Category Archives: Spain

Walking in the Eastern Pyrenees and foothills

eastern pyrenees

Sunflower’s guide Landscapes of the Pyrenees is intended for people who want an introductory overall view of the range. The ideal way to use it is to tour the Pyrenees by car, stopping for walks en route. Naturally, covering such a large area, there isn’t going to be a heavy concentration of walks around any single base.

So if you’re heading to a villa or hotel near the Eastern Pyrenees this autumn and planning to stay put for a week or two, be sure to pack a copy of Landscapes of the Costa Brava and Barcelona in addition to Landscapes of the Pyrenees.

You will then have a choice of over 50 walks on the coast and in the hinterland. From the Pyrenees guide there will be nine walks (with variations) within a 50-mile radius of the French coast around Collioure. The Costa Brava guide describes 23 long walks (with variations) and 18 shorter walks especially suitable for motorists between Collioure and Barcelona.

The Sunflower team have regularly ‘road-and-footpath-tested’ both guides in autumn – when the air is sparkling and the temperatures perfect for hiking. Two of our favourite places are the volcanic Garroxta region and the Serra del Cadí not far to the west.

Photo: Pedraforca – the ‘forked rock’ – landmark of the Serra del Cadí

Back To Collioure

Collioure

Photo: Luc Viatour/www.lucnix.be

We’ve always loved the area where the Pyrenees come down to the Mediterranean. Not only do you get the best of both environments but there’s a very special quality to the light – an intensity you get in few other places (especially after the famous north wind known as the tramuntana has blown through). We’ve particularly liked Collioure, a seaside village featured in Walk 3 of our Landscapes Of The Pyrenees. So when we had the chance to buy a studio in Collioure we decided to go for it. It’s an idyllic spot to be based for any kind of holiday because the area has just about anything you could want.

From our studio we’ve been discovering some great hiking. Of course we’ve retraced the walk we feature in the book, which climbs from Collioure to the old hermitage of Notre-Dame-de-Consolation and the 13th century Tour Madeloc before descending to Banyuls-sur-Mer. That was a great day out with fabulous views all along the Côte Vermeille, capped by a visit to the studio where the sculptor Maillol (1861 – 1944) produced many of his works. So far we’ve discovered two more beautiful walks, and no doubt there are others. The first is an easy stroll along the clifftops to Racou, which is about 4km away to the north. At the little Ouille cove we stopped for a swim (bracing in May) and had a second from the wide sandy beach at Racou before returning by the same route. The second is one of the most exhilarating walks we’ve ever done, blue sky above, blue sea below. We started in Port-Vendres (1km south of Collioure) and followed the coastal path out along the promontory to Cap Béar. From there the path traces the south side of the promontory to the superb Paulilles cove, which really is a gem. The bay was never developed because it was the site of a dynamite factory. In 2005 the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales demolished nearly 70 buildings, cleaned it all up and turned the bay into a protected area. It’s as special a cove as you’ll ever find in Europe.

Paul and Chrissie are making their studio in Collioure available to Landscapes readers. Their website for it will be going live during June at www.colliourestudio.com

Exploring the Costa Brava – News from our Author

besalce

I often get asked about the hinterland to the Costa Brava – what landscapes hide behind some of the rather unfortunate building that went on along the coast from the 1960s onwards. And the answer is always the same – within a short distance, this north-east corner of Catalonia has a wonderful variety of scenery on offer for those who want to walk in the Costa Brava and for those who prefer to tour the Costa Brava by car. For example, in my region, La Garrotxa, with its medieval bridges and Romanesque churches, crowned by the medieval village of Besalú (pictured), the walks I know and love and which I describe in Sunflower’s Landscapes of the Costa Brava and Barcelona guide are myriad, yet always offer me something new.

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Cider Houses of the Basque Country

Basque Cider House

The beautiful Basque coastal city of San Sebastián (or Donostia, as all the locals call it, in Basque) is rightly famous as a Mecca for foodies, boasting 7 Michelin-star restaurants, three of which have been awarded the coveted 3 stars – not bad for a city with a population of under 200,000.

Apart from the legendary pintxos (the often highly-elaborate Basque variant of the Spanish tapa), which are works of art in themselves, between mid-January and mid/late April is cider season. The highest concentration of sagardotegiak (cider houses) is to be found just south of the city around the town of Astigarraga.

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