Author: Marie Firmenich

Road Trip to the French Border

Curious about what the Pyrenees might look like from the other side, we start out on a road trip with direction to France. The sun is shining through the open hood of our car and the nothern wind Tramuntana causes the leaves to dance. Our journey takes us through the countryside, passing by numerous little villages of the Empordà which provide a view at the mountains and the sea.

We cross the Aiguamolls at Castelló d’Empúries. In the midst of the marsh land which is a nature conservation a swarm of storks stops us. The huge birds strut around sociably among cows.

Aiguamolls-Storks-Cows
We go uphill to reach Vilajuïga where the mineral water’s source of the “Aigua de Vilajuïga“ is located. We know the water from the supermarket. The inhabitants of Vilajuïga are allowed to draw the water from the source’s public tap for free. The water is said to have magic powers, so we need to try it.

Next, we follow the signpostings to Sant Pere de Rodes, taking the pass up to the foothills of the nature park Cap de Creus. We stop high up at Mas Ventós and enjoy the breath-taking view over the Empordà’s vastness up to the sea. The Pyrenees’ white peaks mark the horizon.

We go onwards to Sant Pere de Rodes. The former Benedictine monastery thrones illustriously upon a rock. The road steeply leads down to the sea from here. The view down at the coastal town El Port de la Selva and Llança is enchanting. We go further through vineyards and cliffs until we reach Colera. The sleepy little village just before the French border attracts us to take a break and to drink a coffee nearby the sea.

Portbou is our last stop before we cross the border. We visit the memorial of Walter Benjamin. The Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan has created an impressive accessable memorial by creating “Passages“ – a tunnel made of rusty steel leads the visitors many stairs down the cliff and nearly meets the sea. A glass screen on which one of Benjamin’s quotes are engraved bolts the access to the horizon.

The last Pyrenees’ foothills dive into the Mediterranean Sea between France and Spain. We take the winding road up to the neighbouring country. O

nly the deserted border houses, now covered with graffiti, remind of the formerly guarded French border. Everybody is now able to pass in both directions.

Time and time again, wars create limits which were many people’s undoing. Today, we are happy to live in a united Europe and are able to detect – travelling freely – that the Pyrenees are as impressive as from the other side in Spain.

Carnival at the Costa Brava

We enjoy carnival – a funny, colorful, and boozy celebration that occupies the streets in many of the cities of Spain.
In Roses we experience a crazy night full of carnival beauties, exotics from fantasy worlds, witches and princesses – firefighters and toreros – punks and devils – Carmen and Don Juan – tigers and kittens – Romans and sailors.

All dance together through the streets and alleys. There is no limit to imagination. Carnival float after carnival float passes by and the music ring across the sea.
Why can’t we repeat carnival in warm summer nights? 

men-throwing-confetti

Roses: 12.02 – 16.02. 2015
Torroellà de Montgrì: 12.02 2015
Tossa de Mar: 9. – 15. 02. 2015
Platja d’Aro: 7. – 18.02. 2015
Sant Feliu de Guíxols: 7.02. – 15.02. 2015

Clear the Ring for the International Circus Festival 2015

Magic, exoticism, adventure, and a bit of freedom is what comes to our minds when thinking of circus. The smell of popcorn, the rustling straw under our feet, the spotlights and drum rolls, the laugh of children when the clowns fall over their enourmous shoes – circus always is an adventure which we experience with all of our senses.

It lets us forget about the world when watching the beautiful artiste who is gracefully swinging the hula hoop. We hold our breaths when the trapeze artist is winding around himself for the fifth time and only holds on to the trapeze with one foot. We laugh out loudly when the clowns are hunting each other, the toy trumpets are echoing and their colossal noses are slipping. We applaud enthusiastically when the circus horses are strutting across the circus ring on their back legs and we cry tears of joy and emotion when little girls are dancing on the high wire as if it was a runway.

