Website accessibility
Show or hide the menu bar
Home
|
Content
Calendar
Links
|
Log in
|

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 add one or two a week(ish - though we're slowing down now). The photos are straight from the 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.
 

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 going to update them over time.
 

Most Viewed

Calella de Palafrugell to Llafranc Marbrava Swim race
15 Oct 2017

We just headed to Llafranc for leisurely stroll and coffee, only to find the village was filled with swimmers for the Calella de Palafrugell to Llafranc 7km swim via the Isles Formigues. Out to sea there were hundreds of swimmers making their way into shore shepherded in by support boats and canoes. The Radikal Swim website who organise the event says that there are a range of swimming events taking place over this weekend (14/15 October) for all ages and abilities with the 7km event being the longest.

As we've mentioned before there are a number of long distance (2km+) swimming routes in the Costa Brava now between beaches and around headlands (Via Braves). For more sporty visitors and triathletes, this gives an additional more competitive option to enjoy the waters here. Now we have the date, I'll take a camera next year, or maybe take part, depending on how fit I feel.

Catalan Referendum and Strike October 2017
04 Oct 2017

Catalan Referendum march in Palafrugell Yesterday, October 3rd 2017, was a general strike in Catalonia against violence seen during the Catalan Referendum on Sunday 1st October. As part of the general strike, towns and cities throughout Catalonia came out onto the streets to demonstrate support in the evening. We went down to attend the local march in Palafrugell and to give a sense of the demonstrations and the strong desire for political change in Catalonia.

At this point I'm going to try to give a potted history and explanation of where and why Catalonia believes it should be independent and some background to what's going on. It's fair to say that for people from outside the region, it can be difficult to understand what is going on, and why there is such a depth of feeling among the Catalans. We certainly had little understanding of the situation or very much understanding of the history of Spain much beyond the discovery of America and the Spanish Armada. However, having lived here and being extremely interested in the history and geography, I've come to realise the rich and complex tapestry of Catalonia and its relationship with Spain.

Catalan Referendum Torre Jonama Palafrugell The simple history of Spain, which is most frequently presented by Spanish nationalists, sees Catalonia as a region that becomes part of Aragon before, in 1479, being unified with Castille under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella to create the modern Spanish nation. In this view Spain is an indivisible whole and Catalonia was never a country, and so has no legitimate claim for independence. The current claims are 19th century romanticism and a desire to pay less taxes.

To get beyond this, and really into the deep emotional feeling that lies beneath the independence push needs a more nuanced view of Spanish history, one which sees Spain as part of a unified crown, but still being a set of semi-independent territories, each with their own governance, laws, taxes and duties. The Aragonese were not allowed to trade in the Castillan West Indies for instance until the mid eighteenth century.

Catalan Referendum and general strike in Palafrugell These element of self-government and self-identity of the semi-independent territories were swept away in a wave of French-style single-nation laws and centralisation (the Nueva Planta decrees) that followed the Spanish conquest of rebellious Catalonia in 1714, and that included banning the use of Catalan in primary education and official documents. Though Spain remained relatively at ease with itself until Napoleon's invasion, reactions to the events of the start of the 18th Century continued to reverberate through Spain in the 19th and 20th centuries as it struggled under revolts, civil wars (plural), loss of overseas territories and a push-me-pull-you of politics that saw regions pull against centre, and various forms of radicalised politics emerge.

Into this melee, Catalonia rediscovered itself and developed its own idea of Catalonia as a nation, distinct from Spain. It was finally allowed to use its own language in official work in 1931 (216 years later), only to have this removed by Franco in 1936. So that within living memory are groups of citizens who were not allowed to use Catalan at school, and who were ruled by proxies of the central Spanish government, rather than through their own elected officials.

As a result, there are extremely deeply felt opinions that go far back in time with family memories of Spanish crack downs on Catalan separatist views from even the 1900s. While Spanish nationalists will point to the financial crisis as a catalyst, other forces were already at play, seeking the Catalan Statute of Autonomy for instance. Regional identity versus centralism is a topic that bubbles away through Spanish history.

A historic overview

Spain in 719 had been conquered by the Moors (mainly from Morocco) who had captured the Peninsula and made their way in towards modern day France up to Poitiers/Tours in 732. Resistance to Moorish rule grew in the north first, from Asturies in 722 - the first of the Spanish kingdoms to emerge. The second northern kingdom was Navarre/Pamplona from 824. In a complex story of kingdoms and rivalries, Asturies expanded across northern Spain eventually leading to the establishment of the kingdom of Leon (910). Leon then joining with Navarre. From these northern kingdoms, the kingdom of Aragon emerged in 1035 and Castile finally became its own kingdom, from a county of Leon, in 1065 providing the foundation for Castilian Spain.

Meanwhile on the Mediterranean side, the Franks under Charles Martel ('the Hammer') pushed back the Moors, building on the victory at Tour/Poitiers 732. From 759 to 801 when Barcelona was captured, Frankish victories established the counties of the Spanish March (Marca Hispanica) in what is now Catalonia (and a bit beyond), as a buffer realm between France and the muslim Spain. Unlike the northern territories that (self-) declared themselves kingdoms, the lands of the Spanish March remained as counties (ruled by a count) with local rivalries. However, over time, the Count of Barcelona came to dominate across the counties as a whole. 'Marches' tended to be remote from the main centres of powers (in Aachen) and independent minded. So that under Wilfred the Hairy, the title of count became inherited rather than by appointment. So that eventually the counts became de facto independent. The earliest claim is in 985 when Borrell II failed to get support from the Franks and so curtailed his allegiences.

