Exploring Catalonia – Terrassa, La Garriga and more:
I was on the final leg of my journey through Catalonia and by now I had fallen in love with the stunning landscapes, celebrated art and architecture and the extraordinary warmth of the Catalan people I encountered along the way.
La Garriga Spa
Leaving the Osona region behind us, we drove to La Garriga, a Spa town in the ‘Vallès Oriental’ comarca of the Province of Barcelona. Famous for centuries for its natural springs the thermal waters of La Garriga are said to have healing properties and are traditionally used to treat medical conditions. The water is high in silica and organic matter, giving it a distinctive, smooth sensation.
La Garriga also boasts a wealth of culture and some impressive examples of early 1900’s Art Deco Modernist architecture. If you walk along the street that hugs the railway line, you can admire the Modernista mansions built by Barcelona’s wealthy elite over 100 years ago, who came in droves to take the waters.
If you are not visiting its beautiful spa, you can take your own guided Art Nouveau audio tour which directs you around town and allows you to see some of the magnificent houses, many designed by the renowned architect – Manel J Raspall who grew up in La Garriga. His first project was to redesign his mother’s house, which you can see, perfectly restored to its former glory in the centre of town; it is a great example of the architecture of the period.
La Garriga is only twenty-five minutes by car or train from Barcelona – the perfect location for people from the City with the resources to have a stylish holiday home. The town has the added advantage of being close to lush countryside, and to the Pyrenees, offering a range of activities from hiking to skiing.
So if you fancy imagining yourself as part of the Barcelona elite why not take a trip to the beautiful La Garriga. And while you are there I’d recomment the Art Noveau Tour – find more information on the tourist board website
Terrassa – Human Towers
Next stop was in the busy town of Terrassa, which was celebrating a Festa Major. As you may be aware by now (if you have followed my earlier posts) that my entire itinerary was kept as a surprise, so I was very excited when we arrived in Terrassa to discover that we were going to see Castellers or Human Towers in action- I’d heard so much about them!
Castellers consist of groups of men, women and children, who climb upon each other’s shoulders several deep and several high, standing statuesquely upon each other, creating a giant human tower. There are Casteller teams in towns all across Catalonia, each local team will also take part in displays at the local Festa Majors between March and October. As you can imagine they need to take place outdoors as they are very high and won’t fit inside your average hall!
The Catalan people take the Castellers very seriously; there is big competition in October held in the South of Barcelona where local teams compete against each other in what must be the most extraordinary thing to watch.
Here in Terrassa, young and old were gathered in the town square where the Casteller team was creating one tower after another, each higher and more daring than the last, to the delight of the crowd. At the top of the tower was a child in a helmet that can’t have been more than 7 years old.
It really is the most extraordinary sport to watch – as dangerous as it looks and sounds but all done with such calm and camaraderie that it is a great spectacle.
The Generator Hostel Barcelona
Night was drawing in as we left Terrassa and drove to Barcelona where I was staying in the Generator Hostel Barcelona, in the hip Gracia area which is full of lively bars and restaurants and cool shops. Generator is part hostel part hotel and I was staying on the top floor in the hotel area. My room was simply furnished, but with an urban modern feel and it was remarkably comfortable. Downstairs in the bar area, it was all go, I have to admit I did feel rather older than the rest of the clientele, I would definitely recommend it as a good place to stay for the younger generation, I might well send my children here when they visit Barcelona, they would love it!
Generator – www.generatorhostels.com Còrsega 373, Barcelona – 93 220 03 72
Hungry and thirsty Eira and I headed out into the local area to find a place to eat, being a Saturday night it was extremely busy and there were queues to get into all of the more popular bars and restaurants. We found a great tapas bar in the Gracia Quarter called Cafè Pagès, where we enjoyed some delicious tapas and couple of glasses of chilled wine. The perfect way to end our hectic day.
