Author: Hannah Schraven

View of Capmany.

Top 10 village beauties

The Costa Brava – even tourist guides now devote to this rugged beauty, the numerous pretty villages and cultural diversity of the region. We now pay some attention to the less classic tourist attractions and collocated ten of the prettiest villages on the Costa Brava. In addition to the most famous pearl – Cadaqués – there are many more that need to be discovered. Ten “village beauties” you should have seen…

Garriguella

Garriguella-Girona-kirche-wine

Garriguella is a dreamy nest, which invites it‘s visitors to linger. The little church based in a green park, the stony walls of the houses, overgrown with flowers and the pale silhouette of the pyrenees fill the place with medieval flair and you wait for a horse buggy, coming across the street. 850 people live in this little treasure chest. Bird‘s nests are sticking to the balconys, the smell of freshmade bread fills the air in front of the bakery and you can enjoy your beer either in the restaurant or in the bar.Anyway the colorful houses exude a welcoming and bright atmosphere – some of them are built in colonial style and remind of endless summerdays in Cuba. A  eyecatcher of the village is the charming antique shop, where you can improve your bargain skills.

Vilajuïga

Charming house in Vilajuiga

Vilajuïga is mostly known for its culinary treasures, but it‘s also a charming, little village in the middle of the gentle hills of the Pyrenees.The good wine as well as Vilajuïgas tasty spring water made the place famous, but although there are always a few visitors here, it‘s surrounded by a pleasant silence. Palmtrees and blooming rhododendrons line the streets and the mixture of old stone houses and colorful facades create an interesting oriental atmosphere. Small and cozy cafés are scattered along the roadside. It‘s the perfect place to escape from everyday life without relinguishing a bit of urban character. There is a school, a pharmacy and various shops, including a fish store, and neither Figueres nor the picturesque coast or the French border are more than a stone’s throw away.

Sant Climent

The Rambla of Sant Climent.

Sant Climent is probably the only spot, which has an own Rambla despite of its small population of 560 inhabitants. You‘re going to be surprised, when you walk towards the charming heart of the village and suddenly come across the spacious square, which is surrounded by green trees. People sit on the shady banks, the windows of the stone houses are decorated with blooming flowers and there‘s a little park with a playground behind the monumental church.When you wander trough the narrow, old streets, you can heart the ghosts of the past whisper. Sant Climent warmly welcomes its visitors – there are several spas, cozy bars and restaurants and a pharmacy. The butcher and the bakery also lure you with fresh bread and all sorts of regional specialties. The next town and the beautiful coastline are only a few minutes away.

Mollet de Perelada

Mollet de Perelada is a charming little place.

Mollet de Perelada is an eyecatcher – even if the place is really tiny, you can already see it‘s spire from far away, when you find yourself surrounded by green vineyards and fig trees on the road.A sleepy silence covers the place with it‘s 180 inhabitants and you instantly want to linger in the narrow streets. The walls are overgrown, stony lions look down from the streetcorners, bird‘s nests stick to the balkonys, the houses are decorated with colorful flower boxes and the blooming rosebushes in the idyllic park exude a rural charme. You don‘t have to share this romantic atmosphere with anybody, but it‘s a huge benefit that such a place is within a stone‘s throw of the bigger cities and the beautiful Costa Brava.

Rabós d’Empordà

Die wunderschöne Kirche von Rabós.

The way into the little village Rabós, which has only 200 inhabitants, already forces you to look out of the window – the road winds past vineyards, olive trees and cactus bushes and the place sticks to the slopes of the Pyrenees like a bird‘s nest. The mountains watch over the idyllic spot like a mother over her children. The entrance is already impressive – plants climb up the stony facades, lemon trees bloom on the streets and the old barns create a medival atmosphere, which reminds of past times. It is the perfect place for nature lovers who want to escape the chaos of the big city, without being to far away from civilization. Visitors can be accommodated in the lovable guesthouses, the restaurant allures with its cozy atmosphere and neither the next town nor the spectacular coastline are more than a stone‘s throw away. Another eye-catcher of Rabós is the small river which crosses the valley.

Pau

The heart of Pau.

Pau provokes romantic feelings – it nuzzles up against the green hills of the pyrenees and can‘t get rid of it‘s nostalgic character, which is composed by the ravishingly beautiful church and the old frame houses. Palmtrees and oleanders line the streets, geraniums bloom between the bricks, the buildings are decorated with flower baskets. It‘s a peaceful place, where you can enjoy the silence in charming little cafés and restaurants. Even though Pau is quite small with it‘s 570 inhabitants, nothing is missing – there‘s a doctor, a pharmacy, a school and several corner shops. And if you want a bit of hustle and bustle, it‘s only a short hop to Figueres and the sunny coast.

Palau Saverdera

Monumental building in Palau.

