Cycling in Catalonia

If your idea of the perfect holiday involves more than lounging around your rented villa with pool in the Costa Brava, then you will be pleased to know there are some exceptional cycle routes in the area too. From the city of Girona to rural villages and coastal cycle paths, there are perfect tours for cyclists and mountain bikers, and beginners to seasoned riders. 

There are kilometres of old railway tracks and greenways awaiting, allowing you to participate in a healthy and exciting family activity. Take a backpack with a picnic or enjoy a tapas lunch in one of the charming villages en-route, you will see more of the picturesque Catalan countryside than you could ever imagine – especially if you are usually the designated driver. In addition to an abundance of fresh, clean air you can enjoy kilometres of lush, green countryside, natural parks, rugged coastline and medieval hilltop villages.

Plan your route accordingly, if you are an experienced cyclist but your travelling party only indulge once or twice a year, choose a route which is suitable for everyone. The terrain needs to be taken into account as well, flat cycle paths are great if you are touring with children, with plenty of stop off points for a beverage and a bite to eat on the way.

If mountain biking is more your thing, leave your Costa Brava vacation rental and head for the Girona Pyrenees area, there are spectacular natural parks, quaint mountain towns, you can also indulge in some downhill biking. Follow the B roads which link the towns of Girona and head off on your merry journey.

If you didn’t arrive at your family villa in Spain by car there are plenty of areas locally where you can cycle along the coastline, and there are places where you can hire bicycles for all the family. Check before you arrive so that you can plan your routes and discover the best that Catalonia has to offer cyclists.


Discover the El Born district of Barcelona

It’s easy to stick to the main tourist trails when you are venturing out of your Barcelona holiday rental for the first time. Sometimes, by doing this you miss out on some of the incredibly vibrant and historically rich areas of the city. There are many areas of Barcelona which remain relatively untouched by tourists, now is the time to visit the El Born district before everyone else discovers its magical allure.

About El Born

El Born has grown into one of Barcelona’s most fashionable districts, located next to the popular and touristy area of the Gothic Quarter, it was originally a settlement which was used to host medieval jousts and celebrations. These days El Born is the place where the hip crowd eat, drink and shop. The cafes and tapas bars are much cheaper than the main tourist areas so you can enjoy a full family meal even on a budget.

It’s not just about the shopping and nightlife either. The Picasso museum is located here with many works of art featured from when he resided in the city. Also if you have an interest in fashion, you can visit the famous textile museum which was home to the textile guilds of Barcelona.

The Church of Santa Maria del Mar has an interesting history and wonderful interior architecture which shouldn’t be overlooked. As these areas are relatively untapped by tourists, there are hardly any queues to visit the attractions and museums (with the exception of the popular Picasso museum).

If retail therapy is your thing, the multitude of shoe shops and boutiques will tempt your purse strings, many international upcoming independent stores have chosen El Born as the place to launch their flagship stores – you may even find the next Gucci or Chanel here!

With great shops, nightlife and café culture it’s hard not to love this area, but it’s catching on quickly, so take a day away from your vacation rental in Barcelona and discover it now while it is still relatively tourist free and reasonably priced.


Top 5 Budget-Friendly Restaurants in Barcelona

You are in your beautiful rented private villa in Barcelona. You look up at the sunset, take a sip of your cocktail, and then your stomach rumbles. Uh oh! Time to find a restaurant! But, just because you’re in one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, doesn’t mean you want to break your bank. So, here are five budget-friendly restaurants you should check out while visiting Barcelona.

1. Viana

Craving an International, Mediterranean, and Spanish menu? Then head down to Viana! This restaurant offers beautifully crafted, unique dishes, each a delectable gastronomic journey you’ll enjoy. Make sure you grab one of their amazing cocktails and delicious desserts. This restaurant mixes a high-quality, fine-dining atmosphere with the laid-back fusion bar vibe that makes this affordable restaurant a unique dining experience.

2. Blavis

Simple yet elegant describes this small and cozy restaurant. Blavis doesn’t have a large menu, but each dish is a delicious, handcrafted experience that you are sure to enjoy pulled from the European, Spanish, and Mediterranean cuisines. The atmosphere is casual, the portions generous, and the desserts a must at this amazing and inexpensive restaurant!

3. Bodega Biarritz

Rustic, intimate, and beautifully modern describe this wine and tapas bar. Bodega Biarritz features a Mediterranean and Spanish menu with unique and delicious dishes you are certain to enjoy. The inside is cozy, with unique lighting and a bar atmosphere. The food has large portions and a lot of choices, so you are certain to find something for everyone. A great place for date night or just a fun night on the town!

