Category Archives: spain

Explore Barcelona on a Budget

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Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations for short vacations and city breaks in Europe. It’s no wonder really, from beautiful architecture and history to spectacular scenery and beaches, the Catalan capital has it all.

It would be easy to jet off to Barcelona and come back penniless but it’s also possible to explore this Spanish city on a shoestring budget – as long as you know where to look. Before you book, make sure you don’t blow the little cash you have on getting there. You’ll want all the spending money you can get so find budget flights here and keep more cash in your pocket.

Architecture

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Barcelona isn’t known as Gaudi’s city for no reason at all – it’s full of some of his most famous work. If you want to get up close and personal with Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo, take a walk around the city. If you want to avoid spending on tours, follow the Ruta de Modernsime – marked by red symbols on the ground.

To market, to market

One sure way to blow your budget is to head to the many designer boutiques, but that’s not to say you can’t enjoy a shopping trip. Take advantage of the market stalls lining Las Ramblas and the indoor market, Boqueria Market. You’ll be able to soak up a bit of the atmosphere as you peruse the fresh produce and handmade crafts.

Tapas

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When in Rome (or Spain) it would be rude not to follow the local customs. Fortunately for you, the Spanish make excellent hosts and some bars will even serve up free tapas when you buy a drink. It’s harder to find in the city, but there are a few bars which are still willing. If you can’t find free tapas, it’s still one of the more budget-friendly dining options as you can order a selection to share with friends.

Free entry

If you like a bit of culture, you’ll be pleased to hear that the majority of the museums in Barcelona are free to enter at specific times. The National Museum of Art is free on Saturday afternoons, while the Picasso Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month. Plan your trip around the free admission times and explore the city for nothing.

Beaches

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After you’ve exhausted the city center, it’s time to move to the coast. Barcelona’s beaches are one of its biggest attractions with millions of people visiting every year. Whether you just want to top up your tan, try out a new water sport, or kick back with a cocktail, the beaches are a must-see and will only cost you a little investment in sunscreen!

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Filed under barcelona, spain, travel

One Day Stay: Barcelona, Spain

BCN

Barcelona is a city full of a Gothic and Modernist architecture on the Mediterranean Sea and is considered the second capital of Spain. Known for its quirky, cosmopolitan and hip style, Barcelona has a lot to offer including amazing nightlife. From a cozy & traditional Spanish bar to a hot, happening club, this is just one of the reasons Barcelona is a perfect place to go for a ‘One Day Stay’. You will find history, arts and a culture unique to the Catalan region of Spain plus fab places to shop, dine and drink. Barcelona is also a great hopping point to many other adventures, be it in Spain or elsewhere.

DROP YOUR BAG

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This visit to Barcelona wasn’t Lola’s first and that certainly makes it seem easier to go to such an outstanding city and not stay long. I’d say any excuse to go to Barcelona is worthwhile BUT, to me, a big part of any trip is the choice of where you stay. Your ‘home away from home’ can largely set the tone for the rest of your time, in my opinion. I always say, if you choose wisely all else will fall into place AND for me, this is W Barcelona. To be honest, I could have never left the property and found everything I was looking for during my time in Barcelona. A hip & cool scene, good food, great cocktails and dancing – W Barcelona has ALL OF THIS under one roof, on a beach, touching the Mediterranean Sea. Honestly, can you picture a more perfect place for moi?! No, I didn’t think so. Completely LOLA APPROVED! Like all that is unique in Barcelona, the architecture of W Barcelona is a sight to behold. Known as ‘The Sail’, I think it looks like a gorgeous wave rising from the sea heading for the beach ahead. With just under 500 rooms, W Barcelona offers 9 different room categories, 3 restaurants, 2 bars and 1 club plus the FAB spa by Bliss. Rooms are bright, crisp & clean with all kinds of amenities special to the property. Standouts for Lola are the W Insider services available to all guests, the Whatever/Whenever philosophy, 24 hour room service AND the hot pink sequined wall!! 😉

