About Sara Marti

Sara, Charming Villas Catalonia

Costa Brava Hot Air Balloon

Soaring over extinct volcanoes

Everyone should go up in a hot air balloon at least once in their lifetime. Let us at Charming Villas Catalonia help you plan your Costa Brava hot air balloon trip.

The Catalan Pyrenees
The snow capped Pyrenees

If you are looking for unique activities while in the Costa Brava there can be few better than taking a Hot Air Balloon ride. There’s various balloon companies to choose from in the Girona province. For us, flying over the extinct volcanic region Garrotxa sounded exciting. The interesting mix of volcanoes, oak forest and medieval villages plus the stunning snow capped Pyrenees in the distance was a winner for us.

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

Costa Brava hot air balloon companies

We flew with Vol de Coloms who have great modern installations between Olot and Santa Pau. Another local company who fly over the Emporda region, closer to the Costa Brava are Globus Emporda.

It is early morning and there’s a sweet feeling of anticipation as the balloons are being prepared. Adrenaline starts to surge once you are asked to 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 a type of local biscuit. With so many interesting things to look at this was an experience never to forget.

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.

Planning a hot air balloon excursion

At Charming Villas Catalonia we are based locally and offer a free concierge service to all our clients. We know the area very well and take great pleasure in sharing our favorite places with our clients. Apart from hot air balloon trips we can help plan a whole host of other local activities. We can help plan day trip itineraries and give you suggestions of some off the beaten track restaurants. Lunch on a pier with fishermen? No problem, we can arrange that!

Luxury vacation homes Girona

Browse our selection of upmarket and hand picked vacation homes on the Costa Brava and Girona. Let us help you with the villa selection process – we know all our homes intimately.

New Year in Catalonia

New Year celebrations in Catalonia

Starting off the New Year in Catalonia in the right way!

Fancy celebrating New Year’s Eve the way Catalans and Spanish do!? One of the most popular New Year´s Eve tradition is the 12 grapes of good luck. At 12 seconds to midnight the countdown begins and each time the bell rings in a new second, everyone has to eat a grape, for a total of twelve grapes. Insider tip – many people peel the grapes beforehand. Time consuming yes, but they are easier to swallow so worth the effort!

Cava, Cava cork, happy new year
Cava corks are always marked with a four-pointed star.

12 Grapes and Cava

Then at the stroke of midnight the cork on the Cava bottle is popped, and people kiss each other on both cheeks.

Cava is the Catalan sparkling wine made by a traditional method in the same way as champagne (with the second fermentation in the bottle). There are some fabulous examples at great prices in comparison to French Champagne. Almost all Cava is produced in Catalonia, especially in the Penedes wine region.

Don’t be fooled into accepting an inferior sparkling wine. You can distinguish cava by the cork, which should be marked with a four-pointed star!

Salut and Happy New Year!

Charming Villas Catalonia

At Charming villas Catalonia we offer our clients a varied selection of high standard Barcelona vacation rentals. From Barcelona beachfront apartments to large farmhouses close to Barcelona.

Locally based we offer a free concierge service to all of our clients. Our goal is to make sure that our clients make the most out of their time while in Catalonia. We can help plan fun day-trips to the Costa Brava and all kinds of activities and extra services. From tables at the number one restaurant in Spain, El Celler de Can Roca to dining on a pier with fishermen. Let us know how we can help plan the perfect vacation and we will do the rest.

Catalan Christmas Traditions

The Pooping Log!

Catalonia has its own unique traditions over the Christmas period and perhaps one of the most unusual is the Tió de Nadal (roughly translated as “Christmas Log”). Popularly called “Caga tió” (The pooping log in English). Catalan Christmas traditions such as this are somewhat unusual.

Tió de Nadal
El Tió de Nadal, a Catalan Christmas tradition.

The Tió de Nadal is found in living rooms of Catalan homes during the Christmas season. It is a small to medium size log standing up on two little stick legs and usually with a broad smiling face drawn on one end. It wears a red farmer’s hat called “barretina” and is covered with a little blanket so it doesn’t get cold at night.The Tió comes from the forest on the day of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), and from that day onward children give the Tió a little bit to “eat” every night.

On Christmas day or, depending on the particular household, on Christmas Eve, children hit the Tió with a stick. It is this bashing while singing a song that orders it to loosen its bowels and let drop the presents!

The Tió does not drop large objects, as those are brought by the Three Wise Men on the 6th of January – another Catalan Christmas traditions. Instead it leaves small presents for the children, as well as candies, nuts, nougats. Also wine and other goodies that are shared by everyone.

Charming Villas Catalonia

At Charming villas Catalonia we offer our clients a varied selection of high standard Barcelona vacation rentals. From Barcelona beachfront apartments to large farmhouses close to Barcelona.

Locally based we offer a free concierge service to all of our clients. Our goal is to make sure that our clients make the most out of their time while in Catalonia. We can help plan fun day-trips to the Costa Brava and all kinds of activities and extra services. From tables at the number one restaurant in Spain, El Celler de Can Roca to dining on a pier with fishermen. Let us know how we can help plan the perfect vacation and we will do the rest.

