From my Guidebook, starting page 80 of 94...
Between the spa town of Caldes de Malavella and the mountains is Sils, a little town but growing fast thanks to the train station being only an hour´s commute to Barcelona, and just minutes to Girona and Figueres. This area is where some of our better rental houses are situated. The town of Sils itself is nothing to get excited about, unless you are an automobile enthusiasts (see below) but the location is excellent, close to Barcelona, Girona, and the coast, and the countryside and the views of the surrounding hills are agreeable. But most of all, the area around Sils is a very practical and user-friendly place to spend a holiday, and the restaurants are excellent!
The Automobile Collection of Salvador Claret, at kilometer 112 on the N-II next to the huge and creepy, almost New England-like Hotel Rolls , has more than 150 vehicles of all different periods, all of them in perfect working condition, including a vapor-propelled Merry Weather of 1883, a 1904 monocylindric Salamanca, and one of the few 1914 RP-type Roland Pillians left in the world. There are also a few cars associated with famous personages; a Fiat 500 Topolino used by Mussolini, or a Ford used by the actress Madeleine Carroll. There is a big antique car rally held in Sils on the first weekend of June every year, with cars from all over Europe. By the way, there is a dreary truck-stop bar next door to the hotel Rolls which is locally famous for being open 24 hours. At 4 am there, you could cut the atmosphere there with a machete! On a healthier note, there are a couple of tennis courts you can rent just up the N-II from here, but tennis is best at the Sils municipal Sports Complex in the center of town.
Perhaps the very best thing about the area around Sils is the large number of excellent restaurants so close by. Getting off the N-II for the C-63 heading into Sils and Olot beyond, the first restaurant you come across is the locally famous La Granota, meaning the toad, set in a gorgeous old masia (traditional stone farmhouse) just off the traffic circle feeding in to Sils. La Granota is divided into rather old-fashioned sort of dining indoors in the masia, with simple but nicely served 20 Euro prix fix menu at lunchtime - excellent salads and grilled lamp chops, usually. The á la carte dinners are alot pricier. This place seems to be where the many of the gray-haired local bourgeoisie congregate for lunch, but at night, the charming outdoor tavern next door opens to a younger crowd under a large semi-ruined granary and the prices for grilled meats are quite reasonable. In either case, La Granota is well worth a visit. (Km 695 of the N-II, 972-853 244).
Back at the traffic circle, in front of the gas station, is one of my favorite eateries, the old rundown Hostal La Selva, with a very generous 10 Euro menu, this is where farmers and truckers and some local families pile in for authentic home cooked Catalan cuisine done right. The place is shambles, no points for decoration or good service, and certainly not a place to be seen, but the food can be glorious, especially anything stewed, like the duck with pears in a nut sauce. This is not a place for tourists, and stay away if you are at all stuck up! If you are stuck up, go to the Mas Solá, just up the C-63 after Riudarenes, where meals start at 50 Euros a head.
Further along the C-63, just uphill from Sils-center and the train station is l’Era de Sils, to your right after the first traffic circle, where there is a gas station on your left and the Consum supermarket on your left. This huge old masia, painted yellow, has a friendly family atmosphere, and midday menus for 10 Euros, all included. Further on at the next traffic circle is Hostal Mallorquines (972 85 60 42) with a daily menu for 10 Euros and inexpensive and quite varied á la carte at night. This is perhaps the most popular restaurant in the area - an absolutely no frills food factory that never fails to deliver, even though recently I have caught them cutting corners, like service iceberg lettuce when they used to have home grown romaine lettuce. By the way, it is local custom to give you a small salad included in the menu in addition to the first and second courses plus dessert, wine, bread, and a lot of restaurants will include the coffee for free, or you can substitute the dessert for and expresso. Hostal Mallorquines also offers takeaway foods, and their take out paella is surprisingly good. Oh, they also sell wine by the litre. It really is quite a place! Here´s how it works: you can put in an order at the cashier for a paella for x-persons to be ready for pick up next day at, say, 13h. Warning, for midday meals, get there early or late (before 1:30 or after 3pm) as lines of hungry farmers and travelling salesmen can stretch out into the unshaded car park.
