Crema catalana: The perfect local treat for something sweet

There are lots of reasons why travellers choose to take a holiday in Spain, but one of the main reasons is the food! Spanish cuisine is arguably some of the best in the world, and Catalonia is famous for its local delicacies. One such dish is crema catalana; a creamy, silky pudding topped with burnt sugar.

Dessert History

When you’re on holiday in Barcelona, you’ll hear that the Spanish invented the crema catalana sometime around the 14th century. If you’re on holiday in France, you’ll hear that it was, in fact, the French that created the dessert, naming it crème brûlée. And if you’re on holiday in England, you’ll no doubt hear that the dessert originated in Cambridge! All three countries lay claim to the pudding, but the reality of the rightful owner is still up for debate!

Crema Catalana 

Traditionally crema catalana has been served on St Joseph’s Day in March, but you can enjoy this creamy dessert at all times of year, whether you’re taking a Barcelona vacation in the summer or winter. Many local restaurants offer this pudding, and it has become a firm favourite of travellers from around the world.

Crème Brûlée v. Crema Catalana

If you can find both crème brûlée and crema catalana, then why not pick up both, take them back to your Spain holiday rental, and do a taste test to see which is better? While both are made in a similar way, crema catalana is thickened with cornflour and is not cooked in a water bath, like traditional crème brûlée. This gives it a little more texture. Many types of crema catalana are also flavoured with citrus and cinnamon, which gives it more flavour. Which one will be your favourite? Try them and see

 

 


Celebrate Barcelona’s La Mercè Festival this September!

If you’re staying in a villa in Barcelona during September, you may be wondering why there’s an extra special atmosphere surrounding the city and why everyone appears to be in good spirits. It’s because of La Mercè, a lively and exciting festival that is one of Barcelona’s most important annual calendar events. The festival takes place on 24th September each year and is not to be missed!

History of La Mercè

Catalans have celebrated La Mercè since 1871, although the celebrations as we know them today were largely introduced during the early 20th century. The event is thrown in honour of the Mare de Déu de la Mercè, or Virgin of Grace, who is believed to have saved Barcelona from a plague of locusts. If you’re staying in a Barcelona vacation rental in or near to the Gothic Quarter, you can visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy, which displays a statue of the Virgin at the top of the church.

Festivities

Street performances, parades featuring giant statues (gegants i capgrossos), and human towers (castellers) are all standard events that take place throughout the festival. However, each year there’s something new and different, including ‘fire runs’, fire-breathing dragons, and light projection shows. The festivities continue well into the night, but don’t worry too much about how to get back to your vacation villa in Barcelona; there are often late night train services in operation.

Catalan Produce

La Mercè is one of the best times to sample some authentic Catalan food and drink, especially at the Catalan Wine & Cava Festival which takes place as part of the event. Beverages from local Catalan vineyards are available to taste and purchase, and they make great souvenirs or gifts to bring back to friends and family from your holiday in Spain.

 


Catalonia’s fairy-tale town

Are you staying in a family villa is Spain with children who love magic, mystery, and fairy tales? Then you must make time to visit the tiny, stone-clad village of Rupit, located roughly halfway between Girona and Torelló in Barcelona Province. With historic architecture dating to the year 968, and with old buildings peeking out from masses of green woodland, Rupit is truly a fairy-tale town.

 

Exploring Rupit

For those who want to enjoy a totally ‘different’ holiday in Spain; a vacation that’s less beaches and watersports and more exploring and discovering, Rupit has everything you could ask for. Look down to see the streets carved from the natural rock formations in the area, and look up to see the red brick roofs, providing shelter to the old stone buildings. Take a walk to hear the sounds of the crashing Sallent waterfall, or edge across the wood-slat suspension bridge that crosses the flowing river. Bend down to smell the delicate white hawthorns, and marvel at the castle-like turrets atop the monastery. Watch as vultures and eagles swoop down from the trees, and enjoy being transported back in time.