Mushroom season in Catalonia

When is the mushroom season in Catalonia?

The months of October and November are mushroom season in Catalonia. Large numbers of Catalans pour into the countryside in search of wild mushrooms or “bolets”. It is one of the autumn rituals of our region: we “hunt” for mushrooms and then we eat them!  Although there are many edible species we use the name “bolets” to refer to all of them. But then there are specific names according to the type, like “rovellons”, “rossinyols”, “ceps”, “llenegues” and many more.

Wild mushrooms
Mushroom season in Catalonia

It is a healthy pastime (long walks), and enchanting too, as autumnal forests are so beautiful. And while enjoying the stimulus of a mycological hunt, you feel an additional glow of achievement and pride when you actually find one! Mushrooms can be cooked in many different ways: they can be grilled, baked, fried or stewed with meat and other vegetables.

But precaution is to be practiced at all times. It is very important to know how to distinguish the good ones from those that are not so good and from those that can kill you! So don’t eat any mushrooms you have picked unless you, or someone that knows, have identified them 100%. Follow this link for more information about mushrooms in Catalonia

Otherwise play safe and find yourself a good restaurant for a great “vedella amb bolets” lunch!

Charming Villas Catalonia

At Charming villas Catalonia we offer our clients a varied selection of high standard Barcelona vacation rentals. From Barcelona beachfront apartments to large farmhouses close to Barcelona.

Locally based we offer a free concierge service to all of our clients. Our goal is to make sure that our clients make the most out of their time while in Catalonia. We can help plan fun day-trips to the Costa Brava and all kinds of activities and extra services. From tables at the number one restaurant in Spain, El Celler de Can Roca to dining on a pier with fishermen. Let us know how we can help plan the perfect vacation and we will do the rest.

The Festivities around the 15th of August

The 15th of August festivities

What are the festivities around the 15th of August in Catalonia? During the week before and the week after the 15th of August there are many festivals (Festes Majors) taking place in Catalonia. Streets and squares of many villages and towns are decorated and an array of traditional events take place including concerts, dancing, markets and fairs.

Festa Major de Gracia
A decorated street during the Festa Major de Gracia in Barcelona

Why do so many festivities take place around the 15th of August? One of the reasons is because this is the period in the calendar when the mowing fields ended. Centuries ago the vast majority of the population worked in the fields so this was a huge time to celebrate. Also the Christian tradition set the 15th of August as the date to celebrate the Assumption of Mary. This commemorates the mystery of the elevation of Mary’s soul, the Mother of God, to heaven.

Festa Major de Gràcia

One of the biggest and better known festivals is the “Festa Major de Gràcia”. Gracia is one of the neighborhoods of Barcelona and which used to be a separate neighboring village near to Barcelona. No less than17 streets and squares are decorated by residents who transform their street into elaborately themed carnival style decorations.

Charming Villas Catalonia

At Charming villas Catalonia we offer our clients a varied selection of high standard Barcelona vacation rentals. From Barcelona beachfront apartments to large farmhouses close to Barcelona.

Locally based we offer a free concierge service to all of our clients. Our goal is to make sure that our clients make the most out of their time while in Catalonia. We can help plan fun day-trips to the Costa Brava and all kinds of activities and extra services. From tables at the number one restaurant in Spain, El Celler de Can Roca to dining on a pier with fishermen. Let us know how we can help plan the perfect vacation and we will do the rest.

Rupit in Catalonia

Exploring rural Catalonia

Few tourists make their way to Rupit when coming to Catalonia for their holidays. Located in the province of Osona this picturesque village is set on top of an escarpment 845m above sea level. Even though it’s a popular destination by Catalan day-trippers it is rarely visited by foreigners. The streets and lanes of this small town have retained an atmosphere of gone-by times.

Rupit, Catalonia

Rupit in Catalonia has retained its medieval charm, with narrow cobblestone streets and a beautiful age old plaza. A number of walking holiday companies have routes that pass through Rupit such as On Foot Holidays.

Rupit
The streets and lanes of this small town have retained an atmosphere of gone-by times, and has retained its medieval charm.

The countryside around it is wild and beautiful, with dramatic rock formations and spectacular views across the Pyrenean foothills. The river running through Rupit has carved out a deep gorge over millions of years resulting in the 100m high Sallent waterfall.

It is definitely a place worth visiting when you come to Catalonia!

Read more about Rupit and the province of Osana on the Visit Osona website.

Costa Brava holiday villas

At Charming Villas Catalonia we offer a selection of hand picked luxury villas on the Costa Brava. Browse our portfolio of luxury Costa Brava vacation rentals and Barcelona beachfront homes.

Locally based we offer a free concierge service to all of our clients. Our goal is to make sure that our clients make the most out of their time while in Catalonia. We can help plan fun day-trips to the Costa Brava and all kinds of activities and extra services. From tables at the number one restaurant in Spain, El Celler de Can Roca to dining on a pier with fishermen. Let us know how we can help plan the perfect vacation and we will do the rest.

Fancy some Calçots?

What are Calçots?

