Supermarkets in Figueres

We have quite a few houses available for rent in the Figueres región and and we are often asked by clients where are the best places to do their shopping. Below is a Google map where a number of supermarkets are highlighted. Bascara also has a couple of small supermarkets and a good quality butchers and all are open on Sunday mornings when there is a small market in Bascara.

The best place to stay on the Costa Brava?

We are often asked by people who are coming to the region for the first time which area along the Costa Brava is the best place to stay. There’s lots of great places to choose from and this blog post is to help people get a better idea of what area might be best for them.

Probably the most popular coastal area is the Begur and Palafrugell region and their beaches which include Sa Riera, Sa Tuna, Aigua Blava, Aigua Xelida, Tamariu and Llafranc.

Sa Riera, Begur

Sa Riera, Begur

Like most of the Costa Brava this area is very family orientated and laid back. It is popular with local Catalans and Spanish as well as with other Europeans and increasingly North Americans who are discovering the region.

The beaches can get pretty busy during July and August and unless you are within walking distance to a beach you may have to leave your villa quite early in the morning to find a good parking place.

Cadaques is another popular destination. A beautiful old fishing town, Cadaques is where Salvador Dali lived for a large part of his life. His old house in the little bay of Port Lligat is now a museum and open to the public.

Cadaques

Cadaques

There is only one road in and out of Cadaques which is quite narrow and windy through the Cap de Creus headland. This inaccessibility is the main reason why Cadaques has retained its charm and avoided the developers. So because of the nature of the access to the town I always suggest to people that Cadaques makes a great base if you plan of parking up the car and sitting back and relaxing. The town is quite compact and all of our villas in Cadaques are within walking distance of the centre with its restaurants, bars, shops and beaches. There is a quite special and unique ambience to the place. However nice Cadaques is, I would not recommend it for people who plan to spend a large part of their time driving around and exploring the region.

Empuries

Greek/Roman ruins of Empuries

Sant Marti d’Empuries is off the beaten track and a favourite of ours. This tiny coastal village has a few restaurants and shops and is right on the beach. With nice sandy and un crowded beaches this is the place we normally go to ourselves if we are having a day at the beach. For those of you interested in history there’s the ancient Greek and Roman ruins and neighbouring Empuries. L’Escala which has a larger selection of bars and restaurants is only a 20 minutes walk along the seafront.

If bars, disco’s and partying you are after then Lloret de Mar is where you should go. Otherwise avoid it.

Other areas of the Costa Brava worth considering include Port de la Selva, Roses, and Palamos.

 

 

The best Costa in Spain?

Which is the best Costa in Spain is a question we are asked from time to time. Spain has no less than 13 Costas to choose from, 9 of which are on the Mediterranean coastline from the Catalan Costa Brava in the north and on the border with France down to the Costa del Sol on the southern tip of Spain.

The Costas of Spain

Spanish Costas

We have visited most of the Costas and for us the hands down winner is the Costa Brava. In fact we liked it so much we decided to come and live here!

There’s a number of reasons why we love the Costa Brava so much. From its intimate hidden coves, the climate, the people, its culture, the food, its medieval villages and the all round general ambience make the Costa Brava the best coastal region in Spain.

The Costa Brava was the very first Costa in Spain to welcome holiday makers back in the 1950’s and 60’s and for many people the Costa Brava conjures up images of tacky package holidays, fish and chips and sangria and for the first decade or so this is what people came here for. But because of the rugged nature of the Costa Brava coastline the developers quickly moved further south in search of flatter, more accessible land to build their high rise apartment blocks and for the most part left the Costa Brava behind. So today the Costa Brava is perhaps one of the better preserved Mediterranean coastal areas with little fishing villages, unspoilt coves and a distinct lack of large hotels and apartment blocks and package holidays.

Aigua Gelida, Tamariu

Aigua Xelida, Tamariu

With the exception of Lloret de Mar you will not find package tourism, loud all night bars or drunken teenagers on the Costa Brava. There is a more laid back family orientated culture here with holiday makers from a wide selection of countries from all around the world and local Catalan and Spanish people who have second residences in the area.

The temperatures on the Costa Brava do not reach the heights of those on the Costa del Sol although an average of the mid 30’s in July and August is hot enough for most people.

The province of Girona has a lot more to offer the traveller than just a fantastic coastline. There’s loads of things to see and do in the region from visiting unspoilt medieval villages, the Dali triangle, visiting the beech forests of the extinct volcanic region of La Garrotxa or a nice walk around the lake of Banyoles.

