Where I Went in 2011, And Why You Should Go In 2012!

By Regina Winkle-Bryan

My oh my, it was a busy year…..

I saw Christine’s post on where she went in 2011 and decided to do something similar. This time of year most of us want to reflect on the year gone by, and doing so through photos is a good way for a ‘visual learner’ like myself to process 2011. So much of my life is connected to travel that it makes sense to do a little roundup of where I’ve been in 2011 and the adventures I had in those places while giving some scoop on why you might want to plan a trip to these destinations, or skip them!

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2010:

New Year's 2010, welcoming 2011

New Year's 2010, welcoming 2011

Let’s start at the beginning. Just back from the USA I spent New Year’s 2010 with my sweetie A and a couple friends at home. Of course we ate the mandatory 12 lucky grapes!

JANUARY 2011:

Copenhagen for work in January 2011

Copenhagen for work in January 2011

As Barcelona got ready for Kings’ Day, I flew to Copenhagen, Denmark, for work. It was my second trip to this cool Scandinavian city, and I’d love to return someday in the summer!

FEBRUARY 2011:

For some reason I did a lot of traveling in February 2011 around Catalonia…

GIRONA

Feb 2011: a trip north to Girona, the city

Girona is one of my favorite places to recommend as a day-trip from Barcelona. The other one is Tarragona.

Wine Tasting in February in Northern Catalonia - Espelt Bodegas!

Espelt Bodegas

Emporda, in northern Catalonia, has some excellent and innovative wines to offer. Those who are bored with the traditional, albeit yummy, riojas should head on up to Espelt Vineyards. I went wine tasting around the area in early February 2011.

Feb 2011 - Cadaques, Spain

Feb 2011 - Cadaques, Spain

Popped over to the all white and cobalt Cadaques, one of the Costa Brava’s prettiest villages. Love that place!Scoopometer 8!

Feb 2011 - Sunny Winter Day in Cardona

Feb 2011 - Sunny Winter Day in Cardona

Drove for almost 2 hours north of Barcelona into an area of Catalonia I’d never been to before and spent the night in Cardona. This hill village is known for its castle, views, and salt mine.

Feb 2011 - Platja de Santa Cristina, Lloret de Mar

Feb 2011 - Platja de Santa Cristina, Lloret de Mar

Lloret de Mar is a hideous beach town catering to little more than cheapo tourists. I don’t recommend staying in Lloret. I do recommend staying just outside of Lloret at Hotel Santa Marta on Santa Cristina beach. I was there for a night, and while it was far too cold to swim it was perfect weather for enjoying the hotel’s spa! This is an amazing spot with an almost private beach. Scoopometer 10.

MARCH 2011:

March 2011 - Stockholm, Sweden

March 2011 - Stockholm, Sweden

March was a less eventful travel month, but I did end up going to snowy Stockholm, Sweden for work! One of my great grandmothers was Swedish, and I thought I might feel some ancestral pull there. Not so much. But I did appreciate what a gorgeous city it is and their love of pickles and carrot cake.

APRIL 2011:

April 2011 - Collioure, France

April 2011 - Collioure, France

With spring coming on I went to Collioure, an easy drive north from Barcelona. Collioure, France, is a perfect little seaside village surrounded by grapevines. French wine, food and cobblestone pathways along the Mediterranean; what more do you need!?

April 2011 - Hotel Torre Laurentii

April 2011 - Hotel Torre Laurentii

On the same jaunt I visited Sant Llorenç de la Muga near the border of France on the foothills of the Pyrenees. This is a one-horse village with not much going on, other than a bubbly river running through it, a snug plaza and Hotel Torre Laurentii. For those who want to see the Catalan countryside and stay in an excellent B&B, this is the place to go. Another Scoopometer 10!

April 2011 - Bordeaux, France

April 2011 - Bordeaux, France

With the weather getting hotter in southern Europe, I went with Nancy Todd to Bordeaux, France. I spent most of my time there drinking wine and window shopping. If I did Bordeaux again, I’d do it with a car to be able to visit vineyards outside the city.

