View of Pyrénées from our room, Ainsa, Spain



Grapes in Rioja Food! (2) Toro, Haro Parc Prado, Madrid
Batella del vino, Haro

We started our trip in touristy Barcelona (see map).  I’ve heard so many things about this city over the years that I was very curious to discover it myself.  Although it was only mid-June, I have to say that it was too touristy for me...  Streets completely crowded by thousands of tourists, beaches overflowing with people and queues to visit every site of attraction (Picasso museum, Sagrada familia, etc.).  Nevertheless, we spent 5 days in this gorgeous city in a centrally located apartment and slowly recovered from our jet-lag.

We spent a night in Llafranc on Costa Brava and this was spectacular.  The beach there was very nice and water just as clear as any perfect Caribbean beaches.  By looking a the few retired people in town, I could tell we were in a nice upscale little paradise (with too many yachts parked in the marina).

We drove to Andorra (see more pictures here) and there was a nice change of temperature: from hot beach temperature to chilly fresh air.  Although Andorra la Vella had nothing impressive (only shopping), we stayed in Ordino at the foot of the Pyrénées.  I ran the Ultra Andorra trail run.  This was a 35km run in the Pyrénées with over 5500m of denivelation.  It was a brutal race for my quadriceps (on the way down), but the clear views of the peaks were breathtaking.  I completed the run in 6h58, and ranked 195th over 600+ participants.  My legs were sore for over 7 days after this run!
We also drove to a 2500m bowl and enjoyed over 2m of snow on the ground.  
There were still some hardcore skiers hiking there way up to ski the last patches of snow.
Hiking in Parque de Ordesa (2)
Aquarium, San Sebastien Food! Segrada Familia, Barcelona Torla
San Sebastien We drove on crazy little windy roads to medieval Ainsa and then Torla (Spain) where we hiked into Parque de Ordesa.  The Valle Perdido (lost valley) is a 7km long valley with beautiful huge waterfalls and cristal-clear streams from snow melting from the peaks.  We slept overnight into the park at Refugio de Goriz located at 2200m and at the foot of Mt ...    This refuge is way too small for the 75+ people it can accommodate, but the views of the snow peaks from there were simply unbelievable.   We were very lucky during our two-day hike as the weather was perfect. The place must be very miserable (and wet and stinky) when it snows or rains.

We left the mountains and visited the Rioja valley and sampled some very good wines (for less than 10$).  We visited Marques de Caceres and we participated in the wine battle, a crazy wine festival where thousands of liters of wine is thrown (and drank!).   Alixe really liked the festival! See more pictures of the wine battle here.
Town of Ainsa Andorra Alixe eating brain DSC_0175
Inside Segrada Familia Wine battle! We then moved to charming San Sebastian, and although this place was also touristy, we stayed for three nights in GROS, a neighbourhood packed with local people enjoying life in parks, bars and restaurants in the evening.  We ate many pinchos every night (after some time at the beach during the day) and really enjoyed ourselves there.

We moved by train To Madrid and visited the best art museums and walked countless hours into the city (from the Palacio Real to the Park Del Buen Retiro).  We loved the batatas bravas and the churros con chocolate there...  I really enjoyed the Vermouth on tap at Casa Alberto
(a Madrid institution since 1927)
Hiking in Parque de Ordesa We spent a night in Toledo, but it was 39 degrees Celsius during the day and we are unsure if it was really worth the detour...  The city is packed with churches, monasteries, synagogues, mosques, and a fortress, but not much is happening there during the day (and everything is closed at 8pm, very unusual for Spain).

We finished our month long trip with 3 nights in Valencia and this was a very pleasant surprise. We didn't expect much from that city, but our apartment was fantastic, the neighbourhood was trendy and calm and the beach was perfect.  The city is also packed with historical sites (although it is more known for its modern architecture).  We would have stayed much longer in Valencia knowing how nice this city was.
Parc Guell, Barcelona Food! (3) We took the train back to crazy touristy Barcelona (now it was really touristy season) and left the next morning.

A month that went way too fast, but money wise, it was time to go home...  Spain is not the cheapest place on Earth, even during a Europeen economic crisis...

Visiting Rioja Visiting Toledo Madrid Our rented car!
Rioja wineries DSC_0213 San Sebastien beach Valencia

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