All posts tagged: Catalonia

Besalú – Medieval charm

The back country of the Costa Brava is filled with treasures. Where overcrowded cities and beaches take a back seat, the focus is on rural tranquility and medieval beauty. In quiet, car-free old towns with beautiful, lovingly restored buildings, you start a journey into another time.
Destination: The most beautiful medieval villages of Catalonia. One of them – Besalú.

Besalú - Pyrenees

The beauty of the Costa Brava, right in front of you!

Enchanted by Besalú

Starting point of our little journey through Besalú: The gigantic, perfectly restored bridge Pont Vell. The view of the beautiful bridge, its two majestic towers, the river Fluvià, the picturesque old town with numerous medieval stone houses and the foothills of the Pyrenees is simply overwhelming. Nobody can resist here: Taking pictures of this view is a must!

Besalu - old town - medieval

Impressive, isn’t it?

Back to the past

Unleashed from everyday life, we enter a place far away from stress and worries. Small, narrow streets lead to the village square, the Plaça Llibertat with lively little restaurants and cafés. The Monastery of Sant Pere leaves you very stunned. Our thoughts wander far into the past. Our next stop: the Church of Sant Vicente – also an impressive Romanesque building.

 

Definitely a highlight

In the former Jewish quarter, a very special highlight awaits us: a Jewish ritual bath. Only four of these species have survived across Europe – Wow! You cannot miss that. Such a magical place ..

A perfect walk..

A true masterpiece – Besalú

From the bank of the river Fluvià, we enjoy the unique view of the majestic bridge and the medieval work of art Besalú for the last time. While listening to the lapping of the river, we feel the passing time and the history surrounding this magical place.

 

 

 

pals medieval village

Pals – Medieval Catalan beauty

Travelling through medieval times.  The Spanish region Catalonia is known for many things. Breathtaking scenery, similar to Italy’s Tuscany, the impressive coast with its steep cliffs and the seemingly endless Mediterranean… and of course a number of charming villages captivating with their history.

medieval village pals

Hidden corners in the medieval village

Medieval idyll

With its 2500 inhabitants, the small and historical town Pals is classified as one of the ten most beautiful Catalan villages. After a visit on an early autumnal but sunny afternoon in September, I now understand perfectly why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Situated on a small hill, Pals’ name derives from the Latin word “palus” meaning marsh. As the name already insinuates it was once surrounded by lakes and moors. These days the village is lined by trees in all shades of green and paddy fields where the typical Spanish paella rice is produced. Arriving at the villages entrance, we abandon our car and continue by foot – the only way you should be passing these hilly, narrow streets!

Time travel in the Catalan village

pals medieval village

Medieval time travel in Pals

After taking a few steps we reach Pals’ gates and feel as if we’re transferred to a different era. Those who are expecting even a touch of modernity are searching in vain. Thanks to an impeccable restauration the whole villages medieval basic structure is still well-preserved. You can almost hear the horse’s hooves on the bumpy cobblestone of Pals’ narrow streets and our thoughts wander… What life must have been like here in earlier times?

Torre de les Hores – the town’s landmark

medieval pals

Torre de les Hores in medieval Pals

We continue our path along the old stone walls covered with picturesque ivory and reach the town’s landmark. The “Torre de les Hores” – a Romanesque tower – sits majestically on top of the hill characterising the townscape. Moving further you find yourself on a little square with a viewing platform overlooking the beautiful surroundings and the dark blue sea. On clear days you’ll even be able to see the Medes Isles.

 

 

medieval pals

Green idyll in Pals

 

After enjoying the panoramic view for a while, we stroll down the old stone steps to the centre of the village. For those looking for a refreshment or a bite to eat, Pals offers a nice selection of cafés and restaurants considering the villages rather low number of inhabitants. One definitely doesn’t have to starve in Pals!

 

 

 

After this first travel through time to the Middle Ages one thing is for sure: we are excited to see what the other nine villages have to offer!

In the mood for a hike: Camino de Ronda

Admire one stunning bay after another and having the wonderful, turquoise blue sea continuously right in front of you? Going for a swim, relaxing in the sun and afterwards putting your hiking boots back on? In between, snacking a small treat in a restaurant with spectacular views to the sea and sipping a cool mojito later at sunset?

That sounds great to you? Well then, you will love the famous coastal path of the Costa Brava which has, for the most parts, been left in its natural state.

