I shall give you

The construction of the Sacred Cor church, which gives the Tibidabo its distinction from the city, started in 1902 after an eclectic design by Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia; replacing an earlier chapel from 1886. The church took about 60 years to build. 

Sagrat Cor is perhaps the most apt of Tibidabo’s attractions as the local legend says it is where the devil tempted Jesus. The name Tibidabo comes from a piece of the Latin version of the bible, Matthew 4:9 and Luke 4:6. ‘Haec omnia tibi dabo si cadens adoraberis me’ was the phrase supposedly said to Jesus by the devil as they looked down from a mountain on the kingdoms of the world – All this I shall give you if you kneel and worship me

The highest of them all

The Tibidabo is easily recognisable not just for its height, but for the iconic combination of church of the Sagrat Cor and the multi-colored ferris wheel of the amusement park, both sitting at the top of the highest summit of the Collserola mountain range. The mountain, at 512 meters tall, borders Barcelona to the North and for those who trek through the national park to its summit get rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the whole city and the Mediterranean Sea.

The longing business

Salsa from the latin salsus and the verb sallere, to put salt. 

In Mexico, salsas are part of everyday life  they provide a contrast or compliment for the palate and a seasoning to the soul. No decent Mexican meal is absent of salsas. With this, the business of the exporting a bit of Mexico to the world exploits the longing people have for their home. In Spain, the number of inhabitants born in Mexico has increased 38% in the last decade, being around 52,500 in 2016. Anyone who really knows the Mexican culture would then appreciate finding this in the alleys of a foreign city thousands of kilometres from Mexico.

Turn left for the actual track

Once upon a time, here lay the dam of Vallvidrera’s swamp that supplied drinking water to Sarrià. In the mid 1860’s it was a feat in engineering as it is a reservoir built with billets, 50 meters long, 3 meters wide and 15 meters high. Next to it, the Grott quarry was the one that took the water to its final destination. The quarry later became a 1.5km electric train track for passengers in an effort to create an amusement park called Lake Valley. The inside of the tunnel was lit up by different coloured lights.

The whole site is now a natural park protected to preserve some local fauna and provide hikers and walkers an opportunity to enjoy nature, stretch their legs and end up on the wrong path. Even if you do, there is still enough routes to enjoy in the area.

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.

A home, not really a palace

This is another of Gaudí’s buildings that incorporated many artisans of different and impressive crafts such as ironwork, woodwork, ceramics, stained glass and stonework; but one of his very first constructions and one he saw completed in his lifetime. Palau Güell’s construction began in October 1886 and it was also commissioned by Eusebi Güell. All the artisans, workers and people around the Güell family were excited for the new project except for the family’s accountant.

Palau Güell is constructed on 7 levels, which include stables, rooms, halls, prayer spaces; in essence, each level fulfilled a different function and they all seem to flow naturally from one to the other. In the centre of the Palau there is a ventilator shaft to keep the air fresh. And in the roof there are 20 adorned chimneys, which also serve to ventilate the house. Gaudi believed that if something was needed functionally for a building then it should be appropriately decorated.

A dragon on the roof

Part of the “discord bloc”, casa Batllo is one of a few houses that have made a patch of Passeig the Gracia famous. In spanish manzana means both “block” and “apple” making this a pun – the apple of Discord, referring to the very different styles of homes next to each other.

Casa Batllo is another Gaudi building. Once a boring flat complex, Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to demolish and rebuild, he convinced Josep Batllo i Casanovas, its owner, to refurbish it instead in 1902.

One of the distinctive features of the house is the roof terrace due to its famous dragon back design. The tiles on the roof make it look like scales of a dragon and the cross it is said to represent a sword insinuating when the knight saved the princess from the fearsome dragon.

This house also has a lift that was first installed by Gaudi and is now used only for less mobile visitors or in case of emergencies. I can say for certain that more than 100 years later, it still works.

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.

Tower or Lighthouse?

Functioning since late 1st century AD, the Tower of Hercules is considered as the most ancient lighthouse in the world. It was chosen by its ancient Roman builders for its view of the sea.

The Hercules Tower, was once known as “Farum Brigantium” or “Brigantia Lighthouse” and it was built on a 57 metre high rock, and it rises a further 55 metres, making it the second tallest lighthouse in Spain.

It is said that that Hercules, son of Zeus, slew the giant tyrant Geryon, after 3 days and 3 nights of continuous battle, with an arrow dipped in Hydra’s blood. Hercules then buried the head of Geryon with his weapons and ordered that a city be built on the burial site, where now the lighthouse sits. This is why now a skull and crossbones appears in the coat-of-arms of the city of Corunna, representing the buried head of Hercules’ slain enemy.

Surrounding the tower, 47 hectares border the sea and are home to 19 sculptural projects, including the “Menhirs for the peace” representing Family. Menhirs allow for the energy that is around to be captured. These sculptures have holes that allow visitors to frame the Tower of Hercules on one angle or the ocean on another.