Catalonia is known around the world for its cutting-edge molecular gastronomy – famed by the many Michelin starred restaurants- but there is still plenty of traditional down to earth food to be had! We have our own unique culinary customs and eating calçots is one of them. Fancy some Calcots? Typically they are eaten from late Autumn to early Spring. Calçots are a variety of scallion. They are milder than onions and look similar to small leeks.

Fancy some Calcots?
Preparing for a Calcotada image credit www.valls.cat

It is a generally accepted story that a peasant farmer from Valls (south of Barcelona), began growing calçots in the latter part of the 19th century. He covered them with earth – in Catalan, “calçar” literally means “to put the shoes on”- in order to keep the edible part white.

How to eat Calcots

The Catalan method of cooking the calçots is to grill them over a flaming barbecue. They are traditionally served on a terracotta roof tile, rather than a plate, to keep them warm. Diners peel away the blackened outer layers, and then dip the tender bulbs in Romesco, a sauce made of tomatoes, almonds, garlic, peppers, vinegar and oil.

How to eat Calcots
The method of eating Calcots image credit www.valls.cat

Mmmmmmm! Messy but delicious!

Fancy some Calçots?

More information about the history and origin of Calcots can be found at the Valls Town Hall website.

Where to have a Calcotada?

At Charming villas Catalonia we offer our clients a varied selection of high standard Barcelona vacation rentals. From Barcelona beachfront apartments to large farmhouses close to Barcelona.

Locally based we offer a free concierge service to all of our clients. Our goal is to make sure that our clients make the most out of their time while in Catalonia. As well as arranging a Calcotada we can help plan fun day-trips to the Costa Brava and all kinds of activities and extra services. From tables at the number one restaurant in Spain, El Celler de Can Roca to dining on a pier with fishermen. Let us know how we can help plan the perfect vacation and we will do the rest.

Catalan Castells

An introduction to Catalan Castells

Els Castells – a Catalan word that means castles – are a cultural tradition particular to Catalonia. The human towers are formed by Castellers standing on the shoulders of one another in a succession of stages (between six and ten). Each town has it’s own team and are dressed in their own colors. Both visually stunning and seemingly rather dangerous, a meeting of various towns is an exciting occasion.

How a Castell is formed

Castellers
Catalan Castells

There are three definite parts to a castle: La pinya (base) is a bunch of strong, big castellers with the arms locked together in a taut circle. They support their teammates as they create level upon level with progressively fewer and lighter people to form el tronc (trunk) which is the central part of the castle made up of some two to five human layers.

The uppermost levels of the tower are known as El pom de de dalt, and comprise young children. The Anxaneta is the tiniest (and bravest!) child that climbs all the way to the very top. Supported by only two people, he or she raises a hand with four fingers to symbolize the Catalan flag.

The cultural importance of Castells

As well as having cultural and symbolic importance for the people of Catalonia, the Castells are considered a demonstration of sporting prowess.

The Castell season runs from April to November, with teams performing regularly at Festa Majors, national celebrations and Catalan competitions.

Read more about Castellers and Catalan Castells here.

Costa Brava holiday villas

At Charming Villas Catalonia we offer a selection of hand picked luxury villas on the Costa Brava. Browse our portfolio of luxury Costa Brava vacation rentals and Barcelona beachfront homes.

Locally based we offer a free concierge service to all of our clients. Our goal is to make sure that our clients make the most out of their time while in Catalonia. We can help plan fun day-trips to the Costa Brava and all kinds of activities and extra services. From tables at the number one restaurant in Spain, El Celler de Can Roca to dining on a pier with fishermen. Let us know how we can help plan the perfect vacation and we will do the rest.

Palau de la musica Barcelona

The Palau de la Musica is one of Barcelona’s hidden treasures. Quite often overlooked by the usual tourist the Palau de la Música is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Palau de la musica Barcelona is located in the heart of city just minutes away from Placa Catalunya.

Palau de la musica
Palau de Musica, a fine example of Modernist architecture.

Visiting the Palau de Musica

The Palau de la musica Barcelona was built built between 1905 and 1908 as a place where music could be enjoyed at its best. Today it is still hosts important festivals and music concerts.

The breathtaking architecture full of colour and natural light is a magnificent example of Modernist architecture. The Palau was designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner, who was a contemporary of Gaudi.

The interior design, made of mosaics, sculpted stones and numerous impressive stained glasses, is absolutely stunning and well worth a visit.

The best way to enjoy the Palau is to go to an actual concert, but there are also daily tours taking place in English, Catalan and Spanish. Visit: the Palau de la Musica website for more information.

Costa Brava holiday villas

At Charming Villas Catalonia we offer a selection of hand picked luxury villas on the Costa Brava. Browse our portfolio of luxury Costa Brava vacation rentals and Barcelona beachfront homes.

Locally based we offer a free concierge service to all of our clients. Our goal is to make sure that our clients make the most out of their time while in Catalonia. We can help plan fun day-trips to the Costa Brava and all kinds of activities and extra services. From tables at the number one restaurant in Spain, El Celler de Can Roca to dining on a pier with fishermen. Let us know how we can help plan the perfect vacation and we will do the rest.