 

Camino de Ronda

With a length of approx. 45 km, the so-called Camino the Ronda offers infinite possibilities to enjoy the beauty of the Costa Brava with all of your senses. Whether you like to take a chance on the whole path within 2 days – like a professional hiker – or prefer walking only a small section on a sunny afternoon – it’s your choice. But I guarantee you won’t regret a single step!

 

 

 

Insider Tip: Cala Calitjàs

On a warm day of summer, we decided to visit the bay called “Cala Calitjàs“ in Roses, which persuades with a gravel beach and spectacular views to the light blue sea. On a holiday with perfect weather for bathing in middle of high season, I expected the beach to be overcrowded without air to breathe. I was quite surprised noticing that we had to share the spacious gravel area with less than 25 persons. Definitely an insider tip!

 

 

Next Bay: Cala Pelosa

After taking a refreshing bath in the cool salt water, we enjoyed the sun for a while – listening to the soft sound of the sea. Until our rumbling stomachs finally reminded us that it was already siesta time! Fortunately, we had organized a table in the famous restaurant called “Chiringuito La Pelosa“ before. The idea of a juicy paella with fresh seafood motivated us to leave the comfortable beach and hike to the next bay, the so-called “Cala Pelosa“, using the Camino de Ronda.

 

 

Hiking with spectacular views

Having walked only a few meters, I already understood why so many fans of Spain decide to walk the whole path: the views were continuously spectacular! Permanently, I had to stop to take some pictures of the dream scenery.

You can’t get enough of these wonderful views!

But I have to admit that I’ve been a little torn: On the one hand, I had to concentrate not to loose my footing and fall into the enormous cacti and on the other hand, I couldn’t help but admire  the crystal clear water, which sparkled in the sun and was decorated with numerous, luxurious boats and yachts. It’s better holding on for a minute now and again, otherwise it could get quite dangerous!

Restaurant “Chiringuito La Pelosa“

While we made our way through the prickly pears and palms, some passengers of boats in the distance seemed to have a lot of fun – boat party ahoy!

By the way, the restaurant has a boat service that delivers the paella!

 

Sooner than I expected, we reached the beautiful beach “Cala Pelosa“. At a distance, we already heard the chaos of different voices, clacking crockery and the clangour of glasses – the restaurant was at its peak. Whether we had to wait in spite of reserving? Unfortunately, yes. Whether it’s worth it? Definitely!

But the waiting period could be much worse: Chilling in a bar with comfortable seats and views to the sea – even the most impatient of you guys would survive this!

 

 

Paella – we’re coming!

After 1-2 cool refreshments, our names were called and we were brought to our table – with a great anticipation of our delicious meal. It didn’t take us more than 5 minutes to decide what to eat: a big paella with seafood and a few starters, to that of course a wine. As quickly as the starters arrived, they were gone again: A tuna fish tatar, salad, calamari, bread – well, that was tasty!

    

After resting a while, there was enough space in our stomachs for what we had been waiting for the whole time: The paella! Mhh smells delicious … I’ve never eaten paella before – a big mistake as I recognized. I’ve rarely tasted something so special! The Spanish people know exactly how to spoil their guests.

A very special taste experience..

A final selfie before leaving..

Finally some cocktails..

Satisfied and sated, we walked over to the bar to treat ourselves with some mojitos. After taking a few last pictures, we set off back home. Why don’t we spend every day like that? I’d love that!

Three restaurant chefs

Disfrutar in Barcelona wins the ‘Miele One to Watch’ Award 2017

Restaurant run by former El Bulli chefs as global rising star

Disfrutar in Barcelona has been named this year’s Miele One To Watch by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Opened in December 2014, Disfrutar is a collaboration between chefs Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch. The three met while cooking at former No.1 restaurant El Bulli, where they worked alongside legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adrià.

Disfrutar as one of  the world’s 50 best restaurants

Disfrutar’s founders will be presented with the coveted award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in Melbourne on April 5th. The Miele One To Watch Award celebrates emerging global talent and recognizes a restaurant that is outside the 50 Best itself but has the potential to rise up the list in the near future.

Front of Disfrutar restaurant

The modern front of the restaurant. (photo: Adri Goula)

“Worthy winners of the Miele One To Watch Award”

William Drew, Group Editor of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, said: “Disfrutar showcases the individual talents of these three chefs and broadens their influence on Spain’s culinary scene. Their commitment to pushing the creative boundaries of gastronomy makes them worthy winners of the Miele One To Watch Award.”

