Day One. Brussels to Barcelona

After less than an hour of flight delay in Brussels-Barcelona and picked up our luggage, we immediately went out of the airport past midnight and found our good friend Omar. I met Omar in one of the mountain summits in Morocco. From then on, I know we will be good friends and finally got the chance to visit him and his family. It took us four hours drive from Barcelona Airport to his lovely town in Caspe.

Day Two. Historic Caspe

Caspe town center

Caspe is a small historic town in Zaragoza Province and about 100km east of capital Zaragoza. The Sedetanos (ancient Iberian people) were the first to have settled in this rich and fertile area until in 1169 when Moors conquered Caspe. Historically famous for “Compromise of Caspe” in the 15th century which aims to resolve the interregnum following the death of King Martin of Aragon in 1410 without a legitimate heir. It follows several conflicts, deliberations, revisions and finally agreed unanimously to elect Ferdinand of Castille as the new king. Several revolts followed but in the end, Aragon was reunified by the marriage of Ferdinand II to Queen Isabella of Castille which was regarded as the “cornerstone in the foundation of the Spanish monarchy”.

Present-day Caspe bears a laid-back vibe. It was such a pleasurable experience  walking across the small streets dotted with colourful shops, cafeteria, carniceria (meatshop), fruteria (fruit shop), panaderia (Bakeshop) and some historic buildings including the 17th century Baroque architecture Casa-Palacio Piazuelo Barberán, 14th century El Castillo de la Bailia y Colegiata de Santa Maria.

Casa-Palacio Piazuelo Barberán. Once a noble house, it is now used as an exhibition hall, a public library and a local tourist office.
El Castillo de la Bailia y Colegiata de Santa Maria.

The perks of having a local friend is that you will be able to see the place in a local perspective, experience authentic local cuisine, enjoy the best drinks which we had different kinds of cacera (homemade) wines, and to just hang around in those favorite places locals would usually go.

Our friend Omar and Noelia sharing the history of Caspe and its people.

It was too early for the shops to open. The best time to walk along those empty streets.
Coffee shops around the plaza

After we marvelled with the historic treasures of Caspe, we went to this nice restaurant beside the lake. That was our first authentic Spanish dining experience. All meals were complimented with a very good bottle of wine. After we finished our big lunch, we had leftover wine and never hesitated to had it for takeout. The waiter had to agree with me otherwise I told him that if he’ll not let me take it, I will just pour the wine on my water bottle so he agreed.

Pate with tomate mermelade
Primer plato. Timbal de arroz con crema de setas y virutas de jamón. So beautiful and yummy!
Primer plato.Ensaladilla Rusa con salmón ahumado. (Russian potato salad).
Albóndigas en salsa piperrada. (Meatballs in tomato sauce).
Merluza con almejas en salsa de verduras.

The next stop was El Mar de Aragon, a reservoir about 1km. away from the Caspe town center. It was built on the riverbed of the Ebro River with two urbanizations: El Dique and Playas de Chacón. Along the banks were olive trees, beaches, cliffs, pine forests, desert and steppe landscape.

The day isn’t finished yet. We were just starting. The water at the river was so hot so we just decided to visit Noelia’s family estate situated in the middle of vegetable and olive farms. There, we took a dip at their perfectly warm pool. We almost forgot the family dinner hosted by Omar and Noelia so we hurriedly pack and proceeded to the supermarket.

A more authentic Spanish cuisine we had was during the barbecue dinner. The star of the table was the “tortilla de patata” prepared by Tere’s (Noelia’s mom) and cordero (lamb) barbecue which was simply rubbed with salt and grilled to perfection. With a wide selection of Spanish beers carefully selected by my very good friend Omar, I’m pretty sure I tried them all and made me drunk. Malquerida and Ambar beer was one of my favorites.

Preparing for dinner

Some of the good beers I tried in Caspe.

Day Three. Torre de Salamanca, Shopping, and Hit the road to Benasque

There’s more to see in Caspe. Right after we finished breakfast, Noelia and Omar were so eager to show us Torre de Salamanca. It was astonishing to know how this tower was utilized to communicate between forts of Zaragoza, Maestrazgo, and Castellón by means of fire, mirror or flags. Built in 1875 by the instruction of General Manuel de Salamanca Negrete who was the commander, division general of the right bank of the Ebro and Maestrazgo during the 3rd Carlist war. Its construction was mainly financed from tax.