4. Bodega Biarritz 1881

Another Bodega Biarritz tapa bar, the Bodega Biarritz 1881 offers a delicious selection of Spanish and Mediterranean tapas paired with excellent beers, wines, and cocktails that make for a truly fun time out with your significant other or group of friends. The food comes in generous portions and each dish is certain to delight.

5. La Caleta de Sants

A rustic yet modern family-friendly restaurant, La Caleta de Sants has a Venezuelan menu with Latin and Caribbean influences. With large portions, delicious dishes, and plenty of bread and beer, everyone in your family or group of friends are sure to find something to love at this restaurant!

Now that your stomach grumblings have left, head back to your Barcelona vacation rental and enjoy a relaxing evening, or go out for more fun on the town with an evening of entertainment and delight!


Discover Girona’s Jewish Quarter

Have you already enjoyed a Barcelona holiday and are looking for somewhere new to explore in Catalonia? How about Girona? Located to the Northeast of Barcelona, the stunning city of Girona is home to one of the world’s best preserved Jewish quarters, known locally as ‘El Call’, and transports you back in time, through a true labyrinth of narrow medieval streets which wind throughout the city.

Girona’s Jewish quarter is believed to date from the year 982, although it is understood to have not become an established community until 1160. There is a dark yet fascinating history here, in such beautiful surroundings, and many have compared the beauty of Girona to Old Town Jerusalem.

Today, like many locations in Barcelona, Girona’s Jewish quarter is a real mix of old and new. While the stone walls and cobbled streets still remain, there has been an influx of bars, restaurants, and shops which have helped to rejuvenate this old district and make it a top destination for visitors to Spain.

Jewish Quarter Highlights

There’s lots to see and do in Girona’s Jewish quarter, but the main attraction for many is the Museum of Jewish History. The museum highlights Catalonia’s Medieval Jewish communities, and features glazed ceramics from the 12th century, bronze and silver artifacts recovered from the Montjuïc area, and even a miniature replica of the Jewish quarter! Maybe you could spot your Spain villa within the model? Another interesting activity in Girona is to visit the Mikvah; the Jewish ritual baths which were only discovered a few years ago, and excavated to become yet another great attraction in this historic city.

Staying in Girona

A Spain vacation rental close to Girona’s Jewish quarter is the perfect choice for anyone interested in history, architecture, or simply great photo opportunities. There’s a very strong community feel here, which makes Girona’s Jewish quarter a great place to stay; it’s warm, welcoming, and truly fascinating.


Why should I visit Andorra?

It may be a little further afield for those renting a villa with private pool on the Costa Brava, yet it’s still a popular day trip destination. Many excursions run to this tiny country lodged between France and Spain, in the summer months the flora and fauna is amazing and during winter months it has some of the Pyrenees best ski slopes. So why would you make the 2.5 – 3-hour trip from the coast?

Here are a few reasons:

Firstly, Andorra has a rich and interesting history, legend has it that Charles the Great granted the people of Andorra a charter if they fought against the Moors. The small country previously had a joint allegiance with both Spain and France, in fact during the Spanish Civil war the French troops rallied to protect Andorra. During the second world war the country became a smuggling route from France into Spain, so it’s had its fair share of excitement over the years. These days the predominant language spoken is Catalan (although there is still some French and Castellano Spanish), the country is part of the United Nations and to this day remains independent.

The capital city Andorra La Vella is nestled high in the Pyrenees and enjoys spectacular mountain views all around. The surrounding lush, green country parks and walks are beautiful and in the city there are incredible examples of Andorran Romanesque art and architecture.

There are a variety of mountain sports to enjoy which are suitable for all the family, the two ski resorts have a Nordic ski centre and plenty of alpine ski activities, there is also a special area for children called Naturlandia. Just outside Andorra La Vella is the perfect location for rock climbing with many areas surrounding the city. Dense forests are filled with canyoning adventures and zip wiring and on the main roads cyclists are out in force especially during the spring and summer months.

For Golfers the Soldeu course ascends to 2250 metres of altitude, access is gained via an 8-person gondola, the journey offers unsurpassed panoramas even before you begin to play the course!

In the city itself architecture is typical of a Pyrenean town, grey slate and alpine stone is used to create chapels, towers, bridges and fortifications typical of the area. Visitors will see ancient traditions blend with contemporary lifestyle as they wander the streets. The old stone houses on the outskirts of the city contrast with modern shopping centres and edgy steel sculptures in Andorra la Vella. The shops offer the latest fashions and technologies at reasonable prices which are ideal for a gift to take home.

If you plan on renting your Spain holiday rental for a while and you have access to a car during your stay, take a drive to Andorra, its unique traditions and fascinating culture make for an interesting visit.


