Glammies, I am home! And after a week of the most shocking jetlag (waking up at 1am and turning into a psychotic by midday), I now feel somewhat like a human. Albeit a chubby human. And yes I did survive another heinous economy flight (thanks for asking) where I suffered acute FOMO (fear of missing out) as I shuffled past the reclining cocoons of Business Class. There may have been some thinly veiled desperation in my polite yet friendly question to the could-be-friend-for-life Emirates check-in lady: “Any chance of an upgrade today?” (Face clenched in a smile).
But before I move onto the business of beauty and the like there are still two destinations of my vacance, dear Glammies that you’re yet to experience. Indulge me….
After a memorable visit in 2008, I had talked up this city to the hub in a big way. “The city,” I stated, “that had it all…” Great architecture, art, tapas bars – Iberico ham (we’re talking pigs that are fed only acorns and live happily on mountain-tops until…) sangria, late night shopping every night, a beach to boot and abundant sunshine.
We arrived on a Thursday afternoon to a colourless sky. Not grey. Not white. Blah. “Still, at least it wasn’t raining,” we commented as we sipped our Cava (Spanish sparkling) on the fabulous rooftop bar of our hotel- Grand Hotel Central overlooking horizon pool and the city. Well, not raining yet that is. During our entire 3-day stay, we battled with drizzle, wind and then just torrential rain. Not what we ordered. Still, we did manage to see Gaudi’s La Pedera (modernista apartment block with rooftop sculpture park) before it got torrential, Fundacio Joan Miro when it did get torrential – a stunning gallery purpose built for Miro and his extensive collection by his architect buddy (skip the audio – I became tired of hearing endless crap including the repeated description: “female genitalia” – sometimes it’s best not to know).
The inclemency also was a plus for the huge crowds that normally flock to visit Gaudi’s last project – Sagrada Familia the still unfinished church. We didn’t even have to wait in a queue to purchase our tickets for entry. Highfive! And congrats team – the inside is now finished and it only took 80 years! However, quite breathtaking. You can become a little nonchalant towards churches when you are travelling Europe, but this is truly outstanding.
Tired of fighting the endless rain we took refuge in the fabulous shopping centre El Corte Ingles that was chockers with some great stuff over several floors with quite the lively atmosphere and lots of sales and bargains to be had. I bought a beautiful silk tie for Dad; a lovely couple of wallets from Guy Laroche that were half price, a sneaky little dress that was down to 26 euro. My only regret: I didn’t buy more!
Of course, you don’t travel to Spain without sampling some fab tapas. Sightseeing being hungry work we made our way to Cerveceria Catalana, which was a skip and a hop from Sagrada Familia. We perched ourselves at the bar before a tasty display of tapas and ordered generously, washing the tasty morsels down with a bottle of Rioja and then Sangria (sightseeing is thirsty work too). Our favourite tapas were at Cuines Santa Caterina in the Born area. A truly modern and cool space serving TASTY, extremely reasonable priced tapas with influences from all over the world. Don’t leave without ordering the Iberico ham and the sizzling provolone. Mouth-watering!
We hadn’t intended to hit the nightlife, but after meeting a very friendly couple from Barcelona,we soon found ourselves at Bar Marsella – opened since 1820 and patronised by many famous artists – Dali, Picasso, Gaudi and now famous for it’s generous serves of Absinthe. This would have to be the most antiquated bar I have ever been in – like something straight out of an old Great Western – Chandeliers encased in dust, paint peeling off the walls – way cool. Does Absinthe make the heart grow fonder? After hub murdered a conversation with our new friends, by insisting he knew the architectural ambitions of Miro (he had done the audio tour that day) when we were, in fact, talking about Gaudi and his unfinished project of Sagrada Familia – we quickly made an exit with hub, (not an art historian by any measure) still having no idea what he was talking about but believing he was right. It wasn’t pretty the next day.
Of course, the morning that we left, the cement coloured sky broke to sunshine and merriment, and the pool bar reopened.
Rayol Canadel Sur Mer
This was the perfect last stop of a near month vacance of shopping, sightseeing, wining, dining and the like. Exhausting! I wanted to see ocean. I wanted a pool-overlooking ocean. I wanted a private beach. And I didn’t want to pay the earth. St Tropez was supposed to be this very destination, but after checking out the price-tags of the hotels, I realised we literally needed to be made of money to make that happen. So, after some snooping, I found the most perfect place about 25kms out of St Tropez that had all of the above.
As planned, we flew into Marseille and hired a car for what would be a treacherous and relationship-testing journey. Treacherous because the French drive not only on the wrong side of the road but liked crazed maniacs with a death wish. And testing because it took us over an hour of driving in circles and getting on the freeway going the wrong direction to actually be en route. What did people do, pre-navigators, driving in a foreign country? I’m sensing some abusive screaming, accusations and threats of divorce. But, when we did arrive at the splendid Hotel Le Balili de Suffren we promptly forgot the high anxiety of the last 3 hours and literally shrieked with glee as we looked out to the Mediterranean from our balcony. I love this hotel! And there certainly is no reason to leave – we chose full board (buffet breakfast that will blow the pastry budget and incredible three course meal every night), a sneaky salad Nicoise at the pool restaurant for lunch and there were spa treatments if you could squeeze it in between swimming in the clear, beautiful ocean and reclining around the pool looking out onto the Med. And not to mention – teaming with friendly, handsome young French staff. Heaven and excellent value!
We did visit St Tropez for the day and found it to be exorbitant plus extremely busy, trafficy, and we mostly just wanted to get back to our hotel to crack open a bottle of Champers on the balcony for some ocean time. It was the perfect finale to a fabulous holiday.
So, that’s it Glammies…back to the real world. Back to the fluffy children. Back to work. Back to the reality that summer is a breath away, and I’m a human-size croissant. Summer shmummer – it was SO worth it!