Hermitage of St. Mary of Horta. Rescued by the people of Caspe in 1973 from the waters of Aragon Sea when the Mequinenza reservoir was flooded. After the flooding, waters receded and the ruins re-emerged allowing the people to dismantle and re-assembled it beside the Torre de Salamanca.

We were not able to get in since we did not book a ticket. You can buy it at the tourism office at the town center.

Next was to go shopping at the Adidas Outlet Store where we got big discounts since we were with our friend Omar. This is one thing you can do aside from visiting historical and natural attractions in Caspe.

After that, we were invited by Noelia’s mother- Tere for lunch. She’s a super chef! The potato salad was really delicious. All topped with homemade wine. I got in love with the simplicity of the wine so we ordered a liter of it for less than a euro. We just need to pick it up the day before we left Caspe.

Potato salad a la Tere. Perfect starter. Paired with a glass of vino cacero (house wine)

Hitting the road to Benasque was the most enjoyable part of the trip passing by desserts, small villages, lakes, farms, big cities, and towns. Finally, when we came across those boulders of rocks and passing several tunnels, we arrived in Benasque during daylight. It took us less than 3 hours to get there. A few years ago, I saw this video of the Pyrenees and promised myself I will be climbing that mountain. Then that was the realization of the dream. After we fixed our luggage and prepared rooms, we never wasted time. Immediately met our friends Pedro and Roxana to discuss the Pico Aneto ascent the following day.

A few kilometers of Monegros semidesert in the provinces of Zaragoza and Huesca.

Entering Benasque. A place for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, canyoning, rafting, hydrospeed, kayaking, mountaineering, climbing, horse riding, paragliding (or alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and ski mountaineering in winter. You can visit the town all year round and you’ll never be bored.
Lines of hotels, bed & breakfast, cafes, outdoor shops, and restaurants.
A typical Pyrenean house with double or triple pitched roofs with flat tiles (generally slate), small eaves and whitewashed exposed stone walls. Lovely!
Scouting for dinner, Mind you, we found a very nice restaurant with unlimited wine.
Migas is a  Spanish word for “crumbs,”. In Spain, it’s a dish typically comprised of stale bread and scrambled eggs.
Revuelto de setas y gambas. A fabulous meal of scrambled eggs with rovellon mushrooms and fresh prawns.
Cocido is a traditional Spanish comfort food made of various meat, embutidos, and vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and garbanzos.
Entrecot de buey. Beef entrecôte. Always paired with fried potatoes.

Day Four. Ascent to Pico Aneto

We woke up at 03h00 and drove all the way from Benasque to the major jumping-off point to Pico Aneto in Llanos del Hospital. I will not be writing a detailed experience in this article since I wrote a separate one here

Day Five. Registration Day for Gran Trail Posets-Aneto, Picnic, and the start of 100km

It was an exciting day for the participants most especially to Omar and David (Omar’s uncle). Considered to be the biggest trail running event in Spain participated by different nationalities from all over the world. David ran for Gran Trail Posets Aneto. A 105 km. of asphalt, track, trail and off-road from Benasque to Aneto passing by Cerler, Anciles, Eriste then to the highest level of the test, the Col de la Forqueta at 2900masl. Omar ran for Vuelta Al Aneto for 55km. An infinite journey starting Benasque passing by Barrancs valley, high-altitude hills of Salenques (2797 masl) and finally back to Benasque. Vuelta Aneto is such a spectacular race of terrain, tracks, paths, chambers and endless beauty of High Pyrenees.

Registration area. So organized and friendly people.

In the afternoon, we had a nice picnic beside the river with a view of the Pyrenees. Pedro cooked his very delicious “cerdo risotto a la Pedro”. How I wish I brought my hammock. Live and learn. Roxana and Pedro had to say goodbye before it gets dark. How I wish we can travel more or climb another peak.

Heading to the picnic ground just a few meters from Benasque beside the river with an excellent view of Aneto massif.

The “cook of the day” in action. Chef Pedro. Arrrribbbaaa!!!!
Cerdo risotto a la Pedro after adding the rice.
One of the best risotto I had in my life. Perfectly cooked. Muchas gracias mi hermano!
Everybody was silent. Delicioso y saboroso!
Moral support for David.
David the titan with his wife at his back.

At exactly 10 PM, a loud sound was heard which signals the participants to be ready. A few minutes after, runners started their journey and they’re expected t return within the next 24 hours or less.

