The Catalan coast of Spain and Cork??

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After the winding drive along the rugged and spectacular Catalan coast of the Costa Brava we finally saw our destination – Tossa de Mar. The thing that immediately struck us was the walled ramparts and towers we could see on the promontory above the beach.  This is the 13th century medieval, fortified old town, or Vila Vella. It is truly spectacular and the only example of it’s kind along the whole of the Catalan coastline. We couldn’t wait to get down there and explore.

We picked up some maps from the Tourist information office (which is right next to the bus station) and headed off. If you’re in Barcelona then Tossa de Mar is definitely worth a visit – we saw a number of local buses arrive from there.

This area has been populated since Roman times and we visited the remains of a Roman Villa on our way to the medieval town. As we have found in many places in Spain, there was no entry fee and the ‘attraction’ was well set up and maintained. We made our way through the narrow streets of the new ‘old’ town that developed outside the walled city and from memory was about the 16th centry!! Tossa de Mar is very much a tourist town these days however as it was mid September the tourist hordes had diminished substantially.

We arrived at the city walls and made our way around the outside.  On the other side of the promontory we found a small cove and beach that was very popular with holiday makers and a small tunnel/entrance through the walls.

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‘Secret’ entrance into the city

The vila vella contained 80 houses at it’s peak in the 15th century and many of them are still standing and used as shops, residences, reaturants and even a museum. The castle that used to be at the highest point is long gone and replaced by a lighthouse and cafe with wonderful views up and down the coast.

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Inside the walled city

The city has been very well preserved and conserved and you can still walk along the walls between the towers that enclose it. We explored the vila vella and walked all the walls and you could see what an outstanding location this was for the development of a castle and city. The views from all points were spectacular. We concluded our day with a well deserved ice-cream and milk shake and strolled the beachfront promenade.

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City wall and tower

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Llagostera – this where corks come from!

The following day we took to the bikes (yet) again and rode the 10 kms to Llagostera (pronounced ‘yagostera’).

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Llagostera town overlooking the bike path

This quiet town used to be the centre of cork production in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries and exported cork all over the globe. Due to the thriving cork industry the population grew from 985 people to 4,256 over 170 years. There is a great little museum – Can Caciques (again free entrance) explaining the history of the town, the agricultural history and the history of cork industry. We rode to the top of the hill and wandered the narrow streets that surround the church that is now built on the summit (replacing the castle). Some of the original city walls are still in place and you get a real sense of the fortress it was all those years ago. One of the towers was still used as a prison right up until quite recently!!

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The prison tower – with the Catalan flag flying proudly above
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View to the church from the market square
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The city walls
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St Feliu de Llagostera church atop the highest point

On the ride home there had been an art installation installed in one of the fields next to the bike path. There were a number of decorated hay bales brightening up the fallow field. I had to stop and take a photo (much to Jacqueline’s disappointment!!)

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Later in the week we did a ride to the seaside resort of Palamos which was extremely quiet now that the summer season has finished and also drove to Banyoles and walked the 8km loop around the lake. This is where the rowing for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics took place. We came across a large platform next to the riverbank that must have been used during the games for the rowing as we could make out in very faded writing ‘1992 Barce’ on it. It was a very pleasant stroll in the autumn sunshine.

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Lake Banyole

We are in Spain for one more week before heading back to Chiang Mai in Thailand. I’m sure we will visit some more interesting places on the Costa Brava in the coming week.

As we’re flying on the weekend next weeks blog may be delayed by a day or two – until then….

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