I love exploring new places. Whenever I go abroad or even if I have a single day off in the UK, I tend to pick a town and just wander around its streets. It's the best way to get a vibe for the place and from those peaceful amblings, I get far more of an insight into the culture than just sticking to the touristy sights. Don't get me wrong, I do love a good museum or gallery or a stately home. But better than any of that is simply walking through the town, gazing up at my surroundings.
Which is basically what I did when I visited Spain a few weeks ago.
I was staying in a town called Calella which was about an hour along the coast from Barcelona. It was a beautiful spot and had the best of all three worlds - an intricate and interesting town to explore, the hills behind it and the sea on its other side.
We started off by walking the coast, taking in the beautiful sea views and climbing up the cliffs. There were many different paths set into the cliffside and they took us higher and higher through the woods. On the very edge of one of the cliffs there was a lighthouse to warn passing ships of the jaggedly rocky coastline below. And even higher still were two medieval turrets that used to be watch towers before they fell into disrepair hundreds of years ago and were now simply a small tourist attraction.
From up there we had some excellent views of the town and the hills behind Calella gave us a similar view. By exploring Dalmau Park and again trekking through steeply ascending woods, we had the whole of Calella laid out before us with the sea beyond.
As we were staying so close to Barcelona I obviously couldn't resist spending a day exploring that wonderful city too. I felt that it was a mixture of many other European cities I had visited. It had the gridded structure and hip-ness of New York with the architecture and beauty of Paris along with the friendliness of London. We spent the entire day walking around it and went from Las Ramblas all the way up to Park Guell so it was interesting to see the difference between the ordinary apartment buildings and the grandness of some of the sights closer to the touristy sights. Gaudi's unique designs which we spotted frequently throughout our walk were also stunning.
So there is my advice for you. Whenever you visit a new place, make sure you do a lot of walking. That's how you can see the reality of the country you are staying in.
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