All posts tagged: excursion

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!

CAC

Weekend trip to Valencia

I’ve already heard a lot about Valencia and I’ve always wanted to visit “Barcelona’s little sister“. Finally, on a weekend in June I arranged a meeting with my friends there. My journey began on Thursday evening.

Arriving in Valencia

From Figueres, you can easily go by train to Valencia, with a change in Barcelona. After about 5 hours, you arrive at the train station Estació del Nord in Valencia. This strain station was built in 1917 by Demetrio Ribes in a modernist style. The beautiful decoration and ornaments draw attention. Next to the train station, you can also find the bullring. Walking towards the city centre, I get impressed by wonderful city houses with little towers and big statues. At a typical Spanish tapas bar we rest from the journey, with sangria, of course. Then we go to our accommodation, nearby the underground station Turia. From there, we start our weekend tour through the city, on Friday morning.

Valencia Estaciò Nord

If you look carefully, you can find small oranges on the façade of the building.

Food paradise

The first sight on our list is the Botanical Garden. We get astonished by all kinds of orchids, succulents, cacti and agaves – all of them in full bloom. Then, we head towards the old city, through the Torres de Quart, one of Valencia’s old town gates. We get to the Mercat Central, an old market hall, and find ourselves in a food paradise. Fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, bread, sweets, juices, wine,… it’s like heaven on earth for us. Market stand after stand we taste as much as we can. Simply delicious! Of course, we also try a little bit of vino tinto, because we are in Spain! Fortified and heavily loaded with ham, cherries, salami and sweet pastries we continue our tour through the old city.

Cactus with flower

Cactus, agaves,… everything is flourishing right now in the Botanical Garden of Valencia.

Royal drink

Moreover, in Valencia you absolutely have to try a freshly made, cool horchata de chufa (orxata de xufa in Catalan), preferably from the famous Horchatería Santa Catalina, where already Isabella, Princess of Asturias, was guest. The drink is made with the so-called earth almond or tiger nut, a crop of the sedge family and has an unique taste. Especially on hot days, it serves as a tasty refreshment. It is also very healthy. Afterwards, we have a look inside the Cathedral of Valencia, go past the archdiocese of Valencia, the Basílica de la Mare, the Plaça del Manises through the Torres de Serranos and along the Turia park back home for a siesta.

Old city gate

On our way home, we walk through one of the old city gates of Valencia.

Party all night long

At night, we stroll along the trendy district Russafa. In the Cafecito, our new famous bar in Valencia, we enjoy some homemade sangría and agua de valencia (alcoholic cocktail with vodka, gin, prosecco and orange juice). In a good mood, we take a taxi to the most famous club of the town, MYA, in the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències. We party until the next morning.

Sangría Cafecito

In our new favourite bar Cafecito we enjoy some homemade sangría. What a difference to the one from the supermarket!

City in a city

The next day, our aim is the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències. The “City of Arts and Sciences“ is a modern complex of scientific and artistic facilities and impresses with an extraordinary, modern architecture. An IMAX 3D cinema, a natural science museum, Europe’s biggest aquarium – the “Oceanogràfic“ and an opera house belong to the city made out of glass and white metal structures, surrounded by turquoise water. Later, we go shopping in the old city, buy some souvenirs and relax with tapas and cool drinks. Valencia is definitively worth a visit! Away from mass tourism you can find loads of interesting corners and Spanish originality.

Ciutat de les Arts Ciències

In the Ciutat de les Arts Ciències we make a break and relax at the turquoise water surrounding the modern buildings.

Sea vie at the Botanical Garden

Green oases at the Mediterranean Sea – Botanical Gardens

“The true paradises are the paradises that we have lost.”, Marcel Proust knew.
“You are a happy man, Le Nôtre.“, King Louis XIV of France once said to his gardener in Versailles. The omnipotent monarch and ruler of all kinds of luxury envied his gardener of all people. Gardens and parks are still a promise of happiness for a lot of people. Each garden – if it’s wildly grown, exactly planned, well-tended, with a lot of twists or exotic – is an echo to paradise and a try of the answer to our dream of it.

Wonders of nature

Gardens reflect the philosophy of its designer and his longing for beauty. Nature, however, keeps creating space for surprises and all kinds of wonders. André Heller – poet, artist and garden designer noticed: “Out here there is only truth. There is no orchid and no daisy that lies.“
Gardens are honest places of peace, silence, joy and delight. Spring is here and plants and flowers are blossoming. At the Costa Brava, there are four botanical gardens you can visit. Now is the best time! Each of them is an unique spectacle of nature with stunning Mediterranean Sea views.

Cliffs of the Costa Brava

Especially the Marimurtra garden surprises with breathtaking sea views.

