A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

Summer At Last

Maspalomas

sunny 29 °C
View Maspalomas on kmmk17's travel map.

As we all know, Corona has ruined the 2020s so far. It also caused us major disruption, firstly by cancelling our Egyptian trip with just a few days to go, but also by completely ruining our Wedding plans. The whole thing had been moved backward by 53 weeks, but with Covid still in full swing a year later, there had been no Stag Do, no fun lead up, no Mini-Moon, and from a fortnight before the wedding, also no Honeymoon either.

2021 was also a pretty miserable year weather-wise. The summer in the UK was pretty cold and wet, with just a handful of decent weeks of sun and heat. After having moved home, and spending a year decorating, by the end of Summer 2021, having been on just two UK holidays in the last 2 years, and having not been abroad this decade, we were desperate for a week to relax and enjoy some sun and heat.

With things starting to stabilise, and having been vaccinated, we decided to finally get away to the Canary Islands and finally have a break. This wasn't our honeymoon, or even a mini-moon, this was just a well overdue relax. We decided to go to Gran Canaria, where things looked good Covid-wise, and there wasn't too much we wanted to see, so we could just settle in the hotel where it was safe, without feeling like we were missing out on local sights.

The testing regime was a nightmare to get our heads round. At the time we travelled there was a three category list of countries which changed every three weeks, and there were different rules for those who had been vaccinated or not. Spain was looking like it would not move to the dreaded Red List (where expensive hotel quarantine would be required), and we deliberately chose to go during a week between announcements so we could be sure it would all be fine once away.

But even booking last minute, we still didn't manage to avoid all the potential drama, as a couple of days later, La Palma started erupting. This was 150 miles from Gran Canaria, but that hadn't stopped Eyjafjallajökull in 2011, and this is the volcano that is predicted to collapse into the sea and cause a massive tsunami, flooding even the south coast of England. Maybe a hotel on the beach wasn't such a great idea after all?

Arriving in Spain required a form to be filled out. Staying in the hotel needed confirmation we were vaccinated, and then we would need to pay for tests two days before flying home, and also two days after as well as fill in a form to arrive back home.

After getting everything prepped, we were finally able to get away, and on Saturday morning we headed to the airport. Once inside it was the start of a long day wearing a face mask. Dropping the bags off took ages as everybody was subjected to a document check - forms, vaccine certificates, boarding passes, passports etc.

After breaking the machine, we had checked our bags in and headed up to the Departure Lounge to grab some drinks and magazines before our long flight. The airport was busy, and there was little social distancing. The airport is simply too small for the amount of people that were there. In an effort to try and give us more space, as we arrived at the gate, they only processed half of us until we were actually boarding the aircraft. Of course, there were still many who weren't fully prepared. Mostly those who had hand luggage only and so hadn't been checked at bag drop off. This included an old couple who had printed out their Spanish health form, not understanding that only digital versions were permitted. The boarding staff decided to help them, and started filling in the form on their behalf. Once complete it needed email validation, but the old couple had no idea how to get to their emails so just sat there claiming blankly "I don't know how to get to them". Well good luck getting to Spain then - no one else is going to know, Doris!

It would take over four hours to reach Gran Canaria, so as we boarded the plane we used the opportunity to lower our masks, and get some fresh air - but instead all we got was Kerosene for a few seconds before being masked again for the duration of the flight.

En Route

En Route

As the time zone was the same in the Canaries at home, and our hotel was an hour from the airport it was going to be a long day. We also realised that the local shop would be closed the next day so we wanted to get to the hotel as soon as possible. This was our first trip to Europe since Brexit, and so we would be entering the slow queue, and as we were at the back of the plane, we were one of the last to disembark. Once we were off we tried to get through as quick as possible. But this was actually not necessary. In what was the slowest baggage claim I'd ever seen, twenty minutes after the last person got through immigration, the carousel as finally switched on. With just 5 minutes until the bus we needed was due, we expected we'd end up missing it, and so we planned to head to to the shop in the airport before boarding, rather than wait until we were at the hotel.

