Being back in London after travelling extensively in June and July, I am beginning to miss travel sooner than I thought I would. Maybe cold rainy weather in the UK at the moment are making me feel nostalgic. Maybe it is thinking about all the fun I had while travelling this summer and wanting to experience it again. Or maybe it’s just my nature. Most likely, it’s the combination of all three.
My next trip is not until 18th September. There are plenty of things to enjoy in London in the meantime. Plus, a break from travelling gives me the time I need to write about my experiences and relive them again.
I will start with Cataluña in Spain. I had a magical holiday break there last month. Unexpectedly magical, given the fact that I have been a frequent visitor to this part of Spain for the past 12 years…
We started our trip in Southern Cataluña in the Tarragona region. A small town called Cambrils has been my family’s holiday destination for years. Not many people know about it and that’s part of the appeal for me. Cambrils is a former fishermen’s village that grew into a bigger town. Main attractions for me include: numerous stylish restaurants serving delicious regional food, including an elegant Michelin star restaurant Can Bosch, a beautiful marina, several beaches with a wide strip of golden sand and stylish boutiques. Not a beach resort in sight.
Can Bosch, Michelin star food
If you are in the region, I highly recommend a trip to Tarragona. It is an old Roman city with a lot of Roman architecture to enjoy if you are a history lover. When it’s hot, you can seek shade in the narrow streets of the old city centre while popping into small cafes for coffee or tapas. The views and colours are breathtaking.
Monochrome outfit to avoid colour clashes with the background
Our next destination was Northern Cataluña, a picturesque part of the country close to the French border.
Calella de Palafrugell was our first stop on this leg of the journey. Tucked between the hills, this beautiful tiny seaside town has numerous pebble beaches, white washed houses and cozy outdoor restaurants. Our hotel room with a sea front view was simply perfect. This idyllic town infused me with inspiration and joy. I had forgotten what it felt like to discover a new place and do absolutely nothing (not even sightseeing), but have fun, luckily, a few days in Calella helped me to reconnect with fun.
Perfect writing spot
Brightening it up in Spain
Hotel room view
Calella de Palafrugell
On the beach in Cataluña
With very fond memories, we left Calella to visit our next destination – romantic Cadaques. This beautiful town is famous for being Salvador Dali’s summer home and his house is now a popular museum (that needs to be booked in advance during the busy summer period). Cadaques is stunning. There is something about it, perhaps its old charm of an early 20th century resort town, or perhaps its geographic location behind mountains on a dramatic coastline that draws you in immediately. Our hotel was in a quiet part of town overlooking the mountains. Smell of lavender and aromatic flowers made me want to come back for a longer stay. My most memorable part of the Cadaques stay is an exquisite meal at La Sirena, a small local restaurant, hidden in the small streets of old town – enjoying a typical local dish called Zarzuela (fish stew). It’s a must if you are in there area.
Clashing prints, inspired by Dali
Hotel Sol Ixent
Hotel Sol Ixent
For me, gastronomy is one of Cataluña’s main attractions. Other delicious local dishes to try include: fedaua with seafood (vermicelli paella), chipirones (fried baby squid), pulpo (octopus) in all forms, sea salt baked fish. Fresh fruit, exquisite local vines (we particularly liked the Priorat region wines) and my favourite way to enjoy coffee – cafe cortado (espresso with a bit of milk) are all reasons why I love Spain so much.
Our final destination was one of my favourite cities in the world, Barcelona. Each time I come here, I cannot get enough of its relaxed vibe, beautiful architecture and amazing yet seemingly effortless stylishness in everything. Our hotel, H10 Art Gallery, with art-inspired decor and a rooftop pool in Eixample was a perfect base to enjoy the city from. The street we were on, Career d’Enric Granados, had numerous stylish cafes and restaurants within minutes.
If you want to try something less traditional, you may like Imprevist, a restaurant in Raval we discovered on our first night. A relaxed local vibe coupled with an interesting menu made up of experimental versions of Catalan dishes make it a good choice if you want a quiet night out. Deserts are particularly experimental.
For a lively night out head to El Born in the old town next to Ciutadella Park. Here you will find numerous bars, restaurants and tapas bars with stylish design, delicious food and great atmosphere. You can have picnic in the park during the day or go to Barceloneta beach.
Barcelona has something for everyone – whether you like modern or traditional, quiet or buzzy, beach or history. These pictures show the Barcelona I love. Have you been to this beautiful city? What do you enjoy doing, seeing, experiencing there?
Beauty of Gaudi’s creations
Lindy Hop on Sundays along with vintage market, Barcelona University
Charm of Barcelona – no two buildings are the same
The most frequent question I am asked is recently is: “Where are you travelling these days?”. But at the moment, I am not travelling because it so happens that several of my closest friends decided to visit London at the same time and I have the pleasure of hosting them here. While I am enjoying spending time in London with my wonderful friends, a little part of me is missing travel.