Back in time

In Lloret de Mar you can find the gardens of Santa Clotilde with their big variety of plants and countless shades of green. The creator of the neoclassicist designed gardens was Nicolau-Maria Rubió i Tudurí, the most famous Catalan landscape architect. The gardens are structured by stairs overgrown with ivy and crossing paths. Highlights are the constantly appearing Italian Renaissance-like busts. While listening to the splashing of the fountains, you can find romantic viewpoints and shady benches. Fantastic sea views may fascinate here and then. Between huge cypresses, cedars and pines you can spend a nice siesta in the cool shade. However, the palace garden-like park is most impressive in June, when its landmark, the Agapanthus flower, will be blooming.

Bust framed by greens

In the Garden of Santa Clotilde you can notice the creator’s love for details.

Prickly friends

In the botanical garden of Pinya de Rosa, between Blanes and Lloret de Mar, things are pricklier. Here, visitors get surprised by bizarre cacti an tropical plants. Especially, the giant agave flowers and human-sized cacti seem impressive. Unfortunately, this actually beautifully designed garden now appears a little bit neglected and not as well-tended as it used to be.

Human-sized cacti

In the Pinya de Rosa garden, Cacti bigger than ourselves quite astonish us.

Stunning sea views

At the outskirts of Blanes, there is Marimurtra, with local plants, blooming flowerbeds, characteristic viewpoint pavilion and exotic plants from all over the world. The creator of the Marimurtra garden at the Sant-Joan cliff in Blanes was the German botanist Karl Faust. Here, the paths wind along the steep coastline, through wonderful arrangements of cacti, succulents and flowers from different continents to the famous pavilion, where you have a breathtaking view to the sea and cliffs and the convent of Blanes. This botanical garden is our personal favourite and definitely worth a visit. Especially, during the start of summer it offers flourishing floral diversity together with unique sea views.

View point pavilion

The pavilion at the background is characteristic for the Marimurta Garden.

Music in the garden

In the gardens of Cap Roig in Calella de Palafrugell you’ll be walking in the shade of trees and plants from five different continents. The gardens were completed in 1974, by Colonel Woevodsky and Dorothy Webster, and also provide, apart from unique flower splendour, exhibitions and sculptures of famous artists. Moreover, the international music festival Jardins de Cap Roig takes place here every summer. Enjoy a wonderful spectacle of nature, best views and the impressive game of light and shade. Don’t forget your camera! Gardens make you happy, you do not even have to own them!

Blossoming tree

Even the trees surprise us with their colourful flowers.

Traditionelles Dorfhaus

The road to silence – excursion

On an early morning in April, we hit the road to silence. You can find it only a few kilometres away from the beaches of the Cost Brava, in the small medieval villages of the Empordà area. There, time passes slower.

Less speed is more

In an old Mercedes we make our way through wide meadows and olive groves and even pass a grazing flock of sheep. Above us, the blue infinity of the southern sky. Today’s motto: less speed is more: more impression, more experience, more enjoyment. Always online, always available – today we are not. The world turns faster every day, times of peace are rare. Therefore, it’s important to discover silence in a new way. Deceleration is today’s programme. Yesterday, breathless through space and time. Today, we walk slowly, intentionally, through the quiet alleys, deserted landscapes and spend the siesta between ancient walls of romantic, medieval places.

Alley with archway

The nice spring sun is playing tricks with light and shade.

Idyllic country life

One of these places on our journey is Vulpellac. Here, you can find a stone castle, built between the 13th and 16th century, looking over the crooked roofs of the houses. The church connected to the castle was once the castle’s chapel. We admire tendrils and huge lemon trees. A cat scurries through an archway.The small alleys around the castle absorb us and the sunlight for one moment, and then release us a few minutes later. The village is covered in silence. An old friendly man greets us. We don’t remain unnoticed. At this time of year there are no foreigners here. Immediately we get exposed as foreign tourists and people are observing us. Whether our camera is able to capture the magic of this place? Better if you look for yourself.

Ancient building

Castle of Vulpellac, dating back to the 13th century.

Let’s keep unwinding

Not far away, you can find the place Canapost with its beautiful Romanesque church, dedicated to Saint Steven. From here, we go to Peratallada. This village is considered a jewel and is visited by many people during summer. Also today, we are not alone in this village surrounded by walls, impressing with traditional medieval structure. At the car park, we still don’t have to pay a charge and we easily find a place between the few hired cars of the first tourists. Peratallada is dominated by its castle and the Romanesque church Sant Esteve. We stroll through the crooked alleys and delightful squares. In the old town centre you can find many small restaurants, located in charmingly renovated historic stone houses. Almost all of the boutiques and small shops are still closed right now. We find a free table on one of the terraces between the arcades of the Plaça de Les Voltes. It’s time for some tapas and a glass of cold white wine. Relaxed, we are looking at the square. A nervous dog moves back and forth, hoping for a dropped down bite. Unfortunately, he has bad luck, as his owner calls him back. The owner from one of the restaurants in front of us is looking desperately for some guests. So far, only a few people came here for having lunch. When the season starts, they will fight for free tables. But today, the locals still enjoy the slowness. Also, our waiter is very relaxed and serves his few guests on the sun-drenched terrace without any stress. We wanted deceleration, so don’t complain and keep unwinding. The moment is wonderful and the day still has a lot to offer.

