catalonia Tag

nuria valley, vall de nuria, pyrenees, catalonia, spain (2)
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Into the valley

Getting to the Nuria Valley There are only two ways to get to the heart of the Nuria Valley, high in the Spanish Pyrenees and isolated from much of the region. The first is to walk. The second is on an antiquated train, along the ridges above valleys and through mountain tunnels. Coming out of the last tunnel, the light shines in through the window and, across a lake at eye level, the destination is revealed. It is an enchanting way to arrive. Not that the walk is unpleasant. It can take a few hours uphill (shorter downhill) and follows the valley up almost a thousand metres. The path sometimes feels as though it’s on a cliff ledge; sometimes it comes down into the valley and crosses the river; and often it leads you to viewpoints that look out across the stunning landscapes of Catalonia. The Nuria Valley The Nuria Valley is a popular...

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08 January
pyrenees, catalonia, spain, landscape, scenery, bicycling (4)
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Cycling in the Pyrenees

Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park All too often the road seems more like a highway. As I travel across countries, trying to see as much as possible, sometimes it’s the detail that gets lost. On trains, you see the landscapes blur past. On buses, it’s always the quickest way between cities – not necessarily the most scenic. And planes… well, I don’t think I need to describe how little you see on them. So it was a nice change to spend a morning exploring the countryside of northern Spain on the back of an electric bicycle. Along the quiet laneways, past the fields and through the small little villages that spot the area. The Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park has an ominous name but it’s as calm as anywhere could be. The gentle hum of the bike’s electric motor and the whishing of the turning wheels capture perfectly the Pyrenees region of...

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03 December
barcelona, shopping, La Boqueria, market in barcelona, spain, food markets, stalls (6)
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Shopping at La Boqueria

La Boqueria markets, Barcelona When it comes to Spain, there seems to be nothing more important than food. Every meal becomes a feast - a long rambling expedition down a path of courses, helped along with many a glass of wine. But it's not just the quantity which is important...

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28 November
Barcelona-2012-53_web
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Breaking away under a bloody flag

Catalonian independence Legend has it the flag of Catalonia was born from blood. The blood of a man called Wilfred the Hairy, who stories (but not necessarily any historical evidence) claim is the founder of Catalonia. He was injured in war in August of the year 897 and would die there on the battlefield. But not before he ran his four bloodied fingers down a copper shield to create a coat of arms that today is found on the flag that flies so proudly above this region. When it comes to the pride of Catalonia – and it is undeniable – a crucial step is about to be taken in just a few days’ time that could lead the region down the path to becoming the world’s newest country. I’ll get to that in just a second, because it’s important to first ask what would Wilfred the Hairy think of it all? After...

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21 November
barcelona, spain, queen song, city tour (9)
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The melody of Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain Barcelona, it was the first time that we met. Barcelona, how can I forget? It’s the mix of the classic with the modern that gives Barcelona its flavour. The same way the operatic melodies of Montserrat Caballe combine with the stylised pop of Freddie Mercury’s voice in their song ‘Barcelona’. I don’t know why I think about this song when I think of Barcelona now. It’s been weeks since I was there and I have only discovered the duet since then, as I did research into a city that I feel calling me back. Perhaps the song is part of that: siren-like, it’s more like the city than it ever meant to be. Montserrat Caballe, the opera singer and Barcelona local, asked Freddie Mercury to help her write an ode to the city in preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games. She was supposed to be the guide, the local expert with the...

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20 November
weird cool inventions, miba museum, barcelona, invention museum, spain (9)
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The coolest and weirdest inventions ever made

miBa museum, Barcelona You know what they say: ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’. I guess that explains the cushion that has been made into a television remote control so you can never lose it. In Barcelona, the miBa Museum is the ultimate collection of the strangest and coolest inventions ever created. They’re the kind of items you would never have thought of but, when you see them, wonder how it hadn’t been obvious all along that you needed one. The museum was started by a Spaniard called Pep Torres who is himself an inventor. The aim is to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship… and he hopes the exhibitions will instil people with a desire to go and invent. My thoughts: well, having seen some of the things on display, I wonder whether some of these aspiring inventors should stick with their day jobs. There are some fun ideas here but I’m not sure...