However a stroke of luck, our bag was the very first one to come out. We grabbed it and headed to customs, where they quickly scanned our health form, and we were free to continue our journey. We had four minutes to get to the bus stop, so we ran. With a mask still covering our faces we ran as fast as possible for what seemed like ages. Along corridors, up escalators and more corridors, we then found the right exit, headed outside and arrived at the bus stop with a minute to go. We could finally lower our masks, get some air and have a drink. It was hot already, and it was quite a shock to the system. Not knowing whether we had missed the bus (it was stopping here en route down the east side of the island) we waited. Just a few minutes after arriving, the bus showed up. We put our masks back on and then boarded for the long trip down to the south end of the island.

An hour later we arrived in Maspalomas. Just a short walk away was the hotel, and after arriving at reception they did a temperature check. Although hot and sweaty it obviously didn't cause too much concern as they let us in anyway. As a large Irish group was already being processed we had to wait a while.

Views from the Hotel

Views from the Hotel

Eventually we were checked in and able to head to our room. As this was Covid, we had to book slots at the restaurant, so we decided to book for 45 minutes time, at 8:30pm. This gave us chance to head over to the supermarket, next to the bus stop, get back and freshen up for dinner. Bearing in mind we had left home at 10am, and Covid has made us lazy, we were already pretty tired!

When we headed down to the restaurant it wasn't too busy. And thankfully they still had a large buffet dinner for us to enjoy, just as normal. After eating a bit of everything, we headed back to the room, and finally got to chill after the long day!

Delicious Puddings

Delicious Puddings

The following day after having our fill with a large buffet breakfast, we had a chill day. We spent all day sitting around the pool, swimming and sunbathing. It was amazing. After the last 18 months this had been long overdue, and getting sunburnt and needing After Sun was a pleasure!

In the Pool

In the Pool

I never normally like to go on holiday, and then spend the whole time in the resort. But with the risk of Covid stopping us getting home, this time we made an exception. Maspalomas was the perfect destination. Hot, sunny, and only a few things outside the resort to see.

On Monday we headed over the the Dunes. It was around a half hour walk down the coast, passing many other hotels and the lighthouse.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

After an easy walk along the pavement, once on the sand it was a different story. We headed east, where it was quieter, passing the family bit, the nudist bit, before reaching the gay bit. By now we had had enough of walking and it was starting to get quieter, so we sat down and watched the sea. I then decided I wanted to head up the dunes, so climbed up the nearest empty one, took some pictures and then slid down it.

On the Dunes

On the Dunes

We then headed back to the hotel, and after popping to the supermarket to replenish our supplies, we went for another dip in the pool.

At Playa del Inglés

At Playa del Inglés

The following day we also headed out of the hotel, taking the bus into Maspalomas, and Playa del Inglés. There wasn't much there but it was nice to have a look around. Upon returning back to the hotel we once again chilled by the pool.

The hotel has a kids club, and a mascot - Daisy. But with there being almost no kids in the hotel, the entertainers were clearly kind of bored and so instead walked around talking to the adults. "Do you know Daisy?" they asked. "Yes I do" I said. Daisy was the same mascot the hotel chain had when I was a kid myself in 2003!

With Daisy

With Daisy

I asked if I could take a picture with Daisy and they were quite happy to. Then I sent it to my family chat an we all had a laugh at the silliness.

Being part of the hotel's member club I not only got a large discount when booking, but also get a free drinks token. As tonight was Flamenco we decided to use it, and headed down at 9 to watch.

Free Cocktails

Free Cocktails

Not that Flamenco is actually traditional to the Canaries - it's actually Andalusian. But they know what the foreigners want and unsurprisingly the crowd was pretty large.

Flamenco

Flamenco

Half an hour later, they were done, and as nightclubs were still not permitted, that was the end of the entertainment for the night. Spaniards must have been appalled at this early hour - Siesta only ended a few hours ago!

After two days out, we had another lazy day, spending it all in the hotel. That night we headed to dinner and found for the fifth day and ninth meal in a row, we were once again served by Raquel. Is this woman not allowed out? Is she a human slave? By now she knew what we wanted - two still waters thanks!

