Marcus Travel Journal

2024 - Catalonia, Spain

Area near L'Ametlla de Mar in Catalonia, Spain

Spain

Catalonia, is an autonomous community and designated as a nationality. France (seperated by the Pyrenees) and Andorra are to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the East and the community of Valencia to the south. There are four provinces in Catalonia: Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona and Lleida. Not sure how we will do language wise, as there are three languages spoken: Catalan, Spanish and the Aranese dialect.

L'Ametlla de Mar

Plaza Santa Ana in Madrid

The coast of Ametlla de Mar has 20 km of beautiful beaches and coves. The beaches of the northern stretch have fine white sand. Those of the south have more isolated rocky beaches. The GR92 coastal path also known as the Mediterranean path runs along its entire coastline.

The GR-92 coastal trail follows the patrol paths used by fishermen in the past and crosses a series of natural landscapes: coves and beaches of fine white sand or stones, cliffs where the pines they reach the sea, places steeped in history such as Sant Jordi Castle or the Civil War fortifications, areas of natural interest such as the Santes Creus lagoons, Torrent del Pi, Sant Jordi or l’Estany Tort.

The coastal town of L'Ametlla de Mar is a fishing port. The town has access gby the AP7 and N-340 rioads as well as the Barcelona-Valencia/Barcelona-Tortosa Regional trains.  In Barcelona the train to L'Ametlla de Mar leaves from Estació de França, Barcelona's grand station or the Passeig de Gracia station,

About the Town and Area

L’Ametlla de Mar, located in Catalonia, Spain, is a traditional Mediterranean fishing village known for its coves, such as Cala Forn, with clear waters, and nearby seafood restaurants. It is not known as a town with "big sights" but more for its character as a fishing port and the scenery of the area. Family-run beach bar/restaurants are the norm.

The town dates back to the 13th Century but it was bombed and destroyed in the War of the Reapers (17th C), and then rebuilt in the 18th C. Near the end of the 18th C the modern town began to emerge and then in the 19th C fisherman choose this location as a desired port.

Playa de Sant Jordi is one of the sand beaches in the area that should not be crowded while we are here, but it is noted to be very busy in August. Cala Vidre is another beach with beautiful water, there are showers but no toilets. We will have to search out Cala Xelin as it is a beach written up about its overall beauty.

The coastline is 16 km and nmade up of 30 bays and beaches. 

The profile of tourists is reported to be 30% from Catalonia, 29% the rest of Spain, 28% France, 7% UK, to list the top catagories. 

Other marine villages to visit include l'Ampolla, La Ràpita, Les Cases d'Alcanar and Cambrils.

 L'Ametlla de Mar Villa

LAmetllademar-villa-00.jpg

 

We have rented a small villa near L'Ametlla de Mar. Our own building and pool. This is going to be very relaxing.

 Tarragona

 

Lonely Planet recommends starting with the cathedral, then visit the remains of the ancient amphitheatre. The sights in Tarragona include: 

Tarragona Cathedral

The facade of the Catedral de Tarragona incorporates Romanesque and Gothic features, while chambers off the cloister display the remains of a Roman temple that were unearthed in 2015. Tours of thed rooftop are booked online (15E). The flower-filled cloister has Gothic vaulting and Romanesque carved capitals, one of which shows rats conducting a cat's funeral! There are impressive frescoes from the 14th C in the east nave.

From March to June, September and October
From Monday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.


Cathedral Belltower and Bells -

It has three sections: the first, with a square floorplan, was built towards 1200 in the time of the Archbishop Rodrigo Tello; the second –also square– dates from 1316, and is in grey dressed stone, and was financed by the prelate Gimeno de Luna. The final section was built in 1330 on the orders of the Archbishop John of Aragon.

It has a height of 70 metres and contains 19 bells, cast between 1250 and 1867. The largest of all – known as the “Capona”– dates from 1509, weighs 5,188 kg and is housed in the belfry on the top. This is the bell that strikes the hours to call worshippers to prayer. There is a spiral staircase to access the bell tower and has different rooms, such as the Monks Room, Clocks Room and Bells Room. The Cathedral preserves seventeen bells and two more beside to the dome.

Roman Ruins

TimeOut notes this was one of the most important Roman cities in the Iberian Peninsula. There are remains of the amphitheatre and the Roman circus and a little farther out from the centre, a section of the ancient aqueduct.

