Wild Junket » Costa Brava http://www.wildjunket.com An adventure travel blog that brings you on a rollercoaster ride around the world Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:30:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Our Home Away from Home: Villa Rental in Costa Brava http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/12/home-away-home-villa-rental-costa-brava/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/12/home-away-home-villa-rental-costa-brava/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:37:54 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=17345 image (11)Just two weeks ago, we took a break from work and had a relaxing vacation in Costa Brava (i.e. no laptop, no concrete plans and no work). We wanted to get some unplugged time and also take the opportunity to visit our dear friends Dan and Esme who had moved to Barcelona recently; Costa Brava is [...]

The post Our Home Away from Home: Villa Rental in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
Just two weeks ago, we took a break from work and had a relaxing vacation in Costa Brava (i.e. no laptop, no concrete plans and no work). We wanted to get some unplugged time and also take the opportunity to visit our dear friends Dan and Esme who had moved to Barcelona recently; Costa Brava is just an hour or so away from Barcelona by car and we thought a road trip here would be the best way to catch up.

Having been to Costa Brava three or four times prior, I love this part of Spain (it’s my second favorite part of Spain next to Granada where we live). In fact, I think it’s the best place in Spain to spend summer: its rugged, wild coast makes for some fun hiking and discovery and the beaches here aren’t quite as crowded as those elsewhere in the country.

Costa Brava is also studded with historical houses known as masias (a type of rural stone house common to Catalonia) that have been converted to rural villas and rented out as holiday accommodation. A friend of mine, Richard, runs the villa rental company called Charming Villas and he kindly invited us to come stay at a couple of luxury villas that he manages. I’ve been meaning to take up his offer for a long time and this trip seemed to be the perfect opportunity.

image (11)

Country Retreat

The first villa we stayed at was Mas Grevol, an old farmhouse perched high above the rolling hills of the Emporda. The gorgeous property sprawls across 28 hectares of forest, with vast plains and winelands beneath our feet. There are no other houses in view and no traffic noise in the distance — it almost feels that we’re in deep in the hinterland of Costa Brava, and yet the coast is just a thirty-minute drive away.

image (12)

When the owners first chanced upon Mas Grevol, it was simply an abandoned masia that has been reduced to ruins after years of negligence. Within two years, the retired British couple restored it to its original glory, adding a very tasteful and stylish touch to its decor. Behind its traditional Tuscan-style stone exterior is a warm and welcoming interior featuring Mediterranean terracotta tiles, wooden furnishing and arched vaulted ceilings reminiscent of a wine cellar.

image (9)

The ground floor of the villa is a spacious open-plan room divided up into the living, dining and kitchen areas. French doors and ample windows bring in plenty of natural light to the living area, and open up to the outdoor patio of the house. As foodies who love to cook, the owners created an amazingly well-equipped kitchen with three ovens and more amenities than we know how to handle. The second floor of the villa is divided into four en-suite rooms, two of which are enormous and open up to stunning views of the surrounding greenery. While the house is decked out in rustic design, the owners definitely did not forget to include a few modern gadgets like iPod speakers to cater to new-age travelers like us.

Every morning, we awoke to a stunning view of the verdant green forests in the distance and beautiful lemon trees at our doorstep. Under the sunshine, we had breakfast out on the outdoor patio. It’s one of my favorite spots in the villa , I love watching the birds chirping away above my head, with the smell of red roses and wild basil surrounding us.

20140804-102314-37394194.jpg

In the afternoon, we would head out to explore the nearby towns of Besalu and Figueres (both are around a 15-minute drive away) — there are lots to do in the area, such as hot air ballooning in La Garrotxa volcanic area and canyoning in the Girona region. When we didn’t feel like driving/exploring, we spent our time lounging by the gorgeous pool (that has an even more spectacular view), playing silly water games. Every evening, we cooked up a storm and feasted on home-made food whipped up in the well-equipped kitchen.

image (14)

Coastal Living

The second half of our trip brought us closer to the coast, where we stayed at the elegant Mas Canyelles. This villa is even bigger than the previous, spreading across more than 14 hectares of gardens, pastures, oak and pine forests. It definitely feels very secluded and tucked away from civilization even though the closest town Mont Ras is just a ten-minute drive away (but the drive is not signposted and it brings you through forests, which can be difficult to navigate).

image (7)

What we like most about this villa is that it’s only a 20-minute walk from the nearest beach, El Crit. The walk is quite a scenic hike that leads you through the thick pine forests and eventually onto the wild and craggy coastline. Besides El Crit, there are several other secret coves and quiet beaches nearby that are accessible only by foot and absolutely pristine. The popular Platja des Castell is also just 30 minutes away by foot and it’s great for families with children. Hikers would love wandering around Mas Canyelles and exploring the many hiking trails in the area.

