We stayed at the Hotel Belvedere in Salou for a week at the start of June 2004. It’s a large hotel just off the Placa Europa, which is about a ten minute walk from the beach and Salou centre.
The hotel itself was clean and well-maintained, with a large outdoor pool area and no shortage of sunbeds while we were there. Maids changed the towels and made the beds every day. The sleeping arrangements were a bit weird – one room with two double beds, for two adults and two children, so we ended up with a boys bed and a girls bed to stop the fights breaking out!
Photos around Salou and the hotel
We were staying half-board at the hotel, so we tended to eat well at breakfast and in the evening, then survive on ice creams, drinks, and maybe the occasional sandwich or cake from local corner shops. Drinks were comparable with what you would pay in bars back home: draught lager 2.5 to 3 euros (£2 a pint?), soft drinks for the kids less than 2 euros (£1.50?). Slightly pricier at the pavement cafes along the seafront, especially the milkshakes (but we kept going back for more!). Imports like Guinness and John Smiths probably attract a price premium. Didn’t register the price of spirits, but the measures appeared to be very generous. Lots of music bars near the centre of Salou, with the obligatory touts trying to tempt you in. We did our best to ignore them, favouring the quieter family bars.
The hotel is on a street just off a main roundabout (the Placa Europa). The street leads off to the universal studios resort, so it’s not a main route in and out of town, but there is a fair bit of traffic up and down. Great location – only about ten minutes slow walk to the beachfront and the centre of salou.
Because we went out-of-season, the air conditioning wasn’t switched on. This meant we had to leave the patio door open at night. There was a little bit of noise from the neighbouring hotel (which seemed to have a much better entertainment program than ours!), but very little traffic noise. The only point worthy of note – at around 3am every morning, the dustbin lorry came round to empty all of the glass bottles from the hotel recycling containers. A bit annoying at the time, but perhaps all the hotels suffer in the same way.
Overall verdict – perfectly acceptable hotel; good location; nice pool area with enough sunloungers when we were there. Hotel entertainment not as good as other Mediterranean holidays, but perhaps that’s not important if you’re so close to Salou’s nightlife.
On day 3, we took the train to Tarragona. The station is at the western end of Salou, no more than about 20 minutes walk from our hotel. Tarragona is the nearest coastal town (10 mins on the train), and used to be the Roman capital of the region long before Barcelona. When you get off the train, head uphill to the old town.
The ‘Rambla’ is a mini version of Barcelona’s – a long, wide street leading to the sea, with shops and pavement cafes. There are lots of Roman remains within a few minutes walking distance of the Rambla. An excellent starting point is the Archaeological Museum.
Train fare, Salou to Tarragona return, adults 2.50€ children 1.70€.
Museu Nacional Arqueologic de Tarragona admission 2.40€ adults, children free.
Pretori (tower) next to the Museum N.A.T. adults 2€ children free.
The Pretori also connects to the remains of the Roman Circus.
Roman Amphitheatre down near the beach, adults 2€ children free.
An early breakfast, then down to the station to catch a train to Barcelona (train fare from Salou to Barcelona day return, adults 9.90€ children 6.60€). The journey took about 1 hour 10 minutes, and we got off at the second of three stations in Barcelona – the ‘Passeig de Gracia’. From here, you can walk to the Placa Catalunya in about ten minutes. The pedestrianised ‘Las Ramblas’ runs from Placa Catalunya downhill to the sea.
La Boqueria market, half way down Las Ramblas.
I had already heard horror stories from friends who had bought 4 pints at a cafe on the ramblas only to be presented with a bill for 36€. We thought we would be crafty, and buy something from the market for lunch! Deborah found a pick’n’mix stall and asked for a large bag of tropical fruit mix. I got a few euros ready in my hand. The woman on the market stall weighed it on her scales, punched a few figures in, and came up with a total of 22€. No, I couldn’t believe it either – 22€, that’s about 15 quid! We paid it anyway, because like all gullible tourists we just wanted to get out of there! Still, it really p***ed me off, and I went ON and ON about it all day long!
