Postcard from the Edge of Aventura

So, we’re all going on a summer holiday. No more worries for a week or two. Well, that was the theory as we settled down on the el-cheapo flight to Reus about 100km south of Barcelona, Spain. This holiday had 6 stops, and this being the last Wednesday in August, the first point had to be a return to the La Tomatina food-fight-festival. It was 2 years since I was last here, and due to a lot (and I mean a lot) more people and touches of commercialism this innocent festival is starting to be tainted. It was far more violent this year, resulting in green tomatoes being directly thrown at people – to the detriment of my traveling companion’s eye. This led us to the second point call – Valencia and the interesting contrasts architecture.

Valencia has some remarkable historic buildings in the old town, such as the gatehouse to the city wall and the wonderful post office. Truly unremarkable, however, was the blocky 1960s “La Fe” hospital, were we spent a delightful afternoon with the eye doctor. With a clean bill of health, and a prescription as long as your arm, we headed off to the most noteworthy site in Valencia, the shiny new “City of the Arts”. It comprises of a 5 space-age buildings – an aquarium, museum, IMAX cinema, hanging gardens and the astounding (but not quite finished) “Palau de les Arts” theatre. When ready, this theater will be one of the most majestic in the world. The enormous cantilevered roof element, a single leaf (237 meters in length and 70 meters in height) anchored from one end only, defies gravity and is an engineering marvel. (See this link for more information).

The museum was great too, its roomy halls housing lots of interesting stuff, including many results from the Human Genome Project, with displays of what the genes on the 23 pairs of human chromosomes actually do, as well as those naughty X and Y chromosomes. Banal illustrations such as eye colour (from the 15th chromosome) and sensitivity to chocolate smell (11th chromosome) contrasted with the more bizarre examples of gene mutation and the fact that colour blindness comes from the X chromosome. This means that men (with a single X chromosome) can only ever have one colour blindness affliction, whereas women (having two X chromosomes) can have two different types of colour blindness – one in each eye. This could explain some of those contrasting opinions when it comes to redecorating.

From Valencia we were recommended to visit Peniscola, the “jewel” of Spanish coast. I have a different understanding of jewels. Thousands of lobster-red tourists in exorbitantly priced high-rise hotels trapped in a runt of town – this was my idea of hell. Still there was some good eating (paella) and the hotel we found, some distance from the city center, had a nice pool.

Escaping from Peniscola, the next stop, a Barcelona suburb named Sitges, was wonderful. This is a very colourful jewel, and we stayed in a great hotel right on the beach. The small alleys, restaurants, bars and clubs were a delight to explore during the night, and the beach beckoned for restful afternoon naps, interspersed with an occasional dip. It’s a hard life.

Next on the list was a theme park. When Disney wanted to build a park in Europe, it came down to two places, Paris or Tarragona. The choice is now history, bribes from the French government clinching the deal, but the Tarragona site was quickly snapped up by Universal Studios and who built Port Aventura. An easy day outing from Sitges, and houses one of the world’s few 8-looping roller-coasters, which we naturally availed ourselves on. The rest of the park is a bit weak, but Woody Woodpecker made a couple of noteworthy appearances.

The final port of call was Barcelona itself. It is home to some Antoni Gaudi masterpieces, such as the Church of the Sacred Family, which has been a building site since 1991, and judging by the looks, will be for many years to come, but it has spectacular views from the top. More gaudy Gaudi (the word gaudy is actually derived from Gaudi) buildings spiced up the afternoon stroll round the town.

Regrettably the holiday was drawing to a close, Spain grows on you each time you visit it and it was a sad “hasta la vista” – but in those immortal words from an Austrian dickhead, “I’ll be back”.

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