The start of the ultra-marathon. Blue lights, siren, and people shouting “VAMOS“!

Day Six. Vuelta Al Aneto and Other Categories, Cerler and Anciles Hike

We woke up at 04h45 and immediately proceeded to the starting line. It was Omar’s turn. The cold wind didn’t bother us from cheering “Vamos”. All the spectators cheered and shouted at their loudest voice, photographers took as many photos as they can and the music was really lively.

Start of Vuelta Al Aneto in the morning. Followed by other categories.

After breakfast, I decided to do a hike to Cerler. Lies in the High Benasque Valley in the Central Pyrenees, Cerler is home to the famous ski resort,  Aramón Cerler which is perched at the highest altitude with the steepest skiable slopes in the Pyrenees. So legendary that it has the longest slope and 79km of skiable land. Cerler became the benchmark in skiing in the Pyrenees. Following Noelia’s recommendation, I started my trek before 7 in the morning in the hope of catching some photos of runners along the trails. I followed the “Ruta Circular Benasque Anciles/Cerler”.

The trail to Cerler

 I was lost in the forest and just relied on my offline map. I had that confident feeling and luckily went out from the pine forest a few meters from Cerler. It took me an hour and a half of trek inside the forest.

Getting lost was no fun. At least I got some food and water.

It was worth it the hike. Cerler was so tranquil and restaurants were still closed so I just decided to continue my trek to Anciles. You will never be lost with clear signposts for direction and you can also get a map at Cerler Tourism Office which was already opened at past 8. I must say that Cerler is an ideal vacation place, nature-friendly and laidback vibe. Far from civilization with few shops around and the ski resort which is busy during winter. Passing by the resort and going down to the forest, I can’t resist the temptation of collecting wild cherries. So sweet that I even collected some seeds for planting. I wonder if they’ll survive in the tropical Philippines. It was close contact with nature all the way down to Anciles with occasional runners passing by.

Finally, I arrived at Cerler after I got lost in the forest.
Cerler Tourism Office. Just ask around and you will be guided by one of their friendly staff.

The way to Aramon Cerler ski resort
Aramon Cerler ski resort during summer. I can only imagine how lovely this place is during winter.

I arrived in Anciles after 2 hours of slow trek and random shots of runners and nature. Anciles was like Benasque and Cerler is clean and quiet. There were few cyclists and walkers around the village. In less than an hour, I managed to get back to Benasque. I waited for a while at the finish line and got some photos from the finishers.

What a day my friend! At night, after dinner, we waited for Pedro and David to come back at 10:20 we saw them approached the finish line.

Day Seven. Chill, Awarding, Lunch at Eriste and back to Caspe

The most relaxed day since we arrived at Benasque. I did a bit of shopping since it was Black Friday Sale. Outdoor gears at low prices. We finished a bottle of beer in one of the restaurants in the middle of the village and back to the awarding stage. After that, we immediately got out of Benasque and headed to Eriste for late lunch since it was too crowded around Benasque.

They got the 2nd and 3rd place in their category. Truly amazing!

Eriste is a tiny village in the Province of Huesca about 3.6km away from Benasque. After a few checks in some restaurants, we had chosen the best restaurant in the village. Oh, how I loved the homemade wine they served before the starter (primer plato). I chose the one with the rice and thought that it got some meat on it but to my surprise, it only got egg and tomato sauce. But it was still delicious. I was very contented and happy with my second plate (segundo plato). Followed by dessert (postre) of choice, the 18.70 euros we paid per person was totally worth it.

Primer plato for Delphine. Berenjenas rellenas de la carne con bechamel. (Aubergine filled with minced meat and bechamel sauce)
Primer plato for me. Arroz a la cubana. (Rice with tomato and fried egg)
Segundo plato for me. One of the best! Ternasco de Aragon. Grilled young lamb. One of the most typical in Aragonese cuisine. Tender juicy!
Segundo plato for Delphine. Entrecot de buey. Grilled Ox Entrecôte .

Going back to the road was the most difficult part. We are all full and sleepy. We tried to be awake and finally made our way back to Caspe.

Day Eight. Off to Barcelona

This was the most difficult part of the trip. Saying goodbye to friends and you don’t know when are you going to see them again. After breakfast, we dropped by to Noelia’s friend to pick up some homemade wine. It was too cheap that I wanted to buy a lot but we still have a trip to Barcelona and Portugal so I just got 2 liters for less than 2 euros. Words were not enough to say thank you to Noelia, Omar, and their families for all the good times we had in Caspe and Benasque. There’s only one thing that we are sure, we’ll go back next time. But the question is when?

