Saturday 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas ...

I'm all cosy and snug with my nearest and dearest here on the Costa Brava. Our tree is up, our presents are wrapped, the turkey is stuffed and set for roasting, and there's nothing left to do but enjoy the moment.

Well, seeing as I've got everything under control, how'd you you like to step out with me for a moonlit stroll around my pueblo? They've really pulled out the stops and put on the Ritz with lots and lots of Christmas lights. Come on! You'll hardly need a coat. After the recent winter storms the weather's turned benign.

Sun set over the bay in Sant Feliu de Guíxols

As we walk out along the Passeig Del Mar we'll meet a few fishermen set up on the beach for a spot of after-dark fishing. They're hardy, dedicated souls, who brave the elements at all times of the year.

Overhead they've strung some Christmas parcels to the Costa Brava pine trees that line the Passeig. Tonight they look fine, but a couple of days ago in the gale force winds that battered the village they really looked like something that Heath & Safety would lose sleep over.

They've planted a special Christmas tree where you cross the Passeig into the Rambla that has nothing to do with the natural world. It's all plastic and light bulbs, but in the dark of the night it looks quite good. Being very short-sighted it took me an embarrassing amount of time to conclude that it was just an extension of the Christmas lights.

The Rambla is looking especially festive, and there's something really special about having a pre-prandial paseo to admire the lights and the shop window displays. When the weather's not blowing a gale here everyone comes out for a stroll in the early evening before dinner.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols

And down the Rambla we have the wonderful cafe, La Vienesa, where they serve up some seriously good cakes and pastries. I'm easily persuaded that they're worth getting fat for ... .

In the window they've got a display of Turon, a traditional sweet that's made from almonds and honey. They sometimes add other things just to be different, but it's essentially almonds and honey. We've got some lovely friends who own a farm in Aragon, and have their own almond orchard - imagine what that must look/ smell like in spring with the almonds are in blossom. And at this time of the year they make their own totally delicious Turon.

I noticed these sweet little angels in the pastry shop window. I think they've been crocheted. Aren't they sweet?

Crochet angels from La Vienesa
One of the (many, many) things I love about this part of the world is this tradition of the early evening paseo. In summer it's almost like a collective sigh of relief that the heat of the day is over. Everyone takes to the street to stroll around, and stop off for an aperitivo with their friends. At this time of the year it's magical with the Christmas lights and the mild weather. 

And this is where we come for our croissants, the Gironès. They also make a cake in there called the Guixolenc, which is the village's speciality. It's a delicious affair of pastry filled with a vanilla custard (made from creamed pumpkin) and topped with toasted pine nuts. 

Even the Town Hall in the market square has had a few fairy lights strung up to gladden its rather severe appearance. 

You can never get very far from the sea or the influence of the sea over here. Many of the shops are rocking a nautical Christmas vibe.

And finally there's our monastery, which has been here for a millennium, watching Christmas come and go through good times and bad. From a distance it doesn't look radically different from how it looks in any other season. 

But if you look beneath the arches of the Porta Ferrada you'll find a life-sized Belén, a traditional Bethlehem nativity scene. It's not been illuminated with glitzy lights. It just sits quietly waiting for the inquisitive to find it. Every year it appears right here, in the corner outside the Monastery church. Traditionally this Nativity scene has been the focus of the Christmas celebrations here in Catalonia. They've only recently embraced the whole Christmas tree thing. My sister-in-law puts one of these up in her home instead of a tree, and it's a real work of art. It comes with fairy lights, a mill with a big water wheel and a waterfall ... not sure that it's totally Bethlehem, but it's a thing of beauty that delights the little folk in the family.

And, finally, on our way back home we'll go past my favourite restaurant, Sa Marinada, which at this time of year combines the very best sea food with magical Christmas lights that twinkle out merrily across the waters of the bay.

Definitely worth trying if you happen to be in town.

All the best, thank you to all my wonderful clients and readers for your support over the past year and a very, very Merry Christmas,

Bonny xox 

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