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Christmas shopping in Catalonia – Barcelona.Girona.Figueres .

Christmas is just around the corner and the weeks until December 24th put retailing in a state of emergency. Therefore time for us to start some tours through the shopping arcades of Catalonia.

decorated shop windows

Christmas decoration in the shop windows

 

Barcelona

Not that much reminds of Christmas in early December. The Passeig de Gràcia is enlighted by sunlight, cafés are pretty well attended. Only a few shop windows are already decorated festively.

Shop decoration for Christmas

Shop details

Merely an inconsiderable Christmas tree seems to be a popular eye-catcher for the numerous tourists. Only the well-known department store chain El Corte Inglés conjures a little Christmas charm. The facade is adorned with pretty luminous star. In the inside you walk through some kind of a tinsel rain – surrounded by poinsettias and Christmas trees.

First bargains can be found very well. The neighbouring streets are also preparing to the Advent season. The El Corte Inglés is an all-rounder for Christmas gifts and bargains. From jewelry to clothes, perfume, accessories and decoration you may espy easily the perfect gift for your loved ones. The small streets around La Rambla also offer original treasures outside of mass consumption. Get ready for the shopping adventure!

Girona 

The provincial capital offers a variety of options to tune into high days and holidays. Small alleys of the old town are lovingly decorated for Christmas and the numerous little shops woo passersby with goodies from the region.

Rocambolesc ice

The fantastic ice-cream of Rocambolesc is always worth a taste

Shop windows are a sign of pre-Christmas period. Cosy strolling along the colorful houses, which extend to both sides of the river Onyar, and a walk along the stands of the Christmas market which offers unique pieces of arts can be perfectly combined with a bit of culture: the Cathedral of Santa María as the largest gothic arch in the world is always worth to visit. A selfie for some Christmas greeting would be a good idea, right?

Figueres 

Streets of Figueres

Streets of Figueres are already decorated for Christmas

The birthplace of the famous surrealist Salvador Dalí is a real attraction for visitors, not only due to the Salvador Dalí Museum. During the festive season, the small town near the French border also attracts with comfortable shopping. The alleys around Plaça Ajuntament illuminate in festive Christmas decoration. Shop windows are glittering seductively while Christmas market stands offer delicacy and crafts. The smell of marron glacé sweetens the air. Perfect requirements to enjoy the surrounding and shop a little surprise for family and friends.

Torroela de Montgrí

Costa Brava on two wheels

Costa Brava on two wheels – from the French border to Barcelona by bike

250 kilometers done, 4 bike breakdowns and 100 percent adrenaline in the serpentines – those are the results of our bicycle tour along the Costa Brava.

We, that’s Rafa, passionate biker from the Basque region, and Lea, German intern at the Costa Brava.

Portbou – Colera – Llanca

We start in Portbou right before the French border. Equipped with tent, sleeping bag and repair kit for the undesired breakdowns, we set off to for our adventure trip. „To Barcelona en bici“ is our enthusiastic idea when riding our bikes downhill the narrow alleys to the deep blue sea.

The steep road that appears behind Portbou makes me suddenly doubt. Not only our bikes but also my enthusiasm is slowed down when looking across the 650 meter high mountain range in the direction of Colera. To reach our following destination Llança, there is no other choice but crossing the uphill section in front of us – what the heck, I told myself already regretting this crazy idea. As student from the Netherlands where mountains are most likely to appear in magazines, I started feeling the first concerns whether I was indeed prepared for this tour under the Catalan sun. ‚Don’t chicken out right from the beginning‘, I told myself while pedaling the serpentines to Colera.

On our way to Colera

On our way to Colera – I am not yet sure of the adventure that we started…

Shortly afterwards, all regrets are gone. I don’t regret a single second of the exhausting climb in breeding heat. Far too beautiful is the breathtaking view over mountain chain falling into clear blue sea and the feeling to have mastered all the serpentines with your own efforts. Every centimetre is rewarded with the view over coast, land and water. Downhill the mountains and powered by immense sensation of liberty, we head towards Colera with 43 km/ h on our speedo. A quick break with a cold coke at the beach before crossing the next hills southward to Llança.

