The bus to Cadaqués was the most nerve-racking, white-knuckle bus ride we’ve ever had. Our bus driver was going a little faster than we would have liked and he zipped around the corners, hugging the dry cliff edge and occasionally having to back up to let a car pass. We emerged into the Cadaqués sun breathing hard and feeling more than a little woozy. It felt good to dump our things at our hotel and take in the fresh air with a stroll around town and by the sea.

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Casa Blaua

It’s a beautiful town! The former fishing village no longer homes fishermen but just tourists in the little whitewashed houses. Its difficult to reach location meant that the town has been protected from the tourist hotels you find further down the coast and has thus retained its charm. Apart from the sea, the town itself, clinging onto the hills of Cadaqués, is a beautiful setting in which to walk around.

Anyway, lunch time. We chose a restaurant close to out hotel: Can Shelabi, with its menu del dia. To start, excellent fried seitons (fresh anchovies) …

Fried Seitons

… and the salad of the day, which turned out to be some fantastically flavourful and garlicky esqueixada, a traditional Catalan salad of salt cod, tomatoes, onions and peppers.

Esqueixada

Now, this was a delicious tagine of sea bream but it’s the dish I’d most like to forget as a treacherous fish bone went down my throat and caused much anxiety. It was delicious but let’s go on to the next dish.

Tagine of Sea Bream

Grilled sea bass was served with white rice and tomatoes. Again, fresh and delicious but altogether a bit dry – a little sauce of some kind would have helped with the rice.

Grilled Sea Bass

We both opted for a simple banana with chocolate for dessert. While the banana could’ve been riper, the chocolate sauce was gorgeous, dark and not too sweet.

Banana with Chocolate

The afternoon was spent walking first to Port Lligat to see Dalí’s house …

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… and then finding ourselves another quiet beach to while away the late afternoon. We succeeded! Cadaqués is smack dab in the middle of the Parc Natural de Cap de Creus and the water was even clearer here with lots of fishes and crabs and sea anemones to ogle. Next time though we’ll need to get some shoes that’ll ensure our feet aren’t cut by the rocks.

Our Favourite Beach

We hadn’t planned anything for dinner and just went off in search of a nice place that had space. That place turned out to be Mut and we only had to wait a short while for a lovely table outside, facing the sea. We shared a number of plates with drinks: escalivada with goat´s cheese, …

Escalivada with Goat´s Cheese

… more seitons, this time in vinegar, …

Seitons

… and a Catalan classic of pa amb tomàquet with anchovies. Perfect. Everything here was excellent.

Pa amb Tomàquet with Anchovies

Cadaqués by Night

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and spent the morning strolling around more of the narrow whitewashed streets of Cadaqués and then finding our own little rock on which to perch and dip our toes into that crystal clear water.

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I had taken notice of a promising looking restaurant earlier that morning and we returned there – Can Pelayo – for lunch. Blai’s sardines were again fresh and fantastic (as you can imagine, when we returned to Barcelona, we took a break from fish).

Sardines

My gazpacho was exactly what I wanted, cold and refreshing. 

Gazpacho

Our shared fideuà looked spectacular and was fine; it didn’t have the same wonderful seafood flavour of the paella we had in El Port de la Selva though. Still, a fine eat and certainly a good deal as part of a €15 menu del dia.

Fideuà

There was dessert too – watermelon and crema catalana. Service was a bit of a mess when we were there though but it was laughable rather than stressful. Hopefully things will improve!

After lunch, we caught a bus to Figueres – ok, it’s not exactly the Costa Brava but it is part of the Dalí Triangle (the third and final vertex being the Gala Dalí House that is Púbol Castle). It was about 5pm when we arrived in Figueres and it was the perfect time to see the Dalí Theatre-Museum as there was no queue for tickets.

