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Walks and other things

Walks on the Costa Brava - will be updated as more are added - click for a larger version This is our blog about living in the Costa Brava. We like to visit places. We walk (a lot) particularly into and around the Gavarres. Sometimes we travel around on bike. In the summer, we swim and canoe.
 

The walks have been walked since November 2012, and we originally added one or two a week but have slowed down now as we repeat walks, but we add updates if any important details have changed. The photos are straight from the original walk or activity. We like to make circular walks and our walks range in length from about 4km (an hour) to around 16km (four hours) - but probably about 2 1/2 hours on average - though if you want to reduce the length, there are usually shortcuts. The map on the right shows where the walks are and will be updated as we continue to add more. To our surprise, the blog was also mentioned in the Sunday Times' Essential Costa Brava (Feb 2017).

The entries on swimming and beaches also start from Summer 2013. Unlike the walks which are reported as we did them (including photos), for the swimming and beach articles we're planning to update the details and pictures over time.
 

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Sant Miquel de Fluvia
19 Sep 2014

Sant Miquel de Fluvia church The village of Sant Miquel de Fluvia is tucked away between Figueres and Girona, not directly on a main road to anywhere in particular, but on the river Fluvia and also on the train line. It's an area of low rolling hills that rise gently above the plain of Alt Emporda, and an area we don't know very well.

The aim of this walk visit was simply to see what the area was like and to see a village we've not visited before. Our walking route is therefore unlikely to be the best or most picturesque, but gave us a feel for the area.

We park just off the main road through the village on the Carrer de Forn Roma, not far from the Embotits (sausage) factory. We decide to head for the distinctive 11th Century Romanic church that we could see as we drove in with it's square tower set with open window spaces.

The street though has a hidden secret. Just off the footpath in what at first seems to be a font (or even a bus shelter) is a Roman Kiln or Oven. The entrance is actually below street level and it's very dark to see very much at all.

River Fluvia at Sant Miquel de Fluvia We continue along the street and arrive at the church and main old village centre. There is a collection of old farm-house type buildings, the traditional terraced streets and the church standing grandly above them all. Around the side of the church are excavations though we can't tell what for.

Before visiting the village though we cut out through an archway towards a spring font in the hill nearby, close to the old safreig (communal area for washing clothes), and seeing a walk through the woods we head down and out towards where we think the Fluvia river is.

Eventually though we reach a road and turn back towards the village, before spotting a sign pointing to the river. This takes us right down to the waters edge. We're in early September and the river is clear and fast flowing and it would be very tempting to take a dip. It certainly looks like the area is used by swimmers or paddlers.

We try to follow the river along a marked footpath through the grass that has been cut recently, but it ends in a dead end and rather than retreat the way we came we force through to a path at the bottom of a fenced field and then up past a farm to the road where we re-enter the old village from the other direction.

The village has the classic ring of houses for protection and a main street that is never straight. Apparently the curving of the streets was defensive - if you were being pursued the curves mean that the pursuers can't see all the way along the street making it easier for someone to slip out of view and escape.

We leave the old village and arrive back at the road through, heading to the right. We could go towards the neighbouring hamlet of Sant Tomas de Fluvia, but instead continue up along the new estate of houses on the hill. Though the countryside is rolling with some views to the distance it's not so pretty and the landscape feels a little unkempt.

Leaving the new houses we attempt to follow a marked footpath, only to lose the trail when we meet a ploughed field with no obvious direction to go in. So we cut across the rough fields with extremely sticky grasses clinging to our heels.

We find where the path would be for the return trip and walk past the fields and the edge of the woods. Where the path meets the road again, we make a short diversion to see a small tumble-down chapel next to what looks like an old gun emplacement. The chapel looks abandoned but just outside the door is a small bottle with a virgin.

We head down back to town. Around us is a another modern estate that falls away to the train line to our right. We had expected more given the presence of the station and the river and though the older part is pretty, and the Fluvia left us itching to go for a dip, the remaining parts of the village were not particular noteworthy.

Nearby: Banyoles lakeside walk - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Waterfall at Les Escaules (Boadella) - Palol de Revardit to La Mota - Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Cervia de Ter - Canet d'Adri

Walking route around Sant Miquel de Fluvia

Swimming and beach at L'Estartit
12 Sep 2014

lEstartit view to the beach from the port wall L'Estartit is popular holiday town just beyond Torroella de Montgri under the hills of Montgri and the main access point to the Isles Medes, reputatedly one of the best diving and sub-aqua areas on the Mediterranean. L'Estartit itself has a large port and older fishing area linked to the old town with shops and restuarants, and next to the port a long and very broad beach backed by modern hotels and apartments. The area is popular with the British both for camping and package holidays particularly for families, and has a handful of British bars - something that is now quite rare in the mid and north parts of the Costa Brava.