Barcelona is a city set apart, separate from its Spanish neighbours, talking in a different tongue and dancing to a different drum, wedged dramatically between the mountains and the sea and blessed by its glorious climate. It’s rich with culture, a thriving intellectual and artistic centre, and a truly cosmopolitan and confident city. Work, rest or party, Barcelona ‘has it all’ and rightly believes it is at the epicentre of European life.
I discovered that the Catalans are born romantics, on St George’s Day – April 23rd, they celebrate their version of Valentines. Charmingly known as ‘ Lover’s Day’, many people go to festive markets to buy books and flowers, to give to their loved ones. These markets are held in the centre of towns and villages, particularly Barcelona. They often include other cultural and literary events, such as book signings and readings of classical Spanish or Catalonian literature. Traditionally many men their lovers with gifts, but it is also common practice to give roses to their grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, female relatives.
We Barcelona 360º Premium Tour
I have visited Barcelona on a couple of occasions previously, both with friends and family, but never have I taken a guided tour, which as I discovered is a wonderful way to get an overview of the city. WeBarcelona 360º Premium Tour offers was something rather special. I was about to embark on a tour where I was travelling by land, air and sea all in one morning.
The sun was shining as we set off in a luxury Mercedes minibus, driving down the emblematic Passeig de Gràcia, flanked by a wealth of high-end designer shops. Our excellent and informative guide Marcos provided a fascinating insight into the city, whilst we sat back and took in the sights. We saw the monumental last bullfighting arena in operation in Catalonia, the Palace of Justice and many of the great landmarks, including:
Casa Milà on Passeig de Gràcia, known as “La Pedrera”, meaning stone quarry, is an ironic illusion to the resemblance of its façade to an open quarry. Constructed by Antoni G Gaudí between 1906 and 1912. In 1984 was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, for its exceptional universal value. It now serves as a cultural centre, a reference point in Barcelona for the range of activities it organises and the different spaces for exhibitions and other public uses. It is said that “La Pedrera”, inspired George Lucas when he was making Star Wars.
We stopped off to see the crowning jewel in Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia, which is one of Gaudí’s most famous works. It has been under construction since 1882; in 1883 Gaudi took over the project playing an active role in directing its construction. He integrated the natural elements into the building using lots of natural light. Sadly he knew it would never be finished in his lifetime and left detailed documents, which were mostly destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, but later some were recovered. The building work still continues and until recently there was no end date, however, it has recently been announced that it will be finished in 2026, this will come 100 years after Gaudi’s tragic death in 1926 when aged 72 he was run over by a tram and died two days later. La Sagrada Familia is an icon of Barcelona and well worth seeing for its history and magnitude.
The ultimate way to admire Barcelona is from high up in the sky. I have never flown in a helicopter before so I was very excited to add this experience to my Catalan adventure. We had a short wait in the heliport before boarding the helicopter; fully clad in headphones to protect our ears from the intense noise. Our glamorous pilot took four passengers at a time, for a fleeting but exhilarating trip along Barcelona’s coastline. I was thrilled to be able to view the city’s splendour from a totally new perspective.
The last part of our tour was by boat, a leisurely trip with a refreshing sea breeze and the warmth of the Spanish sun on my face, we sailed along the port of Barcelona, again taking in this wonderful city from another point of view. There is a bar available on board for refreshments.
Our morning ended docking near to the Columbus Monument in the Old Town providing a good location to continue exploring. We Barcelona 360º Premium Tour is a very spectacular way to see Barcelona; I know I won’t be forgetting my helicopter ride for years to come.
Cocktail making and lunch at Agüelo013
Agüelo013 is in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. It was one of the most typical taverns in the city of Catalonia, built in 1850, in what was an estate owned by the Conde del Fonollar, Marqués de Palmerola. In the beginning of the 19th century, it housed charcoal, then a wine-bottling machine, until it was converted in 2013 into a restaurant. Agüelo013′ is now modern bar and restaurant set over three floors, it offers a great selection of Mediterranean and market cuisine, all made with seasonal products.
