venga, bicho: discovering cataluña’s charms

Spain in photos, Angie’s version (Steve’s take here):

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Spain rocked. Who can complain about hanging with fun people, camping in peaceful places, speaking castellano, eating jamon serrano, drinking vino, and oh yeah, climbing! We only scratched the surface, but the climbing possibilities feel endless.

(Above photo: Sunset over Siruana. That’s a refujio and restaurant perched on the edge!)

Cataluña was surprisingly unpopulated, with nearly-empty ancient towns and a countryside full of of almond and olive trees. We were awed by the authenticity of crumbling centuries-old buildings, beautiful churches with hand-laid stonework, and even forts and castles!

Bees buzzing around the flowering tree in Rodellar’s churchyard

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View from the ancient Moorish fort in Siruana

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Looking over the town of Rodellar

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Knock, knock

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Cars actually fit through that entry-way!

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Spring came into bloom, from first buds of the almond trees…

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…to sampling their fruits…

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…to finding poppies dotting every windy road…

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…to seeing roses bloom in the vineyard-trail towns

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My friend Amanda joined us in Barcelona for a week, where we enjoyed some urban wonders in the city of sun, beaches, famous artists, and yummy food and drinks. One tip: if you stay in the Gracia neighborhood, you’ll avoid the maddening crowds in the more touristy parts like El Gotic.

Gaudi’s Park Guell was one of my favorite spots. Gaudi was one seriously creative guy

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Amanda soaking in the view of Barcelona

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Afternoon light on the tile work in the Park Guell

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Playing in light-and-shadows

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Hypnotic hang drum musicians (to hear what it sounds like, check out this artist’s site)

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Drinking mini-cava from straws in the streets

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Colorful street art in El Gotic

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Um, we a lot of gelato (check out the flavors: olive and Gorgonzola!)

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Day hiking to the mirador in Montserrat

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Amanda takes in Montserrat’s conglomerate formations (and makes my backpack look massive!)

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We took the train to the beach town of Sitges to soak in some rays en la playa

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Outside of Amanda’s Barcelona visit, a long-weekend with friends in Madrid, and one exciting experience in a Lleida dentist office, we stuck to simple life in the Cataluña countryside. We spent the majority of our time in Siruana but also climbed in Margalef, Rodellar, Oliana, and Montsant.

One of the charming cabañas at Refujio Kalandraka in Rodellar

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And this is the view from the refujio: the valley and river of Rodellar. In-cre-ible!

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Peaceful damn near our (gratis!) campsite in Margalef

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We had some chilly days and nights in Siruana, including a hail storm one afternoon!

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We were lucky enough to take part in several fun Spanish dinner parties, and this one featured the carving of a leg of jamon serrano. Mmmm. (P.S. Spain is not for vegetarians!)

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And… here’s where I say something about the climbing. Specifically, my own. I’ve always loved the climbing scene, but the climbing itself has proven more difficult to love! I’m scared of falling. I forget my beta. I wasn’t improving.

I came close to quitting on a few occasions, yet for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to actually give it up. I guess I wanted in on the fun everyone else seemed to be having. But I also kept thinking, maybe I’m just not cut out for this. It just doesn’t come easily to me.

I had started to realize, however, that ‘climbing’ and ‘easy’ are not necessarily words that go hand-in-hand.

So in Spain, I stopped wondering if I should climb. Instead, I just put in a little more effort. I looked for lines to project. I took more falls. I climbed on days I didn’t feel like it. And then, I felt actual progress. Quickly, that feeling of achievement started to feel addicting. Climbing–the part on the wall, not just the hanging out part–had become fun! And the challenge was part of why it was fun. Sounds simple, but I sure had been making it difficult.

I owe a big thank you to this guy for his endless patience. It’s challenging to teach your significant other how to climb, especially when she’s me! I seriously might hold the record for slowest-person-to-take-to-climbing EVER.

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Sign of crossing over to the dark side: using headlamp for non-camping purposes, such as augmenting a low-light situation for a mani-pedi. (Or maybe this is just a sign of someone who has camped too much?)

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And just like that, our two-plus months in Spain were up. I left feeling like I was just getting started! I for one am very much looking forward to España, parte dos (y tres y cuatro y…)

Mil gracias to everyone who hosted and helped us out. Espero que nos vemos pronto!

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3 Responses to venga, bicho: discovering cataluña’s charms

  1. OMG. THE. BUG. HAS. FINALLY. BITTEN!!!

  2. John, I’m laughing that you were so quick to comment on this post (and impressed you actually read to the end!) But yes, who would have thought? Certainly not me!

  3. Donna Hammond says:

    It’s so hard for me to believe the little girl I heard squealing at the sight of a toad is now a camper
    and climber. I love camping but not high places. I think your achievements are fantastic.
    All my love, Aunt Donna

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