The beach itself stretches from the port wall all the way along to Gola de Ter (about 4-5km) and then down to Platja de Pals with sunbathers spread along to the limits of the town - but with enough space that it doesn't feel crowded. At the main L'Estartit end the beach is very broad - 60-70 metres wide with enough space for parking at the back of the beach.

lEstartit beach Costa Brava The sand is fine and soft, perfect for sand castles or beach sports, and the bay shelves gently out to sea making this an excellent beach for small children. The shallow water also means that the water is warmer at the earlier and later parts of the season - there is no problem swimming in September.

The bay itself is all sand with a sand bank about 30m out shallow enough for standing when we were there (sand banks move so this may change), however the sandy bottom means there are relatively few fish visible. Swimmers who like to explore will find the swimming a little dull, though it is easily possible to swim long distances.

Facilities at the beach

As would be expected the beach is monitored by lifeguards. Pedalos, canoes and other water craft can be hired as can loungers and umbrellas. Showers can be found at the back of the beach by the car park. There are three or four chiringuitos or beach bars on the beach itself, but not so much on the street directly behind which is mainly hotels and apartments.The main town centre is a little way away from the beach behind the port and in among the streets of the hotel/apartment blocks.

Sand quality

The sand is excellent - fine and slightly powdery sand all along the main beach with no stones or grit.

Swimming

This is really a family orientated beach. The bay shelves gently into the water (it's at its gentlest closest to the port wall) deepens and then has a sand bar some 20-30 metres out from the shore which is shallow enough to stand on. The bay has a sandy bottom and though there are fish (and the occasional reedy weed) it is not particularly interesting for snorkelling. However, for snorkelling and seeing fish there are boat trips to the Isles Medes.

Parking

Parking is easy at the back of the beach, or in the back streets of the town all of which are free parking. Closer to the old heart of L'Estartit there are fewer spaces so parking closer to or on the beach is generally the easiest option.

Walks and exploring

The beach stretch can be walked down to the Gola de Ter where natural Aiguamolls (sea marshes) can be found behind the beach. In winter, without sunbathers around, this is a good beach area for walking dogs. In addition, the Ter can be followed back to Torroella - see Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter

To the north, the paths run into the Montgri hills which can be quite wild and deserted and lead to a couple of very isolated bays: see L'Estartit to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol

Next beaches

South to Gola de Ter where the beach meets the mouth of the river Ter - North to Cala Montgo (L'Escala)

Swimming and beach at Llafranc
04 Aug 2014

Beach at Llafranc Costa Brava Llafranc is probably the prettiest of all the beach-side villages on the Costa Brava with a perfect-sized golden-sanded beach backed by chic upmarket restaurants and hotels that look straight over the bay. To the right, looking out to sea, are rocks and the headland that leads to Calella de Palafrugell (about 20 minute stroll). To the left are fishing boats and a small marina underneath the hill that leads up to the lighthouse above the village. In many ways it's the picture perfect seaside location, small and discrete retaining its original fishing village charm.

Llafranc beach Costa Brava from left side The downside is that during the height of summer, Llafranc can become busy and crowded with a towel on almost every square metre of the beach and with parking almost deliberately limited, it can be hard to find get access unless you're in Llafranc itself, willing to walk or starting out early in the morning. Fortunately this only really applies for the four-five weeks of the end of July and August. June and early July are just perfect, and by the first week of September the crowds have melted away leaving more knowledgeable travellers and locals to enjoy the beach and swimming.

The beach itself is sandy - a little gritty towards the rocks to the right, but finer without being powder soft, in the centre and to the left before the fishing boats. For snorkelling the rocky areas to the right are best - you may even get lucky and spot an octopus even in the August height of summer. The rest of the bay is quite deep and sandy - it deepens relatively quickly after the first 2-3m and is clear for swimming, though the bay always feels a little shorter than it looks as swimming to the left hand side is limited by the channel for boat access to the marina.

Facilities at the beach

Llafranc beach promenade The beach is backed by a promenade and restaurants and hotels where the well-heeled sit taking coffee or wine looking over the sunbathers and out to sea. Given how good the location is, not surprisingly, the bars have a tendency to be a little on the expensive side. Llafranc has one Michelin starred restaurant for foodies. There are a handful of small boutiques and shops and then hotels and villas dotted around the village.

On the beach, lifeguards are on duty and canoes can be rented to the left side of the beach just before the fishing boats. As with most beaches, there are beach showers with fresh water for washing off sea water (soap is not allowed).

Sand quality

The sand is gritty towards the right, but finer elsewhere and a beautiful golden colour.