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There was even a little time to see the small collection at the Museu de l’Empordà, where we were delighted to find a couple of original capitals from the monastery we visited while we were in El Port de la Selva. After that, it was onto a Rodalies train again, back to Barcelona (delicious pastries were purchased for our train dinner).

We loved the Costa Brava! If you’re planning a trip there, I can highly recommend the official website of the region as I turned to it often. All photos from this little trip of ours can be found at this Flickr album.

Back we were in Catalonia for the summer! This time, to get away from the big city, we ventured north to the Costa Brava. In particular we aimed for two small fishing villages – El Port de la Selva and Cadaques – and it’s the first village that I’ll feature in this post. To get to the Costa Brava, many people drive but it’s entirely possible to do it by public transport; you just need to be aware of the timetables. We chose Cadaques as it’s known to be beautiful and we both had never been; El Port de la Selva was chosen for its size (tiny) and its beaches and culture (plenty).

Our first part of our journey from Barcelona was a Rodalies train from Passeig de Gràcia to Llançà – you can buy your tickets on the day, a few minutes prior to the train’s departure. It was a very pleasant and uneventful 2 hour ride to Llançà, where we emerged at a station hotter than the fiery depths of hell. It was hot. Llançà is a coastal town but away from the coast, where the train station is located, oof.

Exit from the station and walk straight out and continue walking straight, over the bridge and onwards until you come to a road perpendicular. Turn left here and you’ll find the town hall. Across the road is the bus stop you’ll need. We stood there in the sun, dripping with sweat, and gazed at the very nice bus shelter on the opposite side of the road for buses going in the opposite direction. Gah. Anyway, we caught the bus for El Port de la Selva – this is a local bus and it was a little late, according to its timetable, but you can’t complain when you’re paying €1,80 for the 20 minute coastal ride.

Another view of El Port de la Selva, just before we left for Cadaqués.

We entered El Port de la Selva just in time to check into our hotel, have a little wander and then find some lunch. There were plenty of restaurants in the village and many with weekday menus. We settled for a lunch menu at Ca l´Herminda, a restaurant operating in the village since 1963. Their lunch menu was €16,50 and the first courses were very good, like this salad with anchovies – I love Catalan salads as they’re always full of variety.

Sardines Salad

It was to be seafood for the second courses. A seafood pasta was creamy and chock full of garlic. Perfect for longtime married couples!

Seafood Pasta

More garlic was had with this fabulous hake with thick toasted slices of garlic. Everything was excellent, including the paellas we saw at other tables.

Hake with Toasted Garlic

Their desserts were simple but excellent – we shared a crema Catalana and a large chunk of cold fresh watermelon.

Crema Catalana

After lunch, it was all about finding ourselves a quiet little beach and there are plenty to choose from in the area, from big beaches to little coves. The water in the region is crystal clear and it’s within the Parc Natural del Cap de Creus; it’s brilliant for snorkelling. No real photos from our time there but here’s a view of the harbour and the monastery (the speck on the hill) as we walked back to the village.

El Monastir de Sant Pere de Rodes in the distance

It’s here I’ll mention that the village was perfect for our needs – there’s plenty to do but it’s not crowded like many other towns along the coast. Most tourists were French (France is a short drive away and Blai’s mobile even managed to connect to a French network while we were at the beach).

Dinner that evening ended up being at El Rebost del Pescador, a new tapas bar we happened to pass. When I discovered that it was linked to its neighbouring Confraria de Pescadors del Port de la Selva, a fishermen’s collective, I insisted on eating there! For did I mention yet? El Port de la Selva is still a fishing village. I was expecting great things and we weren’t disappointed.

We tried almost everything that was available that night. The waiter made a special effort to point out the sardines fumades (smoked sardines), here served on slices of pa amb tomàquet. They were indeed excellent, lightly smoky and meaty.

Sardina fumada

I also need to try their home cured anchovies – and this was the best anchovy I’d ever had, all plump and tender and not overly salty.

