DAY 7 (BARCELONA): We bid farewell today to the city of Valencia. Before crossing over to the Catalania region of Spain to the final destination on our tour, Barcelona, we make a quick stop in Peñiscola, with some taking in the beach for a quick swim, others walking around the little shops along the beach’s boardwalk. The backdrop of sand and surf alongside the ancient castle of the Spanish Pope make this a very enjoyable break from our time on the bus. Then it’s back on the road for a short ride before making a pitstop for lunch. Following that, another short ride and we arrive at our hotel.
Time to freshen up and then a tour of the city, courtesy of local guide José Maria. Our first stop is the Church of the Sagrada Família (Sacred Family). The Church was built by a renowned yet controversial architect by the name of Gaudi. It is in stark contrast to the churches we have toured thus far, representing what Gaudi, a devout Catholic, thought a church should look like. The uniqueness of the design is unequivocal from our very first glimpse of the first of the church’s four facades. The ornateness of the church is a complete departure from conventional design but very much mirrors the religious devotion of its designer, depicting the four major milestones of Jesus’ life.
Next, we enjoy a panoramic view of two more of the city’s over 30 monuments designed by Gaudi, including The Pedrera, a former apartment complex converted to a Gaudi museum, and Casa Batlló. Not surprisingly, Gaudi’s designs were met with much criticism in their day. Today, however, with very different mindsets prevailing, Gaudi is recognized as a genius, a man ahead of his time.
Next stop is La Boqueria, one of more than forty markets in the city. It is an impressive array of fresh produce, fish, spices and sweet treats. Tourists and locals alike flock here; it is literally a sea of people inside the market and in the streets around us – a sight to be seen!
From there we continue our scenic drive with a few more of the city’s many attractions being pointed out before enjoying an al fresco dinner of typical Catalan-style food in the city’s Olympic Square. The evening is capped off with a visit to the Dancing Fountains, a spectacular display – fireworks with water one might say – set to both contemporary and classical music. Excelente!
DAY 8 (BARCELONA): On this, our final full day in Madrid, we begin the day with another optional excursion, a visit to the sacred mountain of Catalonia, Montserrat. Montserrat, which translates to Serrated Mountain, is said to have been the inspiration behind Gaudi’s design of the Sagrada Família Church we visited yesterday, both for its jagged lines, which are paralleled in the ornateness of the Church, and its deeply religious significance as the home of the Black Virgin Mary, which we saw represented in the chronology on which the Church’s four facades are based. Breathtaking does not even begin to describe the view from the top. Unbelievable!
After visiting the monastery, where the Virgin Mary is found, we make our way back to our coach, making a quick stop to sample a local specialty recommended by our guide, mont miel, a soft cheese, much like cottage cheese, that is drizzled with a healthy dose of honey. Delicious. Back on the coach, we make our descent down the mountain, taking in that spectacular view once more. Unforgettable! Montserrat is a definite must-see for anyone visiting Barcelona.
The bus takes us back to Catalonia Square, where we are given free time to explore the city for the afternoon. A delicious portable lunch, including selections like empanadas, prosciutto sandwiches on focaccia, falafel sandwiches and fresh pasta, plus a little window shopping and then a leisurely walk back to the hotel for a little rest before our farewell dinner.
Dinner is a bittersweet affair. We enjoy a delicious meal and some beautiful singing courtesy of two very talented fellow travellers. However, we know that in a very short time we will be saying goodbye to our new friends. This has been an unforgettable experience, made that much more memorable by our wonderful Travel Director Tania, our talented driver Augusto and this amazing group of people from different corners of the world that came together to enjoy the wonders of Spain. Muchos gracias everyone for a trip we will never forget!
If you enjoyed reading Jeff and Tanya’s experience and would like to learn more about our ‘Spanish Wonder’ itinerary, click here. Or for more information about Trafalgar’s guided vacations, head to our website: www.trafalgar.com