As a teacher in France I’m fortunate enough to get school vacations off. The amount of exams I have to grade during that time off doesn’t make me quite as lucky… However I got to take 5 day trip to Spanish Catalonia for this year’s Toussaint (a Catholic holiday on the 1st of November to celebrate the saints and when many families take the time to visit the graves of their dead relatives and pay their respects). Why Spain? Since I’m living in Perpignan this year, the journey to the Spanish border is just an hour and half by train! My chéri convinced me to go to the Catalan region so we could experience the culture even more (Perpignan is in French Catalonia, but there doesn’t seem to be as much Catalan independence in France than there does in Spain). Plus I hadn’t really travelled much in Spain before ( I took a day trip to San Sebastian in Basque country 10 years ago).
We decided on the itinerary of Figueres – Girona – Barcelona. To get there we were planning on taking a train, but the day before we left we found out that our train was cancelled, not due to a strike, but because of flooding from heavy rains earlier in the week. Instead of taking a bus, my creative boyfriend came up with an almost crazy plan: Take a train to a French village near the border (Cerbère) (these regional railroad tracks were apparently not affected by the flooding), then hike across the border to a town called Portbou. Early in the morning too… I let him convince me to do it even though I was tired from a week of giving exams and trying to grade them all before we left! There were actually two different paths we could take, one was 45 minutes and the other about an hour and half , but closer to the coast. We decided to take the longer one so we could have some pretty seaside views.
The hike was stunning. The sun was rising and little village glowed in the early morning light. I felt at peace walking along and breathing in fresh air and seeing waves splash against the rocky coast. There were also lots of cute little prickly pear cacti all over the place.
The hike was relatively easy, I only had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath once we were getting closer to the highest point. At the top of the hill we took in the view, then crossed the border into Spain. It was so weird crossing the border without getting my passport checked, but hey I guess that’s the EU for ya! The rest of the hike was down hill and once in Portbou we caught a train to Figueres.
Once in Figueres, we walked round until it was time for lunch, which is between 1-3 pm in Spain. Next we hit up the Salvador Dali Museum, which was so much fun! His art is much different then the impressionists I had been used to seeing while in Paris.
After the museum we decided to explore the local castle ( yep, it seems like every european city has a castle/and/or cathedral). I wouldn’t say the castle was anything special (compared to others in Europe) but it was still cool and we had a nice view of the city from above!
After exploring we went back and relaxed in our air bnb before dinner time, which was around 9pm! My poor stomach! We had some yummy tapas and wine which were well worth the wait. I we had some patatas bravas (a typical tapa from the region with fried potatoes and a special tomatoey aioli), a tortilla (Spanish omelette made with potatoes and onions), pan con tomate ( like a garlic bread but with a tomato purée on top). The bf also got something with calamari, which I stayed away from being a vegetarian. We also had a little local dessert which was a little sponge cake with some ice cream and macadamia nuts!
There you have it, my first day in Spanish Catalonia! Follow my blog if you’d like to read about the rest of my adventures.