Updated: Oct 14
Thanksgiving with (my) family is traditionally spent sat around a long table filled to the edge with overflowing plates of food. We bask in the scent of the roasting and baking in the hours that precede the meal, then stuff our bellies with as much as we can handle (and then moan and ask ourselves why we ate so much).
A while back, as the rest of my family sat around that long table, I lay on a golden beach in Spain. Normally, I'd avoid travelling on the holidays, but the opportunities that presented themselves were too good to pass up. A friend and I lamented the fact that we hadn't been "away" for a while, and longed to put distance between ourselves and our personal troubles.
What first began as a quick weekend trip to Ireland, became a week long adventure that saw us visiting Spain, Ireland and France. First stop, Barcelona. Thanksgiving in Canada usually lands in the first couple of weeks of October. We landed in the early morning and immediately hopped on a train from Barcelona to a nearby beach town on Cambrils. A mutual friend had offered us a room in their summer condo, how could we say no?
With its narrow cobbled streets and many restaurants, markets and shops, Cambrils had everything we could desire without losing the quiet charm of a sea-side Mediterranean village. Even in early October, the temperatures were warm enough to warrant swimwear at beach, without the massive crowds or high temperatures and humidity that dominate the summer months.
TIP: Even if you choose not to take a dip in the cool waters, stay among the locals that can be found relaxing in the sand, enjoying the atmosphere with music, a good book or a picnic.
Cambrils is connected to the other nearby beach towns along the Costa Dorada (Gold Coast) and one can easily walk from one to the other along the coast. In the hot summer months, this walk could be unbearable, but in October, the temperatures are cooled enough to enjoy the stroll without risk of heat stroke.
We walked to neighbouring Salou from Cambrils one morning, soaking up the breathtaking coast and charming architecture of the small houses and apartments along the way, stopping only for fresh Churros from a local vendor.
After a full morning of walking, we lunched in one of the many available outdoor restaurants scattered amongst the shops.
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As with most every meal we had together in Spain, we shared a pitcher of Sangria and tapas, including a plate of Patatas Bravas. Though each restaurant served it slightly differently (adding their own twist), this traditional spicy tapas dish was simply too delicious not to re-order again and again.
If you're unsure about what Tapas to order when in Spain, you can opt for a Tapas and/or Wine Tasting tour to introduce you to this famous style of eating/ordering.
We spent the evening, walking along the beach and watching the golden sun set over the waves. The temperature was warm and comfortable, a beautiful summer evening (in October).
Cambrils is a short train ride to the city center of Barcelona. We took the train early one morning, where we wandered the streets and stopped only for coffee to admire the gorgeous architecture. Barcelona is an extremely walkable city, even more so without the extreme summer heat.
We visited the infamous Sagrada Familia Basilica, the massive structure that remains under construction since it began in 1882, its main architect, Antoni Gaudi, is buried within its crypt.
Even with the cranes and scaffolding visible, it was a marvel and one felt in awe to stand in its presence. Visitors may enter the Basilica and wonder at the marvels that lay within (albeit unfinished).
You can purchase tickets to enter the Basilica, or one of many tours available with a guide.
Unless you've studied Gaudi or the Basilica specifically, it is recommended to have a guide with you, so they can point out and explain the features, as the details in and around this structure are immense and overwhelming. Absolutely gorgeous.
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Why Should you Visit Spain in October?
Significantly Less Tourists mean Better Prices: Less demand leads to better pricing and more available accommodations, less crowds at popular tourist attractions and at restaurants.
Cooler Temperatures mean Better Walkability: Warm temperatures allows for more physical activity outdoors (walking, sight-seeing, etc.) to enjoy the beach and/or the sites, without the risk of heat stroke. October temperatures in Spain range from 17 to 23.
Calmer Atmospheres mean More Authenticity and Relaxation: Less people allow for calmer days and nights, which means more relaxation and a better glimpse into the culture without the flock of party-party tourists that overwhelm the summer months.
In addition to the many Gaudi buildings peppered throughout Barcelona, we took the opportunity to walk across the city to visit the Gaudi Park, named Park Guell. A playground of sorts, even in October, was busy with tourists and excitement. (It would be chaos in the summer months). The structures appear to blend into nature with its textures and shapes, while remaining playful and unique.
If you want to see both the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell without having to walk from one end of the city to the other, even in the cooler temperatures of October, best to book a package tour that will escort you to both places:
We also made a point to visit one of the many food markets, Mercat de la Boqueria, lined with stalls selling fruits, vegetables, chocolate, cheeses, anything you can imagine. Even if you don't plan on buying anything, it is a feast for the senses. (We took home a delicious pink pitaya and local Manchengo cheese).
Though our trip stretch across three countries, my memory will also link only our time in Spain to Thanksgiving. The experience, the weather, the culture (and of course the food) is something I will always be grateful for.