Small but mighty – Palau Saverdera, a charming spot surrounded by green highland and guarded by the beautiful pyrenees, is almost as interesting as some of the bigger coastal towns of the Costa Brava.You can gaze at an old olive squeezer and the balcony of Empordá, a memorial for the victims of the civil war, at the entrance of the village, besides Palau is the proud owner of a museum. Anyway the centerpiece of the mountain village is the Spring of Dalt: a drinking water fountain, whichs spends crystal clear water to inhabitants and visitors. But there are not only cultural treasures waiting to be discovered, the view of the mountain idyll and the ocean, which is only 15 minutes away,  is just as well spectacular. The walls of the old stone houses are overgrown by blooming roses, people sit on their wrought – iron balconys and enjoy the scenery, regional delicacys are served in the shady gardens of the restaurants. Only the monumental church and the orotund town hall are contrary to the simple classiness of the old houses and narrow streets. Nothing forces you to leave this place – apart of a school, a bank, a hairdresser and a hotel are also several corner shops, a butchery and a pharmacy in Palau – Saverdera.

Espolla

The heart of the village.

The sleepy village Espolla seems to be a place of an old fairytale book – surrounded by wide cornfields, olivetrees and vineyards, you feel like entering a castle, as soon as you walk trough the narrow streets, passing stonehouses and a fountain. A pleasant silence welcomes you when you reach the monumental church – you feel instantly snug and happy. Blooming flowers decorate the walls, the tiny park invites you to take a break, crickets chirps in the trees and if you wish for some company, you can spend the evening in the café or bar. Vinelovers can also discover some treats in the  village – based vinery. Altough Espolla is a tiny with it‘s 400 inhabitants, nothing is missing – there‘s a corner shop, several restaurants and guest houses and neither the next bigger city nor the beautiful coast are far away.

Capmany

View of Capmany.

Capmany hustles to convice the visitors of it‘s beauty before they even get there – the street curls past green vineyards and olivetrees and the mountains look down on it like mightful kings.When you finally get there, you can enjoy a spectacular view over the roofs of the scattered stonehouses on the pale silhouette of the pyrenees. If you‘re still not certain, that this place is more than charming, betake yourself into the nested, narrow streets, where roses bloom at the wayside and cocks crow at the barnyards. There‘s also a little bridge, which is built over the river. It‘s a mix of rural romantic and medieval flair, which is significant for Capmany. With it‘s 620 inhabitants and the establishment of the Olivenda Grup, every person, who loves silence and good wine becomes happy here.

Begur

lamp

Perhaps the most popular town’s landmark are defense towers which are up to twelve metre. They were originally built in the Middle Ages. Obviously, the centre of Begur has been spruced up for tourism through the years. But it didn’t decrease the historical character of the village. While nowadays the more exclusive tourism is dominating the economic, locals form the past primarily lived by the sale of corals. Later it was cork.  After the cork industry collapsed many locals were forced to displace their lives to South America. By coming into economic wealth they decided to come back to Spain. The so called „Indianos“ influenced the contemporary architecture in Begur by building mansions in a colonial caribbean style. “Casas de Indianos“ are already decorating the cityscape. Once in Begur you should make the effort and climb up the castle hill. The fantastic view up to the point of the coast recovers all damages. The most obvious advantage of Begur is its perfect position. Surrounded by numerous hills – Massís de Begur – and a long coastal path it is a comfortable location above the Cap de Begur and Cap sa Sal.

Fashion show.

Sensorium Grand Gala of Surrealism

…the revival of Surrealism: We normally go in search for art and not the other way around. The atmosphere in Cadaqués last saturday raised the feeling, that the art itself went hunting. It‘s probably Dalís legacy, that the scene along the coast in North Catalonia is ruled by the Surrealism. We associate it with yonder brillant and bizarre art movement, but it was also a way of living for the artists at the time. Dalís legendary parties were almost as famous as his dreamy paintings. The crazier, the better was the motto – and the impossible was made possible.

Exactly that was, what inspired the organizers of the Grand Gala of Surrealism, which took place in Cadaqués for the first time this September and was contributed by many international artists. The group behind the project is called immaginae, comes from Italy and is co-organizer of the annual Florence Design Week. Dalí’s presence now attracted them to Catalonia. Making art not only sense perceivable, but also tangible  – so the idea. And in fact, the whole day was something in the air. Installations appeared out of the nowhere between the bathers on the beach, emitting a magical blue light at dusk. Eccentric hats and quirky jewelery creations were sold on the market. The intention of the immaginae group was the free developement of art and creativity and the visitors were asked to interact.

Working behind the bar.

However, the daily programm was only the calm before the storm. Shortly after sunset, cars suddenly wound their way up the road to Portlligat and a colorful and bizarre-looking crowd with hats flow into the Villa Ses Vistes. They accepted the invitation to the actual Gala of Surrealism, where the prominent and art-loving audience showed creativity – costumes were explicitly welcomed. Already at the beginning of the party, became the terrace of the Villa scene for a Défilé that reminded of Vivenne Westwoods craziest collections. The women appeared in pompous dresses with giant hats made of color palettes or eggs, butterflies were caught in hair, a real lobster sat on one of the heads.

Creatures.