DO

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Barcelona is notorious for being a late night city with a great club scene SO one must do that when they have limited time in Barcelona to get a feel for the place. W Insiders suggested Privé Barcelona as they have very exclusive access and are specialists in cocktails. (Very Lola – hello VIP) They also have a great dance floor! Privé is a premium club with loads of style. Accommodating up to 350 guests, I liked that the club wasn’t overly crowded and overwhelming as many clubs can be. If you dare to dance, you will be under 500 color diamonds with the latest technology in RGB independent lights that’s only available in 3 clubs in the world: London, Shanghai and now Privé Barcelona. The music starts pumping at 1am and lasts til 5:30. I think I managed a respectable 4:30am my evening there. I really loved Privé Barcelona. The drinks, the DJ’s tunes, the cool crowd all = a great time. Will definitely go back there when next in Barcelona.

DRINK

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While I enjoyed many a tasty cocktail during my short visit in Barcelona (Negroni at WAVE and gin & tonics at Ura & Privé Barcelona) my favorite spot that really added to my time was a simple stand on the Barceloneta boardwalk. It was such a gorgeous day that particular Sunday in Barcelona that there wasn’t much left for choices of a walk-up and walk-away drink. I went for a caipirinha and it was soooo delicious. Maybe it had something to do with the surrounding scenery of the marina, beach, music and people BUT to me, it was the best tasting drink of my whole time in Barcelona and probably the least expensive too.

DINE

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When I asked W Insiders to set up dinner for some friends and me in Barcelona on Saturday evening, one place they suggested was Ura. I always look for the hip & cool and thought it best to ask the experts, which is EXACTLY what W Insiders are. Ura was described as having a festive young atmosphere with delicious food from the north of Spain. AND, bonus, it turns into a great spot for after dinner drinks later on. I can completely attest to this as our reservation was for 9:30 and the place was practically empty but by midnight tables were being carried away to make room for the throngs of people looking to see and be seen. I thoroughly enjoyed the warm & casual atmosphere of Ura and found the food wonderful as well as the cocktails. Ura even had a fun magician going from table to table to keep things lively. Truth be told, this is something I’m typically not fond of but at Ura it completely works by just adding to the jovial vibe. This is one Barca resto I would recommend to anyone.

PS – I really feel as though I should give an honorable mention to Eclipse at W Barcelona as well. Up at the top on the 26th floor, it’s a GREAT club scene that I enjoyed quite a bit as well. Well done W Barcelona, well done you.

 

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Filed under barcelona, hipster hotels, one day stay, spain, travel

going local in Costa Brava – Spain

Lola loves Costa Brava

Cadaques - i love it!

Cadaques – i love it!

i’ll be honest, i think i’m more of a hotel travel girl than a house rental gal. having said that, there have been many occasions where it made more sense to rent a house. whether it was the economics of the situation or the options available, it was THE WAY to go. this definitely seems to be the case with Costa Brava, Spain as well.

while there are hotels in the various beach towns and medieval villages there are many amazing villa options to choose from and my guess is it’s also a more economical way to go for a longer stay, using the property as a home base from which to explore.

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gorgeous Besalu

there are other brilliant benefits to staying in villa beyond economics. for me, number ONE is the fact that you are forced to have a more local experience and i think this is awesome! because you have a kitchen, you will have to go to the market or if you choose to not always cook then you will dine out amongst the townspeople. another option that i’ve had the good fortune to experience is bringing in local chefs to prepare meals. with a home stay, one is able to have all these options and i really recommend this combination if you have the opportunity.

during my Costa Brava tour i stayed at three different properties, in different towns and had three wonderful and different experiences! let me tell you more about them to give you a picture of what staying in a private home can be like with Charming Villas Catalonia.

Cadaques

Sa Costa

Sa Costa

Sa Costa is a gorgeous seaside villa i stayed in while visiting Cadaques, Spain. located right on the sea, Sa Costa has direct beach access and views across the water to the stunning small fishing village with just over 2,500 year round inhabitants. in the summertime the population can grow to upwards of 25,000.

