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As temperatures rise out of single numbers, at last,  jackets, scarves and hats can be discarded because the flowers are blossoming, shoots are appearing and the smell of cut grass fills the air.  Cold air is being substituted for an air that has a fresh warm smell – Spring is coming!  Daylight Saving Time is upon us once again and this means longer days.  Spain, Portugal, France and the UK, among others, will be putting their clocks forward on March 30th at 2am!!

Clocks forward 2014

We all love Spring, a chance to shed our layers and open our wings. Our eyes open as we look up rather than down. People are happy, anticipating the Summer, so gardens get tidied and houses get painted.  We feel the need to get out and about under blue skies and discover new places.  Why all the excitement?

Night falls early in Winter, giving the impression that there’s not enough hours in the day and so we crave more daylight. Since the shortest day of the year, back in December,  the days have slowly been getting longer, but it’s not enough, and they need a bit of help!  Don’t forget, day light saving time starts (has started already or ends depending where you are!)  at the end of this month (or not), as most of  Europe anxiously awaits “Summer Time!”  An hour of sleep is lost when the clocks go forward, but daylight saving time arrives with the promise of an extra hour of evening light for months ahead.  On the other side of the World (and in parts of the southern hemisphere) the situation is reserved, as Australia, for example, leaves Summer time and heads into Winter time, thus turning the clocks back.  Something the rest of us will not be doing until well after Summer.

Still confused about if the clocks go forwards or backwards?

Most people use the mnemonic “spring forwards, fall backwards” to know what to do with their clocks.  In Spring they “spring” forward and in Fall (Autumn) they “fall” back.

Clocks in The United States and Canada sprang forward already, on the 9th of March at 02.00h (until the 2nd of November 2014, when they fall back again)

Clocks in Spain and France spring forward on the 30th of March at 02.00h (until the 26th of October 2014, when they fall back again)

Clocks in the UK and Portugal spring forward on the 30th of March at 01.00h  (until the 26th of October 2014,  when they fall back again)

Clocks in Australia will fall back on the 6th of April 2014 at 03.00h (until the 5th of October 2014, when they spring forward again)

Spring is a fantastic time to discover Spain, as well as Portugal and SW France.  Although all year round destinations, Spring is an attractive time offering bearable temperatures, blue skies, flowering gardens, vineyards bursting with new shoots and relaxing bar and restaurant terraces to watch the world go by.  The air is clear and life seems lighter, it’s a great time to be outside! But, if you’re in Spain, don’t forget to put your clocks forward on the 30th of March at 2am to take advantage of those longer afternoons and lighter nights!

Barcelona, Spain

Amble along the streets of bustling Barcelona where the locals will still be hurrying along to work, meetings or lunch.  You, however, can take the time to appreciate the Sagrada Família, La Pedrera or the Plaza Real, people watch on the Rambla, stroll along the Barceloneta or take in the views from Montjuic mountain or Antoni Gaudí’s Parc Güell. Barcelona has something for every taste: Chic Shopping to Artisan Boutiques,  Nouvelle Cuisine to Tasty Tapas, Magnificent Monuments to Arty Meccas.

 

Madrid, Spain

Visit majestic Madrid with its ornate rooftops, regal Palacio Real or sit and watch the world go by in the terrace filled squares of Santa Ana and Plaza Mayor.  Retiro Park is a great place to enjoy the open air as you stroll along the paths, of this once royal garden, passing fountains, statues, the delicate Palacio de Cristal, the boating lake and maybe the odd street entertainer or art exhibition.  Should you experience an infrequent Spring shower there’s plenty to visit indoors, like the Prado Museum (the biggest art gallery in the World), the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums or marvel at the interesting interior of the Palacio Real.  Our Officially Licensed Bi-Lingual Guide is additionally qualified in Spanish History and Art so a private tour of the museums is a must for any art buff to beat the queues and to make sure you miss nothing!

 

San Sebastian promenade

Follow the scallop-shaped seafront of San Sebastian as you stroll along the promenade of La Concha bay to the bustling and colorful port at the end and then continue on the path that almost circles Monte Urgell hill.  For some fantastic views over the bay, and the town, climb to the top of the hill, now a public park,  where at the summit stands a castle, and, it’s not Rio de Janeiro but, there’s also a big statue of Christ.  San Sebastian is also famed for its gastronomy so why not hit the foodie hotspots, as the locals do, for a “pintxo” and a glass of Txacoli wine.

 

Granada, Spain

 

Granada in Spring time offers a fantastic time to visit the great Alhambra and the gardens, which will be bursting with color, all the way to the Generalife – the summer palace of the Kings of Granada.  Walk over to the Albaicin and Sacromonte  for fantastic views of the Alhambra and the surrounding mountains.

 

Orange trees

Saunter around Seville, getting lost in the picturesque narrow streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz, breathe in the scent of the famous Seville oranges (the trees flower in Spring) and visit the grandiose Cathedral to take in the spectacular views from La Giralda.  Join the tapas hopping culture of this great city as foodie hotspots offer their fresh-out-of-the-kitchen plates.  Seville boasts more than 4,000 tapas bars – roughly 1 for every 200 locals so you know they know what they’re talking about!

