We did San Sebastian, wine country, a visit through the Pyrenees, Barcelona and the island of Majorca in a two-week trip. This is gorgeous country and each section has such unique landscape from the others. Barcelona is one of my top cities in the world. It has it all: culture, incredible foodie food, beaches, art, cool people, mountains, gorgeous architecture, fun nightlife and easy trips to islands, skiing and wine country. I think a Barcelona/Majorca trip is ideal, as you would get the most of city and relaxation. And the flight to Majorca is 50 minutes and 35 Euros. Spain is a high recommendation from me!
- Hiking to secluded swim spots in Majorca - The island can seem filled with tourists, but you can easily get off the beaten path an find spots with just a few other folks. The pic above is from a restaurant in Deia, on the west side of the island where there were only about 30 folks. Other spots only had a few people. Parts of Majorca reminded me of the Almalfi coast, with gorgoues cliffs, water and towns cut into the side of mountains.
- Graze your way through San Sebastian - This town has more Michelin stars per square mile than anyplace on earth. It is home to two 3-star restaurants. And this trickles down even into the tapas bars and tiny restaurants.
- Cycling through Barcelona - This is the perfect city to ride. We rode for miles down the beach, and all through the city. There are bike lanes everywhere and the little side streets welcome bikers. We did this 2 days in a row and stopped at tapas places along the way cause we loved it so much.
- Explore Art in Barcelona - Explore Guadi's Sagrada Famila and Parc Gruell. Hit the Picasso museum. And there are a ton of museums, galleries, sculptures and outside art to explore.
- Drive the Pyrenees - We loved this drive from San Sebastian to Barcelona. We hit Andorra, France and the most beautiful mountains, lakes and streams along the way.
- Marques de Riscal - This Frank Gehry designed hotel is so fricken cool. We stayed for free, as it is part of Starwood points and it made us wander to an area of Spain we normally wouldn't have gone. This is in the small town of Elciego, in the Rioja wine region, about 1.5 hours south of San Sebastian. At first, the looks are a bit jarring, as it is a modern design in a little stone winery town. But it is unique Gehry style and the interior are gorgeous. Awesome food and views. True high style, low maintenance.
- Hospes Villa Paulita - This was a cute little hotel in a quaint, quiet town in the Girona region, right on the French border near France. We visited this region so we could drive the Pyrenees, which was well worth it. We crossed the border to France, which was fun.
- Hotel Maria Christina - This is a Belle Epoque grand hotel in San Sebastian. It was too big and fussy for us, but it was free through Starwood points. Great location and service. But doesn't really officially make the high-style, low maintenance list (it is high maintenance). I would do it again free.
- W Barcelona - Again, a free hotel from Starwood. This looks like it should be in Dubai and is the biggest W I have seen at 26 floors. It is a bit off the city center, as it is on the beach but that has huge advantages. We hit the pool or beach every day after exploring the city. Our room, the service and the beach were awesome so I would do it again.
- Majorca - Small boutique hotel on West side - We stayed at Can Simoneta, a small, lovely hotel on the East side of the island. It had wonderful views, but was a bit "old" for us. We also really, really loved the East side and the gorgeous cliffs and buildings cut into the side of mountains. Try something near Deia.
Top 5 Foodie Finds
- Cinc Sentis - A wonderful 8-course tasting menu opened by a couple of ex-Silicon Valley execs. True creativity and gorgeous local foods. The cheese plate is the best I have ever had. Barcelona has food that rivals SF.
- Tapas bars in Barcelona - Our favorites were Tapac 24, Koy Shunka (Japanese and sushi) and Cap Pep. We could have done this day for hours. I think the perfect way to eat is to just graze all day. We did this in San Sebastian also, but the innovation and quality in Barcelona was so much finer.
- Chorizo - I have never been a fan... until now. This is what I wanted every single meal - with some olives and fresh bread.
- Comerc 24 - This was another full tasting menu of Spanish cuisine inspired by goodfather Ferran Adria (el Bulli). Innovative, reasonably priced and paired with awesome wines.
- Seafood - We ate more grilled squid, shrimp and catches of the day than any trip I have been on. The fish is so fresh and simply prepared. Plus, there isn't much chicken and we never really had good beef. So pork and seafood are it.
- Eat late - Lunch is around 2 and you don´t want to go to dinner before 9. This is my kind of country.
- Siesta - THE most delicious word in the world. Partake. Note that shop hours are closed from 1:30 to 4:30 so be sure to prepare your day and your siesta in advance.
- Visiting time - Avoid August, as the locals leave, northern Europeans decend and it is muy caliente. May June and September October are ideal. In late June, the weather was ideal, except in wine country it was too hot.
- Foodies: Get reservations in advance - Think of it like going to NY or SF and expecting to get into the hot, new restaurants that day. After complete failure in San Sebastian, we found specific places we wanted to go in Barcelona and had the concierge do the work. But we really wanted to get into ex-Bulli chef's new Tickets, and we tried a month and half out and they were booked. Watch Anthony Bourdain's episode for foodie ideas outside of Barcelona.
- Language - Don´t expect your Spanish to do the trick. Most place we went are all Catalan and English is spoken in the service places, but not universal.
- Tolls - The roads and bridges are first rate here, but you will pay for them. Seemed like every stop was 11 Euros. Highest I have ever seen.
- Crime in Barcelona - Pickpockets abound. We heard gals at our hotel say there purse straps were sliced and everyone warns constantly. And apparently the police don't do a thing.
- Andorra - We checked out this little country on the border of Spain and France. It may be great in ski season, but it is overfun and commercial. The towns nearby are darling, so there are options close by.
- Concierge Restaurant Recommendations - After a couple of requests for local food that landed us in Fisherman Wharf style restaurants in San Sebastian and Barcelona, we wised up and used my Luxe guide and Chowhound and our world changed.
- Las Ramblas in Barcelona - Too many tourists and mimes. Skip it.