February 27, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

Last week I returned from a dreamy holiday in Catalonia filled with food, pueblos and villas (see pictures here). But before I indulge you in all of the details, I thought I’d introduce you to the little wonderland that is the northeast of Spain. Grab a glass of wine, and let the session begin.

So first, let’s get a few things straight: Is it Catalonia, Catalunya or Cataluña? A country, community or province? And what language are they speaking anyway?

About that name: In English it’s Catalonia, Spanish it’s Cataluña, and in Catalán it’s Catalunya. They more or less all sound the same when spoken, so just make like a foreigner and mumble whatever rolls off your tongue.

“But what’s this about Spanish and Catalán?” you ask.

If you haven’t heard the foreign word yet, Spanish isn’t the only language spoken in Catalonia (or in several regions in Spain, for that matter), but rather Catalán – a tongue of its own, with various influences (which are totally over my head) according to Wikipedia. At the end of the day, it’s quite similar to Castilian Spanish because I can basically understand every word of it (a very scientific assessment, I know). Even though Catalanes primarily speak Catalán amongst one another, almost all of them are also entirely fluent in Spanish. So rest assured that those five phrases you still remember from high school will still serve you just fine. And yes, you will indeed find the baño.

Not just a land of different languages, many of the Catalanes feel that it is also a different country (even though technically it is considered a part of Spain). To explain the deep roots behind the sentiments on either side, which go back hundreds of years, is far beyond my skills. Suffice it to say that it can be a controversial subject, and I’m totally not touching that hot patata!

Geographically speaking, the region sits up against the French border along the Mediterranean Sea. As one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities (essentially the equivalent of a US state), it has four provinces (similar to counties): Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida and Girona. For my recent trip, I traveled all around Girona – a trip I will tell you about very soon (oooh the anticipation!).

Apart from tourist hotspot Barcelona, and being home to a famous fútbol team, Catalonia also claims culinary fame. Until recently, one of the world’s best restaurants, El Bulli, resided in this northeastern part of Spain. And despite its closure (made by choice, and to the disappointment of foodies everywhere), the region still has some of the best cuisine around – right down to the basics.

Famous Catalonian contributions to, well, my diet (and I suppose those of many others) include pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato) and crema catalana (essentially creme brûlée). Also, a lesser known fact: the timelessly fashionable espadrille (or, as it is called in Spanish, alpargata) made its appearance in the Pyrenees somewhere back in the 1300s. Just a few of the fun facts I’m going to tease you with before we get into to the good stuff in my next blog post.

So yeah, you could say Catalonia is a pretty rad place. And now that you’ve got your mind wrapped around it, prepare yourself to come on the journey with me through all the pueblos, food and villas. Should be fun!

Update: I foolishly forgot one more amazing thing to come out of Catalonia – a beastly awesome fellow named Puyol. I will let Pass the Ham explain that one, though.

11 Responses to “Let’s talk about Catalonia”

  1. Isabel Says:

    I am glad you’ve enjoyed your stay in Catalonia. About the language Català is very similar to Spanish because both came from Latin, as well as Italian, French and Portuguese. This is why you can find similar words to Italian or French in Catalan. ^^

  2. Erin Says:

    So I was originally going to say something to that effect, but then I started reading Wikipedia to make sure I didn’t get anything wrong, and then the whole thing made me go cross-eyed, and I decided to just skip the explanation altogether. Hehe. So yeah, I went the lazy route. Thanks for clarifying, Isabel!

  3. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures Says:

    I’m dying to get to this part of Spain. The food just sounds so unbelievable. Love your shoes!!!

  4. Nicole Says:

    ummm…and Puyol? You didn’t mention anything about Puyol….? Whats up?

  5. Erin Says:

    I wanted to keep that little secret all to myself, but since you just blew my cover, I’ve updated the post with a little shout out to our beasty shaggy-haired caveman. ROARRRRRRRR

  6. Status Viatoris Says:

    Puyol? As is Carles?? As in Blaugrana??

  7. Kaley [Y Mucho Más] Says:

    I think I have those espadrilles. I swear I got a pair just like at a wedding (you know, for all of us who had heels on).

    That trip looked really nice. I’m glad you had fun.

  8. Nicole Says:

    Ha Ha! You’re the best! Now, its a completely accurate post! See, none of that funky political stuff is necessary when you mention Puyol…


  9. Erin Says:

    It’s true – it’s now totally accurate and complete. I slept much better last night knowing that (apart from the Puyol-y nightmares).

    And yes, SV – the man, the myth, the caveman….Carles Puyol.

  10. Sara Marti Says:

    What a nice post Erin, and well done for managing to explain so well about the language, cultural and culinary aspects of Catalonia, as well as so sensitively touching the steamy subject of independence without entereing into politics! I applaud you!

  11. Laurel Says:

    Great recap of Catalonia, it truly is a fascinating place.

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