20140731-225903-82743604.jpg

The villa itself is just as spectacular with its designer decor and stylish furnishing: antique teak furniture and off-white sofas create a luxurious yet rustic feel that are brightened up with Moroccan kilim rugs, knitted cushion and upholstery. The feature of the ground floor is the spacious sunken living room that centers on a fireplace and is separated from the outdoor space by ceiling-to-floor windows.

The kitchen is also outstanding in design, featuring rustic wine-cellar-style ceiling and lots of cooking and area (although the oven wasn’t working while we were there), making for lots of fun dining opportunities. Considering every single detail gives off an old-world atmosphere, it comes as quite a surprise that the house itself is newly built (the original masia was too badly damaged and beyond repair). With five rooms in the huge villa, there’s more than enough room for 10 people and makes for an excellent family getaway.

Image-1

Conclusion: Would we rent a villa again?

Of course! As budget travelers, we don’t usually choose to stay in villas when we travel on our own; but these villas definitely opened our eyes to new possibilities. Charming Villas usually rent out the villas for €3500-6500 a week; but if there are 10 people sharing the cost, it’s actually not that expensive to stay in one. If we were traveling with a bigger group of friends, then yes we would definitely go for these villas in future.

The only shortcoming we see in both villas is that you’ll need a car to get to them and that you must be used to navigating and driving off-road. We got lost several times and it was rather stressful trying to find our ways to these secluded spots. For both villas, it took at least 10 minutes of driving to get to the nearest supermarket or grocery store. We would have preferred to stay closer to a town or village but we definitely appreciated the rural location as well. That said, these villas are perfect for those looking for an exclusive, private setting to get away from it all.

All in all, this new form of accommodation was an excellent experience and we would definitely do it again. Being able to stay in a private, luxurious place with all the amenities you’d find at home (and even more) definitely made our vacation very comfortable and relaxing. The villas also gave us lots of space and freedom to hang out with our friends, cook, play games and just spend time together.


Practical Information:

For Mas Grevol, the weekly rental rate is €4500 (US$6000). As the owners live in this property all year round, it’s only available for rent in summer when they’re on vacation. You can check the availability here. The villa is a two-hour drive from Barcelona and it is located just 15 minutes away from the towns of Figueres and Besalu.

For Mas Canyelles, the weekly rental rate ranges from €3500 (US$4700) from Nov to April, to €6500 (US$8700) in high season (July and August). It is available for rent all year round. The villa is a two-hour drive from Barcelona and it’s ten minutes away from Mont Ras and Palafrugell. Some of Costa Brava’s best beaches are located in the vicinity.


Disclosure: Our stay at both villas were kindly provided complimentary by Charming Villas and the respective villa owners. As always, all opinions expressed above are our own.

The post Our Home Away from Home: Villa Rental in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/12/home-away-home-villa-rental-costa-brava/feed/ 0
Splish Splash: Aqua Trekking in Costa Brava http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/06/splish-splash-aqua-trekking-costa-brava/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/06/splish-splash-aqua-trekking-costa-brava/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 17:26:38 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=17248 Jumping off cliffsWith my hands across my chest, I take a leap into the shallow waters beneath me. It’s a 5m drop, nothing quite as intimidating as the heights I’d experienced while canyoning, but being the wimp that I am, I’m still slightly nervous. Carlos looks at me and gives me a reassuring nod. Within seconds, I emerge [...]

The post Splish Splash: Aqua Trekking in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
With my hands across my chest, I take a leap into the shallow waters beneath me. It’s a 5m drop, nothing quite as intimidating as the heights I’d experienced while canyoning, but being the wimp that I am, I’m still slightly nervous. Carlos looks at me and gives me a reassuring nod.

Within seconds, I emerge from the water surface, with a bright smile on my face.

Jumping off cliffs

In the chilly waters of the Canet de Adri, my friends and I are in the backcountry of Costa Brava, trying out aqua trekking for the first time. Armed with nothing more than a neoprene wetsuit and helmet, we scramble over rocks, wade in gentle rapids and leap off small cliffs. In the summer heat, we take respite in the cool mountain water and let it take us down the stream.

Carlos, our guide and owner of adventure tour operator Aventura Girona, started the sport ‘aqua trekking’ specifically for families and first-time adventurers. He describes aqua trekking as a softer and easier version of canyoning without any technical descent and rope work. In comparison, aqua trekking is far more relaxing, and it focuses more on learning about the environment and simply having fun.We’ve done canyoning several times in Spain, Slovenia and Mauritius; every experience was different and we loved the thrills that came with each and every one of them, but this aqua trekking is turning out to be just as fun, without the stress or pressure.

