|brightly coloured facades of the houses overlooking the Onyar River|
If you are in Barcelona more than a few days, you are missing out if you don't plan at least one day trip, depending on your interests.
It's literally a hop, skip and a jump down to Sitges, 35km south of Barcelona by train and it's truly the place to be if you want to get a little taste of non stop festivals, beach life and all night parties. We JUST missed carnival so we didn't go this time but it is worth planning your trip around that week in order to experience what is considered to be one of the world's top ten carnivals. Sitges is also one of the hippest, LGBTQ friendly places you can visit in Europe, so if that is important to you, it really should be at the top of your list.
On the other hand, if you are really into breathtaking scenery, sweeping views and want to take a cable car ride up to an austere monastery nestled high up in the mountains, with hiking opportunities galore, Monserrat is for you. Personally, I will put off Monserrat for another time when the weather is much warmer as a trip up a windy mountain top in February is not really my thing.
That left the fiercely proud capital of the Catalan region, Girona, an easy 40 minute train ride north and Tarragona, about an hour and a bit drive to the south, along the coast. We could do one day trip for sure and were hoping to squeeze in a second so we had to make a choice.
|the view from atop the Passeig de la Muralla|
|The Girona Cathedral|
SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME ON YOU IF YOU SKIP OUT ON THIS DAY TRIP TO GIRONA
Here is a great tip on getting around:
Using my favourite website Rome2Rio you just fill out your starting city and your destination and it will spit out every conceivable way to get to where you want go from where you are, how long it will take and how much it will cost. Even better, you can just click through and it will take you to the appropriate website to book that train or bus trip, car rental or flight.
When on the train, sit on the left side to get a great view of the mountains if you can but much of the quick train ride is done in a tunnel so it's not as big of a deal as it is when you are taking a longer, more scenic trip that hugs the sea. When you arrive in Girona, it's a quick walk from the train station to the Old Town, where you can spend the rest of the day just wandering the winding streets that make their way up, up, up to the main attraction, the Girona Cathedral.
Honestly, just spend the day walking around the Old Town, go into all the churches, visit the Jewish Heritage Museum, walk the city walls, take tons of photos, drink coffee and people watch on the Placa de la Independencia and stop for lunch.
Now, you can go safe and choose one of the popular places you find on Trip Advisor or you can take my advice and look for a place that is full of locals having lunch.
|a delectable flan came with the menu del dia|
NONNA KNOWS WHAT TIME IT IS
It is so off the radar that I couldn't even find it anywhere online. It's not on Trip Advisor, they have no Facebook page or Instagram account. What this restaurant DOES have is cheap, delicious Catalan food, friendly servers and no long lineups of tourists waiting to have lunch at the #3 restaurant in Girona. Shack had some sort of veal stew with a Catalan lentil soup, The Kid has Catalan style spinach with pine nuts and raisins before chowing down on a huge plate of tripe and I went with an omelette and the daily fish, all for 10€ each that included dessert and a drink. Honest, well prepared, delicious, traditional Calatan food for a song - if you can't go Michelin, go with this.
You can get to Tarragona from Barcelona easily by bus, train or, like us, you can rent a car and drive. Expect to pay between 9€ and 18€ for the 52 minute train ride, 5€ to 35€ for the 1.5 hr bus drive, depending on which bus line you choose or you can rent a car for the one hour drive. It took us a bit longer because we left the main highway and chose to drive along a smaller road that hugged the water for a prettier journey. Our rental car was about 70€ for 24 hours but the prices were almost much doubled due to an incoming tech conference so our little Fiat would have been closer to 35€ or 40€/day at another time.
|driving takes you through many, long tunnels carved out of the mountains and right past this aqueduct on the outskirts of the city|
Admittedly, we only spent a couple of hours here because we and decided to rent a car on a whim on our very last day at noon. By the time we picked up the car, got on the highway and then pulled OFF the highway because our car refused to go over 66km/hr and then spent 30 minutes googling and trying to figure out how to disable the speed lock in Spanish, it was about 1:45pm. As it was February, that meant we only had limited daylight hours left before we even left Barcelona so our site seeing was going to be fast furious.
Oh, trust me, there will be another trip to Barcelona.