View over Colera

Nothing but the blue sky, vaste ocean and the hilly landscape in our view!

It is Friday evening and the night market along the beach boulevard in Llança welcomes us. Strands full with clothes, catalan pottery and regional delicacies invite to stroll. After a quick dip in the sea, we quickly fish for clean clothes – then there is nothing like heading into the bustle of tourism! We enjoy pasta and kalimutxo, a typically Spanish mix of red wine and coke before falling onto our sleeping pads.

Llança – L’Escala

Day 2: A quick stop at the supermarket in the morning. We buy some food for the day and unfold our cycling map . The sun is already quite high in the sky when we leave the first mountains behind. Although our second day has already started, we are still spellbound by the impressive landscape along the wild coast. Once arrived at the bay of Roses, we have a view over the entire golfe of Roses. Just in front behind the sea appear the silhouettes of L’Escala on the other side of the baie – our final destination for tonight.

Mountains close to Llança

Bike reparations between the mountains of Cap de Creus.

We fight our way through the touristic turbulences to Santa Margarita and further to Empuriabrava always along the coast. Thanks to its many canals, the small holiday resort is also known as the „Venice of Spain“ . A quick gaze at the white yachts that characterize the townscape before escaping the busy tourist places into the natural parc and birds paradise Aiguamolls d’Empordà. A bridge over the Muga river into a calm zone in the heart of the natural parc. Its birdwatching places are famous among ornithologues.

Aiguamolls

A cycling path leads through the natural parc Aiguamolls d’Empordà.

In Sant Pere Pescador, we cross the Fluvià. Along the appel trees and campsites, we follow the direction of L’Escala where the many bays invite for a break at the sea. Here, at the feet of the ruins of d’Empuries – a heritage of the greek and romain founders of L’Escala – we have to take a bath again! Our summary of the day: a great stage and very varied with mountains, calm bays and touristic holiday resorts at the same day! We spend this night on a camping in Riells (L’Escala) reviewing our impressions before falling asleep.

Aiguamolls

L’Escala – Sant Feliu de Guixols

Day 3: After our morning routine in front of the local supermarket, a piece of baguette in the left hand and the map in the right, we made our plan for the day! Our next destination is L’Estartit that we reach via the small town Torroella de Montgrí. We walk our bikes through the cheerfully colored alleys. High facades and the century-old walls give shadow in the old city of Torroella de Montgrí. After a quick side trip to the historical market place and the town church in baroque style, we follow the main road to the beach of L’Estartit.

Torroela de Montgrí

Torroella de Montgrí

We stop at the beach just in front of the impressive islands of Medes that emerge from the deep, blue sea and I quickly realized we have a lucky day! A pedal boat rental offers pedal boats with plastic slide on top and a long-cherished childhood dream comes true. The decision is clear, we don’t hesitate and enjoy one hour with the slide pedal boat off the beach in L’Estartit – just great!

Rocks off the coast in L'Estartit

Rocks off the coast at l’Estartit

However, we slowly start to feel that time flies by and our final destination Barcelona by bike will not be easy to reach within four-days-time. We will have to cheat a little bit. Following the direction Sant Feliu de Guíxols, we turn away from the coast at a certain moment to take one of the regional trains in the hinterland that brings us at low-cost directly to the centre of Barcelona.

rafa-leandra-blog

More on the topic „Barcelona en bike“ can be found on our Costa-Live blog on www.selected-property.com and in the following edition of our magazine.

Bicycle tours and route suggestions are available as well under www.baixemporda-costabrava.org and www.viaverdes.cat .