So Spain was slowly formed through these separated kingdoms in the north and more complex county system on the Mediterranean.

Over the next few hundred years, both the Kingdom of Castile in the north, and the County of Barcelona (Catalonia) grew in prestige, and through the expulsion of the muslim invaders from lands of Valencia and the Taifa of Zaragossa - the story of El Cid comes from this epoch.

Between Castile and Catalonia was the Kingdom of Aragon, which had emerged from Navarre in 1035. Through marriage, Aragon became a possession of the Counts of Barcelona in 1137 and the counts switched to take the titles of King of Aragon as their main title. However, despite being unified under the the same monarchy, Catalonia and Aragon continued to exist as separate territories each with their own system of laws and cortes including custom posts, taxes and duties. The Crown of Aragon grew to include Aragon, Catalonia, Majorca and Valencia plus territories in the Mediterranean including Sicily and Sardina and at one point to Athens.

Castile and Aragon continued to develop separately, but slowly the ruling families became intertwined by marriage until the ruling crowns of Castile and Aragon united by marriage in 1469, with Isabella becoming queen of Castile in 1474, and Ferdinand (Ferran in Catalan) becoming king of Aragon in 1479. The two parts of Castile and Aragon remained quite separate with distinct royal councils. During the reign of the Catholic Kings America was discovered, and the expulsion of the moors started. However, when the Americas were discovered these were established Castilian territories and Aragonese merchants did not have access, again because these were treated as separate kingdoms.

Before Ferdinand had got to the Spanish throne, Catalonia had already been through a civil war (1462-1472) in the Revolt of the Remences against John II with involvement of the French and loss of Roussillon (for the first time). So by the time of Ferdinand, it was already past it's high point, and with the discovery of America, and eviction of the moors followed by attacks by the Ottomans, its importance in Spanish affairs diminished.

In short order, Spain became the leading European power. Joanna, daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand married Philip the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and so their son, Charles V, Spain became the original rule of the empire where the sun never sets, with great lands in the Americas, joined with the European holdings of the Holy Roman Empire (that included Netherlands, Belgium, Burgundy, Savoy, Germany and Austria). Discontent with Charles led to a series of revolts in both Castile and Valencia and Majorca of Aragon (Revolta de les Germanies), but Spain was moving towards a more centralist view.

At this time, Catalonia, and Barcelona became a gateway to the Spanish European territories, though via the sea across to Genoa (the Spanish Road) as rivalry with France prevented overland access to the Italian, German and Dutch territories.

Over the next period, the Spanish Empire came under attack with wars with the Dutch, the British (Spanish Armada) and the French. An empire of such a size was proving unsustainable and expensive. The vast gold and silver wealth from the Americas brought inflation to Spain and Spain defaulted on its debts (1557, 1560, 1569, 1575, 1595), lost the Armada to England. The cost of war and rebeliousness in the Netherlands (the 80 years war) took its toll and Spain's star started to diminish. Meanwhile wars with France over Italian territories and involvement with the French Wars of Religion, spread into plain old wars with France, starting with rivalry over Spanish territories in the North (1595-1598).

The Spanish European empire fell into a complex war with the Thirty Year's War (1618-1648) involving religion, Netherlands, Sweden and central Europe. As the conflict spilled over, Catalonia become something of a piggy-in-the-middle between Spain and France for the Spanish-French war 1635-1659 as the French attacked Spanish territories through Italy and northern and eastern France.

Spain seeking to protect the border with France, put Castilian troops into private houses in Catalonia (which included peasants providing food for the soldiers) leading to the Catalan Revolt on 1640 - also known as the Guerra dels Segadors. Els Segadors is a main anthem for the Catalan independentists (Portugal also revolted against Spain). The Catalans looked towards the recently liberated Dutch for inspiration, and during the revolt Catalonia declared itself independent, but under the protection of the French. This 'Independence' lasted until 1659 when a Spanish-French peace returned Catalonia to the Spanish King, but with the final loss of Rousillon to the French.

Tensions didn't diminish though with another revolt (Barretines) 1687-1689 which was more of a class war, again partly because of tension between Spanish soldiers and the local population, and the Nine Year's War 1688-97 again between Spain and France.

And so by the outbreak of the Spanish War of Succession, Catalonia was out of sync with the rest of Spain and took the side of Charles, the Austrian candidate for Emperor, supported by Britain, against the French Bourbon king supported by the rest of Spain. In theory Britain promised to help the Catalans and to protect the Catalan institutions under the Pact of Genoa, but because of a change of circumstances, Catalonia was abandoned to its fate as the last bastion against Bourbon king. The final act of rebellious Catalonia was the submission of Barcelona on the 11th September 1714 (a date commerated with the diada).

The Bourbon king coming from a French background sought to impose a French-style nationalism on the Spanish people. In the Nueva Planta decrees the historic institutions, governance, tax raising powers were removed and, for the Catalans, their language was no longer to be used in official documents. At the same time, the centralised monarchy installed vice-roys to take command of the provinces backed by Spanish troops effectively throwing out hundreds of years of autonomous rule and traditions.

Catalonia was not the only Spanish province that felt the rules were unfair, so that after the Napoleonic invasion had passed (when parts of Catalonia were subsumed into France as a new French department), Spain when through a series of revolts and wars - as another succession issue gave rise to Carlists and Carlism - in favour of Infante Carlos V's - Don Carlos's claim to the throne on the French derived male succession rule, over Isabella II, his niece who became queen based on the older Spanish rule that allowed female succession. The impact was a series of complex wars, republics and revolts in the 19th century from 1833 throughout Spain with the first civil war, Spanish declaration as a republic and restoration of the monarchy. At the same time, Spain was developing a complex set of new political ideas including anarchism as working classes became more powerful.