The barrel of Surrealism seemed finally to be overflowed and had poured over everybody. After the first Gin Tonics, the culinary experience started – just as colorful, creative and surprising as the costumes of the guest. The party could start after this delightful entry. The terrace was transformed into a stage on which not only dancers, but also singers and artistes entertained and animated the audience with a fascinating as well as shocking programm.

Dancers at the Grand Gala of Surrealism.

The mix of artistic, culinary and interactive acts created an electrifying atmosphere that lasted all night. This event proved that Dalí-like parties in today‘s time are as spectacular as they were in the past and that Surrealism can be more than just an art movement. Some will be woken up the next day wondering whether they‘ve just dreamed. The best is, that the Sensorium Grand Gala of Surrealism was just the first escapade of the immaginae group. They‘ll return to Cadaqués next summer to liberate the fantasy for a second time from its gilded cage.

Catwoman.

One of Gaudís houses at Passeig de Graçia.

48 hours Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those cities, where you rather stay than leave. It‘s not a surprise, that  again and again travelers strand in this bustling metropolis – you‘ll hardly find another European city, sticking its toes into the warm Mediterranean Sea while at the same time carrying a cultural crown on the head. The authentic, stunning architecture of the Gothic Quarter, the vibrant, trendy subculture, the traces of Picasso and Gaudí, making the heart of any art fan beat faster – Barcelona is a seductress, mastering her trade with perfection. So how about 48 hours date to get a little foretaste? If you don‘t believe in love at first sight, you probably going to be convinced of the opposite.

View of the city.

Day 1 – flaneurs and night owls

A classic date usually starts with a coffee and a first glance – in this case, it‘s the view of the ocean panorama, unfolding behind the rolling seafront of the city. There‘s no better place to have breakfast and do some people watching. Side by side hide the Cafés in the shade of the palm trees, tourists from the nearby hotels mingle with tanned locals, longboarders and fitness junkies. You feel yourself drawn into Barcelona‘s pulsating atmosphere immediately- it seems to be an endless summer.

After this first impression, it‘s time for a little stroll along the promenade. Barcelona‘s famous harbour is only a stone‘s throw away and the view is fantastic. At least as impressive as the yachts and sailboats is the facade of the Maremagnum Shopping Mall, where you find yourself reflected in front of the ocean. As tempting as it might be, the shopping will have to wait – you normally don‘t get a diamond ring at the first date.

The facade of the Maremagnum shopping centre.

Afterwards, it gets a bit more turbulent- on Barcelona’s most famous road section La Rambla. You may hate it or love it – but you can‘t leave the city without risking a look. Surrounded by restaurants and souvenir shops, it marks the border between the district Raval and the Gothic Quarter. It‘s like a colorful open-air-circus with all the wandering travelers, mime artists and caricaturists. If you fed up by the hustle and bustle, you can loose yourself in the narrow streets of the Barrio Gothic or the Raval.

After this tour, it’s time for a lunch break – you should never be hungry on a date. Right at the end of the Rambla, you stumble upon a huge hall, where the voices of the traders and the smell of fresh food is already seeping through the gates.La Boqueria, Barcelonas market hall, dates back to the 11th century and leaves the after-taste of culinary diversity and the Spanish culture. Gossiping and haggeling residents push through the stalls. The huge selection of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish makes the decision hard – it‘s best to take a little of everything and sit down on the shady square behind the hall to enjoy a delicious picnic.

Good vibes in Barcelonas streets.

By now, the ice should be broken and romance is requiered. Located just outside the town on a hill, the Parc Güell not only attracts with the wonderful view over the city. Antonio Gaudí created it 1900 – 1914 on behalf of the industrialist Eusebi Güell, who envisioned a English garden with 60 different villas. After completing the third house, the financial resources were used up – perhaps to the benefit of the park. Surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation are Gaudí’s dazzling artworks scattered along the path . You can gaze at the skyline from the platform. It‘s the perfect place to chill out for a bit.

After the descent of the hill, it‘s already time for a first (or maybe also a second or a third) cocktail in one of the many bars on the way back into the city. As you know, the way to the heart is through the stomach, and it‘s time for a dinner, giving the first day the icing of the cake. You can eat everywhere in Barcelona – but the awards of the Michelin Guides are the most trusted. For those looking for a fancy spot, the hotel restaurants Enoteca, Àbac and Moments offer delicious meals. A bit more casual, but still full of atmosphere is the restaurant Lasarte. Bargain hunters are going to be happy in on of the countless cheap tapas bars in Raval.

Musicians in one of the streets of Raval.

The first encounter with Barcelona could now come to an end, but it‘s more likely that you already crave for more – and the city becomes even more alive just after dark. The clubs and discos now open their gates for night owls and crazy dancers. No matter what day it is, there‘s always something to celebrate. Everyone‘s tastes are diffrent and there‘s plenty to chose from. Chaotic nights at Razzmatrazz with more fun and less memories, dancing with the mixed crowd at the legendary Apolo Club or swinging your hips to Hip Hop grooves  at Otto Zutz. As the name suggests, suit- and highheelswearers can be found at Bling Bling and Shôko. No matter where you end up, there‘s always enough time for a nightcap at the beach. The first night together is ticked off.