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things found at Dali’s home turned museum

1 hour from Girona and 2 hours from Barcelona, Cadaques is in the middle of the Cap de Creus peninsula and has a famous history with many artists, most importantly Salvador Dali, whose home turned museum is nearby. another famous sight worth seeing is the unique 17th century sea-faring church, Santa Maria. i particularly enjoyed the sailors & ships mixed in with the traditional symbols of Christianity. as for local charms, having dinner in town at MOS and dancing with one of the owners was definitely a highlight.

Celler Martin Faixo

Celler Martin Faixo

AND the Mayor of Cadaques joined the dinner party during my final meal at the outstanding Compartir, started by 3 El Bulli veterans. (now closed, El Bulli was once the #1 restaurant in the world). other local treats were bringing private chef Lee Pennington to Sa Costa to cook dinner and a family lunch at the vineyard home of Celler Martin Faixo. two things i will never forget. Sa Costa has 6 beds & baths and can accommodate 12. this wonderfully appointed villa has floor to ceiling windows to take in the sea views, a private pool and its own sea pier for boating activities.

Sant Mori

Castell de Rocaberti

Castell de Rocaberti

Castell de Rocaberti is a 15th century castle located in the heart of the small Catalan village. the charming village of Sant Mori is halfway between Girona & Figueres, each about 20 minutes away. with its 15 bedrooms and 13 baths, Castell de Rocaberti can accommodate up to 30 guests and is truly ideal for a family reunion or professional retreat. over the years the Castle has welcomed royals such as Fernando the Catholic, who would marry Isabel and sponsor Christopher Columbus’ voyage where he discovered America. pretty amazing to be able to stay within the walls of such a historic place with all of today’s modern amenities.

my Girona

my Girona

daytrips from Sant Mori to Girona and Empuriabrava were easy for further exploration of these areas. in the Empuriabrava area you can find one of the largest marinas in the world, a medieval village complete with an impressive gothic church and prison, and a gorgeous wild life reserve, Aiguamolis, for the nature lovers out there. in Girona, known as the capital of Costa Brava, you’ll find a bigger bustling city that still has a medieval feel. things to see & do there include the ‘Old Town’ and Cathedral.

El Celler de Can Roca

El Celler de Can Roca

i was lucky enough to tour the now #1 restaurant in the world, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, and have an outstanding lunch at La Calendula where the owner tailor-made a menu for the day. another local experience was the evening a chef was brought in to prepare paella and the castle owner remained and dined as well. i got to hear stories of his family and the castle that has been a part of their heritage since the 15th century. so fascinating and fun!

Besalu

Sant Ferriol

Sant Ferriol

Sant Ferriol is an incredible 18th century farmhouse that has been lovingly restored and furnished with gorgeous country antiques. don’t misunderstand though, this is not a stuffy home – rather a very comfy one that you will wish to never leave. Sant Ferriol has all the modern amenities you could imagine with all the charm of a rustic farmhouse. sleeping up to 26, the villa has 12 beds and baths. i particularly loved the huge pool and pool house with its own cooking and eating area – perfect for outdoor entertaining. the natural outdoor surroundings make you feel miles away from things, yet it’s located 5 minutes from the lively medieval village of Besalu and 25 minutes from Girona.

calcots & paella - mmm

calcots & paella – mmm

during my quick day & a half at Sant Ferriol, some local things i was able to enjoy was the chance to go up in a hot air balloon with Vol de Coloms – very popular for this volcanic region of Costa Brava. sadly, it was too windy to actually take flight. while taking in the outdoor space at the villa, i was served a traditional meal of Calcots, which are a variety of large scallions that are absolutely delicious when charcoal grilled. in the evening another local chef, Jordi, from I cook It came to the house to make more Catalan specialties like fish soup & paella – YUM! the villa of Sant Ferriol has caretakers on property as well in their own annexed cottage. so wonderful to know someone is there to assist with any of your needs and spending time with them over dinner my last night was even more charming than the farmhouse.

i was the very fortunate invited guest of Charming Villas Catalonia and could not picture a better sampling of what they offer in homes and villa rentals. Charming Villas specializes in top quality rentals with a personal touch from start to finish and offers assistance in trip planning & arrangements as well. i will definitely rent with them in my future travels to Costa Brava, to be sure, as they are completely Lola Approved!

