Catalonia is a bird watcher’s paradise


Catalonia is a wonderful place for bird watching – and we mean of the feathered variety! The incredible, picturesque delta plains and nature reserves of Terres de l’Ebre have over 350 species of birdlife for you to discover. If your Spain vacation rental is in this region and you are a keen ornithologist, then don’t forget your binoculars as this area will be right up your street!

The Els Ports mountain range flanks the River Ebre as it meanders down to the delta and the sea. Keen observers can view rice fields, salt marches and hundreds of pink flamingos – almost unheard of in the western Mediterranean. The birdlife is unrivalled with rare species waiting to be discovered among the flora and fauna.

Andouin’s Gull is one of the rare nesting birds which can be found along the delta, a greater number you are unlikely to see anywhere else in the Mediterranean. The Black Wheatear, Squacco Heron and Boneli’s Eagle also inhabit this area of Spain. Other rare and exotic birds you can expect to see around the Terres de L’Ebre delta include: the red-rumped swallow, collared pratincole and the slender billed gull which first bred in this area. They can easily be discovered at the channel mouth, on the saltpans and along the bays.

In addition to birds if you head up to the Els Ports mountains where you will have the opportunity to explore caves, peaks and gorges which are home to wild boar, otter, roe deer and some Spanish Ibex. You definitely don’t want to visit here without binoculars or your camera.

If your travelling party includes keen photographers and bird-watchers, then this is the ideal place for all of you.  Research the wildlife areas and reserve your villa in the Costa Dorada, you will have all of the rare species, natural beauty and wildlife right on your doorstep. Make up a picnic, fill up your backpack and get ready for the natural adventure of a lifetime.


Catalan Pyrenees and Mollo Park

Travelling by car from your Costa Brava vacation rental you will find the glorious natural peaks of the Catalan Pyrenees. The area is perfect for hiking and skiing and attracts visitors from across the globe every year. The stretches of parkland and wild rivers flow through the mountains as charming alpine style villages sit nestled in the low valleys.

Hike around the area of Setcases which means the “seven houses”, the river Ter is just above the town it’s a wonderful place for walking and a picnic with family and friends. If you have the opportunity to visit the Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Camprodon it will be well worth your time. The interior is simple yet atmospheric, with arched windows and rustic, authentic architecture, the roof is a pointed arch which houses the bell tower.  

Take a break for a coffee or tapas snack at one of the small cafes in the area and enjoy local delicacies from the Pyrenees region as you plan your next move.

Following your coffee break, take a short drive to Mollo Park. Located in a forest and surrounded by incredible flora and fauna, this park allows visitors to get up close and personal with a myriad of animal species. Here you will be able to see bears, deer, donkeys, wolves, eagles and marmots in large enclosures in a picturesque, forest environment. There’s an interactive map which can be downloaded so that you can plan your route around the nature park prior to your visit, that way you won’t miss seeing any of your favourite furry friends!

If you plan ahead prepare a snack in your Spain vacation rental, there are many picnic areas in the forest where you can relax overlooking the river and the valley. The park allows visitors to bring sandwiches and fruit in their rucksacks – anymore and the animals may be tempted! There is however a café which services pizza, sandwiches and hamburgers if you don’t wish to bring your own.

Mollo park is open almost all year round apart from major holidays, however the café is only opening during the summer months. It’s a wonderful day trip combined with a walk in the foothills of the Pyrenees, something for all of the family in a stunning area of Catalonia.


Unique tourist attractions in the heart of Barcelona

An Olympic Legacy

A unique tourist attraction in the heart of Barcelona, perched on the side of a mountain, is the Olympic Park. The legacy that was left behind after the 1992 games took place there.

The site can be reached easily no matter where you decide to rent a villa in Barcelona thanks to the ease of the city’s public transport system, or if you don’t fancy getting on the train, the climb to the site is not too strenuous.

The Stadium

Montjuic Mountain proved to be the perfect settings for one of the most successful games in history, and transformed that area of the city almost overnight. One of the most important facilities on the site has to be the Olympic Stadium itself. The structure was actually built back in 1929 for the International Exposition, and underwent extreme renovation in just a few years before the games took place.