Inside the restaurant

From inside, the new restaurant has an understated elegance. (photo: Adri Goula)

Disfrutar – a symbolic nod to Barcelona’s cultural heritage

Following El Bulli’s 2011 closure, Casañas, Castro and Xatruch opened „Compartir“ (meaning “share”) in Cadaqués. Building on the success of their initial venture, the trio launched Disfrutar (meaning “to enjoy”) to widespread acclaim, earning their first Michelin star in 2016. Centrally located in Barcelona’s Eixample district, Disfrutar evokes a Mediterranean spirit with its décor and laid-back ambience. Beyond the entrance, guests walk past two open kitchens and are led into the spacious, whitewashed dining room that extends to an open terrace. Bright and earth-coloured ceramics in various forms dominate the space, a symbolic nod to Barcelona’s cultural heritage and the restaurant’s focus on artistry.

Disfrutar's kitchen design

With its earth-coloured ceramics and the open kitchen, Disfrutar evokes a Mediterranean spirit, indeed. (photo: Adri Goula)

Macaroni made out of gelatin

While Disfrutar’s multi-course tasting menus uphold modernist culinary principles, they also reveal the chefs’ quirky personalities. Avantgarde, theatrical and inventive, each course aims to delight and excite the senses. Signature dishes include macaroni made from gelatin, tossed in truffle foam and smothered in Parmesan at the table. A deconstructed whisky tart invites guests to wash their hands in whisky and inhale the scent as they eat.

Winning architects

The Pritzker Architecture Prize 2017 goes to Catalonia

Winners are  Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta

The Pritzker Architecture Prize is regarded as the Nobel prize for architects. The prize is worth 100.000$ and is awarded by the Hyatt Foundation and a jury of prestigious architects, since 1979. In 2017, the award went to three Catalonian architects, Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta from Olot, Girona. Since almost 30 years, the three architects have been working together under the label RCR ARQUITECTES. Through their projects, they create an interaction between space, light, shade, ambience, surrounding, colours and landscape.

“Great understanding of history, natural topography and culture”

According to the jury, their work is “powerfully connected to the surrounding landscape“, which comes from the “strong sense of place“ and the great “understanding of history, natural topography and culture“. They always intend to “highlight the natural surrounding“ through the siting of buildings, the choice of materials and the geometries and “to pull them into the building“. Their work connects past and present, just as exterior and interior, which shows their “love for both tradition and innovation“. They often use modern materials like glass, plastic and recycled steel.

Folded steel walls in vineyards

The vineyard Bell-Lloc in Palamós, dating back to 2007. Here you can see folded steel walls, integrated in the vineyards like sculptures. (photo: Hisao Suzuki)

Aiming at regional work

For the first time, three architects together are honoured with the prize. Their purpose is to tackle the local history and landscape and to work regionally. All three of them are deeply attached to their roots, preferring local life rather than a jet-set lifestyle or working with the most famous architects worldwide. However, they prove that, wherever you are in the world, with the right sense for time and space, you are able to design in a creative and modern way.
Most of their projects are realized between Girona and Barcelona, near to their office in Olot.

All of their projects provide balance. To be open minded and close to your roots is the recipe for success, according to RCR ARQUITECTES.

Plastic roof floating in Olot

Since 2011, you can find a transparent, bent plastic roof, floating between old stone walls at the restaurant Les Cols in Olot. (photo: Eugeni Pons / Hisao)

 

Here you can see some of their well-known work:

 

 

 

 

Seal in Catalonia

Seal – live in Catalonia

Inimitable British singer-songwriter Seal will be presenting his new album, 7, at what will be his only performance in Catalonia this summer. On this occasion, he is back with his former collaborator, producer Trevor Horn.

Seal performing at the Peralada Festival

Seal in the middle of the crowd

From the start of his career, Seal has focused on creative discovery expressing the complete experience of love through song. He will be making his Peralada Festival début with an album that captures beautifully the different dynamics of love, such as anger, acceptance, joy, sadness and imprudence, different forms of emotion that merge into feelings, the silly things that love does and that go straight to the heart.