 

Costa Brava, Spain

Breathe in the Mediterranean air, in Calella de Palafrugell, as you walk along the miles of coast path that line the wild Costa Brava coast.  Enjoy a short walk to discover some hidden coves or maybe a longer route, on the meandering clifftop path, to enjoy the wildness (in less common parts the path is quite wild). Calella de Palafrugell to Llafranc is a delightful, easy walk and a glass of wine on a sea front terrace at the end can be your reward!   What’s for sure is you will be at one with nature and feel as free as the sea air.

 

Spanish Winery

The Wine Regions of Spain will  gradually be getting their grapes and, depending on the time you go, the vines in Spring in Spain will be sprouting or full of leaves.  Join us on a wine tour of Spain to enjoy private winery visits to our hand-selected vineyards and exclusive wine tasting!  Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Penedès, Empordà, La Rioja …… will all be waiting, expectant of your comments on their wines as you taste their best!

 

These are just a few of the many places in Spain that you could be visiting on one of our Food, Wine and Cultural Tours in Springtime, but there’s so very much more! And, not to forget Portugal and South West France that too are eager to welcome you into their hearts and their lives!!

Contact us for a personalized quote of your perfect private tour of Spain, Portugal and/or SW France.

 

Take advantage, while you’re in Calella de Palafrugell on one of our luxury private tours in Spain, to take a walk on the wild side! Of the Costa Brava that is, as the words translate into Wild Coast.

Calella de Palafrugell is a picture postcard fisherman’s village on the Emporda coast in Northern Catalonia, Spain.  The Summer months see swarms of tourists on the beach, with tens of thousands of visitors flocking here on the first Saturday of July to appreciate the Havaneres Festival.  This festival welcomes varios musical groups who play old sea shanties with a backdrop of the lapping Mediterranean and bobbing boats.

Although a summer retreat for many, all year round the miles of coast path that line this rocky wild coast are enjoyed either for a short stroll or a longer hike.

The “Camins de Ronda” as they are known in Catalan, are a series of footpaths linking together some of the Costa Brava’s coves. As the path meanders on the cliff top, the Mediterranean embraces the rocks below, opening at times to give us the gift of a curious cove or an idyllic inlet.

Most of the coastal path is continuous but north of Calella’s neighbouring village, exclusive Llafranc,  the route goes inland as the coast gets wilder.  For example, on the coast of Begur there are four sections of coast path which are not joined, but can be equally enjoyed separately.  Even further north, in the L’Escala area some of the paths really show the wild nature of the coast with rock formations leading the way. Southbound from Calella, the coast path extends as far as La Fosca, near Palamos, and beyond.

In the past, the paths were used by smugglers and by guard patrols alike, but, in recent times the network of footpaths here have been restored to provide pretty hiking trails passing through some the areas most emblematic locations.  All the routes are clearly signposted and easy to follow.  Whichever route you take you can be assured of breathtaking views over the coves below and out to the spectacular Mediterranean sea.  You will most likely pass through pine groves on your journey and maybe even pass the occasional watchtower.  Exhilarating sea air and unspoilt beauty awaits you at every corner of the extensive coastal path, whether a gentle stroll from Calella de Palafrugell to Llafranc or a longer walk to discover a hidden cove.

Walk on the Wild Side and enjoy breathtaking views and exhilarating sea air from the coastpath in Calella de Palafrugell !

 

 

Take a walk along the wild Costa Brava coast while you’re in Calella de Palafrugell on a  Private Luxury Spanish Tour

 

 

Winery tour in Emporda Spain

 

Earlier this year we had a wonderful time with a super lady from New Zealand who not only has her own company, http://www.epicuretrading.co.nz  but is also a Travel Writer and wished to write an article about our tours.  We were of course delighted to assist and met Catherine Bell when she arrived in Girona by Spain’s very fast AVE train from Barcelona – as Catherine writes in her article,

“I soon found myself on a train hurtling towards Girona.   As I watch the digital speedometer at the front of the carriage reach 243 kmh, I recall, while trying hard not to feel nervous, that the last time I took this train north from Barcelona it was a two hour journey.   This one however, will take just 37 minutes, thanks to the new fast AVE train, a boon for commuters and tourists alike.   It’s just made for day trips to towns outside of Barcelona.   The Dali museum in Figueres is now a quick one hour away and Girona where I am heading, a mere hop skip and a jump.”

Joining us for our day with Catherine was one of our Officially Licensed Guides, Carlos, who Catherine says in her article is, “charming and ridiculously handsome” (which is very true!) and who very frequently guides our clients around in Catalonia and thrills them with his knowledge (apart from his obvious charm).

