Our final full day saw us get our bags packed first thing. Hotel reception had a handheld digital suitcase scale which was a great help to figure out how much we could get in the big case for our 20kg. We seemed to be managing quite well considering we’d acquired a few items of clothing, although most of our toiletries were used up at this stage. With all that mundane stuff reassuringly sorted out so early, it felt like we still had the whole day to squeeze a bit more fun out of our trip. Continue reading “2023-05-09 – last full day: Sant Pol, Bon Repòs and heavy rain”
2023-05-08 – hiking in Canet and our return to La Musclera beach
With two full days left, we opted to spend a bit of each day on a couple of our favourite beaches. I voted for La Musclera beach for today’s sunbathing, nestled between Caldes d’Estrac and Arenys de Mar. It’s a beach we first spent some proper sunbathing time on my birthday (31 March) and to our surprise we haven’t really been back to that particular stretch of sand. First though, we set off to hike up through Canet de Mar to Castell de Santa Fiorentina. It is the one remaining Catalan Game of Thrones location we have yet to see – it was used in the TV series as House Tarly. Continue reading “2023-05-08 – hiking in Canet and our return to La Musclera beach”
2023-05-07 – vermut time in El Masnou and wine tour in Alta Alella
It’s our last Sunday of our trip, so the big question on our minds is where to spend our last VERMUT TIME! Yesterday’s transport difficulties with getting to our wine tour means that today we need a better plan for acquiring a taxi in the vicinity of Alella, so what we’ve come up with is to celebrate our last vermut time in Port Masnou and ask the establishment we are drinking in to order us the taxi. Continue reading “2023-05-07 – vermut time in El Masnou and wine tour in Alta Alella”
2023-05-06 – El Masnou, Alella, Cabrera and Estrac Pizzeria
As we count down the last few days of our stay in Catalonia, we plan some activites in places we haven’t yet visited. On our list of things to do is some wine tourism in Alella, so we have booked a tour for today at a winery called Alta Alella. Continue reading “2023-05-06 – El Masnou, Alella, Cabrera and Estrac Pizzeria”
2023-05-05 – Malgrat beach, Casa bella and jam session
We enjoyed a nice relaxing Friday morning at our apartment in the hotel today. In the afternoon we went to the beach in Malgrat de Mar for a little bout of sunbathing and swimming. We caught our first glimpse of the Senti la Costa Brava boat, which amazed us by sailing right up to the beach beside us for passengers to get off and on. The sea is just deep enough close to the sand to make this possible without a harbour or pier. Continue reading “2023-05-05 – Malgrat beach, Casa bella and jam session”
2023-05-04 – rest, fideuà and the new crown and anchor
After our excursion to Girona we fancied a quieter day today, closer to home. In the morning I went to Carrefour for what would probably be our last proper shopping trip for food as we are into our last week now. Just enough ingredients for one last rissoto, stir-fry and for tonight a fideuà with chickpeas. Continue reading “2023-05-04 – rest, fideuà and the new crown and anchor”
2023-05-03 – daytrip to Girona
Girona is only 50 minutes away from us by train, now we are in Santa Susanna so a much easier daytrip destination than Barcelona and Sitges now. The highlights for the tourist are primarily the city walls, the cathedral and other religious buildings, the atmospheric narrow streets of the old town / Jewish quarter, the many foot-bridges that traverse its river Onyar, a multitude of Game of Thrones locations and all that the abundance of bars and restaurtants have to offer. Continue reading “2023-05-03 – daytrip to Girona”
2023-05-02 – food and sun in Llavaneres / Caldetes
Now that the threat of the stormy weather (which never really materialised) is out of the way, our plan today is to go to a nice Catalan restaurant in Sant Andreu de Llavaneres called Pins Mar and afterwards walk along the coast towards Mataró and find a spot on the beach for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Continue reading “2023-05-02 – food and sun in Llavaneres / Caldetes”
2023-05-01 – climbing the zodiac
Behind the coastal hotel development of Santa Susanna there are a number of hills quite heavily populated by a hotch-potch of houses. The weather forecast is still predicting a violent storm at some point today, May Day, our anniversary day, probably after 1pm, so we take a notion in the morning for a quick excursion to explore one of these hilltop settlements. It is the “urbanisation” called Can Torrent and the steep streets winding their way up the hill have been named after the signs of the zodiac in Catalan. Continue reading “2023-05-01 – climbing the zodiac”
2023-04-30 – vermut time in Malgrat
Today we are still expecting a bit of changeable weather and we choose to go to the centre of Malgrat de Mar for vermut time, which traditionally starts from about 12pm on Sunday. It is the last day of April and therefore the last day of the 4-month Abonament recurrent free Rodalies train ticket, so we ride the train one last time on these tickets just one stop to Malgrat and find our way along Carrer de Mar to the main squares of the town. Continue reading “2023-04-30 – vermut time in Malgrat”
2023-04-29 – cava on the beach
It’s Saturday and we are looking forward to yet another celebration over the weekend. On 1 May it will be two years since we first met each other. The weather forecasts are predicting a storm coming on Sunday and Monday so we are a bit circumspect on making too many weather-dependent plans. We had fancied a nice meal and a beach day on Monday, but we decide to defer that till Tuesday and return to the rooftop terrace / restaurant for a special meal on Sunday. For today we are mostly chilling out. Continue reading “2023-04-29 – cava on the beach”
2023-04-28 – beach day at Premià de Mar
There are still a few towns and many beaches in Maresme country, which we have yet to visit. Today we set off for Premià de Mar on a mission to take a look at the town, have some time on one of its beaches and then walk north to the next town of Vilassar de Mar. Continue reading “2023-04-28 – beach day at Premià de Mar”
2023-04-27 – Solidarity Park, Malgrat de Mar
On our recent visit to the Crown and Anchor Bar in Malgrat, we’d heard about a monument recently erected to commemorate the international brigadistas who died just off the shore when the Ciudad de Barcelona ship carrying them was sunk by an Italian submarine on 30 May 1937. We must have walked right past this monument on at least one occasion before, so today we set off along the beach front to have a good look at it. Continue reading “2023-04-27 – Solidarity Park, Malgrat de Mar”
2023-04-26 – daytrip to Sitges
We were out the door at 8.45am this morning – a (not so impressive) record for us on this trip. We were catching the 9am train into Barcelona Sants to change onto an R2 train to Sitges. A couple more firsts for us there: our first experience of the big railway station of Barcelona Sants and our first journey on a double decker train, which is what took us to the seaside resort of Sitges located to the south of Barcelona. Continue reading “2023-04-26 – daytrip to Sitges”
2023-04-25 – a rainy recce in Malgrat
After our day in the sun in Sant Pol yesterday, we needed a bit of a recovery day. Plans have been made for a daytrip to Sitges on Wednesday to meetup with the other Pep in my life, who lives in Edinburgh and has helped me so much with my Catalan over the last few years. He is in Catalonia visiting his family this week. So plenty of rest and recharging is the order of today to ensure we are ready for the big day tomorrow. Continue reading “2023-04-25 – a rainy recce in Malgrat”
2023-04-24 – sunbathing in Sant Pol
Today we returned once again to Sant Pol de Mar, only three stops down the R1 train line with loads of interesting coves on the beaches. We sought out the cove we had discovered on our first visit in March. Back then the temperatures didn’t encourage sunbathing or swimming but it really is a different story now. Continue reading “2023-04-24 – sunbathing in Sant Pol”
2023-04-23 – return to Arenys de Mar for Sant Jordi
La Diada de Sant Jordi / St George’s day has arrived and we’ve chosen Arenys de Mar as our venue to sample the celebration of Catalonia’s national saint. The main events take place in the evening from 5.30pm, which gives us a perfect excuse to have a lazy Sunday in the apartment and a much deserved rest from what has been a week full of long walks. This is the first time we’ve missed Vermut Time in many Sundays, but it means we set off for Arenys well fed and watered with both the laundry and my family zoom done and dusted. Continue reading “2023-04-23 – return to Arenys de Mar for Sant Jordi”
2023-04-22 – Sant Jordi’s eve spent in Malgrat
Having seen how lively Malgrat de Mar was yesterday evening, I suggested we go along again today (Saturday afternoon) to check out the Sant Jordi weekend atmosphere. It was another sunny / blustery day, so we brought our beach gear with us as an option. I showed Alison the back road to Malgrat that leads straight to the church square where the three florist shops are located, sporting their roses in many guises for Sant Jordi day. Continue reading “2023-04-22 – Sant Jordi’s eve spent in Malgrat”
2023-04-21 – movable missions
There is great variation in how different ATMs here handle cash withdrawals in terms of fees and exchange rates. A useful guide has been compiled to the ranges of fees charged by Spanish banks on Triptipedia. From this list we can see that a number of banks charge no fees at their ATMs: Kutxabank, Banca March, Deutsche Bank, ING, Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa (BBK), Unicaja Banco, Eurocaja Rural and Banco Pichincha. Unfortunately these banks are not very common in this part of Spain. I’ve figured out we would have to go to the Marseme capital, Mataró, or Barcelona to make use of them. All the cash machines closest to us charge fees ranging from 4 to 7 euros and offer extremely poor exchange rates. Continue reading “2023-04-21 – movable missions”
2023-04-20 – crossing the Tordera
After yesterday’s mission to tick off one stretch of Maresme coastline we had not yet traversed, it dawned on us that we don’t know how the coastline might look beyond Malgrat de Mar. So we set off to walk from Santa Susanna to Malgrat and beyond, knowing that the River Tordera dissects the coastline at some point along there. Continue reading “2023-04-20 – crossing the Tordera”
2023-04-19 – sunbathing in Sant Pol de Mar
When we reviewed the stretches of the Maresme coastline we have already walked, it became apparent that we had almost covered the complete length of coast from Malgrat de Mar to Sant Andreu de Llavernes. Just one piece of the jigsaw remained unexplored: Sant Pol de Mar to Canet de Mar. That was today’s mission. Continue reading “2023-04-19 – sunbathing in Sant Pol de Mar”
2023-04-18 – Tuesday market in Santa Susanna
Most of the towns here have a weekly market and the market day varies from town to town. The traders come to Santa Susanna every Tuesday morning and they set up their stalls in the main street along the Zona Hotelera. We were expecting the same variety of produce we saw in Pineda de Mar last Friday, but we were disappointed, mainly because the fresh food stalls were absent and we were hoping to get our fruit and veg for the week today. Continue reading “2023-04-18 – Tuesday market in Santa Susanna”
2023-04-17 – Monday shopping and Malgrat morning
True to my Monday habits I set off early to get some provisions for the days ahead from what is now my favoured supermarket in this Santa Susanna area: Carrefour. I found a nice seeded baguette and ciabatta rolls for our burgers later. I also discovered the greek yoghurt Fage for the first time here and noticed they also have Lurpak. I resisted the butter but snapped up the Fage and got a new type of muesli to try. Continue reading “2023-04-17 – Monday shopping and Malgrat morning”
2023-04-16 – Vermut time in Pineda de Mar
One conclusion of our Friday exploration of neighbouring town Pineda de Mar was that here we would find a great location to continue our Sunday vermut time tradition. There are plenty of cafes with seating in the big square of Plaça de les Mèlies and the smaller square, Plaça de Catalunya, home to the Ajuntament, Can Comas and one bar: Bar Barcelona. This bar was our first choice for a vermut time venue, but unfortunately although it seemed open we found it devoid of customers and therefore rather lacking in atmosphere. Every other cafe terrace in the bigger square was buzzing and there was a political rally ongoing at the furthest end of the square, along the dog-leg as it were. Continue reading “2023-04-16 – Vermut time in Pineda de Mar”
2023-04-15 – a simple Santa Susanna day
I think some wee beastie has bitten me on the eyelid. There is a bit of swelling and it’s quite itchy and uncomfortable. I’m happy enough to catch up on some computer stuff while Al has some sunbathing time by the pool. In the late afternoon we grab a light snack at La Pèrgola cafe attached to one of the three Aqua hotels here. Its menu is great value, for instance I had a tasty omelette sandwich for €3.50 and a glass of local red wine for just €2.50. Continue reading “2023-04-15 – a simple Santa Susanna day”
2023-04-14 – Pineda de Mar
Santa Susanna has Malgrat de Mar to the north and Pineda de Mar to the south. We haven’t yet really visited Pineda de Mar, apart from using its railway station to catch a train after walking from Malgrat a few weeks ago. So an exploration of Pineda de Mar was today’s objective. It was already afternoon by the time we walked to the train station, an illustration of how relaxed we are feeling in our new home from home, I guess. Continue reading “2023-04-14 – Pineda de Mar”
2023-04-13 – return to Bon Repòs
We set out to explore the beaches of our new home from home (Santa Susanna). We’d been here once before and it was the beach vibe that encouraged out to settle here for a few more weeks. Particularly the Bon Repòs campsite cafe on the beachfront. Continue reading “2023-04-13 – return to Bon Repòs”
2023-04-12 – Santa Susanna moving day
I can’t deny packing up our stuff from our home from home in Arenys de Mar was tinged with a wee bit of sadness. We’ve had a fantastic six weeks here and we’ve very lucky to be staying on in Maresme county at Santa Susanna. The transfer from Arenys to Santa Susanna could not have gone more smoothly to be honest. A northbound train pulled into the station just a few minutes after we got there and our apartment at the Odissea Park hotel was ready early just a few minutes after our arrival there. Continue reading “2023-04-12 – Santa Susanna moving day”
2023-04-11 – lazy last day in Arenys de Mar
The end of our six weeks in Arenys de Mar is fast approaching and we’re both naturally happy we are able to extend our stay for another four weeks up the coast in Santa Susanna. The sunny aspect of our flat in Arenys is a primary factor in our enjoyment here, so it’s no surprise that we take a relaxing time enjoying our last full day here. As late afternoon arrives we decide to check out whether the local Xiringuitos are open for business for maybe a last drink on platja de la picòrdia, the beach directly in front of the main Riera in Arenys. Continue reading “2023-04-11 – lazy last day in Arenys de Mar”
2023-04-10 – Park Güell
The Catalans take their Easter Monday holiday quite seriously and many shops and businesses are shut today. It’s a day for family gatherings and eating the traditional mona cakes and chocolate. We have a family gathering of our own planned as we have bought tickets for Park Güell in Barcelona to spend the day with my cousin and her fiancé, who are in the city for a week just now. Continue reading “2023-04-10 – Park Güell”
2023-04-09 – last Vermut time in Arenys de Mar
Easter Sunday and we had mona de pasqua for breakfast. Three layers of sponge with some custardy cream between each, with a sprinkling of nuts on top, decorated with a small yellow bespectacled bird and some blue and yellow feathers. Continue reading “2023-04-09 – last Vermut time in Arenys de Mar”
2023-04-08 – Costa Brava day trip
Today was the day Marta had offered to take us on a road trip up the Costa Brava, but all four of us had a longer lie-in than maybe planned due to the exertions of Friday night. Nevertheless we decided to set off for Pals and Calella de Palafrugell on the Costa Brava, about an hour’s drive from us in Arenys / Canet. Continue reading “2023-04-08 – Costa Brava day trip”
2023-04-07 – la Renglereta on Good Friday and jam session al Celler del Rial
We made this a long Good Friday, by getting up earlier than we have risen since we got here. We wanted to experience la Renglereta at 8am, which is an outdoor procession marking the stations of the cross from the Santa Maria church to the Capuchin friary up the road a wee bit. Continue reading “2023-04-07 – la Renglereta on Good Friday and jam session al Celler del Rial”
2023-04-06 – Sant Adrià de Besòs to Sant Martí, Barcelona
After such a successful jaunt down the coastline between Caldes and Sant Andreu yesterday we were fired up for a bigger expedition into Barcelona to see how the coastline into the city fares as a ramble. We got the train as far as Sant Adriá, which is on the northern outskirts of Barcelona and walked down to the beach. It is very industrial in this neck of the woods, but this is the last coastal train station heading into Barcelona on the R1 line and we had hopes that we could navigate ourselves on foot all the way into the first beaches of Barcelona proper. Continue reading “2023-04-06 – Sant Adrià de Besòs to Sant Martí, Barcelona”
2023-04-05 – Caldes, Sant Vicenç and Sant Andreu
Although we have enjoyed a couple of visits to the neighbouring town of Caldes d’Estrac, the southbound stretch of beach across the railway tracks remained unexplored, so that was our mission for today. Continue reading “2023-04-05 – Caldes, Sant Vicenç and Sant Andreu”
2023-04-04 – platja de Cavaió
Today was another restful day, taking it easy in Arenys de Mar. It was another lovely sunny day, so we donned our swimwear and headed to the beach beyond the docks in Arenys, which is called Platja de Cavaió, a very long wide beach. Even on a Tuesday afternoon we are seeing the beaches here more populated with sunbathers, people fishing with rods and even swimmers. I was determined to have another dip in the ocean myself. Continue reading “2023-04-04 – platja de Cavaió”
2023-04-03 – quiet Monday, an evening walk and burgers for tea
After pushing the boat out so far metaphorically yesterday with our Sunday afternoon pub crawl, we needed a bit of recovery time today, so we took it easy at home. Apart from a quick shopping expedition to Bonpreu in the morning, we only ventured out again in the evening for a walk up to the cementery, returning via the main street, so Al could pick up something to put in a burger bun for tea. Continue reading “2023-04-03 – quiet Monday, an evening walk and burgers for tea”
2023-04-02 – Sunday pub crawl in Arenys de Mar
It’s Palm Sunday today and families gather in the church square in Arenys de Mar with rams for the children. These are tall bouquets of palm fronds, decorated with all sorts of things like sweets and toys. There is a blessing of these rams outside the church. To be honest, we missed all the action and found the crowd in the aftermath of the religious ceremony on our way to find some Vermut time. With so many people now filtering out of the square there is significant competition now for tables at nearby bars for Vermut, but we manage to get the last one at El Celler del Rial. This is the first time we have found it open and they have a special offer for Vermut time of a little vermut, olives and crisps for €3.50. Continue reading “2023-04-02 – Sunday pub crawl in Arenys de Mar”
2023-04-01 – Canet Saturday and a bang on the nose
I recalled that the first Saturday of the month was a special market day in Canet de Mar and we’d been there 4 weeks before and met Marta and her pro-indy activist pals, so we decided to jump on the train to Canet today and maybe see Marta and Jordi, now that Jordi had arrived from Scotland. The market was very much as we had experienced the last time, with plenty of hippy crafts, vegan cheese among the other things. Continue reading “2023-04-01 – Canet Saturday and a bang on the nose”
2023-03-31 – birthday no. 2
My fifty-sixth birthday has arrived! After a lovely lazy morning, the plan is to explore La Musclera beach near Caldes d’Estrac and in the evening I fancy going to the pizzeria there to eat. It’s menu is reasonably veggie-friendly and I like how they name all their pizzas after towns in Maresme. Continue reading “2023-03-31 – birthday no. 2”
2023-03-30 – rest and fidueà
As has been the pattern for us now, our Barcelona day left us in need of rest and a lazy day at home in Arenys. Looking at my google timeline, I can see it looks like I didn’t even move from the flat on this day. I cooked some fidueà for the evening and these short thin noodles really are a comfort food, perfect for the occasion.
2023-03-29 – Barcelona: Ciutadella Park & Barceloneta
After a very pleasant excursion just a short distance up the coast yesterday to Sant Pol and Calella, it was time today for us to venture again into the big city. Today’s Barcelona objective was to get off at Arc de Triomf and walk down to Ciutadella Park and then maybe explore the Barceloneta district. Continue reading “2023-03-29 – Barcelona: Ciutadella Park & Barceloneta”
2023-03-28 – Sant Pol de Mar
A sunny Tuesday and it was time for another excursion a few stops of the railway track. Our destination today was the small and apparently quite exclusive resort of Sant Pol de Mar, with a reputation for particularly lovely beaches. Continue reading “2023-03-28 – Sant Pol de Mar”
2023-03-27 – Mercadona shopping
It’s always a nice thing to be back “in your own bed”. We’ve become very fond our flat in Arenys de Mar. The bed is so comfy and the way the light floods the place in the morning (once you pull the curtains) is so uplifting. Continue reading “2023-03-27 – Mercadona shopping”
2023-03-26 – journey home to Arenys
Despite going to bed so early we slept long into the morning and I woke feeling so much better. Not quite 100% but over the worst of whatever had made me feel odd on Saturday. I was quite keen to get home to Arenys, so we said our goodbyes and headed off for one last ramble round the centre of Igualada. In the town hall square there was a real “vermut time” buzz, so we hung around for a while to enjoy the atmosphere.
The FGC train ride home went pretty quickly, with the only hiccup being the lack of a working toilet in either the station at Igualada or on the train to Barcelona. At Plaça de Catalunya (where there is also no toilet) we jumped on the next R1 train even though it was terminating at Mataró, as we reckoned we’d find some WC relief on there…and we did.
2023-03-25 – Volta Catalunya and Montserrat
After a great night at the Xauxa local, I woke up feeling rather fragile. Although this felt like a hangover, we hadn’t really been drinking all that much the night before and was a bit worried I’d caught the tummy bug that was going round at Pep’s house. Continue reading “2023-03-25 – Volta Catalunya and Montserrat”
2023-03-24 – La Tossa, Castell de Miralles and the Xauxa gig
We were very lucky on our Friday morning in Igualada as Pep had free time to take out in the car see some of the sights on the high ground beyond the town. He drove us first to La Tossa which had fantastic views in all directions. Towards Montserrat, the Pyrenees and down the Llobregat / Anoia river valley towards Barcelona. Continue reading “2023-03-24 – La Tossa, Castell de Miralles and the Xauxa gig”
2023-03-23 – journey inland to Igualada
Today we left the Maresme coast line to spend a few days in a different part of Catalunya. On my first visit here in July 2018, I was invited to Igualada for a couple of days at the end of my trip. Pep has since become a dear friend and musical collaborator over the intervening years and he has organised a gig for me in his home town on Fri 24 March. Continue reading “2023-03-23 – journey inland to Igualada”
2023-03-22 – Calella and Montgat
We woke up today with a plan to visit Calella, one of the bigger Maresme resort with, I believe, a reputation for night life, particularly in high summer. We had an additional motive in that Calella was home to the nearest Ale-Hop outlet and having seen the competitive pricing of their summer hats in Barcelona the other day, I was totally on-board with going there to get some headgear as our day on the the city bus tour confirmed we both need some protection in that regard. Continue reading “2023-03-22 – Calella and Montgat”
2023-03-21 – rest and Pebre Negre
Our jaunts into Barcelona seem to knock the stuffing out of us. Right enough, yesterday’s city tour on an open topped bus saw us exposed to the sun for 4 hours and that was probably the biggest factor in the rest and recovery needed today. Rest and recovery are two of our motives for this trip anyhow, so we take great pleasure in days like today, when we have the luxury to indulge in pretty much doing nothing. Continue reading “2023-03-21 – rest and Pebre Negre”
2023-03-20 – Barcelona city bus tour
We are aiming to visit the city of Barcelona approximately once a week during our stay in Maresme, so for this week’s visit we are going to put down the useful foundation of getting an overview of the city’s sights according to one of the two sightseeing bus tours. The two bus tours are Barcelona Bus Turístic and Barcelona City Tour. It really is difficult to choose which is better based on information available. The prices are all about the same coming in at just under €30 for the day tour on each with the 10% online discount. Two different routes are covered by each tour company’s ticket and each tour has an app that promises more than it delivers. Ultimately it was the promise of real time bus information on the City Tour app that made us choose that one. Continue reading “2023-03-20 – Barcelona city bus tour”
2023-03-19 – Sunday stroll to Canet de Mar
Another gorgeous day here and we hatched a simple plan to visit the neighbouring town of Canet de Mar on foot along the beaches between here and there. This took us to parts of Arenys de Mar we had not yet seen. Bars and restaurants beyond the marina and an expansive stretch of beach flanked a fair distance from the water by a pleasant walkway that leads all the way to Canet de Mar. Continue reading “2023-03-19 – Sunday stroll to Canet de Mar”
2023-03-18 – Sleepy Saturday with rehearsal and rugby
Paddy’s night ended with a late meal in a restaurant across the road from the pub with Marta and a couple of her friends. It was a lovely feed and we were spoilt with a lift home to Arenys. Quite a late finish therefore heralded a lazy Saturday to gently recover. My friend Pep Massana from Igualada had arranged to travel all the way to Arenys for a face to face rehearsal for the next gig which was due to take place in Igualada on Fri 24 Mar 2023.<1–more–>
There was also the little matter of the conclusion of the six nations in which Ireland would face England knowing a victory would secure them the Grand Slam. That match was due to kickoff at around 6.30pm Catalan time. Pep arrived around 4pm and we got down to business of working through the songs planned for the set next Friday. It was to be a very different set compared to last night’s more mainstream Paddy’s day affair. About half of the dozen songs would be original compositions and it was exciting to learn that Pep had invited a drummer and bass player to join us. It was therefore important to tie down the order and chosen keys for the songs we would play.
Pep is a music teacher by profession and very efficient at this process naturally and we breezed through the rehearsal and said our goodbyes so that he could drive home in daylight. This left me comfortably in the zone for watching rugby and watching Ireland overcome their initial yips to secure the Grand Slam in devastating style in the end.
2023-03-17 – St Patrick’s Day
Our daytime activity on Ireland’s national day was heavily relaxation-based. I hung the Irish flag out on the terrace, not that there are many neighbours here to see it, but I guess it was the thought that counted. I fine-tuned my set list ahead of the evening gig and rehearsed the songs to be sung.<1–more–>
After lunch we headed down to the local beach for a wee lie down and enjoy the sound of the ocean and the last rays of the sun on what had been a warm day. There were more clouds now than blue sky so it wasn’t quite as warm as hoped. I had gone prepared for my first dip in the mediterrean, but I had to make do with a quick paddle up to my knees. All the same, it was our first real encounter with the sea water and, although cold, it wasn’t quite as freezing as we expected.
Come six o’clock it was time to make our way to Mataró. I had promised to be there at 7.30pm at the latest but wanted to be earlier so that Al and a few friends could get a good table. We arrived just after 7 o’clock and the bar was already quite busy. By eight o’clock it was heaving, standing room only and quite daunting for the lonely singer without a microphone.
Connecting the guitar was more challenging that the sound check a few days ago promised as there were people standing in every space by the bar and the bar staff needed to cross the cable to get back and forth to the kitchen, so it was far from ideal. My guitar also wasn’t playing nice to begin with as the jack socket needed some attention.
Soon all was ready and it was time to start singing. I introduced myself and appealed to the audience for their help in singing along as we would be without microphone and I’d need all the help I could get. The plan was roughly to sing two sets of 30 minutes echo, which amounts to about a dozen songs in total. My guitar strings had other ideas though and over the course of the performance I managed to break strings on two occasions, so the singing was punctuated by a couple of enforced breaks.
The audience was very supportive though and they really got into the spirit of singing along to the songs they need, which was a great help. The highlights for me were the Fields of Athenry, I’m A Believer and Losing My Religion.
A short clip giving the flavour of the evening
I was well and truly hoarse by the end, but a very positive experience. Both the bar owner and I were in agreement that the gig in hindsight did require a microphone. This was the set of songs performed:
- Molly Malone
- Friday I’m In Love
- Perfect Day
- I’m A Believer
- Brown Eyed Girl
- Fields of Athenry
- Hey Jude
- Only Our Rivers Run Free
- The Wild Rover
- Losing My Religion
- Can’t Help Falling In Love
2023-03-16 – Blanes, lumpy, bumpy and beautiful
We had heard a few recommendations that Blanes was a must-see place, so today we set off to take the train all the way to the northern extent of Maresme. We had heard that the trainline heads inland and this point so we weren’t too sure what might lie ahead for us.<1–more–>
On arrival at Blanes train station, we noticed we had indeed diverged from the coastline and outside the station, a bus awaited for people wanting to head further norther to Lloret de Mar. After consulting google maps we could see we had about a 30min walk to be reunited with the sea.
The walk took us through an industrial sector and then a wide commercial street with large shops and a gym along the way and then the first of many hills. Blanes is built on hilly terrain and soon we could see a picturesque round tower on top of the highest hill just too far way and too high for us to reach today. Eventually we reached the main drag of this seaside town, with many shop-filled streets worth a quick explore. Al even managed to find a new pair of trainers in the sales!
Eventually we said goodbye to the shops and reached the sea-front. What a fabulous vista – it really was a special sight worth the visit. A very clean wide open space categorised the promenade here. With sun high in the sky, the glistening ocean was at its most beautiful.
We took our time examining menus at the eaties along the seafront, chose one and had a pretty good experience. They gave us a plate of mussels on the house as part of our menú del dia – not much good for me, though Al was pleasantly surprised how much she enjoyed them, as they would not normally something she would choose to eat. Apparently they tasted out of this world.
We spent the rest of our day strolling along the beach, concluding our visit with a quick drink before embarking on the long walk back through town to the train station. Blanes – a bumpy but beautiful place, but we are relieved it is not our base for this trip as the walk from seafront to train station would be a real grind on a daily basis.
2023-03-15 – quest for a cable
Before the recent developments in Mataró. we had an idea to head into Barcelona for the day today, but we were both of a mind to have a quieter day again closer to home. This change of plan gave me some time to head off to Mataró on a quest to find the audio cable I needed to perform at Molly Malone’s on Friday night and then if successful visit the pub again test out the technical side of things and firm up the gig. Continue reading “2023-03-15 – quest for a cable”
2023-03-14 – Arenys de Munt + Mataró pubs
We managed two excursions today: a walk to the neighbouring town of Arenys de Munt and an evening pub crawl of sorts in Mataró as mentioned before. Continue reading “2023-03-14 – Arenys de Munt + Mataró pubs”
2023-03-13 – rest and risotto
The cupboards were getting a bit bare again, so I decided to get up nice and early on this Monday morning to go out to the Bonpreu supermarket again. It was the first one I found when we got here and is still my favourite I think. Big mistake though – at 8am on Monday morning, no supermarkets are open here – they all open their doors at 9am.
A bit of a false start, but I was able to catch up on doing this journal after what had been a busy weekend. At 10am we were to have a visit from our AirBnB host (Pere) – it was good to finally meet him. After that I was able to make a successful attempt at my supermarket run. Alison fancied a wander in the shops too, so we decided we’d make the day a “stay close to home” day.
In terms of planning what we do each day, we have quite a relaxed approach, not making too many concrete plans and very often deciding what do to when we get up. There are a lot of places to visit for a day and we are steadily making our way through a list of them. There are some special days in our time here that do need some extra thought, research and preparation. Our birthdays, St Patrick’s Day and I have a gig in Igualada on Fri 24 March 2023. Conversation has turned to what we should do for St Patrick’s day, which falls on a Friday this year. I’m still harbouring a slightly unrealistic desire to find a pub in Arenys de Mar that would welcome a sing song session, but the consensus is for going out to an organised celebration of some sort somewhere.
I set about some research into Irish pubs in the area or any other establishments who might be putting on a St. Patrick’s Day special. We don’t really want to go as far as Barcelona, even though there will be plenty of Irish bars there doing their thing. Calella looks like a lively town for night-life and we haven’t yet visited yet, but I draw a blank on any leads for Paddy’s day events there. Mataró is the biggest town in Maresme county and I discover there is at least one Irish bar (Molly Malone’s) and interesting looking Belgian bar (The Drunk Monk). I can see the bones of a mini-pub crawl coming together there. Indeed we resolve to go on a scouting mission to Mataró, hopefully tomorrow night (Tuesday) and see what Molly Malone’s has to offer for the Friday night.
As the afternoon petered out, I got an urge to make risotto for dinner. I had bought the rice in the morning, but needed the other ingredients. I think I was driven by the slight disappointment the arosseria (rice restaurant) La Tasqueta didn’t have a veggie rice dish on the menu. I nipped across the road to Ametller Origen and got the few things needed and that’s how we spent the evening. A nice home-cooked mushroom risotto, some beer and a few telly programs.
2023-03-12 – birthday no. 1
We both have birthdays in March, so we’ve been looking forward to celebrating these special days here at our home from home in Catalonia. Here are a few of the important elements that made up birthday no. 1. Continue reading “2023-03-12 – birthday no. 1”
2023-03-11 – Calçotada popular
A calçot is a vegetable somewhere in size between a spring onion and a leek, similar in form and taste and extremely popular in Catalonia in spring. They are roasted, often over a barbecue, peeled to remove any charred layer, dipped in romanesc sauce and eaten by hand. We were lucky to be able to attend a community barbecue of calçots, a calçotada popular, right on our doorstep in the church square. Continue reading “2023-03-11 – Calçotada popular”
2023-03-10 – Caldes d’Estrac
Caldes d’Estrac is the neighbouring town to the south of Arenys de Mar and home to a couple of spa facilities. In advance of Al’s imminent birthday, we decided to check them out as a possible venue for some water-based relaxation on Sunday morning. Continue reading “2023-03-10 – Caldes d’Estrac”
2023-03-09 – Michael Collins evening
Two trips to Barcelona on the bounce! This was an evening excursion to check out a music session at the Michael Collins Irish bar near the Sagrada Familia. We had been tipped off that a friend of a friend is a regular at a slow and easy tunes session every Thursday night there starting at 6.30pm. We’ll use this wee trip as a tester to see how practical it is to jump on a train to Barcelona just for the evening, bearing in mind our last train home is at 10.30pm. Continue reading “2023-03-09 – Michael Collins evening”
2023-03-08 – first day in Barcelona
Our first trip into the big smoke of Barcelona coincided with the arrival of my sister and her husband there for a couple of days. They have a daughter living there and it was great to catch up with her and her pals in the evening, where we had a few drinks at the Garage Bar and then something to eat at Hummus Barcelona. Continue reading “2023-03-08 – first day in Barcelona”
2023-03-07 – murals of Malgrat de Mar
It is our first Tuesday in Maresme and the plan is to take the train to the northernmost town (Malgrat de Mar) in this long narrow coastal county and possibly walk back south along the beaches through the two neighbouring towns, Santa Susanna and Pineda de Mar. It’s looking like a gorgeous day here, so we’ll play it by ear to see how we manage. Continue reading “2023-03-07 – murals of Malgrat de Mar”
2023-03-06 – peelings and pealings
Our first Monday in our new home from home evolved into a very nice rest day. We didn’t move from the flat, we enjoyed the plentiful light we get through the day and relaxed with tea, coffee and a bit of improvisation with the food we still had in the cupboard.
With no excursion today, today’s journal entry is an opportunity to explore a couple of the more mundane facets of our experience in Arenys de Mar: the peelings and the pealings, by which I mean the recycling and food waste scheme they have here and the bells of the Església de Santa Maria. Continue reading “2023-03-06 – peelings and pealings”
2023-03-05 – castellers and ball de diables in Mataró
Hot on the heels of her fantastic hospitality on Saturday, Marta left us with a great tip for Sunday. The Castellers (human tower) season is more or less at its beginning and the Colla Castellera (human tower club) in Mataró had scheduled a presentation of their skills for 10.30 – 13.30 on Sunday 5 March. Mataró is just 3 stops on the R1 railway south from where we are in Arenys, just a 10 minute trip, so we were there for just after 11am, no problem. The castells took place in the Plaça de Santa Anna. After enjoying watching and listening to what the castellers were doing, we rambled off to discover what else was happening in the square as we could hear some drumming and noticed many children and indeed adults in elaborate medieval costumes. Continue reading “2023-03-05 – castellers and ball de diables in Mataró”
2023-03-04 – Saturday market in Canet de Mar
“Abonament recurrent” – the magic words that got us rail travel effectively for free in the Barcelona province for our whole stay. We’re indebted to Marta for this marvellous tip. It translates to “recurring subscription” and the idea funded by central and devolved government across Spain is to get frequent travellers onto the trains and off the road by offering a ticket that just costs €10 for 4 months rail travel on all the lines in the province of Barcelona. I believe there is a €20 subscription that would give you the same for rail travel across Catalonia. It was first introduced for the September-December period in 2022 and has been extended for the 3 “semesters” of 2023, so we can use this €10 ticket for our whole stay and apparently may even get the €10 refunded if we make 16 trips. Continue reading “2023-03-04 – Saturday market in Canet de Mar”
2023-03-03 – life’s a beach
We really like it here. It’s just what we need. We’re finding Arenys de Mar is a relaxing place for us, while around us we have the awareness that the town has a lot going on. The main street where our flat is located is always busy with people going about their business and there are many cultural activities advertised on the local council’s billboards. Continue reading “2023-03-03 – life’s a beach”
2023-03-02 – Arenys de Mar, our home from home for 6 weeks
It’s a Thursday morning and we’ve woken up in our new “home from home” for the next 6 weeks – Arenys de Mar in Maresme county in Catalonia, on the mediterranean coast just north of Barcelona. The “home from home” narrative is a keen reminder to ourselves not to slip too much into “holiday mode” eating and drinking out every night. An attempt to replicate the type of expenditure that might be routine at home. We’ll see how that works out for us. Continue reading “2023-03-02 – Arenys de Mar, our home from home for 6 weeks”
2023-03-01 – a bridge too far?
First day of our extended break in Catalonia. It’s travel day and arriving by train in Edinburgh we noticed a distinct drop in temperature in Scotland’s capital city. Snow is in the air, something we didn’t pick up as we jumped in the taxi at home in Stirling. However we’ve seen the weather reports recently in Catalonia where they had snowfall all along the coast in the last days of February so we are appropriately attired with winter jackets, hats and gloves for any of the chillier meterological challenges ahead. Continue reading “2023-03-01 – a bridge too far?”