Working in a place like this they must get used to odd characters. We had noticed them ourselves:

  • Judgey Couple - Who looked down on us getting up more than once per course (don't they know it's a buffet?)
  • Nutty Woman - Complaining about everything from having to pay for drinks (the website does say), to having her plates cleaned. And went to adjacent tables to steal their cutlery
  • Workaholic Man - Who brought his laptop to the table every day, and sent out emails whilst eating, leaving his wife sat there looking bored (are you incapable of stopping work for just twenty minutes during dinner on holiday?)

Workaholic Man

Workaholic Man

The following day, after seeing Daisy at breakfast, we headed back out to the Dunes. They were fun the first time so we thought it might be nice to see them once more before the holiday was up.

The Dunes

The Dunes

After arriving back at the hotel we took our return tests. Thankfully they were negative, and after registering them we received our certificates and could complete our UK arrival forms.

As it was the last day of October, the hotel had laid on an Oktoberfest theme for the guests. The entertainers were dressed up in traditional outfits, and they had brought in an accordion player. They told us to come over as there would be beer and sausages

Say no more, we headed over and they started handing out tonnes of food and drink to everyone: beers, sausages, sauerkraut and pretzels - we weren't even All Inclusive but they didn't mind. There were silly games and silly costumes which made for an entertaining afternoon.

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

After dinner we noticed that there were cats eating from bowls in a flower bed by the restaurant. It transpired that the hotel has its own cats and so we headed down to say hello. There were three - a very friendly black one, a very scared and thin baby one, and a chunky one that had clearly eaten too much food. We said hello to the cats and they were very friendly to us.

With Chonk

With Chonk

The next day was our final full day. We spent the day in and around the pool, before enjoying our last fancy dinner, where this time Raquel brought us two still waters without even being asked!

It was still around 30C here, but at home the weather had changed and cooled to around 15C. As this was the last warm evening we'd be getting for months, I decided to take a little walk around the hotel and the beach. En route I got distracted by the cats so in the end I'd been gone well over an hour!

Evening Stroll

Evening Stroll

The next morning we were shocked to discover Raquel had been given time off, and after enjoying a last big meal, we headed back to the room to pack. As we didn't need to leave until almost 2pm, we dropped the bags at reception, and then sat around the pool.

Around 1pm one of the entertainers came round and asked us if we wanted to play the 'Cocktail Game'. "Yes I did" I said - I had been waiting all week to play this game! I asked how we played and it was basically Play Your Cards Right, and the person who gets the longest run of correct guesses wins a cocktail. "But we are leaving in half an hour" I said. "No worries, if you win you'll have time to drink the cocktail before you go", he claimed.

I got a dismal 3, but Chris got an amazing 11. "You're probably the winner" he said. Well let's hope we find out soon, cos we need to go! 15 minutes later he was back. "You won! Enjoy your drink and safe flight home!" As Chris didn't want it, I quickly headed to the bar and ordered a drink. But the waitress didn't take my token. "Keep it and have another later at the Tirajana Bar!". If only she knew I was leaving the hotel for the last time in 10 minutes... what a pity as we'd've loved this earlier in the week!

Free Cocktail!

Free Cocktail!

I downed my cocktail and we headed back to reception, grabbed the suitcase and made our way to the bus stop. After an hour on the bus we arrived at the airport, changed into warmer clothes, and then joined the bag drop queue. This was so slow. After an hour and a half we had finally dropped the bag off, and there as just 45 minutes until we were boarding.

After getting through security we had hoped to grab and eat a meal at the Burger King. It was 5:30 and we wouldn't be landing until almost 11! But after the slow drop off and with a large queue at the Burger King we had to give it a miss. Instead after boarding we purchased a hot meal on board. Thankfully they had started at our end of the plane as there wasn't much available, and those served after us didn't even get any hot food on offer.

After landing back at home, we then found that due to a busy departures hall, we had to get on a bus and be driven to a door on the other side of the terminal. Luckily we had got off the plane quickly and managed to get on the first bus to depart. Upon entering the Immigration Hall, we were at least in front of almost everyone on our plane, even if there were at least two other plane loads in front of us.