Meanwhile, industrialisation was coming to Catalonia, and it started to rediscover its language and heritage (the Renaixença or rebirth) that started to emerge after the liberation of Spain from Napoleon and grew into the 1830s to 1860s as Catalans started to review Catalan history, rekindling ideas of Catalonia and its relationship to Spain, initially as federalism, but later to calls for full independence. Separatism got swept up with the prevailing moods of anarchism and revolt so that by the late 1800s Catalonia had a firm secessionist movement that was being prohibited by the Spanish authorities with suppression including martial law in 1900, and a short lived revolt in 1909.

This sense of nation and historical identity from the 19th century is then swept into the troubles of the 20th century which led to the Spanish Second Republic of 1931, and eventually into to the Spanish Civil War (genuinely Spain vs Spain of which Catalonia was only part) and after the defeat of the Republicans, leading to Franco's suppression of Catalan right up to 1975.

From the end of the dictatorship, the Catalan civil societies have been working to reestablish Catalan institutions and language. In 2006 Catalonia agreed a new Statute of Autonomy (approved by Catalan referendum and supported by the Spanish government), however this was ruled in part to be unconstitutional in 2010 by the Spanish Constitution Court supported by PP. The rejection of the Statute of Autonomy caused many in Catalonia to demand greater autonomy and, combined with the economic crisis, led to a great renewal of independentist feeling with a major grassroots demonstration in 2012 (more than one million people out of a population of 7.5m), that effectively pushed Catalan politicians to become more focused on independence, and was then followed by huge marches and demonstrations in each of the subsequent years.

So within this is a deep sense that Catalonia should be respected for its traditions, history, language and culture which are not the same as Spain. There is a perception that Spain imposes itself on Catalonia - it is the relationship of a father who demand respect from an errant daughter, instead of being a relationship of kinship, peers and mutual respect. This has not been helped by the unwillingness of the central Spanish government to listen or respond to the Catalan protests, which were met with practical silence and sitting on hands. The intransigence and inaction of the Spanish government has allowed the situation to develop so that now Catalonia believes it has a mandate for independence. How this will play out will strongly depend on how the Spanish-side react and whether it seeks to find compromise.

Cadaques to Roses
11 Jul 2017

Cadaques at the start of the hike to Roses One of the classic longer distance hiking routes for the Costa Brava is around Cap de Creus taking in Roses, Cadaques and then Port de la Selva via the GR92 calling in on hidden bays and over the hills of the Cap de Creus natural park. The route from Cadaques to Roses is around 21-23km so too long for a round-trip walk which we tend to prefer, so this was done as a linear walk. For visitors it would be possible to take a boat from Roses to start (or to get back).

Cadaques tracks through Cap de Creus We walked in July, but luckily on a partially cloudy day, as this is quite a demanding walk with a lot of up and down as the path goes from a beach at sea level, then over the top to the next bay several time. The route is sparsely population, though there are isolated campsites and hotels along the way, so taking a good supply of water is essential - even Zina our dog managed to get through 1.5 litres.

The route follows the GR92 (red-white flashes). Along the way there were some occasional  smaller paths marked, but trying a couple to get off the wider track, the paths were often overgrown with low sharp gorse, and it was easy to lose the path itself. We also missed one turning for the GR92 on Cap Norfeuga.

Cadaques to Roses path through the hills To start we were dropped off in Cadaques. Cadaques itself is relatively isolated but extremely iconic white village at the end of Cap de Creus. To reach it involves a long windy road over the top of the hills from Roses. Despite it's relative isolation, Cadaques is extremely popular with tourists, not just for the village, the bay, the landscape etc but also because it's the site of Dali's house in Port Lligat.

For our walk though, we were heading in the opposite direction, heading out of the southern side of the village after reaching the sea and then following the road around the collection of small grit and grey pebble beaches on this side of the main Cadaques bay. Cadaques isn't really a village for a beach holiday, but many sunbathers and swimmers were enjoying the calm water of the morning.

Cadaques looking towards Cala Joncols As we continued around the bays we slightly deliberately went the wrong way. Instead of following the roadway out we took a short detour along a low headland to an island joined by a small greystone bridge for photographs back towards the town itself. One feature of the walk we discovered is that the geography with relatively harsh rocky headlands and inlets means it's not possible to walk entirely along the coast and in fact the main route out of Cadaques almost immediately heads up into the hills along a dusty track instead of keeping to the coast.

The track climbs into the hills and it becomes clear that the dry ravines and rocky terrain make the over the hill route the most practical. The path up climbs for ages, and below us we can see Cadaques and the sea. Up above are one or two white farmhouses in among the scrubby landscape and above them a radar or observation point but little else. Most of the countryside is quite harsh, made up of low knee-high or thigh-high shrubs, gorse and rosemary packed in amongst jagged rock formations. Despite being isolated, we do get overtaken by a couple of mountain bikers and see a few other walkers also following the path.

Cadaques looking back to Cala Joncols With the climb and the dry heat, even this early in the walk we're talking on water. There are boats out on the sea in the distance and we can just see a lighthouse. One feature of Cap de Creus that always intrigues me is the number of terrace walls and the amount of terracing, much of it overgrown and disused now. Since creating terraces and dry stone walls would have been very hard work, I wonder why the terraces were abandoned. The modern climate seems too dry to make it worthwhile for farming. Perhaps they were grapes that were abandoned in the phyllexora outbreaks at the end of the 19th Century, or olive groves out competed as transport improved, or perhaps the past was just wetter and more fertile than now?