Montjuic Municipal Pool

All Olympic venues around the world are impressive in their own way, but there is definitely something special about Barcelona site. The pool for example, features stunning views out over the whole city and the mountains in the background.

Palua Sant Jordi and Telecommunications Tower

The Palau Sant Jordi was home to events such as gymnastics, volleyball and handball, and is now one of the most popular venues in the city for musical performances. The tower, a unique feature on the Barcelona skyline, was designed by Spanish architect Calatrava, and has helped to shape a new symbol for the city.

Uses Today

Unfortunately, much of the park remains devoid of use, except of course to pique the interest of the constant flow of visitors stopping to see the venues on their way up or down the mountain. The stadium itself has been the venue of choice for many world-famous music acts such as David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Coldplay and many more. It also hosts many sporting events through the year. These are great events to incorporate into your Barcelona holiday.  

If you have a Barcelona holiday rental, then there is no excuse not to pay this historic site a visit. You can also incorporate the mountains many other attractions during your visit.


Bonavista Market: The Biggest Outdoor Market in Spain

Are you looking for some unique souvenirs to bring back for your friends and family from your holiday in Spain? Then look no further than the Bonavista Market, which is one of the biggest outdoor markets in Spain! Held every Sunday, the Bonavista Market takes place roughly halfway between Tarragona and Vila-Seca; roughly 6 miles from Salou (so you’ll have easy access if you rent a villa on the Costa Dorada!).

What to Buy

Imagine a local Sunday morning car boot… but bigger! At The Bonavista Market, you’ll find a sprawling array of stalls selling everything from clothing and handbags to souvenirs and toiletries. You can even pick up some locally-sourced fruit and vegetables to cook up in the kitchen at your villa in Spain. This is also a fantastic place to practice your haggling skills and see what sorts of top bargains you can pick up.

Getting There

If you’re planning on buying a lot, then a hire car is probably your best, bet, which makes it easy for you to transport all your bargains back to your Spain villa. However, you may also wish to get a taxi (which can be quite expensive), or take the local bus from Salou which is very cost effective and takes just 20 minutes. The Bonavista Market is so large that many tour operators also operate half day excursions!

More Shopping Opportunities

If you’re staying in a Costa Dorada holiday rental and are looking for more great markets, then be sure to check out the similar yet smaller market that’s held right in the heart of Salou every Monday. While not quite as large, there’s still a great selection here, and it’s really easy to access even without a hire car. Catalonia may be famous for its coastline and beaches, but it’s also a top shopping destination!


Catalonia’s Volcanoes

Catalonia’s Volcanoes

When you think about Catalonia, what comes to mind? Sightseeing vacations in Barcelona, enjoying the hustle and bustle of the city? Luxury villas with private pool on the Costa Brava? How about… volcanoes? While we often think of Catalonia as being a very coastal and seaside-y place, it’s important not to forget about the region’s other side; the side that’s a bit wild, a bit unkempt, and very, very unpredictable!

Volcanoes in Catalonia

It is understood that there were once around 30 volcanoes in and around the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park, but today there are just 4 which remain visually identifiable as volcanoes, with the rest having been absorbed into the local woodland. Book a Catalonia vacation rental in the small town of Olot for a chance to see the volcanoes — Montolivet, Montsacopa, Garrinada, and Bisaroques — in person.

A Symbol of Catalonia

Of these 4 volcanoes, Montsacopa tends to be the most popular amongst visitors on holiday in Spain. That’s because this volcano is one of the best preserved in the region, with the classic cone and crater structure. There are numerous hiking and biking trails all across the volcano — and the other local volcanoes — but don’t worry; there hasn’t been any volcanic activity here for around 12,000 years!

Volcanic Weather

Due to the many volcanoes and mountains in the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park area, the weather here isn’t quite stereotypical for Spain. It tends to be very hot, very wet, and incredibly humid, which can make it a little uncomfortable for some people. If you want to learn more about Catalonia’s volcanoes without hiking them in the heat, why not visit the Museum of the Volcanoes in Olot? This is a great place to understand more about volcanic activity, and how it has affected the flora and fauna of the region.


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.


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!


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!

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