 

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Filed under costa brava, spain, travel

Travel Style – a #FriFotos Special Edition

Stylin’ & Profilin’

Lola's #Style is #lolafied

Lola’s #STYLE is #lolafied

I’m excited to share that I’ll be co-hosting #FriFotos on Twitter this Friday, April 26. In case you aren’t clear what #FriFotos is exactly, it’s a 24-hour chat that trends internationally. People worldwide share their photos that match the week’s theme and you can play along if you’re on Twitter or Instagram by following the #FriFotos hashtag and including it in your Tweets with your photos.

The usual hosts will be there: @FriFotos who can also be tweeted to as @TravelDesigned, @EpsteinTravels & @CharlesYap. I’m sharing co-hosting with ooo lala @purplepassport AND you can find me @LolaDiMarco. NOW onto this week’s theme. After a little discussion we decided on #STYLE. I think this is a fantastic topic for #FriFotos because it can apply to lots of things with regard to travel. Like is your #STYLE solo travel, backpacker or luxe? Is your accommodation #STYLE swanky, hip or budget? What’s your travel food #STYLE or even libations #STYLE? You get my point, right?! #STYLE is about the LIFESTYLE of travel too. Of course, I think the more creative the better and to help inspire you I’ve put together some ideas to show you LOLA’S TRAVEL #STYLE.

LOLAPINK

LOLAPINK

Theres no doubt about it. My travel #STYLE involves lots and lots of PINK wherever I can pull it off!

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Lola’s drink #STYLE of choice is COCKTAILS

Seen here are a Dark & Stormy at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Ultimate Gin & Tonic at SLS Beverly Hills, CA, 3 different versions of Negronis at Four Seasons Florence, Italy & the delicious Eastern Standard at Soho Beach House, Miami.

my travel #Style most certainly includes luxury hotel stays

my travel #STYLE most certainly includes LUXURY hotel stays

Don’t know what your #STYLE is for accommodations but mine’s definitely one where I’m looking for something special! These properties absolutely fit the special #STYLE bill. Seen here are two Four Seasons properties: Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, CA and Four Seasons Milan in Milan, Italy. AND two Relais & Chateaux properties: Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento, Italy and Villa Galicci in Aix en Provence, France. I can assure you that I have never stayed in any Relais & Chateaux or Four Seasons property that didn’t meet every expectation in GREAT #STYLE.

Lola #Style also goes with HIP hotels

Lola’s #STYLE also goes with HIP hotels

My travel #STYLE enjoys finding the new hot spots too. These hotels certainly exude a HIP #STYLE. We’ve got Mondrian SoHo in NYC, W Barcelona in Spain, The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas & The James Royal Palm in Miami. All very HIP. All very COOL.

FACT: Lola hearts the #Style of a beach vacay

FACT: Lola hearts the #STYLE of a beach vacay

It’s gotta be NO surprise that my travel #STYLE is definitely one that leans toward beach vacations. Sun, sand & the sea make me so happy! Here are a few of my favorite beachy spots: Miami Beach in Florida, Gouverneur Beach in St. Barts, Lucy Vincent Beach in Martha’s Vineyard, MA and Cas Abao Beach in Curacao.