Towards the top, we pass another farmhouse, well-renovated with grand views situated by a small stream that surprisingly enough had a small amount of water, enough for Zina to quench her thirst, and the walk levels out across the top.

Cadaques just over Cap Norfeu After a while the track turns around the hill and we lose sight of Cadaques and catch our first glimpse of the bays and hills on the other side of the cape. There are roads and the odd car in the distance, but our path leaves the dusty track and takes a smaller path, hugging a hill-line down to a distant bay beneath us. The path is well walked and looks like it has been laid with supporting stones on the side.

 The bay ahead of us is Cala Joncols and we can see yachts in the water under the cliffs. A steady stroll down the hill and we arrive at a house and then down to a small nest of houses on the bay itself. There are cars too and a car park that is reasonably full, particularly given the only access is by a gravel-track road.

The beach is broad and has people and another small river with water. At the back is a hotel, and a tourist boat is pulled up to a platform just off the beach. The sign post points to steps and track up from the far side of the beach, and we head up again into the shrub. For some reason we miss the path and get a little lost in amongst the gorse and just try to head up to see if we can see a way out. At the top we can see a couple of other hikers picnicking and that helps us get back to the path.

Cadaques cala At this point we're cross the peninsula of Cap Norfeu, and from the top we can see the bay behind us and the coming bays on the way to Roses. For anyone with a boat, this seems to be the place to come and there are plenty of yachts and boats moored in each bay.

On the other side we walk to another signpost, and see a few more cars. The signpost says the GR92 goes along the peninsular a little way before swinging back around, but we find that this way around we can't find the path down that was marked. It looks as the only paths are heading up to the small tower on the top of Norfeu. It's only when we look back from the other side of the bay we can see how the path runs along the side of the headland and we just had to trust that the path would turn back.

Instead we walk down the fence to join the GR92 a little further along and then along the low cliff tops above the sea to the small bay at Pelosa where an open air restaurant is heaving with people and scattered families are playing on the beach.

Cadaques Cala Monjoi and El Bulli From here we follow the path around the bay-tops before having to join the road to be able to reach Cala Montjoi. We're passed by a few cars on the road and they throw up clouds of grey dust, so it's a relief to find steps down to the Cala.

Cala Montjoi itself is famous, though you might not have heard of it. It's the location of El Bulli, the world famous 3-star restaurant run by Ferran Adria, proclaimed the best in the world until it closed in 2011. Now they are transforming the restaurant into El Bulli Foundation reworking all the buildings. However, the bay and beach themselves are very pleasant - with a broad sandy beach, open and natural with a campsite in the back.

From Montjoi, the path climbs up over the top of the next set of cliffs - higher this time with views back to Norfeu. By now we're getting a little tired, but there is a constant up and down as we go up and down for the next couple of bays to Cala Murtra, the last of the swimming type beaches before Punta Falconera, and a naturist beach from the last time we walked this way.

Cadaques to Roses reaching Platja Almadrava From here we climb again to the top and the path runs on top of the cliffs (not too close to the edge). Punta Falconera has old gun emplacements built into the ground that look out towards the Bay of Roses and across to the Isles Medes and Montgri on the far side of the bay. On a clear day you can see for miles down the Costa Brava, or looking back to the hills and mountains in the distance behind Roses.

We're now on a route we know and we head back towards Roses and reach the first built up areas for the bay of  Platja Almadrava, full of sunbathers and holiday makers enjoying the sand or the bars and restaurants. We carry on following the man-made path around the bays to be met at Platja Canyelles, before a further walk in and on past Roses town to find the car.

Swimming and beaches of Tossa de Mar
11 Jul 2017

Tossa de Mar Platja Gran Tossa de Mar is one of the main package holiday locations on the Costa Brava for northern Europeans with a large selection of hotels, restaurants and bars, but will a much more genteel ambience compared to the party town of Lloret de Mar down the coast.

Tossa de Mar has three beaches in the town itself - Mar Menuda at the far end near the rocks and island, the main beach Platja Gran, and Platja de Colodar which sits just under the old town walls.

Tossa de Mar platja away from town Mar Menuda is rockier, it is the best area for snorkelling, but also attracts large numbers of divers, and people learning to dive. When we were there at the end of June we saw lots of groups of 10-12 shuffling down to the beach in wet-suits, and then had the entertainment of swimming over the top of them as they inspected the nooks and crannies at the sea floor.

Tossa de Mar - Mar Menuda Platja Gran is the main sun-bathing beach and gets quite full in the main season. The sand is gritty and similar to that of Lloret or Platja d'Aro main beach, and were it not for the location with Tossa de Mar behind you and views to the town-walls/castle to the right, it wouldn't be that special. The bay shelves quite quickly, and there are channels on the beach reserved for pedalo/canoes and for the Dofijet boats that take visitors up and down the coast down as far as Blanes.

Tossa de Mar - Platja Colodar Platja Codolar, is the smallest of the beaches and is tucked away under the town walls. It's narrower than the other beaches with more rocks and often good clear water full of irredescent small fish. If the wind is in the wrong direction though, it can attract flotsam that you have to swim through.

Facilities at the beach

The beaches have all the facilities of the active tourist town of Tossa de Mar behind them - including bars and restaurants and chiringuitos. All have lifeguards and the main beaches have areas like toilets. Platja Gran has sunbed hire and pedalo and canoe hire.

