Puigcerdá is a small town in the north east corner of Spain Catalonia that borders France. For funzies we walked across to the France border and had a coffee on the other side. Since Catalonia is in the EU (for now), its like crossing over state lines. On the way back, we perused through a ceramic store and I bought a handmade bowl!. For dinner with had a decadent dinner of fondue at La Taberna del Sibarita in the city center, which was filled with a bunch of cute boutiques. And then went to this country bar/restaurant El Badiu for drinks! We stayed in La Molina in a darling country house. The town is popular destination during the winter for skiing, and during the fall has gorgeous, colorful mountainous views. We had pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato) for breakfast, which my friend gave his Catalan nod of approval towards the quality. It’s a must-try Catalan food!
The following morning we began our road trip back south. We stopped at Castellfollit de la Roca for the panoramic view of the little medieval city and tried to spy some Catalonian donkeys–they’re the symbol of the region. We also stopped in Besalú which is a medieval city with high stone walls and a bridge. This city is where the locals go to be tourists. We enjoyed a vermouth at Bar Miqwahs! A vermouth is like the mimosa of Spain–perfect drink for day drinking on Sundays, it traditionally comes with olives, mussels and oysters.
Rounding out our road trip, we ended at the colorful city of Girona! Like Dubrovnik (read my guide here!), this medieval city has a set of towering city walls with great views and whose Cathedral was used as a set for Game of Thrones. We lunched at this fabulous place called Els Jardin de La Merce. Lunch in Catalonia doesn’t start until 1pm and typically consists of a set menu with three courses (app, main, dessert) and a drink or coffee. As it was Sunday, the menu is a bit bigger and elegant and costs around €22. For a daily menu during the week, its closer to €10-12.
The highlight for my blogging soul was crossing the red iron Eiffel Bridge and snapping some pics. Fun fact: The iron from this bridge was leftovers from the aptly named Eiffel Tower. Also, although we didn’t go, Girona’s most favorite gelato spot is Rocambolesc. They have creative Popsicle in the shape of crazy things like the finger of Columbus and Game of Thrones characters. The park in town was also setting for the city’s festival. If you visit Catalonia during the fall there’s a good chance you’ll stumble upon a town festival–they all have them! Before I left, I also kissed the butt of this weird lion statue (prayers I don’t get sick) which now ensures that I’ll return to Girona.
Granollers was my central home spot during my week abroad so I got to know the town pretty well. I went on daily runs along the river, worked in the Santagloria coffee shop for their free WiFi, and snacked on panellets pastries with almonds and pine nuts from local bakeries.
I made nearly daily stops to the local grocery stores for various ingredients. If you have a chance, try a bright red persimmon! One day I agreed to make TexMex for the Catalans. Turns out they hate margaritas, but are obsessed with queso. Also, explaining the concept of queso to native Spanish speakers is a tad confusing.
On Thursday’s, the city has the largest street market in the region. And let me tell you, it’s HUGE. Think any farmers market you’ve ever seen and then add like 200 more stalls. It magically pops up around 6am and is gone by 2pm. The stalls snake through all the streets of the town and are filled with everything from toys to clothes to fresh food. I was particularly obsessed with the giant heirloom tomatoes that were the size of softballs. Also, with the discerning eye of my Catalan amigo we selected some fantastic wild mushrooms to cook. He scoffed at my selection of regular crimini mushrooms and praised the local variety, even knowing a few of the stall owners from his hometown. Growing up, he and his family would hunt for mushrooms during the fall. So he’s definitely and expert on the local eats.
When we weren’t adventuring to different cities, we’d grab lunch at a local restaurant in town and enjoy the menú del día (menu of the day). We ate relatively early–aka right at 1pm when the restaurants open, but most people tended to trickle in later. Just about everything in the town is shutdown for a lunch lunch until 3pm. Why don’t we do this again in America? I found some solid vegetarian food at El Mirallet.
On Thursday’s, many restaurants serve paella. This tradition started back in the Franco days because he never went out to eat, unless it was Thursday and only if it was paella. We managed to find some quality vegetarian paella as a menú del día at a restaurant called Sant Miquel Gastronòmic. If you select red wine with your meal, it comes with sparkling water so you can break up the bitterness and make sort of a poor man’s sangria.
For more of our adventures in Spain see our other blog posts:
- How to Do Menorca Like a Local
- 24 Hours in Barcelona
- 24 Hours of Barcelona Summer
- 24 Hours in Tarragona
- 24 Hours in Madrid
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