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The contrasts of Catalonia

NEW Coastal walk from France to Spain

As you might guess, we love France. We love all the obvious things, of course: the Bordeaux wine, the super-ripe Brie, the garlic and the Gallic shrug. We love the nonchalance, the étiquette, the joi de vivre and the je ne sais quoi.

And there’s more: we love the châteaux, the 2CV, the mercurial rugby and the pop music. Actually not so much that last one. But we also like to follow the lesser known paths and trails to discover new aspects we have not come across before.

Not long ago we ventured down one of these rabbit holes and found ourselves over the Spanish border in Catalonia. We were smitten and immediately decided to do something about it. We wanted to put together a walking itinerary that showcased the best of Catalonia while offering something rather different to anything to be found in France.

Venture further south. Discover the White Villages of Andalucia
Venture further south. Discover the White Villages of Andalucia

Fear not...

We are certainly not turning our backs on France. By offering a Catalonian alternative we are merely shining a light on just how amazing France is. It’s just different to Catalonia.

Our Belle France holidays, and that includes our new Spanish holidays (you may remember we already have an Andalucian Adventure), will continue to be easy going itineraries where you can travel at your own pace. You will have plenty of time for ambling along, pausing when you fancy. You can be assured of some lovely hotels, all with character and personality, where you will be welcomed and offered an excellent menu which reflects the local cuisine. And a comfy bed to fall into at the end of the day.

And, as ever, your luggage will be transferred between hotels for you.

Cadaques, a small town on the Costa Brava
Cadaques, a small town on the Costa Brava

Welcome to Catalonia

Spain has long been a popular destination for holiday makers. With an enviable sunshine record, fabulous food and wine, dizzying culture and more dizzying fiestas, Spain is always welcoming. 

In the north east corner of Spain, Catalonia more or less has its own identity – to the point where it seems to be a country within a country. Wealthy, culturally rich and cosmopolitan, it is best known for its sunny beach resorts on the Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada. Catalonia has a long tradition of the arts: artists like Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró were born here while Picasso is associated with Barcelona.

But it’s a region of variety too, and locals will enjoy informing you how you can ski in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon.

The Costa Brava nudges up to the French border and is one of Spain’s less visited localities, with dense forests that trickle down to the coast where you’ll find secret  little bays and hidden coves as you walk.  

Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava
Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava

The Coastal Walk from France to Spain

We begin this walk in France – pretty much the most southerly tip of France in fact. While the Pyrenees form a more or less permanent backdrop, its snow capped peaks catching the light at certain times of day, you’ll enjoy a constantly changing landscape of creeks and coves, sandy beaches backed by craggy cliffs.

You’ll come across pretty little fishing villages with jaunty boats and busy quaysides. And you’ll be immersed in a long, colourful history of fortified villages and crumbling castles rubbing shoulders with the artistic influences of renowned artists like Matisse, Dalí and others. 

Cadaquès streets
Cadaquès streets

On this walk you’ll have a choice each day between a coastal route or an inland route. Of course you can vary it as you wish, the coast route typically involves wonderful sea views and a soundtrack of soothing waves, while the inland trail may involve vineyards, olive groves, ancient villages and the famous maquis.  

Tip
For something rather special, why not upgrade to the four-star hotel Relais des Trois Mas in Collioure: set beside the sea and with a Michelin star restaurant it will get your holiday off to a memorable start.

Find out more about this holiday

5 reasons we love Catalonia

1. Collioure

On the Vermillion Coast in the southern corner of Pyrenées-Orientales, Collioure has always attracted artists such as Picasso, Derain, Matisse and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It features a pretty harbour dominated by the Château Royal.

Collioure at night
Collioure at night

2. Barcelona

For its vibrant atmosphere, world city status and its magnificent architecture: Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is an iconic sight and, in a rather different way, so is the Nou Camp, home of the Barcelona football team. Both are temples, in their own way.

Gaudi's Barcelona
Gaudi's Barcelona

3. Crema catalana

Some might say this is the Catalan version of crème brûlée. Those who know better would say crème brûlée is the French version of crema catalana. Both are similar but this introduces a delicate hint of lemon (sometimes orange) zest to cut through the rich creaminess.

Crema Catalana, typical dessert of the region. Photo credit: foodlovertour.com
Crema Catalana, typical dessert of the region. Photo credit: foodlovertour.com

4. The Pyrenees

Just three hours or so from Barcelona, the majestic Pyrenees are revered for their brooding presence as well as their charming valley villages, set alongside tumbling rivers. A wonderful open air playground for getting away from it all. 

Spanish Pyrenees. Photo credit: aragonactive.com
Spanish Pyrenees. Photo credit: aragonactive.com

5. The Catalan language

Not, as many people think, a Spanish dialect, Catalan stems from the Roman legions who occupied the Tarragona region. It is spoken by over nine million people worldwide (four million speak it as a first language). But try as you might, it does not come easily to a passing tourist!  

Flag of Catalonia
Flag of Catalonia

NEW for 2019 Spanish holidays

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