We know what our big trip of summer, 2020, is. We’re meeting the Belgians (and my mother and brother) in the Pyrenees for some cycling. Specifically, the husband (And I? Perchance.) will cycle the Col du Tourmelet (among others cols), completing his Dust-Farm-Pail List trifecta of iconic Tour de France routes.
The plan all along has been to meet our friends and family in the mountains after flying into and exploring Barcelona, a city the husband briefly visited nearly three decades ago and to which I have never been.
But boy, have I gotten a lot of mixed messages about Barcelona lately. Blogs and other sources have decried it as maddeningly overrun with tourists. (After spending Bastille Day in Annecy, I’m not up for that.) A New York Times article that keeps popping up on my social media urges readers to skip tourist-filled Barcelona in favor of lesser known destinations such as Valencia. (Unfortunately, flying into the former is significantly cheaper than flying into the latter.) Even the Subaru salesman who recently sold me my car tried to dissuade me from visiting the former Olympic city, claiming it wasn’t that impressive.
On the other hand, some blogs rave about Barcelona. Some people rave about Barcelona. Just the other night the husband’s former colleague spoke very highly of the city. When I tossed up some cons, this is what she batted back: “It’s no more overrun than any other major European city. Do you like Paris?” (Note: I love Paris.) “Well, then, it’s no more or less touristy, overrun, or obnoxious than that.”
To be honest, that no nonsense assessment (coupled with her reminder that mutual friends were about to voluntarily return to Barcelona for the third time) was the kick in the butt I needed to commit to the Catalonian capital.
But then what? What to do between Barcelona and our meet-up in the Pyrenees? At first I thought: Basque country!! However, if Annecy taught me anything, it’s to tread carefully around major holidays and famous celebrations. I Googled “the running of the bulls” and wouldn’t you know it… that event’s week-long festivities coincide exactly with the week we’ll be tooling around the northern Iberian peninsula. Ergo, I won’t go within 100 miles of Pamplona that week.
Time for Plan B.
When the husband and I were in Wales this summer, we spent an hour or so one afternoon walking out onto the sands of the Irish Sea during low tide. It reminded me how little time we’ve spent near the ocean. One long-ago road trip up the Oregon coastline is all we’ve ever done together (excepting Jamaican beach vacations). It made me yearn for an ocean-heavy sojourn – one laden with the sounds of seagulls and crashing waves, and the intermingled scents of seaweed, salt, and sand. At some point on that trip – maybe it was on that low-tide walk… I can’t remember – the husband offhandedly mentioned coastal Spain. I took the bait. Once we got back home, I started researching. Yeah, Costa Brava. That sounds good. I’ve just gotten back from the library – yes, even in the age of the Internet I still love my glossy, photo-filled DK Travel Guides – with several books on that area (including a guide to scenic drives in France that’s almost certainly going on my Christmas list). Even Barcelona looks amazing without all the noise and chatter of contradicting opinions.
Nothing’s booked yet. We haven’t even nailed down the exact dates. Things may yet change. But at this point, I think I’ve stumbled upon a plan to sooth my inner Travel Architect beast: Barcelona – Costa Brava – Carcassonne – Pyrenees – maybe back through Andorra. And home in time to binge on the Summer Olympics and all the gymnastics I can get.
Yeah, it’s going to be good.