Swimming

Llafranc beach rocky side The beach shelves quite quickly and the bay itself is quite deep - mostly of sand except for the rockier areas. Despite the sandy bottom, it's still possible to see fish, but obviously for snorkelling there is much more to see to the right hand side. For long distance swimmers the bay feels quite short, but off the peak season we have seen people swimming laps out by the marker buoys that separate the swimming area from the moored boats further out.

Parking

Parking is complicated. In the peak of the season spaces are difficult to find and quite limited. There are two main parking areas - both of which get full quickly. Firstly is just off the road from Calella de Palafrugell under trees to the right as the road runs down towards the village centre. Secondly, there is parking off the back road to Llafranc past the Llafranc Tennis Club that can be found as a right hand turn from the road between Palafrugell and Tamariu. The back road fills with cars parked on the side of the road all the way to the school vacation house about 10-15 minutes walk from the beach. For this reason coming early in the morning, or just coming later in the evening is advised.

Walks and exploring

Llafranc is a very easy 20 minute stroll around the headland to reach Calella de Palafrugell. In the other direction, are routes to Tamariu or into Palafrugell. To get to Tamariu you need to get to the lighthouse (Far de Sant Sebastia) which is a properly steep walk up from the beach, but with great views from the top, followed by a good hike across the cliffs and up and down into the bays. Mont-ras to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc - Far de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to Tamariu

Next beaches

South to Calella de Palafrugell - North to Tamariu

Swimming and beaches at Sant Marti d'Empuries (L'Escala)
27 Jul 2014

Beaches and bays at Sant Marti dEmpuries Between L'Escala and Sant Marti d'Empuries are a series of open sandy bays separated by small low rocky outcrops. The beaches have very soft sand and shelve gently into the bays with views across the Bay of Roses to Cap de Creus and Roses town itself. The beaches are backed by a series of dunes and cypressa woods with a few houses, the Hostal d'Empuries hotel and then large archeological site of the Ruins of Empuries. Parking is relatively easy (though paid for during summer) and there is a long wooden path than links the beaches and headlands along the coast. Though it lacks the dramatic cliffs and rocks of the more southern Costa Brava, the quality of the sand, the clear water and the linked bays, beaches and small islets put this in among the top beaches for the Costa Brava.

Sea view from beach at Sant Marti dEmpuries In practice there are a series of four bays to choose from giving a lot of places to choose. The beach closest to L'Escala is the least interesting looking, but the bays that start with the Hostal d'Empuries (the only commercial outlet until Sant Marti d'Empuries village), up to Sant Marti are all delightful linked by spits of sandy beach and rocks at each end. The most northerly beach also has the remains of the Greek port wall separating part of the beach from the sea.

The area is popular, particularly with French visitors, but as there is only the one hotel nearby and the beach area in total is quite large even in July, the beach didn't feel over-crowded.

Facilities at the beach

Beach by the Hostal dEmpuries The beach is in front of the ruins of Empuries (an abandoned Roman and Greek town now in ruins) with easy car access and parking in amongst the trees at the back. The only commercial establishment is the Hotel d'Empuries behind the second beach which also has food and a bar. The village of Sant Marti d'Empuries is also full of bars and restaurants.

On the beach, umbrellas and loungers can be hired (the natural 'palm' type of umbrellas) and there are facilities for hiring longboards and pedalos. The dunes behind the beach are a protected area and add shelter from behind. Lifeguards monitor each area.

Sand quality

Beach by the ancient greek port wall of Empuries The sand is some of the finest on the Costa Brava being smooth and fine both on the beaches and into the water - perfect for sand castles or playing beach sports (if there's enough space). Around the edges of each beach are rockier areas and, in one place islets that can be reached by wading out.

Swimming

The beaches are all gradual into the water, which with the smooth sand, makes them excellent for small children. Swimmers can swim across the bays and around the headlands allowing for long-distance swims. The bays are mainly sandy, but interspersed by some rockier areas and in the rockier areas there are fish which makes them good for snorkelling. The small islets also give something to swim to. The occasional rocks mean that some care is needed in shallower areas so as not to bump. The water was very clear, but the open nature of the bays means there's the possibility of flotsam accumulating at one end of a beach blown by the wind.

Parking

Parking can by accessed by following the signs for Ruines d'Empuries. There are a number of paid-for municipal parking areas under the trees. Alternatively park closer to L'Escala and then take the very pleasant stroll up to the beaches.

