March 8, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Travels in Europe

Just a quick hello from the Czech Republic, where I’ve spent the last three days trekking around Prague, getting lost in random villages, and eating potatoes like they’re going out of style. More to come in future posts!

Hope you are all having a marvelous week!




Prague

Kutná Hora

March 6, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

I departed Girona feeling like I’d left a piece of my heart behind, but it was time to move on to our next destination: Cadaqués. The journey wouldn’t be easy, though, requiring a twisty turny drive up and over the mountains to the secluded fishermen villages at their base.

Cadaques shoreline

Stomachs all topsy-turvy, we arrived in Cadaqués, its cluster of villages, and our ludicrously glamorous villa (no joke – details in a future post!). The area is indeed so remote that until only about a century ago – when the curvy highway was constructed – people living there were virtually isolated from the rest of the region. As our tour guide would later tell me, her grandfather knew Cuba (by boat, of course), long before he ever knew Figueres – a city just over 20 miles way. This also apparently explains why the area maintains a rather distinctly strong Catalán accent. Just a few little nuggets of odd goodness hinting at Cadaqués’s charming peculiarity.

An egg and a view from Dali's house

And peculiarity is an understatement, because nearby Portlligat claims bragging rights as Salvador Dalí’s home from 1930 until he passed away in 1989. Only made available to the public in 1997, his house serves as the ultimate peek into the artist’s imagination. A Mr. T-style taxidermied polar bear, a slew of mannequins, and eggs, lots of eggs. I decided that I really liked this fellow Dalí. He was quirky, but measured, goofy, but pulled-together…and dude, he had a pretty sweet pad.

bear in dali's house

Manquins in Dali's house

With our minds caught somewhere between reality and surreality, we took a little drive up to the cliffs of Cap de Creus. Perched above the Mediterranean Sea, we sat at a cafe to sip on cappuccinos and nosh on the region’s champagne-cork-shaped pastry, called taps dolços, before heading back for a tour of the city.

Taps dolços

Tour guide in tow, we traversed the alleys of Cadaqués, oohing over the white buildings with blue doors, and ahhing over the zigs and zags of the slate-cobbled streets. Another fun Cadaqués fact: nearly an estimated third of its population emigrated to Cuba in the early 20th century. The successful ones that returned then erected dazzling homes, which to this day still stand out among the rest (pause and imagine a fancy house, as I don’t happen to have a decent picture – oops!)

cadaques street

The next morning, I rose early for a run, to somehow mentally justify the feast the night before (yes, there was another feast, and you’ll still have to wait to hear about it!). After weaving through olive orchards, around a cemetery and over the hill into Cadaqués, I finally realized my captivation with the rising sun was impeding any effort to actually burn calories (plus, let’s be honest, running kind of sucks).

So I returned to the pebbly shoreline of Portlligat, where I plopped down on the cement embankment, dangling my sneakers just above the calm shallow water. With Dalí’s house just feet behind me, I turned off my music and listened to the sound of the sunrise. Water lapping, a breeze rustling through Dalí’s olive trees, my thoughts fading off somewhere in the distance. Sigh…my heart skipped a beat….I totally had a crush on Cadaqués.

Dali house at sunrise

Too bad one more rendezvous awaited. The next day, it was off to Besalú.

Disclosure: I traveled through Catalonia as a guest of Charming Villas Catalonia. Rest assured that I’m keeping it real – all opinions are entirely my own.

[travelist location=”Cadaques, Spain” type=”img” url=”http://www.latortugaviajera.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/dusk.jpg”]

March 1, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain


Colorful hanging houses that line a bridge-crossed canal? Girona tourists might do a double take thinking they’ve made a wrong turn, ending up in Venice or Spain’s capital of hovering homes, Cuenca. But what a lovely wrong turn that would be, as this Catalán town – just over an hour away from Barcelona – will capture your traveling heart.

I’m no stranger to the cities and villages that crisscross the Iberian Peninsula. I never tire of them, but at the same time, many of them do start to look a tad similar, right down to the darling grandpas with their canes and messenger caps.

Girona caught my attention, though. It was love at first sight. Un flechazo, as they say in Spanish.

And I fell hard for the over-2000-year-old city with switchback streets that stagger across the hillside. Over the river, between warm-hued buildings, and up the never-ending steps of the gothic cathedral (previously the site of an even older cathedral that once served as a mosque) – I was enamored of my new Catalán discovery.

From the cathedral, we slithered down alleyways, under arches and into one of the largest preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. Then we trekked over bridges, and past cozy cafés that summoned my friend Cheryl and me to stop for a much-needed caffeine boost. The refuel would have to wait, though.

Locals indulging in their primera copa mingled in the streets outside bars, teasing our growling tummies and wine-deprived taste buds. Little did we know we were on the verge of a nine-course meal – one that would seal the deal on my Girona love affair. But, as usual, I must reserve discussion of food for a separate post, or risk going on an all-too-common tangent….a tangent about mind-blowing jamón cream sauces or, I don’t know, artichoke hearts (which until two weeks ago, I hated) nestled in a sweet sobressada that tasted so good it nearly brought me to tears. Yes, this must wait for another post.

Following our feast, we returned to our rustic countryside villa, nestled below a castle-topped hillside, along an orchard of trees. I thought I’d met the one – THE pueblo – until the next day, when I was introduced to Cacaqués.



Disclosure: I traveled through Catalonia as a guest of Charming Villas Catalonia. Rest assured that I’m keeping it real – all opinions are entirely my own.