Weather in Rupit

Unlike Barcelona, which is very warm, Rupit is noticeably cooler, making it the ideal place for those who find high heat to be uncomfortable. While Rupit is often busier in the summer and remarkably quiet at other times of the year, autumn and winter are still excellent times to visit. With crisp orange leaves and just a shimmer of frost, Rupit looks even more stunning in the off season.

A Day Trip 

Catalan poet Josep Maria de Sagarra famously described Rupit as ‘distinguished and hidden’, so it may come as some surprise that the village is less than two hours from the centre of Barcelona. It’s an easy day trip from your Barcelona villa, or you could choose to look at Catalonia villa rentals in the town itself which gives you an opportunity to stay longer and perhaps see more of the local area. If you do decide to stick around, be sure to check out the natural area of Collsacabra, one of Spain’s best hidden gems.


Where to swim in Barcelona

Whether you take a holiday in Spain during the summer or prefer to take your Spain vacation in the winter, there’s usually one thing you can always rely on: great weather! While the temperatures in the winter months can be a little cooler and much more unpredictable, winters can often be very mild and pleasant, and you may still need to cool off a little! So where are the best places to swim in Barcelona? Here are three of the best options.

Option 1: Your Villa with Private Pool in Barcelona

A villa with private pool in Spain is undoubtedly the best option for swimming in the city, giving you unrestricted access to the waters whenever you feel like taking a dip. If you dislike crowds or are travelling with little ones and are worried about them getting splashed by bigger kids, then this is a great way to ensure a safe and supportive environment for your kids to learn to swim.

Option 2: A Public Swimming Pool in Barcelona

There are lots of outdoor public swimming pools in Barcelona that are a good option for those who have decided to rent a villa in Spain without a private swimming pool. For young families and swimmers who aren’t particularly confident, Ciutadella Municipal Sports Centre is good because the pool is quite shallow. Otherwise, head to the Montjuïc Municipal Swimming Pool for spectacular views of the area.

Option 3: One of Barcelona’s Best Beaches

Perhaps the most common option for swimming in Barcelona is to head to one of the local beaches. Barceloneta Beach is one of the most easily accessible from many Barcelona accommodations which makes it a good choice, but this beach can get very busy, especially in the summer and on sunny weekends. For calmer options, head north to Bogatell or Badalona.


Visiting the Pyrenees

Located on the border between France and Spain, the Pyrenees mountain range is one of the most stunning sights in all of Europe, and a must-see during any holiday in Spain or southern France. Towns in the Pyrenees offer a completely different experience than many other parts of Catalonia, which can typically be grouped into either coastal resorts filled with luxury Spain holiday rentals or small medieval towns. There’s more of an Alpine feel here, and it can get rather chilly during the winter months!

The Catalan Pyrenees

Also known as ‘Pirineus’ in Catalan, and Pirenèus in Occitan, the Catalan Pyrenees are a spectacular sight. The French side of the mountain range is arguably the more popular side with more towns, more activity, and more things to do, but that’s exactly what makes the Catalan Pyrenees such an attractive option for many people in the area: it’s more natural and more rugged, and you won’t have to deal with as many crowds!

Although the Catalan side is slightly more sparse, there’s still plenty to see and do in the area, enough that you could easily spend a few days of your Barcelona holiday exploring the sights. A few places that are definitely worth visiting are the Mont-Rebei Gorge, which offers an expanse of breathtaking landscape, the wonderful Sant Maurici National Park, and the small village of Llavorsí, where the brave can enjoy a day of wild river rafting through the canyons and along the fast and intense Noguera Pallaresa river.

Where to Stay

While you can rent a house in Girona and make a day trip to the Catalan Pyrenees, it’s much better to stay in the heart of all the action. A good choice is nearby Ripoll, which is considered to be the gateway to the Pyrenees and features plenty of Romanesque-style architecture. Another interesting choice is Vall de Boí, which has UNESCO World Heritage status, and is home to the highest ski resort in the Pyrenees.


