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.

Nothing to do with Barcelona, but isn’t my new car a beaut?! 😉  So good to be back in a ‘Ru.

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.

41 thoughts

  1. That sounds like a great itinerary. I have yet to visit that area, so will love hearing more. I suspect you can plan to keep most of the tourists at bay with some further creative itinerary architecture around the places and times most congregate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes, I hope to do things like get a city pass that provides queue-jumping and things like that (though I haven’t looked into it yet). It’s too bad out teaching jobs pretty much force us to go there in summertime.


  2. I’m hoping to go to southern Spain and Portugal next summer but I’ve only been to the Spanish Canary Islands (off the coast of Africa). I have a friend that was just in Barcelona and she wasn’t impressed plus the crowds were horrible. She said if you get just a little ways away from the touristy sections it’s not as bad. Still, I always say every place is worth seeing once. If you hate it you don’t have to go back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh! More anti-Barcelona advice! I’m really going to research those lesser known areas. I hope the must-see things open at 5am, because that’s when I want to drag the husband to see them. We’ll have the places all to ourselves. 😉 My colleague just got back from Portugal (Lisbon and further south) and absolutely loved it. Sounds like a great trip!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I went on a similar trip as the one you’re planning – Barcelona along with a few days in Costa Brava and the Pyrenees. There were definitely some big crowds in Barcelona but it remains my favourite of the European cities I’ve visited! I also received some mixed feedback prior to my departure (including from one miserable person who predicted that I would be mugged while there) but it turned out to be an incredible trip. It would be a shame to travel all the way to Spain and skip one of its top cities. Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really helpful. Thank you. Never have I received so much contradictory information on a travel destination. If nothing else, I should go to see what all the fuss (both + and -) is about! Any must see or must miss places on Costa Brava or in Pyrenees you’d like to share with me? 😊


  4. I love the DK books too! I have collected 100’s over the years!! and love the car – I have a subie too – love it. I am probably one of the few who didn’t love Barcelona….but….I would be willing to try it again!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good question! I’m really not 100% sure. 🤔 I went about 15 years ago so I don’t remember too many crowds. Maybe it felt like just another big city with not a lot of charm. I did also feel I was going to get mugged at every turn! In fact, my sister did! The Gaudi stuff was cool, but it didn’t grab me like it does others. To be honest, I think I just like Asia better. 😬. However, I would love to do a road trip through Spain! How’s that for a schizo answer! Haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. There aren’t many places left in Europe that aren’t overrun by tourist crowds. And if you wish on seeing and exploring Barcelona than do it, because everyone’s experience is different. We are traveling to Venice in September and looking forward to the trip because there are many ways to avoid crowded places you just have to be creative. But it’s good to bring this particular subject up and create conversations with other travelers to shine a light on the matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome!!! Barcelona is, without a doubt, maddeningly overrun by tourists. However, it is also one of the most beautiful and most remarkable cities I have visited. Don’t let the crowding bother you (easier said than done, I know) and have a blast exploring this fantastic city!! 😀👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And of course, we’ll be there at the height of tourist season. 😦 I’m seeing if we can fly into Girona, but so far that’s not looking good. There does seem to be some cool stuff we’d miss if we skipped Barcelona altogether. Going to pod about it later today, in fact! Decisions, decisions… Thank God it’s a 40-day weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your plan of Barcelona – Costa Brava – Carcassonne – Pyrenees sounds great! There are a lot of tourists in Barcelona but I agree with the assessment of “It’s no more overrun than any other major European city”. I’ve been living in Barcelona for almost four years now and I love it. There’s plenty to see, do, taste… you just need to know where to go! I write lots of tips about making the most out of Barcelona on my blog http://www.acrossthewater.travel.blog that you might be interested in!

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  8. I’m afraid I’m another one for the anti-Barcelona brigade – but it really is a personal opinion! It was more that I just didn’t click with the city, but that said it was also really beautiful. I found it quite spread out, it’s not like a lot of European cities that you can just walk around and I didn’t really feel much of the atmosphere that I was expecting. Anyway, I said once that I loved Rome and didn’t like Barcelona, and almost everybody disagreed with me! So it really is down to each person – which means you should definitely visit to make up your own mind! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Barcelona!!!! you do realize I live in the province of Barcelona right? its like 50km from the city. So, when you do set dates let me know know. And if by any chance you can plan your trip for late August it would be great!!
    p.s. I know I’ve been missing from the blogsphere but busy traveling. You know, that thing we both love. The few moments I do spend online are all planing the current trip. i.e what to do tomorrow? how much are the tickets? etc.
    p.p.s Love how your blog is looking now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I knew you lived somewhere in that neck of the woods, now that you mention it. Alas, the dates are set and we will be back in the US before August even starts.
      I figured you were traveling. I thought you were going back to China for some reason. I hope you drop all your eager readers a blog post or two soon. We want to know what you’re up to! Thanks for the compliment on my blog. The upgrade was much easier than I though it would be, technology-wise.


      1. 😔 guess this is what people call bad timing. But thats ok. I’ll just wait for your next trip to europe!

        As for blog posts… many in my head… none on paper. But next month I’m planning on “settling down” for a while so perhaps I’ll find the time to do it.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Barcelona seems to be such a love it or hate it kind of city…I personally love it and have been multiple times this year! It’s much more swamped with tourists than when I visited a few years ago, but it’s generally just the tourist hotspots that are really busy. If you explore the quaint side streets instead of always sticking to La Rambla then you’ll hopefully not be too bothered by it. The nearby towns of Girona and Tarragona are much quieter & both with plenty to see if you need to escape the hustle and bustle of Barcelona 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this. I’ve never encountered such a divisive city while travel planning! We’re spending three days there, and then we’re off to the Costa Brava. We’re parking ourselves in one of the small towns on the coast and will do day trips from there, including one to Girona, I’m sure. (Big triathlon presence there, I’m told, and that really interests the husband. He may even rent a bike to ride in that area…) I’ll check out Tarragona. I love French tarragon, so I’m sure I’ll love Tarragona. Ha ha!

      Liked by 1 person

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