Sand quality

The sand for all the beaches is fairly gritty rather than sandy and in some places more like pea-stones, so it's not super soft for sand castles or under foot, but it's fine for walking barefoot, so long as it's not too hot.

Platja Colodar has rockier areas around what is a relatively small sandy area.

Swimming

Tossa de Mar - diving suits Mar Menuda is probably the most fun area for swimming as there are more rocks and more fish and it's possible to swim around the headland or island if the sea is calm. Certainly when we were there, we really enjoyed swimming over the top of the scuba divers, though on busy days this can make the water quite crowded.

From Mar Menuda, a longer swim takes you across to Platja Gran and then across the bay. The main bay is sandy and the boat channels (for the diving boats on Mar Menuda, and for the pedalos and Dofijet on the main beach), curtail longer swims. The main Platja Gran beach shelves quite quickly to a sandy featureless bottom. Under the town walls is rockier, but didn't have that much sea-life for snorkelling when we swam.

Tossa de Mar - diving practice at Mar Menuda Platja Codolar is rockier and clearer and definitely has more fish, with the ability to scramble over the rocks if you like diving or jumping in.

Parking

Tossa de Mar has paid-for town-parking. We tend to park a little out from the centre in quieter areas and then walk in.

Town facilities

Tossa de Mar beachside restaurants At the back of the beaches and into the town itself are a wide selection of restaurants, bars and hotels. Tossa de Mar has a selection ranging from Michelin starred to everyday beach bars. Though Tossa is a very popular holiday destination, it is quite genteel in style, and very different from the brash party town of Lloret further down the coast.

Alternative beaches

For somewhere a little quieter Cala Pola is to the north or Cala Llevandou to the south are 40-50 minutes walk away, or further still to Platja Canyelles midway to Lloret.

Walks and exploring

Tossa de Mar is on the GR92 and we have included walks to Cala Pola. The stretch from Tossa to Sant Feliu de Guixols is possible by GR92, but would be too long for a round-trip walk.

Gardens of Cap Roig - Palafrugell
17 Apr 2017

Spring is in the air, and with flowers coming into bloom and a rush of budding plants turning the Costa Brava green, it seemed a good time to visit the botanic gardens at Cap Roig, a castle built in the 1920s and 30s that sits above the sea, just on the outskirts of Calella de Palafrugell.

Cap Roig castle

Cap Roig itself is one of the earliest influences of overseas visitors on the Costa Brava. The house and gardens were formally owned by an English aristocrat Dorothy Webster and her Russian husband Colonel Woevodsky who fell in love with the area around Palafrugell built the castle and instigated the gardens.

Cap Roig still life sculpture and view Now, the house and gardens are owned by a La Caixa foundation (if you bank with La Caixa entrance is free) and are maintained as botanic gardens overlooking the Mediterranean sea with beautiful views in addition to the plants.

It is also the location of the Cap Roig music festival that runs through the summer with musicians of the quality of Tom Jones, Lady Gaga and Sting in recent years.

Cap Roig avenue of flowers The gardens are spread over 17 hectares (about 60 acres) across the slopes below the house towards the sea.

From the main entrance by the car park, you enter into a small nest of buildings, then walk along extremely well manicured paths around the the main castle. The castle part was undergoing some renovation, but I don't believe that part itself is open. Just below the house/castle is the festival area which is closed off.

Cap Roig gardens The gardens closest to the house are laid out as formal terraces with names like the Nuns' Terrace or Lovers' Garden, giving views across to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc. These areas have clipped trees and statues in among the formal specimen plants and seem specially designed to emphasize the views and vistas.

Below the terraces more towards the sea and the red headland of Cap Roig itself (Roig meaning red in Catalan) are firstly flower terraces and then further down towards the sea a set of cactus gardens.

Cap Roig statue in the park Back up above the house are then the Mediterranean gardens drawing on the local plants many of which can also be seen wild in the woods that surround the estate via the many footpaths that take walkers down towards Platja de Castell and the fields of Mont-ras.

Further out, back towards the entrance are more palms and laid paths using the natural slope of the hillside. What looked like a new childrens area was also found in this part, set close to orange groves in among the various types of palms.

For gardeners, the plants are all labelled and extremely well looked after. For the rest of us, this is an idyllic location just to enjoy the view and colours of spring.

Cap Roig view to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc

Romanya de la Selva to Platja d'Aro via Golf d'Aro Mas Nou
07 Apr 2017

Romanya de la Selva church  If it's a choice between shopping or walking, mostly I prefer walking. So to give the family time to go clothes shopping around the boutiques and chain stores of Platja d'Aro, I got them to drop me off at Romanya de la Selva with a plan to walk to meet them.

Romanya de la Selva is a small stone-built hamlet at the top of the Gavarres, above Sant Cristina d'Aro with walks to Puig d'Arques, or possibilities to follow a route down through the Gorges de Salenys. The village has a handful of restaurants with fabulous views out towards the plain of Girona in the distance.

We've walked this way before to Puig d'En Ponç through the woods. This time though we walked along the ridgeback of the main hill. If you're driving the dual carriageway from Llagostera to Sant Feliu - the main access road from the autoroute - this is the hill to your left as you drive down the valley to the sea.

View over Vall dAro As mentioned, there are options on the route to take paths through the woods, but we stayed on the road which is quiet and not heavily used. The road is initially in the woods which masks the view a little, leaving only snatches of vistas in four directions - out towards Massanet behind us, down to the valley of the Aro below right, across the Gavarres to the left, or the views to the sea and out towards Palamos and the bay at Sant Antoni ahead. We did try the path up to Puig d'En Ponç again, which took us to a great spot, with a triangulation point, but as mentioned before, because the trees were so high meant we couldn't actually see out (it would be a great spot for a small viewpoint tower).