Day Two – hangover and storybook romance

It is likely, that the second day after a long night does not begin quite as lively as the first one.  Nevertheless, to get on your feet, catch a metro to Passein de Graçia – a huge All-you-can-eat hangover buffet with cold and warm food awaits you at La Vaca Paca. Don‘t worry, you can leave your sunglasses on, that makes it easier to watch the passing crowd. Barcelona is not only a world- but also a shopping metropolis and Passeig de Graçia is the right place to fill up your bags. The warm up phase is finished now and the city will ensure, that you don‘t return with empty hands. If you‘re tired of strolling, you can gaze at Gaudís colorful houses just a few meters up the street.

One of Gaudís houses at Passeig de Graçia.

If you long for a bit more peace and atmosphere after this shopping marathon, it‘s now time for a journey through the subcultural heart of the city. The Raval has long been considered as a ambiguous neighborhood, populated by prostitution and crime – now its about to become the new scene-district of Barcelona.Cultural diversity is the key word and everything from kebab shops to authentic Asians can be found. Charming cafés and cozy bars have joined this colorful mixture and the Hipsters and Bohemians of the city empty the first pitchers of Sangria on the terraces. Get lost in the tiny, narrow alleys and watch out for the great tapas bars, hiding in the shadows of the houses.

No matter, whether you feel hangoverish or not, there‘s one more sight to be discovered. La Sagrada Familia may not be a beauty, but it‘s a sign of the variety and versatility of the city. Yes, exactly – its yonder monumental church, always hiding behind scaffolding. In 1882, the architect Francisco de Paula started the project, a year later Gaudí took over the ongoing construction. To this day, countless hands have left their traces in the architecture of the church, recognizable by its unusual appearance.

Street artist in the city.

After this second, eventful day parting moods will come up. It‘s probably unnecessary, but Barcelona has one last ace up his sleeve to finally wrap you around the finger. Even from a distance shine the lights of Montjuïc Mountain into the darkness – you simply have to follow them until you come to the grand palace, where the fountain of Montjuïc spews the water high into the air.  When the darkness has fallen over the park, you can witness a stunning spectacle consisting of countless, colorful lights and huge columns of water. Just grab a bottle of wine and a picnic basket and enjoy the view of the sparkling city. A farewell forever is thus impossible.

A sailing boat at the Port of Barcelona.

A nature paradise.

From Sant Sebastià to Tamariu

We drive in the direction of Llafranc Tamariu up to the lighthouse of El Fra de Sant Sebastia. It was built in 1857 and is still the most strongly light tower on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. From the Sant Sebastia lighthouse you have a spectacular view over the land and sea. Deep down below you see the small boats in the harbour of Llafranc. The slice of view above is of Cape Sant Sebastià the baroque chapel of Ermita de Sant Sebastià from the 18th century. In addition, you’ll also spot the hotel and restaurant “El Far”. The breath taking view from the terrace of the iridescent Mediterranean Sea in many different shades of blue with its rocky coves bordered by pine forests and caves is fascinating. Originally, the hotel was a guard and lighthouse with a hermitage from the 15th century. In 1999 the building was renovated and turned into a small hotel. This exposed location attracts many a wedding.

From here we look to take the coastal path – camins de ronda (GR 92: red and white marking) to the Bay of Tamariu. The route is marked as 1.5 hours and starts right behind the Ermita. It’s already afternoon. The sun shines high in the sky. The glistening azure sea is below us, framed by rocks and the green of the Blue Agave. Agave flower stems project into the blue sky. Seagulls circle. After a short stretch along the cliffs and many steps, we dive into the cool of the pine forest. Good footwear is advisable. The path winds its way towards the coast from time to time, until it reappears in a clearing out of the shadows. A part of it leads along the gardens into the glistening sun. Divergent paths are marked with a cross through red and white flags and run into dead ends. After about 10 minutes our trail turns right. You can already glimpse the sunshine through the trees the sea. In the garden next to the road there are grazing ponies. Flowering thistles line the gorge.

Blooming flowers next to the ocean.

The shady path now leads steeply down into Cala Pedrosa. Solitude welcomes us the cove. Two fishermen huts stand at the edge. The sign on the cottage advertises daily refreshments and snacks in the summer or on the weekends. The bay is bordered by blank sea washed stones. The cool sea lures us. We plunge into the water. Crystal clear waves ripple among the rocks. The highest part of the cliff is called the “cavall”, the horse, and they say that the image of Stalin appears from the boat. We enjoy the refreshing tingle on the skin. In the distance there is a boat. No one else. It’s June – on a Friday afternoon before the season. Paradise. We are now ready for the climb out of the bay. Step by step over roots and stones and sharply up the cinnamon coloured cliffs. The road is wider and now runs straight up to Mirador. Here you can reach the promontory to the sea again.

Spectacular ocean view.