Hanging out on a slope

Finding Adventure in Costa Brava

Earlier that morning, we’d driven to the Vall de Llémena area of Costa Brava in northeastern Spain (close to the French border) and found ourselves surrounded by mountain peaks and running streams. This part of Spain refreshingly defies all stereotypes of the country – with looming mountains instead of rolling olive groves, vast sunflower meadows in place of dry, arid plains.

“We’re just 10 minutes outside of Girona, and look, it feels like we’re deep in the wilderness!” Carlos shares with much enthusiasm. It’s his love for the great outdoors that brought Carlos here in the first place. Originally from Madrid, he moved here more than 10 years ago in search of a change of environment. He’d traveled all over Spain prior to that and chosen to live here, his favorite part of the country. With a passion for nature and sports, he set up Aventura Girona about six years ago, leading canyoning trips before starting aqua trekking excursions earlier this year.

Carlos taking the leap

Stress-Free Fun

Back on the river, we prepare to jump off an 8-meter boulder into a clear turquoise pool. Despite the humble height, I chicken out and let the guys do the leaping instead. Together with a few locals who have gathered to swim in the natural pools, I head down to the water and watch the guys have their fun.

Right after plunging off, they head further down the gorge into a narrow crack where they’ll do an even higher jump. From where I’m standing, it looks too scary to even attempt. Within seconds, they’re in and out of the water, emerging with beaming smiles on their faces.

Stress-free fun

All in all, we had a relaxing time with Carlos and enjoyed soaking up nature in a leisurely way with our dear friends. Unlike my previous canyoning experiences, this aqua trek didn’t make me feel nervous at all. Even though it did lack some excitement for us, Carlos made sure to keep us entertained by sharing interesting facts about the surrounding flora and fauna.

Without a doubt, we’ll be back again in future — perhaps with our kids next time, who knows?


Trip Details:

This aqua trekking activity is tailored for families. The price depends on the size of your group. For 9 to 12 people, it costs €25 per person. For 4 to 5 people, it costs €35 per person. The entire excursion takes around three to four hours. Transfers can be arranged. Email info@aventuragirona.com or refer to their website for more details.


Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by Aventura Girona, but all opinions expressed are our own. 

The post Splish Splash: Aqua Trekking in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/06/splish-splash-aqua-trekking-costa-brava/feed/ 0
Summer in Costa Brava: Exploring Secret Coves, Beaches and Trails http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/04/summer-costa-brava-exploring-secret-coves-beaches-trails/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/04/summer-costa-brava-exploring-secret-coves-beaches-trails/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 14:00:24 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=17209 20140731-230053-82853470.jpgPardon me for a week of silence! We took last week off from work to treat ourselves to a holiday in Costa Brava. Many people think that I’m on a perpetual holiday since I’m constantly traveling — but few know how much work I put in and how exhausting it is to be on the road [...]

The post Summer in Costa Brava: Exploring Secret Coves, Beaches and Trails appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
Pardon me for a week of silence! We took last week off from work to treat ourselves to a holiday in Costa Brava. Many people think that I’m on a perpetual holiday since I’m constantly traveling — but few know how much work I put in and how exhausting it is to be on the road all the time. So yes, even full-time travelers like myself need a holiday from time to time.

To take the opportunity to visit some friends at the same time, we headed to Costa Brava, a rugged part of Spain that still remains my second favorite part of Spain (next to Andalusia where we live). A wild, untamed coastlines runs along the entire region, while green fields, sunflower meadows and looming mountains abound further inland. There are no massive crowds or rowdy beach bars; in their place are quaint coastal villages and quiet seafood restaurants.

Over the week, we went hiking along the Cami de Ronda trail, discovering secret coves and quiet beaches, tried aqua trekking for the first time, wandered around historical towns and went wine-tasting at Empordalia. We got to stay at two gorgeous country villas with Charming Villas — both of which were beautiful masias converted into modern, stylish homes surrounded by acres of greenery. Accompanied by our good friends Dan and Esme, we cooked up a storm, frolicked in the pool and had a great time just relaxing —which was exactly what we came here to do.

Here’s a look at our week in Costa Brava through my iPhone photos. Enjoy!

