Vilanova i la Geltrú is on the Modernist route just south of Barcelona and next to its more famous but smaller neighbour, Sitges. Once famous as a holiday destination for the middle classes from Barcelona, especially once the train line was established in the 1890′s, it is now one of the main commercial fishing ports on the Costa Daurada.
There are still many wonderful Modernist buildings to see both along the seafront and in the centre of town, and the tourist office has a useful map with routes and explanations. Once you have built up an appetite from all the walking, head for the port and choose from one of the many good fresh seafood restaurants with outside terrace. The beach here is wide, long and sandy and ideal for running along or for kids as it stays shallow for a long way out. The impressive bronze statue of the bull is on a breakwater with views back along the beachfront and town and well worth walking out to.
An excellent place for a day trip any time of the year, in winter there are the Modernist buildings and museums to see and in summer the long beaches and promenades with good seafood all the time!
Sant Feliu is a town of about 20,000 people situated on the most interesting part of the Costa Brava with small rocky coves and sandy beaches only 20 mins drive from Girona. It is the perfect place to head to for a gentle stroll along the wide promenade or to sit at one of the many cafes and restaurants savouring the fresh shellfish with views of beach and fishing port.
This has been a resort town ever since the railway arrived in 1890 and many wealthy families built their second homes here, some in the Modernist style that are still looking good today. The old Casino building on the promenade is a good example although slightly gaudy for my personal taste. Always look up when you walk around these towns as then you can spot some wonderful tilework, sometimes under the eaves of the roof, ornate balconies and interesting windows and balconies. So whether to sit on the beach or wander around the small shaded squares or the pedestrianised shopping area looking for select foods or boutiques, Sant Feliu has something for everyone.
Held in Girona this year but alternating with Santiago de Compostela, this gastronomic event has taken off in a big way considering it is not hosted in a large city. This week’s tragic news of the death of Santi Santamaria, one of the top chefs in Spain ever since being the first in Catalonia to get 3 Michelin stars at the Raco de Can Fabes in 1994 is being remembered by his public. He would have been at the Fòrum to comment and encourage the amazing progress of all things gastronomic in Spain and in particular here in Catalonia.
There are stands selling everything from fresh sea urchins or organic steaks delivered to your home as well as information on healthy diets. A perfect place to find products with a coveted local quality certificate and of course tasting the wide selection of foods on offer chased down with wines and cavas from all over Spain. The best part of the Fòrum are the dozens of workshops where you can learn about certain types of cooking and their preparation. There are general talks like blue fish from the Mediterranean and how to cook them or you can learn from top celebrity chefs like Charlie Trotter from Chicago who is here giving a masterclass.
Local boy Ferran Adria (El Bulli) is giving a presentation, the Roca brothers(El Celler de Can Roca) are here of course this being their home town as well as French and Japanese chefs to dazzle us with their skills and tastes.
If you have a chance to attend, the feast will continue until the 23rd of february.
Tucked in the folds of the Albera mountain range in a valley which is now part of the natural park, Sant Quirze is one of the oldest monasteries on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. The remains of the original 9th century church were incorporated in the Romanesque basilica built in the10th and 11th centuries, and some frescoes are visible in the nave although in poor condition.
Since the monastery had been closed to the public for most of the last decade for restoration, I had high expectations. Unfortunately they were dashed by a combination of unfinished work and a lack of explanation on what had been one of the most important monasteries for some 500 years in the Middle Ages.
Its strategic location, on one of the main routes across the mountains into Spain, meant that it was regularly overrun by hungry French soldiers who were happy to take anything they could carry, especially if it was gold or silver. By the 16th century it was no more than a ruin and was ceded to one of the local farming families that used it to shelter their livestock.
The area is beautiful, if stark, and cows still wander the valley with bells around their necks. Small fast- running streams come down from the mountains which are covered in an almost impenetrable thick gorse. This is a great place for walking and cycling and there are numerous marked paths that lead here from the coast at Colera and continue inland to Rabós and Espolla as well as the Coll de Banyuls and France.
The days have warmed up considerably recently and while on a bike ride it was noticable how colour is returning to the countryside.
Almonds, cherries, plum and peach are all in flower now so there is a wonderful scent in the air as well as a visual treat when venturing into the country. Olive trees bared of fruit and the ground swept below their branches after their recent harvest, vines pruned and waiting for the new growth to begin, bees buzzing in the fruit trees, this all adds up to a time where spring is getting close.
Of course, not everything is perfect, bee populations are severely reduced, as elsewhere in the world, and there may be a few late frosts to stop the blossoms, and rain is always needed in this parched land, but overall there is no stopping nature taking its course and the growing cycle starting again.