Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East
By Karen Bryan
Guide to Besalu
Besalu is a lovely medieval town. The 12th century Roman bridge over to the town is a real landmark(photo). The town sits where the Rivers Fluvia and Capadella meet. If you are looking for a picturesque inland setting for a few days, Besalu is an ideal choice. It would take under an hour to drive from Girona airport,, well served by Ryanair flights from all over Europe. There is a lot to do and see in the area, the Garrotxa Volcanic Park, the Dali Museum in Figueres, the coast, and the city of Girona.
History of Besalu
Wilfred the Hairy, credited with the unification of Catalonia, was born in Besalu in 878. He was so named as he was as hairy as a mountain troll, even having hair of on the souls of his feet.
In the Middle Ages Besalu was the capital of a country which reached up to Corbieres, now in France. Besalu was the birthplace of Ramon Vidal. a troubadour, a type of lyric poet who composed music and poetry usually on the topic of courtly love.
The Church of Sant Pere, in the main square was originally part of a monastery built in 1003.
The Milova is a ritual Jewish bath dating from the 11th or 12th century. It is located near the River Fluvia in the lower town. It was recently discovered and restored. You need to visit the Tourist Office in the main square to obtain the key.
In December there is the Fiera de Ratafia. This is the local "firewater"; a grappa based sweet liquor flavoured with herbs, spices, coffee and nuts. Legend tells that witches supervise its production; it is left outside for two weeks so that the magic and power of the sun and the moon can contribute to its special flavour.
There is an outdoor market on Tuesdays.
Els Jardins de la Martana
The Jardins de la Mantana is in a strategic position just at the entrance to the 12th century Roman bridge.
There are ten ensuite bedrooms, seven double and three family rooms. There is a sitting room with a fireplace and a library with a fireplace, a shady summer garden, a sunny Winter garden and a terrace. The dining room has mountain views. You can park nearby.
A double room costs 70 euros based on two sharing and a triple 148 euros, an extra bed is available at 33 euros per night. Breakfast costs 7 euros per person; dinner is 16 or 20 euros. Tax of 7% will be added to these prices.
Hotel Comte Tallaferro
The three star Comte Tallaferro sits in the main square. It was recently renovated and named after Count Bernat Tallaferro, known as the Prince and Father of the 11th century independent state of Besalu.
The hotel has five suites, which have two levels, a sitting room on the first level and a bedroom on the second. These have hydro massage baths.
The cost is 90 - 126 euros per night based on two sharing. The junior suites are suitable for disabled guests. They cost from 80 - 110 euros per night, based on two sharing. The standard rooms are on the third floor. They have stonewalls, parquet floors and wooden ceilings. There are roof windows in addition to small round windows. They cost from 70 - 100 euros per night.
These prices include breakfast. Dinner is available at the nearby Restaurant "Cal Parent" at 14 euros plus tax, per person. Single, triple and quad rooms are also available.
Hotel Fonda Siques
The Fonda Siques has been owned by the same family since 1858. It was last renovated in 1985 ,all bedrooms are en-suite. Most of the furniture dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. There is parking and a small swimming pool.
A double/twin room costs from 51 - 69 euros per night, A single room costs from 38.5 - 51.5 euros per night. A triple costs from 67.8 - 88.5 euros and a quad 81.6 - 105.6 euros. All prices include breakfast. Dinner is available for 9 euros plus tax per person.
Many of the restaurants in the area are members of the Volcanic Cuisine organisation. The aim is to promote and encourage the traditional gastronomic style using local produce. There is a list or restaurants on their site.
The Oliveras restaurant in Besalu has various set and a la carte menus which start at 7.60 euros per person.
Girona You can easily spend a whole day in Girona, there area several museums, you can walk the city walls, visit the cathedral, do some shopping.
Banyoles. The main attraction here is the lake, which you can walk around.
The Dali Museum in Figueres, around 20kms east of Besalu, is well worth a visit.
The Garrotxa Volcanic Park The park has around thirty volcanic cones. The last eruption was around 11,500 years ago, meaning that the volcanoes are inactive but not extinct. There are several walks through the park.
Walking trails There are many marked trails in the area
Museums There are two museums in the town of Olot. The Volcanic Musuem and the ethnological Comarcal de la Garrotxa.
The Coast Cadaques is a lovely spot, reached by a road full of hairpin bends. Its famous residents have included Dali, Picasso, Miro and Duchamps. I also rather liked El Porto la Selva a little further north.
South West France If you feel like a change, France is easily reached by motorway. It is very pretty on the coast around Luecate, just north of Perpignan. Carcassonne is a complete medieval walled city.
Karen Bryan is an independent travel consultant and writer, specialising in the less well known destinations of Europe. Her website are: http://www.europealacarte.co.uk http://www.europe-culture-activity-tours.com