Filming a Travel Show: My Amazing Catalunya Experience

Catalunya Experience Travel show Annabel Candy

It all started with a random comment from the Catalan Tourist Board on anInstagram photo of me on top of Mount Warning.

At first it seemed as if my knobbly knees had become a global sensation. But, equally unexpectedly, a television director in Barcelona had found Get In the Hot Spot and decided I’d be a perfect candidate for his TV travel show, Catalunya Experience.

Uniquely blessed in his ability to see my latent and long-buried potential to become a TV star, he asked his people to get in touch with my people.

catalunya experience instagram

The excitement begins…

Since I don’t have any people I got this email:

“This is E from the Catalan Tourist Board, the official body that works closely with the Catalan public and private sector to promote and consolidate the “Catalunya” brand around the world.

I am writing you in regards of a project we are developing with the main Catalan television station, TV3 – Televisió de Catalunya.

The project is to film 12 TV shows. In each show we invite a travel blogger, a filmmaker , a photographer or an instagramer from abroad to visit different parts of Catalonia and enjoy the traditions, gastronomy and people. The aim is to film a five day road movie showing fun times and great moments.

Our overseas guest, guided by a TV presenter and host, will discover unique landscapes, taste the best Catalan products and dishes, discover festivals, meet local characters and avoid travel cliches. A tailored and unforgettable journey will be designed for them.

We would like to know if you’d be interested in participating?

The Catalan Tourist board will cover your flights and all travel costs.

TV3 would do the final casting and they would have the final decision on it.”

I nearly wet myself with excitement when I read that. A trip to Catalonia would be amazing and having the whole thing captured on film sounded incredible. The TV show would be my best travel souvenir ever.

But first I needed to pass the casting which is what movie people do to chose hot talent instead of boring old interviews.

The casting was scheduled via Skype. I piled on lashings of makeup, banished my children from the living room and chatted with the director, producer, screen writer and a few other drop ins over video.

“We’re looking for someone smiling and enthusiastic,” the director said.

“I should be able to manage that,” I beamed, laughing and nodding constantly.

Despite the inevitable video lags, cultural differences and language barriers, my age old motto “when in doubt smile” held me in good stead.

When the casting was over, I powered down my computer and let my face relax back into its usual lines.

“Right kids!” I yelled “Everyone off to bed!”

But I guess my real enthusiasm for travel, Catalonia and the TV show were obvious. My casting was successful and the flights were booked.


Filming begins on the cable car to Montserrat – Me with Catalunya Experience host Ivana Miño

When doubts creep in…

The director explained that the travel itinerary would be kept secret from me. But the TV production team asked about what I like to do when I travel and said they’d organise everything for me.

That sounded great as I usually have to plan every aspect of our family travels myself, but in practice being led was hard for a leader.

There was so much I wanted to see and do in Catalonia and I was worried that I’d miss out on some vital experience. Plus there was the question of what to pack when you don’t know what you’ll be doing.

I tried and tried to wheedle the secret itinerary out of them but all I got was a packing list. It helped.

Finally I was on the plane winging my way from Brisbane, Australia to Barcelona where I’d be filmed as soon as I got to the airport.

“Just ignore the cameras,” they told me. “Be natural and concentrate on Ivana the presenter who will tell you what to do.”

Having always hated seeing myself in photos and believing that I’m supremely unphotogenic I wondered if I’d be able to meet their expectations and create a decent TV show. I wanted to but I just didn’t know if it would be possible.

Filming starts…

I felt like a movie star being greeted at the airport by a film crew and throughout the filming I was given the red carpet treatment wherever we went.


Finding out how it feels to have three TV cameras trained on me at all times!

At our first stop, majestic, mountainous Montserrat, they organised a private viewing of the black Virgin (a statue, not an actual person), a behind the scenes visit to the monastery and a guided tour with the Prior. Being able to talk with this spiritual elder in ancient, soulful surroundings was very special.


Catalunya Experience TV presenter Ivana Mino and me making a Prior sandwich with the amazing Prior Ignasi M. Fossas i Colet of Monserrat Monastery

Then I Cried…


Sunrise view from my window at Hotel Abat Cisneros on Montserrat

The next day we went climbing in the mountain tops then a private helicopter flew us to the Pyrenees. That was one of the most beautiful days of my life.


Hello you heavenly helicopter

As the stone needles of Montserrat fell away behind us and the Catalan countryside unfolded beneath us, the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees slid into view. Grey, white and imposing, a childhood dream of visiting the Pyrenees had collided with my adult dream of flying in a helicopter.