Homemade wine for .80 cents a liter
Caspe train station

The train to Barcelona Sants was pretty comfortable for 21.15 euros for less than 4 hours of travel time. Never did I know that I booked a tourist class. Not our type of seat accommodation but I just noticed it when I re-checked our train itinerary. Piece of advice: book the train tickets in advance so you avail seats and class of your choice. In our case, we booked it a night before our trip so the rate was already a bit high. You can book it here.

It was a busy afternoon in Barcelona Sants train station and luckily we were able to purchase our tickets for 6.20 euros per person in a few minutes of queuing and found our train at R4 track. A bit confusing but we managed to get there. It took us 43 minutes to get to Sabadell.

I can’t wait to see my old friends Alan and Susan. The last time we hiked was 10 years ago. We were picked up by Alan at Can Feu Gracia Station in Sabadell Nord, Barcelona.

Day Nine. Lazy Day

The original plan was to go out and see the city but we ended up watching Netflix “The Boy Who Harnessed Power”. Such an inspiring movie!

Day Ten. City Tour

We didn’t explore that much of Barcelona except the long hike from the Provença train station to the vast Park Güell and the majestic Basilica de la Sagrada Familia.

Park Güell is a famous public park covering 15 hectares in an uneven surface of Carmel Hill in Barcelona City. A place of a complete and perfect harmony of nature and architecture designed by Antoni Gaudí in 1900. The original concept was to build an English-style garden city and a housing estate in a natural setting. Tickets can be book online for 22 euros. We haven’t managed to access the whole park since it was fully booked during that time and some of the spaces were closed due to conservation and maintenance works. We promised ourselves to re-visit some other day.

The Hipostila Room which was under construction during our visit.
Casa Museu Gaudi can be accessed by buying a separate ticket. It was Gaudi’s residence from 1906 to 1925 and was opened to the public in 1963.
While walking around the free access park, you’ll find musicians playing their favorite music. Sometimes they sell CDs for 10 euros. Please drop some coins and support local artists.
The perfect imitation with nature introducing Mediterranean vegetation.
Those pigeons calls Park Guell as their home. During rainy days, they are protected inside those big boulders of bridges and walls.

This local artist called “Mañaners” performed reggae music and sells CDs for 10 euros.
The view of Barcelona City with La Sagrada de la Familia.

Hipostila Room or Hall of Columns was under construction when we visited at the park in July. Another reason to re-visit Barcelona.

It took us less than an hour of walk from the park to reach the more intricate Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. All I can say was “wow” when we saw it. The church is still undergoing its construction since it started in 1882 with Francisco de Paula del Villar as the architect and later on resigned in 1883 which was subsequently taken over by Antoni Gaudi thereby transforming the building according to his artistic style of combining Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. It’s expected to be completed after 100 years of Gaudi’s death which is in 2026. Almost near!

One thing I liked in Barcelona is that they have a lot of parks with free potable water. Just take your own water bottle or just use your palms.
The undergoing construction of the church. Enormous and captivating! Expected to be finished in 2026. Hang on guys!


Back to Sabadell Nord for dinner

That was the last bonding we had with our friends before we parted the following day for Portugal. We had a great time walking around the market and had a good dinner courtesy of Alan and Susan in a nice restaurant. The seafood paella was really good and the spinach pizza was exquisite. Of course, a meal will never be complete without dessert. I had the best cheesecake in Spain here in Sabadell.

A trip to Spain will never be complete without a paella!
One of the best cheesecake I had in Spain.
Creamy lava cake. Miam!

Brownies and ice cream. Oh la la!
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I live my life everyday celebrating. An easy go lucky guy. Always hungry for adventure and learning different cultures. If I'm not at the summit, I'm at the sea. Traveling is my way of life. Deeply in love with mountaineering, swimming, skinny dipping, island hopping, fishing, and cycling. Loves good food, beer, music, and good human conversation. At home, I used to cook, do yoga, and meditate. A coffee lover. Stay most of my time at the outdoors, breathing the cold air, tasting the saltiness of sea breeze, watch the waves swiftly caressing the sand, listen to the flowing water of the river, pitch my tent or hang my hammock and sleep under 5 billion stars. I hate manicured places (resorts). Adores sunrise and sunset which gives me extraordinary energy.


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