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very important in my world…minibar #STYLE

One thing that I’ve found that really sets some properties apart is a beautiful, well-appointed minibar! First up is the BEST up so far – Soho Beach House, Miami. To the right is Mondrian SoHo, NYC. Below is Four Seasons Florence, Italy. To the left is W Barcelona, Spain. If you love a cocktail to start your evening off right or to have a night cap at days end, a minibar with serious #STYLE is essential! Just sayin’

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Lola’s #STYLE is definitely all about a FAB hotel pool

I don’t care if it’s not even warm enough to sun yourself, there’s something amazing about the #STYLE of great swimming pool. Granted, I prefer the sunshine & warmth option in my travel plans. Found here are Delano South Beach in Miami, W Barcelona in Spain, Petit Palace in Santorini, Greece and Soho Beach House in Miami. I ask you what’s not to LOVE about these pool’s #STYLE?

I hope these examples of #STYLE has got your creative juices flowing. It will be so FUN if you come PLAY along on Friday on Twitter with #FriFotos. Don’t forget to tweet to me @LolaDiMarco and add the hashtags #STYLE and #FriFotos to your photos. I look forward to seeing you & your travel #STYLE there!

xo – LOLA

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Filed under amalfi coast, barcelona, california, caribbean, cocktails, curacao, europe, florence, florida, france, greece, hipster hotels, italy, martha's vineyard, miami, milan, new york, spain, st. barts, swanky luxe stays, travel, USA, vegas

18 things that i LOVE about Costa Brava + 1 minus

need i say more? hot pink lips! hello!!!

need i say more? hot pink lips! hello!!!

COSTA BRAVA – what’s not to AMOR about it?

i was so excited to return to Spain and especially Costa Brava. i adore the fact that it’s a wild coastline, not commercialized like France’s. i adore that it’s filled with little medieval villages dotting the region. i adore its history. i adore that it is part of the proud Catalonian culture. i adore its local seafood fare. i ADORE! here’s more reasons…

#1

let’s start with this. the region begins at Barcelona. one of my favorite places. i don’t think i could tire of it. i arrived a day & a half before my Costa Brava tour to get a small taste of the best of Barcelona and SI, did i!

out at a club in Barca just like the locals do, SI SI

out at a club in Barca just like the locals do, SI SI

#2

maybe you know this, maybe you don’t. i’m a seaside girl. so…Costa Brava speaks to me when it comes to the sea!

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HOLA. seaside – love it!

#3

i also love the lore of Costa Brava. so much history in so many ways. part of their history is tied to piracy. i’m infatuated with pirates so visiting this region and playing pirate for the afternoon was my dream!

c'mon say ARG! i'm commandeering this boat.

c’mon say ARG! i’m commandeering this boat.

#4

but really…who couldn’t love this awesome house i stayed in right on the ocean in Cadaques?! i mean WOW!

that's right! gorgeous seaside villa. i'm seriously in LOVE!

that’s right! gorgeous seaside villa. i’m seriously in LOVE!

#5

OR how about a sail around the coast of Cap de Creus on Sant Isidre – a charter fishing vessel that is stunning!

YES. that's what i thought. who wouldn't want to get on the open water here?!

YES. that’s what i thought. who wouldn’t want to get on the open water here?!

#6

how about visiting a town with a really cool mayor? Cadaques may have the *best* mayor in the whole world. not only is he an amazing tour guide but also a gracious host!

anyone who can handle a bunch of bloggers is A-OK in my book!

MAYOR = back & center. anyone who can handle a bunch of bloggers is A-OK in my book!

#7

NOW! let’s be serious for a moment. not that the Mayor of Cadaques isn’t!! how about the spirits of Costa Brava?! that’s right. i’m talking local libations.

wine, cava, beer - all locally sourced. i endorse this 100%

wine, cava, beer – all locally sourced. i endorse this 100%

#8

OK. i do sometimes fancy myself a princess. c’mon let me believe for a minute. Charming Villas did. so how would like to stay in a castle in a medieval village?

the biggest structure there in the village of

the biggest structure there in the village of St. Mori is the CASTLE. i thought you’d like that!