First off we took Catherine to a super little hotel, which also adds to its delights a very modern and fascinating organic winery.   After a guided walk through the winery environs and a further wander around the rest of the hotel facilities, including the goats cheese, pate, sausage and olive oil making facilities, we were off to continue showing Catherine more of our fabulous Emporda region with a visit to Pals,

“Moving on towards the coast we spend time wandering the cobbled streets of Pals, a rather perfectly restored medieval villages which in summer boasts some great eateries……..If  the door to the church is unlocked it is worth poking your nose inside – parts of it date back to the 10th century…..”

We all stopped for a delicious lunch of local produce, served of course with a great Empordan wine from the Peralada winery not too far away.   Afterwards we really needed a walk to shake off some of the calories we had gained from the super lunch and moved on to Calella de Palafrugell for a wander along the front,

“….set around a series of little beaches and ringed with simple beachside homes and small hotels, many of which have their own underground access to the beach.   In summer, I imagine it is a multicoloured enclave of beach umbrellas and bikinis – but right now it’s a pretty but rather sleepy little hollow with old fishing boats pulled up on the sand and a few locals taking their afternoon stroll.”

Of course our day together included many other sites, but we finished off in Girona, prior to Catherine taking her train back to Barcelona,

“Back in Girona we have time to explore the town’s exquisite cathedral and to wander the well preserved Jewish Quarter and museum.   Crossing the river on one of the many foot bridges allows a view of the cathedral at dusk that I will always remember……”

Enjoy the full article written by Catherine Bell for the New Zealand Sunday Star & Times “Escape” magazine http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/uk-europe/8647689/Riches-of-Catalonia

Wets your appetite?   Then join us for A Taste of Catalonia Day Tour or The Best Day Tour in Catalonia .  We’ll be happy to send you information about these tours and any other long or short tours on our website, www.gourmandbreaks.com.

Unlike many of the seaside resorts in the Costa Brava, Calella De Palafrugell has managed to preserve its old fisherman village charm offering a wonderfully laid back alternative for those wanting to escape the over-crowded beaches of Barcelona. It´s one of the last remaining spots on the Costa Brava which has retained a true Spanish feel and where it is possible to go a whole week without hearing an English accent (gasp). Read more

In Calella de Palafrugell and other Costa Brava ports, to warm up after a day’s fishing and keep the conversation going, fishermen used to drink the classic cremat made with Cuban rum brought from Spain’s colonies. Cremat is prepared by heating rum and sugar with a stick of cinnamon, lemon peel and coffee beans. Then it is flambéed until the flames burn off the alcohol. The best time to try it is during the traditional havaneres singing in Calella de Palafrugell in July.

Read more

 


 

We all sat there thinking about what we could do that was “different”, then Jordi, the Catalan neighbour from next door  said, “how about Garotes?” – Garotes we all chimed with frowning faces.   “Yes, Garotes, Sea Urchins”, said Jordi´s wife Ana – “they´re one of the Spanish specialities at this time of the year – winter is the time to indulge”. And so off we all went to Caella de Palafrugell on the northern Catalan coast – one of the rather special and unspoiled seaside resorts which we who live here try to hide from everyone else! Read more

Well, of course, we know what a finely preserved treasure Catalonia is-we’ve dedicated our careers to it! But just in case you need an outside opinion to elaborate on the subject, the New York Times (we’re fans of this publication too) put out a wonderful article one weekend about the quiet aquamarine shores of Catalonia’s peaceful fishing villages. You can read it here and browse its lovely slideshow here.

The quiet villages it references–Cadaqués, Pals, Empuries-are important pieces of our private Spanish culinary  tours because they do much more than give our clients a truly relaxing spot to vacation: They give our clients an opportunity to really savor a centuries-old culture undisturbed by the unfortunate overdevelopment that plagues so many other areas in Spain. From the bucolic scenery of farms and vineyards near Pals to the clear tropical-blue shorelines of real fishing villages, you are able to take advantage of the best in traditional Catalan cuisine, wine and personal hospitality.

Browse all of our tours through this area

Costa Brava. Calella de PalafrugellCalella, songs Cuban in summer time

Hidden away from mass tourism, unlike some unfortunate resorts further down the shore by Barcelona, the neighboring villages of Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc offer a relaxing break from Spain’s busier spots. On a Gourmand Breaks Tour you can enjoy these peaceful fishing villages which have some of the most tranquil seaside walkways in Spain. Visitors get intimate views of a gorgeous blue shoreline while walking past the colorful fishing boats that dot the shore or enjoy meals at several shore-front restaurants- some of which are home to the best seafood on the coast!

Calella de Palafrugell is also known for its havaneres—old songs Cuban immigrant fisherman sung for over 100 years in local taverns. Before the tradition completely died out in the 1960s, the community started a summer festival to celebrate the custom and it is still popular to this day. On Sant Joan’s Day in June, Calella de Palafrugell lights up with exciting fireworks that are especially charming from a terrace overlooking the sea.

A number of Gourmand Breaks private tours include a day trip to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc  including our Luxury Mediterranean Cuisine Tour – perfect for those who don´t like to stray too far from the sea and like to spend relaxing afternoons feasting on some of the best seafood in Spain!