At tapas restaurants in Spain, patrons pick and choose from a selection of appetizers that combine to make a satisfying meal – much like my recent trip to Spain’s Costa Brava region.
Accompanied by one of my oldest friends, Diana LaPlace, an anesthesiologist based in California, I was in Spain to attend TBEX Europe, a travel bloggers conference. Diana is a good sport, willing to support me in my quest to build this family travel blog, but she joined me on this trip because travel conferences are a great way to get to know a destination. And, well, this was Spain.
We arrived in Barcelona on a Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. (after an 8-hour direct flight from New York, and a connecting flight from Los Angeles for Diana) only to drop our bags at our apartment so that we could join a 10 a.m. culinary tour (more on this in a later post) later followed by free time to chat with other travel bloggers, as well as a leisurely dinner and a late-night sidecar tour. This jam-packed schedule, as well as the emphasis on tasting regional cuisine, set the pace for our entire stay.
Traveling with my high school buddy, I almost forgot that the recovery period for lost sleep increases sharply with age. The next morning we awoke at dawn to catch the 1.5 hour train to Girona, in time for the 8:30 a.m. start of an all-day tour of coastal villages. Another full day, followed by the opening night party at the medieval castle, Castell de Saint Gregori, where world-class appetizers (the party was catered by – El Celler de Can Roca – rated the 2nd best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine in 2011 and 2012) and castells – Catalan human towers – amused us until the wee hours.
By the time the actual conference began, sleep-deprivation and exposure to my son’s incipient infection produced the inevitable result. The rest of TBEX Europe went by in a blur of informational sessions, inspirational keynote speeches, and hacking coughs. And still, I picked up enough actionable tips to take this travel blog to the next level while my friend was inspired to start her own travel blog. That alone made the trip worth the investment. But wait, there’s more.
On the first five days of our trip in Spain we took full advantage of all the free food, parties, and tours offered by TBEX Europe sponsors such as Costa Brava Tourism, House Trip, and Expedia. They arranged for experiences that we would have been hard-pressed to organize on our own, certainly not all in one week. In addition to the castell demonstration at the opening party, a tradition usually reserved for festivals, the official closing party in Girona literally ended with a bang – a reenactment of the Napoleonic siege of Girona in 1809. [Okay, so this wasn’t actually staged for us. The historical reenactment is the culminating event of Girona’s Summer Festival, and one of many living history activities found throughout the year.]
Those TBEX tours took us from the food markets of Barcelona to fishermen’s villages of Costa Brava, and even to the top of the Pyrenees Mountains. And, if I had wanted to, I could have signed up for extended blogger trips taking place in the week after. Instead, I chose to craft my own itinerary.
After the TBEX events, it would have been tempting to slow down. If I had been traveling with my children, I certainly would have spent at least one or two afternoons lounging by the sea or lingering over a cappuccino. Traveling with Diana, this is never an option. Over the next five days, we explored enough art museums and gothic cathedrals to burn off all the tapas, torrones, and other Catalan delicacies that we tasted along the way.
Combining the TBEX tours with our independent travels, along with the generous guidance of our new friends in Barcelona, Veronica Montuenga and Alfredo Torres Ruiz of Viajandopor.com, I collected enough material about Costa Brava’s culture and cuisine to write multiple articles, which I will do after following up on the business ideas picked up at TBEX. Fully sated, my heart and head are as set to burst as my belly.
Disclosure – Thank you to House Trip for hosting the pre-TBEX trip in Barcelona and to Costa Brava Tourism for sponsoring media experiences in Costa Brava.
Sandra Foyt | Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @SandraFoyt.