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Facts, tips and advice on Barcelona – Part 1

The people; known for being hard working and polite but a fierce rivalry exists between Barcelona and Madrid.

The Language; For over 1000 years, Catalan, a combination of Spanish, Latin and medievil French, has been spoken in Catalunya.

The Religion; Roman catholicism is the most dominant faith in Spain.

The Food; influnced from all over the world, particuarly mediterainian and french cuisine.

Etiquette; Topless sunbathing is accepted on the beaches but more modesty is appropriate inland.

What to pack; If you plan to take advantage of Barcelona’s nightlife, high fashion is essential! Otherwise dressing casual is fine in the day with smart wear for the evenings.

Emergency numbers;

Polocia Nacional (national police) – 091

Policia Municipail – 092

Emergency medical service – 061

How to incorporate exercise on your next vacation

Vacation does not need to be a time of guilty pleasures. The key to truly enjoying your next vacation lies in activity. Follow these simple rules and you won’t come home hiding your summer tan:

1) Walk

Walking is by far the no-brainer. Whether you’re relaxing in Hawaii, or sightseeing in Paris, you can and must walk. As any New Yorker will tell you, city living demands some leg work. Paris, Rome, Bavaria, Barcelona, they’ve all seen the soles of my shoes. The advantage on vacation? You don’t know the city. You might walk up and down those metro stairs five times before you’ve figured out which train to catch. If a tropical island is more your vacation cup-of-tea, look around you! No excuses. A beautiful blue beach is calling you to disappear into the sunset. Stairs or sand, your butt will love you.

2) Dive In

Taken literally or figuratively, this second rule is the most rewarding for the active vacationer. There is the obvious physical benefits of spending the day in the pool, or taking a surfing class on Hamoa beach, yet these are mere avenues to an exciting world of holiday exercise. The truly active vacationer never lets the moment pass. Never say, tomorrow’, or I’m too tired.’ Immerse yourself in this new culture. Take the detours. Live like the locals. Venture through exotic market places, climb all the Spanish steps don’t snap a shot from the caf, join in the tomato fight in Bunol don’t watch it from the hotel couch.

3) Have Fun

Who ever said the volleyball nets, or the bicycles, are for kids? Vacation is about letting go, relaxing. Having fun is a far greater stress reliever than lying by the pool as you flit away thoughts of: “will that kid stop screaming,” “sunglasses tan – no!”, or “boy I hope that man with the free martini’s doesn’t come my way”. Sweat the stress away. Simply ask yourself, “would I find this fun as a kid?” If not, you’re probably not getting the exercise you need. Next time your boyfriend says let’s go for a swim, race him there!

4) Sweat the Little Things

As much as you really like the thought of not having to make your own bed, the truth is; you’re storing energy you not need. Don’t give the maid your chance to burn some extra calories. She’s not the one eating chocolate souffl for dessert! If this is a luxury you can not bear to relinquish, then compromise. Enjoy your first two days of breakfast in bed; spend the rest taking the walk over to the buffet, or out to the local market. Don’t mistake relaxing for laziness.

Spains Catalonia

Catalonia encompasses a large part of the Spanish Pyrenees. There are some wonderful national parks for nature lovers to explore as well as skiing in the winter season. The coastline is well known for the popular resorts along the Costa Brava and Costa Daurada and the not so well known holiday region of Costa Garraf.

Barcelona is the capital of the region and offers the possibility of a city and beach holiday combined. It is home to a busy port and as a city is on a par with Madrid in all aspects. The cathedral is a popular attraction for visitors as well as Las Ramblas in the old part of the town, probably one of the most famous streets in the country. It is busy and thriving at all hours with its picturesque buildings, cafes and shops which lead down to the seafront.

Girona is another historic city to visit in this region. Like Barcelona, Girona also has in the old town, la Rambla de la Llibertat, a street full of busy shops and cafes. There is also a cathedral as well as museums. Many visitors take day trips to Girona from the coast, but it also has a very good choice of restaurants and places to stay.

The Costa Brava – the Wild Coast – is part of the Catalonian coastline within the province of Girona and can be found to the north of Barcelona. Although the Costa Brava has many busy holiday resorts there are still quieter beaches to be found such as Santa Cristina.