Seal standing out from the crowd

Seal – live on stage

This is the first album released by the British singer since his divorce from model Heidi Klum in 2012. The songs on 7 describe the feelings of someone who has experienced a love story that has failed.  Leaving a great hole and a wounded person who has left something very important behind. Winner of four Grammys and three Brit Awards, he has sold over 30 million records worldwide. His hits hits inlcude Killer, Crazy and Kiss from a Rose, the soundtrack to the lm Batman Forever.

Seal giving the performance of his live at Peralada

Rocking the stage

Red flowers in the grass

Spring in Empordà

The charm of country life

We are enchanted by the spring of Empordà. Nature has exploded after the long rain, for which we had been waiting wistfully for so long. Did the winter months cause us to forget how the blaze of colours intoxicates our senses in the month of May? Blossoms of oranges emit the sweetest fragrance, roses shine in bright whites, pinks, and reds. Picturesque fields of poppy, opulently colourful rims of meadows, and everywhere in between: green, green, green. Unfortunately, the gaudy gorgeousness will soon start to fade away. The first lawns have already been mowed. The cottonwood’s seeds begin to sprout due to hot southerlies.

Beautiful wisteria growing in Palau Sator

Palau Sator

Palau-sator and its villages

The community Palau-sator and the associated villages Sant Feliu de Boada, Fontclara, Pantaleu and Sant Julià de Boada are located near the flat banks of Darò river. They are also only a stone’s throw away from Pals. The Gavarra mountains loom against the horizon. Palau-sator is surrounded by prominent stone walls; the old tower clearly visible from afar. It is dating back to the eleventh century and with its 20 metres of total height, it is much higher than anything else in the village. The stone tower is also all that is left of a castle, which used to mark the center of the small town.

Blue sky over Peratallada Empordà

Peratallada Empordà

Some of the old stone houses have undergone diligent restoration and have been turned into small restaurants offering mostly local cuisine.

A number of farming tools and machines are on open display on one of the farms and the farms’ shop sells fresh bread even on a Sunday. The farm is also a meeting place for those who have lived here a long time and like to use Sunday afternoons for some decent gossiping.

Red poppy fields in Empordà

Poppy in Empordà

Fontclara and Sant Felui de Boada

The next village, Fontclara, also dates back to the middle Ages. For example, there is the Roman church, built in the 11th century , which used to be cloister. Another village, Sant Felui de Boada, consists of a couple of farms and houses along the winding road from Torrent to Sant Julià. The village’s church features aspects of late Gothicism. Sant Juliá de Boada is smaller still, consisting only of a few farms huddled around a Roman chapel. This small sacral building is architectonically astounding and known as one of the region’s best conserved early Roman churches. Although used as a stable for centuries, it was rediscovered in 1982. Then restored thoroughly and returned to its original state of beauty.

Traditional stone houses

Typical houses in Palau Sator

All of the above mentioned villages are at their most beautiful in spring, cradled by green meadows and red poppy, yellow colza and blue borage (Borago officinalis). It is an excursion to silence and romance, to good mood and an evening spent in a cozy restaurant. Means of travel notwithstanding – it is the journey itself that is the reward. No matter if you are walking, going by cabriole, motorbike or bicycle. Enjoy spring, enjoy the early summer in the Empordà and exercise decelaration.

Costa Brava in May – it is well worth seeing.

Yachts at Empuriabrava

EMPURIABRAVA – news

Empuriabrava – The sea at your front door.

Empuriabrava: The sea in front of your door

Empuriabrava: The sea in front of your door

What is that makes Empuriabrava so special and original? It is the construction’s structure. A grid of navigable channels is a distinctive part of the townscape. Most houses thus have a direct connection to the sea; boats can be anchored at the front door.

The canal system makes Empuriabrava a very special place to live.

Channels of Empuriabrava – Living at the Mediterranean Sea

This luxury, however, is pricy these days, what with the property market being on of the region’s main branches of economic activity. 


Fantastic news for Empuriabrava!

Finally after 6 long years, all sales of moorings are now registered at the land registry again.

In Empuriabrava you can find anything, from villas to modern houses.

Modern villa at the channel in Empuriabrava

The Coastal Law from 1988

The strong effort and hard work of the APE (Asociación de Propietarios de Empuriabrava) were worth it. Thanks also to the notary of Castelló d´Empuries who became involved and enabled a solution together with the new land registry directory in Roses.