Café Peratallada

Sitting in a restaurant, we enjoy the view over the lovely square.

Back to reality

After another walk through the town, we decide to visit Pals. Here, we are back in commercialism. A few coaches just have parked in front of the medieval place. If we hurry, we might can get rid of the tourist masses. But then, deceleration and peace is over. The one way or the other. Nevertheless, a look a the Medes Islands and a short round through the picturesque village is a must. Finally, we are lucky and find a small hidden café, away from the hustle and bustle, where we finish our trip with a café con leche. Slowly, the sky turns pink and the sun disappears behind the mountains on the horizon. It’s time to go back into reality. Hopefully, there will be time for more moments of deceleration.

View over Pals

One last view, then it’s time to go back to real life.

 

Mountains covered with snow

Between Spain and France – on the way to the Pyrenees

The Pyrenees form the natural border between Spain and France and separate the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe. On a warm spring day, we hit the road for exploring this no man’s land at the northern part of Catalonia and for learning what endless wideness and absolute harmony with nature really mean. 

Let’s go!

We start at Torroella de Fluvià and go towards Darnius and enter into another world. Dense cork-oak forests cover the mountainous landscape like a blanket and narrow streets, seamed by blossoming broom plants, lead us upwards towards the snowcapped peaks.

High above the valleys

Our way takes us higher and higher through the mountains.

Narrow streets and small villages

Like a thin thread the street winds upwards to the heights of the Pyrenees and passes small rivers and valleys through bridges, which seem to melt together with the subsoil. We pass Maçanet de Cabrenys and Tapis and get to the French Coustouges. If the street signs were not in French, you would not notice the difference, because time seems to pass slower there. Neighbours are having a chat at the one corner, children are playing at the other and one step further a man makes his way home with a fresh baguette. The narrow and steep alleys of the mountain villages remain silent. The natural stone houses adapt to the hillsides of the mountains and create a pleasant atmosphere.

Blue sky over pass road

Along the mountain pass our way leads us across the easter Pyrenees.

Textile manufacture in the middle of the Pyrenees

Just in time we get to Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans. It is almost 12 o’clock and they still let us into the showroom of “Les Toiles Du Soleil“ before making their lunch break. Since the 19th century, the traditional Catalan company high up in the Pyrenees produces high quality cotton and flax textiles. We not only find ourselves in the village’s last textile manufactory, but also in a textile paradise. They use the colourfully striped materials to manufacture pillowcases, napkins, cooking aprons and much more. If you like sewing yourself, you can also take home piece goods or rests of textiles. An extensive spending spree later, we sit back in the car and continue our journey.

At the company of Les Toiles du Soleil

The firm premises of Les Toiles du Soleil.

The magic of the mountain villages

The narrow street leads us past the villages of Le Tech and Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste back to Espinavell in Spain. The houses there seem to stick to the mountains as they are built on top of each other. Down at the river, where they drive by the horses from mountain pastures down to the valley every autumn, there is a small country hotel. There we eat delicious fresh trouts. After this unique taste experience, we head towards Molló. In the centre you can find an incredibly big Romanesque church, compared to the size of the village. We are winding up our way through the mountains, cross various times the river Ter and finally get to Camprodon. Especially the arch bridge “Pont Nou“, connecting both banks like a wooden brick, is something to remember there. Also in Sant Joan de les Abadesses you can find such a bridge. However, this small town is famous for the history of its convent dating back to the 8th century. The last stop is Ripoll with its beautiful Romanesque Benedictine monastery, the first one in Spain. Inspired by the St. Peter’s Church in Rome, the monks created a true oasis of peace.

Monastery in Ripoll

Cloister of the convent in Ripoll.

Church in Molló

Size and age of the church in Ripoll make it something unique.

Back from the mountains

With a few pieces of fresh coca (bread) and a lot of impressions we finally make our way home. Slowly we dive back into the loud and stressful daily life at the feet of the silence found up in the mountains. We leave behind the isolation of the villages, the endless expanse of the mountain range and the feeling of being able to touch the clouds at the highest point of the mountain pass.