Walks and exploring

The beach stroll is recommended in all seasons, as is a visit to Empuries itself (Empuries Greek and Roman remains). For a longer walk we have: Escala, St Marti d'Empuries and beyond

Next beaches

South to L'Escala, Riells (L'Escala) and Cala Montgo (L'Escala) - North to Sant Pere Pescador

Swimming and beach at Sant Pol (S'Agaro)
24 Jul 2014

Beach at Sant Pol looking from sAgaro estate path Sant Pol is a long sand crescent beach between Sant Feliu and the luxury estate of S'Agaro. The beach opens up onto a natural bay and was one of the earliest beaches for tourism in the 1910s and 1920s when people came to take the waters rather than for the sun and sand, and Sant Pol still retains beach huts - the only beach on the Costa Brava like this. Perhaps because it was discovered in the early part of the 20th century, the beach and promenade area has been relatively protected and retains an authentic charm with modernista buildings directly behind the beach and any hotels that can be seen further back giving the whole area a relaxed charm.

The beach itself is quite long - about one kilometre from end to end with a wide bay - and all sand of a rough light grit. The area to the right looking out to see is rocky and the best area for snorkelling and seeing fish, and links to a series of rocky coves and bays all along the side, so of which are only accessible from the water. These right hand rocks are also have places used for jumping and diving into the crystal clear blue water below.

Behind the beach, in addition to the modernista buildings (one or two are now restaurants) are a number of discrete bars and restaurants, a large childrens play area, protected wild dunes and the Sant Pol Sailing and Kayaking school. From the beach it's possible to hire canoes, pedalos and we saw speed boats for water skiing and banana-tubes.

Sant Pol beach with bay and boating activities The water in the centre shelves quickly, but there is a sand bank just off shore where it's possible for adults to stand (I'd expect this sand bank may move or shift). The water was crystal clear when we were there, with boats including a very large 50m+ motor boat moored in the bay out beyond the swimming area.

Facilities at the beach

Behind the beach are a number of bars and cafes and behind these the small shopping/village area of S'Agaro/Sant Pol. The main hotels are all a little way back from the beach over looking the bay. There are lifeguards at the beach, a promenade and road and an older beach side centre/restaurant situated close to the beach huts mentioned above. The beach is quite active for water sports with sailing, catamarans, canoes, pedalos and even motor boats for water skiing at the S'Agaro end of the beach. For canoeists, the rocky bays to the right (looking out to sea) are areas to explore. There is at least one volleyball court on the beach and a childrens play area in the back

Sand quality

The sand is golden light grit almost across the whole beach. Not too bad underfoot and fine for sunbathing, but a little coarse for sand castles.

Swimming

From the centre of the beach, the shore shelves quickly (it may be more gentle at the two sides) but then had a sand bank about 20m out that was shallow enough for adults to stand on. It's possible to swim long distance both left and right and out to the further limits of the swimming area. The bay is sandy at the bottom and so not so good for snorkelling except towards the rockier parts to the right. These rocky bays are excellent for exploratory swimming and extend all around the headland.

Parking

There is marked blue-bay parking all around the roads which does require payment. A little beyond this is street parking more into the estates towards Platja d'Aro. We didn't have a problem finding a space in July, but it may be busier in August.

Walks and exploring

The coast walk Platja d'Aro and S'Agaro around S'Agaro is a very pretty walk/stroll on a broad well-maintained estate path, with rocky bays for snorkelling (walking access only) - non-residents can't take cars into S'Agaro. The path to the right Platja Sant Pol to Sant Feliu de Guixols along the rocks and round to Sant Feliu de Guixols is also recommended.

Next beaches

South to Sant Feliu de Guixols - North to Sa Conca, S'Agaro

Swimming and beach at Montgo (L'Escala)
16 Jul 2014

Beach at Mongo Montgo is one of the four beach areas of L'Escala and is a long sandy stretch in a half moon bay surrounded by cliffs on one side and modern houses and villas on the other on the hill below the tower of Montgo.

The area is some way away from the main centre of L'Escala but there are seasonal bars, shops and restaurants on and around the beach and a large campsite area meaning that it does become relatively busy during the summer season.

The beach is broad with fine sand, though there are pebbles in amongst the sand towards the back. Looking out to sea along the left hand side, the coast is rocky underneath the villas above with a path that reaches to the bay entrance. On the right hand side, a path (which is rough underfoot) runs over the top of the cliffs to unspoilt hills on the far side of the bay with caves in amongst the cliffs.

When we were visiting there were long-distance swimmers with safety floats swimming the cliff side of the bay which is part of a bigger swimming club SwimTheCostaBrava.com which also organises long distance swims (4-6km) along the Costa Brava during the summer.

The beach itself by the water has good sand and shelves gently into the water making it very suitable for children and the building of sand castles. On a July weekend it was popular - parking nearby was relatively full - but not too busy. We saw many French and Dutch people at the beach.