Tatiana-Artiste-wire
This year, The International Circus Festival in Figueres enters into the fourth round on February 26. There are 72 artistes coming from 14 countries expected to come which already have caused enthusiasm among the audience of last year. The elite of jugglers, aerialists, clowns, and acrobats will be represented in Europe for the first time and will cause an unforgettable evening in the new big top on the exhibition centre of Figueres. During different shows – the blue and the red one – the artistes and their 24 circus acts will be evaluated by a specialist jury. Only the best artistes will enter the final – the golden – show. Last year, the individual artist Kai Cao from China, the circus “Diabolos“ from Russia as well as the “National Circus of Pyongyang“ from North Korea won the “Golden Dalí Elefant“, being the highest award.

Circus-acrobatic-boys

On http://www.festivaldelcirc.com/en/ you can get tickets for groups at 10€ per person. At 40€ per person you can sit down in the VIP loge. 
On https://www.facebook.com/festivaldecirc?fref=ts, the organizer will provide you with constantly up-to-date information.
Visiting the circus will be an unforgettable experience, as the slogan on the website promises.
So don’t miss it! Clear the ring for another fantastic edition of the International Circus Festival of the City of Figueres.

Circus-ring-at-night-show

Anysetiers support Tramuntanets in Roses

The International Order of Anysetiers is an alliance of citizens revived in France in 1955 which wants to attend to social responsibility in the spirit of interpersonal care and international understanding. The Anysetiers support those who are in a social need and promote cultural matters.

During the last years, the Commanderie Costa Brava of the International Order of Anysetiers supported many social projects and organizations with word and deed on a regional basis. This year in October, they handed over a cheque of 2.500€ to the Association Tramuntanets (l’Associació Tramuntanets). This association is a private foundation for families with disabled children which, for example, makes the holiday care for mentally and physically disabled children in Roses possible. The current donated money guarantees the upcoming holiday care for Christmas 2014 and Easter 2015.

Tramuntanets-Group
A mutual event in the Cituadella of Roses assured communication and cooperation. Affected children, parents, relatives, and members of the Order of Anysetiers were pleased about the staging of the Castellers de Figueres. Castellers – human towers – are full of symbolism. There is a need for trust in the other one’s abilities when standing upon their shoulders.

L’Associació Tramuntanets (Association Tramuntanets) : 630 838 151 / 660 541 908 / tramuntanets@hotmail.com / IBAN: ES87 2100 8175 80 2300044430 / BIC: CAIXESBBXXX
Commanderie de Bahia de Rose-Costa Brava – Ordre International des Anysetiers : bahiaderoses@anysetiers.com

Sport, Art, and Countryside in the Catalan Pyrenees

From the Cantabrian Sea to the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees’ mountain chain rises like an immense natural barrier between Spain and the rest of the continent. Its dominions extend along 450 kilometres of peaks reaching 3000 metres high, leafy valleys and picturesque centuries-old towns and villages. A meeting point for a variety of cultures and gateway to the Route to Santiago, the Pyrenees have countless treasures waiting to be discovered in each of the autonomous regions which share them.

Pyrenees-Handstand-Snow
The first snows usually come to Spain in late November/early December. This is when the country’s 34 ski resorts get up and running. Mountain passes and snow-covered valleys, along with facilities which are constantly being refurbished to provide enthusiasts with a whole range of exciting options after a day’s sport. Spain’s ski resorts all offer excellent infrastructure and transport links.
The chance to enjoy other outdoor sports in the countryside, cultural routes, history, art, leisure, unique mountain villages and delicious gastronomy will make a skiing holiday to Spain all the more pleasurable.


The 10 ski resorts in the Pyrenean Mountains in Catalonia offer more than four hundred kilometres of marked ski-runs. Beginners, more advanced skiers and experts all flock to this resort, surrounded by peaks reaching more than 3,000 metres above sea level, and offering a privileged setting which provides the ideal conditions for conserving its high quality snow throughout the season.

