Castellar des Valles: 20/07/16 - 02/08/16
Getting very spoiled in the beautiful Castellar...
So although Bob's written most of the blogs about Spain, I thought I'd write this one as for 2 weeks we stayed with my ex-colleagues (Montse) parents (who didn't speak English, so it was me mainly translating for Bob - although he did practice some Spanish with them). It was so nice of them to let us stay, as I'd only known Montse in work for a few months. We were originally going to help out in their shop/rotisserie but they said they were OK for help but we could still stay.
|With Montse overlooking the Costa Brava|
They had a lovely house in a small town about an hour from Barcelona. Montse and Pablo, our hosts, were so welcoming and we felt so at home with them. They wouldn't let us pay for anything and in true Spanish style had a constant stream of food and drink for us. We started the two weeks by being taken to Montse and Pablo's food stall in the local supermarket, and being bought wine and jamon - not a bad start!!
Castellar is a sweet little town - it has a small town centre which we walked around a couple of towns, with a few shops, supermarket and cafes. We enjoyed some pastries for breakfast and generally just soaked up the sun. They also had a small inflatable pool that they'd just bought so we used that quite a lot as well, to try to escape the insane midday sun. We also enjoyed their lovely food most days, and were taken to visit their weekend shop a couple blocks away, where they sell rotisserie chickens and side dishes for people's Sunday lunches. We were lucky enough to try this one day and yup, it was delicious!
Pablo was also, like us (but maybe to a bit more of a higher level), a gin (or 'ginebra') enthusiast. It was amazing to see his impressive gin collection and even get to try some with him. He had maybe 5 or 6 different types of gin, and some interesting flavourings to go with them. I think I had red berry, and it was so good!! It was pretty nice to sit out on their balcony, sipping gin and watching the sunset (not a bad life really).
I think the food and drink was one of the main highlights of this part of our trip (except for their amazing hospitality, of course). Most nights they drove us to a town about half an hour outside, either Sabadell or Terrassa, where we had a walk around the main plaza or park and then sat down for some tapas and drinks. We had so much sangria in our time there, we had to have a detox whilst in India!! The food they also gave us was amazing, all the side dishes (like fried potatoes, croquettes and pasta) that Montse made were delicious. We ate way too much but it was all so good, and so kind of them to treat us.
They also took us on a few day trips whilst we were there:
|View from Montserrat|
We took the windy road (cue my car sickness) up to the top of Montserrat (meaning Mount Saw/Serrated - due to the teeth like jagged mountain top), which is Montse and her mum's name sake, as well as the name sake of a lot of the girls in the region. It was beautiful, and there is a monastery you can visit which is built into the side of this mountain. The views were incredible, and if you have more time I think you can also do a hike around, or take the vernacular up and down. Pablo wasn't a fan of heights though, so we drove.
We met Montse and Pablo's other daughter, Sonia and her husband and daughter (Emma) when we were there, and they were also really nice. They had a couple spare tickets to a big themepark on the top of Mount Tibidabo (made famous by the show Friends and which I didn't think actually existed), which came packed with rollercoasters and waterslides. We had a really fun day going on all the rides (and me screaming a lot) and were very grateful that they took us with them. The top of the park has a huge viewpoint, which is pretty much a box which moves up and looks over Barcelona - it was so incredibly high. I think this is where I developed my fear of heights, as I hung onto Bob the whole way up, only peeking to see the view! I've added a photo for clarification...
We did our own day trip to Barca from M&P's house, to do some more touristy things. We went to the Parque Guell again and actually got in this time, which was cool. We did the long walk up the hill to the top so we saw the beautiful views. We also went up on the cable car which takes you to the top of another hill, where again you can see the city. We walked around a lot, as we normally do in cities to save money on transport, and it's also always nice to see different parts of a city. It was a long day (city days usually are), and we spent waaay too much money, but it was fun to be a tourist!
Costa Brava and Girona:
M&P also took us for a day trip up north, to the incredible Costa Brava, and to the city of Girona. The city is beautiful - still full of classic old buildings and cobbled streets that run along the river. It's also the set for some scenes in Game of Thrones which was cool for us to see! We had some more tapas in a cafe and Pablo told us some stories about the city. The cathedral and churches were so pretty, I'd love to go back some day.
On the way home we visited an old village, which still looked very medieval. It was all brick, and covered in beautiful flowers, and overlooked some really nice countryside. It was peaceful just walking around and taking in the views.
We also saw some of the coast during the day. It was amazing - tiny little streets leading down to the white beaches, and restaurants sat right on the coast. They took us for a delicious (and classic) paella, which was amazing, and even Bob (seafood hater) had some and maybe even enjoyed it a bit?! The views here were crazy, and it's like something out of a film. We walked up and down the beach and went for an icecream, and I may have fallen asleep in the car on the way back!
All in all we really enjoyed our time in Castellar - relaxing in the pool, filling up on food/drinks and exploring the region. We are so grateful to Montse and Pablo for having us and can't thank them enough for their hospitality - we hope to see them again when they visit Montse in Cardiff!! Gracias!!
PS: Here is the classic quote from Friends about Mount Tibidabo ...