Houses in the style of small fisher houses

The houses at the channel were built in the style of small fisher houses

APE (Asociación de Propietarios de Empuriabrava)

The APE was founded in the year 2008 in order to protest against the “deslinde” as established in the Coastal Law from 1988. If this law had been applied, the state would have claimed its property right also along the canals of Empuriabrava and Santa Margarida.

Every house at the canals has a boat to get around.

Modern villa with yacht on the doorstep at the channel of Empuriabrava

If the APE had not mobilized and informed all owners at that time, the deslinde would have been applied by in September/October 2008 and all the deadlines to appeal would have been lost.

Canal with boats

One of the narrow canals of Empuriabrava

With the deslinde and the application of the Coastal Law of 1988, all purchased moorings and flooded land property were declared as public domain (dominio público) at once.
The channel walls have been declared to be the new coast line.
 As a result of this a 6 m wide strip was specified as public access to the coast on the private properties along the water. This strip had to be free from any construction or plantation.

Trees reflecting int the water

The green of the pine-trees reflects in the channel

This was even adopted by the new POUM, the zoning plan of the town hall.

In the land registry an appendix was added, saying that each property is affected by the application of the Coastal Law of 1988 (6 m strip plus moorings = public domain). 
The value of the properties had lost immensely!
 Furthermore, no transfer of ownership of a mooring was registered in the Land Registry in the recent years.

Nice panorama of Empuriabrava

The panorama of the Pyrenees frames the villas of Empuriabrava

The APE has actually managed that in May 2013, the government in Madrid incorporated in the new Coastal Law 02/2013 an addendum to the Law for Empuriabrava and Sta. Margarita, based on the text submitted by the APE with the lawyers which specifies the following:

Panorama with palmtrees

Different boat types in the canal

The new Coastal Law

  1. There will be no new strips along the channels
  2. The owners of land property along the channels have the right to moor their boats alongside and this right is not separable from the property.
  3.  Those, who owned a parking space for a boat, a private mooring, which was registered in the land registry, obtain full ownership back.
Palmtrees at the canal

Palms in the wind – Empuriabrava has a beautiful landscape

A fantastic success of the APE for the benefit of everyone in Empuriabrava!

Since May 2013, the APE fights to ensure that the new law will be applied by the Land Registry.

The notaries have indeed created notary deeds applying the new law. 
However, the Land Registry has refused to register the sales of moorings for the past 3 years.
The reason was that a new deslinde should be established in Empuriabrava.

At the 05.05.2016 the APE could happily announce that this big goal was achieved as well!

The APE thanks all of you who support the APE and pay their membership fee of only 50 Euros per year. If you are not a member of the APE (association of owners in Empuriabrava) already, please associate now!

Lighthouse of Empuriabrava

Port of Empuriabrava

Catalonias all-rounder – rice (arroz)

Tradition and modernity

What is your first impression when hearing the term rice? Asia? South America? Paella?

Exactly – but was anybody thinking of Catalonia? Because you definitely should! Catalonia is not only known for its beautiful Costa Brava or world-famous footballers. It is also known for its extraordinary cuisine and its excellent rice which grows in the region for centuries. The municipality of Pals is one of the most visited places in the interior of the Costa Brava and mostly estimated for its rice cultivation. Specific conditions such as the smooth climate, plenty of sunlight, fresh water and long experience of the rice farmers are the foundation for an excellent reputation, even outside of Spain.

bounded rice-plant

The rice will be collected after harvesting

 

From wetlands into worldwide cuisines

Between mosses and water mouths of the rivers Fluvià, Ter and Muga it was able to create a tradition since the 15th century. Even at that time the product was of high availability and could be used for a plenty of dishes. Presently, Pals shelters three producers of rice who cultivate a total of seven different types. About 7 million kg of the rice produced in this region are marketed. Especially the varieties Teure and Bahia are bestsellers. Of which importance the grain is for the community is shown by the extra created gastronomic campaign during the months of March and April. Chefs of the most renowned restaurants add their personal touch to traditional rice dishes. On top of that the cereal is very healthy, nutritious and gluten-free. Rice is rich in carbs and can be served as a starter, main course or dessert as well as savoury or sweet. It’s simply an all-rounder of the Catalan and international cuisine.