We continue to move in the direction of Tamariu. Before long, there is a picturesque bay in front of us. The path now leads through large rock plateaus along the sea. Here we pass a couple of sitting anglers in the afternoon sun. The colours of the rocks change from green to dark pink and ocher mud to anthracite. The blue of the sea is ever darker. The sun slowly dips. We long for a cold sparkling water or coffee on ice. Soon we reach the beach of Tamariu. Most bathers here are locals. In the beach hotel cafe there are enough free places and finally we gulp gallons of cold water. Next to us, the village pensioners sit gossiping at the coffee shop. The season is approaching- but there is still the relaxed calm before the storm. Here we want to relax and dream away the day.

The beautiful beach of Tamariu.

But the return journey is waiting for us. Up and down steep terrain for an additional 1.5 hours. We get back on track after half an hours’ break. The sinking sun has changed the colour of the bay. There is now movement in Cala Pedrosa. Grandmother, mother and child splash around in the shallow water of the bay. Grandpa has shut up the fishing cabin and set up the garden chairs in front. On Friday evening, the weekend begins operation. We chat briefly with the old man and order a refreshment. Olives we get for free. More guests he expects the next day. Since the cove has no access, the only access is via boat or on foot via a steep path.We are gearing up for the steep climb to the lighthouse. After an hour uphill back to the car we are exhausted. The light orange hue of the evening colours the bay.Conclusion: A lovely trip for which you should allow time, top conditions, a swimsuit, walking shoes and plenty of water.Gorgeous scenery and spectacular views of the sea and the rocks are well worth the effort.

Chocolate dream.

Cuisine as an artistic creation to delight the senses

The world’s best restaurant is located in Spain – again! At this year’s Top 50 ranking of the prestigious “Restaurant Magazine” in London, “El Celler de Can Roca” from Girona was selected to the first place. The restaurant, which has also been awarded with three Michelin stars, was opened in 1986 by Joan and Josep Roca as a typical Catalan restaurant near their parent’s bar. Today it is run by three brothers -Joan (chef), Josep (sommelier) and Jordi (pastry) – and well known for the combinations of Catalan cuisine, innovative techniques and the passionate service of its owners. Since 2011, the restaurant of the Roca brothers had been on the second place of the global ranking.

Beautiful dishes.

Cuisine as an artistic creation to delight the senses – this is the way gastronomy is seen in Spain. A range of five-star culinary attractions offering a world of tastes, presentation, aroma, textures, colour… Dishes by chefs such as Adrià, Arzak, Berasategui, Ruscalleda, Santamaría, Subijana and Roca have placed Spain at the forefront of international haute cuisine.The new Spanish chefs are artists in the kitchen, as is amply manifested by their enormous international renown. The hallmark of the work of these new culinary artists is its originality and innovation, combining the traditional Mediterranean cuisine with original and creative ideas. The importance of this new cuisine in Spanish culture is such that the chef José Andrés was awarded the Spanish Order of Arts and Letters in 2010.

Cocktail time!

International prestige – there are many restaurants in Spain which have been distinguished for their outstanding quality and creativity. Throughout the country there are around 150 Michelin-starred establishments, seven of which have been awarded the maximum distinction: one in the Region of Valencia, two in Catalonia, and four in the Basque Country.In Catalonia diners can enjoy the restaurants of “Celler Can Roca” and “Sant Pau”, in the province of Girona.

In the first, located in the city of Girona, the Roca brothers use their culinary creativity to convey a range of emotions. Carme Ruscalleda, on the other hand, offers a modern take on traditional Catalan gastronomy in her restaurant “Sant Pau”, with views over the sea and located in Sant Pol de Mar. There are many other restaurants that have attracted international attention. They include “Enoteca”, “Moments”, “Lasarte” and “Àbac” in Barcelona; “Can Fabes” in Sant Celoni (province of Barcelona); “Les Cols” in Olot, and “Miramar” in Llança (province of Girona).

The El Bulli of the future – Ferrán Adrià has for many years been the standard-bearer of Spanish haute cuisine, and his restaurant, El Bulli, has been considered by many to be the best in the world. However, in July 2011 he closed down the restaurant to take on a new and ambitious project: the “El Bulli Foundation”.The aim is to create a centre for gastronomic creativity in order to spark new ideas in the kitchen and to share them at the international level.

Legendary El Bulli Restaurant

There are plenty of culinary highlights at the Costa Brava and in the surrounding areas with tapas, anchovies and Cava only representing a very small fraction of the infinite possibilities indeed.Small fishing villages turn out to be a source of culinary delicacies, dreamy towns tucked away in the mountains are known for their Mediterranean treats prepared in the traditional stone ovens, and where the oceans kiss the mountains internationally renown wines and Cava are grown.

The kiss of the mountains and the sea, or Mar i muntanya, is a common topic in Catalan dishes. Chicken and giant prawns for example, or Catalan Paella, a dish of meat and seafood. They also like to combine the sweet and the spicy, as in “pork and peach”. A people prone to experiment with tastes and textures the Spanish are thus not easy to surprise. The chefs in Catalan hotels and restaurants are constantly performing a balancing act between the old and the new, between tradition and modern ideas. In a big number of restaurants, the guests are offered unique dishes and innovative menus known as “Cocina de Autor”.

