This is the story of a group of Chinese tourists who came to visit the incredibly beautiful country called Spain. A story like many others unfortunately, and certainly one in which we don’t wish to find ourselves on our own travels.
Our group took advantage of the chance to be in Barcelona during springtime and so they booked a tour to Aitona, to see the Pink Hanami that Eclipses Japan.
The tour advertised:Hanami in Spain – A Colorful Magic Place! Spend an amazing day out in the Spanish countryside, where we’ll stop to see castles, river deltas, the iconic stork nests and of course, the peach plantations of Aitona.
So our group of family, friends
What they got in return is a series of unfortunately boring events : starting with the wasted time at the bus station (with a guide who seemed to be doing this for the first time) the long, pointless drive to nowhere, the unproductive stops to places didn’t deserve it, the one hour delay at lunch, because of the tour operators horrendous management, and cherry on top, the only 30 minutes at the pink peach tree plantations in Aitona. Or should I say, the 30 minutes in the small village parking lot, admiring the couple hundred trees nearby – a far cry from the real spectacle laying only a few kilometers away, and which sadly remained unseen by my Chinese friends
That was a mouthful, so let me break it down for you:
A Sea of Pink
Let’s take a step back: the promise of this amazingly sounding tour was: Hanami in Spain:come with us, and we’ll show you castles, river deltas
Now, who would say NO to that?
And as it turns out, the message appealed to many – both locals and foreigners – and so the tour that day was very popular: a total of over 100 people, split into 2 buses. And my protagonists from the far East happily boarding the second bus, waiting to bask in the wonders of a Spanish spring.
Castles and River Views
The tour also mentioned a stop at a beautiful castle perched on a hill overlooking the Segre river. The program mentioned Aiguabarreig Segre-Cinca , which if you google image it will show a beautiful meeting point of rivers Segre, Ebro and Cinca.
White Lies: Castles and Deltas
The tour did advertise stopping at a castle – they intentionally didn’t mention which once (Spain has so many!) and conveniently left out the fact that the castle is, sadly, private property and cannot be visited. An important detail which they were well aware of, and which points out the lack of goodwill.
This castle of Mequinenza was up on a hill and didn’t quite offer the spectacular views we’re so used to in Spain when you think castle.
The tour operator knew that, by stopping here, they were intentionally committing fraud. And yet, they stopped for one full pointless hour in Mequinenza village – with close to nothing to do.
One hour was not enough to go up the steep hill to get a closeup of the private
To take the attention away from the fact that they’ve oversold the whole castle thing, they also intentionally rile up the crowds in the bus, saying things like: “Endesa owns this castle which should be national property, is paid by public taxpayers’ money, but is not open to the public”
The reality of this fake piece of news is that while the castle is owned by the Endesa Foundation, it is, in fact, open for free guided visits (on Tuesdays), and is most certainly not funded by public taxpayers money (it’s privately owned, remember?!)
To make it even sadder, after one uninspiring hour they left the parking lot only to see some seriously beautiful, spring scented river scenery sprint past the bus windows.
Why didn’t they stop to take in the views from the panoramic spot? The tour operator’s second fail of the day – they just didn’t deem it worth.
An Utter Lack of Organization
Skipping past a badly organized lunch, the guide made the entire bus repeat the time by which everyone needed to be back at the bus (let me hear everyone! that’s right – don’t forget, we need to be punctual! ) only to be 45 minutes late himself.
When a lady in the back called him up on it, he literally just shrugged and said the restaurant staff was slow. Which was in itself a crazy thing to say, given that all the tourists were waiting around the bus, and he was the only one late. Our group patiently waited it out…the hanami will be well deserved, they said to themselves…
Anticlimatic: Hanami in a Parking Lot
As you will soon find out, the anticlimactic end of this journey left our tourists, along with the rest of 100 eager hanami spectators, in the Aitona parking lot.
With only 30 minutes of free time before they had to board back into the bus and endure another 3 hours of the boring bus ride – because this was most definitely not a guided tour.
The 30 minutes in the parking lot were not enough for anything.
- Not for renting a bike or quad and hear for the promised fields of pink sprawling only 10 km away.
- Not for hiking the several trails so well prepared by the Aitona city council
- Throw in a visit to the toilet, where everyone inevitably queued after the long, boring drive, and you’re left with a few sad snaps of the timidly blooming trees in… the parking lot.
I, too, naively believed this pitch.
So I ignored the one hour delay in the morning (caused by our guide wandering about aimlessly, while seemingly having forgotten basic arithmetic and counting the empty bus seats 6 times!)
I got over the fact that, despite his excessive counting, he still got it wrong ! So 2 people had to travel standing for a good 50 km, beofre they were transferred to the 2nd bus.
I even tried not to judge when they left 2 tourists behind (!)
at a ‘panoramic’ hill outside Aitona – luckily the village was not that far, so they made it back.
However knowing what the real pink fields of Aitona had to offer, I just exploded with rage when I saw we were dropped like sacks of potatoes, no time to do anything even remotely getting us closer to the pink seas that awaited tantalizingly in my memory.
This series of unfortunate events and intentional ripoff scam was brought to you by Tour BCN (tourbcn.com) , also sold through Viajes Carrefour and Viajes Tour Pacific.
Our Chinese group left unimpressed, but not as enraged as I felt, knowing what they (we) didn’t get to see: THIS!
And if you want to experience Aitona the right way, see: How to Visit Spain’s Pink Hanami that Eclipses Japan
Consider yourselves warned.