A view of Banyoles lake along a jetty

Banyoles lake just after sunrise

Then of course there’s the food! With a great selection of fresh local products at their disposal Catalan chefs are recognised worldwide as innovators from the record 5 time No1 restaurant in the world El Bulli to the current No1, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. But it is not just all about Michelin star restaurant food as the general standard in the region is very good.

The best bits of the Costa Brava? The area around Begur and Palafrugell with its small bays and coves is very popular as is the Dali famed Cadaques. We also like the coastal village of Sant Marti d’Empuries which does not get as crowded as Begur or Cadaques and has nice beaches and a few decent restaurants to choose from.

The beach of AiguaBlava, Begur

Aigua Blava, Begur

 

Costa Brava water parks

The Costa Brava has three water parks suitable for a great family day out.

Aquabrava in the northern section of the Costa Brava is a water park which has no less than 18 attractions to choose from http://www.aquabrava.com/

Aquabrava

The Anaconda

Water World close to Lloret de Mar is a well known water park which was first opened in 1985. http://m.waterworld.es/ The park has around 20 rides and is a firm favourite for all the family

Water World Llorett de Mar

Water World Lloret de Mar

Aquadiver is another water park situated close to Platja de Aro with around 15 rides for all the family. http://m.aquadiver.com/

Platja d'Aro

Aquadiver, Platja d’Aro

 

 

Cala Sant Francesc, Blanes

Cala Sant Francesc, Blanes

Cala Sant Francesc, Blanes

The lovely little bay of Cala Sant Francesc just to the north of Blanes is one of the nicest intimate beaches on the whole Costa Brava. With its aquamarine waters and fine sand, Cala Sant Francesc is a very popular beach during the summer months.

Cala Sant Francesc, Blanes, Costa Brava

The beautiful beach of Cala Sant Francesc, Blanes

Cala Sant Francesc also has some rock pools which are great for children to explore and search for marine life. There is also a great restaurant, Cala Bona, which is right on the beach. It does get quite full during summer and tables should be booked in advance.

Luxury villa, Cala Sant Francesc, Blanes, Costa Brava

Luxury villa Cala Sant Francesc, Blanes, Costa Brava

Charming Villas Catalonia lists a great luxury villa with views over the Cala Sant Francesc which is one of the most sought after locations on the whole Costa Brava.

Michelin starred restaurants in Catalonia

El Celler de Can Roca Girona

One of the aperitifs from a recent visit to El Celler de Can Roca

Catalonia has a very high concentration of Michelin starred restaurants, perhaps more than any other place on Earth. Here is a list of the Michelin starred restaurants close to Girona and the Costa Brava. With a fantastic selection of fresh local produce at their disposal Catalan chefs have always led the way in Gastronomic innovation. Ferran Adria and his ground breaking restaurant El Bulli, is quite possibly the most famous chef in the world.

Bo-Tic Corca

Inventive dish from the restaurant Bo-Tic

With three Michelin stars and recently voted the best restaurant in the world Girona’s very own El Celler de Can Roca leads the way. http://www.cellercanroca.com

However El Celler de Can Roca is not the only restaurant in Catalonia with three Michelin stars. Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mar also holds this distinction. http://www.ruscalleda.cat

With two Michelin Stars we have Les Cols in Olot http://www.lescols.com and Can Fabes in Sant Celoni http://www.canfabes.com

Then we have a great selection of restaurants with one Michelin star in the Girona province:

Restaurant Massana Girona

Beautiful dish from Massana, Girona

Massana also in Girona http://www.restaurantmassana.com

L’Aliança d’Anglès in Anglès http://www.restaurantalianca.com

Ca l’Arpa in Banyoles http://www.calarpa.com

Bo-Tic in Corçà, close to La Bisbal http://www.bo-tic.com

Els Tinars in Llagostera http://www.elstinars.com

Mas Pau in Avinyonet de Puigventós http://www.maspau.com

La Cuina de Can Simon in Tossa de Mar http://www.lacuinadecansimon.com

Les Magnolies in Arbucies http://www.lesmagnolies.com

Casamar in Llafranc http://www.hotelcasamar.net

La Llar in Roses http://www.restaurantlallar.com/

Ca l’Enric in La Vall de Bianya http://www.calenric.net

Els Brancs in Roses http://www.elsbrancs.com

Can Jubany in Calldetenes http://www.canjubany.com

Girona Barcelona high speed train timetable

Travelling between Figueres and Girona to Barcelona is now much easier and quicker thanks to the new AVE high speed train line. Opened in early 2013 the travelling time between Figueres and Barcelona is around 52 minutes and 38 minutes between Girona and Barcelona. The cost of a return ticket is around 25€ from Girona and around 32€ from Figueres. Here is the timetable of high speed trains between Figueres and Barcelona and Girona and Barcelona.