The dishes are as diverse as they are unique and entertaining. Ranging from simple Tapas, there is ample scope for more daring dishes, such as “Mar i muntanya”. There are no limits to what is possible – just think of Ferran Adriá and his famous molecular gastronomy.The Guide Michelin has known this all along. For many years, the Costa Brava has been featuring a very high number of Michelin stars as well as an equally high number of young, keen chefs. Joan Roca in Girona was awarded his third star 2009, and there were plenty of other chefs in the back country work magic using the region’s freshest and most tasty products. They also aim for internationality: traditional dishes are combined with eastern notes, while the most well known Mediterranean dishes also are given new aspects.

Seafood is one of the specialities.

Cooking has been considered a beautiful art in Catalonia for a long time. Indeed, the first cookbook published in a Roman language has been around much longer than Ferran Adría and much longer still than his participation at the Documenta. Said cookbook was published in Catalonia in the 14th century: “El Llibre de Sent Soví”.If you ever spot steaks and giant prawn in dark chocolate on the menu – do not be too surprised; this is just a tribute to the master of surrealism, Salvador Dalí.

His appetite is almost proverbial in Catalonia and even made it into a book: “Salvador Dalí – delightful Catalonian dishes”. At the age of six, little Dalí already claimed he wanted to be a cook when he grew up. Later, as the genius became an artist, and a mastermind of marketing who knew very well how sell himself, he also become known for his love of good food. Rumour has it that he used to say, “you can go without eating, but you cannot go without eating well.” One of his favourite meals used to be giant prawns in dark chocolate!!

Gourmets visiting the Costa Brava well get their money’s worth. Firstly, the upscale restaurants with their world famous chefs and extraordinary service are comparatively inexpensive and secondly, some of the less well-known restaurants tucked away in a corner of the countryside offer just as many culinary treats. The region’s excellent wines are also good value for money. Most restaurants offer a three course lunch throughout the week, water and wine included, for about 9 to 19 Euro. In the evenings and on weekends, there is more to choose from on the menu, but dishes are also more expansive and drinks are not included. After supper, there are plenty of pubs and Chilinguitas to go to. It is summer after all!

A bit of champain?

Travels including cuisine, sports and culture are all the rage these days. The Costa Brava offers all of this and more. Accomodations are easy to find and just as eclectic as the rest of the country. There are Masia- Hotels in the back – country, lovingly restored to their former beauty. They invite the guests to stay and relax in the spa. Luxury hotels near the sea are more international, offering high-quality service and stunning views onto the ocean. On the other hand, there are cosy, family-run houses. Those are very friendly places with a convincingly personal service.

The families are always happy to provide detailed information on excursions and day-trips. Furthermore, the Costa Brava is also known for its well-kept golfing areas. You can find more information about the Costa Brava, restaurants, hotels and the back counrty on our webpage.

Old charming castle.

St Pere de Rodes

On a day with light Tramuntana we drove in the direction of Vilajuïga. There a small signposted road leads through the town towards the mountains. Just behind the village the landscape changes and gets mountain character: rocky green mountain meadows, gnarled holm and cork oak groves, in between a flock of sheep, birds chirping. The narrow road winds its way up the mountains. We enjoy the solitude.

Spectacular view and old ruins.

Then the tremendous former Benedictine monastery Sant Pere de Rodes comes into sight. First mentioned in 902, the first decades of the 10th century were marked by a spiritual and material prosperity. Until today the monument on the edge of the Pyrenees is shrouded in numerous legends. They talk of buried treasures – an iron chain in which the Apostle Peter was allegedly tied up – a rain cape of St. Thomas Becket, that is expected to increase fertility – a holy cross, after which the Cap de Creus was named – and the dissolute life of some monks. Other legends tell that before the monastery was erected there had been the temple of the «Aphrodite of the Pyrenees» and that the remains of the Apostle Peter are buried there. During its heyday in the 11th Century, Sant Pere de Rodes and its famous writing school were a spiritual center. Precious manuscripts of illumination were created then. One example is the «Bible of Rodes», which is now kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Tower of Sant Pere de Rodes.

The former Benedictine monastery is one of the most important romanesque buildings of the Costa Brava. It towers 500 meters above sea level and offers spectacular views. It owes its dominant position to the Pirates, who destabilised the coasts at the founding time of the monastery.The whole complex impresses with architectural monumentality in a spectacular landscape. In summer, piano concerts are held in one part of the monastery. A restaurant offers a great view of the mountains and the sea and invites hungry hikers for a lunch menu.Accessible only by foot is the higher grounded Castell de Salvador, from which one enjoys a magnificent view of the monastery and the sea. Every day the first sunbeam of Catalonia falls on the Castle of San Salvador de Verdera.

Old charming castle.

Habour of Empuriabrava

A boat trip is stunning…

…especially at the Costa Brava, because the „wild“, „rough“ and „untamed“ coastline never looses its impressive character, composed by bizarre rocks, hidden bays and scenic landscape. The crystal clear water reflects in brillant blue colors the endlessness of the sky, wave froth and sea gulls speckle the ocean – it‘s a idyllic paradise. We swim towards this adventure with virtuosity.

