by Doug McNamee at Bicycle Day Trips
“Today’s flight has been cancelled due to a problem with the navigation system.” This was the last thing I wanted to hear while waiting to board my flight back to the United States. My girlfriend and I had just spent two weeks in Spain where we visited Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Granada, all of them mostly by train and without one snare. But we were told our flight out of Barcelona would be rescheduled for the next morning.
Making the Best of a Bad Situation
Out the window, the sun glared off the long autumn grass on the side of the highway and I could see the ocean in the distance. An hour later, the bus that had collected us and the other waylaid travelers pulled to a stop in the town of Vilafranca del Penedès in Catalonia, Spain. Just moments after our arrival, many of our fellow passengers gathered in the lobby of our hotel, the Pere III El Gran, to either complain or frantically call the airline to voice their dismay.
My girlfriend and I, on the other hand, reveled in the fact that we were getting a brief extension to our Spanish vacation. The room we received was clean, air conditioned, and roomy. It probably was one of the nicest rooms we stayed in during our time in Spain. Sometimes flight delays pay off.
About Vilafranca del Penedès
Vilafranca del Penedès was founded in the 12th century and was the seat of the vegeura in 1304, a territorial jurisdiction of the principality of Catalonia during the Middle Ages. Vilafranca del Penedès is also the birthplace of Saint Raymond of Penyafort, who was responsible for compiling a collection of canon law for the Roman Catholic Church. He also founded the Mercedarian Friars.
Several centuries later, the town became a sight for motor racing from 1908 – 1920. Today, the area is famous for its many wineries and vineyards. You can also take an afternoon to walk the famous Medieval route through town.
Exploring Vilafranca del Penèdes
Right across the street from our hotel was a town square. We sat in a café and drank Estrella (one of the most popular brands of beer in Spain) and had servings of roasted jalapeño peppers called shishitos and patatas bravas, which are roasted cut potatoes covered in a spicy cream sauce.
With the sun hovering over the rooftops, we watched school-age children at play while their parents stood nearby. Afterward, we strolled the quiet, cobbled streets of the town, and then came across a meeting where people sang songs of protest about the imprisonment of those wanting a free Catalonia.
As night settled in, we ambled down one of the many narrow streets which led to a large plaza from the Middle Ages where the whitewashed stone of the Santa Maria church rose above us. Close by, there sat a group of locals having a late dinner as people tend to do in Spain. They were seated next to a small stone pillar where the townspeople from so many centuries ago probably tied up their horses so they could drink from the trough before their owners scurried off to Mass.
We ended our evening with a romantic walk back toward the hotel. On the way, we stopped at a food truck where a man was selling churro-like pastries filled with chocolate. We shared a pastry and continued past shops that sold other chocolate-laced confections.
All Good Things Must End
Our time in Vilafranca was short, but it was unique. Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville are, of course, must-sees and contain many wonders. However, the real heart of Spain lies in the smaller towns where you can escape the crowds and blend in easily with the locals.
Thanks to Doug McNamee for his guest contribution. You can read more of his work at Bicycle Day Trips. When have you experienced a travel set-back that turned out to be a great experience? Oh, one more thing . . . Don’t forget to like this post and please leave a comment.