Falling In Love With Spain — Catalonia, To Be Precise

Last year, on  September 13, the National Day of Catalonia, I found myself in the medieval town of Besalu, licking a lemon gelato at the Plaça de la Llibertat. Catalonia’s red and yellow striped flag unfurled large and proud over trellised balconies and on rooftops. "Dreamy" couldn’t begin to describe the scene.

Whether you come here in September or any other time of the year, you’ll fall hopelessly in love with one of Spain’s most prosperous and multifaceted regions. With its own distinctive culture, language and cuisine, there’s more to do and see in Catalonia than one trip can afford. Nevertheless, here are my top five experiences to check off your Catalonian bucket list ASAP.

Do the Dali route

Start at Figueres in the Costa Brava region. Translating to "fig trees" from the Catalan, this little town, the capital of the lush Emporda county (bordering France), is world-famous for the Salvador Dali Theatre-Museum, announcing its flamboyant eccentricity with the surrealist master’s signature eggs lining the turrets. Drive 45 minutes away to Port Lligat to spend a few hours at Dali’s gorgeous seaside home.

Snag a Michelin-starred table

Catalonia has the most restaurants with Michelin stars. Begin — or at least try to get a reservation several months ahead — at the world’s number-one restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca. Thirty minutes away from Barcelona, there’s another 3–Michelin starred legend, Sant Pau. Back in Barcelona, pre-book a table at ABaC for their tasting menu, starring experimental delights like mushrooms with curry sauce in citrus water, Bloody Mary snow with mixed shellfish and foie gras with pistachio, and hazelnuts with Pedro Ximénez sherry.

Unleash your inner flower child

Plan your Barcelona holiday to coincide with the Feast of Corpus Christi on June 7, 2015. Just 35 kilometres from the city is the town of Sitges, where locals design flower carpets to cover the main streets that the Holy Sacrament passes over. You’ll also arrive in time for the National Carnation Exhibition and the the Bonsai Exhibition.

Get pedalling

With the Pyrenees to the north and the Mediterranean to the south, the tempestuous landscape of Empordà shouldn’t be missed. Hiking is a common pleasure in these parts, but for a fun spin, do the Empordà DO wine route on an electric bicycle. Apart from the promise of indigenous grape varieties like the sweet Empordà garnatxa, there’s the wild landscape, which reaches up to the famous Cap de Creus Natural Park, where you can nibble on the quintessential Catalan snack — pa amb tomaquet.

Channel Gaudi

If you’ve done Dali, there’s no reason you shouldn’t channel Antoni Gaudi, Catalonia’s other and equally eccentric artistic genius! After doing the touristy tour of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and Güell Park, sign up for a two-hour DIY workshop with mosaic artist Livia Garreta (www.liviagarreta.com). For more contemporary cool, spend hours browsing through delicious design store Vinçon on Passeig de Gràcia.

  
Images: 1, 2 and 5 (of the artist Livia Garetta) blogger's own, #3 — El Cellar De Can Roca, #4 — catalunya.com

Aparna Pednekar

Aparna Pednekar

Author

 Aparna is an India - based travel writer for leading lifestyle and fashion publications. She's also a gemologist and jewelry designer. New cities, new food, cats, dogs, snakes, hours of walking and driving fuel her incurable ADD.

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