With Attention to Detail – Ventura & Hosta Cartons

In the romantic city of Navata, the workshop of Ventura & Hosta Cartons, where the Giants of Navata and many other figures are brought to life, is located. The studied ceramicist Neus Hosta and her husband David Ventura decided in 1984 to also share their professional path. Although trained as a jeweller, David produces figures out of cardboard since 1980 and was so pleased by this work that he wanted to continue the trade with the help of his wife. Obviously successful, as many cities in the province of Girona now possess their own giants and the name of the family-run business is well-known.

Neus-David-standing-figures

Well, how are they produced, those huge and small figures, the masks and installations? Neus demonstrates the “negatives“ of a mask to us. These are earthenware vessels in the shape of a face as well as a back of the head into which liquid cardboard is casted. After the sticky mass has dried, it is got out of the vessel and the two sides of the face are united carefully by hand with the help of glue and stapler needles.

At the end, filigree drawings and well-chosen colors give character to the figures and convert them into the so-called “positives“. More than one month can be spend to produce such faces because the glue has to dry in the sun, but this allows the couple to work on several works at the same time.

The best-known figures of Ventura & Hosta Cartons might be the giants which are more than 3 metres high, have an imposing weight of 40kg, and allow a person to step in and to move it.
Many of the surrounding cities possess their own giants which are taken out for festivals and are brought to dance. The enthusiasm for this among the people is big.
But most of all, this spectacle is fun for the children, we are told by Neus. This gave them the idea to also create small giants out of clay to play with.

Besides the figures, also installations can be discovered. “El tiempo múscial“ is a roundabout on which figures, driven by gearwheels, are dancing to music. They look so authentic that you have the impression they will jump down the roundabout and look for a new dancing partner.

Customers scramble to get the works. Theatres often ask David and Neus to design their sceneries. But also famous people like the brothers Roca whose restaurant “El Celler de Can Roca“ is well-known for its free style kitchen, let themselves be done a figure. Others want the couple to create a portray of them for a present or for having a personal memory. Those portrays cost around 35€ and are ready to be collected after 15 days.

Not everything can be bought – the giants are unique. But there is a huge selection of miniatures which can be brought home for 25€. A unique present for the kids of the family are definitely the horses in different sizes, into which they can step. You might have to dig a bit deeper into your pockets to buy one of these – they are worth between 150€ and 350€. Also masks are available, they cost 120€ and can be used as a decoration at home or they might guarantee a special appearance at the next carnival.

The production of all those wondrous things are only done by Neus and David. Only when having a big sales order, they have a helping hand. The two work together since 34 years now – every step of process can be done in sleep and the attention to detail can be seen in every figure.

If you like to have a look at the offer of Ventura & Hosta, come over to the workshop in Navata or inform yourself about the current range of masks and figures on the website www.venturahosta.net !

Visiting a Spanish Market – Discovering, Haggling, Cheering!

Whereas visiting a market in Germany means taking a tour to the city hall to buy sausage, cheese and eggs from the farmer round the corner, Spain seems to be overfilled by various markets:

Every Wednesday, there is a market in Sant Pere Pescador, on Saturdays Empuriabrava attracts with numerous souvenirs, fresh vegetables as well as clothing at its Promenade and on Sundays you can stroll along the stands in L’Escala.

Sant-Pere-Pescador-Markt-Totale

These markets are closely followed by specific regional markets, such as the Medieval Market in Besalú, which takes place in the context of its Festa Major, the evening-night White Summer Market in Serres de Pals or the antique markets of the region.

With our shopping bags in our hands and willig to make one or another bargain we were heading to the market in Sant Pere Pescador – including rummaging and haggling, of course. There was a long way framed by countless booths and stands with plenty of colorful shining jewelery, filigree dresses as well as toys and designer handbags – originally, or not.

Sant-Pere-Pescador-Markt

Sunglasses here, leather bands there, accompanied by bags filled with fresh vegetables and fruits, the image of a lively market that has a lot to offer joined up.
Especially the hand-made goods gathered all my attention: There were those woven baskets and bags in African style, finely decorated ceramics, and colorful deocorated purses, that were embedded in Indio Music and the smell of incense sticks.