20140731-230053-82853470.jpg

A view of Tamariu and Llafranc coastal towns from the lookout point

20140731-230053-82853238.jpg

 Calella de Palafrugell – a cute little beach town near our villa

20140731-230054-82854158.jpg

 Platge del Castell is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Brava

20140731-225903-82743604.jpg

We hiked down to a secluded hidden beach off Platge del Castell

20140804-094442-35082554.jpg

 The white-and-blue houses of Cadaques remind me of Santorini

20140804-094440-35080245.jpg

Cadaques is known as the prettiest town in Costa Brava

20140804-102314-37394194.jpg

The historic enclave of Besalu and its iconic bridge

20140804-102316-37396170.jpg

 One of my favorite cities in Spain – Girona

20140731-225903-82743844.jpg

One of the villas we stayed at – Mas Canyelle, a newly restored villa just off the coast

The post Summer in Costa Brava: Exploring Secret Coves, Beaches and Trails appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2014/08/04/summer-costa-brava-exploring-secret-coves-beaches-trails/feed/ 0
Wine Tourism in Costa Brava http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/26/wine-tourism-in-costa-brava/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/26/wine-tourism-in-costa-brava/#comments Wed, 25 May 2011 16:52:18 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/26/wine-tourism-in-costa-brava/ One of the highlights of my recent jaunt through Costa Brava, Spain, was the exquisite food and wine: our meals were made up of fresh Mediterranean food, punctuated with some of the best wines in the world – from Priorat wine to Freixenet cava (Spanish version of champagne). At Celler Martin Faixo, we sampled the [...]

The post Wine Tourism in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>

One of the highlights of my recent jaunt through Costa Brava, Spain, was the exquisite food and wine: our meals were made up of fresh Mediterranean food, punctuated with some of the best wines in the world – from Priorat wine to Freixenet cava (Spanish version of champagne). At Celler Martin Faixo, we sampled the best in the region against the stunning backdrop of Cap de Creus.

Family-run Winery

Arriving at Celler Martin Faixo, we were greeted by the vast greenery and gorgeous landscapes that enveloped the winery. Extensive hills of vineyards and meadows spread for miles. In the center of it all was the masia, a Roman villa made up of stones and rocks from the area. Dating back to the 13th century, the beautiful villa has been refurbished to house the sprawling cellar, rooms and restaurant.

Run by the Martin Faixo family, the cellar was first started with an aim to recover the wine originally produced in the region by their grandparents. Now, having restored the masia and winery to its original glory, the family is making wine-production their pasttime. “ We do it for passion and preserve our culture, not for anything else. We want to sell not just our product but also our culture,” says Ester, the manager of the winery.

Unique Wine Flavors

Wine produced in this area, known as Cap de Creus, has its own unique flavor. The winery’s in-house wine-maker Joan Benejamvidal tells me why, “The land here is very stressful on the grape plants, so they need to extend their roots deep underground for water, therefore giving the wine an extraordinary flavor.”

Here at Celler Martin Faixo, there is a good selection of home-grown wine on offer: Merlot, Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Marsala. These wines are of course accompanied by local fare – such as the escalibada (aubergine and capisicum salad), jamón iberico, tomato toast and preserved anchovies.

An All-Encompassing Experience

Costa Brava is a rising star in Spain’s wine tourism industry, with Celler Martin Faixo setting the golden standards. Besides serving up high-standard homegrown wine along with matching cuisine, the winery provides comfortable B&B-style accommodation. The rooms are tastefully decorated in modern country-style and range from 2-storey studio lofts to simple double bedrooms – all looking out to the green vineyards and valley.  (Room prices are 150euros/night including breakfast – click for more information).

For travelers interested in learning more about wine, Celler Martin Faixo  invites guests to get involved with the wine-picking process and get to learn how wine is made in their cellar. As a guest here, I felt like I was family friend here to visit and know more about the Martin Faixo’s home.

What to See Around the Area

With its location close to the coast, there is plenty to do in the Cap de Creus area. The picturesque town of Cadaqués is 10 minutes away by car, as well as the Casa de Dali at Portlligat and the Monastery of San Pedro de Roda. If you’re looking to soak in nature, there is a network of hiking trails and countryside to explore. For those planning to visit Costa Brava, be sure to rent a car to explore the surrounding region.

   

 


This experience was made possible by Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Costa Brava here.

The post Wine Tourism in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/26/wine-tourism-in-costa-brava/feed/ 5
Walking Catalonia: La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/20/la-garrotxa-volcanic-natural-park/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/20/la-garrotxa-volcanic-natural-park/#comments Fri, 20 May 2011 10:27:21 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/20/la-garrotxa-volcanic-natural-park/ From the rugged coastline of Costa Brava, we head inland towards the volcanic area of Garrotxa. Contrary to most people’s beliefs, this part of Spain is not just all beaches and resorts – there’s a whole world of nature and medieval towns to explore. A good place to start is La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park. [...]

