Week 200: Costa Brava

We spend a week on the Costa Brava with Tim’s parents, Julie and Barry.

Week 200: Costa Brava
Dinner overlooking Aigua Blava

Note: Apologies for the delays. This one is a few days late because it was hampered by continual bad internet issues. It was finally resolved this morning and I was able to upload the remaining photos!

Two hundred weeks? Where did that come from? It's been a while since we set out on this little adventure. This week, we ended up in the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona, with my parents, Julie and Barry.

When we knew they were coming for the wedding, it was important that we spend some time catching up (after all, it's been around four years, I think, since we last saw them). But where? Greece was problematic partially because of distance and travel time and also because there's not much around Mytiline that we haven't already seen.

We chose Costa Brava because it was somewhere new for all of us, it has lots to see, is picturesque and of course, there is Barcelona, a city we've wanted to explore for some time.

When we landed on Sunday, Karina and I had several hours before Mum and Dad were due to arrive. We'd collected our car and were debating how to get in and out of Barcelona when we had the brilliant idea to just... leave it. We asked the car rental place if we could just leave the car and collect it later, but they said it was too busy. The attendant pulled us aside and said, "We're inside the regular parking lot anyway, so if you just move the car out of our spots, then when you go to leave, tell them you're with us, and you'll get out for free."

So we did! We moved the car into a general spot, left the luggage and headed into Barcelona on the airport bus. After hopping off in the Placa Catalunya, we quickly realised we'd picked a busy week to be here. The centre is gearing up for the Spanish Grand Prix tomorrow. It was packed and lots of road closures were going on.

We were immediately struck by the architecture, a real feature of the city. We headed towards the Casa Batllò, one of Antoni Gaudi's masterpieces in the city centre. Known as the greatest exponent of Catalan modernism, Gaudi's work features whimsical designs and colours directly inspired by nature. Nothing is cookie cutter or the same, yet he still focused on functionality in his work. While not to everyone's taste (I'm not sure I could live in a house he designed), his houses are really a remarkable achievement and very much "art-itechture."

Tickets were available, so we headed inside and enjoyed an hour and a bit exploring the work, as well as a drink on the rooftop overlooking Barcelona. Then it was off to another house, La Pedrara (Casa Milà), but this time just to look from outside. We wandered back to the Gothic Quarter, around the cathedral, grabbed a late dinner, and then it was time to head back to the airport.

We collected Mum and Dad (after some troubles meeting up–Barcelona airport is HUGE) and then drove north to Aigua Blava near Begur on the Costa Brava. We more or less crashed and went straight to bed (after eating some snacks we purchased in Barcelona).

A moody coast near where we were staying

On Monday morning, Karina and I were excited to discover a walking trail (the Cami De Ronda – a 217 km coastal trail that ends in Begur) ran by the rear of our apartment. A feature of this is it is located right along the coast. Although we only explored a very brief portion of this (a few kilometres), it was particularly stunning. There were lots of quaint little coves and beaches, bordered by houses to the water's edge. It was a bit of a catch-up day after a lot of travelling, so for the most part, we just relaxed, along with a bit of shopping.

Tuesday, we headed into the local village of Begur for a wander around, admiring the view and the houses built by locals returning from the Carribean. We enjoyed tapas for lunch and then went back to the apartment for a rest. We stopped off at the Aigua Blava beach in a hunt for ice cream (not successful), but it was amazing to see how crowded and popular the beaches get on a warm day here.

We were up early Wednesday for a big day! It was off to Barcelona. We booked a car park on the outskirts of the city near a metro (this seems quite common here, you pre-book your park and then just drive in). A metro ride into the centre, lunch on the Placa Catalunya and then the hop-on, hop-off bus around the city. We toured the outside of the Sagrada Familia (which is due to be finished in 2026 on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death). It's a remarkable building and again, different from all the other cathedrals we typically see.

From there, we went to Park Güell, where Gaudi lived and decorated to his taste. We enjoyed the gardens and the views over the city. Then it was back to a taxi and the car to head home to the apartment.

Thursday, we took it easy. For Karina and I, it was a travel planning day. We now have a date for returning to Mytiline and Matilda. We've managed to line up two barges in France that we're visiting next week – so Sunday (tomorrow morning) it's a flight to Lyon. We spend four days around Burgundy, visiting barges and exploring; then it's off to Athens. Flights from Athens to Mytiline were booked out! So we decided to stay in The Nest which was available, and we'll spend three days in Athens before heading off to Mytilene Sunday next week.

On Thursday night, we went out to dinner at the local restaurant, which was a stunning restaurant positioned above one of the small coves overlooking the Aigua Blava Bay. The food was very good, and we enjoyed both the view, each other's company and watching the boats in the harbour.

Then, it was a trip to Figueres, the "home" of Salvador Dali, to visit the theatre he designed as a showcase for his art and also where he died. Karina and I have always enjoyed his work (for a very long time, a print of his work "Atomic Lena" hung in our bedroom), so it was special to be able to see and experience a lot more of it. This was probably the major highlight of the trip (aside from the company), and if you ever get to this region, it is a must-see, in my opinion.

Finally on Saturday, we took it easy again before another day of travel coming up on Sunday. Karina and I went for a drive around the local area, exploring more of the coastal walk ways and the views, then headed to Pals. This is a small medieval town that still has its walls intact and is a popular place to visit in the region. We enjoyed getting out of the house and our walk around it. We find the towns here very different from Greece. Not only culturally but also in the way they look and feel. In Spain, everything seems to be restored, yet it also often feels like no one LIVES there. Pals was both busy (with tourists) but lacked a soul. There was not a local in sight. Contrast this with Greece, where the villages are barely restored and often contain a lot of derelict buildings, but what people are there are often locals and still live there.

It's been great spending time with Mum and Dad, and we've really enjoyed this initial taste of Spain. Barcelona is definitely a city we want to come back to, and we really want to experience a lot more of Spain now, too! (We might just come and visit you yet, Ester!)

Begur and looking north towards France

For now, it's off to France and barge hunting. Then (finally), after two months away, back to Greece!

Until next time,

Tim & Karina.