Catalonia - Salou & Tarragona
16/09/2017 - 22/09/2017 23 °C
After a summer of weekend city breaks, and several years of adventures this holiday was going to be different. A week by the beach in Spain! The plan was to visit Salou, in Catalonia in northern Spain, where there was plenty of entertainment and a great hotel that I had stayed in over a decade ago.
After taking an early flight out of Luton on Saturday morning, we flew in to Barcelona Airport arriving around lunchtime. Although Reus was much nearer, there were no flights from Luton and this also meant we could have a weekend in the Catalan capital on our return. Annoyingly however, to get from the airport to the hotel, a series of unfortunate delays and irregular journeys meant the journey took four hours.
When I had booked the holiday, staying in this hotel was a no brainer, however when I came to book it, it had been removed from booking.com. Hurriedly checking the hotel's own website I found there was nothing wrong, and that it was in fact cheaper booking direct. A blessing in disguise!
In fact, when I was about to confirm the booking, it asked me if I was a member of the hotel's club. I wasn't but I was told that if I became one, I could access the 10% discount! Checking that there was no cost associated with this, just a simple registration and the receiving of newsletters, I joined and then entered my membership number into the system. On the next page it re-totalled and had given me a 15% discount! Even better, so I booked then and there before the price changed!
When we arrived at the hotel they asked me if I was a member of their club. I replied yes, and she smiled and told me that as I was, we would find something special in the room. Having been here three times previously I knew the rough layout of the hotel, and when we went towards the room I found it was already an upgrade, as it was pool side rather than road side, despite not paying £40 extra for the privilege. When we got into the room, there were two water bottles, what a nice bonus!
Next thing, a knock at the door, the maid was there with a gift in hand. I looked blankly and she double checked we were the right room. "Yes, it's for you" she confirmed. I took the gift and went back inside the room to examine. A small box of chocolates and a voucher for a free cocktail at the bar each! Not bad when I'd only signed up for a 10% discount in the first place!
By now it was 5pm, with dinner in just an hour and a half. We had wanted to make use of some of the facilities, but as we had arrived much later we didn't have time. So instead, we popped out to the supermarket to stock up on wine and snacks. After a short rest and a look around the hotel facilities, it was then dinner time. We had been excited about the big buffet dinners and they did not disappoint. A massive selection of food on offer, from chips and pastas to rice and noodles. Soups, salads, different types of meat, pizzas, breads and to finish off - cakes, fruits, ice cream, sweets, and tonight, a chocolate fountain.
Taking little bits of everything on offer we filled up until we ate too much. Popping back to the room we enjoyed a quick drink of wine before heading out for an evening walk.
When we arrived at Port Aventura train station, the closest one to the hotel, we found there was no machine to buy our ticket on return. Therefore we decided to walk to Salou station, only five minutes further walk to check if we could buy a ticket there.
After walking down a small back street we eventually got to the station. With a ticket machine, we decided to buy our ticket for our return to Barcelona on Friday now, as with just a few trains per day we didn't want to miss the correct train or have to walk further than necessary with all our bags.
After sorting this out, we then made our way on a short walk to the promenade, where as it was Saturday night, there were numerous water fountain light shows taking place by the beach. After watching these we had a stroll before making our way back to the hotel.
The following morning we went down for breakfast to find yet another big buffet of food. With bacon, eggs, sausages, breads, omelettes, pancakes, fruits and yoghurt and even champagne, there was plenty on offer. After filling up for the day we went back to the room to change into our swimwear for our first day of relaxation. We started by going to the roof terrace for a bit of sun lounging as well as sitting in the Jacuzzi with views of the nearby area, including the rides of the PortAventura theme park where we would visit tomorrow.
After sitting in the slightly chilly water for a while, we dried off and headed downstairs to lay by the pool. After sunbathing for a while we then attempted to swim in the outside pool, which again was a little too cold to be enjoyed.
After heading back to the room we had a few snacks for lunch before heading back out and heading towards the beach for some sunbathing and swimming. The sea was warmer than the outdoor pools, but today it was a little bit rough so after a fair amount of bobbing, we dried off and went back to the hotel via some of the shops.
With a few hours before dinner we decided to spend a little bit of time in the indoor pool, which was a lot lot warmer. Spending a bit of time swimming, we then had a rest in the warm Jacuzzi before enjoying the sauna and steam room.
After spending most of the day in the water, we then went back for a shower in time for dinner. Again, a full buffet, this time with fajitas instead of burgers at the live cooking.
Tonight the hotel entertainment was a Celtic-Flamenco fusion, and so we decided tonight would be the night we would enjoy our free cocktails, whilst sitting by the pool watching the show. Although it involved far more Celtic than it did Flamenco, it was still an enjoyable piece of culture.