After Puig Ponc, we came across the first fences marking the very posh golf club of Mas Nou. It's always a pity where a golf club seals off the countryside with fences to stop walkers, but the road passes right through the middle, so we didn't lose the views and instead we could observe the golfers in their trolleys and the manicured fairways and bunkers with views to the sea.

Mas Nou Golf dAro course with sea views

Golf is extremely popular on the Costa Brava with at least six golf courses nearby including a PGA championship course at Caldes de Malavella, and three courses near Pals. Golf d'Aro at Mas Nou, with it's position on the crest of the hill and views towards the coast seemed somewhat exceptions and might explain the handful of expensive cars that passed us on their way to the greens. Certainly the lush fairways and ponds for water make for a pleasant walk even though it's on the other side of a fence.

Lake near Hapimag vacation complex At the far end of the golf club is Hapimag resort - a large upmarket hotel complex and golf resort with views over the Aro valley and obviously connections direct to the golf (from the dual carriageway below as you drive past Sant Cristina d'Aro you can see the buildings looking like a medieval village above the valley).

Beyond Hapimag the road enters the Mas Nou estate residential area. It has a barrier (which was open), but the road seemed open and there were no private keep out signs. The estate is well-to-do, in keeping with the golf course, but as you reach the two radio masts underneath is the shell of an abandoned restaurant and estate club area with an empty swimming pool, weeds growing through the children's play area and grass poking through the tarmac of the tennis courts. Given the aparent wealth of the area, it's a suprise to see something in such disrepair. But it is quite common. Older estates were built at a time when buyers wanted communal facilities like pools (rather than have their own pool) and sports and other leisure activities and so developers added them to the urbanisations that popped up across the Costa Brava in the 1970s and 80s.

Mas Nou abandoned estate centre However, when the estates were finished and the houses were sold, the developers had no interest in maintaining the complexes, and the house owners decided not to pay the fees, or didn't visit enough to make the facilities worthwhile. The result is that many older estates have these disused and abandoned estate centres, despite the fact that the houses themselves around are well used and well cared for.

And so on past the radio masts, after taking the view from the Mirador road, and it's time to go down to Platja d'Aro. The views to Palamos and out to S'Agaro are great but we're still on the road and it is remarkably steep (17% or 1 in 6) almost forcing us to jog down, so it's good we weren't coming up.

The road comes down just behind the Aiguabrava water park at Platja d'Aro past the church of at Fenals d'Aro and a set of older houses of what would have been the original village. Prior to the 1950s the area was known as Fenals d'Aro, changing to become better known as Platja d'Aro (beach of the Aro, or as is occasionally still seen in Castilian Spanish Playa d'Aro) as the area opened up to tourism.

And so back into town and off to find the shoppers.

Nearby: Romanya de la Selva - Solius, rocks for climbing and ruined castle - Romanya de la Selva to Puig d'Arques - Castell d'Aro and estate of Mas Nou - Calonge (Cami de Molins and over Cabanyes) - Romanya de la Selva to Platja d'Aro via Golf d'Aro Mas Nou

 

View to Palamos from Mas Nou

Olot - capital of Garrotxa
07 Apr 2017

Olot rambla Heading towards the mountains from the coast past Banyoles and then Besalu, the first major town is that of Olot located on a plain surrounded by extinct volcanoes and home of the recent winners of the Pritzer Architecture prize, so a place recently in the international press. We've passed by many times on the way to Vall d'En Bas, Rupit or Campodron but as is normal with Catalan towns and villages, it is very easy to drive past on the way to somewhere else without actually seeing anything of the town itself. So to make up, we took a day walking in and around the town to try to get to know it better.

Olot church of Sant Pere The first thing to note is that the Garrotxa is a rich and fertile area, so it's quite green and verdent. We were visiting at the end of Spring and in the background behind the volcanic hills, we kept catching glimpses of the snow on the Pyrenees in the near distance.

We parked nearish to the centre, but were immediately struck by the hills and the temptation to head high to get a panorama was too tempting, so rather than head straight to the centre, we took a footpath up towards the remarkable church tower of Sant Pere Martir which stands on Montolivet in among an estate of houses with an enormous sculpture of a head embedded on the tower looking down at the town.

Olot statue in front of French style house We hoped to be able to follow a walk from the church around the woods and so to follow the outskirts of the town, but after tracking a few footpaths, we decided the only route was to head in towards town. But wanting to leave the town centre to last, we turned out towards Vall d'En Bas and were amazed to see what looked like French architecture at Placa Manuel Malagrida. Now obviously Catalonia neighbours on France and, at various points in its history was assimilated into France in one way or another, but in general there are relatively few buildings in a grand French style.

Olot Museu del Volcans Our next surprise was that behind the pavillion the streets led into an area of 1920 villas arranged as part of a garden city. The estate is laid out like two spoked wheels with vistas and ramblas along the diagonals and one long passeo that joins the middles and heads out to the park (Parc Nou) and the Museu dels Volcans. The museum is in one of the villas (Torre Castanys) in the centre of the Parc's landscaped gardens. We didn't visit the museum itself, but just looked around the park.

Olot hobbit house From here we followed our nose on the outskirts. We were actually looking for an unusual 'hobbit' style house that was being built on the road towards Santa Pau, and to see if we could see any of the architecture which won the prize.