  • Pont de les Ferreres or “Devil’s Bridge” Aqueduct
  • Balcón del Mediterráneo viewpoint
  • Roman and paleo-Christian necropolis
  • Tarragona City Walls
  • Tarragona National Archaeological Museum

 

 Reus

Reus, Spain

 

Architecture and Vermouth. Gaudi's City of Reus is where Antonio Gaudi was born. The city has numerous examples of Modernista architecture, although none of the buildings in the city were designed by Gaudi.

When exhausted at looking at the architecture, the other major export from Reus is Vernmouth. Now that has my attention, and the town has a Vermouth Museum.   There are 30 producers of Vernouth in Reus. The famous Rofes brand was created in 1908.

Reial Monestir de Santes Creus

Santes Creus

In Valls, (1 hr drive from L'Ametlla de Mar) a former Cistercian monastery, is Reial Monestir de Santes Creus. (Plaça de Jaume el Just, s/n, , 43815 Santes Creus, Tarragona.) Open Tuesday to Sunday, October to 31 May, 10 am to 5.30 pm.

It was at its greatest power in the 13th and 14th centuries due to favour of the royal house and nobility.

I am very interested in visiting the cloisters (14th C), built under patronage of King Jaume the Just and Queen Blanca d’Anjou. Master sculptor Reinard des Fonoll directed the construction for many years and also took part in carving of the capitals. The Gothic style and rich decorations differ from Cistercian concepts of simplicity and austerity. The galleries have ribbed vaults and the windows have pointed arches with detailed stone work. The motifs include mythological beings, animals, Biblical scenes, heraldic elements, and a whole range of different personages. The cloister holds graves for noble families as the monastery had powerful links with Catalan nobility.

The lavabo, a hexagonal structure is covered by a six-ribbed vault, is a heavy structure compared to the cloisters. After work, and before entering the refectory for meals, monks would wash their hands in the circular font located in the centre of the lavabo.

The parlour, or locutorium, connects the main and rear cloister, where the prior would meet with the community. Here the prior would allocate work in the fields and vegetable gardens, or assign tasks. It was the only place where the monks could have brief conversations. The parlour is rectangular and is covered by a perfect barrel vault springing from a very simple impost. There are also two long stone benches along the walls that were formerly covered with wood.

Rear cloister (13th-17th C) is a trapezoid with a colonnade of pointed arches. The openings in the form of windows or large oculi indicate the former existence of an upper floor. The cloister has a central fountain and eight tall cypress trees.

The Scriptorium (12th-13th C) was used to draft documents and copy richly illuminated manuscripts. It ceased to be used as a scriptorium in the 17th C and was then used as a cellar. At the present time it is one of the rooms in which the audiovisual, El món del Cister, is shown, and it may only be visited for this purpose. So I guess I am going to see a video!

 Santa Maria de Poblete Monastery

Santa Maria de Poblete Moneatery, Spain

 

Located about an hours drive from L'Ametlla de Mar, this Monastery has royal graves and ornate cloisters. September to June, open Monday to Saturday 10 to 12:30 pm and 3:00 to 6 pm. Sundays and holidays from 10:30 to 12:30 and from 3 to 6. You must wear tour headphones when touring and there is an App (Problet Official Guide) which can be downloaded from the App Store.  

 Bràfim - Casa Vermouth Padró

Padró and Co - Brafim - Spain

As I continue to look into the area I am pleasantly rewarded about the history of vermouth - my drink - in this area. An hour drive is the Casa Vermouth Padró which includes vermouth tastings.  We are there!   

Book a Visit

 

Nulles Wine Cathedral

Nulles Wine Cathedral

 

An hour drive from our villa is the Nulles Wine Cathedral. The history is that phyloxerra, an aphid infected the roots of the vineyards. New roots from North America were imported.

The cathedral, by Cesar Martinelli i Brunet, is an example of modernist architecture, and while it looks like a church, is is built for wine production.

The Nulles’ wine cellar, with the Cathedral, represents unity of the people of Nulles who decided to unify the resources and knowledge to create a trade union, and then build a cellar for the village, Nulles’ Wine Cathedral. This was in 1917, and the first harvest to fill the new wine tanks was in 1920.

Tasting/Tour Reservations  

Castell de Vespella

Castell de Vespella

 

The remains of the castle are an hour from L'Ametlla de Mar, just past the town of Vespella de Gaià. The castle remains stands are on the top of the hill and are surrounded by the church and the houses of the village. Documents dated 1167 refer to the castle, but its origin may be much earlier, around the year 1000. The castle and area were passed from family to family. The Icarts Family held lordship until the 17th century. Currently, only some sections of the perimeter wall and the base of a circular tower remain.

La Fontcalda

 

Santuari de la Mare de Deu de la Fontcalda are thermal baths. Swimming is popular at these warm springs in a craggy ravine that also has hiking and biking trails.