They weren't even checking documents other than passports. The reason for the slow processing was because so many dimwits kept their masks on whilst using the e-gates - despite the staff endlessly shouting "Take your masks off". How on earth will they know it's you if half your face is covered... welcome back to the UK...

Eventually we got through, grabbed our bag and headed out into what felt like blistering cold. My brother had come to collect us, and after heading home via McDonalds, our trip was now over.

Two days later we posted off our arrival tests, and somehow had managed to avoid Covid despite the chaos at the airports.

Despite the agro, the holiday was well worth it. We needed the break and the heat. Now just 6 months of winter to get through....

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 16:15 Archived in Spain Tagged sea beach hotel sand summer sun swim swimming pool entertainment flamenco Comments (1)

Lava and Lounging in Lanzarote

Canary Islands - Lanzarote

sunny 27 °C
View Canary Islands on kmmk17's travel map.

After around half an hour of crossing the short channel between the islands we arrived in Lanzarote. The ferry port is on the south side of the island in Playa Blanca, which was luckily where we were staying, and it was only a short walk with our suitcases to the hotel.

Inside the hotel

Inside the hotel

Similar to the last, being built into the hillside, we arrived at the reception on one of the top floors of the hotel. Check in was pretty quick and we walked down the corridor towards our room we noticed ours had an extra sign. As we got closer we couldn't believe our luck as it said "suite".

Our room

Our room

Inside we found that we hadn't just been given an upgrade, but had received the best they had, a suite with a huge bed, sofa, two tvs, double balcony with sun loungers, and a complimentary bottle of wine.

Inside the room

Inside the room

After settling in, and taking a tour around the complex, we made our way down to our first dinner in the new hotel, and found it far better than that in Fuerteventura.

Sunset

Sunset

The rest of the evening to this long day of travelling was spent chilling and enjoying the sunset from the room - at least until the fireworks show later on, which were exploding just metres from our window!

Fireworks

Fireworks

The following day was another relax day. After breakfast we took a walk down the coast to the harbour, before sitting around the pools and taking a dip. The evening had an ABBA tribute act, and so we decided to sit watch the performance.

ABBA Tribute Act

ABBA Tribute Act

The following morning we had booked an excursion to the National Park. We woke up earlier than usual to be ready for the pick up at the hotel. Waiting before the pick up time many coaches showed up, but not the one for us. We waited and waited, as did a few other people who appeared to be on the same tour as us, but nothing. By now it was half an hour late so I made a call to the number of the confirmation form. I was told it would be on it's way, but when i queried that it was already now half an hour late I was told that it had already been here and we weren't there. Absolute rubbish, as we were there 15 minutes prior, but nevertheless no trip for us. I was told there was space on the excursion the following day but I would need to rebook.

I contacted the booking agency and explained and luckily they rebooked us without further charge. However by now I was not only annoyed at being lied to, but also having to get up early to sit around and wait for nothing. Tomorrow would now be another early start and who knows if we would even make it on a bus? Nevertheless we still had the day to relax, so we did the same as yesterday sitting around the pool before dinner and an evening walk.

Evening stroll along the coast

Evening stroll along the coast

The following morning after another early start we were not very hopeful. We showed up even earlier, and tried to be more pushy with each coach that did turn up to make sure we didn't miss the right one. But eventually the correct bus showed up - right on time and right outside the hotel, exactly where it was supposed to. This definitely didn't happen yesterday! As we boarded the bus the lady asked if I was Kevin - yes I said as she apologised for yesterday saying it was her fault!

Well, at least we were on the right bus. The other couple who were on the same tour as us however we not so fortunate, as after a bit of confusion were not allowed on. Who knows what was going on, but we were on a bus at least and headed to the national park.

Lago Verde

Lago Verde

After picking up many others, we finally made it to the tour proper. We began by stopping at the the Lago Verde, a green lagoon in the middle of a half submerged volcanic crater, filled with minerals and microorganisms. We had a nice view from the edge overlooking the lake, black sandy beach and the sea.

Landscape

Landscape

Continuing through the remnants of dried black lava from the last volcanic eruption, the next place on the trip was just down the coast at Los Hervideros. This coastal area has cliffs made from the solidification of the lava and subsequent erosion, causing unusual balconies overlooking the sea smashing into the cliffside.