Rocky side of bay in Montgo lEscala For swimming the bay has very clear water to a sandy bottom with good opportunities to swimming a reasonable distance either along the side or across the bay. We saw fish in the sandier areas - shoals of anchovies which is appropriate for L'Escala - and there are more closer to the rocks.

Facilities at the beach

The beach is backed by a small summer community with a supermarket, wine store and a variety of souvenir shops. Directly behind the beach are many discrete bars and restaurants looking over the bay without feeling built up or over developed. Directly behind these is a large campground and then the estate of villas on the hill so it feels developed without being spoilt.

Directly on the beach is a Chiringuito and it is possible to hire pedalos (which a long slide), canoes and stand-up paddle-boards.

Sand quality

The sand is fine particularly close to the water where we saw lots of sand castles. At the back the sand has rounded pebbles in it - not enough to be stony, but enough to make it unsuitable for football or beach volleyball.

Swimming

The bay has a gentle slope so would be good for children. We found the water to be a little chillier than we were expecting in July, but the area to the right side of the bay seemed warmer, but this may just have been the day we were visiting.

There are good opportunities for long distance swimming and as mentioned we saw what looked like an official swimming club practising sea-swimming along the right hand of the bay underneath the cliffs. (See SwimTheCostaBrava.com which is the open water swimming club)

For snorkling, most of the main bay is sandy so not so good for fish. The rocks to the left and right would be better, but we didn't explore too much.

Parking

There is parking behind the beach and along the roads, particularly by the campsites. We struggled to find parking spaces close to the beach on a July Weekend, but had no problem with a 5 minute walk from the roads further back.

Walks and exploring

It's possible to walk into L'Escala along the coast and by the port or to walk across the clifftops into the Montgri Massif. The walk to L'Escala/Riells is quite far and if you take the road is just a town walk. See: L'Escala Riells to sea cliffs and viewpoint of Montgo

Next beaches

South to L'Estartit - North to Riells (L'Escala), L'Escala town and to Sant Marti d'Empuries

Bescano, River Ter and free-style kayaking
06 Jul 2014

Bescano church Bescano is a small town just outside Girona close to Salt and the first town or village out towards the hills to the west of Girona. Originally we were just passing through aiming to explore the hills and cliff outcrops (cingles) in the direction of Angles and Olot, but as we were driving out of Salt we noticed there seemed to be an event on the river - which we later discovered was the World Cup for Free-style Kayaking.

Bescano is on the Ruta de Carrilet a long distance bike path created from a disused railway route (the Carrilet was the name of the train) that stretches from Girona to the coast at Sant Feliu. In a westerly direction is follows the Ter out towards Angles and, as we discovered later in the day, is part of a route that follows the Ter through Les Guillieres hills where dams have created the lakes of Sau and Susqueda.

Bescano River Ter tranquility To begin with though we just started in and around the town. Bescano, like many places to the west of GIrona is surrounded by wooded hills which are much wetter and deciduous than the drier alzina forests closer to the coast. The presences of lots of water makes walking feel more like English or French countryside with hazards like stinging nettles and brambles which are practically non-existent to the east.

Bescano kayaking We parked in the munipical car park and then followed a track that met up with a mill-stream at the bottom of the hill, then followed the mill-stream around the outskirts of the town to the sports stadium. We then crossed the main road and found ourselves at the back of a very languid river Ter which looked shallow enough for wading/swimming.

We then followed the river along the path down towards where we had seen the canoeing event. The river itself was broad and slow almost like the Dordogne with a lovely walk through the woods to the side. There is a man made bridge across the river but access is restricted for quarrying. Instead we continued through the woods to the side, before taking a turning up to the Ruta de Carrilet path. This runs next to the river and just below the main road for a while, but with the docile pace of the river it was difficult to imagine what the canoeing would be like.

Bescano kayaking and canoeing centre on the river Ter At we were walking on the Ruta de Carrilet there was a steady stream of families coming the other way and then almost just around a corner we came to the main event the free-style kayaking World Cup which was taking place on the river. It really was quite unexpected.

From what we saw, free-style kayaking consists of small duck-like boats which competitors are able to flip, spin and somersault in the water. Though the upper waters of the river were docile, in this particular stretch the river narrows and runs over rapids suitable for white water kayaking and slalom. For free-style, kayakers have a boat that is about 1.5m long and they drop into a white water pool where they basically play in the white water performing spins, flips and tricks while paddling to stay in the pool. (Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULn6Ao9ZHx0)

Bescano Freestyle Kayak WorldCup Even without the competition, the who canoe area is almost like a mountain stream specially prepared for white water kayaking. The only other place we've seen this type of set up in Catalonia has been in La Seu d'Urgell in the mountains. To find the centre just outside Girona was therefore a real surprise.