437 780 Prat de Comte, Tarragona

Possibilities

  • Priorat Wine Region - Famous for its picturesque vineyards and wineries. (Approx. 17 km)

  • Sant Carles de la Ràpita - Coastal town with beautiful beaches and natural landscapes. (Approx. 41 km)

  • Tarragona - Known for its historical Roman ruins and coastline. (Approx. 50 km)

  • Delta de l'Ebre Natural Park - A unique wetland area with diverse flora and fauna. (Approx. 52 km)

  • Siurana - small mountain village with stunning views over the surrounding landscape. See the village of Siurana and the reservoir of the same name. Siurana is an isolated spot, located practically on the edge of a cliff and sitting atop a limestone crag. It conserves its original stone houses and offers stunning views of the region. Of cultural interest are the Romanesque church of Santa Maria and the remains of the Wāli Almira Alemoni's castle.(Approx. 59 km)

  • Mont-roig del Camp - A town known for its connections to artist Joan Miró and beautiful landscapes. (Approx. 15 km)

  • Iravet - Home to a medieval castle overlooking the Ebro River. (Approx. 70 km)

  • Montsant Natural Park - Offers impressive rock formations and hiking trails. (Approx. 40 km)

  • Castell de Guimerà - A medieval castle perched on a hill. (Approx. 120 km)

  • Miró Centre Mont-roig - A museum dedicated to the works of Joan Miró. (Approx. 15 km)

  • L'Ampolla - A charming coastal town with picturesque beaches and a marina. (Approx. 16 km)

Tivissa

This town, a half hour from L'Metlla de Mar, is listed in Time-Out as a charming village to visit. In the Ribera d'Ebre Region, in the south of Catalonia, the toiwn sits on a hill, at the foot of the northern slopes of the mountain range of the same name. The historic centre has the expected narrow streets. The Market Square (Plaça del Mercat) was the location of medieval trials. The castle is noted for a visit.

There are churches, with the Església Arxiprestal de Sant Jaume, a large building divided into three parts: the 'Old Church' (Església Antiga), 'Rose Chapel' (Capella del Roser), and the 'New Church' (Església Nova), constructed between the 13th century and the start of the 14th, and combines a variety of architectural styles. And yes, it's said to be really spectacular.

 Montblanc

Montblanc, Spain

 

I know Montblanc pens are not made here but I am looking forward to visiting this Medieval town, located about an hour from L'Ametlla de Mar.   

Montblanc is a walled medieval town with UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Parking is outside. Enter the town through the Bover Tower Gate. There is also the Jordi Gage where is it is said St. George killed the dragon. Oh now, I hope we don't see a lot of plastic dragons in the town.      

Notes on the town reference the Gothic church of Santa Maria with an ornate facade.  The Romanesque Sant Miquel and the Sant Marcel contain the Museu Mares. The 13th century Els Jueus building was once Catalonia 's parliament building. Outside of the medieval walls there is an old stone bridge, a convent and the old hospital of Santa Magdalena. Walk up the hill behind the Santa Maria for a great view of the town.

El Vilosell

TimeOut notes this inland village, on a hill, has both views and a medieval air with its streets and well preserved stone buildings. Of note is the church of Santa Maria and the hermitage of San Sebastián. Park, and then walk up to the entrance gate of the old city and walk up along the streets.

Escaladei Carthusian monastery

A little over an hours drive, 75 km, is Cartpoxa d'Escaladeo, in Cabacés. The first Carthusian monastery on the Iberian Peninsula (12th C), TimeOut says this is a must-see. Most of the building is now in ruins, but you can still appreciate the size of the project through the remains of its three cloisters, one of which has been completely restored; its church; its refractory; and a completely restored monk’s cell.

Guimerà

Not too far away, 112 km, 90 minutes, is a small inland village with charm, history and culture. It retains its original medieval street plan, running up to the church of Santa Maria and the remains of the castle.

Miravet

About 45 minutes from our Villa, TimeOut notes this coastal town on the Riber Ebro. Picture-postcard down with a Moorish castle.

Prades

Abut 80 km, 90 minutes, this town in the mountains is red from the colour of its bricks. Theer are the walls and remains of the castle and the church of Santa Maria la Major.

Royal Colleges of Tortosa

About a half-hour drive, the town reflects the Renaissance. The three buildings that make up the Royal Colleges date from the 16th century and are considered to be a site of special cultural interest. The most highly valued spot in the ensemble is the courtyard of the College of Sant Jaume i Sant Mateu, the only Renaissance-style courtyard in Catalonia.