Tamariu on the Mediterranean Sea. Days 15-17
We arrived at the little town of Tamariu, after going through about 30 rotaries, sometimes more than once. The rental guy told us our room was on the third floor above the DOHI. There was no address, so we wandered around until we found a restaurant called DOHI. Next to it was an unmarked door so we went up the upstairs to the third floor, knocked on the door and when no one answered, tried the key. It worked, so we had fairly good confidence we were in the right place. The room opened onto a balcony with sweeping vistas of the ocean and mountains in all directions. The local market had great baguettes and Iberian ham and that became dinner on the balcony.
Wednesday J hiked 3 miles of the Cami de Ronda. Cami de Ronda is a 26 mile trail that follows the ancient path alongside the seaside of Costa Brava. It is mostly a narrow path twisting between cliffs, crystal clear coves, pebbled beaches and tiny village. I sat on the beach attempting to do nothing or at least reach a state of boredom. Even though weather was good, the town was deserted and I was the only one on beach.
Boredom achieved, I researched the Catalonian protests on line and discovered that on Tuesday several members of the 2017 secessionist movement had been sentenced to up to 13 years in jail for sedition. That resulted in massive protests, including highway closures and 40 -50 flights being canceled at the Barcelona airport. Hopefully it would burn out by the time we had to leave on Friday evening.
Thursday’s activity was a hike to a secluded beach J had discovered the day before and more heavy relaxation. On Thursday and Friday the town seemed to be coming alive, all restaurants were fully occupied and we assumed it was filling up for the weekend.
Friday was departure day. The flight was not until 6:45 PM, and it was a 2 hour ride to the airport, but we had to be checked out by 10:00 AM. The plan was to hang around on the beach until 3:00 PM, then head for the airport. The town seemed less lively than the two days before, nothing was open, not even the supermarket. I checked the news again and found that more protests were scheduled including one at the airport. The government promised a strong response, but we couldn’t take the chance and decided to leave at 1:00 PM instead of 3:00 PM. We wondered if the stores were closed in solidarity with the protestors or just don’t open on weekends.
The main highway was in fact closed down by protestors, but Google Maps found us a way around and we got to the airport without interference. Guarding the front door of the international terminal were four of the biggest humans I had ever seen, heavily armed, standing at attention shoulder to shoulder – most likely Guardia Civil. While we stood in line to check in, patrols of the National and Local Police forces circulated continuously throughout the airport.
The Barcelona branch of Iberia was no better than the one at Logan Airport. Everywhere around people were opening their suitcases, taking stuff out, repacking and re-weighing or heading for the overweight check in location. Once past Iberia, things went relatively smoothly and we were soon sitting in another cramped Iberian plane heading for home.
I made the plans for the Catalonia trip a year in advance and over-tourism was not yet a buzzword that I was familiar with. Early in 2019 I came across an article in The Week magazine about over-tourism and it listed the 10 most over touristed places – Barcelona being one of them. Our trip was planned for the low season, so we thought we would be OK, but some places were still extremely crowded. – if you plan to go here are my recommendations:
- Don’t fly Iberian Airlines, row if you have to, but Iberia – never.
- Airbnb – three of our 4 places were airbnbs. All promised kitchen facilities, as we occasionally like to cook a meal on vacation. However, they are not stocked like in America. None of them had minimal condiments, not even salt, pepper or sugar. Cooking was virtually impossible unless you fully stocked the kitchen at each location or packed and carried your supplies with you.
- Guidebooks – by one and then ignore most of what it says. They are part of the tourism industry and need to sell books. They won’t tell you to avoid a place because its over-crowded, instead using words like get there early buy tickets in advance etc.
- Barcelona is a gorgeous city with much to see and do The main attractions- Gaudi and Picasso – are massively over-crowded and this was in the low season. Avoid them unless you really, really enjoy standing in line and being rushed throughout the tour. Focus on the secondary attractions.
- Torla and the Pyrenees are spectacular and were not crowded at all. Rumor has it they get very crowded in July and August.
- Girona is fantastic and very accessible.
- Costa Brava, at least the small part that we saw, is also gorgeous and not crowded at all in October.
- Food is much cheaper, both in grocery stores and restaurants, than in the U.S.
- Driving is fairly easy. Drivers are courteous, speeding is not an issue, trucks stay in the right lane on highways. Figuring out how to work the gas pumps is the biggest challenge. We rented the car from Sixt and were completely satisfied with them.
- Language- in Barcelona we got by with a combination of English and Spanish. The further we went into Catalonia, the more they spoke Catalonian and we could never figure out if they were more put off by us speaking Spanish or English. In many cases the only answer was pointing to things on a menu.
- Bathrooms – public bathrooms are almost non-existent. The bigger sites like La Sagrada Familia and the Dali museum have them, but we felt uncomfortable just going into a restaurant to use their facilities without buying something.