Los Hervideros

Los Hervideros

After driving past the salt farms we headed further inland to the wine growing areas. Here grapes are grown in holes in the ground, which keep them warm and shielded from the wind. We had a taste of the local wine, which was almost syrup like, before boarding the bus again.

Wine Fields

Wine Fields

We were now headed for the edge of the national park proper, where there are camel rides. Although we weren't interested in taking a ride, we did watch others, including the couple who were refused onto our bus this morning - they must have been on a different tour to us after all!

Camel rides

Camel rides

After a lunch break we finally made it to the national park. Here it looked like Mars, with orange sand, and craters unlike anywhere else I'd ever seen. We stopped at the entrance to the park where a restaurant sits on the top of a steep hill next to geological experiment areas.

Fire

Fire

We were first shown the heat beneath us, with burning gravel just inches beneath our feet, before shown hay burning from just sitting inside a hole, and the most exciting - a geyser experiment with water being poured into a vent.

Geyser

Geyser

We then took a look inside the complex to see that the food served in the restaurant is cooked over a large natural chimney, before boarding the bus again for the last time.

National Park

National Park

We were now headed for a half hour tour around the national park which would take us up, down and through the landscape showing the rocks and craters that make this place so unique.

Looking inside a crater

Looking inside a crater

By now it was already getting late and after arriving back at the hotel we took a short rest before making our way down for dinner.

Our final day was spent enjoying the sun, pools and beach, as well as taking a walk down the coast and popping into the local shops.

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca

With our time for collection the following day confirmed, tonight would be our final meal at the restaurant, and after tucking in to the last buffet, we enjoyed what remained of our final evening on the island.

The following morning we checked out and boarded our transfer bus to the airport. After 4 hours of screaming children and views over Central London, we eventually made it home, but again like the journey on the way there, found by the time we got home we were pretty tired and it had taken all day!

Nevertheless it was a great trip, enjoying something different from before, as well as a chance to finally rest after 9 months of working hard on our house.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:38 Archived in Spain Tagged sea beach island spain sand sun resort pool geothermal geology geography geysir canaries Comments (0)

The Calming Canaries, part I

Canary Islands - Fuerteventura

sunny 24 °C
View Canary Islands on kmmk17's travel map.

After finally getting our house sorted, we treated ourselves to a relaxing week away in the Canary Islands. Not wanting to have an exact copy of the enjoyable holiday last year, we narrowed down our choices to Greece, Cyprus or the Canaries, eventually settling on the latter. As they are geographically African, and seeing as we were flying that far I wanted to make the experience feel as North African (and less Spanish) as much as possible, and so booked two hotels - one designed like a Moroccan Kasbah and the other surrounded by dunes. Being me, I couldn't spend a week trapped on a single islands, and so we were island hopping between Fuerteventura (the one that looks like the Sahara) and Lanzarote (the one with the volcanoes and landscape like Mars).

After a week of work, we got up early on Saturday to take the journey up to the airport. Heading to our gate once boarding commenced we joined the priority queue, along with most other passengers, and somehow managed to board the plane first. Nevertheless it was still another 4 hours before we landed in Fuerteventura, and then boarded our transfer bus on to Costa Calma, where we were staying.

Most of the island is rocky, but parts are full of sand dunes. This included Costa Calma, which is built on a low lying isthmus in the south of the island. And as our hotel was on the southern edge of the town, we would have views directly over them.

View from the room

View from the room

Eventually arriving almost 12 hours after we had awoken earlier that morning, we checked in. After a bit of confusion we were told our room 'is a nice one'. Heading off to take a look ourselves, we found it on the top floor, where just a handful of rooms were located, and it had glorious views of the whole complex, including the pools, terrace and beyond over the sea, lagoon and sand dunes. Exactly what I had hoped for now were had arrived in Africa!

View of the hotel from the pools

View of the hotel from the pools

The hotel was 7 floors high, and built into the hill. The reception was on the fifth floor, at street level, whilst lower levels had the restaurant and spa, before opening to the ground floor with a turtle pool, and the outdoor pools.