I am a passionate gin lover, so I was delighted to discover that we were taking part in a gin cocktail making workshop, before enjoying a three-course lunch. Our charming host Angel, demonstrated the art of making two rather special cocktails, a rosemary-infused Gin and Tonic, and a Gin Mojito before we tried our hand at making them.
Rosemary infused G & T – The knack is to set fire to a few sprigs of rosemary, (make sure you don’t blow it across the table like I did!) Once the flames go out you must cover it quickly with a large domed glass in order to capture the smokiness and infuse your glass with the wonderful rosemary aroma. Then add a good measure of Gin Mare, Fever Tonic, a slice of orange peel, an olive and a stick of rosemary, and there you have it – delicious rosemary infused G & T!
Gin Mojito – Start by crushing your lime, add to 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, add mint, plenty of crushed ice and pour over Gin Raw, add more ice and top with Cava. I can thoroughly recommend these – they were heavenly!
Having already kicked off the afternoon with some intoxicating cocktails, we were more than ready for lunch.
Agüelo013 serves an excellent selection of classic Catalonian dishes with a modern twist. We started with a delicious spread of salmon marinated in honey, chamomile, with dill and mustard sauce – lightly smoked, tender and flavourful. Galician Octopus with garlic was succulent and seared to perfection.
For my main course I decided it would simply be bad manners to go Catalonia without sampling the Paella, and of course I wasn’t disappointed; it was full of character, fragrant and delicious.
We accompanied our meal with a glass of El Perro Verde – a fresh, fruity, easy to drink white wine, with a subtle peach aroma.
I honestly didn’t think I could eat another thing, however, temptation got the better of me when we were brought a beautifully presented mouthwatering desert selection – crème brulee, chocolate mousse and tiramisu – delicious.
If you were planning to explore Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, Agüelo013 would be the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail, lunch or dinner.
Carrer d’Avinyó, 37 – Tel. 933 10 23 25
After my long boozy lunch, I was delighted to take to be able to take a leisurely stroll back to my hotel. The Gothic Quarter used to be a Roman Village and has plenty of remnants of a glorious past. It is a charming neighbourhood filled with medieval cobbled streets, hip bars, Catalan restaurants and plenty of interesting small shops. The narrow, winding streets create quite a labyrinth and it may take a while to get your bearings. I recommend looking up and around – or you may miss some of the best bits.
Farewell dinner at El Altar Barcelona
On our last evening in Barcelona, I was reunited with my fellow influencers, all who had been on exciting but very contrasting journeys through Catalonia. We met for dinner in a private room at El Altar Barcel, which has a fantastic view overlooking La Rambla and the famous La Boqueria food market.
We were wined and dined with a truly delicious and a beautifully executed and five-course meal prepared in front of us by a highly skilled chef. A divine Burrata foam with figs and Iberian ham was followed by Mushroom Gyoza with Catalan sausage- the perfect Catalan touch. Then, fresh flaky Fillets of Sole ‘Andalusian style” with lime and coriander, tender Veal Tataki, and finally to finish our meal a lovely palate cleansing coconut ice cream with pineapple.
Now, no night out in Catalonia would be complete without trying out the famous Porro wine decanter – a Catalan tradition which involves pouring wine directly into your mouth from the spout of the wine decanter. After dinner, we all had a go, our tour guides, who were all Catalonian seemed to have the knack for this, but I can assure you that my attempt was rather unsuccessful and very messy, though a great laugh!
We had a lovely evening, which enabled us all to share and celebrate our very different experiences of Catalonia. All five influencers were in full agreement that we had had an totally amazing time and in the process had discovered some beautiful landscapes, delicious food, fine wines, plenty of cultural diversity, and some wonderful people.
El Altar Barcelona, Carrer La Rambla, 95, 08002 Barcelona
My Catalan tour was sadly at an end. I had such an inspiring adventure, one that I won’t be forgetting. Without a doubt, I will be back!
Thank you to my brilliant tour guide Eira and the Catalan Tourist board for a wonderful trip.
For more about Catalonia check www.catalunya.com
And, why not pin this post for later!