Having watched for a bit (and allowed our dog a good swim in the river) we returned along the Ruta de Carrilet to the town to see the centre and as we were walking we realised that many of the mountain bikers were numbered following a Ruta del Ter biking event.

The centre of Bescano is pleasant enough being well maintained, but really is more as a commuter community than perhaps a place to visit on its own. But would make a good stop if you're planning to visit the river and surrounding countryside.

Walking route Bescano and River Ter

Mont-ras Festival of Corpus Christi
30 Jun 2014

Mont-ras catifes de flors on the steps up to the church Mont-ras, as we've said before, is our neighbourhood and this year, for the second year, it held a Festa de Corpus Christi in the old-part of the village. The highlight of the festival was the construction of Catifes de Flors (flower carpets) along the route up to the church and in front of the church. The flower carpets have been a village tradition for many years, but only recently has it been combined into a general village event with craft stalls, capgrosses (part of the Spanish and Catalan tradition of people dressing up as giants or with big heads - literally capgrosses).

Montras Capgrosses Catifes de Flors can also be found in other Catalan villages and are made from flowers, petals and leaves laid out on the ground to form a picture or design. The petals dry quickly in the sun, so they are constructed in the morning both for decoration but also as part of the procession of Corpus Christi.

Mont-ras castellers at Corpus Christi Corpus Christi itself is a Catholic feast day, so the church plays an important part of the ceremonies, but there is a lot of other things to see too. As someone not too familiar with Catholic traditions, this celebrates the Eucharist - the belief that the bread and wine of communion are considered to be transformed in the body and blood of Christ. On Corpus Christi, the transformed bread is placed in a monstrance and shown around the village by the priest dressed in finery and his entourage. As the procession returns to the church it walks over the flower carpets, before prayers in front of the church and the blessing of the Capgrosses.

Mont-ras catifes de flors outside church Mont-ras has turned this into a more general village festival. The streets below the church are laid out with craft stalls selling everything from baskets made by the local basket-weaving club, to pastries and jams from restaurants and crafts like woodwork or needlework. In the car park at the entrance is pony riding, and the village hip-hop dancers and Colla de Mont-ras festival float is around.

The highlight for us was seeing Castellers building the very typical catalan human towers in the square to the side of the church.

 

 

Swimming at the main beach of Palamos
11 Jun 2014

Palamos main town beach looking south from the port June is upon us in the Costa Brava, so swimming season has started for the summer, though the water still has a chill and needs about another couple of weeks full on sun to really warm up. So we're back on our swimming series adding the beaches we didn't get to add last year.

Palamos is a former royal port and fishing town with a harbour large enough to take small cruise ships. The main beach at Palamos curls around from the fishing port with its market, Museu de Pesca and harbour where fishermen lay their nets out for maintenance. At the far end it joins with the beaches of Sant Antoni de Calonge and on to the rocky bays at Torre Valentina.

Palamos beach Costa Brava looking north towards the town The beach itself is very much a town beach with restaurants at the back and a long beach-side boulevard for taking a paseo in the summers evenings. Boules/Pentanca can be found being played at the back and the paseo has a children's play area and old now rusting canons looking out to sea. This is then a beach of activities - whether kite surfing in the windier autumn months, or taking boats or canoes out. On the sand itself are permanent volleyball courts and a sand football pitch.

The main part of the beach looks straight at the harbout and boats opposite so it's not quite a pristine open view to the horizon, but the older part of Palamos is attractive and there is a constant buzz of activity around the port

However, despite being long and broad, the beach itself lacks a little of the charm of the smaller bays and coves, feeling slightly artificial with the protective groynes. The sand is a little rough underfoot and a bit stoney. Swimming, because of the port/marina directly opposite is not particularly special though you can see fish even though it's a sandy bottomed bay. However, as the beach is easily accessible, it is a beach where you do see long distance swimmers in training swimming parallel to the shoreline to and from Sant Antoni.

Facilities at the beach

Being a town beach, all the facilities of the town are nearby. At the port end of the beach is a small funfair for children and several restaurants that look over the beach. The main town of Palamos with mainstream and souvenir shops is at the port end of the beach to the north. Across the beach are permanent volleyball nets, some football goals and a sailing centre and there are several chiringuitos (beach bars) directly on the beach. There are also regular lifeguards and lifeguard points along the beach. Behind the beach is a walk for paseo and areas for boule/petanque.

Sand quality

The sand is rough with occasional small stones and there are hard patches of compressed sand on some of the volleyball courts. At the sea's edge the sand feels finer but is not the fine sand of La Fosca or Castell further to the north.