The post Walking Catalonia: La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>

From the rugged coastline of Costa Brava, we head inland towards the volcanic area of Garrotxa. Contrary to most people’s beliefs, this part of Spain is not just all beaches and resorts – there’s a whole world of nature and medieval towns to explore. A good place to start is La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park. It’s less than an hour from the coastal highway but seemingly both an age and a continent away.

The Garrotxa’s Volcanic Zone is the most well-preserved volcanic terrain on the Iberian Peninsula, with over 40 volcanic cones and 20 lava flows. The landscape here is a complete contrast to the coast – featuring red-rose rock faces, black sand and a myriad of vegetation ranging from oaks to beech trees. Sprawling across 120 km² of surface area, the natural park is mapped with 28 walking routes, among which some of them are historic paths known as Itinerànnia.

As we enter the volcanic area, fields of yellow magnolia fields flank our path – landscapes reminiscent of the Tuscany countryside. But soon enough, the greenery is replaced by brown earth, black sand and an arid terrain. Within 15 minutes of walking, we reach the tallest volcano in the natural park, Volcan Croscat.

Although standing at a humble height of 160m, Volcan Croscat is the tallest volcano on the Iberian Peninsula. This volcanic cone is one of the most well-preserved one in Spain, spotting important flows of basaltic lava. It’s relatively young, around 12,000 to 15,000 years old.” Our guide, Mike Lockwood, shares enthusiastically.

Originally from the UK, Mike has been a resident in the area for the past 27 years. He shares his expertise with visitors, leading them on educational hikes as well as historic walks in La Garrotxa. As a volcano buff and outdoors expert, he says that this is the perfect place for him,      “We’re just one hour from the beach, one hour from the ski resorts and a hop away from nature. What more can I ask for?”

 

98% of the Natural Park territory is private property. The capturing of animals and the collecting of plants, rocks and minerals are not allowed in the area of the Natural Park. The majority are of the walking paths in La Garrotxa are signposted, except some of the long ones, which can be followed easily with the help of the guide map for the Natural Park.

For more information on La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park, refer to the Turisme Garrotxa website. Mike Lockwood can be contacted via his website www.walkingcatalonia.net.


This experience was made possible by Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Costa Brava here.

The post Walking Catalonia: La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/20/la-garrotxa-volcanic-natural-park/feed/ 9
Sailing Costa Brava: A Journey into Spanish Gastronomy, Music and Culture http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/18/sailing-costa-brava-a-journey-into-spanish-food-music-and-culture/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/18/sailing-costa-brava-a-journey-into-spanish-food-music-and-culture/#comments Wed, 18 May 2011 09:48:07 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/18/sailing-costa-brava-a-journey-into-spanish-food-music-and-culture/ Cala Lliris, Tamariu, Costa BravaOnboard our sailboat, we let our bodies sway to the movement of the waves and the sound of the gentle breeze. Watching the port of Palamós slowly disappear before us, we listen intently as Captain Joan shares  stories from the past, “This boat was built in the colonial days. It’s since been used by many [...]

The post Sailing Costa Brava: A Journey into Spanish Gastronomy, Music and Culture appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>

Onboard our sailboat, we let our bodies sway to the movement of the waves and the sound of the gentle breeze. Watching the port of Palamós slowly disappear before us, we listen intently as Captain Joan shares  stories from the past, “This boat was built in the colonial days. It’s since been used by many people, including pirates.” Our eyes light up at the mention of the word ‘pirates’ – it is after all every child’s fantasy to be on a pirate ship. Cala Lliris, Tamariu, Costa Brava

el Rafael sailboatWe are onboard el Rafael, a traditional catboat built in 1915. Now owned by Tela Marinera, el Rafael serves as a reminder of Costa Brava’s maritime heritage. Captain Joan brings visitors out on day trips and organizes pirate-themed boat trips for children.

Cruising along the rugged coastline of Eastern Spain, also known as Costa Brava, we catch glimpses of secluded coves, craggy cliffs and isolated lighthouses – many of which are only accessible by boat.

Captain Joan tells us that it’s common to see dolphins and even whales (during season) in the area. But instead,  we spot a curious moonfish swimming alongside our boat, waving its fins as though to say hello.

 

Bountiful Nature

 “Most parts of the rugged coastline are nature reserves, protected by the government from commercial development,” says Captain Joan. It’s no wonder the shoreline manages to retain a tinge of raw wilderness that is lost in other coastal areas of Spain.

After sailing past a myriad of landscapes, we reach our destination for the day: Cala dels Lliris. The tranquil bay spots turquoise waters, white powdery sand charming little white houses perched on the seafront. There must be less than twenty people on the beach – a rarity considering it’s nearing summer here in Spain.