#9

when you stay in these amazing villas (or a castle :P) you can bring in a chef to make you unbelievable local fare. we did! and i even helped (HAHAHA)

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#10

BUT i have to say one of the most fun things about visiting Costa Brava was going to Dali’s house which is now a museum. what an interesting perverted dude. i can appreciate his eccentric side. i can see how he was inspired by his surroundings. inspirational indeed.

channeling my inner Dali!

channeling my inner Dali!

#11

OK OK but you know it’s Spain. they are not all perverted. they repent. they go to gorgeous churches! i went in. i came out. my skin didn’t burn off! whew!! :)

beautiful cathedrals anyone could love!

beautiful cathedrals anyone could amor!

#12

so what of the food out and about?! this is a top priority for LOLA, as we all know. well, i was taken to the #2 restaurant in the world! El Celler de Can Roca. all i can say is AHHMAZING!!

a tour and a tasting. so lucky! so yummy.

a tour and a tasting. so lucky! so yummy.

#13

and about those medieval villages…i’m sure you wanna see. well you have to wrap winding roads to get to them but that makes the reward so much sweeter! like this vista…

beautiful Besalu! you catch my drift?!

beautiful Besalu! you catch my drift?!

#14

tell me who couldn’t be drawn to these beaches and coastline? i love sunshine & sand so Costa Brava is the perfect place for LOLA.

YES! the beaches!!!

YES! the beaches!!!

 #15

ALL of the food was so fantastic in Costa Brava. so fresh. so local. one of my favorite meals out was at La Calendula. they use herbs & flowers in everything they make. here is MINT RISOTTO, WHITE ASPARAGUS WITH NASTURTIUM FLOWERS MAYONNAISE & ELDERFLOWER SORBET. all so good and actually quite light!

look at this delicious food!

look at this delicious food! doesn’t i kinda make your mouth water?!

#16

our final house with Charming Villas was in Besalu. it was this charming & incredible 18th century farmhouse. i could have stayed here a long, long time. one of my favorite features of this villa was the stunning pool & outdoor areas. oh, and the on site caretakers who were wonderful!

if it looks like it's out a movie set then you have the right idea!

if it looks like it’s out a movie set then you have the right idea!

#17

i cannot forget to mention PAELLA! this is one of my favorite Spanish dishes and i was treated to it several times. SO LUCKY!

sabroso!

sabroso!

#18

AND last, but certainly not least, THESE PEOPLE! as i always say, one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people. although i knew a few of these folks on the Costa Brava trip, i only knew Leah & Alex well. you know it’s a good mix when you spend most of your time laughing! GRACIAS for being amazing humans.

such a good group of people! (Leah & Mariana are not in this shot but are in the count of cool peeps)

what a group of people! (Leah & Mariana are not in this shot but are in the count of cool peeps)

NOW for my MINUS 1

the awful cold winds that can affect Costa Brava called TRAMUNTANA. no gracias!

if it looks cold, it's because it was!

if it looks cold, it’s because it was!

from Cadaques website:

During the winter months, Cadaqués and the north of Costa Brava can be subjected to Tramuntana, an impressive wind the blows off the Pyrenees in much the same way as the Mistral blows in France.

Tramuntana is a katabatic wind, which is a wind that blows off a mountain system due to the cool denser air at altitude in the mountains sinking, and funneling off into the coast. If you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday, then best to avoid Tramuntana, as this can whip things up. You should be fine in the summer months.

This is how Costa Brava, which translates as “Wild Coast” gets its name. You can be out walking in the Cap de Creus, and the Med will literally look like it is boiling. Not for the faint hearted, but it will certainly blow away the cobwebs!

DESPITE BEING COLD, MY TIME IN COSTA BRAVA WAS PICTURE PERFECT!

thank you Charming Villas for inviting me to come find more reasons to fall in love with Costa Brava.

PS – i cannot take all the photo credit. several are from Festivalxplorer & Leah Travels as well as Charming Villas!

 

 

 

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Filed under costa brava, spain, travel