Tasty Churros – A Catalan Favourite

Picture the scene, you are strolling around the Sunday morning market close to your Costa Brava holiday rental and you happen to catch the scent of a deliciously sweet aroma coming from a local kiosk. Then you catch sight of locals dipping donut like sugary fingers into a cup of rich, warm hot chocolate and your mouth begins to water. You have just discovered Churros. Unbeknownst to most, you can also make this fabulous sweet treat easily from the comfort of your villa on the Costa Brava, here is the easiest way to ensure all of the family can enjoy a super sweet start to the day.

Firstly, boil the kettle and measure approximately 350ml of water into a jug. Add around 50g of melted butter (for four servings, adjust as applicable) and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then sift 250g of baking powder into a bowl with a little pinch of salt and pour in the ingredients in the jug and stir until smooth, then leave for around 15 minutes.

When it’s ready put all of the ingredients into a pan and melt until your sauce is shiny and smooth, keep on a low heat.

Now fill a pan with one third of oil and heat a cube of bread until it browns (usually around 1 minutes or less). Cover a tray with greaseproof paper and mix 100g caster sugar and 2tsp of cinnamon together.

You will need a piping bag for the next part, around a 2 cm nozzle tip is a good size for piping. Fill the bag with the rested dough and pipe strips into the pan of oil and fry them until crisp and golden. Remove with a draining spoon and place on the grease proof paper then continue to cook the rest of the strips of dough. Sprinkle a little cinnamon and caster sugar onto the finished churros and you are almost ready.

The sauce is prepared at the same time with dark chocolate chunks, 100mls of double cream and the same of milk, a few tablespoons of golden syrup and a little vanilla extract. Melt the chocolate and add the syrup, cream, milk and vanilla and stir on a low heat until warm.

There you have it, quick and easy churros which you can enjoy in your Spain vacation rental at any time of the day or evening.


4 Awesome Places in Barcelona for Tapas

Tapas are one of the staples of Spain. They aren’t a specific food, but rather a small portion of many different kinds of foods – almost like samplers. But many people, tourists and locals alike, enjoy tapa hops, which is like bar hopping (and often does include alcohol), where you head to different bars and restaurants to try a variety of tapas. Some of these may even be near your holiday rental. To help you on your tapa journey, here are four awesome places where you can find delicious tapas in Barcelona!

1. Guru Bcn Food & Cocktails

This Asian-style restaurant and bar may be dimly lit, but it is still warm and welcoming and makes a perfect stop for your tapa hop. You’ll find Guru Bcn Food & Cocktails in the Gothic Quarter of Old Barcelona. Expect Mediterranean flavors from these tapas, and make sure you grab a delicious cocktail or two as well! Whatever you order, it is certain to be delicious and an amazing gastronomic experience.

2. Palosanto

The tapas at Palosanto are from a variety of European cuisines, so expect a unique experience each time you go. This adorable rustic and French-country-style café makes another excellent stop on your tapa tour. The staff is friendly, the sangria delicious, and every dish a tasty work of art. It is a small place so you may want to make a reservation, but it is well worth the wait!

3. 9 Nine

If you want great, meaty tapas look no further than 9 Nine, which is a steakhouse and also includes Mediterranean and International cuisines. Every dish is served with flair and pizzazz. The interior is elegant and modern with a wall of wine. Make sure you get a glass of wine or two to go with your delicious tapas! You may also want a lemon sorbet to clear your palate before moving on to your next tapa stop.

4. Sensi Bistro Barcelona

A rustic yet bright and fun Spanish café awaits at Sensi Bistro Barcelona. Spanish, Mediterranean, and European cuisine make up the menu and the restaurant can be found in the Gothic Quarter of Old Barcelona. The best tapas are the truffle ravioli, so don’t miss out! Their dessert and wine are excellent as well.

We hope you enjoy your tapa hop! Get a taste for Spain and a feel for the culture as you try all new experiences, like your rental villa or apartment that makes you feel right at home!


Have you heard of Tossa del Mar?

Although it may not be the largest town on the Costa Brava coastline, Tossa del Mar is arguably one of the most majestic and impressive. Not only is it home to three beautiful beaches, but it also has a dominating castle, quaint old town and an altogether relaxed vibe.

The town centre is bustling and vibrant, with friendly bars and plenty of shops selling souvenirs. The restaurants cater for all ages and tastes, and there is always room to sunbathe on one of the beaches. If you are looking to get out of your villa with a private pool on the Costa Brava for a bit, look no further than these activities.

