NOVEMBER 2016

 

For a web-based copy of this newsletter, click here.

 

About Intimate France – We travel every spring and fall to Europe's most beautiful destinations. Our small groups (between eight and 16 travelers) guarantee you the utmost in personal service and attention to detail. Contact us: IntimateFrance.com or (800) 676-1247. More about us. 

 

FALL 2016 IN MEDITERRANEAN SPAIN —

 

A PICTORAL JOURNEY

 

 

 

We continue our journey through Europe with photos from Spain's northern Mediterranean coast.

Pictured here — medieval bridge at the beautiful village of Besalú, in Spanish Catalunya.

 

 

THIS MONTH'S FEATURED INTIMATE FRANCE
TOUR — DEVON-CORNWALL, ENGLAND
JUNE 5-17, 2017

 

 

St. Michel's Mount crowns a rocky islet in Cornwall. It's a 'twin' of France's Mont St. Michel.

 

You'll love this tour if:

• You like outstanding seafood cuisine & wines
• You're thrilled by English gardens — Eden Project, Trelissick, Heligan

• The thought of pretty villages intrigues you — Mousehole, Mevagissey, Fowey
• You like grand manor homes – Coleton Fishacre, Antony, Lanhydrock, Longleat
• You love TV's 'Doc Martin' and want to visit Port Isaac, where the program is filmed
• You long to see the chic resort of St. Ives, with its Tate Gallery and Hepworth Museum

• You're curious about the English twin of Mont St. Michel St. Michael's Mount, in Cornwall
• You want to visit ancient Wells, England's smallest cathedral 'city'
• Historic Plymouth and its vast harbor floats your boat

DETAILS HERE

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CONTINUING OUR 'JUST BACK FROM EUROPE'
ALBUM WITH IMAGES OF MEDITERRANEAN SPAIN

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Spain — Seafood, Villages, Catalan Pride

 

By George Nevin

Founder-owner, Intimate France

 

Lots of Americans know Spain's Barcelona, certainly a beautiful and vibrant city, but how many of us have experienced the Catalan fishing villages of Peñiscola and Cadaqués, or the authentically medieval city of Girona, the setting for much of the filming for "Game of Thrones"?

 

Seven of us were privileged to explore the vast rice fields south of Valencia, the windswept hilltop citadel of Morella, three sites associated with Salvador Dalí and much more during 12 days in Mediterranean Spain in September 2016.

 

We started out with two days in Valencia, a handsome city with a vibrant museum quarter (architecture by Santiago Calatrava) and a bustling atmosphere.  

 

 

Santiago Calatrava's City of Arts and Sciences is a landmark in Valencia.

 

Early on during our visit, we traveled 30 minutes south of Valencia to the vast freshwater lagoon called the Albufera. Here, where virtually all of Spain's rice is grown, we feasted on the signature Spanish dish of paella, then went for a leisurely boat ride on the lagoon.

 

 

Paella at the celebrated restaurant Casa Angel, south of Valencia.

 

 

 

Boating on the Albufera lagoon south of Valencia after our paella lunch.

 

Back in Valencia, we saw the sights — the Silk Exchange, dating from the late 1400s; St. Mary's Cathedral, consecrated in 1238 and a splendid example of Valencian Gothic architecture; and the enormous Mercado Central, said to be Europe's largest market under one roof (more than 950 food merchants).

 

After two days we drove north a couple of hours to our first whitewashed Mediterranean fishing village — Peñiscola. After checking into the lovely, seaside Hotel Boutique la Mar, we explored the steep streets and cobbled plazas of old Peñiscola.

 

 

Old Peñiscola takes on a magical air at dusk. We enjoyed a great fish dinner at Restaurante Chiki.

 

 

 

Peñiscola rises in tiers above the sea, with its well-preserved castle at the top. Our hotel,
Boutique la Mar, is the one on the right among the three buildings at the center of the photo.

 

We loved our visit to the Castillo of Peñiscola, the castle-home of anti-pope Benedict XIII, known as Papa Luna, at the end of the 1300s. Although not considered a true pope (he was embroiled in infighting in the Catholic church during the time the papacy was relocated to Avignon, France), today he remains revered by local residents.

 

 

View from the Castillo of Peñiscola to the fine sand beach of the town.

 

 

The Castillo towers above the whitewashed houses in the oldest part of Peñiscola.

