April 2008 Archives
I am not a golfer but since many people come to Girona for the quality and variety of the courses I took the opportunity to walk around the Girona Golf course with marketing director Carla Tonini, an Argentinian working here for the last 7 years. The project was the idea of Pere Ramió and built between 1989 and 92 on this hilltop a mere 10 minutes from the centre of Girona with a variety of house developments around the borders. The course certainly blends in well with the surrounding countryside with lots of cork oaks and splendid mediterranean pines providing plenty of shade for the golfers. The aromas drifting over are heavy with wild rosemary and the blossom of fruit trees which are both typical and evocative of the area at this time of year. Carla emphasized that this course, while not the hardest in the area, has it's challenges, and their use of recycled water means both the fairways and greens look fabulous despite the drought we are experiencing locally. There are 3 lakes on the course and from some places there are good views over Girona and the Cathedral and a fairly constant reminder that the airport is also close by. In fact so close that there are Italian and British golfers that take advantage of Ryanair to fly in early, play a round of golf, have a meal and fly home again all in a day. I prefer to think about people taking a little longer to discover the joys of the area and maybe relaxing on the Costa Brava for a few days too. Many thanks to Carla for taking the time to show me around and for more info see: www.golfgirona.com
Can Xapa is a very well kept secret since it is well hidden in the old part of Bordils, a town that most people pass through on their way from Girona to the Costa Brava without even noticing. If you do venture into the old part of town however there are several surprises in store, one of which is the beautiful church and the other which is Can Xapa. The pastry and chocolate making here has been passed down through the generations to the current owners Esteve Fabregas and his wife but there is an issue of what will happen when they retire since they have no children and it does require many years aprenticeship. I was given a tour around the medieval fortified farmhouse which has been the shop and workplace for hundreds of years, all beautifully restored with old materials but not easy to combine the modern equipment needed with low ceilings and narrow corridors. The day I visited they were preparing one of the standard ingredients in many of their famous recipes-roasted almonds covered in caramel and sugar. This base configuration will turn into slabs of dark chocolate, individual decorated chocolates, catanies and other delicacies. The catanies are sugar coated almonds which are then rolled in cacao powder and are very typical in Catalonia and given as a gift. The process is to use local almonds, which have more oil and hence flavour, than foreign varieties and roast them in the oven. Meanwhile it is time to get the caramel prepared in the special heated bowl into which the roasted almonds are added. Once thoroughly mixed the sticky almonds are poured onto a bed of sugar and mixed so that the sugar granules stick to the caramel and this means that we now have individual almonds covered in sugar which can be handled easily. The next process depends on what the ultimate product will be but in the case of catanies each sugar coated almond is further rolled in cacao powder to take on the traditional colour. It is a wonderful place to wander around admiring the cakes, chocolates of many types as well as the savoury dishes they also prepare for taking away. So, the next time you pass through Bordils, make a short detour and you will not be sorry!
When the weather warms up and with a little rain (we need lots more to avoid restrictions this summer) the wild asparagus hunters take to the hills. A little like during the mushroom season everyone has their favourite secret spot where they head to first. Normally this involves some travel(walking, quad, or 4x4) down sandy/muddy tracks and then the fun begins as the well trained eye can pick out the straggly spears a few metres away. Pounced on and cut with a knife about a third of the way down so as to not get the hard stringy part and added to the clutch in one hand. There are no hard and fast rules as to where the best spots are but the general Mediterranean scrub and pine trees and cork oaks seems to be ideal. Always wear long trousers since there are plenty of thistles and tough scrub to wade through once you leave the tracks. Pick until either your hand is full or you are getting hungry and head home for the simple pleasure of consuming them fresh as can be. Again nothing complicated for cooking-either in the oven with olive oil, salt and garlic or chopped and added to an omlette with onions and garlic are fabulous, quick and easy. Eat with chunks of country bread with olive oil and maybe some tomato and ambrosia the food of the gods never tasted as good!
The Devesa Park is not only the largest public park in Catalonia but also one of the nicest. Very close to Girona city centre it is easily accessible on foot and well worth exploring anytime. In the 1860's some 3,500 plantains were planted which now reach up to 60m high and provide long avenues with plenty of shade which are a perfect refuge for the hot days of summer. Bordered on one side by the River Ter with a nature walk on the other bank and with some important cultural buildings included in its borders the Devesa has something for everyone. Twice a week on tuesdays and saturdays there is the main outdoor fruit and vegetable market with all the vivid colours and hustle and bustle that brings. There are public tennis courts and a municipal swimming pool as well as a couple football pitches and an area used for volleyball which is especially full on the weekends with south americans. Dog-walkers, joggers, picnickers and parents teaching their kids how to ride bikes or kick a ball around or play on the swings, there is never any shortage of things happening. The cultural aspects take place in the"Carpes"which are temporary outdoor bars built in the middle of the park where live music is played some nights during the season(may-sep) and then the more permanent concerts of the Auditori a new modern concert hall which seats up to 700 people in comfort and has excellent acoustics and an international list of performers.