Our route was a little haphazard as we passed the main bypass road and a large blue sculpture like a picture frame, and then across the fields towards the area of Sant Cristofol de les Fonts, past a memorial to Francoists shot during the early part of the Spanish Civil War.

Olot old town by church The hobbit house was in development and looked to be private, but consisted of a very organic piece of architecture of curves like a rabbit warren. When it is finished, it's quite possible it won't be as easy to see from the road, and there was no way of visiting to see more. From the house we could look back to the city and see the snowy mountains behind the town.

But we decided that it was time to head back to the centre to see what Olot really has to offer in the centre.

Olot Modernista building The town itself is a traditional mix of squares and old high narrow terrace streets of shops. Being a Sunday it was quiet as the shops were closed, but the amount of commerce suggests that it gets busy when everything is open.

By the main church a wide rambla heads away from the centre and on the rambla is a delightful modernista house. Continuing on, we pass the slightly daunting very modern architecture rust-steel covered building of Sala El Torin.

In the end we didn't quite see the architecture of RCR Arquitectes, the prize winners - though we have seen their buildings in Besalu and Ripoll, but all in all a very interesting town to see. And as we got back in the car, we noticed one of the restaurants offering Olot Potatoes - a speciality of the town with potatoes stuffed with meat and fried. Next time...

Nearby: Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Sadernes and river pools of St Aniol d'Aguja - Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot) - Rupit - Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria - Banyoles lakeside walk

Olot Frame Sculpture on outskirts

La Bisbal d'Emporda
25 Feb 2017

La Bisbal dEmporda bridge over the River Daro with water Spring rains on the Costa Brava have come, and what are often dry riverbeds now have water, the most noteworthy being the River Daro at La Bisbal d'Emporda where its old stone footbridge into the old town has a chance to show its purpose.

The villages around La Bisbal d'Emporda are some of the gems of Costa Brava, small stone-built medieval villages of narrow streets, cobblestones and vaulted central squares like Monells, Peratallada, Corca, Mandremany, Vulpellac, and Fonteta. La Bisbal itself is often overlooked.

La Bisbal dEmporda Bishops Palace For tourists, it is easy to take the main road through La Bisbal or to take the ring-road around outside and to see it as just a line of pottery and ceramics shops on the way to the coast. But, in fact, the central older town of La Bisbal, that is not visible by car has a lot of charm and history. Being the main town for Baix Emporda and a seat of the Bishop of Girona, it hides a classic continental market town with squares and passageways and its own original Jewish Call.

La Bisbal dEmporda main square The name La Bisbal means "the bishop" and comes about because the town was ceded to the Bishops of Girona from the 11th Century. La Bisbal and the surrounding villages were important both religiously and politically, with the neighbouring Baronia de Cruïlles being one of the important controlling families in the area, with their influence eventually taking in Peratallada and out to Begur and Esclanya, and with some family members becoming bishop of La Bisbal.

La Bisbal bisbalenc The history of medieval Catalonia is a little confusing, because unlike the burgeoning kingdoms in the north of Spain, that eventually became the kingdoms of Asturias, Leon, and then Castille, in Catalonia there were continuing tensions between the counts and ruling families. Overtime the Counts of Barcelona established primacy over the other counts of Catalonia, including the counts of Empuries who somewhat confusingly alternated in name between Hugh and Ponç. But at the same time, the Bishops of Girona sought influence over the Basilica in Castello d'Empuries (Catalan wikipedia link gives more details). The struggles between the various Counts in Catalonia seems to be one reason Catalonia as a territory never became a kingdom with regular power struggles sometimes leading to full on conflict (eg Aragonese Crusade or the Catalan Civil War in the 15th century) often with the help of the French.

La Bisbal dEmporda hidden corners Over the centuries, the Emporda region has seen regular flow of Spanish-French conflicts and intrigues, the last being during the Napoleonic Penisular Wars when La Bisbal was the site of a battle when the very Spanish sounding Henry O'Donnell took La Bisbal from the French (the Imperial army was commanded by the very French sounding Jacques MacDonald). As an indirect link, the Hotel at Castell d'Emporda has what they say is the largest scale model of the Battle of Waterloo, for those interested in Napoleon's time.

La Bisbal dEmporda new vaults More recently La Bisbal is best known for its ceramics and terracotta - hence the shops along the main road and the presence of the chimneys through the town. The town has both a terracotta museum and a school for ceramics for what became the most important industry for the town.

In current times, except for market day when the streets throng with local people, La Bisbal can feel quite quiet, undiscovered and undisturbed but there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore. If there were a few more cafe terraces it would be perfect as a place to sit and enjoy the history.

Neighbouring walks: La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, FontetaCanapost, Poblet Iberic and Ullastret - Palau-sator and Peratallada - Santa Susanna de Peralta and Sant Climent de Peralta - Llofriu, St Llop and Torrent - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac - Canapost to the medieval fair at Peratallada

 

Castell de Montsoriu
25 Feb 2017

Monsoriu from below If you take the AP7 from Barcelona to Girona, as you leave the Valles Oriental towards Hostalric and you find yourself passing the last heights of Montseny, then you will see a castle standing isolated on the top of its own peak looking across the valley towards Hostalric and the sea. This is the castle of Montsoriu.

Monsoriu Castle walls We came this way in November (so I'm being a little slow in adding the content) to revisit the castle after our first trip several years ago. The castle itself in that time has been subject to a lot of renovation work, but nothing can change the fabulous views from the top looking out to Girona, or across to the distant sea. Our day wasn't the clearest, and the views will be best on a colder day in winter when the air is fresh and clear and the Pyrenees are capped with snow.

