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.


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.


Mary – Administration

Mary

Name: Mary Martos
From: Sabadell
Speaks: Spanish, Catalan, English

What is your job at Catalunya Casas?  Administration/Office Manager

How long have you worked at Catalunya Casas? Since 2012.

What do you like most about working at Catalunya Casas? What I like the most is that there are always so many different topics/issues/subjects during the day, that it makes it impossible to be monotonous or boring. Also, I get to meet lots of people and practice languages.

What is your favourite place for a holiday?  Any place on the beach where I can sunbathe and relax…

What do you like to do most in Barcelona/Catalunya? Shopping


Cool off in Catalonia´s best water parks

Catalonia, Spain is famous for being family friendly, and their many water parks are no exception. A plethora of attractions await from dolphinariums (dolphin aquariums) to swimming pools and kamikaze water slides.  If you are renting a villa with private pool on the Costa Brava or you are staying in a Costa Dorada vacation rental you have many options when it comes to finding a water park to visit in your area. Here is a short guide to the water parks within traveling distance from your villa in Spain.

 

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Costa Brava
Marineland Catalunya
Marineland Catalunya is one of the most popular water parks on the Costa Brava. Located in Palafolls near the seaside resort of Malgrat de Mar, Marineland will keep all of the children (and adults) entertained throughout the day. There is a free shuttle bus which runs from the popular towns of Lloret de Mar, Blanes, Malgrat de Mar, Santa Susana, Pineda and Calella. Expect to see exciting dolphin shows, a myriad of exotic birds, sea lions and a wide selection of water slides and wave pools. If you have a child celebrating a birthday during your trip, let the park know in advance and the park entertainers will organise something special for the birthday boy or girl!

AquaBrava
The AquaBrava waterpark is located in Roses in the northern Costa Brava, while Marineland caters for the south of the area, Aquabrava is perfectly located to visit if you are staying near L’Estartit, Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell. The park hosts 19 amazing rides with wild rivers, relaxation pools and twisting, undulating water slides. Their newest attraction is the Cobra water ride, which will take your breath away! For younger children there is also Tropic Island and Kids Lagoon, perfect for the toddlers in your family.

Costa Maresme
Illa Fantasia
Illa Fantasia is a vibrant water park set on the Costa Maresme, approximately one hour north of Barcelona by train. With more than 20 water slides and three huge swimming pools, you will find many places to chill out and cool down during the hot summer days. Adults can lounge in the sun or under a shady canopy as the kids hit the water slides. The park´s picnic areas make it easy to bring your own food prepared in your Barcelona holiday rental, so there is no need for any additional expense. There is also a supermarket right next to the park if you wanted to shop for some essentials just before you enter the park.

Costa Dorada
Aquopolis
Aquopolis is located in La Pineda near Tarragona, and you can travel here from Cambrils, Salou and Sitges via bus. If you seek high excitement check out the Hurricane, Boomerang and the Black Hole which is a wild water slide in the dark! If you have a competitive streak, challenge the family to a speed race where you can all compete against each other on the water slides. There are also many relaxing wave pools and river rapids to enjoy together. The children’s mini park caters for the tiny tots, too.

With the plethora of water parks located up and down the coastline in Spain, you will definitely find one close to your Spain vacation rental!


Attention shop-a-holics: Barcelona’s best shopping!

One of the must-do´s when you travel, especially on a Barcelona holiday, is to check out the local shopping scene. That being said, there are many tourist-oriented shops that tend to be rather overpriced, gaudy, and incredibly generic. We know that on your Barcelona vacation, you want to have the most authentic shopping experience possible, so we´ve put together a great list of some of the best shops in Barcelona, organized by neighborhood. Be sure to check them out soon though, because due to the rising cost of rent, 2015 may be the last year that these gems stay open for business!

There are plenty of neighborhoods in the city of Barcelona that are worth exploring. In the old city (Ciutat Vella), La Boqueria–one of the most amazing food markets in the world–is located just off the busy thoroughfare of La Rambla. At the open-air market, food lovers can unite and enjoy some of the freshest Spanish foods available. Just across La Rambla is the old and beautiful neighborhood of Barri Gótic where there are plenty of interesting and one-of-a-kind boutiques in Barri Gótic. Cereria Subirá is a 250-year-old candle shop that has truly stood the test of time.

La Boqueria
La Boqueria

If you´re a music lover, El Raval is your dream neighborhood come true. The area on the south side of La Rambla is full of local music shops, but the biggest one is Discos Castelló, which is filled to the brim with some of the world´s best vinyl. If you feel like pampering yourself, Les Topettes has the finest bath and body products.

La Ribera used to be a textile district, but now it is home to artisan boutiques that make their products on an upstairs mezzanine, ensuring the utmost authenticity.

If you happen to be near the beach, you´ll be sure to find some treasures in the crafts market in Port Vell in Barceloneta!

Passeig de Gracia
Passeig de Gracia

If you want the ultimate luxury experience, L´Eixample has the higher-end retail, such as Armani, Chanel, and Gucci. Even futher into the neighborhood of Grácia, you can find incredibly unique clothing stores such as Érase Una Vez, and Mushi Mushi among many other local boutiques.

There are countless stores that are worth visiting during your Barcelona holiday, but unfortunately, they won´t be around forever. Take this chance and check them out while you still can!