To the south are three of the busiest destinations; Lloret de Mar, Tossa de Mar (which is an old fort town) and La Platja d’Aro. L’Estartit is also popular and has a marine reserve which is excellent for scuba diving.

If you want to get away from the beaches and travel inland you will find the medieval villages of Peratallada, Peralada and Pals.

Looking for holiday villas Costa Brava, choose from our wide selection of properties in this beautiful region of Catalonia.

The Costa Garraf, is a little heard of region of the Catalonian Coast between the city of Barcelona and the Costa Daurada.

Located by the Llobregat delta, the Costa Garraf forms a low lying region with long sandy beaches, against steep sided cliffs. Vilanova i la Geltru is a popular resort as is Castelldefels and Sitgues, one of the most popular towns along this stretch of coast.

With its clear waters and pleasant climate, vacationing in a holiday rental along this coast offers up plenty of opportunities with Barcelona situated not too far to the north east. There are many apartments in Barcelona, ideal for a short break before spending the remaining time lazing by the pool of your Costa Garraf villa.

The Costa Daurada – the Golden Coast – of approximately 240km has many long, sandy beaches and runs from Tarragona northwards to Barcelona. Tarragona is a major industrial port but still has many of the remains of its Roman history. To the south of the city is Port Aventura, one of the largest theme parks in Europe.

To the north of Tarragona is the town of Sitges which is a lively resort and is popular amongst the Spanish and holidaymakers alike. The local restaurants serve many Catalan dishes.

The resort of Salou and Cambrils found to the south are amongst the busiest and have safe, shallow waters which are ideal for family holidays in one of the holiday villas Costa Daurada.

Family Camping Holiday Barcelona Spain

Are you planning a vacation holiday some time in the near future? If so, you might want to consider one of a number of hidden resorts which until recently few international travelers have ever heard about. These are cost-conscious mobile home communities which feature a lengthy list of amenities that are highly competitive with major hotel chains. While cost is a major consideration for most travelers, this is one of the attractive features associated with these new holiday resorts. But, price is not the only selling point that makes them attractive. The family oriented laid back style of these communities, increased safety and 24 hour security are also primary reasons why families traveling with children prefer them. One such resort where I have recently stayed is situated in Vilanova I la Geltru a mere 50km from Barcelona Spain. Not only is there a number of organized activities offered to guests, there is also plenty of freedom to do whatever you desire while there. I highly recommend anyone traveling to the Costa Dorada to consider staying with Paramount Places. I was amazed at the superior personal service, trans-portation, amenities and beautiful beach that was within a short walking distance. In short, if you are considering spending your holidays in Spain this year, then ‘Camping Holiday Spain’ from Paramount Places is well worth a look. Intense fun is waiting to be had for the whole family; both parents and children alike. All of this in a very safe and secure family environment.

Spain’s Most Superior Holiday Destination?

Barcelona is arguably Spain’s most stunning holiday destination; it is a true Mediterranean gem and basks proud in the spotlight. It is one of the most eye-catching cities with its striking architecture, grand landmarks (like The Olympic Stadium), beautiful countryside and long, beach-strewn coastline – all set against brilliant sunshine and blazing blue skies.

Images of Antoni Gaudi’s architecture are what perhaps most readily spring to mind when we picture Barcelona and it is not many cities that can conjure up such a striking mental image. Gaudi studied architecture in Barcelona as a teenager in the late 1800’s and his creatively designed buildings are scattered throughout the city centre.

With their weird, wonderful and instantly recognisable design – incorporating an awe inspiring mix of spindling towers, coloured patterned mosaic tiles, gothic crosses, sinister looking chimeras and spider web window panes – his buildings have an austere and wacky beauty that play a huge part in setting Barcelona in a class of its own.

Perhaps his most famous design is The Sagrada Familia, on which Gaudi spent 43 years – the last 12 years of which were devoted entirely to the project. It is as fitting an example as any of the superiority of the Barcelona experience; a culture that takes a deep sense of pride and care in making Barcelona a delight for citizens and travellers alike. To truly appreciate the majestic scale and brilliance of Gaudi’s work, it is advisable to stay in centrally-located hotels in Barcelona and explore each and every architectural twist and turn that the city has to offer.