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06 November
mushroom hunting, pyrenees, spain, local food, mushrooms, michelin restaurants in spain, mushroom cooking (4)
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We are the champignons

Mushroom-hunting in the Spanish Pyrenees Basket in hand, I begin my hunt. This is a well-trodden path but new treasures are growing every day. At the base of trees, under bushes and poking out of the grass are the mushrooms – our targets for today. With me is Michelin-rated chef Francesc Rovira. Just a fifteen minute drive from his Fonda Xesc restaurant in the Spanish town of Gombren, this is his grocery. Some of the tastiest mushrooms available are here – fresh and free. You just need to know where to look, as I discover. “I like to go to forest”, Francesc tells me. “I spend a lot of time in the kitchen so going to the forest is going back to nature and taking care of nature.” But it also makes for a better meal, he believes. “When you have to pick the mushrooms yourself, when you cook it you cook it with a little...

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16 October
hot air balloon company, tour, pyrenees, spain, catalonia, things to do in catalonia, adventure (7)
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The deflated balloon

Hot air balloon in the Pyrenees, Spain Deflated. That’s how I felt. That’s how we all felt. But sometimes these things are out of your control. Not everything on your travels goes well. It’s important to learn that and to still try to find the good in the experiences. Still, we were pissed off. The plan was a morning of hot air ballooning over the Pyrenees Mountains in the northern Spanish region of Catalonia. Arriving before dawn, the clouds already looked ominous but the men unfurling the balloons across the tarmac was a promising sign. I tried with my mind to blow away the grey covering the sky and focus on the colours being spread out on the ground. Blue, red, orange, yellow. The coloured patchwork of the material mesmerised me. I had never been in a hot air balloon before and the excitement was building as we held it open while a large...

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11 October
how to make, making the perfect gin and tonic, gin, tonic, glass, ice, lemon, lime
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Making the perfect gin and tonic

Gin and tonic recipe [wp_geo_map] I call it a ‘gin and tonic’. The Spanish call it a ‘gin tonic’. Who needs conjunctions when they taste so good? In the north east of the country, deep into Catalonia, gin tonics have become the fashionable drink. People sit outside on the street tables drinking them. Some bars serve only gin and nothing else. One of them is Els Cacadors in the small town of Ribes de Freser. It’s a family business that also has a restaurant and a hotel – but, of course, it’s the drinks I’m most interested in. The good news is that one of the owners, Ramon Pau, has offered to teach me how to make the perfect gin tonic and let me taste a few different types. “Ten years ago in Spain people drink wine, now it’s the same with gin tonic,” he explains. “Gin tonic is now a different category and it is...

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09 October
cap de creus, natural park, catalonia, spain, salvador dali inspiration, home, childhood, great masturbator (9)
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The inspiration of Salvador Dali

Cap de Creus Natural Park, Spain Sometimes there are minds you can’t even imagine comprehending, imaginations seemingly too warped to understand, things that seem to be but exist only when you’re imagining them. Imagination – it comes from somewhere. Perhaps it comes from inspiration. That makes sense, doesn’t it? There needs to be a spark and what is inspiration if the not the ignition of an idea? Just like fire needs heat to exist, all the best creativity needs a stimulus. Salvador Dali, the great twentieth century painter, found inspiration here on the coast of Spain. In the Cap de Creus Natural Park in the country’s Costa Brava region, he found the shapes that would form in his mind and be realised on the canvas. Rocks like animals, trees like people, perhaps even clouds like melting clocks? Dali grew up in this region and as a child he would spend time along the coast....

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08 October