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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.

Begur- beautiful facades and a perfect day in october

It is the end of october, the last chance to visit the popular crafts market and little shops in beautiful Begur which open for the last time of the season. After the winter break takes place in the region.

Towards the sun

Already my way up from Torroella de Fluvià to the historic village is fantastic. Sun shines insatiable today. The sky is gloriously blue. I open the sunroof of the car. Heat surrounds me and I take a deep breath to feel the warm wind. The winding roads are lined with pine-trees. At the horizon mountains melt into the sea. October couldn’t give me a more perfect day.

enlighted lanes in Begur

sunshine enlightens every little lane

Reaching the parking-lot, leave my car and enter the almost deserted streets.It makes me feel good. Shafts of sunlight blaze a trail between the houses. I’m on my way to Plaça de la Vila- the historic center.

Historical center in a perfect location

Perhaps the most popular town’s landmark are defense towers which are up to twelve metre. They were originally built in the Middle Ages.

defence tower

defence tower behind the Plaça de la Vila

Obviously, the centre of Begur has been spruced up for tourism through the years. But it didn’t decrease the historical character of the village. While nowadays the more exclusive tourism is dominating the economic, locals form the past primarily lived by the sale of corals. Later it was cork.  After the cork industry collapsed many locals were forced to displace their lives to South America. By coming into economic wealth they decided to come back to Spain. The so called „Indianos“ influenced the contemporary architecture in Begur by building mansions in a colonial caribbean style. “Casas de Indianos“ are already decorating the cityscape.

Once in Begur you should make the effort and climb up the castle hill. The fantastic view up to the point of the coast recovers all damages. The most obvious advantage of Begur is its perfect position. Surrounded by numerous hills – Massís de Begur – and a long coastal path it is a comfortable location above the Cap de Begur and Cap sa Sal.

The smell of cotton candy

caramelized nuts and cotton candy

smell of caramelized nuts and cotton candy sugars the air

Plaça de la Vila blazes in the sunshine. A market stand sweetens the air with caramelized nuts and cotton candy. Families are strolling around. Halloween is near by. The perfect occasion for children to put on some creepy make-up masks and enjoy the various sweets to the fullest. Market stands are rarely spread this weekend. But those few attended offer pretty little things from clothes to cosmetics and natural foods. Some of the little stores open for the last time during this season and give a special sale to their product line.

jewellery in Begur

different types of jewellery on the market stands

But the real attention on this day applies to only one: the sun. Almost everywhere people bask in the warming sunshine. Talking, laughing and drinking coffee. The small cafes are completely filled. Taking this opportunity to stock on some souvenirs for family and friends. The charming little lanes cry out to be explored. Baroque lanterns. Caribbean colonial style decorate faces of buildings .Olive trees dancing in the sunshine. Who doesn’t get enough of beautiful villages à la Begur should visit the nearby Pals. Similarly to Begur you will find nice houses and streets, cafes and shops.

floating people in Begur

people floating through the pretty little alleys

I enjoy the bustle of the market. Enjoying an iced coffee in the sun is my personal topping on an already perfect day …

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.

Fluvia river

Cap de Creus – Day Trip

Costa Brava from mountains and valleys – a day trip around the Cap de Creus

„Solamente diez“ – a common phrase among all those who ever visited a Spanish market. It is exactly here, at the weekly market in Sant Pere Pescador, that our day trip starts. Surrounded by market criers and accordion music, the various stands along the Fluvià river offer from food and fashion to beach towel and accessories everything your heart desires for successful holidays! Well equipped with fresh fruits, vegetables and sun hat, we set off to discover the nearby and outlying region around the Golf de Roses!

Aiguamolls de l´Empordà

Vast sea, long sandy beaches, the soft chirping of birds – it is here at where the Fluvià flows into the Mediterranean Sea where to start the day. The water mouth is situated in the middle of the natural park of Aiguamolls de l´Empordà and offers a daily-changing spectacle of nature. From small to large, from calm to impetuous and wild, the panorama of the water mouth changes depending on the weather.