Swimming

There is no steep drop at the town end of the beach, but neither is it a very gradual change in depth - so a bit half and half. The swimming is relatively plain - there are fish in the water, but no rocks and the bay is sandy, but being a long open stretch of water it is popular with people practising long-distance swimming. The presence of the boat and marina opposite mean that the lifeguards do whistle to warn people if they look as if they are leaving the marked swimming area.

Parking

A large open pay-for municipal car park on the sand takes the space immediately behind the beach at the town end with access via ticket and a pay-on-exit system. There is additional parking along the road that passes at the back of the beach - again paid for via ticket machines during peak summer months (free otherwise).

Walks and exploring

This is primarily a town area. The paseo walk along the promenade to Sant Antoni de Calonge is very popular. At the port is Palamos's famous Museu de Pesca (Fishing Museum) and there are the attractions of the older town of Palamos.

Next beaches

South to Sant Antoni de Calonge - North to La Fosca, Palamos

Palafrugell Festa de Primavera
11 Jun 2014

Palafrugell Primavera Festival in Palafrugell - 40 Thieves Palafrugell, unlike other towns on the Costa Brava, doesn't celebrate Carnival (Carnestoltes in Catalan) - the great Catholic festivities just before Lent when people dress up and parade through the streets. Instead, Palafrugell saves up for the Festa de Primavera, this year because of a late Whitsun at the start of June, but normally in May.

Palafrugell Primavera Festa - Brazil style The highlight of the festival is a grand carnival procession with floats, dancers and music that wends its way through the main streets of the town full of colour and creativity taking 2-3 hours for a journey that would take 10 minutes to walk. Each float is richly decorated and has large sound systems that blast out the music for the dance routines for the troupe that follows, pausing for a few minutes to perform where the crowds are most dense more moving on to the final performance for the judges.

Palafrugell Primavera Festival - superheroes Since our eldest daughter likes to take part, we know it takes hours and hours of practice on dance routines and costumes with groups trying to win prizes for the best 'show' that are handed out at the big after-party festival that takes place in the evening. The festivities are big enough that they are shown live on the local Costa Brava TV station.

In practice, with all the effort required, many of the more serious Collas - the groups who make and decorate the floats and who dress up and arrange the dance routines - actually take part in several of the festivals that can be found up and down the coast. This year Palafrugell had groups from Sant Feliu and as far away as the Garrotxa out towards Olot. Most start with the Carnival at the beginning of Lent in Palamos or Platja d'Aro - but the weather can be showery and the evening a little cool in the days before the clocks change - so more places now have a Festa de Primavera in the May or June sunshine when there are more visitors about.
Palafrugell Primavera Festa - birds costumes

Palafrufell Primavera Festa - dung beetle bugs

Madremanya and Millars
11 Jun 2014

Millars Castle outside Madremanya When driving to Madremanya from Monells we've noticed the grand castle at Millars but not stopped. So as the temperatures are rising and Summer's here, we made a short walk from the village of Madremanya - with its honeyed stone with small streets and lanes with gates and archways - out and around and through the castle hamlet of Millars. We were also surprised to find a number of English residents outside their houses on the walk.

We start in Madremanya but didn't go and visit the inner parts of the village this time around (see Madremanya to Els Angels walk for more pictures) as we were looking for a shortish walk. Instead we started around the eastern fringes of Madremanya, north into the countryside. Surprisingly we found ourselves walking on a well-kept tarmac road - surprising because the road doesn't particular connect to anywhere north of Madremanya and our experience of country type walks is that they quickly become gravel tracks.

The road continues through the fields, now golden with wheat and barley but still dotted with poppies in the summer sun, before turning to the right up and over a hill to Madremanya. We're still surprised to be on tarmac, since this piece of road definitely only goes to the hamlet and castle at Millars (may be the castle owner was mayor once...?). From the top of the hill we have the first views to the castle complex and the nest of supporting houses just outside. In the distance the countryside rolls away towards La Bisbal and the Gavarres hills.

Madremanya street towards Millars Finally, the well appointed road turns to a track and down towards the castle hamlet. Across the fields are a number of large well-restored masia farmhouses. The track returns to tarmac and we walk along the main 'street' - a line of old stone houses that must have been the quarters for the individuals supporting the castle. We also have English voices as people are chatting outside enjoying the sun and the flashes of colour from the gardens on the opposite side of the road to the houses.

From close up, we can't see too much of the castle, but we pass the main gate. If the post boxes are anything to go by it seems the castle is now divided into several private houses so there is no opportunity to see more than peering through the gate posts. It's a little bit of a pity because the view of the castle from the main road is so impressive.

