Like a child in a candy store, I found myself stopping at every stall in the crowded market, following my nose more often than my sight. The aroma of freshly baked bread beckoned and I stopped to contemplate which of the different breads I wanted to try. In the end, I walked away distracted by the bright pop of color at a neighboring stall selling licorice and cotton candy. I put away the map that I’d been given by our guide Marta; I would not need it here. For the next few hours, I was going to get wonderfully lost in Palafrugell, a small coastal town in Costa Brava.
The Sunday market was bustling with families and tourists enjoying the festive atmosphere of Flors i Violes, a time of celebration that transforms the courtyards and plazas around town into little music and theater venues. Beautiful flower, paper and other artistic decorations adorned the streets, stalls and shops, each one decorated distinctly to represent its product.
The fresh golden croissants at a corner stall seemed to attract more onlookers than buyers, perhaps due to their massive size. The strong smell of herbs stoked my curiosity and led me to a herbal medicine stall. Its little sacks of dry herbs offered cures for everything from diabetes to bronchitis. From pickled varieties of olives, ham, cheese to surprisingly giant-sized vegetables and little flower stalls, the market was full of surprises. Giving into my love of unique locally crafted jewelry, I picked up a pretty necklace of multicolored woven threads to take a closer look. In less than two minutes, I had parted with 10 Euros and was making my way around again.
Looking around the market, I realized I’d lost the rest of the group but I didn’t mind, I had a couple of hours before we were to meet for lunch. Then, I met Marissa of MAD Travel Diaries and after wandering around the market for a while, we sat down for a cup of coffee, talking about all things travel, as you do.
We stepped out of the café to the sound of beating drums. A group of bandana clad drummers was slowly making its way through the narrow market streets to the center of the square Pl. Nova. The energy was palpable as the smiling drummers played to the crowd that had gathered around to enjoy the music.
Here is a video of the drumming.
Next, we headed to the Pl. de Can Mario, home to the Museu del Suro, the biggest cork museum in the world and the Can Mario Modernist Water Tank. Here are some photos from the museum shop. I didn’t go inside because I’m really not a museum person and when I have the choice, I usually pick open spaces such as gardens, squares or trails over museums.
Just across from the museum is the Contemporary Sculpture Museum of Can Mario (Vila Casas Foundation) featuring the work of different artists in the region.
Walking along the garden of the Vila Casas Foundation, we arrived at the Can Marino Water Tank and Tower. The Can Marino Modernist Water Tank, completed in 1905 is a modernist structure that is an important remnant of Catalan industrial heritage in the region. Inside the dark interior, an exhibition of photographs traces the history of the conception, design and construction of the tank.
We climbed up the narrow steps all the way up the 35-metre tall tower and were rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the town. The town looked like a painting, with the sky the perfect shade of blue and the buildings in tangerine, mustard, pink or white with red roofs, some turned brown with age.
After enjoying the fantastic view for a few minutes, we made our way to the restaurant where we were supposed to meet the rest of our group for lunch. We arrived to a long table that had been set up in a quaint alley just outside the restaurant. We would be dining al fresco at a table for almost a hundred people!
Local families began to arrive and soon so did our first course. The communal lunch was a springtime Sunday tradition in the town. The fare was typically Catalan with a modern twist and more food than we had expected slowly began to make its way to the table. Conversation flowed to the mellow notes of the musicians, as did the wine, and before we had realized, it had been over two hours. We would have been perfectly content to sit there for another two, considering how pleasantly lazy the afternoon was.
But Marta had other plans for us, and we were dropped off to begin a coastal walk in Calella de Palafrugell, a quiet fishing village along the coast. This was my first encounter with the rugged beauty of Costa Brava, having spent the last few days in Barcelona and at the conference events at TBEX Europe 2015, and I was absolutely wowed by the views of hidden coves along the path. We began the hike at Els Canyers, walking along the coast, going up and down sets of stairs and through the town of Calella. Here are some photos of the gorgeous views.
The towns of Palafrugell and Calella are quieter than other resort or party towns in Costa Brava and retain much of their authenticity even though tourism is the main driver of the local economy. I still can’t decide what my favorite part of the day was- I LOVED everything about the town; the busy market streets, the festive drumming. the al fresco communal lunch and the coastal walk in Calella. For anyone looking to experience nature, culture and hike along the beautiful Spanish coast, Palafrugell is a lovely town to base yourself in for a few days.
Thanks to Marta Moreno and Visit Palafrugell for introducing me to the lovely town.
For general information to help you plan your travels to Spain and suggested itineraries (including off-the-beaten-path places like Girona and Cap De Creus), check out my Spain Travel Blog. Alternatively, just get straight to the point and find out where to go for the best chocolate in Barcelona 😉
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