Category Archives: Spain

Costa Brava – at its best when everyone is asleep.

Aigue-Xellata cove. Exquisite...
Aigue-Xellata cove. Exquisite…

Getting up is so hard, especially when the weather is so grim and grey! I long for the lazy days of summer. Mind you, lazy is of course a relative term. On holiday the younger Pecks, and indeed Mrs Peck, are not early risers. That is my time. Up and out as early as I can,  go catch that photograph!

The coastal walk

The coastal walk

I do love the early morning feeling – especially when there’s no-one about. The light is gorgeous, it’s warm but not hot. Bliss.

Sa Tuna beach (early morning)

Sa Tuna beach (early morning)

On this particular morning I had watched a cormorant herd a shoal of tiny fish (sardines?) towards the shore, just by that chair, until they leapt out of the water in their escape anguish. Missed it with my camera – mostly because I wasn’t quite aware of what was happening until the fish tried to fly. Quite incredible.

Panorama of Sa Tuna, Costa Brava

Panorama of Sa Tuna, Costa Brava

(The eagle-eyed will see evidence of the photographer in the pic above -look closely…)

Our villa was just on the other side of that hill you see in the left hand distance. And once the Peck tribe did get up we decided to come across the hill, to this village, to have a (very) late lunch. Should have been easy, wasn’t….

The coastal view around Sa Tuna

The coastal view around Sa Tuna

Daughters have minds of their own. And my daughter was determined to cross the hill wearing flip-flop Birkenstocks. Every 20 metres we would have to stop and remove yet another stone. The complaining was vociferous. The crickets were drowned out! Without the car, we knew that the only way to return was the same way we had come… Which meant buying appropriate shoes first, then hiking back.

I prefer the family asleep whilst I venture out to take photos…

(I swam through that arch...)

(I swam through that arch…)

Early risers at the beach

Early risers at the beach

So, forget the grim grey days of January, and remember/look forward to the warm days of July and August. And let the rest of the family sleep…, they don’t know what they’re missing.

Dawn seascape

Dawn seascape

Even the kids love Gaudi…!

Normally, getting the Peck clan to visit a house or a building is really hard. The attraction of the PS3, or on holiday – the swimming pool, is too much of a pull. Moans and groans meet any suggestion to go and visit this or that. But not in Barcelona! At least, not once I got them all there, stood them in front of the Casa Batllo, and let them stare. Mmmm, even the kids went quiet…

House exterior3

Getting close up


This house really does shimmer in the light! Gaudi stood in the middle of the street to direct exactly where the tiles should go to get maximum watery shimmer and shine. We sat opposite, had a second breakfast (McDonald’s, yummy) and gazed.

Just imagine living in a place like this! The Batllos did. It must of have been extraordinary. A sinuous, organic, crazy building. The house is alive. Mrs Battlo must have loved inviting her envious friends around for a coffee. “Take a seat in our lounge, we think of it as being inside a sea-dragon…”

The 'lounge'

The ‘lounge’

Ceiling as bottom of the sea.

Ceiling, to look like the bottom of the sea.

Organic designs in the back rooms.

Organic designs in the back rooms.

Every detail is exquisite. Look at how Gaudi has redesigned a door handle, so that it fits the hand even more perfectly.

For right handers...

For right handers…

The stairwell glistens, blue, as if under water.

The stairwell glistens, blue, as if under water.

Top of the house

Top of the house

Immy loved the house so much she wanted to buy it. How much would she pay? 10 million Euros was the answer. Not quite sure where she thinks she can get that money from…, and I suspect she will still be a few million short!

Having mentally bought the house, we progressed to the Gaudi park. More sinuosity and organicness. Then, onto the Sagrada Familia.

Coolest park bench in the world?

Coolest park bench in the world?

Modern tympanum

Modern tympanum

It does look really modern, but of course, Gaudi was designing and building this well over 100 years ago. His vision is still, well, visionary!

Window light

Window light

The high altar

The high altar

I wonder if the seeds of architectural curiosity have been sown in the kids? What will the reaction be next time I force them to visit a National Trust property back in England? The PS3 may hold sway again… We shall see…

As we are almost at Christmas, the last image should be a Nativity. Here’s Gaudi’s, the quintessential sagrada familia.

(love the donkey...)

(love the donkey…)


(NB – 2 of the pictures are ‘fake’ – photos of postcards, rather than ‘live’ pix. Can you work out which ones?)


If you like this, check out Shooting icons in New York or Imperial Russia rides again!

Lazing in the summer sun

Once we managed to get away from the UK drizzle in August, we found, at last, the sun. And the colour changed from grey to blue, green and white – the summer colours.

And the breeze blew…

These are the best sorts of lazy days. Late breakfast, roll out to the pool, flop down with a book, a dip when it gets too hot, glass of cold crisp wine with lunch (at 3pm-ish) and then back to the pool for more lazing…


imitating Tom Daley…

blue and bluer

The pool is guarded by putti who are bleached white in the Spanish sun. Rather cute.

