Monday, March 26, 2012

Catalunya, Cavas, and the Coast

In my absence of writing, I've actually been quite busy.
We went one day to visit a Cava (sparkling wine) vineyard and for an afternoon at Sitges (a city by the sea), through the program. The landscape near Codorniu was filled with rows of grape vines and a set of beautiful Mediterranean buildings.

This retired grape press is part of the press room-turned museum on the property of the Codorniu.

The family owned company has a very recent history for becoming strong with Cava production, and was previously better with regular wines.

We tasted two types of Cava, along with some little crackers to wash it down, inside one of the deep underground wine cellars.

Sitges is known as a weekend party city. It is apparently the 'gay capital' of Catalunya. But we were there during a calm Sunday, and found most of the obvious population to be tourists taking advantage of the sea.

We were lucky enough to be in town on the day of a car show. I simply adore antique cars! That fire truck is just precious.

Also, it was good to see the beach and some very detailed sand sculptures.

The following weekend a few friends and I took a guided tour to Girona, Pals, and the coastal town of Palafrugell. The trip was booked through, a helpful site for tours in a certain range of budgets. It isn't particularly cheap, but I found it worth the 80€ for the day.

Girona is a city of diverse culture, as it was a key dominance point in the peninsula during the middle ages and times of European territorial invasions.
 The Cathedral is fortified for invasion, with archer posts in one tower and flat walls on the exterior city walls.
 Often the interior sides of the archways entering the city have a small tribute to a Saint or other religious figure in these ancient cities.
 From the front, through which the people would enter, the Cathedral is a daunting and magnificent tribute of the city to God.
 As with all medievil towns I have visited, the streets of Girona, especially at the heart of the city, are tiny and wind around and climb with the many original buildings and the hills that were there when they were built. I am forever enchanted by the innocent peacefulness of such places, only disturbed the soft sounds of commerce on the next street over and the tourists ambling through.

 In Girona, there are a set of baths, named for the Arabs, although they never actually held control over such a North-Eastern part of Spain.

 Although it is not a well, many people seem to have sought wishes in this ante-chamber pool of the bath-house.

 In the old town squares, these protective archways are often found, used at one time perhaps for vendors to keep out of the elements, they are now a bit more empty and serve only as a beautiful reminder of what might have once been.
 The river in Girona divides the city. On one side is the old part of town and most of the commercial area, and the other is filled with apartment buildings and other modern establishments.
A fascinating piece of Spanish culture is seen here. Tobacco shops of course must promote their products in the windows, just as any other vendor does. But the unique case of tobacco in Spain is the requirement of labels. The label must read things like "Smoking can kill." And yet, many, many people continue to smoke throughout Spain. The bold labels are meant to curb the habit, but I am not sure if such tactics work with the Spanish, as all forms of advertising are quite bold. Many ads include nudity, violence, and other strong themes and no one seems perturbed.

The town of Pals is somewhere between Girona and the coast. It is a quaint little place that seems to be mad entirely of stone.

 We enjoyed walking through the streets and glimpsing these sweet places. Two years ago, while I was in France with Rana, I visited a village there that I could have sworn was home to fairies. I could swear this town is home to Gnomes or Dwarves!

 The tiny church in this town is hard to compare to the massive Cathedrals found in cities. But it is refreshing to see modesty, at times.
 From the edge of Pals, we could see the ocean, just past another distant village.
 I do not know why, but bridges above and tight streets feel magical, especially with the sunlight pouring down into the natural shadows.

Finally, we made it to Costa Brava and the sweet coastal town of Palafrugell!
 It was a gorgeous day to spend by the water, and I was thrilled to smell the fresh sea air again.
 I don't know why, but buildings by the ocean are very often white. It makes a lovely contrast against the strong blue of the Mediterranean though.
 We tasted some of the local cuisine. The paella looked delicious, but was made with pieces of fish cooked with the rice, so I could not taste it. My friends assured me it was as good as it looked.

Catalunya has far more to offer than Barcelona. There are so many wonderful natural and man-made sites to visit. I would encourage anyone to spend a little time exploring the further reaches of this fruitful region.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the voyeuristic tour. Loved your photos and commentary!