Pyrenees-stream-snow

The main resorts are centred around the Arán Valley, Boí Valley, the area around the Aigüestortes i Estani de Sant Maurici Nature Reserve, and the Cerdanya region. These are areas of extraordinary beauty, home to cosy mountain villages with unique traditional architecture and monuments.

Pessebres Viventes – Living Cribs

Every year around Christmas time, committed inhabitants of historic medieval villages come together – the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of the cobbler, the hairdresser, the potter or the carpenter. They have fished out the antique tools of their ancestors from sheds and broom closets and are now assembling in courtyards, alleys, and public places to form living pictures. In Báscara, Castelló, Pals, Peralada, and at many other places workshops, markets, and the birth of Jesus become alive. “Pessebres Viventes““Living Cribs“ are tradition in Catalonia and so nearly every village is filled with new life around the Christmas period.

Living Cribs sometimes only take place on one evening but mostly on every holiday. Families and guests will join together being actors or visitors then. One can hear children laughing mixed with the cackle of ducks and chicken, being interrupted by hammering noises coming from imaginary workshops, shrouded in the smoke coming from old chimneys, and lighted up by tiny campfires and the light of torches in the wind. This is the picturesque and colourful scenery which every year creates the right feeling of Christmas – the feeling that Catalonia is on a travel through time back to the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the hinterland of the Costa Brava, in Báscara, you get one of the most impressive stagings. Here, more than 300 amateur actors annually transfer their visitors back to the Palestine of more than 2000 years ago. This crib performance takes place in the medieval alleys and ruins of the municipality since 1973.The living pictures in the midst of the beautiful landscape and on the bank of the river Fluvià, in front of the backdrop of innumerable rocks, springs, and waterfalls are nearly film material.

One crib figure with naked bottom causes serious amazement among non-initiated visitors here in Báscara and at other places. This is probably because you can only find this in Catalonia: Someone pulls down his trousers and puts a stinking poop close to the Christ child and the crib, in the midst of the most beautiful photo motive. If you now assume a new type of joke, you are wrong. This strange happening is a fixed crib ceremonial since the age of baroque. 
The small Caganer – “the crapper“ is considered to be a lucky charm and reflects the Catalan mentality – blithely indifferent to the holy and rather thinking practically of fertilizing the fields and of having a great harvest afterwards. 
If you are looking for the individual lucky charm for 2015 to give for Christmas, you will be spoilt for choice. Football stars, politicians, characters of films, as well as Queen Leticia with naked bottom are available for 16€ onward. The incredible beststeller of the year 2014 is the Pope.

In all holiness we wish you a Merry Christmas and the perfect start into the New Year 2015.

Caganer-Bascara

Christmas Baking – Recipes

Who of us didn’t have the childish anticipation of Christmas, the feeling of butterflies in the stomach when hearing the bell ringing and knowing that the Christ child had come? Who of us coulnd’t wait the door to the living room to be opened and to get access to the Christmas tree, loaded with presents?
This excitement might be fading away over the years but there are many possibilities to get in the right mood for Christmas and to regain a certain kind of anticipation.


There is a current trend towards handmade presents and this is why this year home-made biscuits with almond splits and chocolate or sugar icing can’t be missing at the advent café with the family or friends.
The tradition of having Christmas biscuits goes back to the time before Jesus Christ was born. Back then, winter solstice was celebrated and the people baked so-called “breads for sacrifice“ which they hung up on threads or threw into rivers to frighten evil spirits or demons. According to this Christian tradition, Christmas breads – today’s Christmas cakes – were brought to life. As these cakes were expensive to produce and only wealthy families were able to allow themselves this luxury, people began to bake “small breads“ from which our Christmas biscuits have arisen.

bag-of-biscuits-selected-property

Today, we enjoy Christmas biscuits when drinking tea or coffee or we give them away in little bags, decorated with colourful ribbons or nameplates. Home-made biscuits always are a highlight during the Christmas period and since the 19th century, they are a fixed element of our banquet table.

