Roses, Spain

 The coastal resort town of Roses sits on the northern end of Spain’s beautiful Gulf of Roses. Its location on the Costa Brava coast and the gulf’s quiet waters — a natural harbor — has made it a highly valued prize that was sought after and fought over by several countries over the years. Today, those same quiet, clear waters and beautiful location have made the town of Roses, which is located in Catalonia’s Girona province, a popular tourist destination.

Roses was founded by the Greeks, although there is some dispute as to exactly at what point in history. Some historians believe the town was founded in the 5th century BC, while others believe it was possibly in the 8th century BC. Over the years, Roses has been captured, besieged, or occupied by the Romans, the French, Barbary pirates, as well as the Spanish. Today, the city is home to many historical ruins, including those of the original ancient city that once sat on this site, which was known as Ciutadella, and a fortification that was constructed by Charles V in 1543 to protect the city from pirates and other invaders.

Canyelles Beach, Roses, Costa Brava, SpainTourists can choose from a number of beautiful beaches in or near Roses, including Playa Nova, which has many tourist-friendly facilities such as open-air bars and lifeguards; Cala Murtra, a very secluded and beautiful beach that is Roses’ only official nudist beaches; and Cala Joncols, which is located in the Cap de Creus Nature Park and offers excellent scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities. Some of the sea life that can be viewed in the waters around Cala Joncols include moray eels and sea horses.

Cala Montjoi, which is located approximately seven kilometers from Roses, is another excellent spot for diving. It was also home — until recently — to a highly regarded restaurant, ElBulli. Founded in 1961, this small restaurant, which had been awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide for several years, was often considered one of the best in the world. Its chef, Ferran Adria, plans on reopening the restaurant as a culinary creation center in 2014.

The weather in Roses is generally pleasant. High temperatures in the summer average about 31 C or 87 F. Winter days are typically mild, with highs of 16 C or 60 F, but colder periods do occasionally occur. The area around Roses experiences approximately 1000 mm or about 40 inches of rain per year.


Tossa de Mar, Spain

A quaint town lined with cobbled streets, Tossa de Mar can be found in the Spanish area of Catalonia, along the Costa Brava. The mountainous region filled with beautiful green valleys, a multitude of gorges and natural springs juxtaposed the medieval remnants of what was once a fortress, complete with castle and alleyways, splashed with ancient homes, restaurants and little shops leaves nothing out for a vacation getaway memory.

Only 100 kilometers south of the French border, Tossa was visited by Hollywood in the 1950s, before it was known as a tourist attraction. The film, “Pandora & the Flying Dutchman” hosted screen greats such as Ava Gardner and James Mason, with Tossa de Mar’s beauty as the backdrop.

Coastline of Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava, SpainSheltered coves and sandy miles of sandy beaches give the opportunity to play in the crystal clear, Mediterranean waters. Scuba diving and snorkeling adventures can be had or for those that would rather see the undersea creatures from the safety of a glass bottomed boat, they are available.

The activity along the coast is buzzing with fun in the bars, restaurants, gift shops and ice cream parlors. No vacation in Tossa de Mar is complete without a trip through the historic region of town. The Villa Vella still hosts the ancient walls used for defense against enemies years ago and the remaining towers that are still in tact, create a day filled with endless intrigue and educational fact learning. Medieval times saw Tossa in the year 966 and with the 1187 castle that was erected with defense elements in mind, leaving enough historical structures behind to enjoy today.

After a tour through the enclosure, a visit to the man-made nature reserve of Sa Riera park delivers wildlife views and a diverse inspection of flora and fauna. Wildlife abounds in the reserve. The special ecosystem hosts higher levels of humidity and rain, lending hand to the observation of numerous rare species along the six kilometers of coastline that is protected from harm.

Tossa de Mar is the perfect holiday getaway. Relaxing, yet fun-filled, Tossa appeals to families and couples alike. Visit Tossa for your next vacation and be reminded just how relaxing a vacation can be.


Lloret de Mar, Spain

 Lloret de Mar is a small resort town located in the northeastern part of Spain on the coast. It is one of the most popular destinations in Costa Brava and is 75 km from Barcelona.


Since Lloret de Mar is on the coast, there are fabulous beaches to enjoy. You can bask in the sun, enjoy the Mediterranean waters, and sip a glass of Sangria. The beaches of Lloret de Mar consistently receive the Blue Flag award for cleanliness.

