Category Archives: Travelling

Getaways: Girona & Figueres (Part 2)

 

Part 1: Attractions in Figueres

Last time, I talked about Teatre-Museu Dalí and Castell de Sant Ferran in Figueres. You can easily spend one whole day there and “tomar algo” in the sun. After that, why not ride the Rodalies de Catalunya line R11 back to Girona in the evening and stay at a hostel there for a night?

Here is a quick recap of the suggested itinerary:

  • Day 1: FIGUERES
    • (Morning) Barcelona – Figueres
    • (Day) Figueres
    • (Night) Figueres – Girona
  • Day 2: GIRONA
    • (Day) Girona
    • (Night) Girona – Barcelona

Attractions in Girona

  1. Catedral de Santa Maria de Girona (Girona Cathedral)

Girona Cathedral is the one of the iconic buildings in town. Sitting high up on the hill of the old town on the east side of River Onyar, it displays the widest and the most spacious Gothic nave in the world. One may feel the breeze there in the nave even when it’s forty-something degrees Celsius in the street! When you are there, don’t forget to get an audio guide (for free) at the entrance, so that you may have a more thorough understanding about how it has transformed over time.

The blueprint of the current building can be traced back in the 11th century, where the construction project started off in Romanesque style. As the project proceeded, Gothic style was employed instead in the 13th century. If you look at the main façade of the Cathedral from outside, you may notice that it is built in Baroque style (in the 17th century). In terms of the various architectural style, Girona Cathedral definitely aced it :-)

PS – An entrance ticket to the Cathedral grants you free access to Basílica de Sant Feliu (Collegiate Church of St. Felix) as well. It’s another spot for learning more about architectural styles. Moreover, Sant Pere de Galligants is just a minute away from the Cathedral. You may wonder why the premise was built with a defensive shape. Well (spoiler alert!) – it’s all about its historical location and that of the city wall ;-)

  1. Les muralles (Roman walls)

The old fortifications played an essential role over hundred of years’ time, protecting the town from invasion. At the end of 19th century, the walls were demolished for the sake of urban development. Take a pleasant walk along Passeig de la Muralla/Passeig Arqueològic (Archaeological passage; Roman walls remains) and enjoy the spectacular panorama views at Força Vella (Old fortress)!

  1. Barri Vell (Jewish Quarter)

Girona’s Jewish Quarter is absolutely gorgeous – high stonewalls, narrow pebble-stone passages, and small, narrow windows… You’ll find yourself walking back in time. To learn more about Girona’s rich Jewish history, go to Museu d’Història dels Jueus (Museum of Jewish History).

  1. Riu Onyar (River Onyar)

Take a stroll around the river area and enjoy the magnificent view of Onyar decorated with colourful houses. The best spots for taking photos are on the different bridges (built in various styles). Moreover, you may see lots of snacks shops selling crêpes topped with Nutella in those streets nearby. It’s nibbles time ;-)

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Colourful buildings along River Onyar (with the Catheral and Sant Feliu at the back)

Hmm… :-/

Banys Àrabs (Arab Baths)

This museum is located in the old town. You can easily reach there especially when you are on the way from the Cathedral to one of the Roman wall walks. Though the baths are very well preserved, it was a wee bit disappointing to see the excess number of luminaires, metal boards, and pins that ruined the entire atmosphere of ancientness. Anyway, entrance was very cheap so if you are a big fan of ancient baths or if you have never seen any of them before, this place is still worth visiting.

Useful links

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Getaways: Girona & Figueres (Part 1)

Part 2: Attractions in Girona

Happy New Year! I trust you all had a relaxing holiday with lots of good food :) Still in holiday mood? Let’s go for a weekend getaway in these two culturally rich gems in Catalonia, shall we?

Itinerary:

  • Day 1: FIGUERES
    • (Morning) Barcelona – Figueres
    • (Day) Figueres
    • (Night) Figueres – Girona
  • Day 2: GIRONA
    • (Day) Girona
    • (Night) Girona – Barcelona

Girona is located 99km (62 miles) northeast of Barcelona while Figueres is located 40km (25 miles) north of Girona. They are both within the Province of Girona (one of the four Catalan provinces).

When I went to Figueres from Barcelona, I rode line R11 of the Rodalies de Catalunya, which terminates at Portbou/Cerbère. Same route for Figueres-Girona and Girona-Barcelona so you don’t need to worry about transportation at all :)

termo-R11

Attractions in Figueres

  1. Teatre-Museu Dalí (Dalí Theatre and Museum)

Salvador Dalí from Figueres was the most prominent Catalan representative of surrealism. He was a talented painter, sculptor, director, writer, scenographer (,and more), whose work is absolutely mind-blowing and is still influential to art creation nowadays. This Dalí Theatre and Museum holds the largest and some of the most important collection of his works among all other Dalí museums in Europe and in the States.