Sant-Pere-Pescador_markt-Steine

Stunned by all the affortable prices and the opulent banns of goods, the intention that we actually don’t need anything was quickly replaced by the wish and the occasion just to take home everything.

Shopping Queen of Figueres

Figueres, a small town 140km north of Barcelona and not far away from the French border, is not only the seat of the Dalí Museum but also a good address for shopping, I was told. Charming, and twisting alleys which mostly lead to the Rambla or the Plaça de l‘Ajuntament, full of many little boutiques, shops and Desigual-stores leave their mark on the city.

Figueres-Frozen-Yoghurt

Near to the Dalí Museum, we came across a frozen yoghurt shop which sold the new fashioned ice-cream as well as toppings lie fruit, chocolate and cocos. We had to have a try. Enjoying the delicious ice-cream, we strolled along little bars which already had some guests in the early evening who were enjoying their first cerveza.

Figueres-Bars

Bershka and Mango were attracting us then, but also those labels like Pull&Bear and Stradivrius, mostly wanted by the Germans because they aren’t represented in Germany. Having filled bags but quite empty wallets, we got back home in the evening. By 28-31 August, visiting the Festival Acústica, we will be back at the latest.

Figueres-Rambla-bye

Let the Adventure Begin!

Gaining practical experience abroad in a country for its culture and mentality I have always been delighted by. These were roughly summarized my expectations and ideas, before the plane took me to the Spanish Costa Brava.

While packing, one or the other sorrowful thought had bruised next to the flip flops and bikinis that filled my suitcase, but was quickly overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and joy that I felt for the upcoming period.
From now on, I would leave my accustomed environment, my family, and friends for the next months, meaning to fully dedicate myself to the internship that lies ahead at the Costa Live Magazine.

Klippe-Cap-de-Creus

I neither expected nor imagined that this chance could directly turn out to be such an exciting and valuable time after the first few days of our arrival. I am still overwhelmed by the people who have welcomed me so friendly, the sun, which manfully makes its way through the clouds to light up our mind, the sea, which seems to expand my horizons and not forgetting the environment that offers me a landscape, which not only seems to hypnotize my thoughts but makes me more and more familiar with the country, which I call „My Home“ for the next two months.

The first day of my internship seemed to intensify my first impressions while we were up to discover the northern Costa Brava of Catalonia. The first destination to visit was Cadaqués, a small fishing village with its own bay and of course, residence of the Spanish-Catalan artist Dalí.

There were these narrow, busy streets, full of people enjoying the sun, beaches, covered with colorful sunshades, and an outstanding architecture. Well, more or less, this always has been my impression of the spanish cities I have already visited. But Cadaqués was different – surrounded by an impressive nature park which is called “Cap de Creus”, a beautiful impression after another flooded my mind. I was astonished by the tight-pass road which leads to the village and also included a panoramic view on the Pyrenean peaks. Everything seemed so impressive and overwhelming at the same time: the wideness of nature, the shining turquoise bays that extend below the cliffs, and a totally unaffected nature which is spreading out right in front of our feet.

Möwe-Cap-de-Creus

“Amazed by the beauty of nature” as I always tend to say, but nevertheless we were equipped with our photo cameras and notepads to document our experiences. We wanted to grab everything: The typical Spanish vegetation, meter-high stone walls, as well as the depths of the bright blue bays to capture our impressions of this beautiful nature reserve. But our little road trip should go even further and thus, that eventful day brought even more surprises to us.

Cadaqués stretched up before us with white roofs that shone in competition with the sun, lively promenades and small beach sections that invited the tourists and the locals to enjoy in the sun as well as refreshing themselves in the water. Now we could unterstand very well the rush of tourists, during the summer months which spend unforgettable holidays there.

Filled with memorable impressions and a big smile on my face, we took the way home which lead through the mountains again and gave me a sense of freedom. My mind wandered again – I was exited about the upcoming impressions that might await me during the upcoming months.