More than just a beach: Barcelona’s best July festivals!

Think summer in Barcelona means only sun and beaches? Think again! Barcelona has much more to offer in than just sand and salty turquoise water. A plethora of unmatched music festivals, an open-air cinema, a start-up fair, a motorcycle festival, and even a tap-dancing festival take place in the Mediterranean city come July.

The vast selection of music festivals held in Barcelona is sure to strike a chord with almost anyone. The shows range from rock and reggae to hip hop and electronic, drawing crowds from all over Europe, and even the world! From mid-July to mid-August, the Cap Roig Festival in the province of Girona features more than 20 national and international musical artists including Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, and Sting.

Festa Major Gracia
Street festival in Barcelona

Festival Cruïlla is another massive music festival from July 10 to July 12 that caters to all musical tastes: reggae, hip hop, punk rock, electronic, you name it! It certainly takes the gold medal for the most well-rounded music festival in Barcelona.

Barcelona-Beach-Festival-2014

 

Hard Rock Rising Barcelona will take over the city on July 24 and 25, and will feature more mainstream acts including Kings of Leon, Robbie Williams, and Lenny Kravitz.

If you’re searching for more than just music, there are plenty of cultural festivals including Festival Grec (throughout the month of July) and Festival Castell de Peralada (July 10–August 6). There are even some themed festivals that cater to a passionate niche crowd: Harley Davidson hosts The Harley Days the first weekend of July that occupies Plaça d´Espaya, and it´s open to the public for free!

If you’re searching for a more relaxing way to unwind in this exciting city, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening from July 3–August 7, the castle atop Montjuïc opens its gardens and hosts a cinema night, setting the perfect scene for a peaceful family outing.

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This brief list is just a taste of what Barcelona has to offer during the summer month of July. If you’re heading to Catalonia this summer, the opportunities for outdoor enjoyment will not disappoint.


Barcelona’s can’t-miss annual events!

Spending your holiday in Barcelona in this year? Don’t miss out on these exciting events that appeal to every taste.

 

Although this year’s Congress has already passed, next year’s Congress plans to be bigger and better than ever. More than 93,000 attendees descended upon the event that was held at both Plaça Espanya and Montjuic. Exhibits and speakers from companies like Accenture, Lenovo, and IBM informed guests of the latest in the world of mobile communication as well as what is in store for the future. You must see these 7 wonders of the world.

 

The race begins and ends just below the picturesque Montjuic Park, a hillside park that overlooks the city and the Mediterranean Sea. The course takes runners past Barcelona’s most famous sights including Camp Nou (FC Barcelona’s football stadium), Gaudi’s masterpiece La Sagrada Familia, and the boardwalk of the Mediterranean beaches.

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La Playa Barceloneta

On the heels of the Festival of Sant Joan is Barcelona’s Gay Pride festival that spans multiple days and features a parade, a high-heel race, parties, and concerts.

 

Located approximately 30 minutes outside of the city of Barcelona, the Circuit de Catalunya is abuzz during this annual event that attracts Formula 1 fans from all over the world.

 

Since 1994, Sonar has brought together music and technology, performed by international musicians, DJs, and other artists for an audiovisual experience like no other.

 

The Strokes, Tori Amos, and Damien Rice are just a few musical acts who will be appearing at this multi-day music festival in Barcelona.

 

The shortest night of the year is one of the most colorful and exciting in Barcelona. The ‘Nit del Foc’ (Catalan for ‘Night of Fire’)  kicks off the summer season in the Catalan capital. Residents and tourists head to the beaches where all-night fireworks light up the sky over the Mediterranean and musicians play along the boardwalk.

 

During this multi-day, mid-summer festival, the streets of the Barcelona neighborhood known as Gràcia fill with pedestrians who admire live music and the street decorations contest put on by local businesses. All decorations are made from recyclable materials, and the results are truly incredible!

Festa Major Gracia
Festa Major Gracia

Barcelona’s last festival of the summer kicks off a new season with more than 500 events and activities including parades, street concerts and performers, and the Fire Festival complete with fireworks and a ‘Fire Run.’


Catalan custom: Mushroom hunting

The summer season has passed in Catalonia which means mushrooms have begun to sprout all over the Spanish hills. These edible fungi help usher in the ages-old Catalan custom of mushroom hunting.

Throughout Catalonia during this time of year, bolitaires (or mushroom hunters) take to the fertile fields to hunt for and collect mushrooms after the summer harvest. Catalans have passed down the tradition through generations as groups head out–baskets in tow–for early morning weekend rummaging.

A few varieties are known to grow in the region (including ceps and trompetas) and serve as complementary ingredients to a number of dishes like omelettes, soups, and salads.

 

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New to gathering these treasured trumpets? The government of Catalonia has issued information regarding how to properly gather mushrooms; how and whether you need to obtain a mushroom-gathering permit; and further information about mushrooms themselves, including which are safe to eat, which may be poisonous, and helpful nutrition facts.

If you plan to visit Catalonia in the fall, grab a basket and enjoy this community-building tradition among the lush forests of northeastern Spain. If you can’t make it to the countryside, heaps of Barcelona’s markets (like La Bouqueria) sell varieties of the plant so you’ll have no shortage of the nutrient-rich Catalonian wonder. Happy hunting!

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