Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) is one of Spain's foremost artists and expressed himself in many materials including stone, clay, metal, paper, collages and earth sculptures.
The exhibition currently at the Fontana D'Or in Girona until April 25th combines many of these mediums in the artists life long exploration of matter, both physical and conceptual.
His sculptures are famous for avoiding symmetry and offering several perspectives no matter what material he is using.
His works are found all over the world in both museums and parks but the largest collections are in his native Basque country.
Be sure to see this important exhibition, it is fascinating on many levels and a real coup for Girona.
Yes, we are talking about the corks that are normally found in a bottle of wine or sparkling wine. This is an industry which has been important for Girona province for 150 years. It is centred on the towns of Palafrugell and Cassa de la Selva, either side of the Gavarres hills where most of the cork oaks are found.
Cork is an amazing natural product which was discovered by the Greeks over 2,500 years ago to seal the amphoras of wine and olive oil they transported around the Mediterranean basin.
As well as being lightweight, it is waterproof and fireproof which means the cork oaks are some of the very few trees that survive the regular fires which sweep through most forests. The trees take about 30 years to mature sufficiently to produce a layer of cork (its bark) but another 15 is needed before it is thick enough to be used for commercial purposes.
So, this is no short term industry, the trees take about 14 years to re-grow its bark for the next harvest which is all done by hand up in the hills. This area is the second largest exporter of corks in the world after Portugal and some 1,500 people are still employed in some way by the industry locally.
Unfortunately, like all mature industries, there is severe competition from other methods of closing bottles which are more economic and the market for corks is sliding steadily. Their niche is still relatively secure in the more upmarket sectors of the wine and champagne sectors but the cheaper end is moving to plastic corks or screw-caps.
Make sure you come and take a tour of a cork making factory (ask at the local tourist information offices) or visit the cork museum in Palafrugell before this fascinating industry disappears forever!
Terra Alta is just about possible to visit as a day trip from Girona if you get an early start. The roads are motorway almost the whole way and with the new Reus bypass open it cuts at least half an hour off the trip to Falset in the Montsant.
Why go to these places you ask, what's there that is worth sitting in a car for over 2 hours each way?
Well, several things actually, as they happen to be interesting areas from a geological point of view with mountains and the river Ebro as important features, but mostly the visits are to discover good value wines and excellent olive oil.
These two regions are the decidedly poor cousins of the Priorat wine region which is also nearby but has been much better at putting itself on the world wine map.
Terra Alta and Montsant both have the poor soils, rolling or steep hills, extreme weather and little rain which provides the raw materials for producing wines with character. There are fewer wineries here as most of the hot money went to Priorat which had a better name and where the wines commanded a premium while the world economy boomed.
Red wines from these areas are mainly made from the garnacha (grenache in France) and cariñena (carignan in France) grapes which complement each other very well in aromas, colour and structure.
The whites tend to be garnacha blanca, xarello or macabeu mixed with some more recent arrivals like chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Both red and whites can be on the alcoholic side, purely a factor of the long hours of sunshine all year long.
Visiting some of the smaller producers is especially rewarding as they are trying to get away from the co-op image of quantity over quality. The younger winemakers are emphasising more fruit and less oak for fresher wines which appeal to an international palate.
These are the perfect places to discover wines to weather the economic crisis as they are easy to drink and very affordable.
We organise wine tours to many of the 12 Catalan "Denominaciones de Origen" (like the appellations in France)- please email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For anyone that has visited Girona recently, and especially by train, you cannot have failed to notice the major construction works that are going on all around the station. From the elevated train platform you get a great view of the works which will eventually connect Girona to Madrid and Paris via high speed train in some 4 hours.
The works going on in Girona are to build an underground station below the current one for both the TAV (Tren de Alta Velocidad) and later on conventional trains as well.
Why, you may ask, are they spending all this time and money putting a new station in the centre of Girona instead of 12 kms out of town at Girona airport for example, where car parking would be easy and no major tunnelling works would be needed? This is a complete mystery to me but knowing how things work in Spain I assume that the "powers that be" are behind it for ego as well as financial reasons…
Anyway, those that live in the centre of town will be inconvenienced for the next 2-3 years but hopefully Girona will become an even better connected and easier to visit city in the future!