I broke off from my friends in Barcelona to go on a solo excursion to Montserrat, a short one hour train ride from the city. I wasn't sure what to except but had only heard that it was beautiful with weird rock formations and good trails so knew that I needed to make it before my week in Barcelona was up. This view is proof that I made the right decision. After a fairly strenuous 2 hour hike to Sant Jeroni peak (1,236m), you are rewarded with a 360° view of the green Catalan countryside and the distant Pyrenees. It is absolutely breathtaking and a must-do for the adventure-hearted visiting Barcelona for 3 or more days. One bit of advice would be to get to Montserrat by 9am so that you can descend in time to watch the world renowned boys choir perform in the Basilica of Montserrat at 1pm (something that I wish I had known).
The churros here supposedly get their crispy exterior from being cooked over an ax-cut beech-wood fire. You can sample the results when the 140-year-old shop is open: only two Saturdays in June, every day during the San Fermín festival in July, and Sundays in October.
34/948-227-627. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo by Markel Redondo.
Walking thru the corridors of huge iron sheets the urge to go on and never to stop overtakes you... The narrowness, the loneliness and the dimness combine to create this soothing sense of continuity and endlessness... Just walk and walk and walk... One step after a another and let the texture and color changing with each step infuse into you... Thank you Richard Serra!
Being an admirer of Frank Gehry’s work, it was incredible to see and visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
A short drive from the somewhat more crowded beaches and pinxto stands of San Sebastian, Spain, the twin towns of St Jean de Luz and Biarritz in France are worth the drive (and the $20 Euros in highway tolls!).
The water is too rough for children, but it was a much better beach for sunning and reading. And watching the surfers is always a treat.
At La Cuchara de San Telmo, on the corner of the plaza Valle Lersundi in San Sebastian, the specialties were hot pintxos, quickly prepared to order--from the menu or the specials board, or by pointing to what your neighbor was eating. This was one of best scallops I have ever tasted. But then, so was the second one we had when we returned after another hour or so of pintxo bar hopping in the Parte Vieja (Old Town).
August, 2010. 9:30pm
I was taken with how the setting sun shocked a small cluster of buildings as the mountains behind brushed up against a cloudy roof.
Looking across the bay where we tried to locate the spot where we had been sunbathing until two hours earlier. Mostly young lovers and local Spanish vacationers were on hand for the sunset on Mt Urgull, (really a large hill) which constantly taunted me to climb its woodsy paths to its summit.
We were the only foreign tourists there, which is how we felt most of the time in San Sebastian.
Starving, we realized we had to get back down to edge into position at the tapas bars before they swelled with locals picking off the best fare...
As food writer Jonathan Gold "warned" me before we went to San Sebastian, "the pintxos bars in the old town are among the best in Spain." Although you can't feel any sense of competition--the convivial spirit spills over from one bar to the next, and there are certainly enough customers to go around--you can see it and taste it. Every spot crafts its small-plate specialties to perfection, and a few, like Zeruko, above, take their pintxos into otherworldly realms of avant-garde food architecture. For pure satisfaction (amazing warm pintxos cooked to order) and neighborhood ambiance, we kept returning to Astelehena and La Cuchara De San Telmo, both recommended by AFAR contributor Lisa Abend. But nothing beats Zeruko, http://bit.ly/HbvQQ0, for a visual spectacle and experimentation with ingredients and presentation.
Take the subway to the beach -- switch it to the tram and then hop off to walk out to the boardwalk promenade area where dozens fo restaurants line the strip of sand overlooking the Mediterranean. Watch out for the hawkers talking up their menus -- those are the tourist traps. Go for the place that seems quiet and understated.
All the City of Arts and Sciences buildings in Valencia are breathtaking, but the Oceanografic Aquarium is equally spectacular for its contents. It not only features 500 marine species from whales to sea urchins, it also offers a slate of stellar adventures, from a day as an assistant dolphin trainer to a sleepover in the Tower of Sharks. Oh, and the restaurant is under water.
Camino de las Moreras, 34/902-100-031, cac.es/oceanografic. Photo by Lukasz Dzierzanowski.
Xativa is a town at the base of a strong mountain ridge with a castle perched along its peak. This photo was taken at the Hoteleria Mont Sant just outside the gates to the castle. Dreamy place to spend some time. Beautiful area, great hotel and a fantastic hotel restaurant (not used to saying that!). Castle entrance is free on Tuesdays.
In order to get to Montserrat, an oasis for intellectuals and artists during the Spanish Civil War, you can either take the funicular train, or if you're feeling adventurous, you can take the cable car.
This car will get you to your to the peak of the mountain in order to see the sanctuary in the sky.
Even if time was limited, you cannot go to Valencia without trying their traditional Paella! La Pepica is a restaurant right on the sea side with amazing views of the Mediterranean, friendly atmosphere, and a killer paella.
I was in Valencia for literally five hours before having to hop on an Iberia flight to Paris ... So I made the best of getting to know the city. Heres a picture from a fresh food market that seemed to have been inside of an old train station ... it was incredible, from ham to fish and fresh vegetables covered this immense space ... amazing colors and scents! Wouldnt I love to wake up every morning and do my grocery shopping there!