We have a choice now of either continuing on the road and then more road, or following one of the marked 'health' paths - small yellow signs that mark a local route for walking for fitness - around the fields. We take the track to get off the tarmac, but though it's fine to walk, we don't quite get the picture perfect photo of the castle. So when we reach the main road, I double back to find the photo.

From our position, we can see that we are above a small valley with a stream below us, but the map doesn't indicate any paths (this doesn't mean there aren't any) and the direct route across the road just seems to lead to a farmyard. So we then have a little bit of a walk along the main road before doubling back down towards where the valley is.

We pass a farmhouse nestling into the valley, and then cut up the other side of the valley on a path that's clearly marked on the map. As we come over the side of the valley we can see we're entering an area of a masia with some well appointed stables from the back. We'd not seen any signs so we kept going. The stables are actually an equestrian centre (there's lots and lots of horse-riding on the Costa Brava) and as we pass the main house we meet the owner, who turns out to be English too. I think she's a little surprised to see us as she directs us along the road to the gate. The whole area seems to be a very pleasant riding and horse centre with holiday accommodation for guests, but I think private for walking - it just happened we came through the back (this happens from time to time) - as indicated by the definitely closed gate we have to pass through.

However, from here it's just a brief walk back to Madremanya. With more time, we'd have taken a drink in the village which is delightful, but not this time.

Neighbouring walks: Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell - Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni de l'Heura - Corça, Casavells, Matajudaica - Monells spring walk in the woods

Walking route Madremanya to Castle at Millars .

Cal Negre - traditional paella in Roses
26 May 2014

Paella is the quinessential dish of Spain, a mix of rice, meat and seafood served straight from the paellera pan. Tourist restaurants will offer branded paellas with pictures of the dish, but for the Spanish, this is a dish treated with almost reverance, normally eaten at lunchtimes (too heavy for later), and most commonly on Thursdays. The quality of the sea-food, the rice cooked to an al dente perfection and the rich deep flavour of the caldo cooked in a traditional home-made fashion.

We were lucky enough to be invited up to Roses by some friends of ours whose family have had a house in Roses since the time before holidays by the sea were popular and they took us to Cal Negre, a restaurant the family has visited for many years.

This isn't the right place to rave about restaurants, but it is interesting the way in which the seafront restaurants are rarely the ones chosen by locals. In among the backstreets, restaurants have to offer something different or better as they can't trade on their location so much. And they so they will need to make their mark on their reputation, serving good food to people who are year round residents, rather than chasing a fast buck in the short three months of summer.

Cal Negre is one of those small back street family-run restaurants that locals know and which we would never have known about without our friends introduction. As paella takes a while to cook, though the table was booked, our friends telephoned beforehand, so they could prepare a paella for ten.

We do not eat paella very often (despite having been here for some time), so we claim no great expertise, but this was a proper paella served in a single large pan for ten prepared specifically for us, not pre-cooked or pre-prepared, with crab-legs that you have to suck the meat from, langoustines and crayfish and chicken pieces and freshly cooked gambas.

Like many other authentic restaurants it's tucked away. Something we've found, is that for a restaurant slightly off the main strip to survive, they must be doing something right with their food.

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Comments

adam@veggingoutwithadam.com
17 Feb 2014 19:46
What a great blog. I am planning a walking holiday in the region and wonder if you can recommend the best walking maps, like UK ordnance survey ones.

I shall be reading more of your walks over the coming days as we plan.

Many thanks
Adam
Saul
24 Feb 2014 17:25
Glad you're enjoying it. We have recommendations for maps in our 'Advice and FAQ' section
Saul
13 Jul 2017 12:46
Sorry I missed the comment, so I hope it's not too late - use the contact box if you'd like to send a message. For the coast, the GR92 is best and if you have driver you can just take it piece by piece. For hikers, around Cap de Creus is great, though it can be dry and hard walking in summer. For us, the stretch between Palamos and Palafrugell and on to Begur is the prettiest part of the whole Costa Brava and really good for walking. I'd probably also take the walk up and over Montgri, possibly starting at Pals, or L'Estartit to L'Escala. And though you said you prefer the coast, don't overlook inland routes as there are some wonderful villages and countryside out towards Girona, La Bisbal, or Olot.
Sven-Gunnar Furmark
24 May 2017 11:43
Hi,

My name is Sven Furmark. I am from Sweden. I plan to go to Costa Brava with some friends (totally about 10 people) for hiking for one week (5 walking days). We are experienced hikers and we usually walk 4-6 hours per day. We prefer to walk along the coast as much as possible. We plan to rent a house and travel to each days hiking with a bus & driver which we plan to book for the whole week. Which five hikes would you recommend for us.

Warm Regards
Sven
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