Memoir of the SpiceFactory Workation (Catalonia, 2018)

The SpiceFactory annual workation is the embodiment of our culture. It’s more than a company retreat and not just another empty team building project. Once a year we pack our bags, grab our significant others and kids, and go somewhere abroad to live, work, and play. In 2016 it was Belgium, 2017 was Italy, and this year it was Spain – the region of Catalonia to be precise.

This is a short “memoir” and photo blog of the places we visited and the experiences we shared.

Day 1: Belgrade ➡ Barcelona ➡ Mas Grau

Every workation starts at the Nikola Tesla Airport. Preferably at 2 AM because we’re vampires and love to fly at night. 🧛‍♂️ Spirits are high, everything is on time, and we’re ready to hit the skies!

SpiceFactory group photo
Group photo from the Nikola Tesla Airport.

Although we initially arrived at Barcelona Airport, our destination is still an hour away. Once we picked up our rent-a-cars, we were ready to travel to our villa – Mas Grau – near the sleepy village of Estanyol in Bescanó.

I had the pleasure of being the navigator for my good friend and colleague Branko. Here’s a photo of our cabin crew.

Me, Tea, Branko, Marina, and Pablo
The 9049 JHX Crew.

That’s me in the purple shirt, with my girlfriend Tea. Branko is holding the camera, and his wife Marina is holding their son Pavlo (or Pablo as he has been referred to during the workation.)

When we finally reached our accommodations, it was really a sight to behold:

Mas Grau Front
Front View
Mas Grau Side View
Side View
The Swimming Pool
The Pool
View from the villa
The View

The villa isn’t just pretty. It’s equipped with a jacuzzi, sauna, turkish bath, pool table, badminton gear, and a swimming pool. Practically designed for relaxation and community-driven fun.

Day 2: Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park and Figueres

Starting our workation off with a hike only seems natural at this point. The Garrotxa Park is beautiful and the trail, although challenging at some places, was wonderful. In the belly of the inactive volcano awaits a charming little church and a great photo opportunity!

A group polaroid photo
Photo by: instagram.com/dushichiza

After the hike, we went to a local restaurant where some of us tried escargot for the first time. Can’t say I’m a fan though! 🐌

Afterwards, we set sail for Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, and home to the Dalí Museum. To put it bluntly, it was as eccentric as I expected.

The facade of the Dalí Museum
As you can see, the museum isn’t hard to miss!
Outside the Dalí Museum entrance
Even the entrance is intriguing!
Figueres streets and Parish church of St. Peter
Parish church of St. Peter

Day 3: Chill

The excitement caught up to some of us at this point and we needed to take it easy. While part of the crew went on yet another hike, the rest of us stayed back. We were kicking by the pool and downing some beers.

Swimming pool and view
The Fun Zone™

Day 4: Girona

Girona is a charming Catalan city with some of the most beautiful streets and churches you’ll ever see.

Photo from Girona Cathedral
The view from Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona.
Photo from Girona Cathedral
The Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu in the distance.
Photo of Girona Cathedral
The stairs of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona.
Photo of Girona Streets
A Girona street along with the view of the Cathedral’s bell tower in the distance.

It’s no surprise that this town was chosen as the filming spot for the HBO hit series “Game of Thrones.” Some of its iconic locations were used for the city of Braavos and King’s Landing. In fact, here’s a side by side comparison.

Game of Thrones Comparison Number 1
Only the first building on the left is real.
Game of Thrones Comparison Number 2
Notice how they cover the statues with banners to avoid any need for CGI.

Day 5: Sant Feliu de Guíxols

Chilling by the pool is one thing. But, chilling on the beautiful Costa Brava is a whole different level. I envy the Guixolense for the beautiful golden hour that they get to enjoy every day.

Golden Hour Photo 1
The marina on the left.
Golden Hour Photo 2
The horizon.
Golden Hour Photo 3
Sant Feliu.

Day 6: The Sheep of Siurana

We visited the Mas Marcè farm and got to learn about the rare Ripollesa sheep and how this family-owned farm makes specialty cheese. And we got to taste all of it! 🐑

Cheese making Photo 1
They’re making Cuajada, which we were told would be like unsweetened panna cotta. It didn’t really turn out like that at all! :)
Cheese making Photo 2
Draining the whey.
Photo of Ripollesa sheep
Feeding the sheep.

Day 7: Platja d’Aro Costa Brava

Originally a small fishing town, Platja d’Aro is now a major resort. Still, it remains fairly untouched and quiet. We got to do some kayaking along this 2km stretch of Costa Brava.

Beach and kayaks
Kayaking preparations.
The beach
The Beach.
The gentle sunset
The gentle sunset.

Day 8: Barcelona

I’ll be honest, I didn’t care much for Sagrada Familia or the Gaudi walking tour. I’m the type of person who likes quiet, charming streets over massively hyped tourist attractions. Barcelona’s city center is just too much for me.

But there’s a whole different world outside this busy, noisy area. You know how you sometimes stumble upon a charming coffee shop? Or maybe a beautiful bookstore? Or how you accidentally end up atop of some high hill, just as the most amazing sunset hits your eye?

Once you leave the crowded city center, Barcelona offers so many of those opportunities and these photographs don’t do it justice.

Gaudí House
Have to put some Gaudí in here.
Skyline view with Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia poking out
That’s the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia poking out.
Photo of Barcelona streets
Unusually thin buildings.
Photo of Castell dels Tres Dragons
Castell dels Tres Dragons, seen from Ciutadella Park.

Day 9: Biking

Here’s something you probably didn’t know – I can’t ride a bike. 🚲 So, how did I, a non-biker, go biking across the Catalonian countryside? Well, I didn’t! But I walked my away in the blazing hot sun and reached the destination 5 minutes before the other part of the expedition.

(Yes, my route was shorter, but that’s just a footnote in the history books!)

Monells church and countryside.
Outside the town of Monells.
Tea riding a bike.
Tea on a bike.
Madremanya castle.
A castle near Madremanya.
Sunset
Sunset.

Day 10: Shopping!

Let’s just say there’s a couple of good outlet centers near Girona and we just had to visit some! No photos here!

Day 11: Barcelona ➡ Belgrade

We got to spend our last day in Barcelona. (Before boarding our flight back home.) We had to split the gang so we could cover more ground. I went along with the group that decided to visit Museo Picasso.

For those who know how to read, I have painted my autobiography.

It’s one of the best art museums I’ve visited and I can boil it down to two reasons:

  1. The layout of the museum is designed to tell a story. As you go from room to room, you’re looking at Picasso’s work in chronological order and with just enough detail about his life to make everything click.
  2. They added an entire section full of artwork from artists who Picasso met and worked with while in Paris.
    • Seeing the work of other artists, who no doubt left their mark of Picasso, promotes a sort of historical dialog.
    • It gives you a new way of looking at his work from that period. (And it also helped me discover the brilliant work of Ramon Casas.)
Tea in Museo Picasso
Tea on a balcony in Museo Picasso. Taking photos is prohibited inside the museum.

Home Sweet Home

When we left Belgrade, the weather was a sunny 26℃. The weather in Catalonia was similar. But when we got back, we were greeted by a chilly 6℃ and risk of rain.

But it’s good to be home. And home is never really the same once you return from somewhere. But it’s not the places that change. It’s us.

And that’s amazing!

Promoting change and personal growth is what we excel at over at SpiceFactory. If you’re interested in joining a team like that, our careers page is always up to date.

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