planted in my mind back when I was a student in high school in rural Jamaica. Out of the blue one day, our Spanish teacher spent an entire period regaling us with her stories of her time as a student in Spain. She had us captivated, hanging on to every word of every story she told us. For days after, I kept dreaming of the Spain that I had created from her stories. In reality, however, Spain was as far away and as foreign as the moon but I saw myself there.

At Ciutadella Park

Ciutadella Park, 1977

I don’t remember how or when I found out about the semester abroad program that my university was offering but in January 1977, I was among the group of 10 that left cold and snowy Ottawa behind to study Spanish in Barcelona. During our time there, we created many happy travel memories in Sitges, Madrid, Mallorca, the Costa Brava, Montserrat, Ullastret, Vich, Villanova, Ripoll, Tarragona, Tibidabo, Perpignon, Ampurias and Andorra. Here a few that I’d like to share with you.

Travel Memories – First Impressions

Coming out of nearly 40 years of the repressive dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, I’d imagined that Spain would have been drab and militaristic. Instead, Barcelona was vibrant and colorful — everything pulsed with life. I was enthralled by the architecture, music, art, culture and food, and Barcelona made me feel alive and in love with life.

Although we arrived in winter, there was little snow and the temperatures were much warmer than in Ottawa. Most days, I wore sweaters and shirts, occasionally a light jacket. So I was surprised to see many of the women, all fashionably dressed and wrapped up in their furs. You see, we’d also heard that salaries in Spain were lower than in Canada so it baffled us to see women so well dressed. Young Barcelonians, however, rocked jeans that were so tight, I wondered how they took a breath.

Travel Memories – The Tuna

One night, a group of us went to a tuna at the University of Barcelona. A tuna is a centuries old tradition where student musicians dress in traditional garb and serenade their audience with singing and guitar playing. After the performance that night, a few of us followed the tunas to a restaurant where their singing was backed up by tub after tub of sangria. As soon as a tub was empty, another would appear as if by magic. No doubt fueled by the wine, we joined in and sang as lustily as a church choir. I’m not sure how much sangria we had but by the time we left, we were all stepping a little lightly. Somehow we made it home safely but I could hardly move the next day.

Travel Memories – There’s Always Someone Who Understands

On a packed metro, the notion of personal space goes out the door as soon as you enter the car. We all knew about the metro and had heard stories of women being groped. Because of that, my roommate and I always walked to school but on this particular day, I don’t remember why, we took the metro. As the door pulled shut, and the other riders pressed in on me, I commented in our dialect to my roommate, who was also Jamaican, that I was being squashed. I added, jokingly, what I thought could happen if we didn’t get off soon. Of course we thought we were clever. We were in our own little world sharing a joke only we got. We hadn’t stopped laughing when a male voice responded, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.” I was so embarrassed, I wanted to disappear. I don’t remember even looking back to see who it was. Luckily, ours was the next stop and as we exited, we burst into laughter. Every so often my roommate or I would do our best impressions of our potential savior and we’d laugh all over again.

Travel Memories – A Message I’ve Never Forgotten

When I joined the line at the airline office to change my return ticket (no penalty!) and buy a ticket to London, I noticed an agent whose face was as pockmarked as the surface of the moon. He must have felt me staring at him because he turned and looked directly at me. His face was expressionless, his eyes blank. I didn’t want him to assist me but as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I knew he would. As I explained what I wanted to do, he replied, You can get anything you want in the world. I’m sure he said it in response to my question, but for me, it was a message. That message, that anything I want can be mine, has never left me.

My stay in Barcelona provided many indelible travel memories. It also transformed me in ways I only understood and appreciated later.

Enjoyed this post? Be sure to check out Boomeresque for more travels down memory lane.

photo by: angelocesare

Menorca, an Island of Contrasts

Menorca is the second largest of the Balearic islands, and is ideal for the family seaside holiday, with a climate that offers 315 days of sunshine a year.  Life is slower and more peaceful on Menorca, compared to the highlife offered by the entertainment bars and clubs of Majorca and Ibiza.  Not many people know that Menorca has almost as many beaches as the two combined combined, so visitors are spoilt for choice.  The south coast offers a number of peaceful resorts, whilst if you favour a more rugged coastline, the little fishing villages of the north coast are likely to prove a greater attraction.

On the Beach offer all inclusive Menorca holidays with a wide range of choice, from hotels based in some of the livelier resorts like Cala Santandria, one of Menorca’s most popular areas,  to the relatively unknown little town of Binibeca, with its old and new towns, and narrow winding cobbled streets.  In contrast, Cala Santandria, with its golden beach at the end of a winding bay, offers lots of evening entertainment, and a great choice of restaurants and cafes, as well as efficient transport links to the old capital of the island, Ciutadella.

Some top tips for things to do and places to go on your Menorcan holiday :

·         Getting Around: as the island is largely flat, cycling is a great way to explore Menorca, not only for the dedicated cyclist, but also for families enjoying a day out together.  Not only do you get fit, but you save the expense of taxis or car hire! Cycling tracks traverse the island, and offer the opportunity to visit some beautiful little hidden bays, or to enjoy the spectacular views from the cliff tops of the north coast.

·         Eating out: of course you can expect that fish and seafood is a speciality of most Menorcan restaurants, and culinary treats not to miss during your visit include the  local dish, “caldereta de llagosta”, a delicious lobster stew.  In even the smallest villages you are likely to find a bar serving delicious salads with fresh prawns, but for the most popular bars and restaurants you need to visit the Placa d’Espanya in Mahon, or explore the eateries lining the harbor and waterfront.  For a more unusual dining experience, chose one of the trogolodyte restaurants carved into the cliffs of Ciutadella.

·         Places to visit: the town of Ciutadella is one of oldest towns in Menorca, first established by the Romans.  Wander the attractive narrow winding streets of the old town, visit the cathedral, and the Palace Torre Saura.  Mahon, still a busy and thriving port, is the walled capital of the island, situated in a dramatic position at the end of a large natural harbor.   It is crammed with interesting architecture, from gracious streets of bow-windowed 18th century houses and the remains of early Christian basilicas, to a military prison used by the British when they occupied the island.  Amongst the earliest tourists to Menorca were Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton.