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.
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”
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”
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”
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.
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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.
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:
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.
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”
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.
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
“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”
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”
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”
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?”