Originally a Southern California girl, Christmas day always reminds me of bikes, roller skates and basketballs. Rip, open, play! Barcelona's likely to be sunny on Christmas Day, too. Gotta new bike, but no balance? Conquer your new ride on the promenade in Park Ciutadella between Passeig Pujades and the zoo. Nice and flat, long and straight, no cement. Take a big breath of sea air, and, GO!
Can you find the bunny waiting for Easter in the pinnacles of Montserrat? Hint: I took the Sant Joan funicular to the top of the mountain and walked down via Sant Miquel. Steep but easy stroll on a well paved path. On a clear day look out to Barcelona and the sea beyond. Or in the other direction, all the way to the mountain peaks in France. The trail marker reads 40 minutes.
Footpaths by the sea. Trails left by the fishermen. Followed by the watchmen. Looking for pirates. Pathways soaring above the sea. Pathways down by the sea. Pathways by villages. Pathways away from everything. I like them all. As long as I can see the water. Full frontal. So of the 260 kilometers of trails that make up the famous Camins de Ronda, here are the ones that take the best advantage of the sea, avoiding view blocking tree cover or wandering too far inland. Pick a sunny spring day and go before the summer crowds arrive!
Best panorama. The walk from Vall de Santa Creu to the Monastery St. Pere and then to the viewpoint, a ruined castle Sant Salvador de Verdera. The whole walk with open views to the sea. On top you can see to France, to the Pyrenees and to the fields of Girona and out to the far reaches of the sea.
Best diversions. A kid friendly short walk that starts in Callela. No guard rails, but lots of fun tunnels along the way to the little hidden beach at the end, great for stone skipping.
Best mix. The walk that starts near Llafranc at the San Sebastian lighthouse, then goes along steep cliffs, then meadows flowering in Spring, then to a tiny rock beach with a tiny bar only open in summer, then over a rocky outcrop with tide pools, ending at beautiful Tamariu beach. Some parts with no guardrails, uneven trail, some scrambling.
Best picnic spot. The walk from Tossa del Mar along the cliffs south of the old town. Four wooden platforms along the way with infinity views and benches. Uneven dirt trail.
Best stroll. The walk along the Promenade from Platja San Pol to Platja Sa Conca in front of the mansions of S'Agaro. Exclusive bay and beach at the end. Cliffs with no guardrails, but wide mostly paved promenade with easy sets of stairs.
Best vision. The deconstruction of Tudela at Cap de Creus. Once a huge vacation resort, the whole area now restored to its natural beauty inside a nature park. Safe trail, lots of fun rock formations. Blooming with flowers in Spring.
For more ideas, review the whole section on the Costa Brava and click on "previous" when you get to the end of the entries on the first page.
A short walk from Tossa De Mar, south along the Es Codolara Es Cards for a half hour, a welcome respite from the hectic, crowded holiday shopping in the city. Its almost a ghost town this time of year, but hey, you get the three infinity view observation decks all to yourself! Stairs with rails and sand covered dirt paths, a scramble. Just above the small cove at the back of the medieval town, head toward the white villa with the pool. Look for the tile sign "Carrer es Cars," the green trail map, and the Cami Ronda red and white symbols.
Here's one for massive views. And a challenge. Starting at the "neighbors only" sign at the end of the road to Vall de Santa Creu, a 4-5 km climb one way, with the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes near the finish and the abandoned castle of Sant Salvador at the tippy top. 360 degree view from mountains to sea, from Spain to France and from bay to farmland, everything. Accomplishment.
(You'll find Vall de Santa Creu, near Cap de Creus, between Port de la Selva and Llanca)
The Spanish coast. Build, build, build, bigger, better, richer. So, how cool to find Tudela, full of wierd rock formations, touching the sea, scruffy plants. And not one hotel room. Once a spot hosting 1600 a night, now brick, by brick, deconstructed and returned to nature at Cap de Creus near Cadaques. Take the road from Port Lligat to the Cap de Creus lighthouse and turn left at the sign. Fun to be here at Easter, never found the bunny, can you?
So, used to be in the long ago days that these proud and feisty guys patrolled Menorca against pirates and other bad sorts. On a trail that hugs the shore and rings the entire island. The trail is still there even though the black horses mostly aren't. I walked a section, remote, lonely, windy. Then to see another, took a beginner ride on a regular pony, a bit scary. One horse had a sit-and-roll-with-rider-on in the lovely warm sand. Some bits so steep no reins, just cling to the horses mane. Had an impromptu demonstration of the up-on-hind-legs-front-ones-pawing-the-air, usually reserved for festivals. When the guide's horse preferred not to go home at our turning point. The view from up high is awesome, but thinking the walking or maybe a bike is the best way to go.
Broad, elegant, the footpath winds around the posh penninsula of S'Agaro Vell. Start at the east end of the beach Sant Pol. Then for 30 minutes, a flat walk past many tiny inlets, at the foot of glorious mansions, the wind sometimes whipping, then suddenly quiet in a protected cove. Sant Pol has super fine sand perfect for sand castles. Sa Conca, a secluded curve with that turquoise, totally see-through water. A lovely treat -- lunch at beachside Sant Pol's Taverna de Mar, in big wicker chairs, with opened arched windows and the sea performing percussion (food pretty good, not great, but location is dreamy).
Normally I would never get on a bike and ride down the city's most congested boulevard. Inhaling toxic fumes isn't my bag and neither is getting run over. But the Diagonal has one of the few bike paths in Barcelona that is separate from the road. So when the streets empty in August, on a Sunday when traffic is nearly nil, I ride 3 kilometers down the Diagonal to Enric Granados, turn toward the sea and keep going another kilometer til I reach the mojito ice cream at Delacrem #15-17 or fresh squeezed juice and a gander at the art gallery at Cosmo Cafe #3. Not bad, eh?
I dare you to try to walk though the town of Hondarribia without taking at least 100 pictures. Gobsmacking cute, the last coastal town in Basque Spain before the French frontier. Alpine chalets, replete with geraniums (of course!) landed in Ireland and moved to Spain. Cross the river and head up the hill to Chateaux Abbadia Hendaye then walk the footpaths through the green fields that merge with the Atlantic.
By Maia Pay Ozguc
Barcelona Impressions.Be curious. Be present. Be Barcelona!