 

North of Peñiscola, Catalunya begins. This restive region is locked in a battle with Spanish officialdom over political autonomy. Catalunya, whose history, culture and language differ markedly from those of the rest of the nation, favors independence. This battle is being fought in the courts and in the realm of public opinion.

 

We enjoyed visiting Tarragona (Roman monuments), Sitges (chi-chi beach resort) and, especially, Girona, where the middle ages seem so palpable that many exterior scenes from the current year of the TV series "Game of Thrones" were filmed there.

 

 

Girona, a handsome town with spunky Catalan spirit, rises above the Onyar River.

 

After Girona, our paths took us to the first of three Salvador Dalí visits — his Theater-Museum in Figueres. Here, the surrealist's imagination ran wild — a real Cadillac with two mannequin occupants continuously drenched with artificial "rain," a couryard with nude figurines standing in balcony windows, and the must-see Soft Self Portrait With Grilled Bacon. Even the exterior of the museum — formerly Figueres' municipal theater — gets into the act. You have never seen so many rooftop eggs in your life.

 

 

Dalí Theater-Museum, Figueres

 

Later we came to remote, incredibly charming Cadaqués and settled into our seafront hotel, Playasol. What a dream! The views of the whitewashed village from each room were stunning.

 

 

This is what we saw from our hotel windows — Cadaqués, in the Spanish sunshine.

 

 

 

Cadaqués, on Spain's northern Mediterranean coast, is an idyllic fishing village.

 
Just outside Cadaqués proper lies tiny Port Lligat, where we made our second Dalí visit — to the house he shared with his wife, Gala. It's said he wanted to live in the settlement the farthest east on mainland Spain so the light of dawn would strike his bedroom first. He even set up a system of mirrors to bring the daylight to his bed.

 

 

The home of Salvador Dalí and wife, Gala, in the tiny village of Port Lligat, near Cadaqués.

 

After 12 great days in Spain, we sat down over a glass of — what else? — Spanish wine to talk about what we had seen and done. We agreed the Hotel Boutique la Mar in Peñiscola was a clear winner, because of the lovely premises, idyllic view over the sea and, especially the warmth of owners Martin and Olga. Just about tied for charm and ambiance was Hotel Playasol in Cadaqués, where the views from the rooms were fantastic morning, noon and night, the location was ideal and the staff unfailingly eager to please.

 

On the culinary front, we adored everything about our lunch at a hotel-restaurant-country club in the hills east of Girona, Wine Spa PeraladaHere, we enjoyed the excellent wines (all made by the hotel owners), the high quality and inventiveness of the food, and the gracious, refined setting.

 

 

 

The elegant Wine Spa Peralada, northwastern Spain — a hotel, resort and winery all in one.

 

It was with the usual mixture of sadness and satisfaction that we said goodbye to each other on our last morning at Barcelona Airport — sad that our adventure in Mediterranean Spain was over, satisfaction at having seen and done so much.

 

 

Waiting for the airport shuttle, Barcelona Airport hotel, on our last morning.

 

But although we were finished with Spain, I myself had one final experience — lunch in Franc, where I was due to return my rental van. Four hours after leaving Barcelona, I pulled into a rainy Toulouse, parked and made my way to the excellent Restaurant Gourmandine. Here, shortly after 1 p.m., I settled into a chair on the outdoor terrace and enjoyed a most excellent post-tour meal.

 

 

Restaurant La Gourmandine, in central Toulouse — highly recommended.

 

 

Starter at La Gourmandine — tiger prawn raviolis, pea mousseline and chorizo foam.

 

 

My main course — pork belly glazed with honey and soy sauce, with seasonal vegetables. 

 

 

 

For dessert, café gourmand — an excellent espresso with four mini-desserts.

 

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IN OUR NEXT INTIMATE FRANCE E-NEWSLETTER — HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR 2016 TOURS:
THE BEST HOTELS, RESTAURANTS AND SIGHTS WE ENJOYED IN SPRING AND FALL

 

RECENT INTIMATE FRANCE E-NEWSLETTERS AND PICTORIAL ALBUMS

• OCTOBER 2016 — LANGUEDOC, SOUTHERN FRANCE
• SEPTEMBER 2016 — SWISS AND FRENCH ALPS

• AUGUST 2016 — PROVENCE, FRANCE

• JUNE 2016 — BURGUNDY AND FRENCH ALPS