Celler La Vinyeta in Catalonia, Spain

It was a nice sunny day. Our van almost got stuck on a narrow lanes of Mollet de Peralada when an elderly man came out and told our driver to back up and take another road. After that we arrived at the Celler La Vinyeta soon. I have visited a vineyard in Khao Yai, Thailand too and I quite like the experience.

Josep, who along with his wife Marta, owns the place greeted us upon arrival. There are no prizes for guessing that the welcome drink was wine from their own cellers! Their store is right next to the car park. We went in to take a look and to use the bathroom.

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Celler La Vinyeta, Spain

Then we donned our hats and went for a walk around the vineyard. The vineyard is an old one but all the crops were destroyed hundreds of years ago. The current vineyard was planted in 2002 and the wine production started in 2006 after they built the celler. At the start the village elders tried to warn Josep that it was a tough trade but they decided to go ahead anyway.

Josep was 23 years old when they invested in the vineyard. He and his wife were studying wine making at college and from there things took off. I asked him if he would do it all again, to which he said “I don’t think so, I was not thinking of he risks then!”

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The Olive Tree is Supposd to be 500 Years Old!

Th vineyard has a patch of old olive trees, the oldest being 500 years old! Josep mentioned they had to plant newer trees as well, as the patch had too few tress. When he started the process for planting, the people from the village thought he was going to cut them down. They came again and asked him not to do so. They as kids used to play under the trees. Joesp assured them he was planting more, not cutting anything. He added with twinkling eyes “I think they used to do something else under the trees when they became adults! That is why they are so fond of them.”

If you visit Catalonia you will hear about Tramuntana or the northern wind! Everyone dreads it except the winemakers. It does good to the grape crop and there is a ceremony to invite it to the region. But this year the Tramuntana has not obliged.

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Fresh Eggs at the Celler La Vinyeta

Josep showed us the hens of his farm as well. Later at lunch we ate fresh boiled eggs which tasted great. After the tour of the fields we still had sometime left to explore on our own. My colleague Taahira and I ventured to a field where I could see hay rolls, something I had seen in pictures only. Taahira took a lovely picture of mine in that field.

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It Was a Lovely Day to be Outdoors!

We leisurely walked back to our lunch on the vineyard. It was a perfect day to sit outdoors and enjoy food. Food is something that takes a lot of time in Spain. It was common to sit for 2 to 3 hours for lunch and dinner. Marta with her four month old daughter joined us for a brief while at lunch!

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The Good Food at the Celler La Vinyeta, Catalonia, Spain

There was wine, boiled eggs, there was salad and vegetables for me. Then there was Pan Con Tomate. For dessert there was cheese and honey. It was a lovely lunch, in a beautiful setting. There were plenty of non vegetarian options too but I was not paying much attention to it.

After the lunch we went to the store to buy products. I brought back a bottle of white wine that I now enjoy at home. And I kick myself for not buying olive oil.

la-vinyeta

Whenever I think of Celler La Vinyeta, I smile. It reminds me of the lovely outdoors, the stories of the village with all the good food in the lap of the nature. I so hope to go back to Spain again someday.

PS. I was invited to Visit Catalonia by the Catalonia Tourism Board.

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There was a time when the thought of catching a flight would make my eyes sparkle. Then I started catching about 4 flights in a month! Soon, I just wanted to reach my destination and flight became a necessary ‘thing’ to get there. I was saying to someone recently, “I no longer enjoy flights, I just want to be arrive at my destination.” But flying Barcelona Zurich Delhi with Swiss made me pause. I thoroughly enjoyed the flights! And they were regular economy flights!

My flight tickets were given to me by the Catalonia Tourism Board in Spain, so even though I was on a sponsored trip, Swiss had nothing to do with it. I was another regular passenger for them!

On the Barcelona Zurich leg they gave croissants for snack, the vegetarian me was delighted. On short legs, vegetarian options are often not a priority. Their tea was decent too.

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Flying Over the Swiss Alps!

Then we flew over Alps and the whole plane went gaga over the scenery. I was seated in the last row at the window seat. There was an Australian couple sitting next to me. We took turns to click pictures of the Alps! There was congestion at the Zurich Airport so our flight got delayed for about 15 minutes. To circle we went over the Alps again! I like that kind of delays.

I had very little time between my Barcelona and Delhi flights. But the immigration at Zurich was super organized. I cleared the immigration, bought macaroons for home and still made it to the Zurich Delhi plane in time!

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Good Food on Swiss!

The Zurich Delhi flight departed as per schedule! We were soon at the cruising height. The meal service started promptly. I have very little expectations from airline food. On top of that I am vegetarian. But the food on the flight was really good! It was a simple, vegetable, rice, and daal but it was flavorful and not overheated. And at the end they gave a bar of chocolate too.

But it was the crew that made the real difference. I saw one lady lifting a not so small child and walking in the aisle! And one of her colleagues smiled at the scene, his smile could have lit an entire stadium. The crew gave the feeling that they enjoyed their work.

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I Love Window Seats!

