Blog: Three days in LumineNovember 18, 2016 Courses and Travel
NCG hits the road to spend three days in Spain and the heart of Catalonia…
Sun, sea, sand and golf. If that’s what you’re expecting from a resort, you’ll get them all in spades at Lumine.
It’s not often you’ll have to don the layers at this Mediterranean community, where you also can enjoy the beaches at La Pineda and get your golfing fix at three courses which all have a very different flavour.
We sent Steve Carroll and his family off to the heart of Catalonia to experience all Lumine has to offer.
What did he think? Here’s his three-day blog…
Day 1 – Sunday
Manchester to Barcelona is the sort of flight I love – mercifully short. I can’t claim to be the calmest when a hulk of metal is in the air but we’re up and down before I have time to think about it.
We reach Barcelona in a shade over two hours and, soon, we (that is me, my wife Kathryn and my year-old daughter Amy) are motoring down the C-32 on the way to Tarragona.
If you’ve got an idea in your head of what Spain – or more specifically Catalonia is – then this drive will probably confirm all your thoughts.
It’s picturesque and mountainous and passing vineyard after vineyard gives you a thirst for a decent glass when you’ve negotiated the hour or so it takes to drive to La Pineda.
First, you’ll go through Salou. It’s an industrial area of Spain and the steel shafts from the chemical works will be visible as you walk around the port and hit your shots from Lumine’s courses.
I was brought up in Teesside, so it wasn’t a sight that was unfamiliar.
But it’s not overbearing and, combined with the palm trees and the bustling PortAventura World close by (more of that later), you’ll soon settle into your surroundings.
Within half an hour of reaching La Pineda, I was taking in the first of Lumine’s golfing delights – the 9-hole Ruins course.
Have you ever struck a first tee drive where you are trying to avoid hitting your ball off an ancient monument?
That’s what awaits you at this Greg Norman-designed course, which is set among the foundations of Roman buildings from the 2nd century BC.
My opening shot arrowed right towards one and I thought my Pro V1 was going to cause an international incident. Luckily it landed short.
The ruins themselves are all ground under repair so don’t worry about having to carve some graffiti into a piece of history with your 7-iron.
Set among olive and carob trees, this is the most ‘Spanish’ in flavour of the three courses and there are some very strong holes to grab your attention.
The most notable of these is the 3rd, a par 4 with an impossibly tight fairway flanked by trees and bushes to the left and right.
If the courses are impressive enough, what really strikes you about Lumine is the off-fairway service – it really is first class.
The staff in the clubhouse are warm and welcoming, speak more languages than a Babel fish, and will cater to your every need.
Ours was unusual in the sense that this was our first holiday away with our daughter. In a trip where she struggled to get used to new surroundings, it was in Lumine’s clubhouse where she was most settled.
The staff made a fuss of her – which Amy of course loved – and that’s indicative of the extra mile they will go to try and make your visit enjoyable.
Day 2 – Monday
Up with the larks and back to Lumine for 18 holes on the Lakes course – which has recently hosted stage two of European Tour qualifying.
If you’ve ever played resort golf, the Lakes will be exactly what you are expecting.
The fairways are fairly wide, the bunkers numerous but playable, there’s water everywhere and carpet-like greens that are both receptive and run truly.
The Lakes is a course that gives you a chance. If you hit it well, you will be rewarded with pars and birdies. Fail to strike the ball as you should and a watery grave will await.
While I was out on the Lumine Lakes course, Kathryn took the opportunity to explore La Pineda and the tranquil beach. The seafront promenade runs for a couple of miles with the sand on one side and the shop fronts on the other.
There’s no shortage of seafood restaurants waiting to be explored. There’s a really relaxed feel about the whole place and, if you are looking for a little bit of peace and quiet, you could do worse than take a little stroll.
We’d had the choice of a vineyard trip or a visit to the nearby PortaVentura World later that day and, with the promise of Sesame Street World to enrapt Amy, it was to the theme park that we trekked.
You can hear the screams and see the rollercoasters flashing by from the golf courses and, once you arrive, the scale of the place really hits you.
Each world – and there’s six to explore – could be a separate park of its own and you’ll really need to set aside a full day, rather than the afternoon we had, to get the best out of it.
SesamoAdventura, with Bert, Ernie and the rest of the gang, had the desired effect on Amy and she still plays with the Elmo toy now, while Far West – for its sheer scale and ambition in recreating a western town – needs to be seen to be believed.
When Ferrari Land Park opens next year, crowned by a monstrous rollercoaster which is being labelled Europe’s tallest and fastest, it will only increase PortAventura World’s already vast popularity.
Day 3 – Tuesday
Residing in York, with its medieval walls and Viking excavations, I am used to living history but even I was stunned by Tarragona.
The city, which sits on the Mediterranean coastline and is barely a 10-minute drive from Lumine, is embedded within the ancient ruins of the Roman colony of Tarraco.
The Amfiteatre de Tarragona, a 2nd century arena where the first Christians were martyred, remains in such fine condition you can imagine the gladiatorial contests.
You can still see the remnants of The Forum – many of the old stones are built into the medieval and newer buildings – and you can almost hear the hoofprints as you walk around the circus, where the old chariot races took place.
Tourists can even go underneath, into a network of claustrophobic tunnels, and see just how impressive Roman engineering really was.
Equally as wondrous is the Tarragona Cathedral. Found right in the heart of the old town, this 13th century cathedral is a giant among the compact buildings.
Part Roman, part Gothic, it’s huge and only reinforces how important religion was in medieval Spain.
For all of that, though, what really strikes you about Tarragona isn’t just the Roman ruins, or the Christian extravagance, it’s the village feel.
As we were taken on a two-hour tour around the main highlights by a guide, he stopped to exchange pleasantries and greetings with almost everyone we passed.
Tarragona is a community. It’s a place where everyone knows each other and looks out for one another. They welcome visitors just the same.
You won’t see this ethos any more clearly than in the human tower competition that takes place each year. This is a quite amazing sight on video so it must be incredible to witness up close.
It’s a Castell that reaches up into the sky and, in this festival that seems to bring out the whole of Catalonia, there are pyramids of people everywhere.
A tradition for more than 300 years, participants have built their combinations up to 10 stories as they bid to touch the stars.
If you’re going to Barcelona, make sure you visit Tarragona as well.
Our stay there was all too brief and, following a relaxed lunch, we left Tarragona and Lumine behind and retraced the coast road back towards the airport and our waiting plane.
But it won’t be long before we are back…