I could go on and on about local restaurants. They are all so good! The owners I work with all differ as to which restaurant to recommend and which ones not to mention. For example, everyone knows that the Hostal La Selva - see above - offers good home-cookin' at an unbeatable price, but they would be shocked to know that I include it and they would be embarrassed to see you there! To give you an idea, most of the waitresses look like they must have been ex-hookers. There are other local nondescript eateries that have fine & cheap local cuisine. Another one of my favorites specializes in all kinds of grilled meats and is popular with locals, especially for the 11 Euros midday menu.It is called Can Merla and if you are a tourist you shouldn’t know about such a place because it is too off the beaten track.However, for an adventurous and lucky few who read this, here’s how to get there.Going up the C-63 take the first exit of the traffic circle just after the MAXI Día supermarket and go straight as you can toward Sant Dalmai and Aiguaviva and turn right after about 5 km at Santa Coloma Residencial and take the road furthest to your left up the 100 meters or so to the restaurant parking.Its a run down place with a huge covered terrace where locals go for grilled meats. They'll grill anything and it is all excellent and dirt cheap. In Sant Dalmai, a small town just up the road, there are two restaurants. My favorite is Can Gros, another typical family-run place with extraordinarily good meals on offer, the midday menu going for 10 Euros. Just amazing. When we are in the area, we make a point of going to a different restaurant every day for lunch and then just have a light meal of salad and cold cuts at dinner. That is what locals do and I've learned they know a thing or two about what life's about!
Shopping: There are 4 major supermarkets at the entrance of Santa Coloma de Farners village, just 5 kms north of Riudarenes on the C-63. (These are Maxi Día, Lidl, Mercadona and Bon Preu.) The best supermarket is probably the Catalan chain called Bon Preu. When you get to the roundabout where Santa Coloma begins, you will see the Maxi-Día supermarket on your right. To get to the Bon Preu, go ¾ of the way around the traffic circle and take the 3rd exit down to the supermarket and the 24-hour gas station there. Can’t miss it. The Bon Preu has a butcher and a fresh fishmonger.
In Sils village just down the C-63 you have the fairly small but well-stocked local supermarket in Sils, SUMA, just after the huge pharmacy there on the main road, just up from the Neus´s Café de la Vila (which has a huge Skaletric motorway in a back room). The freshly baked xapata bread at the supermarket is delicious! The next door after the supermarket is a fantastic butcher shop, La Ginesta, that makes all their own sausages, hams, you name it! The quality is superb, and there is even frozen maigret de canard and foie gras mi cuit for the gourmet. For a larger supermarket, there is a new Consum on the next corner up from Sils (good fresh fish), just across from the gas station, or you can either go up the C-63 8 kms to the outskirts of Santa Coloma de Farners to the Maxi Dia super discount store (good cheap basics), or just beyond to the German Lidl, also for good cheap basics, or to Mercadona just beyond, a very successful Spanish chain that has good just-about-everything. In fact, many guests have written in to recommend Mercadona for the selection and the price/quality. If you are a real gourmet, you´ll probably want to make your way to the Girona food market, open every morning except Monday and closed Sundays. Follow signs for RENFE train station and then for Mercat on the Placa del Lleo. Also in Girona is the Hipercor mega-supermarket, which has everything, including imported exotics (like real maple syrup!) and also reputed for good fresh fish, including lobster, etc. The best fish market is at the coastal fishing villages at Blanes or at San Feliu de Guixols, and the earlier in the morning you get there the better. Oh, and in Sils there is a wine and liquor shop (sells local wines right from the barrel by the liter) just up the side road behind the Café de la Vila, my friend Neus's place, which has a huge scalextric racetrack in the backroom...
Useful shortcut: there is a fast road between the roundabout at Les Mallorquines and the N-II and the Hotel Rolls which saves you having to go through Sils. On that long dipping straightaway is the local discothèque, Millenium and Cosmic Club, with several different dance halls with different musics for the young ones, a section of slot machines and other games, supposedly for the older crowd, and outdoor terraces, open till 6am. 10 Euros to get in. Oddly enough, they close in August! I guess everyone goes to the coast for nightlife in August.
Riudarenes is the next town up the C-63, and although some maps (Michelin) show it as of particular interest to tourists, I don´t quite share their enthusiasm. But it has a nice enough high-street, with and excellent bakery, la Fleca, and another small supermarket Novavenda, with good meats and fruits and veggies, and they open on Sunday mornings. There is also a nice new restaurant in Riudarenes called Can Cordons, (972 85 64 50), just across from the church as you drive in to town from the roundabout in front of the La Entrada motel. La Entrada is where the truckers go. Can Cordons is a nice unpretentious restaurant set in a little old masia, divided into four or five cosy dining rooms, with rustic decor, quiet new age-ish music in background, candles burning in corners, and best of all for parents, a little garden out back with a small play area for the tots. You can sit in the air conditioned interior or eat outside while keeping an eye on the kids. Narcis, the owner, specializes in carpaccios, filet vedella (sirloin steak), duck magret, deep fried lamb chops... and the prices are very reasonable, especially for the well chosen wines and liquors on offer. I have also been recommended La Brasa on the main road in Riudarenes, set in an ugly cinderblock building on the main road, the interior is in faux-rustic of the red-checkered cloth variety - but I haven´t had a chance to try it yet.