The facade of the museum is already an attraction itself: an enormous crimson wall decorated with golden bread, huge white eggs standing on the roof parapet, gold Dionysian figurines posing freely on the roof, and frontiers of cypress being the guardian of the museum. How impressive!

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Exterior of the museum

As he once saidQuiero que las personas que visiten este museo tengan la sensación de que están viviendo un sueño (I want visitors to leave with the sensation of living a dream)”. The museum is just like a labyrinth, leading you to the heart of the museum – the theatre.

After passing through the entrance, which is opposite Església parroquial de Sant Pere (St. Peter’s Church; somewhere around Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí), you will first be led to the courtyard, where Cadillac plujós and la barca de Gala are installed. From there, you can see the signature glass geodesic dome above the stage of the old town’s theatre, which is the heart of the museum where Dalí is buried underneath.

Dalí created some stunning exhibited works tailored for the museum, for example, la sala Mae West and la sala Palau del Vent. A selection of his most renowned works is also kept inside this gigantic art palace.

There are lot more for you to explore at the museum. Tickets sold probably include entrance of Dalí·Joies (Dalí·Jewels) next door. Have a brilliant time appreciating the glamorous pieces of collection, and don’t forget to take some photos (without flash)!

  1. Castell de Sant Ferran (St. Ferdinand Castle)

The gigantic fortress was built with stone and brick in the 18th century (1753), which is now the biggest monument in Catalonia. In Spanish, it was named after King Fernando VI as the first stone was placed during his reign (1746-1759). The castle was constructed because of the loss of Castell de Bellaguarda on a territory passed to France due to Tractat dels Pirineus (Treaty of the Pyrenees; King Felipe IV, 1621-1665). During the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco took over the castle.

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On my way to the castle

Castell de Sant Ferran is renowned for its size and its engineering back then. 32 hectares of land within the exterior perimeter of 3,125 metres is bounded by walls of 2,100 metres, with eight main water tanks built under the main courtyard, which can hold up to 9 million litres of water in total. Guided tours for visitors older than 10 years old are available upon reservation.

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A close-up

Visit to the castle is free of charge and without reservation for individual travellers. Situated at the end of Pujada del Castell, where Teatre-Museu Dalí is right around the corner on the other end, the castle is easily assessable. It was a December when I visited there so it was very windy yet the weather was gorgeous. From the top of the hill, you may enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of the east end of the Pyrenees mountain range.

  1. Other museums/shops

There are other smaller museums in the town, such as Museu del Joguet de Catalunya (Toy Museum of Catalonia) and Museu Empordà (an archaeology museum). You may eve visit Església parroquial de Sant Pere (St. Peter’s Church), which is opposite the entrance of Teatre-Museu Dalí. Shops of all kinds can be found easily in streets around Plaça Ajuntament (the main square). Immerse in tranquility of the town and people-watch when you fancy sitting in the sun at a café terrace.

Useful links

*Words in italic are in Catalan (except: Fernando VI and Felipe IV (Spanish))

photo: “Labyrinth” in sunlight at the stage area of the museum (Dalí’s creation for Léonide Massine’s ballet as backdrop in 1941; Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, New York; 8.8x13m; more info regarding conservation and maintenance work for this masterpiece can be viewed here)

El Raval & The Esco Foundation

El Raval is a central area located in Ciutat Vella, Barcelona. It’s one of the two historical neighbourhoods – Gothic Neighbourhood and Raval Neighbourhood. The Rambla separates the two zones. El Raval is knowns as China Town as there are lots of Chinese working and living here. It was famous for its nightlife and the live performances at nightclubs. That is why the problems of prostitution and crimes were pretty serious back then. However, Catalans have transformed this area into an international neighbourhood. There are lots of immigrants from different continents, for example, from South America, Africa, Pakistan, etc. Nowadays, there are many kebabs restaurant (Yum! :-P) and gadgets shops. If you want to buy some cheap electronic appliances, El Raval offers you a fair bargain.

The Salvador Seguí Square (Catalan: Plaça de Salvador Seguí) is in El Raval. There are quite often parties with great music and you may join in and dance together with all of them there. On 25 October 2014 (Saturday), there was a mini party organised by the Esco Foundation (Catalan: Fundació Escó). There were lots of kids and their parents dancing and having fun. The Esco Foundation is an organisation that offers community help to families with disadvantaged children in El Raval. It was founded in 1984 and in 1991, it was established as a foundation. One of their missions is to raise the awareness in the society regarding the reality of El Raval, and the difficulties that many families there are facing everyday. Here are some videos of the mini party :)

A Greek experience

Welcome to the renovated blog! It’s been a long time… How have you all been doing? I’ve done a lot during these six months- studying (a lot), hiking, swimming, drinking (:-P), and… Travelling!!! I’m going to introduce you a gorgeous place… Here we go, Lefkada!!!

