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A taste of a place – Palamos

Perhaps not as picture postcard perfect as some neighbouring resorts, we love the hardworking, seafaring town of Palamos; with a salty charm all of its own. This is what I would call a real place, with real people and it is ALL about the sea. With a working fishing fleet, life in Palamos revolves around the quay, the auction and the fish market.

I should probably backtrack a little at this point and explain how we came across Palamos – it was 5 years ago when we were working (our butts off!) for the UK holiday company; moving the guests’ luggage from hotel to hotel. One of the hotels, the Trias (more about this later) was a frequent stop off point. We immediately loved not only this hotel, but the low key vibe of Palamos and are now regular visitors.

Whilst there is an attractive, buzzy old town, good nightlife (check out the friendly, Irish owned Currach Pub, Carrer de las Notaries) and 7.5km of gorgeous coastline, we all know that Palamos is all about the prawns – the best in the world (I noted recently that Rick Stein has officially confirmed this on a recent TV series!).

I digress, back to prawns; you can watch these dark red crustaceans, caught out in the deep waters, being landed daily (around 4/5pm) on the bustling quay. Prior to the pandemic you could visit the fish auction to watch local restaurateurs haggle over the price of these super sweet and succulent beauties, but alas this is closed to the public (at present). However, do visit the adjoining fish market where you can purchase a part of the highly prized haul. But buyer beware, they fetch a pretty penny (I have heard in excess of 225 euros per kilo over the Christmas period!)…

   

Interestingly, we were recently told by the husband/wife owners of the fabulous Peixateria Juana in Palafrugell (see Taste of a Place – Palafrugell blog) that there are now 2 types of prawn in Palamos; as well as the traditional red prawn, you will now find the gamba blanca (white prawn), more familiar in other parts of Spain. Apparently, it has migrated north, due to the increasing water temperatures….

If, like us, you are intrigued by all things nautical, don’t miss a trip to the fascinating Museu de la Pesca, by the quay. A well thought out and entertaining museum dedicated to the local fishing industry. If you are really lucky and time it right, (as we have yet to achieve), you may manage to catch one of the cooking demos/workshops at the Espai del Peix, where top chefs display (and teach) skills to preserve and proliferate the love and learning of all things piscine.

Visit the busy quay and you will also see various boat trips, including fishing trips and tasting trips that you can take advantage of (on the wish list for our next visit). If you visit around sunset, you may happen upon someone carefully hand mending the nets by the fading light.

If, like us, it’s the normal things of everyday life that interest you, it’s worth heading into the modern part of town, to check out the covered market. As well as being able to buy the best in fresh produce, (as is the case in all of Spain) you can hang out at the characteristically low key  “El Bar”, drink a coffee, or a beer. The friendly hostesses will certainly be happy for you to sit and watch the world go by.

Palamos is blessed with a beautiful main beach, Platja Gran. When you tire of the ceaseless ebb and flow, or if you are notorious shadeseekers (such as ourselves), you might choose to seek refreshment at one of the numerous no frills bars or cafes that Palamos has to offer. We spend a lot of time at Bar La Vela, on the seafront, where you are definitely hanging out with the locals. Interestingly, you will hear people speaking Spanish here (in contrast with most other places, which tend to be Catalan speaking) and may pick up a few Andalusian accents as I am told there was an influx of workers from the south some years ago.

Here, you can enjoy a plate of the freshest fried anchovies and some decent patatas bravas. You can also sample the salted anchovies from nearby L’Escala during your stay in Palamos (not sure if Rick Stein has tasted these beauties yet, but they are delicious and rival the much feted Cantabrian version imho), served simply with tomato and olive oil bread (pa amb tomate).

Café wise, we like the chilled vibe of Granja Cristall Café (Carrer Lopez), directly opposite the rather swanky Hotel Vinke. You will find a laidback Blues loving chap serving a sandwich and a coffee for 2.70 euro (!!!). Be rude not to stay and enjoy a Moritz beer, or two and listen to a few tunes…

There is so much to love about Palamos; there are beautiful beaches with excellent chiringuitos (beachbars) where you can enjoy a sundowner, or a livener, depending on the time of day. There is also a kiddies funfair on the beach. You can enjoy a long walk along the front to Sant Antoni, drinking in all the sights and sounds of the sea to one side of you and the chatter from the popular bars and restaurants to the other.