On guard.

Watching from one end of the pool.

And from the other. I wonder what they’ve seen over the years…

Here’s the view from the bedroom as the sun comes up.

the promise of another sunny day

the view round the headland

Good to remember the beautiful sunny delights of the Costa Brava where the sun warmed us up and prepped us for the cold misty Autumn that’s about to arrive…

Soaking up the view

Foodies’ Paradise in Girona, Spain

The whole reason we went to Spain this year is because we watched Masterchef in January, where the finalists had to do a service in El Celler De Can Roca. “Would you eat that food if you had the chance?” I asked the kids. “Of course”, they answered, “but that 2nd finalist needs to work on his plating-up technique…”. OK, I hadn’t really expected that response,  but I took the hint, phoned the restaurant, booked the table for August, and only then sorted out the rest of the holiday…

Arrival or the pilgrims.

Now there’s not much point only doing a pilgrimage like this half-heartedly, so we invited friends along too. After much dressing up, application of lipstick (just the girls) etc, we arrived at the temple dedicated to Catalan food. What joys await!

2 tomes for wine – one for white, one for red…!

The menu is extraordinary. Choosing is impossible, so it’s simpler to go for the taster menu and have everything… (mind you, we went for the 9 course taster, there is a 14 course beast for those of greater hunger!).

The excitement begins before the main food gets near the table. The Amuses-bouches are a great way for the chefs to show off their talents, and it started with our first surprise. A paper lampoon, which unravels to reveal savoury bonbons:

Tastes of the World: Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Morocco and Japan

You have to work out which flavour is from which country

This next one is amazing: a miniature olive tree is brought to the table, with real olives hanging from the branches, that you pick and eat – right off the tree…

They taste caramelised and pop-corny

Campari explosions, truffled bonbons…

So at this point we haven’t even started the actual menu…. It arrives, each dish more exquisite that the last. Here’s a selection – to whet your appetite (haha…)

Oysters in Cava (which was still fizzing in the bowl!), apple compote, ginger, pineapple, lemon confit and spices

Sole with olive oil, fennel, bergamot, orange, pine nuts and green olives

Sierra Mayor Iberian suckling pig, melon, orange and beetroot (OMG – this is to die for…!)

OK, so I’ve missed a few dishes out (!?!), but hey, we need a drink! So of course, my daughter takes over wine tasting duties. in the other hand is a Coke. How typical!

El Rocallis 07 DO Penedes

Then come the desserts!!! Charles reaches Nirvana, and Imogen relaxes with a fag.

Gold and Chocolate makes a young man happy

A taste of Havana, and a Mojito ice cream

Who thought ash could taste nice !!! (it did…)

After all this indulgence the senses are refreshed with a perfume cone and a homage to Willy Wonker

A quintessence of lemon

Our waiter turns into Willy Wonker

Sweets galore!

All hail the Rocas brothers! We are overcome! Immy, who has made friends with Davide our waiter, asks him “to pass on our compliments to the chefs”. Davide ups the ante, and asks the kids if they would like to meet the chefs? So off we troop to the kitchen (!)

Joan Roca and the kids – how cool is that!!!

And then a tour of the wine cellar. Immy is so delighted she throws her arms around Davide to give him a hug. There is a tear in Davide’s eye. He has been charmed.

50,000+ bottles. I could stay here for ever.

This place is so fantastic. No feeling of pretentiousness or snobbery. The wonderful food, and the welcoming people. These are memories that will last for ever, and after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Smiling god-mother and god-daughter, and a wonderful meal.

If you like this post, here’s 2 food posts that I follow regularly: great food and great stories.

Puppies, Spiders and a Wacky Museum. Bilbao, Spain





Koons in Bilbao at the Guggenheim

If you get the chance to go to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Go!

It’s a fantastic museum. Not to large – you’re feet won’t ache. Not too small, you won’t get bored. And it’s pretty wacky. Wacky enough to have a huge Jeff Koons dog made out of flowers right outside it. Take a look at the Alsatian in the middle ground. Looking rather small. Must be a choker on the self-confidence to have the flower puppy towering over you….

But more than the puppy is the building itself. Silvery, bendy, curly-wurly, metallic, shiny. It’s very different, and it’s very impressive.

Swervy Curvy

Modern and sleek, here are the steps down to the entrance.

entrance steps

And this gives a sense of the size of the puppy. No poop-scoop big enough to deal with that!

It's that dog again!

The building just glistens and gleams.

Lovely curves

Instead of a puppy, the back of the museum has got a HUGE spider behind it. This is really eerie, especially when you stand right underneath it. It’s both threatening, and protective. Sort of contradictory…


That spider is about 15m tall!

So, if you get a chance to go to Spain, give the usual haunts a miss and take the squeezyjet to Bilbao and visit the Guggenheim. A building you won’t forget, ever!