Seriously though, the indoor market was fascinating to look round. I’ve got a few more photos at home, but they don’t really do it justice – the noise, the smells, the vibrant colours. Take a look at the photo above – what the heck are those fruits in the centre? Shocking pink on the outside, but with a white and brown speckled inside like choc chip ice-cream (2006 edit: just seen “dragon fruits” from Vietnam in my local Tesco!).
Placa Reial, Los Caracoles restaurant, and the Christophe Colom
About half way down Las Ramblas, we turned off to the left into the Placa Reial. A calm oasis after the tumult of the ramblas. No shade, but just sitting near the fountain gave us all a chance to cool down. Took a photo by the fountain for a group of lads from the UK, and got them all in the photo except the guy at the end – sorry mate!
Last time I was here, I was in a group as guests of the nearby Freixenet winery (at Sant Sadurni d’Anoia). One evening, they took us all out to ‘Los Caracoles’ (‘The Snails’). It’s a fascinating restaurant inside, with lots of little rooms, and hams hanging from the ceiling. I asked for a paella, imagining I would get something like the picture on a vesta ready meals box. When it arrived I was faced with a huge plate of sea creatures, with far too many legs poking out and eyes staring back at me! Still, it would have been rude not to eat it, so I rolled my sleeves up and got stuck in!
The Christopher Columbus monument is visible as you get nearer to the harbour, and further out you can see the cable car to Montjuic. I’ve been to Barcelona twice now – on both occasions I’ve spotted the cable car out over the harbour to the hillside, but never had the time to explore it. If you go, you’ll have to let me know what it’s like, because we are certainly considering a short city break over there (note to self – abandon kids with grandparents for weekend!)
Odd how we’re always telling our kids never to talk to strangers. Then, faced with silver-painted performance artists for the first time in their lives, and in an unfamiliar foreign city, we tell them to go and put some money in a tin and stand next to a statue of some random historical character!
Street Artists on the Ramblas
I first saw the Sagrada Familia from a distance when I visited Barcelona in the early 90’s. I had always wanted to go back and explore it in more detail. It’s some distance from the Ramblas, so we got a taxi across town (about 5€). Taxi cabs are a scary experience in Barcelona, and by the time we reached the Sagrada I was already shutting my eyes in prayer!
Matthew went up the towers of the Nativity facade, and across the bridge at the top! (2€ extra)
(Admission 8€ adult, 5€ student, 3€ child)
“Port Aventura”, the Universal Mediterranea theme park
Admission for one day to the theme park only, 2 adults and 2 children, around 130€ (£90?).
The water park (Costa Caribe) seemed a bit redundant – we already had a beach for free, and the hotel had a good size swimming pool. We would have been paying for a few water slides.
The Dragon Khan, visible from all over Salou. Matthew tells me it’s got 8 inversions (ie. places where you actually pass the point of being upside down). Still, it looked rather tame to me, so I looked after the things and took a few photographs!
We’ve got a keyring photo as a souvenir of the Stampede rollercoaster – Charlotte is in the very front carriage, and grinning like an idiot as the thing plummets to almost certain doom! Someone had to take a photo and look after all the things, so reluctantly I volunteered (start to see a pattern emerging here?). They managed to get me onto the Chinese Teacups ride, despite me telling them it was only for wimps and not worthy of my attentions. I had to tell the kids to stop spinning the teacups so that I could focus the camera properly – honest!
Templo del Fuego – a special effects show. I’ll not spoil this one for you. Suffice to say, Charlotte (grinning idiot on the Stampede rollercoaster, and mildly amused by the Dragon Khan) was absolutely terrified by this experience, and came out with the screaming ab-dabs!
Templo Del Fuego
Templo Del Fuego
Most memorable tune while we were there
(but for all the wrong reasons…)
– Una Paloma Blanca!