As I go out for Spanish food third time in the past four days, I can’t help thinking it may be time to go for a weekend break in Spain. My last trip to Spain was in summer (seems like a very long time ago), when I visited the Basque Country, but for some reason I only got round to organisimg my photos from this trip last weekend. This brought back a lot of beautiful and tasty memories. I decided to share these on my blog.
For those who don’t know it, the Basque Country is very different to the rest of Spain. To begin with, the climate reminds me of mild, foggy and ever changing British weather, even in summer. The language is very different too; although Spanish is widely spoken, the official Basque language has no resemblance to Spanish.
While sunny weather may not be the main reason to go to the Basque Country, there are many other reasons to visit this part of Spain. And the good thing is the Basque Country has a lot to offer all year round.
Art and architecture is definitely one reason to visit the region. You will have heard about the Guggenheim in Bilbao. This should be enough to convince anyone the city is worth of a visit. But Bilbao also has many other beautiful examples of modern architecture – I particularly like the bridges that connect the city’s two parts, divided by the river. Bilbao has an equally impressive old town. It is a city with a lot of character and a great architectural variety.
For those who prefer art nouvea architecture, I definitely recommend San Sebastian, a nearby seaside resort town, perhaps the Basque Country’s most famous attraction. I had fallen in love with this town even before I visited it for the first time after reading Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”. This book was recommended to me by my friend Ashlea before our first trip to San Sebastian many year ago. It beautifully captures the town’s 1920s atmosphere – one of my favorite periods in history.
But the main reason to visit this part of the world is food, in my opinion. And I am not alone in thinking this; many claim the Basque cuisine is one of the best in Europe. The region is known for one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-star restaurants per person in Europe. From traditional pintxos (Basque version of tapas) to experimental dining – the Basque Country is a gastronomic paradise.
Visitors and locals are spoilt for choice. Practically everywhere you will find tasty local food. The biggest challenge is making a choice. I think a good place to start is to decide whether you want traditional food or nouvelle cuisine. It is worth noting that the Basques eat later than many other European countries; you are unlikely to find a restaurant that is even open between 3pm and 8pm.
San Sebastian has a certain elegance to it but the vibe is fun and relaxed. I love taking a walk along the sea during the day, especially on Paseo Nuevo, and walking around the old town, going in and out of pintxos bars, at night. Here I captured some of my favorite places in San Sebastian.
Stylish design at Atari Gastroteka on Calle Mayor
To taste some of the best ‘experimental’ pintxos, go to Atari Gastroteka, on Calle Mayor
Traditional cod pintxos served in a modern way. If you are feeling adventurous, try cod cheeks, a traditional Basque dish
New-wave pintxos at A Fuego Negro on Calle 31 Augosto – very interesting ingredient combinations and stylish presentation
Three-Michelin-star restaurant Azrak is an experience every foodie needs to treat themselves to. Difficult to describe in words. I will only say I the tuna I had there was the best I’ve ever had.
Sunset at Playa de la Concha, one of the best city beaches in Europe
Wine is cheaper than soft drinks in some pintxos bars. Red wine is served chilled in San Sebastian.
Traditional pintxos bar La Cepa on Calle 31 Augosto is always busy. Definitely worth a visit.
Zurriola, surfers’ beach
Go on a walk along the coast to discover sculptures by the famous Basque artist Eduardo Chillida
Bilbao has an equally impressive food scene. It is a bigger city, distances are longer and people look busier, but there is still a friendly vibe to it despite the industrial exterior. There is an ample choice of stylishly designed restaurants serving new Basque cuisine.
Porrue, modern Basque cuisine from local ingredients in stylish setting, Alameda Rekalde 4
Food at Porrue is not only a tasting but also a visual experience
Delicious food and great value for money at Bitoque de Albia, Mazarredo Aldapa, 6
Bitoque de Albia serves ‘creative’ and very tasty pintxos, all day, unlike most other place
Hesperia Bilbao, design hotel with colourful windows and central location near the Guggenheim
The Guggenheim – a must-see for anyone visiting Bilbao
Casco Viejo (the old town) with its narrow pedestrians medieval alleys
Zubizuri (‘White’) Bridge
Walk along the riverfront to see the bridges, each of them is different and unique
Traditional pintxos at Café Iruña, centrally located on 4 Berastegui Kalea. The place has a very local feel.
As the summer is coming to an end I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic. Every year, I like to look at my photos, taken during summer holidays, and remind myself how much I enjoyed discovering new places and re-visiting the places I love.
Here are some of my favourite shots from trips to the Basque Country in Northern Spain, Provence in South of France and Devon in England. Travelling this summer has been a real treat for all the senses: beautiful old and modern architecture, scenic views of the countryside, sunsets on the beach, smell of the sea and fragrant flowers of Provence and taste of incredibly delicious and artfully presented food. My reviews of where I liked staying, eating and shopping will follow in the coming days.