Looking at the snowy mountains

Hasta luego and bye bye! We are sure of coming back to the mountains for experiencing peace and freedom.

 

Along the coast

At the other side of the Pyrenees

The sun shines brightly and bathes small coastal towns, the mountain range Serra de l’Albera, picturesque bays, rough rocks, traditional fishing villages and narrow streets in a golden light. Perfect conditions for our trip on a sunny day in spring.

From Perpignan towards the Pyrenees

We start our journey in Perpignan and travel back to Spain along the French Mediterranean coast. Passing salt lakes south-east of Perpignan, very popular for surfing, we get to Argelès-sur-Mer. This seaside resort connects in a way the Pyrenees with the Mediterranean Sea and impresses with its small alleys and fine sandy beaches. However, we don’t stay long and follow the street along the coast, covered with hundreds of blossoming lavender and broom plants.

Coloured plants decorate along the coast.

Beautiful plants seam the coastline.

Picturesque fishing villages and unspoiled bays

Our way southwards leads us to Collioure, an old fishing village, which attracts lots of different artists. Again and again we see their framed motifs. At the promenade, a frame shows, for example, the ancient fortified church, captured by Henri Matisse. We make a small break and take in the splendid colours and the hustle and bustle in the bay. Then we leave Collioure and its colourful alleys and soon afterwards enjoy the peace in one of the secluded and delightful bays of Port Vendres.

Fortified church in Collioure

The bay of Collioure invites coffee lovers, sun worshippers and wind surfers.

Great view of the coast

Passing Banyuls-sur-Mer, famous for its sweet wine, we finally get to the Cap Rederis. From there you have a beautiful view of the coastal landscape: from the Cap Béar to the Spanish Cap de Creus, you can enjoy a stunning panorama, framed by various illuminated flowers. Down at the water, waves with sea spray break against the rough rocks of the steep coast and through the clear, turquoise water beyond you can see to the ground.

Looking down to the seabed

Through the clear water you can see down to the bottom of the sea.

A trip full of impressions

Wonderful strong colours and idyllic small bays. Traditional fishing villages and abandoned streets along the steep coast. Clear water in all possible shades of blue and great views over the entire coast. All these impressions make a trip along the southern part of the French Mediterranean coast totally worth it.

Fairytale scenery

Les Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt – unique sandstone world!

Enchanted sandstone rocks

Mother nature often creates unique worlds like in Ille-sur-Têt, near Perpignan. In front of the imposing backdrop of Canigou (2784 m) sandstone sculptures protrude in front of the bright blue horizon. The landscape looks just like a fairy tale! These sugar towers that are created by erosion could have possibly inspired Antoni Gaudí when he planned his Sagrada Família. This great spectacle of nature can be reached from Costa Brava by car in about an hour. To explore the so called „Cheminées de Fées“ (‚fairy chimney‘) it takes about an half an hour walk.

 

Impressive and high sandstone figures

Fairy chimneys as a source of inspiration.

 

First we enter the amphitheater that is surrounded by a fairytale backdrop of stone. It looks marvelous! New forms arise every time it rains. The nature is here its own sculptor! The rock needles protrude up to 15 meters into the sky. With a little imagination one can recognize mythical creatures, various animal heads or models with modern hats.

 

City out of sand stones

Natural art

 

We stroll through the maze of stones. We are enjoying the view and capture beautiful moments with our camera. This is for sure a relaxing trip into another world. We decide to go back to the sea and enjoy the backdrop from there. On our way back we stop by to walk around and do some shopping in the streets of Collioure. Taking the way back along the beautiful coast after a trip to France is more than recommendable! Through the serpentines we drive back to Costa Brava. We cannot get enough of the beautiful sea-views. Green vineyards, turquoise sea, blue sky – there is beauty wherever you look! These amazing landscapes remind on paradise and are truly meditation for the soul. A trip to Orgues is definitely a great excursion tip for a mild sunny day in autumn.

 

Unique world of Ille-sur-Têt

Sandstone towers from further away

How to reach Ille-sur-Têt

– from Figueres in about 50 min
– First, motorway AP8 to Perpignan, then towards Andorra. After that exit the expressway N 116 at Ille-sur-Têt.

Alternatively:
First, take NII behind Le Boulou exit towards Thuir via D 612 to Ille-sur-Têt. Here you drive comfortably through villages along wineries. Buy Fruits at the roadside and taste delicious wine of the region in one of the wineries. A picturesque landscape framed by the massif of Canigou awaits you.

Follow the signs “Site des Orgues“ in Ille-sur-Têt until you reach the parking lot behind the place.

Buy tickets (price: 5€) at the parking lot and then follow the marked path. After about 800 meters you reach the entrance to the rock spectacle. Do not forget your camera!

 

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.

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…