When I travel abroad I miss my tea. I doubly missed it in Spain as they somehow don’t put tea and coffee in the hotel rooms. When the tea service starts on a plane, I get on a high alert. If you blink and miss the cabin crews’s gaze when they are passing by you, they never give you a second glance! I hate to make a fuss, but for tea I end up doing that too.

I loved the Swiss crew’s tea and coffee service. They were in no hurry and they would wait if you by any chance missed out the first eye contact! And that for me is the epitome of good service. I have got exceptional tea service before, but then I was flying business on that occasion.

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It Was a Pleasure to Fly Swiss!

By the time the plane landed at Delhi, I was ready to take back my words. I still do enjoy flying!

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Thank you Swiss for making my ordinary economy flight such a pleasant one! In the end it is the small things that count, like a smile, a chocolate, not rushing through and the like!

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I was lucky to attend the Girona Flower Festival 2017, known as Temps de Flors. This was my first visit to the beautiful region of Catalonia in Spain. The Temps de Flors started in 1954. This year it was held from 13 to 21 May. The beautiful city of Girona gets decked in floral arrangements every year in May. The event attracts large crowds of both locals and tourists. I was invited to Visit Catalonia by the Catalonia Tourism Board.

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The Houses on the River Onyar

The River Onyar divides the town of Girona into two parts, the old and the new. The flower festival happens in the old part. One of the bridges on the river, the Palanques Vermelles bridge (1827) was built by the Eiffel company of the Eiffel Tower fame.

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A Floral Bed at the Girona Flower Festival, 2017

We were given a map of the floral route in the city of Girona. But paper maps are the ultimate mystery to me, the only maps I can figure out is Google Maps. And that too because the dot moves away from the path if I start walking in the wrong direction! There were 62 exhibits this year, that should give you some idea about the scope of the festival.

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Who Says Bankers Don’t Have Imagination?

The floral displays happen inside the monuments, town squares, open courtyards, gardens, and more of the Barri Vell neighborhood.

This predominantly white floral display was designed by a group of bankers, now who said bankers were the most boring people?

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Where Flowers and Technology Mix!

The designs are created by local designers and organizations. Not only floral genius is on display, but technology is used to enhance the experience.

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Girona Flower Festival, 2017

Thanks to technology I could see this scene as day and night within a few seconds! I preferred the night scene to the day one. The themes have interpretations, our guide gave us to them. But she also said that as the famous Catalonian artist Salvador Dali believed that the best interpretation is the one, that you define!

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Colors of Catalonia!

At Temps de Flors staircases become canvas for artists. I am going to continue in the tradition of Dali and give you my interpretation of this scene. I thought the artist tried to create the colors of Catalonia! This was one of the popular displays!

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Themes from the Region!

Our wonderful guide, Anna Aliu, told us that artists often pick up regional themes. Apples grow in plenty around Girona and they were present in many displays.

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Enjoy it Like the Locals!

The best way to enjoy the Flower Festival would be to take it slow. It is spread over the old town and it takes a while to walk through it, even partially. If you were a local you could always come the next day! I spent around three hours here. Our schedule said two hours but we didn’t get out before three, that too reluctantly with me often bringing up the rear!

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Flowers and Technology in a Medieval Castle!

We went there on a week day and the place was still crowded. Allow yourself time because the popular displays have a queue. When I say of a queue don’t think of an Indian queue though, here you will get a well ordered queue with people who are patient and polite. Still, keep this in mind when you allocate time to the festival!

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Temps de Flors 2017

If you are staying in Barcelona and you wish to hop over to Girona for the flower festival, it is entirely possible. We took the Renfe Fast Train from Barcelona to Girona, it takes just 40 minutes to reach. However, if possible stay at Girona and enjoy the festival leisurely.

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Girona- They Say it with Flowers!

Girona Flower festival is a treat to the senses. From bright to sublime, they say it in different hues. Many old houses that are closed to public otherwise, open up their doors for the flower festival.

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Girona is a charming place on is own, but with with the flowers it was irresistible!

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If possible, I like to book my own holidays from beginning to end. Two factors lead to significant costs on any holiday, flights and hotel. More often than not flights cost more than hotels.  I feel like I have won a lottery when I find a cheap flight on my own. My Maldives and Sri Lanka trips happened because I could book cheap flights on my own! I got 15K return both for Colombo and Male. Planning the rest was easy.

And that is why I love budget airlines. It doesn’t matter who they are, it could be Indigo Flights or SpiceJet for that matter, and they all are the same to me. When I am booking it on my own I look for the cheapest tickets. Recently I discovered it is possible to find cheap international flights from Jaipur and Lucknow too.

However, there have been occasions when I could not find a cheap flight on my own. The most recent incident is Prague. I wanted to book the entire holiday on my own, it was easy to find hotels in my budget but the flights eluded  me. I actually found a cheap flight with flydubai but the layover was such that I gave up, I could in no way deal with a long transit with two children!

When I can’t find cheap flight tickets on my own , I turn to online travel portals which sell holidays as a last resort. They can often give cheaper prices because they book in bulk and hence transfer the benefit to us. That is how I did Prague, by booking the flight and hotel with an online provider and doing everything else on our own.

So what are your suggestions for booking a cheap flight? I know I can’t match people booking one year in advance but I am sure everyone has their favorite way of getting it!

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