The main beach in Lloret de Mar is very popular and has white sand. Fenals Beach is nearby, less crowded, and has golden sand. Both offer an array of water sports including water skiing, jet skiing, and parasailing.

Castle of Sant Joan, Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava, SpainThings to See

The Sant Romà Church is a Gothic church built in 1522 which has been restored. It shows the influence of Byzantine, Renaissance, Moorish, and even Modernist architectural styles.

The Castle of Sant Joan is a castle from medieval times that defended the city from invasion by sea. It has been restored and offers a panoramic view of the area.

Two monuments that should not be missed are the beautiful Angel Monument that has an angel pointing up to Sant Pere del Bosc and the Monument to the Fisherman’s Wife that was placed on the beach on the 100th anniversary of the town.

The Santa Clotilde gardens are a lovely combination of landscaping and statuary. They were designed in the spirit of the Italian Renaissance.

Theme Parks

Water World is the largest water park in all of Europe and is located on the road to Vidreres. It has many rides to delight kids of all ages including a rubber raft ride that is 250 meters long.

Gnomo Park is another family theme park and it is located between Lloret de Mar and Blanes. It offers indoor and outdoor activities including a small animal farm.

Night Life

One thing about Lloret de Mar that keeps people coming back is the night life. It has over 100 bars and nightclubs that include pubs, karaoke bars, discos, and music bars and some of them stay open all night.

Lloret de Mar has many hotels, restaurants, and casinos for merry makers. It is known as the best party city in all of Costa Brava and is a favorite venue for bachelor and bachelorette parties.


Spain’s Regions

Spain’s constituent regions aren’t states or provinces, as in many other countries of the world, but autonomous communities. This political distinction results from the profound differences in culture within the country’s borders. Several of the regions have their own language, all have their own food, and many have their own storied histories as ancient, proud civilizations.

El País Vasco, or Basque Country, is perhaps the most famously independent of Spain’s autonomous communities. The Basque language is notoriously difficult to learn. Luckily Spanish is widely spoken, but any effort to communicate in Basque is appreciated by locals. San Sebastian is the area’s top destination, thanks to its breathtaking Atlantic shores and its reputation as the best producer of the region’s unique food. A local specialty worth sampling is sidra, a slightly alcoholic apple cider.

Spain’s other famously independent region, Catalonia, is located on the country’s eastern shore. Its language, Catalan, is easily learned by Spanish speakers. Barcelona is known for the many structures by famous modern architect Antoni Gaudí, whose style permeates this well-planned regional capital. The beaches of this cosmopolitan city nicely complement the region’s ski resorts to the north and nature reserves to the south.

Andalucia is the intersection of all the finest aspects of Spanish culture, from food to music to architecture. The region invented tapas and is the world’s largest producer of olive oil, while the city of Sevilla is known as the home of flamenco music and dance. This southern region of Spain enjoys a rich Moorish history; sites such as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and La Alhmabra of Granada exhibit the height of Arab art and architecture from the Middle Ages.

El Comunidad de Madrid consists of the city of Madrid and its surrounding towns. Despite being the home of Spain’s central government and the Royal Palace, Cathedral, and Gardens, Madrid is best known for its nightlife. The neighborhoods of Huertas and La Latina are filled with revelers at all hours of the night as they scour the city for the best bars and dance clubs.

Even Spain’s less famous regions have their own defining characteristics. Valencia is the birthplace of paella, La Rioja is famous for its red wines, and the windmills of Castilla La Mancha were immortalized in Don Quixote. One of Spain’s ancient kingdoms, Galicia adds another regional tongue, Galician, to the tally of official languages, and another famous dish, empanadas, to the nation’s cuisine. Aragon, another such kingdom, houses a wealth of historical artifacts from the Middle Ages, while Cantabria is home to more Stone Age archaeological sites than anywhere else in the world. In Navarre’s largest city, Pamplona, locals and tourists alike run through the narrow streets with bulls during the Feast of San Fermin, and with its soaring mountains and dramatic rocky coastline, Asturias is considered the most beautiful part of the country.

Thanks to the linguistic, culinary, architectural and artistic diversity displayed across Spain’s autonomous communities, a trip to this one country can feel like a tour of over a dozen different nations.