Landzunge

View across the Fluvia river to the natural parc Aiguamolls de l’Empordà.

A deep breath of sea air while looking across the surrounding sea bay of Golf de Roses before continuing our journey across the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà to Roses. The colorful tourist place Roses appears as colorful as its name promises and gives already in the pre-season a taste of holiday flair. Sheltered from the winds by the impressive foothills of the Pyrenees, the beach bay of the city part Santa Margarita welcomes everyone for a fresh cooling in the sea.

Yacht habor of Roses

Yacht Habor in Roses

The Moorings of the yacht habor in Roses

We follow the beach promenade to the yacht habor of Roses – not without any stopovers though. Far too tempting are „Café con leche“ and Churros in the numerous cafés and bistros while green parrots in the top of the palms chant along our way.

Beach Roses

The blue sea in Roses is well-sheltered from wind.

On a visit to Roses, one should definitely stop at its cheerful city centre that borders with the beach promenade on the lefthand-side. There is something for everyone here: colorful stores and various restaurants create a pleasant atmosphere, several shops offer ice cream that you can enjoy on the Placa de l’Esglesia in front of the church.

Citadel of Roses

Roses Citadel

The Portal of the Citadel in Roses

In around 200 meters walking distance from the beach is the 2500 years-old Citadel of Roses. The former archeological site established by Greeks and Romans covers an area of around 12 hectares and serves nowadays as cultural museum and event location. An open-air cinema will present Spanish movies here on various evenings throughout the month of July – certainly a unique experience in a great setting.

Breathtaking panorama – Cap de Creus

Cap de Creus

Stone-bridge Cap de Creus

Leaving Roses behind, we take a small detour to the highlands of the natural parc of Cap de Creus near Cadaqués– a welcomed change to the touristic hurly-burly along the cost. Via the villages Palau-Saverdera and Vilajuiga, we arrive at our destination: the ancient Benedictine Monastery Sant Pere de Rodes. Built by Romans in the eighth century, the impressive stone building offers a breathtaking view over the coastlines of El Port de la Selva. Small serpentine roads seem to almost disappear in the impressive mountain ranges and deep valleys that are encompassed by the vast, blue sea at the horizon.

Road Sant Pere de Rodes

The serpentine road to the monestary Sant Pere de Rodes sidles through the unaffected landscape.

Sant Pere de Rodes

Sant Pere de Rodas

The Monastir of Sant Pere de Rodas – Costa Brava

This impressive panorama gives a taste of how freedom feels, we think while being unable to identify the horizon between sea and sky. Today’s ruin of Sant Pere de Rodes is accessible for visitors who want to explore the church nave and its surrounding penury-old walls. A restaurant on the inside offers not only fresh fish, Serrano ham and other typically catalan specialties but also a panoramic view over the magnificent landscape.

Arriving by car at a free parking place, visitors can follow a short path that leads to the entrance of the ancient monastery and a little further to the summet of the old caste ruin of Castell de Sant Salvador de Verdera. Hikers who reach the summet enjoy a panoramic view at 680 meters above sea level.

Sant Pere de Rodes

Centuries-old stone walls towering over the natural parc Cap de Creus.

Port de la Selva

As the day draws to its close, we follow the serpentines downwards to the traditional fishing village Port de la Selva. Some fishers are returning from work as we walk along the port. Strolling through the alleys of Port de la Selva, we discover colorfully decorated streets with ancient rock steps and traditional architecture. Old, wooden fishing boats lay at the beach between us and the blue sea. Our journey with the many new impressions made us hungry and we stop for dinner at a traditional restaurant where our evening fades out with local fish and a glas of wine.

Beach of Port de la Selva

Old fisher boats decorate the beach in Port de la Selva.