Figueres, Girona, Barcelona timetable

The timetable of the high speed train between Barcelona and Girona and Figueres

Platja Fonda, Begur

Platja Fonda, Begur

Platja Fonda, Begur

The Begur coastline stretching from Platja de Raco in the north to AiguaBlava in the south offers the beach lover some great choices of beach. Perhaps one of the best of these beaches is Platja Fonda.

Platja Fonda, Begur

A Spring day in Platja Fonda beach, Begur

Not as big as Sa Riera and lacking restaurants, shops and bars this is perhaps a somewhat less crowded option suitable for serious beach lovers.

Platja Fonda, Begur, Costa Brava

Platja Fonda beach, Costa Brava

The clear turquoise waters and the lack of mass tourism make this a great choice of beach for those looking to simply enjoy swimming and sunbathing.

Platja Fonda, Begur

Platja Fonda beach, Begur, Costa Brava

Cadaques: Where I Left My Worries Behind The Mountains.

Cap de Creus

Onboard the Sant Isidre

This is a guest post by Ash Clark, one of our bloggers on our recent “blog trip” to Cadaques and the Costa Brava.

Seeing as I arrived at night, it wasn’t until the next day that I really got to appreciate the unique location that Cadaqués is set in.

When I woke the next morning, I got to see what it is that has made this sleepy fishing village grow into a popular summer holiday spot.

Walking from my villa through the cobbled lanes that wind around the town’s whitewashed buildings and villas, I had no doubt in my mind that I was on the Mediterranean.

Cadaques

A typical street of Cadaques

I was lucky enough to spend my first day sailing on a ‘laüt’, a traditional Catalan fishing vessel. While I generally find most sailing experiences rather memorable, this particular one especially stood out as we sailed along the coastline of the Cap de Creus National Park. The unique perspective offered from the decks of our boat really allowed me to appreciate how spectacular the natural landscape is in this part of Spain.

While the coastline that Cadaqués sits on is without a doubt its main draw card, it was the mountains around the town that drew a lot of my attention.

The vast majority of the hillsides around Cadaqués have terrace levels, made from stack-stone retaining walls.

It doesn’t take one long to realise that most of these impressive walls are rather aged and that the incredible amounts of manual labour it would of taken to construct them was originally completed to serve a specific purpose.

The blank terraced hillsides that dominate the area today haven’t always been that way. I soon learned that Cadaqués was once a major producer of wine and olive oil. Unfortunately the wineries and olive farms that once thrived here were completely wiped out after an outbreak of a plant virus that destroyed the plants.

Today, wineries in the region are making a come back, offering some high quality drops of both red and white which, like almost every aspect of Catalan, have their own unique flare to them.

Cadaques

A little bay along the Cap de Creus

As the local saying goes, “When you come to Cadaqués, you leave your worries behind the mountains.” The natural scenery, food, art and culture on display in this fascinating town really do play true to those words for those who visit.

 

About the Author: Ash Clark is a travel writer and photographer from Sydney, Australia. With a strong curiosity, he never manages to stay in one place for too long. To keep up to date with his current travels you can follow his personal travel blog at www.themostalive.com and on twitter @themostalive.

Costa Brava Hot Air Balloon trip

The Catalan Pyrenees

The snow capped Pyrenees

 If you are looking for great activities to partake in while in the Costa Brava there can be few better than taking a Hot Air Balloon ride. There are various balloon companies to choose from in the Girona province. In our opinion the extinct volcanic region Garrotxa offered us the best mix of terrain and a closer proximity to the stunning snow capped Pyrenees.

Extinct volcanoes

The extinct volcanoes Croscat and Santa Margarita in the Garrotxa region.

 We flew with http://www.voldecoloms.cat/ who have great modern installations between Olot and Santa Pau. There is a sweet feeling of anticipation as the balloons are being prepared and adrenalin starts to surge once you get into the basket. You lift silently up into the clouds and are quickly welcomed by some spectacular bird’s eye views of the surrounding landscape.

Mas de la Roureda

Mas de La Roureda, one of Charming Villas properties

 Typically a flight lasts for 1.5 hours and although the wind can never be guaranteed, a common landing zone is around the picturesque medieval village of Besalu. Whilst airborne everybody is offered a glass of Cava and some biscuits. Upon returning to the installations close to Santa Pau everyone is treated to a typical Catalan breakfast of Pa amb tomaquet, cheeses, cured meats and wine. If you only take one Hot Air Balloon ride in your life make it over the Garrotxa region with Vol de Coloms.