Montserrat, Spain

Millions of years ago, as the Iberian plate converged upon the European plate, masses of earth were thrust upwards, forming what is now the Pyrenees mountain range that borders Spain and France, and depositing rock to form what is now the Montserrat chain of mountains. In Catalan, “Montserrat” means “serrated mountain,” which describes the jagged silhouette of the mountain range, formed by centuries of erosion.

Today, Montserrat is famed for its unique rock formations, as the location of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, and for the historical significance of the area in connection with the struggles of the Catalan people. At 4055 feet above the valley, Montserrat stands at a central point above the Catalan lowlands, and has long played an important role in Catalonian history. Overnight hikes up the mountain to watch the sunrise remain a significant part of Catalonian tradition.

Nestled within the crags of the mountain, the monastery was founded in 1025. The Montserrat Escolania, a world-famous boys’ choir, came into existence soon after. Traditionally, the boys lived and studied in the monastery. Though run by the Benedictine monks, the school’s goal is to prepare students for acceptance into music conservatories, not into the order. In 2005, when enrollment dropped drastically, allowances were made for the children to return home overnight and on weekends. The choir gives brief performances at the abbey every day but Saturday.

The monastery was destroyed by the French in 1811. Monks managed to hide the statue of Mary before the destruction. During the 1830’s, Spanish royalty banned religious orders from building monasteries and convents. The present church was built during the 1850’s. Under dictator Francisco Franco, 300 protestors were held as prisoners within the monastery.

The focus of the basilica is the statue of Mary, known as the Virgin of Montserrat, La Moreneta or the Black Madonna. Pilgrims line up along a decorated passageway for the opportunity to spend a few moments alone with her. All but encased in protective glass, only the orb that Mary holds in her hands is available for pilgrims to touch. The site is also home to the Museum of Montserrat, featuring paintings by El Greco, Caravaggio, Money, Picasso and Dalí.

While a modern hotel is located near the abbey, visits to Montserrat are most often taken as day trips from Barcelona. By car, it’s a 30-minute drive from Barcelona to the base of the mountain. Many visitors choose to disembark at the base and ride the cable car up to the abbey site. Visitors may also drive up along a series of switchbacks to the site. Trains take visitors to the base of the mountain from Barcelona’s Plaça d’Espanya. Rack railway is also available up the mountain.


Figueres, Spain

Spain is a country rich in culture and history. Inspiring generations of visitors with the sweeping vistas and stunning mountains, Spain is home to some of the most splendid cities in Europe. Figueres located in Catalonia is often overlooked by tourists who prefer the larger cities that offer more hustle and bustle. Figueres is a charming location well loved by the residents and by those who happen across it.

The city is home to about 40,000 residents. Known for the beaches, the wine, and the gourmet food Figueres offers visitors an array of activities, sights, and sounds.

Dali Egg, Figueres SpainFigueres’ history can be traced to the 10th century and the city enjoys a rich diversity of architectural inspirations taken from nearly every era of its history. The Castell de Sant Ferran is billed as one of the largest castles in all of Europe. Constructed in the 18th century the castle overlooks the city and is a favorite spot for locals. While the grounds are most always open, the interior of the castle can only be viewed during certain time depending upon the season.

SALVADOR DALI MUSEUM IN FIGUERES, SPAINFor those who want to drink in the sights and sounds of Figueres a trip to the Placa de les Patates would be a welcomed diversion. The square is lined with traditional and classical architecture and lined with shade trees visitors can enjoy a lazy afternoon at any of the cafes and small restaurants. When night falls, the square is populated by revelers looking to unwind and relax after a long day.

It is the Dali Museum; however, that remains the biggest draw to the city. Figueres is the birthplace of the eccentric artist Salvador Dali that helped to change the face of art for generations to come. The Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dali is not hard to spot. The facade is bright pink decorated in an eccentric style must like Dali himself. Many visitors will spend the entire day roaming the halls and grounds of the museum. It houses the largest collection of Dali’s work including his sculptures and curiosities designed by the artist.

While visitors will find accommodations in Figueres many visitors come by rail from Barcelona. The trip to Figueres averages about 2 hours which makes for a perfect day trip. Figueres is an incredible town ideal for a quick getaway during a visit to Barcelona or an extended stay while in Spain.