Our friend Jutta is enjoying the sun.

Every summer, Oliver and Jutta invite us to a boat trip along the Costa Brava. Froth blows in the air, once we escape the canals of Empuriabrava and we eye up the residences along the cliff line. Sail boats bob up and down in little bays. After a refreshment in the cool waves, we‘re full of liveliness again and ready to stop for a glass of sparkling wine in one of the harbours.

The boat is taking us to Cap de Creus.

There are no pirates in sight and we can drive further towards the sinking sun. It‘s off – season and the sea seems to belong to us – we enjoy the day, the sweet idleness and we feel like the kings of the ocean. In the evening, our captain brings us back into reality safely.

Our captain Oliver.

Blooming cactus Pinya de Rosa.

Surrounded by prickly fellows – Pinya de Rosa

If cactuses would be humans, they would probably not be the most liked visitors – luckily they‘re plants and we are the ones, who are invited to look at the prickly fellows in the botanical garden of Pinya de Rosa, near Blanes.

View Pinya de Rosa

The first glance over the spacious terraces already reminds us of long summernights in the exotic outland. The tall cactuses grow towards the sky like bizarre sculptures, looking down on their tiny brothers. You‘re going to be surprised by the variety of the succulents, as well as by the extraordinary finery of their beautiful blossoms – you just have to keep your eyes peeled.

Blooming cactus Pinya de Rosa.

Further down the gravel walk, native species of plants bloom between the cactuses – purple flowers allure butterflies, the warm summer air smells of lavender. The color palette is complete, when the peacock appears, trying to bewitch the visitors with it‘s dazzling coat – you want to stay and get caught up in your wanderlust.

Cactus Pinya de Rosa.

How to get there:
Jardí Botànic Tropical Paratge Pinya de Rosa
Camí de Sta Cristina s/n – 17300 Blanes (Girona)

Opening hours:
09.00 – 20.00 o’clock May – September
09.00  – 18.00 o’clock January – April/ October – Dezember 

Prices:
Normal: 4 Euro
Students: 3 Euro
Groupticket (10+): 3 Euro

Erster Beuteschlag.

A look behind the scenes – one day on a fishing boat

5 o‘clock in the morning, Port of Roses. Inky darkness fills the empty streets, dim and motionless spreads the sea out in front of the harbor walls, only a few scattered flood lights illuminate the water. The whole area looks like a sleeping animal, releasing its cool breath in the air. It‘s not deniable, that the latest offer of the Estació Nàutica and Confraria de Pescadors in Roses, where you spend one day with a fisher on his boat, is nothing for the faint-hearted – but the spectacular sunrise over the sea, which you would normally miss, is absolutely alluring.

Noch versteckt sich die aufgehende Sonne hinter den Klippen.

Although the presence of the fishing industry is preceptible everywhere at the Costa Brava, the fishermen still seem to be untouchable – you think of them as those rough, bearded figures, which rarely speak a word and meet at dawn in a grim bar to discuss about the fishing areas of the day. A lonely life, enriched by the presence of the nature and the sea – that‘s the romantic idea of a fisherman.The work of the people, who bring the fish onto our plates, is a well-guarded secret – that‘s why the chance to gain some insight is even more enticing.The project was realized this summer after a three – year planning phase – fourteen boats offer the trip at the moment and you can choose between big trawlers, which take up to four people on board and smaller boats, intended for 1 – 2 people. The trip on the trawler lasts for a full day, including two meals – the served fish couldn‘t be fresher. The small boat leaves a bit earlier, but you‘ll be back around 1 pm.

Erster Beuteschlag.

Catalonia is the first region, which makes this cultural treasure accessible to visitors. It can be assumed, that more and more travellers will go on this adventure next summer. Our trip is one of the last of the season, because the weather will be too rough and mercilessy at the beginning of october. It starts again in Mai. Around half past five, tyre noise break the silence and vans roll into the parking lot. We shake hands with our fisherman between storehouses and wooden boxes in which nets are piled up – neither has our fisher a beard nor gray hair, he carries a friendly smile instead. We decided on the half day tour – for the simple reason, that we hope to hold some personal talks with the people.

Die Arbeit auf dem Meer ist kein Zuckerschlecken.

Our boat is small but roomy, the voices of other fishermen come out of two speakers on deck. They discuss the price for the day, which is too low due to the national holiday. Jokes are made, cheerful laughs and the sound of the licking waves are in the air – no sign of bad mood in the morning.While the rocking boat pushes us slowly towards the day and we crave for another cup of coffee, our fisherman and his two helpers are already dressed up in their yellow rubber suits and start the motor – we head out onto the sea and we‘re suddenly feel tingling excitement.Our fisher isn‘t sparing of words – he tells us not only about the fishing industry at the Costa Brava, but also his personal story. The fishing lies in his blood, he and his brother never wanted to do anything else. Even his great-grandfathers and fathers had this profession – the long tradition behind the fishing industry shows for a moment its wrinkled face.