Anxova de la Confraria de Pescadors

A Pomada d´en Manu turned out to be a kind of tuna salad with onions. I know that doesn’t sound particularly exciting but this was just superb.

Pomada d´en Manu

A melt in your mouth tender, local octopus was served sliced on sliced potatoes; again, this was some of the nicest octopus I’d ever had.

Pop roquer de Cala Prona

We ordered more after seeing a plate of something intriguing at a neighbouring table. It was mackerel off a tasting menu (€35 per person, including a bottle of wine between two) but off the regular menu, we got sardines en escabetx. These cooked sardines were falling apart in a beautifully vinegary sauce laced with plenty of sliced onions.

Sardina en encabetx

I also ordered a pintxo of their seitó de la Confraria – their own cured fresh anchovies (or boquerones). Beautiful. And with that, we tried all the seafood; it’s just a shame that they had run out of the red prawns from the region.

Seitó de la Confraria

All this with a couple of drinks totalled about €30. Bargain. You can purchase their preserved fishes and other local products in the restaurant too. Highly, highly recommended.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we set off for our hike to El Monestir de Sant Pere de Rodes – the monastery up the hill from El Port de la Selva. Our first stop was at a local shop/bakery where for about €5 we got a baguette turned into two sandwiches with freshly sliced chorizo and ham and cheese from the deli counter. We were not charged much more (if any more) than the cost of the baguette and the deli items by weight, and we got the bread rubbed with tomato in the Catalan way as well! Bargain! That was our picnic lunch sorted.

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The hike up was difficult, much more so than our hikes in the Vall de Boí – the distance was greater and the heat! The heat! If you’re going to do this hike, do bring lots of water to keep you well hydrated. We walked all the way along the harbour until we reached a campsite. From there we went through the valley, via a tiny village called La Vall de Santa Creu and then up to the monastery.

The Monastery!

We only saw two other hikers on our way up and three on the way down; it was hot. The majority of visitors to the monastery drove there and they all looked cool and fresh whilst we looked like sweaty rats. The monastery was well worth the hike though and the views from up there were incredible.

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If you don’t want to bring your own lunch, there’s a full restaurant and cafe inside.

We took a different route down, heading first to the carpark and taking the path down past the incredibly fortified Església de San Sebastià …

Església de San Sebastià

… and then the most beautiful village of La Selva de Mar. From there it was back to our hotel in El Port de la Selva. I read somewhere that the fishermen in times past worked in El Port de la Selva and lived in La Selva de Mar. The latter village was clearly heavily fortified against the many pirates that used to visit the region.

La Selva de Mar

Our final dinner that night in El Port de la Selva was at Monterrey, the restaurant that was owned by our hotel. While our hotel was located a little back from the coast, their restaurant was right by the beach, well, and a road. It’s a good position and we got an outdoor table with a lovely view of the harbour (reservations recommended).

We pushed the boat out when ordering (we deserved it after the hike!). First up, a snack of delicious fried xipirons, tiny little squids.

Xipirons

It’s only after this trip that I’ve realised that we ordered a lot of escalivada, here again with anchovies. We can’t help it – we love this Catalan grilled vegetable dish!

Escalivada with Anchovies

We couldn’t leave without sharing a rice dish between us – we chose the seafood paella, which was cooked more like a Catalan rice than a Valencian paella.

Seafood Paella

The grains of rice were a little undercooked and it was a little wet (hence the Catalan rice dish comparison) but overall the flavour was outstanding. There was plenty of seafood within and we finished the entire thing. Uh… no dessert for us then.

Seafood Paella

We did have a little walk to a local ice cream joint though – Gelats Artesans Galiana! I have no photos but their ice creams were fantastic and we went there both nights we were in the town. My favourite was their orxata sorbet but their pistachio ice cream was also excellent.

Thinking about this sorbet de orxata in El Port de la Selva.... #latergram

Overall, we ate very well in El Port de la Selva! Our second stop was Cadaqués – and that’s for the next post!