Admittedly, blog trips can be a little perplexing. All of our hosts share their food, hotels and products with such love, that I finish the trip overwhelmed with gratitude, full of food, and with my eyes a bit crossed. In the end, it seems near impossible to pass all the experiences on to my readers, lest my blog posts turn into nothing but one large promotion. Beyond that, it often leaves little room for me to really highlight the places I loved, mention those I liked a little less, or even provide fair critiques.
Perplexed by this, I spent the final night of last trip dando vueltas (tossing and turning) over the issue. But somewhere between 1am and 2am in the morning, I had an epiphany and decided that I would provide a candid review for each hotel, restaurant and activity (!!!). My goal: To not only honor the generosity of my hosts, but also respect my readers, to whom I want to give the most honest input possible. Obviously, I will continue to share the highlights of my trip in more detail via my blog posts. Here goes….
El Parque de los olors
This is one of those activities I probably would have never thought to do. I mean, an herbal farm? Sounds illegal. But no, it’s not what you’re thinking. Rather, it’s a fresh-smelling paradise of fragrant plants – from lavender, to chocolate mint (no joke – it’s a variation of peppermint), and hunger-inducing curry plant. A visit will open your eyes and nose to the world of fragrant plants.
Castanya de Viladrau ~ Highly recommended
I was unnaturally excited to visit this chestnut farm, and couldn’t have been more impressed. Run by volunteers committed to keeping the chestnut-love alive and strong, the farm not only sells chestnuts but every nutty product you can think of – from chestnut beer, to crushed-chestnut-filled sausage, cookies and honey. The tour cured me of all my chestnut curiosity, and left me looking at the little roasted fellers with a new set of taste buds, err eyes. Read more about my visit here.
Cervesera de Montseny ~ Highly recommended
I don’t really drink beer, but my visit to this beer factory made we want to take it up with great zeal. The collective is owned by all its employees and is a true labor of love. As trailblazers in the Spanish industry, they offer a selection of artisanal beers and, little by little, distribute it as far away as the US. A fan of wine tastings, I found this to be an equally awesome beer equivalent, and very much worth the visit.
Serrat de Montseriu ~ Highly recommended
Josep is passionate about his small little bodega where he produces 10,000-15,000 bottles of wine by hand, per year. Focused on organic farming, he looked for a good place to produce wine, analyzed the soil, and then started growing. Since he doesn’t alter the wine (as many large wineries do), his creations turn out different every year, depending on the weather and other factors. Truly passionate about what he produces, a visit to Serrat de Montseriu will mean not just good wine, but also a unique look at organic wine making. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to return.
Hotels and accommodations
This historic villa — with an archway dating back to the 13th century — reminded me a lot of those that I visited during my last trip to Catalonia; it offers the comforts of a home, with the amenities of a hotel (private rooms and bathrooms). The building itself is very well taken care of, the rooms and facilities relatively new, the land carefully manicured, and the hosts super warm and welcoming. If you’re looking for a hidden getaway that is less hotel and more house, this is the spot for you. Additionally, it’s not a far drive from Barcelona, Girona, or the beach.
Les Oliveres *
This accommodation isn’t unlike a bed-and-breakfast, complete with a few bedrooms and a kitchen. In fact, I can mostly accurately equate it to “grandma’s guesthouse,” in that it’s by no means anything luxurious with its unkempt land and old-school decor, but has a country coziness which might just be your thing (it wasn’t mine). To get a feel for it, check out the news report below in which I was interviewed. Never mind how horrendous I look (it was hot, we’d been trekking around the mountain. Forgive me).
La Morera is another villa-meets-rural-hotel (apparently Catalonia is covered with them). Guests have their own private rooms and bathrooms, but share the common area. La Morera is especially rustic and, depending on your preferences, this may be both good and bad. The two-story rooms, complete with a very basic bathroom, and beds up stairs and downstairs, are most appropriate for families, or very friendly groups. If you don’t mind the not-so-glamorous room accommodations, then you’ll appreciate the highlight: the host. Preparing generous meals full of local favorites – like butifarra and toasted-on-the-fire bread — he makes guests feel like they’re in a secluded mountain home. It might be far from fancy, but there’s something to be said for the charm.