Beach in Tamariu, Costa Brava

Cala del Lliris, Costa Brava

Fishermen’s Feast

Lunch in fishermens hutLunch on Cala dels Lliris is a serious affair: an enormous feast prepared by the chefs of La Cuina de L’Empordanet in a 100-year-old fishermen’s hut. Our lunch table is laid out with colorful local cuisine -  platters of butifarra (Catalonian sausages), pan con tomate (tomato toasts) and escalibada (cold dish made up of capsicum, aubergine and pepper).

But the main star of the meal is yet to make an appearance. In the makeshift kitchen before us, the two master chefs, Kim Farraron and Toni Izquierda, prepare to make a sizzling entrance with some gambas de Palamós. The local speciality – prawns from Palamós – is prepared within seconds as Kim gives the red wriggly prawns a quick fry in the hot pan and Voila!

Toni then proceeds to show us how to eat the prawns – first, peel the shells, then suck the head – the head??! “ It’s the best part of the prawn – nutritious and really savory,” Toni tells us. I cringe a little before sticking my tongue down the prawn’s head and surprisingly, Toni’s right. I might just start eating prawns this way from now on…

Gambas de palamos

Kim and Toni belong to a group of professional caterers called La Cuina de L’Empordanet who have been working for years to promote the cuisine of this small county called Baix Empordà. The Empordà is the centre of Catalan cuisine and has a wide, important gastronomic offer, with restaurants of great prestige in the area. It was formed in 1995, with collaboration from sixteen restaurants in the Baix Empordà region.

 

Traditional Havanera Music

By the end of our meal, it’s time for the local group of Havaneres to make an appearance. The L’Empordanet havaneres group croons us with a collection of traditional music – from light-hearted songs of the past to sentimental romantic ballads.

The lead singer tells me the origins of the havanera music, “The havanera music was created when the Spanish conquerors came back from Cuba, thus bringing back a tinge of Cuban musical  influence with them. The cork industry was thriving then, so it was common for workers to relax, sing and drink a bit of cremat liquor.”

 

We end the day with a Catalan song, swaying our bodies to the infectious tune. When we boarded the sailboat earlier that day, I had no idea our day would turn out like this – another pleasant surprise that Costa Brava has sprung on me. 


This experience was made possible by Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Costa Brava here.

The post Sailing Costa Brava: A Journey into Spanish Gastronomy, Music and Culture appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/18/sailing-costa-brava-a-journey-into-spanish-food-music-and-culture/feed/ 7
This Week in Travel: Girona Flower Festival http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/12/this-week-in-travel-girona-flower-festival/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/12/this-week-in-travel-girona-flower-festival/#comments Thu, 12 May 2011 01:31:00 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/13/this-week-in-travel-girona-flower-festival/ colorful tulips in Girona, temps de flors, Costa BravaEarly this week, I found myself in one of my favorite cities in Spain, Girona, to witness the annual flower festival in is full glory. From 7 to 15 May 2011, the city of Girona will be splashed in rainbow colors as flowers take over its streets and plazas. Temps de Flors started decades ago [...]

The post This Week in Travel: Girona Flower Festival appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>

Early this week, I found myself in one of my favorite cities in Spain, Girona, to witness the annual flower festival in is full glory. From 7 to 15 May 2011, the city of Girona will be splashed in rainbow colors as flowers take over its streets and plazas. Temps de Flors started decades ago as a flower display competition, but today it has blossomed into one of the most important festivals of the city. There are over 110 flower displays scattered all over the city: in the main monuments, small squares and even private homes opened to the public for visits.

colorful tulips in Girona, temps de flors, Costa Brava

Sant Marti Church

Earlier that day, our tour started at the Sant Marti Church,perched on the higher grounds of the historical centre. On the steps leading to the church were a stack of brick-game blocks made out of flowers – an interesting play of colors and theme against the grey backdrop of the religious building. Inside the church, the use of fragrant lilies and silk created quite a dreamy wedding atmosphere.

Sant Marti Church, Girona, Spain

As we weaved through the cobblestoned alleys of the historical centre, we would often drop in to private houses that wowed us away with the artistic displays of flowers. In a particular house, there were fiber-lit lamps hanging from the ceiling in one room and a twirling flower bed that dazzled visitors with its kaleidoscopic colors.

electic flower arrangement at Girona Temps de Flors

Fiber lights hanging from ceiling, Girona Temps de Flors

Girona Cathedral

We wound our way to the heart of the city: the Catedral de Girona. Along the steps of the Santa Maria Catedral, a broken piano stood mid-way between a patch of green grass and another patch of colorful flowers. Our guide, long-term Girona resident Carlos Pongiluppi shared with us, “It’s in relation to the requiem. The flowers represent life, while the broken piano signifies death. Beyond the piano, there are no more flowers, meaning the loss of life.”