Monserrat from the helicopter

It was a stunning experience. I couldn’t believe that the TV3 crew had gone to so much time and expense to organise it just for me. I felt like an imposter. I was convinced that they’d made a mistake inviting me and would soon realise they’d chosen the wrong person for the Catalunya Experience TV show.

I felt that I didn’t deserve such special treatment or such a beautiful experience. Even as the GoPro video they’d attached to the helicopter recorded my every facial expression I cried.

I cried the tears of a woman who can’t believe her own luck. I cried the tears of a woman who’s struggled to love herself and has never before felt really appreciated. Now these strangers had gone to huge efforts to find out about me, listen to me and make my dreams come true.

People have done nice things for me before. They’ve brought me tea in bed, cooked for me when I was sick and helped me when I couldn’t manage alone. But never before had anyone done anything so decadent for me. It was the best surprise of my life.

How do you follow that up?

On the third day we went ski-ing at Val de Nuria in the Pyrenees then drove back to Barcelona for a private tour of Catalan modernist Gaudi’s building La Pedrera.


I hadn’t been ski-ing for 20 years and I’d forgotten how much fun it is! Val de Nuria is a great spot for beginners.


La Pedrera apartment building (or Casa Mila) designed by Catalan modern architect Antoni Gaudi

On the fourth day we visited Montjuïc Castle and jogged around the Olympic Stadium. Then we got changed into fancy dress and headed to Vilanova for a carnival.


Loving the views of Barcelona and the red and yellow strips of the Catalan flag from Montjuïc Castle.


Posing in purple with the TV3 team whichg included the producer, director, screenwriter, two cameramen, a sound technician, a production assistant, two director’s assistants, Ivana the presenter and two men who fly the drone to take arial shots. This isn’t the entire team either – there are four more people at the studios in charge of research and planning so it’s a big production.


Channeling Madonna to blend in with the crazy costumes and local fun-lovers at the Carnaval de Vilanova i la Geltrú

Laughter is the greatest gift

Even though I thought the helicopter trip to the Pyrenees could never be surpassed the climax of my Catalunya Experience was the candy wars on our final day of filming the carnival in Vilanova.

Escorted by two famous Catalan comedians our party was ushered into the town hall for a bird’s eye view of the action and to hob nob with the local big wigs, or ‘fat fish’ as they call them.

After meeting the vice-president of Catalan, the mayor of Vilanova and the carnival king and his queens we joined local groups in dancing round the town hall square. Then a crazy candy-throwing battle commenced punctuated by endless laughter, dancing and silliness.


The “candy wars” at Carnaval de Vilanova i la Geltrú

The streets were covered in brightly colored candy, our feet sticking to the pavements, our hair covered in confetti.


It was a perfectly random end to a randomly perfect travel experience. a trip in which I spoke with holy men, laughed like a fool and cried with joy at the kindness of strangers and their beautiful scenery, culture and customs. For me it was the ultimate Catalunya Experience.

When will the Catalunya Experience air?

If everything goes to plan and all the episodes are filmed and edited on time the Catalunya Experience will start airing on TV3 in Catalonia in September or October 2015. I hope that the eposides will all be on the Televisió de Catalunya website so they can be viewed all over the world. Of course I can’t wait to watch it and I know it will be great viewing because of the sensational scenery and culture that they showcase and the attention to detail from the creative, professional and highly talented TV production team.

How can I find out  more about Catalonia?

Follow the Catalan Tourist Board and the #CatalunyaExperience hashtag on Instagram for amazing photos from all over Catalonia. Or find out more about visiting Catalonia on the Catalunya website.

When will you write more about Catalonia?

I’ll probably give you a few more sneak peaks about what I got up to in Catalonia over the coming months but the production team and tourism board recommend I wait until the TV show airs and cover the experience in more detail on Get In the Hot Spot then.

I kept a travel diary during filming so I’ll be sharing my behind the scenes commentary and photos on the TV show then.


Read my Secret Catalunya Experience Travel Diaries

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  1. Leanne Anderson March 10, 2015 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Amazing Annabel – it’s all I can say! Amazing experience, amazing you! Well done, you look like you had such a ball!

  2. Johanna March 10, 2015 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    What a heavenly, exciting, rewarding, fun experience. You so deserved it Annabel, your blog is testament to that … but it was lovely to read about your doubts and the way you felt about being given the red carpet treatment which made this such a lovely post to read. Well done! And can’t wait to read more after the TV show airs – hope we can get a link?

    • Annabel Candy March 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      Me too!