What’s more, there’s the huge Olympic Stadium with its 55,000 capacity, the world-renowned Picasso Museum with some 3,500 original artworks and the world-class football team with their many successes. Barcelona really is outstanding in every way – it does nothing by halves, but it carries all this beauty and brilliance with a modest grace, rather than arrogance.

There is also a quiet and more humble side to Barcelona. Visitors can retreat into the calming mountainous areas – like Conca de Barbera – should they crave a little more tranquillity. It is a botanical and hilly region where visitors can appreciate the city’s superior organic and natural beauty, with its medieval villages and monasteries. Then perhaps the best way to round off a perfect day is with a stroll along a section of the nearly 3 miles of golden sand coastline.

This stunning Spanish city presents itself as the ideal choice for anyone looking for a holiday destination that guarantees to exceed all expectations.

Spain Boasts More Than 15 Million Tourists in the First Half of 2008

According to a recent study by Frontur, an international tourism institution in Spain, the country has seen a 3.3 percent growth in tourism during the first six months of 2008. Of the 15 million tourists, most were French, English, Scandinavian or Italian. Poor economic conditions worldwide do not seem to be taking a toll on Spanish tourism. Millions of people are simply planning their vacations to better accommodate a strained economy.

Barcelona Tourism

Barcelona is leading the race as the favorite tourism spot in Spain for 2008. In the past four months, Barcelona has hosted more than 24 percent of the 15 million people who have visited Spain. Barcelona is a popular destination for historians and those who appreciate fine art and amazing architecture.

Canary Islands Tourism

The Canary Islands have been a major contender in the tourism battle since the mid-1950s. Millions of tourists book accommodations on one or more of the Canary Islands each year. The year-round tropical climate, volcanic landscapes, mountains and miles of beaches offer a unique experience for tourists. The 2008 season is booming and it is highly recommended that visitors book accommodations months in advance.

Andalusia Tourism

Andalusia is commonly called “the heart of Spain” and has been the destination of choice for 2.1 million tourists so far in 2008. The city of Seville is one of the primary historic attractions in Andalusia. The history of Andalusia dates back to pre-Roman times. Some of the most prominent architecture from throughout the ages still stands today.

Valencia Tourism

Valencia has played host to 1.6 million tourists in 2008. Valencia’s original name, Valentia, means strength and vigor. The city was named after Emperor Valens. Like most Spanish tourist destinations, Valencia is rich in history, architecture, art and culture. Valencia’s white beaches are very popular destinations during the summer.

Madrid Tourism

Madrid is the capital of Spain and boasts many world-famous museums. El Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza are only a few of the most famous museums in the city. The city itself is robust and offers lessons in history and culture from just a stroll along its streets. More than 3 million people call Madrid home and are very hospitable to tourists year-round.

Tourism in Spain Grows Despite Economic Conditions

No matter your destination in Spain, you’re sure to find the culture and history simply amazing. The largest theme park in Europe is Siam Park on the island of Tenerife.

The park offers roller coasters, water attractions, a variety of shows and children’s play areas. The Canary Islands and various locations across Spain are easily accessible by way of low-cost airlines. The growing number of low-cost flights to and from many European destinations makes planning your vacation budget even easier. Tourists are very much aware of the economic decline in their own countries, as well as in their destination countries. To the well-seasoned traveler, this simply presents an exercise in planning and budgeting.

Poor economic conditions are on the minds of people worldwide. The struggling economy began to raise concerns in 2007. Tourism boards and nations that rely heavily on tourism were prepared for the possibility that poor economic conditions might hinder travel in 2008.

The first six months of 2008 have most definitely proven them wrong. Tourism to Spanish destinations has increased more than three percent over the same period in 2007 and appears on track to continue growing.

Andorra Ski Holidays Family Friendly For 2007/8 Season

Ski holiday country Andorra has transformed her holiday image over the last 20 years from a ‘poor man’s Switzerland’ to a fully functional ski country able to compete with other European countries during the December to April European ski season.

So successful has the transformation been that nearly ten million tourists visit the country each year, with a blip this year after later than normal snow fall.