Some of you reading this will be staying at Can Cunill and you will pass Can Cordons on your way to the villa. Just beyond Can Cunill is the tiny hamlet of Esparra, with about 8 houses, a church in need of urgent repair, a catalogued centenary oak tree, and most importantly, a great little eating house called Mas Ferrer. Run by a middle-aged lesbian couple (don´t tell them I told you that, but knowing it ahead of time might help avoid needless speculation) the inexpensive food is quite good, the atmosphere relaxed, and there is a small terrace amidst hundreds of potted plants, most cacti and nopals. I´ve had some very good lunches here. Up from Esparra is the road to the Argimon castle, about 4 kms of unpaved road, but in good condition, and only challenging for the last few hundred meters. The interior of the castle is not easy to visit, but there is a terrace up the staircase to the right of the castle entryway, with magnificient 360º vistas of the area from the rooftop.
Further up the valley is Santa Coloma de Farners with a good outdoor farmers market on Sundays but now better known for its magnificent new day spa, MAGMA SPA, which you can read all about at www.magma-cat.com. Unlike other spas in the area, there is no hotel at this spa - the idea here is that you can pay to get in and stay for as long or as short as you like, opting for different treatments and massages separately, or just have a swim and a meal at one of the two restaurants there. For the best quality meals in the area, you have El Mas Sola (972 84 08 48) on the C-63 to your left just before entering Santa Coloma de Farners, with good fish and meat dishes, a good wine carte, and meals running well over 60 Euros per person. Mas Solá has a pool and some tennis courts you can rent as well.
I have a last crazy insider´s tip for when you are feeling hungry and adventurous in equal measure and are willing to driving almost an hour up into the hills - nice drive too - for a memorable meal in an unforgettable place. The town is called Sant Aniol de Finestres and the restaurant is called Can Tura. You can get to Sant Aniol from the Sant Gregori turn off in Girona Nord, near the big hospital, or better yet just go up the up the C-63 and turning off to the right for Les Planes de Hostales. The circuit makes a nice drive, some curves, but not too strenuous, and very scenic, including a few surprises, like seeing a modernist art-nouveau villa perched on a hilltop like a UFO along the way. Can Tura: tel: 972 449 919. Closed Tuesdays. Can Tura is the huge stone building on your right, across the river, as you drive in towards town, surrounded by geese, ducks, peacocks, and hundreds of other birds, including some exotics, many of them just running around free.
Another oddity about Sant Aniol de Finestres is the excellent mineral water they produce here, most of which is sold almost exclusively in Japan, so don´t be surprised the next table over at Can Tura has a group of Nippon businessmen cam-paying (toasting) away. By the way, have you ever wondered where the expression "a toast" comes from? I hear that it comes from the middle ages, when old dry bread was used as a sort-of filter to absorb impurities that floated on the top of the wine and beer barrels.
GOLF: Up the road from Sils on the N-II, just beyond the exit for Caldes de Malavella, is the new championship PGA Golf Course, (972 47 25 77), on the N-II just above the exit for Caldes) a hilly 18-hole (par 72) course designed by Angel Gallardo. Though recently inaugurated to great hype in 2000, and host to the 2001 European PGA Championship, a recent visit to the grounds left me underwhelmed. Everything from the poorly signposted entrance, the inadequate parking, the unattractive clubhouse, and the very hilly course, made me think this place has a long way to go. However, since then I have spoken to avid golfers who assure me that the challenging course more than makes up for the lackluster clubhouse. Be sure to rent a cart!
Speaking of carts, just up the N-II from Sils at Km 699.5 is the Sils go-karting circuit, with a range of activities from adult to kiddy go-karts, a very challenging motocross circuit, pocket bikes, crazy golf, paintball, children´s area and cafeteria. It is quite a spread! see: http://www.multipistes.com and click on English at the bottom of the page.
Nearby local market days are:
Santa Coloma: Mondays
Caldes de Malavella: Tuesdays
Girona: Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Devesa park and small market daily in the Plaça del Lleó.