Monsoriu view from castle The castle is just off the road from Hostalric to Arbucies and well signposted. There are two places to park, one at the bottom of the hill next to the turning for the road up, or two separate car parks at the top, though to get to the castle itself you still have to walk up the final stretch.

We didn't know about the upper car parks, and the lower one was full so we actually parked off the road midway and then walked up through the woods. There are a number of paths but because the castle is right at the top, all directions up get to the castle.

At the top we were surprised by how much renovation work had been done since our previous visit. If I remember correctly, previously we had been able to explore the castle freely in its more tumble-down state, as the castle has been updated, they have also introduced an information centre and access to the main part requires an entrance fee. And in Autumn the castle is only open Thursday to Sunday with the option of a guided tour.

We were visiting on a Monday, so couldn't access the castle itself, so had to stick to the exterior and the walls. The castle was built in the 10th century but was abandoned in the middle ages with the last work being carried out on it in the 14th century.

Nearby: Palafolls castle- Hostalric stroll - Lake at Sils - Castell de Montsoriu - Santa Coloma de Farners - Brunyola - Arbucies autumn walk

Waterfall at Les Escaules (Boadella)
28 Oct 2016

Waterfall at Les Escaules by restaurant Over the summer we were went back and re-explored some the Catalan gorges for swimming, along the way we came across details of The Salt de la Caula which is just by Les Escaules, north of Figueres, a little way into the hills by the Muga river. We also read that the gorge was no longer suitable for swimming, but we thought we would take a look and, eventually, found ourselves at a restaurant almost sitting under a 30m waterfall.

From what we read the gorge was thermal water and it is still listed as being open in some places, though it's not clear if this is the river above the waterfall, or further downstream. However, at the restaurant, the sign said that there had been a rockfall in 2010 during heavy rain which dropped a lot of rock and stone into the gorge leaving a very pretty waterfall, but taking away the space for swimming.

However, before we got to the restaurant we paid a short visit to the castle above Les Escaules and the village itself having actually driven past the waterfall and restaurant parking (just before the turn to the village). We also got a little stuck driving into the village looking for parking - the roads get very narrow with little space to turn around, so if you do visit, park outside and walk in.

The most remarkable part of our visit was the landscape which becomes quite dry and barren and what trees are around seem to have been blown over leaving hillsides of low scrub and rock. We parked just outside the village and walked up to the ruins of the castle above the village and the fallen trees are all around, and it seemed odd then to see such a great flush of water coming from the waterfall when we finally found it.

The village is a long narrow medieval village with a small church and square situated above the Muga river below. At the lower part of the village by the bridge you can get access to the river for paddling.

But to get to the restaurant we had to double back and then could see the waters cascading off the cliff and the noise of the water that we hadn't been able to hear from the car. The restaurant has tables and seating almost directly underneath next to the little stream fed by the water. We sat and waited for a drink (and waited and waited) enjoying the view and the strange sense of such a lot of water in such an apparently dry area.

Returning, we carried on the Boadella and then up into the almost Provencal hills to Torrades. Again another surprise and new landscape.

Nearby: Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Banyoles lakeside walk - Sant Miquel de Fluvia - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Esponella and River Fluvia

Begur - Festa d'Indians
06 Sep 2016

Begur Festa dIndians night view of town under the castle At the first weekend of September Begur holds what is one of our favourite festivals of the year - the Festa d'Indians which celebrates Begur's connection with Cuba and the Caribbean. The town's small streets become jam packed with people dressed in white wearing straw hats, drinking Mojitos and rum cocktails with music and the sounds of the samba and rumba on every street corner.

The festival is Begur's Festa Major and runs over three nights of the weekend with a lilting relaxed family atmosphere with people of all ages (many of them in their 'jubilacion' - retirement) dancing, chatting, eating and drinking with sidestreets with market stalls and bars liberally making cocktails. The special fact that everyone gets involved, people make an effort and dress up with white shirt and cotton trousers for men, or white lace cotton dresses for women gives it a very unique feeling, as if you're transported back in time to 1920s Cuba.

Begur Festa dIndians Streets Begur Festa dIndians whites and hats It's called Indians because the festival draws its inspiration from the many of the Catalan entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century and made their fortune in the tobacco and sugar trades of the West Indies, and in particular Cuba, came back to settle in Begur with their houses (Indianes) built in the South American style contrasting with the traditional Catalan village houses and leaving their mark not only on Begur, but also on other coastal villages where you'll find the Indianes almost as the first villas-by-the-sea.

Begur Festa dIndians dancing in the street Being night and dark, capturing the spirit in photos is difficult, but if you happen to be among the chic villages of the central Costa Brava for the first week of September, Indians is strongly recommended.

 

 

Meetup Group for Web and App Developers
02 Sep 2016

A brief change to our normal walking and events blog. For anyone in the Costa Brava or Girona area we're trying to start up a Meetup group for Web and App Developers. There's loads going on for internet start ups and internet companies in Barcelona, but relatively little happening in this region.

We're lucky enough to have been offered the use of a meeting room at Cinc Business Center in Girona (http://www.cinc.es) and have an aim to have a talk at least every month on some aspect of Internet technologies. Cinc offers serviced offices and space for co-working and business meetings if you are looking to start up a venture in this area.

 

Total found: 184
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 [10+] [End] [Next>>]

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
Add comment
Your name
Your email (not shown)
Enter this word (letters only):



Go to Notanant menuWebsite accessibility

Access level: public

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies: OK