Friday, December 20, 2013

Rural Spain's pleasures include thousand-year-old villages and a hardware store!

Late autumn is a delectable time to enjoy the hospitality, light, architecture of Catalonia

A field glows in the mid-day sun near the beautifully preserved Catalan village of Peratallada, in eastern Spain.


The Church of Sant Esteve is open for services but was quiet on our visit.
PULL OFF the major highways anywhere an hour northeast of Barcelona and you won't be sorry.
You can't really make a "wrong" turn in this lovely stretch of land.
Furrowed fields await spring planting, beautiful gardens sport huge cabbages in late autumn, and beets and carrots are still to be harvested.

Ancient stone buildings are lived in today near Peratellada.
DOZENS OF little villages welcome the traveler and fall is a fine time to take it all in.
The gorgeous 12th and 13th-century village of Peratallada is bustling with tourists in summer, but in December, we walked through the town by ourselves, followed for a time by a friendly old mutt who sat down at the cafe with us and warmed himself in the sun. A French couple eventually materialized, offering to take our photo.  We were comfy in our light jackets and joined the dog in soaking up the rays.
THEN WE wandered through the village with its warm stone houses, beautifully preserved.
Long a favorite of Catalans, this delightful ancient village is known by few Americans.  Europeans flock here in summer, flying in to bustling Barcelona and driving a couple hours.
The delights of Peratallada are enjoyed off-season in near solitude.
 SUNNY Peratallada, in the municipality of Forallac,  county of Baix Empordà, is one of several proud, immaculate villages in Catalonia, about 22 km east of the larger and better known Girona, north Catalonia's largest city.  On the approach to town, only the occasional tractor, car or combine suggests contemporary life -- otherwise, one goes back in time nearly 1,000 years.
THE VILLAGE'S lovely name is derived from pedra tallada, meaning "carved stone" and you'll see plenty of  stone in this charming, cohesive town.

B&Bs and hotels in Catalonia are quiet in late autumn. 
Keller tries out the Spanish hardware store's myriad offerings.
 WE LITERALLY did not see another person for nearly an hour -- rare in usually crowded Europe.  But visiting in late November and into early December has proved to be our favorite time for travel in southern Europe.
IT'S STILL warm enough to enjoy the sun, the hotel rates are reduced, the crowds are gone and the native people take time to fully display the subtleties of hospitality.  Here in Catalan country, we've found the people are welcoming and helpful in any season.  Our hotel concierge went out of his way to find us a "ferreteria" or hardware store in a nearby larger town. We'd forgotten all three of our transformers, a necessity for using a computer in a rural part of Europe (because Spain's voltage is 220 and our American computers and other devices operate on 110.)
OFF WE went with a picnic, to Palafrugell, making a day trip of our search for the transformer.
Time for enjoyment, in the Catalan tradition, in Peratallada.
Keller, a master building contractor in San Diego,  was in his element wandering around the tiny store.
"It's like an Ace Hardware Store on Spanish steroids," he exclaimed, examining with glee a compact but extensive  display of wrenches, hammers, and every household gadget and accessory he could imagine.
WE HEADED back to our parador, just in time for sunset and flavorful Spanish red wine, savoring tapas, new friends, gorgeous sights. We cherish the memory of shopping in a foreign land, using  basic Spanish and actually being understood!

                                                                                                                      COMING UP:  The parador is a time honored means of receiving guests.  "Paradores of Spain" include gorgeous properties, top-rated hotels, sometimes in castles and palaces.  Come with us to the Parador Aiguablava, where hospitality with a Catalan twist is offered.  Here, the food is sumptuous and the sun gently warms the rocky cliffs high above the Mediterranean.  Ole!
Remember to explore, learn and live, and visit us Wednesdays and Saturdays at:

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