…and perhaps best of all
Sant Feliu de Guixols, Sunday mornings, right on the beach
As far as music and entertainment, the best listings are probably in the local "el Punt", or the "Avui" newspapers, and you´ll want to check the listings of the back pages under Agenda, with listings of what festa majors (town festivals), concerts, and balls (dances) are on offer. I usually use the excuse of checking the local paper to justify going into a bar and have a drink while looking over the bar´s copy of the papers.
It is a bit early in the season for me to know what the programming is for summer, but aside from the usual daily assortment of Festa Major's throughout July and August, there is the jazz festivals at Calella de Palafrugell, and of course the big classical music festivals at Perelada casino grounds, Torroella de Montgris festival, and the Schubertiada in Vilabertran.
I don't think there will be any football in July and August, but you might want to check the Barca listing in:
To buy tickets on-line for shows and sporting events:
The later is the best of the two and is in English.
Don't forget that there is loan copy of a new edition of my 85-page Insider's Guide to the Province of Girona, which included the Costa Brava and the Low Pyrenees waiting for guests at all the houses and B&B's I work with. Please remember to leave it there when you go, and feel fee to add comments to it (there are extra blank pages at the back) and I will incorporate them into the text for the benefit of future visitors...
If it is hot, do as the locals. Keep house shutters and doors closed during the day, and open up at night and early morning to air out when the temps are low. The thick stone walls keep cool air in and hot air out. Remember it only takes a few minutes to air out a room!
I am often asked to recommend beaches…
All beaches on the Costa Brava are blue flag beaches, the EU´s highest ratings.
Lloret de Mar is probably the closest big beach to Sils and can be fun but it is not my favorite beach.
Much better would be Platja de Fenals or Platja de Boadella, just south of Lloret, or Canyelles just north of Lloret.
Here is a link to Fenals beach: http://ca.lloretdemar.org/platja-de-fenals_1044_6_26_0_0.html
and photos of Boadella beach, which is mostly a nudist beach: http://es.geocities.com/jeremiassoler/boadellarepor.htm
You can explore most of the beaches on the Costa Brava. Getting to and from the coast on the back roads is part of the fun. The landscape and especially the old farmhouses are magnificent!
Here is a full list of 195 beaches on the Costa Brava provided by the Tourism Board:
and pick location or click on - see all.
Spanish TV is now 100% digital. You have to turn the digital receiver on and then hit the AV or Video button on the TV zapper to active this outside source, then you switch over to the digital zapper. There are about 35 channels, most of then absolute garbage, but there are 3 24-hour children´s channels (Disney, Clan, and Canal 3/300) and 3 Sports Channels and 4 or 5 news channels, and the great thing about digital is that foreign shows (mostly US series and movies) can be seen in original language version. Your Digital zapper will have a button labeled AUDIO or LANG or something like that, and once you click on that, you can opt between dubbed and original version. There are also buttons to see information on current and future programming (if it is a movie you will see the name, the year, the director, etc), and there is also text TV (with weather, airport flight info, etc) and lot´s of other extras.
This is not cable TV. It is 100% free, but in many ways more technologically interactive and sophisticated than either cable or normal TV. For example, the PROG or EPG button will tell you all about programming, including credits and synopsis for movies...
Bicycle rental: example of prices based on 4 bicycles delivered to your hours: €17 per day, 2 days = €27, 3 days=€32, as of 4th day, €10 per day. Includes hemlet.
Address: Carrer Pujada de l'Estació, s/n, 17170 Amer, Girona, Girona, Spain
Amer is a town on the C-63 just up from Sils after Santa Coloma de Farners.
They deliver bicycles. Have the caretaker or owner of your house explain to them where to have the bikes delivered.
Phone:+34 646 02 73 72
Here is some useful practical info on the area around Sils town for guests at Can Salarichs villa.
A full copy of my 94-page guidebook will be sent you to upon request. It is a 669KB .pdf file, so easy to download.
The main attractions on this part of the Costa Brava, a region called La Selva, are the following:
- a great area to explore and excellent views of mountain ranges in a wide arc behind you as you face the gorgeous coast
- very close to Barcelona, approx. 70 kilometers on the highway, and historic Girona, just 10 minutes up the N-II
- excellent restaurants, ranging from El Celler de Sant Roca, consistently voted among the top 3 restaurants in the world, to a huge selection of excellent cheap eats, and many of these will be mentioned in the following text
But keep in mind that the Costa Brava is tiny, 60x90 kilometers, and you can explore the entire region easily from La Selva.