Tijana-Bucht-Cap-de-Creus

Tijana

The Smell of Freedom

4 months of Spain that lie ahead between loudly Catalan-speaking and wildly gesticulating Spanish people and my fear not to speak Spanish good enough to be understood. Those were my first thoughts when I got the permission to work as an intern for the Costa Live International Magazine in Empuriabrava. But quickly, excited anticipation of the endless shining sun and the work as a journalist, who is always curious to pick up new stories, was rising. I am still amazed by all those lovely people who received me and of those who patiently talk Castellano to me instad of their beloved Catalan.


My first day of work was supposed to be a roadtrip which I won’t forget that fast. Starting at Empuriabrava, we were heading towards Roses, a little city at the sea, which attracts thousands of tourists in summer. On our way we drove through small alleys which were crowded and full of pushing mopeds, and continually stopping cars driven by tourists. Having a Spanish car, grumbling and pushing the accelerator was silently permitted for us, and so we also made our way through the crowd. We only took a quick look at the promenade which was surrounded by little bars, which already had many customers. The turquoise and blue glittering sea already had to stand children who were happily shrieking and playing in the water. Now I know why the Spanish people lovingly call August “the time of the terrorists“.

Marie-Porta-Falconera-Costa-Brava

Leaving Roses, we took some lost streets which were crawling up the mountains but didn’t keep us from driving about 43.5 mph and singing along to the loud music we were listening to. Reaching Punta Falconera, a „typical tourist viewpoint“, the view took away my breath. Standing between cactuses and wild olive trees, the vastness of the sea lay in front of me and the clouds hanging in front of the pyrenees could only gave me a hint of where the horizon was. If I had done one more step, I would have fallen down the cliffs and into the sea. A feeling of freedom and happiness came over me and I really liked to take pictures to catch this moment so I could show it to my beloved ones at home. But I have to permit that such a vastness and beauty of nature can only be caught by the naked eye, so that the heart can really feel it.

Cap-de-Creus-Steinblick

We went along a busy mountain pass for Cadaqués and passed by sharp slopes. A donkey was enjoying his loneliness and ate dry grass with dedication. An eagle was gliding through the sky without having to strike with his wings, and the feeling of freedom didn’t want to depart from me. Even out of the window, my view from the foothills of the pyrenees and the sea to France was spectacular and I forgot about place and time. Only now and then I could see some small houses placed at the slopes. Sometimes, small taverns which were overgrown by climbing plants and moss, located at a crossroad, were inviting us for a break. But the Cap de Creus, engl.: cap of believers, the most northerly point of Spain, was waiting for us. On our way there, we were passing by an observatory, located on top of the biggest mountain and definitely knowing that this wasn’t only one of the most beautiful places on earth but also in the whole universe. The landscape reaching the Cap de Creus suddenly changed- no more olive trees and cactuses covered it but stones of volcano and seldom dry plants. This is how fast the flora adjusts to the mountain’s height.

Cap-de-Creus-Distel

On our way to Cadaqués we, for example, we passed by the former residence of Salvador Dalí, a world-famous surrealistic artist. He died in 1989 and so today, his residence is the Casa Salvador Dalí Museum in Portlligat. In this surroundings, also residences of well-known managers can be found and again it became clear to me how popular the Costa Brava is- both with tourists and experts. I came back with many impressions and ideas, and I am looking forward to hiking in the pyrenees and to visiting small, covered bays and other centres of cultural interest. I will write more about this soon.

Marie

Angels shop in Garriguella.

Second sketch – the antique dealer Angel

In the middle of the sleepy village of Garriguella has the restorer and antiques dealer Angel opened his shop – behind old barn doors are two halls filled to the bursting with curiosity and antique pieces. What kind of person makes all these beautiful things sparkle and shine again?

What were you dreaming of, when you where a child?
Oh, I‘ve had many dreams. I was mostly dreaming of sport, because I was playing basketball for Barcelona.

Are you more a person of memory or of hope?
Memory.

Which dream have you already forgotten?
Sports.

