All posts tagged: Nature

Birds in Aiguamolls

Aiguamolls de l’Empordà – a natural park

Aiguamolls – Natural Park

Aiguamolls’ natural park is characterized by an astonishing interplay of dunes, drowned meadows, brackish lagoons (special habitats due to their fluctuations in salinity) and lakes. The Catalan word aigua­molls means calm, shallow water in English. In Spanish, it is called marismas and describes a coastal wetland, which has been formed by the interaction of both the estuary and the sea.

 Aiguamolls from above

Lagoons of Aiguamolls

Our journey begins at the tourist information’s parking lot. Starting from here it is also possible to explore the birds’ reservoir afoot. It is worth the effort: the birds’ reservoir forms a part of the wildlife sanctuary.

Stork's nest

Storks in Aiguamolls

The wetland is framed by luscious green, nature having explored after the heavy spring rains. Lagoons like mirrors reflect grasses and the bright yellow of water lilies. Reed and rushes sway in the wind, whispering silently. The perfect harmony is only disrupted by the occasional dabchick diving into this mirrored world.

Lagoon with a view

Reeds in the wind

Tamarisks, adapted to wet, salty habitats, blossom in pink and white, growing as they will as trees or bushes. Storks stalk through the swamp on long legs; others circle high above in the sky. Most of them sit on their nests, built in the branches of dead, gnarled trees – or on platforms constructed for this purpose. Their loud chattering can still be heard miles away.
The white stork’s repatriation is one of the sanctuary’s most pressing concerns, as well as the protection of the more than 300 other species of birds.

Snow in the distance

Pyrenees covered with snow

Quim Franch

At the very beginning of our journey, we visit the observatory “Quim Franch”, and watch the “Cortalet”’s lake. A family of swans – parents and five fledglings – floats through the reeds in blissful peace. Frogs croak loudly. A few wild ducks bob up and down with the current, while a grey heron stands aloof, majestically. We see grouses, a whole family, on their first day out. The small black fledglings flee back into the rushes on overly large, clumsy feet, and they are gone before we can even think of taking pictures.

Fields in Aiguamolls

Lake Cortalet

Landscape

The whole landscape is blossoming. There is a stallion, grazing in front of a Masia. Resplendently white, the snow-capped Pyrenees can be seen in the distance. The wind of Tramuntana is rough, blowing directly into our faces. We see red poppy on the fields, white chamomile and blue borage. Violet lavender emits its aromatic scent. The rough landscape is of an unusual beauty, enchanting. Purely romantic. We are amazed by the interesting route through the wonderful natural park of Aiguamolls.

Canals of Aiguamolls

Water way through the beautiful natural park of Aiguamolls

Advice

The maps are available in German, English, Spanish, French and Catalan and are handed out free of charge at the tourist information “El Cortalet”. (0034) 972 45 42 22.
How to get there: Take the high way from Sant Pere Pescador or Castelló d’Empúries.
www.aiguamolls.org

Bird at a lagoon

The lagoons in Agiuamolls provide perfect habitats for a lot of different species

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.

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.

Christmas is Just Around the Corner

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

Angel-Decoration-bowl-fir-cone

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


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

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

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

Candles-Glasses-wine-leaves

We wish you a Merry Christmas within your family circle