Can Vila ~ Highly recommended
This place was my ultimate sanctuary — I totally fell in love with every last well-thought detail, so much so that I’m eager to return. The main building has been entirely restored and renovated, so everything is brand spanking new, designed for the most discerning tastes, and comfier than my own house. Combined with the views, the subtle smell of farm, and the perfectly landscaped grounds (with a sweet looking pool!), I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t disappoint.
Located in the sweet little pueblo of Gualba, this apartment-like hotel is, well, nothing more than that. The rooms are fairly new and basic (and in some cases a little awkwardly laid out). That said, the beds are surprisingly comfortable. If all that matters to you is a cute pueblo and a good place to sleep, then this will do the trick. The bonus: it has WiFi (as did most places we stayed), a nice kitchen, and a tremendously friendly manager who gives spectacular tours of the city upon request.
Hotel San Marçal
When it comes to character, this is where you’ll find it. Occupying a 9th century monastery, you can easily imagine what the building must have been like in its past life. Not unlike the structure itself, though, the amenities are a little dated (think old sinks and out-of-date showers). If you’re like me and prefer a slightly more modern touch, then you might find it at their sister hotel, Hotel San Bernat, which has been more recently renovated.
L’om ~ Highly recommended
If you’re into eco and you like a good spa, gosh darn it, this is the place for you. It’s a proper, extra-cushy, cabin-style apartment in the middle of a pueblo – a surprisingly inventive concept given the remote location. Masterminded by Finnish designers, the building is constructed in natural wood and is maintained using renewable energy. Absolutely loved it.
Owned by famous go-cart racer Antoní Zanini, this house reminds me of a home I might find in the American northeast, with it’s ivy-covered brick, and airy-bright interior detailed with crisp white crown molding. The restaurant occupies the downstairs salons, while guestrooms fill the floors above. Decorated like a comfy country home, it truly does feel like your own house in the Montseny countryside.
Hotel Can Barrina
With picnic-table views of the Montseny valley, dinner at this villa was the perfect start to our trip. It offers a rustic setting, imaginative dishes, and friendly service. I didn’t stay the night there, but would definitely recommend dinner if you’re in the area.
We tried a variety of dishes here that were good. I wouldn’t say they were out of this world, but if I were in La Garriga, I wouldn’t mind stopping by again to try something a la carte.
Les Magnolies ~ Highly recommended
This restaurant delivers when it comes to innovative and modern Mediterranean cuisine – a foaming cappuccino that isn’t really coffee, but instead a sweet-potato soup; a frozen ice-cream-like tomato that bursts in your mouth; an award-winning gin-and-tonic dessert that tastes just as colorful as it looks. All in all, definitely a Michelin-star-worthy foodie spot.
Can Marc ~ Highly recommended
I fell in love with this restaurant, its food and its staff. Family owned, the restaurant is not only run by one of the family’s sons, but he’s one of the chefs too, along with his gorgeous wife who waits tables and serves. While the stone-wall setting recalls traditional fare, the cuisine swings extra modern and will blow both your mind and taste buds. They offer a tasting menu, which cannot wait to try again.
You wouldn’t know by the outside of the establishment that it would have such fantastically delicious dishes. While nothing fancy, they deliver classic Catalan and Iberian cuisine that tastes phenomenal. If you’re in the area and looking for a humble meal and traditional tastes, this spot is worth the visit. Plus the darling grandpa owner is so cute that I wanted to squeeze his cheeks.
La Vall del Montseny ~ Highly recommended
I’ve kind of fallen in love with this little valley, as all of my favorite spots seem to be clustered in the pueblo of Sant Esteve de Palautordera. This restaurant is no different. In terms of ambiance, it’s nothing particularly special, but the food was exceptional – a fresh pea salad, shrimp perfectly grilled with garlic, and one of the most amazing risotto dishes I’ve ever had. Definitely a restaurant you should try if you pass through the area.
Located in what looks to be the darling pueblo of Sant Hilari Sacalm (sadly I only saw it by night), is Hotel Ripoll. While the hotel itself isn’t anything to write home about (note that I did not stay there), the cuisine was above average; they served a potato-y confection topped with egg and mushrooms that rocked my world. If you’re wandering around Ripoll and looking for a reliably tasty and inventive meal, this is a good option.
*Hotels marked with an asterisk are those at which I did not stay, but instead only visited.
**Disclosure: I traveled through Montseny as a guest of Turístics Montseny. Rest assured that I’m keeping it real – all opinions are entirely my own.