And for next year’s ski season Andorra has opened a new family friendly ski park in Arinsal, moving away further still from her old image of a cheap and cheerful ski holiday for 18-30 year olds to one that caters well for all.

The snow park includes a conveyor belt and a game zone, designed to give children confidence before they ski and use the chair lifts.

Well known ski villages in Andorra include Soldeu and Ordino as well as Arinsal.

Other new developments in Andorra for the 2007 ski season include a 540 space underground car park in La Massana close to the cable car, and an extension of the beginners area in Arinsal.

Commenting on the new facilities, an Andorra travel guide claims that the investment in Andorra’s infrastructure is ongoing, and will allow Andorra to compete with other ski areas in Europe for years to come.

As well as being a top ski destination, Andorra is also a tax haven, with many people moving to the country to benefit from her income tax free status.

Buying a property in Andorra is often seen as a route to residency, which entitles people to live in Andorra and benefit from her tax haven status.

To obtain residency in Andorra, applications need to be submitted in Catalan. A notarised copy of the applicants passport, birth certificate and a certificate of good conduct from the home country are submitted at the same time. Residency normally takes between three and six months to be approved.

Once residency is granted, residents are supposed to spend six months a year in Andorra, but this isn’t policed.

One of the drawbacks for those looking to become a resident in a tax haven when considering Andorra has been that the country has no airport of its own, and is unlikely to have in the future given that it is located in the Pyrenees. The nearest airports are Barcelona and Toulouse.

Recent improvements in the road from Barcelona to Andorra though have cut the travelling time by some thirty minutes to two hours fifteen minutes.

Top 10 Barcelona – Part 1

This article is going to come in 2 parts, because I think it’s impossible to do the 10 sights justice without commenting a little, and all 10 would be too long, so I’ll split the article into 2. I have the official visitor information with figures of the most visited attractions in Barcelona. I have to say that I was surprised by the list, and I thought that maybe if people paid attention to this list and tried to squeeze in all these things on a visit, then they’d be leaving out what I consider to be some of the great sights. So I am also writing an article which is going to be my own personal top 10. This is not to discredit the official list, but just my own opinions, too. Here are the official ones:

1. Sagrada Familia. This is no surprise. The “holy family” cathedral is the unfinished masterpiece of Barcelona’s famous architect, Antoni Gaudi, and receives 2,056,448 visits per year. It’s the landmark of Barcelona, visible from the plane on the way in or out of the city. It was Gaudi’s only work towards the end of his life, and he is also buried in the same cathedral. Even if you think you will have no interest or that architecture does not interest you, go and see it. You cannot fail to be impressed and it’s well worth visiting the museum below where you can see models of what the finished article will be like – your jaw will drop, believe me. The people of Barcelona also hold it close to their heart and Gaudi wanted it to be the people’s cathedral. Apparently various corporations have offered to finish the work in a shorter time than the current progress (in itself a hot debate with estimates ranging from 40 to 80 years!) but Gaudi’s wishes have prevailed, and almost all funding is from the public and the profits from the other attractions bearing his name.

2. Number 2 is L’ Aquarium de Barcelona with 1,375,271 visits per year. This was a surprise for me, but maybe is so high on the list as Barcelona is a great place to bring kids, and the Aquarium is also a great place to go with kids. It has a moving walkway with a glass tunnel which I suppose is the best attraction – the sting-rays and sharks swim above you.

3. Poble Espanyol de Montjuic with 1,346,938 visits per year. This was a purpose built “Spanish Village” with different streets representing the different architecture of the various cities in Spain, so you have little white sevillian houses next to the typical eaves and roofs seen in Valencia, etc. During the day there are many arty-crafty things going on, such as glass blowing and pottery and at night there are various restaurants and clubs, including one of Barcelona’s top night spots, Club D.

4. La Pedrera – Casa Mila. This is another great attraction with 1,133,220 visits per year. This strange building, also designed by Gaudi, is nicknamed “The Stone quarry” for the façade of shaped and cut large white stones which are unmistakeably Gaudi. The inside of the building has a period apartment with pieces of furniture also designed by Gaudi. The Attic of the building is a small museum paying homage to the other works of Gaudi with models, photos, slide shows and movies, but the best part is the rooftop. The rooftop looks down onto Paseo de Gracia, one of the most exclusive streets in the city, and also has the strangest chimneys you will ever see – very storm troopers from Star Wars.