Cathedral of Girona, Spain

Arabic Bath

The main highlight of the flower festival for me was the Arabic Bath – within the dome-shaped interior, wispy vines and crawling flowers weave together creating a rather Eden-like atmosphere. In its backyard, I found bright orange butterflies (fans used to give the impression of butterflies) and beautiful orchids on display.

Eden in Arabic Bath, Girona

Flower display in private home, Girona Temps de Flors

tn__MG_7041

If you’re in Girona during this time of the year, be sure to catch the flower festival. For more information, check out the Temps de Flors website where you can download the program and itinerary.


This experience was made possible by Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Costa Brava here or follow me on Twitter with the #InCostaBrava hashtag.

The post This Week in Travel: Girona Flower Festival appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/12/this-week-in-travel-girona-flower-festival/feed/ 6
Costa Brava in Pictures – The Best of Spain in One Region http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/12/costa-brava-in-pictures-the-best-of-spain-in-one-region/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/12/costa-brava-in-pictures-the-best-of-spain-in-one-region/#comments Wed, 11 May 2011 17:20:17 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/12/costa-brava-in-pictures-the-best-of-spain-in-one-region/ Panorama of Cala dels Lliris, TamariuI’m suffering a serious bout of post-trip depression after spending one of the best weeks of my life in Costa Brava, Spain. A trip jam-packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences: from skydiving in Empuriabrava to meeting one of the world’s best chef Ferran Adria to diving deep into history with Dali’s apprentice  and getting interviewed on Spanish [...]

The post Costa Brava in Pictures – The Best of Spain in One Region appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>

I’m suffering a serious bout of post-trip depression after spending one of the best weeks of my life in Costa Brava, Spain. A trip jam-packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences: from skydiving in Empuriabrava to meeting one of the world’s best chef Ferran Adria to diving deep into history with Dali’s apprentice  and getting interviewed on Spanish national TV.

The Costa Brava trip brought us from one extreme end to the next – veering from the craggy coastline to the inland volcanoes by way of secluded coves and fishing villages. We conquered the skies (sky-diving), the road (amusing tourist train) and the sea (sailed the choppy waters but scuba-diving plans were cancelled). This trip was truly of epic proportions – here’s plenty of thanks to the Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain!  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing snippets from my trip here. Meanwhile, here are some highlights of our journey through Costa Brava as seen through pictures.

Panorama of Cala dels Lliris, TamariuPanorama of Cala dels Lliris, Tamariu

 Tamariu, Costa Brava    Quiet fishing village of Tamariu

skydiving in Empuriabrava, Costa Brava Skydiving in Empuriabrava

Above the coastline and green fields of EmpuriabravaAbove the coast and green fields of Empuriabrava  

Winery Celler de Martin Faixo Lunch at the beautiful winery Celler de Martin Faixo

Town of Cadaques, Costa BravaWhite-washed town of Cadaques, Spain

Croscat Volcano in Costa BravaThe crater of the Croscat Volcano in the Garotxa area found inland.

Santa Pau, Costa Brava Medieval town of Santa Pau.

tn__MG_6896 A festival taking place in Santa Pau.

Girona city, SpainThe coloful hanging houses of Girona – the biggest city in Costa Brava.

Girona Flower FestivalTulips all over the city during Girona’s Flower Festival.

Eating suguet at Cala Joncols, Costa Brava 

Costa Brava is home to some of the best foods in the world – we started with some traditional Catalan suquet (fish stew).

Giusep Roca from Celler de Can Roca, Spain Then we sampled some nouveau cuisine at the world’s second best restaurant in the world, Celler de Can Roca (voted by San Pellegrino). Josep Roca, recently named the best sommelier of Europe, pictured above.

tn__MG_6823

The highlight of it all: meeting the world’s best chef – Ferran Adria of el Bulli fame.


This experience was made possible by Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels inCosta Brava here or follow me on Twitter with the #InCostaBrava hashtag.

The post Costa Brava in Pictures – The Best of Spain in One Region appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/12/costa-brava-in-pictures-the-best-of-spain-in-one-region/feed/ 5
Adventure Travel: Skydiving in Costa Brava http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/08/adventure-travel-skydiving-above-costa-brava/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/08/adventure-travel-skydiving-above-costa-brava/#comments Sat, 07 May 2011 19:34:30 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/08/adventure-travel-skydiving-above-costa-brava/ plunging off the planeHeart reeling and legs shaking, I’m standing at the edge of the aircraft, about to take the plunge at 4,000m above the ground. Looking out of the plane’s opened door, my head spins deliriously while the strong wind slaps me back into reality. Green fields, snow-peaked mountains and buildings are scattered below me like tiny [...]