Arroz de Pals – Riceharvest in Pals

Rice-farmer of Pals

Farmer with a traditional catalan headdress

The process of rice cultivation almost begins in the months of May and June, when the corn get´s planted. During summertime it now has time to mature to be harvested in mid-October with skilful handles. For the small community of Pals it is important to maintain the crop in the most possible traditional way. Mechanization doesn´t matter. Quite the contrary – horses are still an integral part of transporting the harvested rice plants.

Horse and its farmer

Horse and farmer are ready for takeoff

A small party for the local press and those who are interested in rice harvest get´s celebrated at every end of the year. Even this year – on 17 October – at the farm of Carles Mas de Pals. Nearly 200 visitors participated in different workshops.

Baskets in Pals

Baskets on the little market in Pals

A little market offers some in-house products like sweets, traditional basketry and of course the famous rice. But what would a rice festival be without a common meal? A cosy lunch between hay bales and cookware was perfect to enjoy the variety of rice and varied tasty ingredients.

Lonely streets and the smell of late summer

streets and gaps of Pals

Beautiful streets and gaps in Pals

Pals doesn´t only offer unique properties. It’s the perfect mixture of idyllic city life and living close to the beach which makes it special. Due to the fact we are close anyway, we decide to visit the beautiful centre. During summer tourists urge through the winding streets in droves. We are fortunate. Although some passersby are still in town it is really quiet. Scent of lavender is in the air. Sun is shining. The few opened cafés are well attended. It feels like the perfect late summer day. We also enjoy a café con leche in the sun before we continue towards the viewpoint. Along the way we stroll through some of the varied shops. Jewelry, ceramics, clothing. Pretty treasures nearly everywhere. Once on top of the viewpoint you can enjoy a fantastic look to the sea and to the Bay of Montgrí. Without the obligatory provisions we can´t leave Pals . So we get us a couple of Magdalenas. The muffin-like pastries are available in various flavors. From almond and apple to chocolate-nut, lemon and yogurt or classical jam. We´re in heaven and ready for our way home …

For the small and large appetites – traditional rice dishes

Rice is healthy, versatile and one of the most commonly consumed foods in the world. Paella is probably the best known traditional meal in Spain. However Spanish cuisine offers a far greater variety of rice dishes. No limits of imagination. We have prepared our two most

Traditional Paella

Traditional Paella

popular rice recipes and hope you like them as much as we do. Try your own combinations and enjoy! ¡Buen provecho!

Rice in a casserole

What you need for about four persons:

  • 600g rice
  • 400g ripe tomatoes
  • a large potato
  • about 2 medium eggs
  • Cloves of garlic to taste
  • 4 large (sharp) peppers
  • about 2kg different kinds of fish
  • parsley, salt and olive oil

Preparation: first put 2-3 peppers for a few minutes in a pan, then remove from the pan and mash. The fish heads (you can also take parts of fillets) now put in the same oil, simmer briefly, add the tomatoes and the crushed peppers. Now put in the parsley, crush the garlic and the remaining peppers together. Cook the rest of the fish in a pan and mix it with the other ingredients, boil for about half an hour. Then drain. Now the rice is cooked in the separated fish soup. Meanwhile, the potato can be mashed together with a clove of garlic and added to the rice with the egg yolk- mix well! It is now important to stir constantly. Add oil and salt for your individual taste. After another short cooking serve everything in a casserole. Best, top with aioli.

Arroz Negro (black squid risotto)

What you need for 4-6 persons:

  • 600g rice
  • 1.25 L fish stock
  • 0.5 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • two ripe tomatoes (grated)
  • some parsley
  • half a kilo of squid or jibia
  • paprika, olive oil and salt
  • paella pan

Preparation: put a little salt and oil into the paella pan. When oil is hot add the onion and fry at low heat until it turns golden brown. Afterwards add the squid, a little later the garlic and tomatoes- let it cook for some minutes. Fill in the paprika and some parsley. Smoothly stir the ingredients so that the squid releases its ink. Finally add the rice, fry everything easy and put in the fish. Cook everything strongly for about five minutes and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Make your own tasting with salt.

Pyrenees and Costa Brava- Horses, Castles and monuments

Espinavell

We take a step out of the house. The first impression is simply breathtaking. Sun rises up at the sky of the Costa Brava. Pictorial Pyrenees in the background. The smell of firewood creeps into our nose. Early in the morning we start from Torroella de Fluvià towards Espinavell to experience the annual horse-drift down from the mountains. The path takes us through stunning mountain scenery and small villages high up in the Pyrenees. Passing Besalú and Olot we stop in Camprodon. Crusty bread and delicious cheese of the region get packed. A traditional Catalan ´Coca´ with a sugar hood sweetens the rest of our way. Slowly moving forward to Espinavell we cross red-colored vine. Brightly colored trees are lining the serpentines. Only a few spots are still green. Autumn is knocking on.