After what felt like a busy day of relaxation, the following day we got up nice and early to make it to the theme park in time for opening, hoping to avoid the queues. Having bought the tickets in advance, we exchanged them for the real tickets before entering the park and going on the first ride - Furius Baco, a launched roller coaster. Although I enjoy thrill rides, Chris wasn't so keen, but nevertheless we both went on this first ride which ultimately neither of us enjoyed as much as we thought.
We then hurriedly made our way to the back of the park, in the China section to ride the two big roller coasters overlooking the entire area. Chris didn't fancy them, and so I made my way into the queue for the first one - Shambhala, expecting to be gone ages. But with a single rider system in place, I pretty much jumped the queue and in no time was already riding the coaster. Waving down to Chris and my bag, next thing I was enjoying views of the whole coastline at over 80mph. Coming back down to the ground, we reunited, as I then joined the queue for the next ride, Dragon Khan, which although busier was still relatively quick to queue for.
We then began our walk around the theme park, doing a loop and stopping at interesting rides en route - including a mine train and a hall of mirrors. We then got to a spinner ride, which seemed much more gentile than expected, and after riding another spinner ride not long after we needed a bit more time to recover. Despite the theme park now having been open for several hours it was still relatively quiet with many shops not (yet) open.
It was now time for the water rides, enjoying the log flume, rapids and log boat ride getting reasonably wet, but refreshing as the sun had now come out. Finishing the circuit, we walked towards the back of the park again, heading for Angkor, a water shoot boat ride, where neighbouring boats battle to soak each other with guns.
By now we had done a big loop of the park and after seeing the queue for Shambhala had increased substantially we decided to end our day at the theme park here, and head back to the hotel - we were coming back the following day anyway. After getting back we rested before going up to the roof top Jacuzzi again, now finding that over the course of the day the water had heated right up making it far more enjoyable to sit it.
After having a rest we then went to dinner. Having our fill once again, we quickly made our way down to the beach before it got too dark to have an evening stroll. After walking 14 miles today our feet were aching, and so we eventually made our way back to the hotel to sleep.
The following day we headed back to the theme park. Getting up a bit later we still arrived at the theme park less than an hour after opening, but with the weather being much nicer today we found it was substantially busier. Again we headed for the back of the park, and I rode Shambhala again, before we looped the park once more going on rides we found enjoyable, as well as watching a few of the shows and finishing off by taking the train around the park.
Staying much later in the park today we made it back with less free time before dinner. After a very busy few days, we had a much more relaxing evening, just enjoying dinner and then resting at the hotel.
On the Wednesday we decided to head over to Tarragona, the larger town up the coast. Heading up on the train from Salou station, we began by walking from the station in Tarragona along the coast and uphill towards the Roman amphitheatre. With nice views from the road itself we decided not to pay to go inside and instead carried on walking towards the main street, before exploring some of the old Roman town. We then headed down to the main roundabout in the town centre, and after missing the initial bus we wanted, made the following one not long after.
We took this bus just outside of the town to the Ferreres Aqueduct, a huge Roman Aqueduct built around 2000 years ago used to supply water to the Roman town of Tarraco. After walking along the top of the aqueduct we then made our way towards the next bus stop heading south. Although there was a bus stop right outside the complex, this was only on one side of the road. In order to take the bus back, we had to walk a mile to the next housing area for the next bus stop heading south.
Once we had taken the bus back into the town, we swapped to a long distance bus at the main coach station, and headed back to Salou. Stopping to get some more refreshments at the supermarket, we headed back to the hotel, before we changed and headed back to the beach for some swimming. Today the sea was much calmer, and after an hour or so we headed back to the hotel to chill before dinner.
After another evening of chilling, the following day, Thursday, was our last full day at the hotel. Like Sunday this would be spent relaxing around in the hotel or by the beach. With the water outside getting vastly warmer in the afternoon, we spent the morning having a wander around the promenade and getting souvenirs. After walking along the beach, we then headed back to the hotel and headed to the outside pool before swapping to the indoor pool. After a little while we then headed towards the roof top Jacuzzi once more, where we met a Welsh lady who told us all about her life in the Valleys.
I then headed back down to the indoor pool, to make use of the sauna once more, before we changed for our last dinner at the hotel. Our last evening by the sea was spent walking along the promenade and watching one of the water fountains lit up.
After almost a week, the first part of our holiday was almost over. On Friday morning we made the most of our last breakfast, lashing our pancakes with chocolate sauce and having a glass of champagne, before going back to the room to repack our suitcase and backpacks.
Up until now it had felt quite sad, however after checking out of the hotel and walking towards the train station, it now felt quite exciting again. We were about to go on a weekend's holiday to Barcelona!