Turtles within the hotel

Turtles within the hotel

Further on from the pools heading further down the hill were more rooms, which led on to a gate and a path to the beach.

Our hotel from the beach

Our hotel from the beach

By now I was already feeling tired, and after popping to the supermarket and touring the complex we made our way to our first dinner. Being the same hotel chain we stayed in the previous year, we were expecting a full range of buffet options. Although this hotel was not quite as good as that in Salou, it was still good, but my tiredness didn't allow me to enjoy it tonight as much as I would on following nights.

After an early night, the following day was to spent between the pools and the sea. After eating a big breakfast, we were fortunate to find that the pools were warm enough to swim in. We spent the morning between the pools and the sun loungers, topping up our tans, and then in the afternoon we went for a walk down the the beach, and then across towards the Lagoon.

Sotavento Lagoon

Sotavento Lagoon

We had seen the lagoon from our hotel room, and by afternoon it had filled with water, being a popular place for kitesurfers as well as people taking a dip. The lagoon is separated from the sea by two long spits, with a small opening into the sea, and it was possible to walk along the spits with a shallow amount of sea water rushing into the lagoon. This was an interesting experience, being safe yet surrounded by water.

After walking back we chilled before it was time for dinner. This time getting to full enjoy the full range of delights on offer, before enjoying Sangria on the balcony.

The beach

The beach

The following day was much the same, between the pool, sun loungers, and then off to the beach. After chilling and then dinner (this time sat on the sea view balcony, rather than inside) we took an evening walk around the area, before enjoying the final night in Fuerteventura.

The next morning we had plenty of time, as although we were crossing the island, heading for Lanzarote, we had all day. We awoke and grabbed our final breakfast in the hotel, before checking out and heading to the bus stop. Once we arrived, we saw a big crowd of people, which meant a) we were in the right place, and b) we hadn't missed the imminent bus.

With our suitcases in tow, a German suspected we were headed for the airport and came to ask me in German if we were headed to the airport. Hardly surprising, as it appeared this whole resort was mostly full of Germans, with very few English people. I replied "Ja, ich... glaube" (Yes, I think so), trying to remember which was the appropriate verb. He then realised, like most Germans do, that speaking in English was more time efficient than me speaking in broken German, and so instantly switched the conversation to English.

We explained that although we thought the bus was headed to the airport (most didn't, but coincidently this one was), it was irrelevant to us as we weren't heading there anyway. Somewhat bemused by what we were actually doing, he went on to tell us all about how he often travels here for wind surfing - leaving us to wonder why we were somehow the experts in local transport when we had never been here before and he'd been here loads. Nevertheless the bus soon turned and we headed off towards the capital of the island.

After an hour and a half we arrived in Puerto del Rossario, and had half an hour before the next bus. We decided to take a quick walk into the town as we had plenty of time, finding a small town much more traditional and different to the tourist resorts across the island.

Puerto del Rossario

Puerto del Rossario

Heading back to the bus station we had missed the next bus by a minute or so, so took the following bus on to Corralejo - the northern port town. Unfortunately the usual route through the dunes was closed, which I had hoped to jump off at, and instead headed on a route more into the island, where we could only see the dunes from a distance.

Corralejo Port

Corralejo Port

By now it was getting later, and the much cheaper ferry we had wanted to take was still well over an hour away. Instead of hanging about to see some of the town, or head to the dunes with our suitcases in tow, we decided to take the next ferry and not long later, after walking through the mouth of the ship, we island hopped to Lanzarote.

Posted by kmmk17 13:58 Archived in Spain Tagged sea beach island spain sand sun resort pool canaries Comments (0)

Busy in Barça

Catalonia - Barcelona

all seasons in one day 23 °C
View Catalonia on kmmk17's travel map.


After almost a week by the beach in Salou, we took the train back up to Barcelona for the final weekend, in what felt like an entirely separate holiday.

After just over two hours, we arrived at our hotel around the corner from the Sagrada Familia. With much to see, we quickly dropped our bags off and headed into the city.