Places worth seeing in Barcelona – Part 6

It is claimed that Barcelona is the second most visited city in Europe after Paris. Probably, it is so because the city is so colorful, beautiful, interesting and with many attractive landmarks.

During my stay in Barcelona I visited Museu d`Historia de Catalunya. The huge brick building which was used as the main harbor warehouse nowadays hosts the Historical Museum of Catalunya. Here I had the opportunity to take a journey through the history of Catalonia, from its ancient past to the present day.

Another history attraction is the Poble Espanyol (the Spanish village). It is full of charm and invites the tourists to take a walk through the streets and squares of an authentic Spanish “village” where the entire wealth of its traditional architecture is well presented. You can drink a cup of coffee after shopping and seeing the workshops where you have seen live demonstrations of glass, wood and clay that are turned into exquisite handcrafted pieces.

Uptown, far from the bustle and noise, I found a magnificent Gothic extraordinary beautiful Pedralbes Monastery. It is one of the best and finest examples of Catalan Gothic Art. Although nuns from the Order of St Clare still use one wing of the monastery, most of the building is nowadays a museum opened for visitors.

If you like meetings with animals and nature, you can visit the Parc dela Ciutadella Zoo that was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1888. So, is stands on the site of a military fortress. It is a lovely place for taking a walk. Inside the park lies the Barcelona Zoo which represents more than 7 000 animals of 400 different species from all over the world. When you are walking in the park you can enjoy the spectacular waterfall and navigable lake. You can have a lovely boat trip here. The Ciutadella is not only a green area but also the Museum of Geology and Zoology.

If you love heights and panoramic views, the Montjuic cable car provides a magnificent opportunity to enjoy the spectacular views of Barcelona. Among Montjuic Park`s are the Jardins Costa i Llobera named after the Majorkan poet. There is an extensive collection of palm trees, cacti and other species from subtropical climates. The Miramar area is a romantic spot which offers breathtaking views to the city below. Do not miss it!

Planning a vacation: Top ten cities you should visit – Part 2

Not all the best cities are in Europe but if you want a mixture of the ancient and modern, great food and shopping, beautiful scenery and friendly people it’s hard to beat. It is full of gems, from a large metropolis like London to the small village like city of Amsterdam. Each have their own charm and their own distinctive culture. Choosing just ten cities to recommend is almost impossible. My top ten are mainly located in Europe but it would be impossible for such a list not to include the jewel in America’s crown, New York.

1. London

This vast metropolis has to be the first city of Europe. You could spend a year here and not see everything nor get bored. It’s been said that when you tire of London, you tire of life. Never has this been more true, with the regenerated South Bank including Shakespeare’s original theatre, the Globe, the transformed power station which is now a wonderful (free) modern art gallery, the festival hall and so much more. There are South Kensington’s museums, unrivalled in all the world. The royal parks are magnificent, as are the palaces and royal homes. On top of this is a thriving street life, markets and extensive shopping. The Nightlife with its myriad of clubs, bars, restaurants and theatre ensures there is something for everyone. Probably the only truly cosmopolitan city in the world.

2. New York

A great spralling city on the North Eastern coast of America. It has many facets brought together by the cohesive force of millions of New Yorkers, who dispite their reputation are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Landmark buildings such as the magnificent Empire State Building. Great restaurants and nightlife. It would be difficult to find a city that offered a greater range of live shows, from the huge successes on Broadway to the small creative offerings tucked away in little known streets. One of the best parks in the world separates uptown and downtown Manhatten. All this set in a vibrant busy city with one of the greatest Art galleries (MOMA) and most prolific shopping streets (5th Avenue) in the world.

3. Barcelona

The Catalan capital. Barcelona is fiercely Catalan (spanish is the second language) and is rightly proud of its heritage. A beautiful coastal town provides all the facilities of a city with a beach holiday. Great Tapas, as you might expect, and a range of spanish and Catalan restaurants to choose from. The colourful ramblas runs through the heart of the city and is lined with stalls