Explore the old town

The old town is known as Vila Vella, and is the only fully surviving Medieval fortified town in along the coast of Costa Brava. Plus, it boasts stunning views of the sea below. Stepping through the walls you will find yourself in a maze of cobbled alleys, with many bars and restaurants to enjoy.

Castillo de Tossa del mar

The castle that stands perched on the hill is the town’s most impressive feature. You will need to climb a winding path to reach the summit, but when you do you will be rewarded with some beautiful views of the beaches and town. If you don’t fancy the climb, you can always hop on the little land train to take you to the top.

Dog walking

Located just a short walk outside of the town lies the Tossa del Mar animal shelter, and you will certainly hear when you are getting close thanks to the chorus of barking! The shelter is always looked for people to help walk their pooches, and the surrounding area is a great place to go for a stroll with a rescued dog by your side.

Water sports

Although Tossa del Mar is a sleepy little town most of the time, it certainly has its fair share of water sports. Adrenaline seekers can hop on the back of a banana boat, while those that fancy something a little more relaxing can hire a kayak or take to the water on a glass bottom boat.


The Ultimate Ibiza Detox

Sometimes all that is needed is to give your body the cleanse that it deserves to make you feel more alive, and what better place to have the intimate detox than the sunny, happy island of Ibiza. Why not book one of our villas with a pool in Ibiza and it won’t be long before you start to feel like your best self.

The first step is to stock up on a collection of fresh fruit and vegetables. No matter what town your Ibiza villa rental is in, you are likely to find a local market nearby selling the freshest of produce. Alternatively visit Can Musson, a family run farm where you can not only purchase fruit and veg but also homemade cakes and tea and coffee. If you can’t wait for a market, there are many ecological supermarkets in Ibiza.

 

Yoga is of abundance in Ibiza, and chances are you will be able to join in one of the free classes that are available. If you don’t mind splashing out a bit, there are some companies that run yoga classes on the beach in the morning, followed by a healthy, hearty breakfast.

Why not spend an afternoon out in the open air for an Ibiza walking tour. The majority of these tours are free, but rely on your donations to continue running. This is a great way to see the many sights of the island while still staying active and energised.

Hire accommodation in Ibiza near to the port of San Miguel and hire a kayak for an hour. Feel free to explore the shallow waters at your leisure and then relax on the beach. You can use the sand to exfoliate your feet and hands to get the smoothest skin around. If you want professional exfoliation, then there are plenty of spas in various towns that provide a range of treatments and leave you in ultimate relaxation.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like going out, you can make use of your Ibiza holiday rental by soaking up the sun and enjoying fresh fruit, smoothies and salads.

 


The Best Loved Cake Shops in Barcelona

We all love a delicious slice of chocolate gateaux or a decadent macaron but Spain isn’t often known for its cakes, preferring to lead the way with tapas, seafood and cava. However, unbeknownst to many, Barcelona is actually a cake haven…here are a few of the best pastelerias you can explore from your Barcelona accommodation.

La Patisseria Barcelona

Vibrant, decadent cakes and pastries are the order of the day at La Patisseria. From the refreshing Llimona tart to a thousand layers with chocolate (mil fulls xocolata) expect to be here a while… You can also take away cakes and pastries to dine on in the comfort of your family villa in Spain.

Bubo Degustacions

Bubo is a group of bakeries and pastelerias dotted throughout Barcelona city centre. You can pre-order for parties and special occasions or simply dine in. The variety of bombons, macarons, pastries, petit fours and cakes are incredible – you will be spoiled for choice. Sip on coffee, take a slice and stay a while.

 

Cosmo

Cosmo is a café and space for contemporary artwork in Barcelona. Their carrot cake and hot chocolate with whipped cream are firm favourites of the locals.

 

 

 

Hoffman Patisseria

Close to Santa Maria del Mar church in the El Born district sits the quirky Hoffman Patisseria. Take away all of your favourites from here including crunchy tiramisu, delicious brioche, chocolate and vanilla cookies, decadent black forest gateau and much more.

 

Forn Baluard

If you seek some of the best bread, pies and pastries in the city then this is the place to be. Try their sourdough or even their dark chocolate and strawberry flavoured bread!

Takashi Ochiai

For something a little different, how about trying some sweet Japanese treats in Barcelona? With a menu of exclusive and traditional creations you can sample such decadent delights as Yokan Bambu which is a combination of green tea, sugar and sweet red bean paste or pasta filo pastry with cream and cherry cream glaze!

Coffee and cake is as popular in Barcelona as it is in France or Switzerland, it’s just a case of finding the best place for you. Hopefully this list will help you find a perfect bakery or pasteleria close to your Barcelona holiday rental.

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