      • Marta October 30, 2015 at 7:39 am

        I’m one of those people you take a selfie with in Vilanova’s Carnival, the red green fool in Moixó Foguer =)
        Yesterday we could see you in Catalunya Experience TV show. It would be greatest to have that selfie =D

  3. se7en March 10, 2015 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    How brilliant is this… I love it completely!!! What a fantastic opportunity and what fun from start to finish… heaven!!!

  4. Briar Jensen March 11, 2015 at 8:52 am - Reply

    What a wonderful story Annabel. How exciting for you! Congratulations on being chosen. Yes, I hope we will be able to view the finished show and watch our own Aussie talent charm the Catalunya locals.

  5. Mishbozz March 11, 2015 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Annabel, Im crying for you. How could you ever fall into depression again. Look how much you have achieved and how far you have come from our morning walks on Onetangi beach, Waiheke. You are truly a star in your own right. You have worked hard, inspired so many people, well done you, so proud we are of you. xxx

  6. Holly Galbraith March 11, 2015 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Wow, wow, wow – I’m so pleased for you, for all those feelings you experienced let alone the actual adventures. It looks like an amazing part of the world. Can’t wait to see the Tv show.

  7. Linda ~ Journey Jottings March 11, 2015 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Such fun Annabel!
    Laughed to hear about you getting back onto skis –
    I just did that in Canada after even longer off the slopes than you, and as you said – I’d totally forgotten how much fun it was :)
    Looking forward to seeing all your fantabulous adventures of such a fantabulous region when it airs!

  8. Linda McCormick March 11, 2015 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    Wow, Annabel, that sounds totally amazing. I even had a little tear in my eye when you were talking about the helicopter experience. Can’t wait to see the show when it airs. Exciting!

    • Annabel Candy March 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for crying along with me! I hope it made you smile too :)

  9. Kerstin Pilz March 11, 2015 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,
    what fun!!! And what an opportunity! Just goes to show that it’s important to keep posting away, you just never know who comes looking for you…and what an interesting post, I could literally see getting a stiff jaw from smiling at your screen during that skype casting interview:)
    I was in Barcelona a few years ago during that same time and got caught up in the procession, it was so much fun. Look forward to reading more about your Catalan adventures and seeing the show,
    well done!

  10. Oh great to get a behind-the-scenes sneak peak, what an adventure. I can’t get over the size of the film crew, they will have got some fantastic footage, looks like a really great production – how amazing for you, but really they were wise to choose you as you are capable of anything and knowledgable and also interested in everything.

  11. Barbara Hammond March 12, 2015 at 2:25 am - Reply

    You are travel blessed, my friend! What an incredible adventure! I remember when I started following your blog, it was on your trip to Taiwan for Coca-Cola. I thought, ‘This chick has got it going on!” And, you absolutely do. You work hard, and you are very generous with sharing your adventures and your spirit. This could not happen to a better person!

  12. Kiara kapoor March 12, 2015 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    You are such an inspirer.So so so amazing.Loved it.

  13. Grace March 13, 2015 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel, what a fabulous experience.. You must give us notice and details when the show is going to air.. can’t wait to see your adventures.

  14. Anna Garcia October 29, 2015 at 8:53 am - Reply

    Hola Annabel!
    The program has been already on air! Amazig experience! You have been so natural and it seems that you know a little bit more about our contry. To be honest, I’m a little gelous of you because you could seen places that use to be close to public. Thanks for sharing you Catalonia Experience. Hope seeing you in Catalonia again with all your family. Maybe soon we will be a free country! ;)
    Kind regards!

  15. Agustí Mas October 29, 2015 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel! I’ve just watched you Catalunya Experience on TV3. It’s great to see how much fun you had in our little country and it was nice to see that you passed by my hometown, Ripoll, very close to Núria. I hope you will keep these good memories of Catalonia and it would be amazing to share again our country with you!

  16. Jordi October 29, 2015 at 9:08 am - Reply

    Your show finally aired today on TV3! Get ready for a multitude of comments from Catalans like me :D Enjoying your site!

  17. Manel Delmas October 29, 2015 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel.
    I’m from Barcelona and live in Vilanova i la Geltrú. I saw, today, the tv show “Catalunya Experience”, and i loved it. Congratulations and thanks for your words about my land.
    Hope you come back soon.

  18. Marc October 29, 2015 at 9:24 am - Reply

    You can see the TV show on the TV3 website.
    Enjoy it.
    Regards form Catalunya.

  19. Alex October 31, 2015 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    I’m also Catalan and I feel proud of my country and people.
    I’m actually traveling and I had no chance to watch the TV life, but I did it through the TV3 website.
    This is the link:

    Enjoy it.

    Regards !!

  20. Joan December 27, 2015 at 12:41 am - Reply

    You can enjoy again Montserrat from a High perspective ;)

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