We are going to share two biscuit recipes from Costa Live’s Christmas baking so that these little delicacies are not missing at your home.

Almond Shortbread

Ingredients:
125 g margarine
125 g icing sugar
2 packets of vanillin sugar
a pinch of salt
100 g flour
100 g oat flakes
100 g ground almonds
100 g almonds without shell
1/2 cup of milk

Beat margarine, icing sugar, vanillin sugar, and salt until it is frothy, then stir in flour, oat flakes, and ground almonds until the mixtures become a smooth dough. Form two rolls of dough and cut off little pieces. Place these pieces on a baking tray, dip the almonds without shell into the milk and place them onto the pieces. Bake it on the middle rack at 175 C for 12-15 minutes.

A kiss from a nut

Ingredients:
2 whites of an egg
125 g sugar
125 g ground hazelnuts
hazelnuts for garnishing

Whisk the egg whites with the sugar until stiff, then take two soupspoons off the mixture. Carefully fold in the ground hazelnuts and form small balls out of it. Press in a small hole and fill in the stiff egg white and put a hazelnut on each ball as a garnish. Bake it at 140-160 C for 20-25 minutes.

Some biscuits bags are waiting for being eaten – so come into our office at Empuriabrava and help them!

Almond-Shortbread

We wish you a Merry Christmas

Christmas is Just Around the Corner

Spending long nights full of candlelight and having a glass of velvety wine at the open fire – Christmas is a festival of touching the senses and every year, it takes the romantic out of us again. We indulge ourselves in sentimental Christmas decoration, we are surrounded by the smell of delicious glühwein and biscuits.

Angel-Decoration-bowl-fir-cone

This year, following the current trend, our ideas for your decoration come right out of nature. Reddishly shining pomegranates, nicely smelling walnuts, cones of stone pine and cypress, moss or dried berries and twigs, wrapped up with wickerwork are staged with candles, glittering baubles in colours of copper, apricot, and berry.


Door wreaths are made of walnuts or cones, accompanied by finds from the sea or by twigs and dried plants from the forest or field – there are no limits to the imagination. 
With colours of silver, gold, and copper one can spray some little highlights on the bricolage. Gleaming and colourful ribbons or golden tinsel put an emphasize on the topic of Christmas.

The Advent calendar has been invented for those who are grumpy in the morning and need to get up easier in the pre-Christmas period. A self-made one always is a special proof of love. One might sew little bags out of remnants, for example, and put in sweets, key fobs, jewellery, and useful little things combined with kind sayings. At the end, one can bind the bags mixed up on a branch or an Advent wreath, paint the 24 numbers on them and the very individual surprise of pre-Christmas is ready to be given to your beloved one.

If you don’t have any sewing machine or remnants at home, also paper bags or small packs can be packed and wildly be hung up on a line. We guarantee that this special Advent calendar will be remembered as a highlight of pre-Christmas for a long time.

Candles-Glasses-wine-leaves

We wish you a Merry Christmas within your family circle

Bonjour Perpignan – “The Centre of the World”

Standing in the station concourse of Perpignan in 1963, the man with his twirled mustache knocked onto the floor with his crutch several times, caught up in a hallucinatory inspiration and calling out theatrically: “C’est le centre du monde!“ – This is the centre of the world.

As the master of surrealism Salvador Dalí had already seen great potential of the city and his monumental painting “La Gare de Perpignan“ is considered to be an autobiography of the paintor, we also wanted to form an opinion about this important city in the midst of the French Roussillon.

Perpignan-Merry-go-round

A beautiful coastal highway let us along the picutresque Spanish villages Llança, Colera, and Portbou to Perpignan, located 30 km away from the Spanish border.

Via-Perpignan-Marry-TJ

We arrived at the city, being illusionary immersed into the beauty of the mountains and the vastness of the sea, and located only a few kilometres beyond the Costa Brava. 
Perpignan is a lively, historic city, marvellously situated between the Pyrenees on one side and the sea on the other side, and is tempting with French charme.