May 2011:

By the time May rolls around in Mediterranean Spain, it’s hot enough to go swimming! May is one of the best months to visit southern Europe because of the pleasant weather.

May 2011 - Tarragona, Spain

May 2011 - Tarragona, Spain

Remember how I stated that Girona is one of my favorite day-trip destinations? The other is Tarragona. Not only do I recommend going there to visitors, but I like make it there at least once a year! There are many wonderful beaches around Tarragona if you have a car, and the city proper is easily reached by train. The beach in front of Tarragona city is also ‘da bomb’.

JUNE 2011:

June 2011 - Islas Cies

June 2011 - Islas Cies

The Islas Cies may win the prize for All-Time-Favorite-Destination-of-2011. I went with A and had a fantastic time doing almost nothing at all. Powdery white sand beaches and peacefulness make these islands special. Stay clear of them in August when they are overrun with tourists.

JULY 2011:

July 2011 - St Carles

July 2011 - St Carles

A July highlight was a group trip to the southern Tarragona province to St Carles! We put some shrimp on the BBQ, went swimming, played scrabble and had an all around great time. Ahhhhhhh, summer.

July 2011 - Penedes, Spain

July 2011 - Penedes, Spain

Nancy and I took a trip with El Moli tours to wine and cava country, Penedès. This area gets a Scoopometer 9 from me, because it’s close to Barcelona, easy to get to by train, and full of excellent vineyards. Great day-trip. Of course we also recommend El Moli Tours, which is the easiest way to see this area.

AUGUST 2011:

As many of you know, August is the best or worst month to be in Spain, depending on what you’re after. For locals it’s nice to be in Barcelona because everyone leaves town! It’s easy to park, the city is quieter, and long, humid August days can spent at the beach. However, there’s not much going on in town in August as far as nightlife and events. Like most locals, I left town in August 2011 and spent all of August and September in the United States, mostly in Portland, Oregon, where I’m from.

August 2011 - Farmers Markets in Portland, Oregon

August 2011 - Farmers Markets in Portland, Oregon

One of the things I derive most pleasure from when home in Oregon is the summertime Farmers Markets! Living in Spain, sometimes I forget what a real blueberry looks like.

August 2011 - Lots of BBQs and Partys, Fresh NW Berries!

August 2011 - Lots of BBQs and Partys, Fresh NW Berries!

And then there’s all the garden parties, barbecues and catching up to do! The NW is heavenly in the summer and early fall…winter, not so much.

Because I was in the States for such a long time (2 months!) I got to travel quite a bit while there for work and pleaseure. Here are the highlights:

Wine Tasting in Dundee, Oregon

Wine Tasting in Dundee, Oregon

Silver Falls Park, Oregon

Silver Falls Park, Oregon

Backpacking in Wallowa, Oregon

Backpacking in Wallowa, Oregon

Wedding with The Costa Rica Connection in Pennsylvania, USA

Wedding with 'The Costa Rica Connection' in Pennsylvania, USA

Trip to Mt Hood, Oregon, with friends

Trip to Mt Hood, Oregon, with friends

Day-Trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon

Day-Trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Vancouver BC, Canada

Vancouver BC, Canada

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California

This was one of the best summers I can remember in a long time!

OCTOBER 2011:

October 2011- Berlin, Germany

October 2011- Berlin, Germany

As it started to rain in Oregon, I got on a plane and flew back ‘home’ to Barcelona only to get right back on a plane and head to Berlin, Germany, for work and a mini vacation with my main-squeeze A.

October 2011- Amsterdam, Netherlands

October 2011- Amsterdam, Netherlands

From Berlin we flew to Amsterdam. It was a first for both of us and we had blast. We wanted to see Amsterdam before they close down all the coffee shops to tourists.

