Be careful – steep cliffs

Southwest of the Crozon Peninsula, Pointe de Pen-Hir is one of the most magnificent natural sites in the Brittany region with its cliffs 70 meters high that flow into the sea.  Part of the natural park d’Armorique, the site has a series of offshore rock stacks called Tas de Pois (Heaps of Peas), plenty of short walks and small beaches.

These sandstone walls, exposed to the adversity of the sea, are the ideal place for climbing enthusiasts. But the alpinists will have to be careful if they don’t want to be helped by the local emergency authorities.

Sliding around a Château

The Château des ducs de Bretagne could well be the inspiration for most fairy tales: a turreted and moated castle in the city centre of Nantes, with buildings dating from the 15th and 17th centuries. It was built by the last Duke of an independent Brittany, with the idea of serving a dual purpose: a military fortress to act as a defence against the King, and the principal living quarters of the ducal court.

The castle was used as the living quarters of the kings of France when they visited Brittany, later military barracks, an armory, a prison and nowadays a museum.

You can explore the courtyard and walk the walls for free looking out on the cathedral, the old town and where the Loire flows.

As part of that entry price is a random experience. Around the castle a 50 metres (164 ft.) steel slide wraps around the contours of the outer wall naturally complementing the hewn stones of the fortification wall. The slide is hanging above the Castle’s moat, and it never touches the castle but it does provide a different viewpoint. Giving all its visitors the unique opportunity for an adrenaline rush and a random experience.

A side trip that (after being convinced) was worth doing

A perfect day trip to escape the busy city of Barcelona or to walk along ancient walls, to lose oneself in a maze of narrow alleyways, stairs, small corners and courtyards or just to see Braavos, from the famous Game of Thrones, is Girona. Or as it was originally known to the romans, “Gerunda”. Northeast Catalunya and only about 100km from Barcelona sits this ancient medieval city which was built during the Roman period in the 1st century BC. The city once served as a meeting point for trade during the height of Jewish rule in medieval times which explains its Jewish importance and abundance. All around Girona, the famous wall or “Passeig de la Muralla” offers a great walk and way to see the city and surroundings.

After the walls take time to find the quiet streets and sample some of the local snacks and delicacies.

Octopus everywhere

Carballiño (literally meaning the little oak), a little town in Galicia has celebrated, since 1969, on the second Sunday of August, “La Festa do Pulpo”. This is a culinary party with an estimate of 80 to 100 thousand guests who consume around 50 thousand kilos of “pulpo a la gallega” during the event.

It is said that the festival started as the fishermen of the area were obliged to pay a tax in produce to the frays. Amongst their catch there was the octopus, plentiful in Pontevedra. With the quantities they were receiving, the frays had to commercialise it and the festival began.

The “polbeiras” or “pulperas” (women who cook the octopus) cook this animal in copper pots. The octopus has to be ‘scared’ and is introduced into boiling water for a few seconds and taken out again a few times. This technique helps the octopus keep its skin once boiled for longer amounts of time. After its boiled, the octopus is cut in slices and served with olive oil and cayenne pepper sprinkled in the top. Perfect to pair with a local brew or wine.

Almost a ghost town

Once a fruitful town that housed more than a thousand people, the Malta knights amongst them, now it struggles to reach one hundred. Pazos de Arenteiro is a town that almost disappeared near the rivers of Arenteiro and Avia. A disease struck the grapes of the region which declined the (fruitful) wine making business and took almost every vine to its death. But now, a passionate galician has the dream of restoring this little town to its former grandeur attracting tourists and locals to stay or give them a homemade meal as good as any high end restaurant in a big city.

This tiny village has plenty to offer: a XVI century church you can visit and tracks to stretch the legs. One of the walks will take you through an abandoned village, a medieval bridge and the vegetation of the area.

30 minutes from the centre of Barça

The Sitges county has around 17 beaches. All small but with their own character and personality. Platja del Garraf is only 380 meters long and around 28 meters wide but it has 33 little green and white houses that were once built for the workers who built the train tracks and fishermen. Only 30 kms south of Barcelona, this beach is a perfect trip for a picnic and a swim.

A Catalan in Cantabria

Villa Quijano, commonly know as El Capricho is a house that was made for Máximo Díaz de Quijano, a wealthy man who made most of his money as a sugar tradesman in Cuba.

Built and designed, between 1883 and 1885, by Gaudí when he was 31 years old and is one of the only 2 buildings of this architect outside Cataluña. The house is in the coastal town of Comillas in Cantabria and it is also one of the first buildings of Antoni Gaudi.

Around 100.000 people visit this house each year and pay the 5 euro entry fee to witness some of Gaudi’s earlier designs.

Andorran gastronomy

The “bordas” are typical rural buildings made of wood and stone, legacy of Andorra’s rural past. Bordas were used as haystacks, stables, refuges or to store farm implements. With the change in lifestyle, many bordas were abandoned and only recently converted over the years into hotels, houses or rustic restaurants.

Borda del Rector is in the entrance to Incles Valley, between Soldeu and El Tarter. It has been opened since 1968 and specializes in homemade Andorran cuisine.

Being in between Spain and France, Andorra has taken on cooking traditions from both these countries and has also developed and maintained some of its own, unique recipes, using local wild produce as much as possible.

High in the corner of Andorra

In the extreme northwest of Andorra, in the parish of Ordino and adjacent to the border with France; protected by the top of some of the Pyrenees mountains, and chaired by the Tristaina peak (2,878 meters high), is a group of three lakes.

A 6.5km walk will take you through the three lakes starting with a steep initial climb which has a slope of around 300 meters. The first lake, “Estany Primer”, is at 2250 meters high. The third and highest, at 2330mts, is called the “Estany de Més Amunt”.

Start the walk early for two reasons. First, there will be a lot less people. And secondly, local knowledge says that the best weather is in the mornings, and that it is more likely to rain in the afternoon.

In each lake fly fishers try their luck. They can only take a maximum of 8 fishes of 22cm long as a minimum. Fish introduced a long time ago by humans as originally this glacier did not have any fish.

A country of valleys and peaks

In Europe Andorra ranks in as the sixth smallest nation. It consists of 181 square miles and a population of only 78,000.

This tiny country has one of the highest human life expectancies in the world, the expected life span of a person is 82 years of age.

With no airports and no rail system it is a wonder that over 10 million tourists visit Andorra each year, mostly for the skiing. Andorra’s revenue is generated from all these visitors; it constitutes ~80% of Andorra’s GDP along with the finance sector.

This little country in the Pyrenees is divided in parishes. Ordino, at 1,298m high, has 4810 inhabitants and is one of the most beautiful Andorran towns. A nice place to stay with numerous restaurants to pick from