Lefkada is an island situated in Western Greece. You need to take a bus from Athens. Or, if you prefer, you could fly to Corfu and then go south. Lefkada is very well-known for its big white cliffs. What’s more? There are numerous beaches with crystal-clear water (it’s a bit of a cliché, yet it is indeed crystal-clear). I swam almost everyday when I was there, and I sunbathed a bit as well every time after swimming… Fantastic! Port Katsiki, for example, is a spot where you have to enjoy yourself- in the water, on the beach, and at the cafe. Despite the fact that it is always packed with tourists, you can still enjoy the incredible landscape there, which is what we all are looking for, right?

Apart from the beautiful beaches and the exciting water sports, you may go hiking as well. Mountain Stavrota situated in the middle of the island. It is 3,799 feet above sea level and it’s the tallest mountain in Lefkada. If this is not your cup of tea, try other places. I’m pretty sure that there must be a favourite spot of yours…  After all, Lefkada is a fairly mountainous island.

After you have stayed there for a while, you may discover that Lefkada shares a lot of similarities with the Alpujarra region- the mountains, the sea, the olive trees, and the sunset… You name it! However, there are still something different between the two lovely places… If you want to know more- go to Lefkada and have a wee adventure there!!!

Foto | Photo: Porto Katsiki | Port Katsiki

New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year my friends!!!

How’re you all doing? I’m sure you’ve had a fantastic first day of 2014 and perhaps you’re still enjoying the last day of your holiday. What a shock that my brother had to go to school today and he’ll sit for his exams tomorrow! (Luckily, my second semester will only commence until next week… :p)

I’m curious to know the different ways to celebrate New Year around the world (: In Hong Kong, almost every New Year’s Eve, we’ll gather along Victoria Harbour or go up to Victoria Peak to see the fireworks after having dinner with our families (at home or in a restaurant). After that, we’ll go to bars and have fun or go right back home.

In Spain, Spanish also have dinner with their families before going out. However, there’re two traditions that are very interesting about New Year’s Eve. They’ll wear new, red underwear because it will bring them good luck. This is the same when it comes to Lunar New Year, Chinese also put up such underwear for luck.

Besides, there’s a Spanish tradition called The Twelve Grapes. People will eat them one by one with each ring of the bell at midnight. This tradition started in The Gate of the Sun in Madrid (right image) where we can see the government clock tower of the Casa de Correos. Usually, these people will go for parties afterwards till the next morning. That’s why it’s a norm that they’ll have breakfast of hot chocolate and fried pastry (left image) together.

Photo: Victoria Harbour (1 Jan 2014)

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The Mountains

I love the end of autumn, simply because the weather is always lovely. And since my university is very close to the mountains in Northeastern Hong Kong, my best mate and I always went hiking almost every weekend.

Actually, mountains in Hong Kong are pretty well-known in Asia. A lot of Japanese tourists enjoy hiking here because the landscape a long hiking trails is just swell, for example, MacLehose and Wilson trails (they are named after the last names of the two governors during the British colonial era).

Here are some photos I’ve taken. Enjoy!

Shum Chung – overlooking Ma On Shan
Pat Sin Leng – overlooking Shenzhen, China
Pat Sin Leng – the view of the ridge
Tai Po Kau – overlooking Ma On Shan and my university

An afternoon ‘night out’

As always, Spain is famous for its siesta, late dinners, and music and dance till dawn. However, you may have heard about a new word recently – el tardeo (an afternoon ‘night out’).

It’s a word with ‘tarde’ (afternoon) and ‘tapeo’ (to go for tapas) combined. It means to go for tapas in the afternoon. Normally, Spaniards go to the bar at night since it’s just too hot in the afternoon and they need a siesta :p Also, it’s better to eat a little at the bar if they’re not too hungry. Interestingly, the people in some places, for example, Alicante, go to bed very early nowadays. What’s more, the bars in these places are very busy in early hours, instead of four in the morning, like in other cities (e.g. Barcelona and Cordova).

Do you like such a new habit? Here is a link to the video of the Alicante Tourism Board about el tardeo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anG-uZBttxA

Photo: Catalonia Square

The Pigeons

This place is the Catalonia Square in Barcelona. It’s located between the Passeig de Gràcia and La Rambla, and it’s one of the largest squares in Spain (for example, the Spanish Square of Barcelona, Madrid and Seville).

During my stay in Barcelona, I went there sitting every evening and I loved watching the world go by. There were a lot of people, especially some kids and their parents. They like running after the pigeons and their parents would take a video to capture this happy moment. There were a lot of laughters, how adorable and pleasant…

The Holy Family

The Holy Family (La Sagrada Familia) is one of my favourite places in Barcelona. It’s a Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudí. I’m not religious but I stayed there for four hours and I enjoyed myself a lot… Why? Haha, simply because I love the modern design and the differences of architecture in this single church. Besides, it’s incredible that I could go up to one of the towers! I think the view there is very pleasant – of the city, of Mediterranean Sea, and of a bird-eye view of the Holy Family. I believe these towers are the ones you can’t miss. :)