One thing you should stop and one thing you should start?
I should stop working and start living my second youth.

What‘s more important in life? Rationality or unreason?
Rationality.

Would you have liked to live in a diffrent era?
No.

What‘s the first thing you would do if you could be 16 again?
I would meet my wife.

Which is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?
Barcelona.

Which bar would you recommend us?
La sirena in Roses.

One thing that you would take to a lonley island?
My wife.

Are changes a good thing or a bad thing?
Something good!

What else does the world need??
More mental health.

What wouldn‘t the world be missing?
Wars.

What is the good thing about growing up?
You make your experiences – no matter whether they‘re good or bad.

One thing that you have learned from life?
Honor and love the animals. Especially dogs and horses.

How important is time for you? Do you sometimes like wasting it?
Time means living and stop living. And yes, I love wasting it and I‘m doing it alot.

Do you have a motto?
It is a sentence of Pep Guardiola: „When we get up early and work hard, we are an unstoppable nation.“

Angels shop in Garriguella.

Information: Angels shop is located at the church square of Garriguella. It‘s worth a visit!

Blooming flowers next to the ocean.

New ADAC guide book Catalonia

Especially in autumn and spring we want to discover the picturesque countryside of the Costa Brava – the lazy beach days can wait until summer. Whether you get lost in the rough Pyrenees, enjoy the ocean view from Cap de Creus or collect mushrooms in the colorful forests. Once you‘ve started, the excursions are going to make you addicted.

Autum landscape on the coast.

All the better, that ADAC just published a new guidebook about Catalonia, which not only creates an appetite for more, but also saves you from getting lost. You can find detailed maps, route descriptions as well as numerous travel tips in the practical book. A must-have for everyone, who wants to discover more of the region.

ADAC Wanderführer Katalonien Jenseits der Costa Brava – Katalonien zu Fuß entdecken. Art.Nr.: 9783862070756

Julia Masetplana, Bodega.

First draft – Julia Masetplana

Julia Masetplana was already dreaming of taking over the family business, when he was a little child – today, the 27 – year old is owner of a wine – trade and produces delicious olive oil. It‘s worth an excursion to his fabric, which is located in the scenic Empordà near Garriguella – you can inspect all kinds of machinery and you won‘t leave with empty pockets.

Julia Masetplana, Bodega.

What were you dreaming of, when you were a child?
I was dreaming of taking over our family business and of sucess. When I was really young, I wanted to become a astronaut or firefighter.

Who are you representing in your dreams?
I don‘t think, that I‘m representing certain person – I‘m doing, what I‘m doing.

Are you a person of memory or of hope?
Hope is more important than memory.

Which dream have you already forgotten?
A forgotten dream…none occurs to me.

One thing you should quit and one thing you should start?
I should probably quit smoking. And I really want to study – maybe something like business studies.

What‘s more important in life? Rationality or unreason?
Rationality.

What‘s the most beautiful place, you‘ve ever been to?
I actually really like it here in Empordà.

What‘s the saddest place, you‘ve ever been to?
That was also here, when everything got destroyed by the fire last year.

One thing you would take to a lonley island?
Wine.

Would you like to meet the Spanish president?
I‘m not interested in meeting him.

What would you say to him, if you would still meet him?
There‘s nothing to be said to the Spanish president anymore, the people have already told him everything. If I would meet the Catalan president, I would advise him to be more realistic.

Are changes a good thing or a bad thing?
Generally, they are good.

What else does the world need?
A little bit more sense of reality and modesty.

What wouldn‘t the world be missing?
Corrupt politicans.

What‘s good about growing – up?
You have freedom and it‘s easier to make decisions. Also, you can try diffrent things and make your own experiences.

What means time to you? Do you enjoy wasting it sometimes?
Time is very important for me. But I‘m actually always to busy to waste it.

One thing, you learned from life?
A lie has no legs.

Information:
Where: Paratge dels Pedreguers, s/n 17780 – Garriguella
Contact: info@masaplana.com

www.masetplana.com