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By Regina Winkle-Bryan in Barcelona–
Fall is creeping into northeastern Spain ever so slowly. Today I even saw someone swimming in the Mediterranean, mind you, it is far too cold for that nonsense. We know the seasons are changing here in Barcelona, because all non-palm trees are beginning to shed their leaves, which is especially obvious on the tree-lined Rambla.
Replacing lush leaves are the “Yam Guys.” This is not their real name, but it’s what I call them. They show up as the weather gets nippy and set up their food carts throughout town. Their operation is simple, nothing more than a BBQ grill and a cash box, plus a stack of old newsprint to wrap up the chestnuts and barbecued yams that they sell for a couple euros. I strongly recommend the yams—they’re a strange sort of street food, but very delicious and seem to embody autumn with their sweet burnt flavors.
Looking for leaves around Barcelona
While it is clear that fall is here, those who want to see forests ablaze in reds, yellows and tangerines will have to hit the road and get out of the city. Sad but true, Barcelona does not have enough in the way of green spaces for one to take much notice of fall colors. That and the fact that many of the trees here are of the tropical variety.
Instead, head for the mountains, the Pyrenees to be exact, just an hour and forty-five minutes from the city due north. Along the highways that run up to Spanish-French border town Puigcerda, you’ll find plenty of autumn splendor tucked amongst quaint Catalan villages.
Do yourself a favor and rent a car to really get out into the countryside. Sure, you could take the RENFE train inland and glimpse some fall shades, but a car will get you out into the thick of the color-fest. (Note: Catalonia is not Connecticut, but there is still fall flare to be had!)
I recommend the following route for fall colors and nature lovers:
Take the C-16 north from Barcelona all the way to Puigcerda. Stay the night there if you can, or at one of the smaller (and most likely cheaper) villages along the way. On the way back to Barcelona take the long way home heading west to La Seu d’Urgell and then swinging south again towards the city.
To make renting a car budget-friendly, try to get a few people to go in a group to share gas costs. Also, consider renting on off-days (week days) or reserving the car ahead of time which can also save you some dinero. Lately, because fall is off-season here, there have been some great car rental deals with the company Sixt.com.
For extra savings, grab a couple of yams and a newspaper full of chestnuts for road grub from the Yam Guys. Happy Trails!