Park Güell to Sagrada Família: The scenic route

Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell and Sagrada Família are two of the top attractions that cannot be missed on a holiday in Barcelona. Separated by just 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometres), many visitors choose to walk between the two sights, and the fastest and most direct option is along Carrer de Sardenya, taking the curved Ctra. del Carmel at the Park Güell end, where you can exit the park near the Mirador Virolai observation deck.

However, while this may be the fastest route, it’s not the most scenic. For those who really want to make the most of their Barcelona vacation, take a slightly longer route that takes you past some of the city’s most fascinating sites and interesting spots. The scenic route takes you through the beautiful Gràcia neighbourhood for a glimpse into local life.

Here’s your guide to walking the scenic route between Park Güell to Sagrada Família:

Instead of leaving Park Güell via Ctra. del Carmel, take the other exit, which brings you out onto Carrer d’Olot, and then onto Carrer de Larrard. Heading south, your first stop should be the Gaudí interactive museum, where you can learn more about the architect’s life and works.

Keep walking until you hit Travessera de Dalt, and cross over almost directly to get onto Carrer del Torrent de les Flors. This will bring you into the heart of Vila de Gràcia, home to a large number of Barcelona villas.

If you’re feeling peckish, there are some tapas places in the area. If not, turn to stroll through the pretty Plaça de Rovira i Trias park and gardens. Turn south at the end of the park, and then head along Carrer de les Tres Senyores, past the Hideout Bar which is a good place to stop for a break and a cerveza.

By turning south at the dance school, you’ll find yourself staring at the stunning Parish Church of St. Joan and the grand Virreina Palace. This baroque-style building was built in the 18th century for Manuel d’Amat i de Junyent, a celebrated Spanish military officer.

Turn at Carrer de l’Or, and then onto Carrer del Torrent d’En Vidalet. Stop for a drink at the Elephanta bar — it may seem basic, but they have more than 40 gins on offer, and more than 40 teas, too! Turn onto Carrer del Terol for shopping and a peek at the old evangelical church.

Enjoy a stroll through Plaça de la Revolució square, and then join Plaça Vila de Gràcia park by walking along Carrer de Ramón y Cajal and Carrer de Mariana Pineda. By walking through the busy shopping district here, you’ll find peace and relaxation at the Salvador Espriu Gardens.

Once you’re at the end of the gardens, you’re on the home stretch! It’s a straight route along Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer de Provença to the Plaça de la Sagrada Família. The walk should take roughly an hour; you can put your feet up at your Barcelona villa at the end of the day! 

 


Costa Brava travel tips

Villas on the Costa Brava are great choices for families, couples, and for solo travellers, offering easy access to some of Catalonia’s best attractions and most beautiful sights. It’s easy to travel along the picturesque Costa Brava, and here are three great travel tips that can help make your holiday in Spain fantastic.

Book a Villa with Pool on the Costa Brava

The Costa Brava certainly doesn’t have a shortage of great places to swim. In fact, the horseshoe-shaped bays of Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell are ideal swimming spots thanks to their gentle waters. If you visit during the popular summer months, you may find the beaches quite lively, as opposed to the quiet environment found during the off-season. If you book a villa with private pool on the Costa Brava you can have the waters all to yourself and enjoy a truly peaceful experience.

Hire a Car

When we think of the Costa Brava, we usually think of the seaside resorts of Blanes, Tossa de Mar, and Lloret de Mar. However, there is much more to this part of Catalonia than meets the eye, and there are some truly fantastic destinations located just a short distance inland like the city of Girona or Les Guilleries national park. You’ll find it easiest and most convenient to see these places by hiring a car. You could even add on a mini vacation in Barcelona; a long weekend in the city!

Pack Carefully

Packing for a holiday in Spain is usually very simple; you’ll want cool, loose clothing and plenty of suncream! However, there are a few extras that you may need on the Costa Brava. Remember that ‘Costa Brava’ can be translated as ‘Rough Coast’, highlighting the very craggy shorelines, so a strong pair of comfortable shoes is essential if you want to make the most of this part of Catalonia. Also be sure to pack a sun hat as some attractions, like Castell de Begur, typically have no shade during the day.

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