Tria de Mulats- the traditional horse-drift

Horses running down the hills

Horses going downhill to Espinavell

We are moving forward to Mollo- a little municipality right in the pyrenees. For those who are afraid to ride the cliffy street up to Espinavell on their own buses are made available. We follow the numerous people up to the parking lot with our own car. Mud covers the floor and makes it pretty difficult to reach the parking lot. After several attempts we finally succeed. Crowds immediately passing us to the fairground. Many locals got dressed up for this special event. Every year on the day of St. Edward – 13 October – retailers and animal lovers meet to experience the traditional horse-drift in Espinavell. The little village seems do be in a state of emergency. Families, school classes and even tourists don´t want to miss the local spectacle. After months on the meadows, high up in the Pyrenees, horses and foals now get handed over to their owners or buyers. With concentrated power herds storming down the slope. The gathered crowd gives a brawly applause to „man and beast“.

Artesania- the colorful market

Olives in Espinavell

Delicious olives on a market stand

We stroll along the many market stalls. From traditional products of animal husbandry to sweet and savory delicacies of own production- everyone is able to find something. You definitely should take a walk up to the centre of the small romantic mountain village Espinavell. You will enjoy a fantastic panoramic view up there. A warming catalan coffee is irreplaceable. Later on the most beautiful horses will be awarded by an expert jury.

Horses grazing

View down to the horses and fairground

Free wild life on the mountain meadows with delicious wild herbs is over by now. When the last snow thawed and the spring sun attracts the first flowers in the next year the horses will be back in the highlands. The festival lasts until the evening. Many take advantage of the culinary coffer to enjoy a delicious lunch at the unique restaurant of Espinavell. For us it´s time to move towards the French border.

French Impressions

The french border is only half an hour to go and we use the afternoon to visit the neighboring country. Enjoying picturesque landscapes and charming little villages with a typical French atmosphere. From Ceret over to Le Boulou the way leads us back near the coast to Collioure. Even in mid-october the small colorful artist-village is still well attended. Since Henri Matisse and his fellow artist André Derain discovered the sleepy fishing village in 1904 it is considered as a „mecca of art“. Red roof tiles. Ornate balcony railings. Blue shutters. Pastel-colored facades. Winding streets. Steep staircases. Ancient fortresses. Different kind of boats in the harbor. All that details form a picturesque backdrop and beautiful holiday memories. So, no wonder that even the kings of Majorca were huge supporters of the village and used the castle – now a museum – as their summer residence.

Castle in Collioure

Former castle of the Majorcan kings

We stroll through the small village center, browse through small boutiques and delicatessens. Enjoying a cappuccino and the view to the harbor before we go back on the road towards Spanish border. Vines now dominate the surrounding landscape.

We are in the middle of Roussillon and drive through the wine-growing region of Banyuls. A wine of Banyuls may remind you of a good port wine, characterized by intense flavors of honey, dried fruits and vanilla.

Unlimited

Further along the coast we are now back in the direction of Spain. No barrier, no fence, no border post market the crossover from France to Spain these days. Once upon a time many refugees killed themselves across the Pyrenees because they had no way out.

Memorial of Walter Benjamin

Memorial of Walter Benjamin in Portbou

We stop near Portbou to take a look at the Walter Benjamin Memorial which is called “passages”. This was designed in 1994 by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan in memory of the philosopher Walter Benjamin. “The Temporary, short duration” describes his escape from the Gestapo in an impressive way and which ended tragically. The quote of Benjamin at the end of the tunnel high above the sea is even more relevant: „It is heavier to honor the memory of the nameless than the famous. The memory of the nameless is therefor dedicated by the historical construction.“

Thoughtfully we continue towards Figueres.  The contrasts of mountains and rugged coastline captivates us. Flora and fauna show themselves in their most beautiful way. Winter seems still far away. But the first migratory birds already landed on the Mediterranean. The last tourists soon leave the beaches. Hibernation is coming.

The many impressions of today will be with us for a long time…