1. The Festivals Of Spain
Correfoc - Catalan word which when translated means fire run or fire running. It is a crazy event which takes place in the summer in the Costa Brava in Catalonia where a group of people dressed as devils hold fireworks above their heads and twirl them around. Like the catherine wheel fireworks in effect and sparks flying off everywhere. The procession is noisy as there is also a group of musicians playing drums and local wind instruments. It all looks and sounds very tribal. The youths of the town will be dressed up in clothes that they don’t mind if they are burned or damaged. The youngsters have to get close to the devils and sometimes they will lift him up together. The devil is still swinging the fireworks above their heads on a stick, while being lifted. It looks dangerous and I have seen a resulting burn mark near the eye of one of the participants.
In the village of Santa Cristina d’Aro the Correfoc starts at the top of the town near the church and heads down the hill and into one of the town squares. In the town square there will be some static fireworks let off and more moving fireworks. The frames of old umbrellas will be pressed into service to swing fireworks around and also old bicycles. The crowd of locals follow the Correfoc from start to finish and there is no crowd management or safety barriers. It is up to the individuals to decide where to go and stand, and how close to get to the action.
The fireworks in the town square is the finale of that part of the event and elsewhere in the town there will be outdoor music in two town squares and dancing to local musicians. The Correfoc is an exciting part of the ‘Festa Major’. In another part of the town near to the Casa de Vila a travelling fairground has the usual sorts of fairground rides for children. It is only a small town so the fair is small also.
Another example of a Spanish festival would be the Holy Kings at Christmas time, January 6th. Some local horses are ridden though the towns by versions of the Three Kings who throw sweets for the children to catch.
In late February or early March there is the time of the year for the carnivals. Groups of people from many of the towns will organise themselves to get dressed up in some completely wild and wonderful costumes for the carnival processions. They will take part in parades in many towns and prizes are given for the best costume designs and performance. The main carnival town near Santa Cristina d’Aro is in Platja d’Aro. The carnival procession is huge and takes at least a couple of hours to make their way from start to finish. A group might have 40 or 50 people in it and will perform a dance at various points on the route, especially in front of the carnival judges. Following the processions there is much eating and drinking in all of the restaurants and the bars until early in the morning.
2. The Food Of Spain
There will be Churros on sale at the Festa Major, these are a doughnut type of mix but in a stringy long shape. The Churros get covered in sugar to satisfy the sweet toothed visitors to the town fair.
There is, it seems a special cake that is available for every festival of the year. At Easter there is a cake called Tortell which is made from a Brioche type of dough. Inside the Tortell there will be marzipan and on top there will be candied fruits. This cake is shaped in a ring shape and there is a similar type of cake for the Three Holy Kings on January 6th.
There is another cake which is filled with ‘Angel Hair’ this is a sweet stringy substance which is why it is called angel hair that comes from pumpkin. You will find ‘Angel Hair’ other popular pastries too.
Turron is a sweet made from almonds, honey, and the white of an egg. It is set into rectangular blocks and is a traditional christmas time treat. It seems quite heavy when you pick it up, a dense sweet substance.
Gastronomy is very important here and there are lots of famous television chefs. It can be a little difficult to be a vegetarian in Spain, as at the coast there is the seafood, like prawns, shell fish and a huge variety of fresh Mediterranean fish, also there are many meat dishes. Of course there are a variety of Paella dishes dependent on the region. Cooking with fresh vegetables is very important and availability dictates the local variations of Paella. Some of the rice used in the Paella is grown in the north eastern region of Spain, it is a round grain rice.
3. The Landscape of Spain
From the beaches of Costa Brava in Catalonia it is possible to drive for a couple of hours to be in the alpine style landscape of the Pyrenees where the houses look different to be more functional for the weather in that area. There are a good number of ski stations within a couple of hours of driving and in the ski season it is a popular destination. During the summer time these ski stations are good places for some walking as it is somewhat cooler than at the coast due to the altitude. Some of the ski lifts are still working in the summer and very handy to use to get to the top and use the mountain bike for a fast fun ride down.
In the area of St Feliu de Guixols which is in the Costa Brava region. There are number of beaches, some large ones and some that are small coves where you can have a quiet laze in the sun with no traffic going by apart from a few fishing boats and even the odd cruise liner passing in the distance. All of the beaches are free to enter, not like I have seen in other countries where you have to pay to use the beach. There are showers available to use in the summer time and the water of the sea is crystal clear. On my favourite beach if you have the snorkel, mask and flippers you can dive down and swim alongside the fishes.