In Catalonia, northeast corner of Spain close to French border, lies a little village called Roses. This charming village with its colorful and narrow alleys and a long sandy beach makes it a popular holiday escape, especially to the French. Only a half an hour drive to the border and about 150 km south to the tempting city of Barcelona that provides guaranteed fun for everyone.
Besides capital Barcelona, Catalonia provides much more to see and do. Coast line Costa Brava offers adorable little bays, impressive coastal cliffs as well as long sandy beaches. And from the coast starts a long mountain line of thye Pyrenees too. In between are many vineyards, cattle fields, sunflower fields as well as tiny little villages and old castles. This region is neat in a way too that you can have breakfast in Spain, lunch in France and dine in Andorra – or which ever order you prefer! L
To us a nine day visit to the village of Roses in June 2017 was the last leg of our round-the-world journey. We had predicted a need for a smoother return to Europe after spending weeks in SE Asia. We knew we had some busy weeks ahead in Finland so felt the need to take a little time to think things over in a more familiar and very dear Spanish culture. We got decent flights to Barcelona, but wanted to stay by the sea in a smaller village (enough of big cities in SE Asia and had visited Barcelona before!). Roses was chosen as our base camp due to its long sandy beach as well as Airbnb offerings. It turned out to be just perfect for our needs. We rented a car from Barcelona airport, drove to Roses and took some daytrips from there to areas closeby.
Catalonian castles and battles
Fighting, wars and battles over power have been around in the region of Catalonia for thousands of years. Research indicates evidence of human habitat as far as from the stone age some 50 000 years ago in the area. Different tribes and people have been interested in it due to the location by the sea, the mountains and fertile grounds. History is very much present in the region. Old castles, fortresses, monasteries and stone country houses are everywhere. One of the main attractions in Roses is Ciutadella, the old city surrounded by tall brick walls.
The Catalan self governance has been around for some time and even a referendum on independence was held quite recently (2014). Though it was not binding nor acknowledged by Spain, the Catalans consider themselves rather separate. Catalan language and own flag can be seen in villages and signs widely, even though language was forbidden for quite long after the World wars. To us being foreign travellers Catalan is not that mich different from the rest of Spain, but still, even a beginner level Spanish speaker can spot differences in the languages and traditions.
Dali of Figueres
One of the most popular destinations for daytrips for those vacationing in Barcelona is a visit to Figueres about 100km north of Barcelona. The famous surrealist artist Salvador Dali was born here and turned the old city theatre into an art museum. You can really describe the popularity just by looking at the long ticket line curving thru the alleys by the museum entrance. Several languages are present, mostly English and Russian from what we heard.
The Dali Theatre Museum building is an attraction itself, not to mention the art pieces inside and the patio. Even if you did not like Dalias an artist or his work itself,this Museum is a funny journey to an absurd world. And Figueres isacharming town itself: especially those colorful alleys close by the museum are filled with boutiques and restaurants. Ramblas, the central park avenue is one of the most charming in this town too.
Andorra in the arms of the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees mountains stretch hundreds of kilometres from the Mediterranean sea Spanish and French border all the way to the Atlantic coast. High up in the mountains lies the tiny independent state of Andorra. It is a common daytrip destination, for example from Roses. Though you might want to reserve several hours only for one way trip due to the fact that curvy mountain roads just take time! Distance from Roses to Andorra is only about 200 km; however, serpentine roads are very slow to drive. We only had a couple of hours to explore capital Andorra La Vella since we didn’t hit the road that early in the morning.
But the views are magnificent! In height they did not obviously exceed the Andes which we had crossed just a few months earlier, but still we drove up to 2,6 kilometres above sea level. On the way to Andorra we crossed the border to France and visited a tiny cute village of Latour de Carol. There were no border control formalities on either border – at least we were not stopped once. Beautiful green hills everywhere and rocky mountains as far as you can see. For the movement sensitive you might want to reserve some plastic bags or enough stops since the curvy roads are literally like roller coasters. Even so, we got around to thinking how wonderful it would be to do some bicycling or hiking here in this scenery!
Beach, workouts and tapas
One of the main reasons for choosing Roses as a base was the beach. A few kilometres Long sandy beach with its covered boardwalk fulfilled our needs perfectly. We all enjoy taking long walks together and separately, Merja likes running too, so the beach boardwalk provided a perfect setting for morning workouts. Towards the end of our stay we could spot familiar faces excercising in the mornings. Some of the hotels organize morning yoga, volleyball and SUP on the beach. Though most of the elderly were on the beach settling to their beach chairs early in the morning…
Besides Playgrounds, restaurants, cafes, harbour area and outdoor gym equipment on the boardwalk, Roses is about colourful little alleys. Old town is filled with boutiques, little shops amd restaurants. To us one of the most important part of Spanish culture are tapas, those little (not so little though!) portions of delicious meals. Ordering several different kind you get a pretty coløurful and delicious table, people passing by drooling and your stomach full with the most delicious tasting meals. Spanish tapas really concluded our journey of tastings across the world!