Die Möwen wittern Beute.

The inseparable ties between the fisherman and the ocean resounds in each of his words. He speaks of priceless moments on the high seas and of his love for the nature, which appears in all its roughness in the face of the rocky coast. A first red strip of dawn now gapes in the night blue sky and you suddenly get an inkling of the meaning of those words.The heavy smell of salt and fish fills the air and eats into the clothes,  we let down the first net just before Roses.A few seconds later, the sea suddenly looks like a blood-red mirror, whose rippling surface is speckled with golden reflections of the rising sun . A sunrise from the beach can be breathtaking – from the boat, it feels like you‘re able to pick the light from the sky like a little diamond.

Endlich - der Sonnenaufgang naht.

After the spectacle, it goes to work – the three men have already begun to haul one of the nets. The talking stops for a while, concentration is required. Like nimble animals take their hands the fish out of the tight meshes of the net and throw it into the bucket of water. We see sole, seabasses and carp, from time to time a shark – like catfish or a small skate gets caught in the net, but they‘re thrown back into the water. You‘ve probably never been that close to your food – you find yourself back at the origin of a manufactoring process, which eventually ends in one of the fishrestaurants along the coast. However, it can‘t be denied that the sight of the animals is not everyones cup of tea. The tour may be interesting and exciting, but it also reminds us, that our beautiful decorated food is based on a killing process.

Der Fang variert von Netz zu Netz.

After almost an hour, the fishermen are finished with the first net. It‘s a good catch, the bucktes are full and the fishers face carries a satisfied smile. On our way to the second net, he explains us, that the fish moves trough many hands until it finally ends up on our plate. He first sells it at the daily fish-auction in Roses, but the customers are rarely the restaurants themselves. They‘re mostly large enterprises, which resell the fish to the next customer. The fishing industry does not hibernate – the boats leave the port troughout the year.Two hours later, two more nets are on deck and we slowly drive back to the port – it‘s the perfect time to return, because the slopes of the Pyrenees are already hidden behind dark clouds.  It‘s a warm goodbye on the quay – the typical clichés are hereby disproved. We‘re a bit cold and a bit damp and the whole car smells of fish on our way back – but it‘s worth it, because you‘ll hardly get any closer to a traditional profession and these moments are the ones, which make a trip unique.

Information:
The boats leave from May – September from Roses, Llança and L’escala. For bookings, contact the Ajuntament in Roses.

Nicht nur Fische werden an Deck geholt.

The mother of the village – San Juan de las Abadesas

Usually there‘s first a place and it takes a few years until the church or the monastry is built ready – with San Juan de las Abadesas it behaves the opposite way.Even if the charming, medival place at the foot of the pyrenees seems quite traditional with its stone facades, stately manor houses and the splashing fountain in a green park – it was monumental monastery of the 12th century, which breathed life into it and lent it the name. What miracle is hiding behind those heavy wooden doors?

sant-joan-d-abedesses-claustre

At first glance, San Juan de las Abadesas seems with it‘s simple elegance less oppressive than other monastic buildings.Narrow stone pillars grow high like skeletons, climbing plants are weaved around them, in the middle of the cloister is a small fountain located. The air tastes of past times and you wait for the nuns and abbots to appear.When you finally reach the interior of the monastry, inky darkness envelopes you.The cool stone walls are painted by the light of some flickering candles, which brighten the wistful faces of the statues, looking down on the visitors.

sant-joan-d-abedesses-figures-madera

It is a place of reverence and seriousness, where the smell of incense and the shadows of the past hang heavily in the air. Indeed, the changes that formed San Juan de las Abadesas over the years, can be seen everywhere – the ivory-colored, ornamental altar, the walls, sometimes decorated with pictures of exotic animals, sometimes adorned by golden frescoes and the impressive Santissimi Misteri, a wood carving from 1251, which seems so real, that you wait for the figures to blink. You will come across traces of both French and Oriental art and architecture, which give San Juan de las Abadesas its various touch – not surprising with all its different owners.

In the year 880, the Count of Barcelona founded the monastry, which served for the following years as a residence for the daughters of the richerst families in the counrty – at the same time began the colonization of the pristine valley.Gradually, more and more houses were built around the mighty edifice and the place was named after the monastry. Around 1000 , the senior abbess was deposed and the monastery passed through countless hands, which all left their fingerprints.

sant-joan-d-abedesses-figures-exterior

That‘s exactly why the place is so interesting today – it feels as if you’ve just been wandering through several eras simultaneously. After your visit, you can either enjoy coffee and cake on the sunny front yard or continue your journey and throw a few glances into the museum, which seems like a treasure chest with it‘s golden rosaries, crystal crucifix and handcrafts.

How to get there:
Plaza de la Abadía Museo s/n
17860  Sant Joan de Les Abadesses
Sant Joan de les Abadesses, Girona  (Katalonien)

Opening hours:
daily 10.00 Uhr – 14. 00 Uhr und 16.00 – 18.00

Price:
Normal: 3 Euro
Reduced: 2 Euro
Groupticket: 2 Euro
Children free entrance.