NOVEMBER 2011:

Nov 2011 - Sant Feliu Sasserra, Spain

Nov 2011 - Sant Feliu Sasserra, Spain

After a wild Halloween at Barcelona’a Anti-Karaoke (Scoopometer 10), I got up early on the Day of the Dead, Nov 1st, to go to Sant Feliu Sasserra for their annual witch festival.Those interested in Catalan history will want to save the date for this interesting event. The Sant Feliu Sasserra witch museum can be visited year-round, but is in Catalan.

Nov 2011 - Girona, Spain

Nov 2011 - Girona, Spain

Nov 2011 - Mushroom Festival in Girona, Spain

Nov 2011 - Mushroom Festival in Girona, Spain

Looking for fall color and autumn’s wild mushroom harvest, A and I went to Girona and poked around Pals, Bisbal, and Peratallada. Pals was the winner for village charm, and while Peratallada is beautiful, it seemed touristy. Bisbal is the spot for Catalan ceramics.

DECEMBER 2011:

December 2011 - Solsona, Spain

December 2011 - Solsona, Spain

Right before the intense feasting and partying of the holiday season consumed us, we took off to Solsona, a sweet village just past Cordona heading north towards Andorra. We stayed at Hotel Sant Roc, which is a Scoopometer 8 and has a spa to warm up skiers from December to March when there’s snow on the mountains.

La Seu d'Urgell, Catalonia 2011

La Seu d'Urgell, Catalonia 2011

Calvinya, Catalonia

Calvinya, Catalonia

Andorra is famous for its skiing

Andorra is famous for its skiing

I finished off 2011 with a New Year’s weekend spent in La Seu d’Urgell, Calvinya and Andorra. I’d never been to Andorra, a small country on the French / Spanish border, so that was interesting. You can still smoke in most restaurants and bars there. Remember when that was also the case in Spain? Gross (and I say that as a former smoker, of course).

Looking back, no wonder I’m exhausted!? Mr. A always says, ‘Nunca paras,’ referring to my constant coming and going, but I brush him off. However, doing this little reflection exercise I realize he may have a point and that it makes sense that I am tired and that I don’t have a whole lot in the way of savings.

So this is the moment where I make some resolutions or something…? No, I don’t think so. But I will share a bit of my bucket list for this 2012:

Canary Islands…as many of them as I can get to.
Cordoba. I’ve never been!
Austurias. This is an area of Spain I know very little about. Same goes for Cantabria.
Alicante/Murcia are on the list, and I’ll for sure be there in spring for a wedding!
I have to visit Cabo de Gata. Have to.
I’d love to do The Running of the Bulls, which I’ve not got around to in the last 6 years. Same goes for Carnival in Sitges (a sin, I KNOW).
Semana Santa in Toledo would be amazing, as I think seeing it in Seville would be too much for me to handle.

If I start with these destinations for now, I should have a pretty busy 2012. Let’s not forget that I must go to France at least once and to the USA, Oregon. Why didn’t I win the lotto? That would have made all this easier!

What Spanish destinations are on your bucket list?

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4 Comments

  1. Posted January 11, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Really nice idea for a post and it reminded me that although Girona is only up the road i have never just popped up for a visit. Passed through of course on the way to the airport!
    If you’d like to share links to our sites I am very happy to do that. In fact will sort it out now. K x

  2. Posted January 11, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Now I’ve just read the second part – thanks for the recommendations. Here are a couple of mine!
    Near me there are various places to go to balneari – natural hot mineral spas. I’ve tried one in Caldes de Montbui http://www.grupbroquetas.com/home.aspx
    and one in La Garrega http://www.balnearioblancafort.com/balneario-blancafort.php
    and they were both wonderful. France – I love the cave paintings in the Lot and Dordogne many of which you can still visit. also there is a thermal spa in St Thomas de Bains near the pyranees.
    All the best with your travels in 2012 – it’s good to experience lots of different places so long as you also rest and digest in between. I think! K x

  3. admin
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Those are great spas. Any reason you chose those?

  4. Kirsten Carpentier
    Posted January 12, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    Great post with wonderful visuals for those of us who are currently arm-chair travelers!

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