We began by walking over to the Hospital de Sant Pau, a UNESCO protected former hospital when the heavens opened. As we walked through the rain towards the Sagrada Familia, we ended up close to a flat where a fire has erupted on one of the roof top air conditioning units. With the road closed and many people standing watching we watched as the fire was put out before making it to the Gaudi Park outside the Nativity side of the cathedral.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Originally we had hoped to go inside the cathedral itself, however when we got there we realised that tickets for the whole weekend were not going to be available. As a special event was taking place, only morning slots were open, which had by now all sold out.

Catalan Parliament in Ciutadella Park

Catalan Parliament in Ciutadella Park

We therefore made our way over to the beach, before walking around the zoo site to the Ciutadella Park. Walking past the Catalan Parliament and the lake, we made it to the Arco de Triunfo, our last sight of the day, where a big protest movement towards the upcoming disputed independence referendum was being held. We could tell that this was about to kick off - with a week to go there was so much tension in the air.

Arco de Triunfo

Arco de Triunfo

Before heading back towards the hotel, we stopped for food, and then had a few hours to chill. We waited for it to get dark before heading back out to the Sagrada Familia for views of it lit up.

Sagrada Familia by night

Sagrada Familia by night

The following morning we got up for breakfast which felt like a step down. Having stayed in only a 3* after our week of 4*, we went down to find no pancakes, no chocolate syrup and no champagne! Nevertheless this was still a decent breakfast in a decent hotel. No worse than on any of other holidays this summer!

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d'Espanya

After having our fill, we made our way out for our full day of exploration in the city. Starting at Plaça d'Espanya, we went up to the roof of the bullring-turned-shopping centre for a view over the roundabout, Palau Nacional and Montjuïc before actually heading up there on foot.

Olympic Park

Olympic Park

After stopping at the Palau Nacional for views over Plaça d'Espanya, we then ended up at the site of the 1992 Olympic Games, before making our way across Montjuïc towards the eastern end with views over the port.

Barcelona Port

Barcelona Port

After a lot of uphill walking we then made our way down the cliffside path towards the city centre. After seeing the Columbus monument, we walked up Las Ramblas before entering the Old City and Plaça Sant Jaume. This was full of protesters for democracy, and after eventually making our way through the crowd, we continued towards the Barcelona cathedral.

Protesters in the Old City

Protesters in the Old City

By now we were feeling really achy, and so after a short walk we stopped for a break at the Plaça de Catalunya. Our final sights today were the Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, two fancy buildings designed by Gaudí.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

Although still relatively early, after yet again walking around 10 miles, we headed back to the hotel for a long rest. Going back out for dinner later we decided not to view this evening's festival entertainment as we wanted to rest instead.

On our final day, we left our bags at the hotel and made our way out to Park Güell on the outskirts of the city centre. Full of Gaudi architecture it was unsurprisingly filled with tourists.

Park Güell

Park Güell

After having a look around the park, with views over the city, we made our way across the city towards Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona stadium filling up the remaining time before we needed to head to the airport for our early evening flight home after a busy but lovely week away.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 13:44 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture park hotel city cathedral catalonia olympic Comments (0)

Sun, Sea and Salou

Catalonia - Salou & Tarragona

sunny 23 °C
View Catalonia on kmmk17's travel map.


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!

Pool view from the balcony

Pool view from the balcony

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!

Our special gift

Our special gift

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.

Some of the desserts on offer

Some of the desserts on offer

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.

Water fountain show

Water fountain show

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.

Theme park view from the jacuzzi

Theme park view from the jacuzzi

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.

Cocktails and flamenco

Cocktails and flamenco

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.

Shambhala's Himalayan theme

Shambhala's Himalayan theme

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.

Tutuki Splash

Tutuki Splash

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.

Angkor

Angkor

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.

Jaume I statue on the promenade

Jaume I statue on the promenade

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.

Roman Amphitheatre

Roman Amphitheatre

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.

Les Ferreres Aqueduct

Les Ferreres Aqueduct

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.

20170921_120739.jpg

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.

By the pool

By the pool

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.

Fountain

Fountain

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!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:59 Archived in Spain Tagged sea food beach hotel train catalonia swimming pool roman ancient flamenco aqueduct rollercoaster themepark Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 14) Page [1] 2 3 » Next