Subject: Barcelona, environs
To the south of Barcelona, there are some very impressive Roman ruins in Tarragona. However I didn't find any of the coastal towns along that drive very interesting. Likewise with most of the lauded resorts to the north of Barcelona-- Lloret, Tossa, Aiguablava, and Cadaqués. Of all of them, the last has retained most of it's quaint fishing village character, but I still wasn't impressed enough to spend more than an hour there. The Cadaqués cove is very pretty, but the town with its odd mix of galleries, tourist restaurants, and gift shops seemed to be trying just a little too hard, with not enough talent. Salvador Dalí summered (and painted) here regularly, and perhaps it is that the town tries to establish its tourist appeal on this credential. I must admit that I wasn't there in the summer, and my view of the place was probably somewhat jaded by a cold wind, a dark sky, and a lot of closed doors.

On the other hand, I very much enjoyed a drive through some inland cities to the west and north of Barcelona. One day we made it for lunch up to the mountaintop monastery and shrine of Montserrat. The site and it's history are quite interesting. A little farther along is a wonderful Parador-- a refurbished castle-- near the town of Cardona. The restaurant was quite good, for dinner. More towards the coast, the town of Girona is fascinating to explore on foot, especially the old Jewish quarter. I have heard the same of another, smaller village called Besalú, but never made it there. Closer to Cadaqués is the town of Figueres, the birthplace of Dalí, and now home to a museum of his work.

All in all, I wish that we had spent more time exploring all the different areas of Barcelona, instead of making those coastal drives.

Joel