– a small town close to the Golf of Roses, was once known for its sardines and for anchovy fishing. Today, tourism has become the town’s main economic factor.
The Club Nautic L’Escala
The Club Nautic L’Escala is a regular host of international contests and regattas. For example, there was a regatta from July 2nd to July 7th in the bay of l’Escala. The regatta was part of the European Championship (Class: Europe), and L’Escala became a meeting point for the international sailing scene. Costa:Live had been invited to participate and experience the regatta firsthand. Using the VIP Yacht, which is usually reserved for hosts and sponsors, we jetted to through the bay and towards the regatta’s starting line, where the unpredictable winds led to delays. Our skipper and director of sports (Director Esportui) of the Club Nautico, Xavier Lopez, used this time efficiently.
He pointed out his most beloved parts of the Spanish coast line, which are both beautiful and wild. Being a passionate sailor, he has often participated in the Spanish Championships and been a participant of the Olympic Games twice. He has sailed all the Mediterranean coasts and knows a great deal about them.
We pass the fishery harbour and bizarre rocks. Finally, we reach Cala Montgó. Beautiful mansions are enthroned upon the cliffs. Every now and then, we see a mansion that can be bought from agency Selected Property. Unfortunately, he also tells us that these estates have to be paid through one’s nose. There are some mansions available for less then a million Euros. They, however, are located two or three rows away from the coastline.
The cliffs plunge down into the crystal clear sea. Gulls bathe in the sun. In Cala Montgó, small and huge yachts lie at anchor. Sailboats bob up and down on the water. We are heading for L’Estratit now. To our side, the massif of Montgrí rises up into the air. Within ages, the sea has formed the rocks; it has created breaks and caves.
The Roca Foradada (riddled rock) is especially impressing: the tunnel can be passed through by boat. We do not dare cross it with our yacht, but we watch some smaller boats doing it. The bay of Cala Farriola owes its fame to this natural place of interest. We would like to take a closer look at the famous islands of Medes, but now we are running short of time: We have been told that the regatta is about to begin. We drive back to L’Escala, fast as possible, with the water foaming and surging all around us.
The people waiting for the starting signal on the Golf of Roses are real professionals
On the way, our captain stops to say hello to a friend of his. Dr. Nando Muñoz has been sailing all around the world for several times. He participated in the famous Volvo Ocean Race. The Volvo Ocean Race is (formerly known as The Whitbread Round the World Race) first took place in 1973. It has been taking place once in four years ever since. It is a regatta leading around the entire world. It usually begins in autumn, with the participants starting in Europe. Then, they follow the route through the Atlantic and around Africa; they cross the South Pacific and reach America, until they eventually return to Europe. The circumstances regarding winds and weather are oftentimes very harsh, especially in the South Pacific. Wave heights of 30 metres and more, and wind speeds of 110 km/h are considered normal. The regatta is known for being one of the most challenging routes. All in all, the sailors cover a distance of about 45.000 km. Thus, the people waiting for the starting signal on the Golf of Roses are real professionals.
Our rapid journey to the buoy that marks the starting point continues. All the participants of the Europe Class have gathered here for the next lap. After the signal has been given, the small, light boats lean into the winds. Soon, different positions become apparent. The regatta consists of many laps. It often takes days until there is a winner. The winner is the sailor who has gathered more medals throughout the regatta than anyone else. We drive back to the harbour and take a walk along the esplanade close to the sea, in order to visit the city’s Old Town, which still holds much of the charm typical for Mediterranean fishing villages. The small, steep alleys with their white houses and their wrought-iron balconies and terraces still look like they did many years ago. Traditions and fiestas have been kept alive, too. For example, there is the Festa del Carme on July 16th. The mermaid’s procession to the church of Sant Pere is a yearly highlight for inhabitants and tourists alike.
Places to dine
In L’Escala, there are many places to dine. The cuisine is traditional, and fish is a major component of most dishes. After our long time out on the boat, we decide to have a late lunch. We especially like the lunch served in the Hotel and Restaurant el Roser, which can be found close to the Carrer Església, and the view from the Terrasse des 1869. Good places to eat can also be found in the fishery harbour. On weekdays, the menu is available for 8,50 €. On Thursday s, an excellent Paella is part of the menu. L’Escala is always worth a visit.
Festa de la sal: Salt – Gold of the seas
The fishers’ life in the XVIII century and how salt used to be transported
A few years ago, the Platja de les Bargues in l’Escala was turned into a place that might have fitted very well into a time now long gone by – and has been turned into this place annually ever since. When the fishers’ life in the XVIII century and the transport of salt are retold in living pictures, being at the beach suddenly feels like having walked into the set of a cloak-and-sword film. The many press photographers and television presenters add to this feeling as they gather on the sandy beach. The scenes are truly worthy of making a movie about them. There are the fishers’ women, all in long skirts, repairing the nets and grilling anchovies on huge grids, while their children pile up empty fishing baskets.
Old fishing boats
Old fishing boats – such as Les barques Rafael (1920), Sant Isidre (1925) and some Latin sailing boats (vela llatina) bob up and down on the sea, all of them carrying their load of salt. Once the first boat has reached the harbour, all the fishers come hurrying along, clad in traditional clothes. Together, they pull the boat ashore and help to unload the salt, which was used as a means of preserving anchovy a long time ago. The entire village is said to have been living solely of fishery and selling their special anchovies.
Anxoves (Catalan) – anchoa (Spanish) – or anchovies are the most typical product of the region
Until today, the way anchovies are preserved has not changed much and is still considered to be traditionally linked to L’Escala. Anxoves (Catalan) – anchoa (Spanish) – or anchovies are the most typical product of the region around L’Escala and are loved well beyond the borders of said region. Furthermore, they are a delicious souvenir. Ever since the 18th century, fresh anchovies have been preserved in salt.
Last year, a museum was dedicated to the anchovies of L’Escala, presenting historical photographs and apparatuses, as well as an old fishing boat, and several old barrels, which were used for storing the salted fishes. Due to the salt, the fishes were not only preserved; they also began a slow process of fermentation, which added quality and taste. Back then, the salt was brought to L’Escala on the sea route.
The transport of salt
Huge sailing ships brought the precious salt from the salt mines of Torrevieja (located close to Alicante) to L’Escala. The fishers used their very small boats to meet the big sailing ships at sea and filled their small boats with chunks of salt, in order to bring them to the shore. At the beach of les Barques, their load was packed into sacks, and eventually brought to the storage. The historical staging takes place in September and is accompanied by traditional music and dances.
At the evening of the festival, everyone gathers for a common dinner, which includes Suquet, Crebat, and songs of Habaneres.