A mix of music festivals and events outside of Girona, encompassing the wider Girona province and the Costa Brava.
Gran Fiesta de la Calcotada, Valls nr. Tarragona
I’ve written about these tasty but unremarkable looking vegetables before. They’ve been going through a bit of a renaissance over the last few years and the ‘Calcotada’ has become a firm fixture in the local Catalan calendar. Usually early in the year, in January and February when they become more plentiful in the shops.This is when friends and families get together outside, at the weekend to cook and eat calcots and perhaps some botifarra ( large, local sausages).
There might even be some ‘pan tomaquet’ a delicious alternative to buttered toast, all washed down with wine of course.
The annual mega-version of this cultural gathering is held in the town of Valls, near Tarragona which some pundits say is where calcots were first celebrated. The whole town centre becomes the go-to place for calcot fans.
Our Catalan friends came up with the idea of going to Valls, back in 2010 and so off we went in a convoy of several cars from Girona. This is more than a leisurely Sunday drive, it took us about 2 hours using the toll-paying AP7 motorway.
On entering Valls we were amazed at the amount of visitors. The first job was to find parking, which meant finding a space on the periphery and walking in. There was a packed programme of calcot-centric events like an eating contest, and at one point my wife was swept up by a local TV crew and asked what she thought of it all.
Festivities were interrupted by drumming bands who walked along beating their drums and also used whistles, the uplifting rhythmic combination certainly got my feet tapping.
As for trying some calcots, the whole point of the journey, our Catalan friends found a feeding point where you bought a ticket, given a paper plate, plastic cutlery, a napkin, and a small bottle of wine. We watched locals dressed as shepherds in their trademark red hats cook these long-stemmed leek lookalikes over an open bonfire. You then waited your turn for the next batch of freshly-scorched calcots. It was standing room only. www.valls.cat
Carnaval, Platja d’Aro
Pre- Easter time, and during Lent is when many coastal towns stage their carnival processions. It’s because of these religious links that they’re held in February. Otherwise you’d think it would make more sense to have them during the summer months, when the weather is much warmer and more tourists around. Still, don’t worry if it’s a bit cold, just wear a jacket and watch the whole parade-from a well positioned streetside bar.
One of the best and biggest is in Platja d’Aro on the coast, about 40 min. drive from Girona. Numerous events occur over the space of several days but the creme de la creme is the grand procession of people and floats on Saturday evening. We’ve been a few times, sadly Covid put paid to this event in 2020 and 2021 doesn’t look likely either.
Get there by early afternoon to avoid the traffic and to find parking. Most of the action happens along its long main avenue, a couple of blocks behind the seafront. Each group of participants dresses according to a theme and is preceded by a carnival float blasting out music. The different dance routines are great entertainment. Costume choices and designs vary widely, colourful, original, humorous and probably home-made.
The line moves past you slowly for hours and hours, into the late evening and is so long that it often has to stop and wait. Even some onlookers dress up in fancy dress, it’s all round enjoyable infectious fun that leaves a smile on your face. www.platjadaro.com