Cap de Creus – Costa Brava

Cap de Creus – a uniquely bizarre, rough landscape of a wild beauty

Both seaward and landward, this region has been made a protected area several years ago. The sanctuary is called Parc Natural Cap de Creus. Here, the Eastern Pyrenees join the ocean and reach about 50 metres beyond the surface, falling down in dramatic cascades and steep faces until they meet the ocean’s ground. Surrealism itself seems to become real. On our way to Cap de Creus, we pass Portlligat and Dalì’s dwelling house. After the last, newly-built houses, we turn left to pull in on a small parking lot, a few steps away from the road. To our right, a path called camí de ronda leads to the coast. On a trip like this, hiking boots, swimming things and enough water are essential. After only a few metres’ walk, we reach a way that leads down to a bay called Platja de Sant Luis. It is said to be ideal for bathing. We decide to make a break here on our way back.Both seaward and landward, this region has been made a protected area several years ago. The sanctuary is called Parc Natural

Buchten-an-der-Costa-Brava

For now, we follow the camí de ronda past a few wonderfully situated properties with large parcels of land and an astonishing view on the sea. Then we delve into the solitude of this bizarre world of rocks and stones. The colours range from amber and honey to dove-coloured schist and rosty red rocks that melt into the sea in a way that reminds us of Dalí’s pocket watches, and how their time would melt. The rocks around Cap de Creus shaped Dali’s works in many a way; they were both his home and is inspiration: “all the rocks of Cap de Creus are in a state of perpetual metamorphosis…everything is mere sugges­tion, allowing for the eye to spontaneously see an eagly, a camel, a chanticleer, a lion or a woman. I am convinced that I am the living core of this very landscape.“

The Beacon of Cap de Creus

Leuchttzurm-an-der-Costa-Brava

The unique rocky landscape fascinates us as well. It has been forged from the stones by the sculptor Nature, and her tools were the Tramuntana, the sun and the sea. Once gotten in the charm, the onlooker can find a world as dreamlike as Dali’s mythical creatures. We can now see our goal in the distance, just behind yet another ascent: The beacon of Cap de Creus. Small yachts bob up and down in the waters of a small, hidden bay. With a boat, it easier to find those hidden paradises. If we wanted to take a refreshing bath now, we would have to climb down all the way to the sea. Thinking of the way back, we spare our strength for the ascent to the Cap.

The way up the beacon will take another two hours. Luckily, there is a bar and a restaurant there. In the very east of Spain, the Englishman Chris has been running a restaurant for a few years. Here you can take a break on a terrace with a fascinating view on the sea and the rocks. We decide for a fresh salad and some grilled sardines, knowing we will be grateful for it on our way back. We leave the terrace at about 4pm. The sun is hiding behind fleecy clouds. Going downhill now, we are faster than before. At the end of our walking-tour we climb further down to the small bay of Platja de Sant Luis. The pebble beach is empty. Exhausted, we sink into the refreshing waves. It is a real treat after this long day. Thus refreshed, we take a small walk through the alleys of Cadaqués, while evening falls around us. We watch the sun set from a bar at the beach of Cadaqués, drinking cool­ed beer. Surrounded by locals and tourists, we feel as if we were on a holiday – far, far away from everyday hassle.

Ocean view

A place to pause and relax – Cadaqués

Not without a reason has surrealist Dali made Cadaqués his home- it‘s a dreamy, charming little city, where white houses are sticking to the hillslopes of the pyrenees like bird‘s nests. The main street is running right next to the ocean, oleanders are blooming at the roadside, the smell of salty water and fresh grilled fish is in the wind.

 

Narrow street in Cadaqués

People are sitting on their shady balkonys to escape the midday heat, more and more hungry visitors are coming into the numberless bars and restaurants and if you need a little cooling-down, you can jump into the sea.

Ocean view

Not only is Cadaqués close to the ocean, it‘s also the perfect place to spend the day taking a stroll trough the narrow streets, watching the people and enjoying fresh seafood in one of the beach bars until the sun goes down. Cadaqués is inviting it‘s visitors to pause and dream for a moment. No wonder, that Dali found inspiration here.

A fishing boat in Cadaqués