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If you get a chance, try and visit the charming bodega/wine shop Miquel (Avinguda de la Mediterranea), Sant Antoni, where those in the know take their own vessels to be filled with wine, port, vermouth, at bargain prices. (we talk more about this super atmospheric place in our blog about the Bodega tradition).

If you are feeling energetic and/or hungry, you can head off walking about 20 minutes in the opposite direction to the heartwinning Cala de La Fosca; a natural cove with shallow waters and sandy beach, perfect for bathing.  As well as visiting one of the several great beach bars, you can reward yourself with a great “menu del dia” (set 3 course lunch, at around 18euro per head) at Hostal La Fosca, whose location on the beach cannot be beaten. The menu changes daily and featured beautiful salad, croquetas and fresh fish, on the days we visited. It was such great quality and value. In addition, the meal includes excellent wine from their own vineyard and their own home produced olive oil too. (If you speak to the staff at Reception they will organise visits to the vineyards, tastings, etc. Alternatively check out their website www.brugarol.com for details).

Back in Palamos itself, of an evening, we have been known to frequent Barjaula Vermuteria (Carrer de la Roda), where it is only right to start the evening with a vermut (vermouth) and some olives. In fact, this little side street is a good starting point if you fancy a spot of bar hopping, just continue round the corner and down the street, stopping off wherever takes your fancy.

   

One evening, off this side street (I guess on what you might call a backstreet) we came across the intriguingly named Por Babor (Carrer Mal Pas), where we shared some great dishes including a whole bass, butterflied and cooked in the Basque style, which basically involves a lot of garlic – delicious! We also particularly loved the complimentary mini mojitos that were presented with the bill!

   

Earlier on, I mentioned the Hotel Trias where our customers would stay. In terms of design, this hotel has my heart (and was by far my favourite of all the 4 star hotels we took our guests to) – it has a laid back and airy, traditional/contemporary style with a touch of the colonial. It also has an admirable literary heritage, with one of my favourite authors Truman Capote having finished his work “In Cold Blood”, whilst staying there. I like to sip a vermut in the cosy wood clad bar, whilst trying to channel my inner Capote….

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On our rare days off from the Rep job, we would walk from neighbouring Palafrugell (where we were based) and enjoy a lunch time “menu del dia” at the Hotel Trias, because the quality/value ratio was (and still is) fantastic. Therefore, on our final night of this particular trip, we decided to “push the boat out” (pardon the sea based pun) and go for dinner at the Trias. We were stunned to find a fabulous set menu including wine which meant the pair of us dined handsomely, with wine (on a Saturday night) for a total around 50euro, in a super stylish dining room, facing the sea.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed a fish filled canelones in a prawn veloute (Canneloni is very popular in Catalonia – fillings are quite different to the Italian version), a super fresh tuna tataki and an orange sponge based dessert with homemade ice cream. Incredible.

That night, we also visited the Cairo styled Hotel Marina just around the corner for a final glass of cava. In a break from our usual style (and because our “extravagant” last night meal at Trias had far from broken the bank) we went upmarket from our usual house brand cava and ordered a glass of Juve y Camps (as recommended by our Catalan friend Laura Blanco). We were not disappointed and again, the bank was far from broken…

One final happy event, which really made this holiday, was bumping into a chap we refer to only as “Mr Moto Guzzi” as he rides a fabulous vintage Guzzi motorbike. Mr Moto Guzzi is a bit a of talisman to us as he seems to pop up in some pretty random places.

I had thought of him several times during the pandemic and hoped he was ok and here he was right in front of us – full of life and chat! So as per usual, we proceeded to have a lively and good natured chat with Mr Moto Guzzi; him speaking in French (he speaks French and Catalan) and us speaking Spanish, peppered with the odd bit of schooldays French, about goodness knows what- it doesn’t seem to matter! Seeing him again, was a great omen  – making me so happy to have made this our first post lockdown trip and somehow giving me the feeling that everything was as it should be.

 

 

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