Fascinated, we were strolling along the small alleys of the old town. Paved streets were awe-inspiring, bright façades were shining, painted in pastels, and buildings were inspired by the Gothic style. They all reminded of the time when Perpignan had been known for being the capital of the kingdom of Mallorca.

Perpignan-wall-of-building

The completely renewed Castle of the Kings as well as the cathedral Cloître Du Cimetière St. Jean are worth a visit and above the landmark of the city Le Castillet the Catalan flag is fluttering. 
Due to the proximity to Spain and also its history, the city in the north of Catalonia not only proves itself with French architecture and all sorts of local delicacies but also attracts many people every year with ist Catalan fair and lightness to come to Perpignan.

We were making our way along the small boutiques and beautiful places, exploring those mysterious little courtyards with all its cafés and restaurants which offered a perfect place to rest.

Perpignan-Flower-Shop

This day, Perpignan did full justice to its reputation as one of the most sun ripened and hottest cities of France and so we didn’t want to miss the chance to search for cooling in the French department store called Lafayette and to finish the day off with an inspiring shopping tour.

Perpignan-Roses

In how far Dalí’s visionary opinion about “The Centre of the World“, which is written in capital letters onto the central station of Perpignan, can be shared among the people is left to themselves. 
Nevertheless, at this point it might be a good idea to think of the words that a Spanish artist spoke benevolently:

„If there was only one truth, one wouldn’t be able to draw houndreds of paintings about the same topic.“

Pablo Picasso.

Sitges – See And Be Seen

Sitges, one of the best known holiday destinations in the province of Barcelona, is located only 36 km south-west and far away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Barcelona. Diversity is trending in Sitges, everybody is welcome here. This is why the small city today is a renowned destination for the gay scene.

Located at the Mediterranean Sea, about 17 beaches with turquoise sparkling, and clear water can be found there. Many small bars invite for having a cerveza in the open air. We are strolling along the seaside promenade, facing the Church of the Holy Bartholomäus and the Holy Thekla. It is towering high upon a cliff, breaking waves of the Mediterranean Sea underneath. The mountains, the sea, the harbor, and the slope-hugging houses create a picturesque ensemble.

We climb up the old stone stairs to reach the church, passing by the remains of an old defending cannon and huge palm trees. Soon, the old but beautiful walls rise into the sky right in front of us. The old church is honored to the patron of the city called Santa Thekla, celebrated by the city festival of Sitges during the week around 23th September.

Strolling through the small garden in the back of the church, we reach the square of the Ajuntamiento, which is the town hall of the city. The building based onto columns and archways attracts many visitors to come. Down the stairs into the city centre, the small street cafés, the white houses adorned with flourishes, and the charm of the small streets are beguiling us.

Facing the marina and the sea, we are enjoying delicious seafood. 
With naturalness, those many homosexual couples are perfectly integrated into the diverse street scene. Smiling happily and walking hand in hand carefree, they are passing us by. Every summer, the Sitges Gay Pride attracts more than 5.000 visitors to come. Five days of concerts, dances, colorful parades and fashion shows are on the agenda then. Sitges is legendary for its exciting nightlife. Stylish “gay-bars“ attract for having flirts. The street called “street of sins“ (“Calle del Pecado“) with its numerous clubs and bars is internationally well-known. Here, the celebratory gay-community meets night after night.

Also the Film Festival, which this year takes place between the 3rd and 12th October and is considered to be one of the most important international film festivals of fantasy films, makes Sitges a place to be – at least once.
If it was playing golf, visiting a sailing school or having a sunbath at one of the 17 beaches – the unique nightlife and the flair of the city, as well as the entertainment of those many fiestas – Sitges offers many opportunities for everybody. The beautiful city at the sea before the city gates of Barcelona is definitely worth a visit.
www.sitgestur.cat

Sitges-Harbour-yachts