The post Adventure Travel: Skydiving in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>

Heart reeling and legs shaking, I’m standing at the edge of the aircraft, about to take the plunge at 4,000m above the ground. Looking out of the plane’s opened door, my head spins deliriously while the strong wind slaps me back into reality. Green fields, snow-peaked mountains and buildings are scattered below me like tiny lego pieces. But amidst the chaos (overpowering winds and dizzying heights), I am air-bound without even realizing it. The rush from the free-fall sweeps through me like an electric current and before I know it, I’m experiencing an adrenaline high.

Skydiving in Costa Brava sure as hell tops any other adventures I’ve had (from climbing an active volcano to swimming with nurse sharks and cliff-jumping). During the seven minutes of the jump, I experienced a whole series of adrenaline and emotions: energy powered through me during the initial 60 seconds of free-fall, which later transformed into awe-inspiring pleasure as the parachute was released. Surprisingly, free-falling actually felt more like flying than the sensation of falling, which made skydiving much more enjoyable than bungee-jumping. Here’s a series of photos shot by my cameraman in the air – enjoy!

plunging off the plane   Just off the plane

Floating mid-air above Empuriabrava Above the green fields and mountains of Costa Brava

Screaming hell yeahhh! Skydiving in Empuriabrava Screaming ‘hell yeah’ during free-fall

Tons of fun in the air! 

Skydiving over the coastline of Costa Brava

landing - skydiving in Empuriabrava

A video of fellow blogger John O’Nolan landing (with voice commentary by Keith Jenkins):

Skydive Empuriabrava

Empuriabrava is the largest marina in Costa Brava, the northeastern coast of Spain. As skydiving expert Santi Corella from Skydive Empuriabrava mentions, this is the only drop zone in the world that is close to a town/city.  With easy access to restaurants and hotels, Empuriabrava makes for an excellent spot to try out skydiving.

Skydive Empuriabrava

I had the chance to speak to Santi, who’s traveled the world in search of the best skydiving spots. He’s worked as an instructor for decades, was part of the Spanish national skydiving team for 10 years and is now actively involved in Proyecto Atlas (a project that brings skydiving enthusiasts together to skydive in wingsuits around the world). Here’s a short video clip from Santi:

 


This experience was made possible by Skydiving Empuriabrava, Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Costa Brava here or follow me on Twitter with the #InCostaBrava hashtag.

The post Adventure Travel: Skydiving in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/08/adventure-travel-skydiving-above-costa-brava/feed/ 24
A Week of Adventures in Costa Brava http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/03/a-week-of-adventures-in-costa-brava/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/03/a-week-of-adventures-in-costa-brava/#comments Mon, 02 May 2011 18:12:39 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/03/a-week-of-adventures-in-costa-brava/ Costa Brava BlogtripHaving just traipsed my way through Northern Spain, I’m now continuing on my journey to the Northeastern edge of Spain – Costa Brava. So named for its rugged coastline, Costa Brava stretches from Blanes to the French border.This region of Spain is known for its excellent beaches, Dalí’s renown art works and top-notch cuisine (home [...]

The post A Week of Adventures in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>

Having just traipsed my way through Northern Spain, I’m now continuing on my journey to the Northeastern edge of Spain – Costa Brava. So named for its rugged coastline, Costa Brava stretches from Blanes to the French border.This region of Spain is known for its excellent beaches, Dalí’s renown art works and top-notch cuisine (home to the best restaurants in the world).

But that’s not the main aim of my trip: I’m here for a whirlpool of adventures and the Costa Brava Tourism Board promised me just that.

Costa Brava Blogtrip

I’m heading to Girona as we speak and I’ll be spending the entire week getting a taste of the adventurous activities that Costa Brava has to offer. Along with a fun group of travel mates (travel bloggers from around the world), I’ll be exploring offbeat parts of the region and reporting back here.

Although the itinerary is kept a secret, I’m thrilled to share that it’ll include some crazy adventures like sky-diving, hot-air ballooning and scuba-diving! As the region is home to two of the best restaurants in the world (awarded the most Michelin stars), we might also be sampling some of its nouveau cuisine and talking to a few of Spain’s top chefs.

I’ll be writing about my adventures in Costa Brava shortly, in the meantime, read my short updates on Facebook or Twitter. Hasta luego!


This experience was made possible by Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain but all opinions are my own. Read more about my travels in Costa Brava here or follow me on Twitter with the #InCostaBrava hashtag.

The post A Week of Adventures in Costa Brava appeared first on Wild Junket.

]]>
http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/05/03/a-week-of-adventures-in-costa-brava/feed/ 5