There's a first time for everything

Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 28, 2006

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Sunday, October 8, 2006

Wednesday to Sunday this week consisted of a grand voyage to Spain and Andorra. We spent the majority of our time in Barcelona but also made two day trips. One to Andorra, a tiny country in the Pyrenees on the France/Spain border and another to Platja D'Aro on Spain's Costa Brava on the Mediterranean. This past week has made me wonder whether I should've gone to a foreign speaking country to work on my language skills. But in the same sense, it's very nice to be in a place where English is the primary language.

Barcelona - Barcelona, the capital of the Catalunya region, met and exceeded all my greatest expectations. The city is situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees on the Mediterranean Sea. Africa is due south and France is a mere 2 hour bus ride away. The city is filled with wonderful spanish architecture, palm lined streets, live music at all hours of the day and beautiful people everywhere. The main pedestrian/tourist area in the city, La Rambla and the old city, are great for walking around, getting cheap tapas at any hour, sipping san gria or doing some serious shopping. The locals are very friendly and most people speak some english in the heart of the city. Even with upwards of 6 million inhabitants, BCN has a small city feel with narrow streets, many fountains and plazas and very few tall buildings getting in the way. The climate and scenery seem to be comparable to Southern California but the air is much cleaner and the air/water temp is warmer all year round. This was my first experience with the spanish/mediterranean lifestyle which consists of very little work, long mid-day siestas and extremely late nights. A lifestyle I could definitely become accustomed to. The major highlights of our stay in BCN included: a traditional spanish lunch where we were uncertain of what we were ordering and ended up eating some form of goat stew; a first swim in the mediterranean; a visit to 3 memorable bars - a dive bar Hemingway used to frequent, Dow Jones bar (drink prices are dependent on demand and are susceptible to a market crash), and a shot bar where 95% of drinks involved fire; and a few days in the warm sun for a change. The visit also affirms my belief that Ireland is the most expensive place in the EU. Things were much much cheaper in Spain than in Ireland.

Andorra - Friday morning, with little hope of acquiring a room in BCN for the next two nights, I made an executive decision to leave town and head for the mountains. We caught a bus to the most enticing place we could find - Andorra. Andorra is a very very small country in the heart of the Pyrenees. Primarily attracting tourists for skiiing, hiking and fishing, the country seems to be quite prosperous. For whatever reason, there is little or no tariff on tobacco or alcohol, so everyone smokes and drinks A LOT. Everyone also drives very expensive cars and wears fashionable clothing and expensive jewelry. This is undoubtedly the strangest place I've ever been. A truly enigmatic place. I'm not even sure why it still exists as a country. I guess I have my research cut out for me. Anyhow, the mountains were lovely and I even had the chance to put my geology skills to use.

Costa Brava - Saturday morning we continued the nomadic journey and headed for Spain's most famous beach coast. With a little help from mom we were able to find a nice beachfront hotel in a small seaside village called Platja D'Aro. The town was situated in the hills and the scenery was heavenly. I took a quick swim in the sea and managed to explore some of the surrounding cliffs before the sun went down. I'd definitely love to get back to this region in the future to do some diving, fishing and golfing. It was well worth the long bus-ride nonetheless. This region reminds me a lot of Malibu, with cleaner skies, warmer water and none of the crowds.

It was an absolutely enjoyable 5 days in and around Spain and I'm second-guessing my decision to come to cold and rainy Ireland. It was great to get some sun and enjoy the laid back mediterranean lifestyle. I'll definitely be going back again at some point. Hope you like the photos.
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