I know what you’re doing this summer

We’re having quite a lot of guests this summer, and people often ask me about possible activities around here in the next few weeks… so I thought I’d put a few on my blog. This list is not exhaustive, as I’m not listing the many exhibitions, open air cinema,  workshops for children (in Spanish as well),… Those can all be found in the (free) Matarranya newspaper in most local shops.
And I’m probably not aware of many more fiestas and fun things to do! What I love most about the area is the beautiful countryside…

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A walk around the Embalsa de la Peña, between Valderrobres and Beceite

Nature: hiking, biking, swimming, horse riding and much more

The countryside is the main attraction here. The start of the first trail at Els Ports national park is only 15 minutes away by car, and there’s trails for everybody; the prettiest one is probably El Parisal near Beceite (about 30 mins from here), which can be a refreshing hike in the mountains on a hot day (you’ll follow the river through a gorge).
In the morning around 9 o’clock, you can go see vulture feeding time at Mas de Bunyol; or you can go for a photography workshop or look for baby ibex with Geopixel Beceite.
You could also rent a bike at Matarranyaventura or Montsport, and bike down the Via Verde (the old railroad); it’s mostly a gentle slope down towards Tortosa, and the rental agency will come and pick you up wherever you want.
If you prefer to explore the hills of Matarranya on horseback, there’s the Hipica in Cretas and the Establo de Crystal (ran by our friends Malcolm & Tamzin) near Valderrobres.
Chances are that most days in August will be scorching hot though, and all you’ll want to do during the day is hang out near water… there are enough opportunities for that here as well: there’s the natural swimming area L’Assut at the Rio Algars; Les Olles where the water has made several pools (some deeper than others) in the rocks; several swimming spots at the river Algars in Arens de Lledo; El Salt, with waterfalls from the river Tastavins in La Portellada; the Embalsa de la Peña, where the water is very clear and shallow (perfect for children)… or you can go for one of the many smaller rivers, totally off the beaten path (and a bit further away).

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Bruno Duran at Geopixel knows where it’s at: he can take you on the most beautiful tours – just to see the wonders of Els Ports, or for a very special photography workshop

Eating & drinking

When most people think of Spanish food and drinks, they think of paella, sangria and churros; alas, none of these are very typical for this area though. We love the Aragonese cuisine; it features mostly local produce in all seasons.

We recommend eating out at lunch time, so you can have some time off (siesta) after lunch; it’s too hot to do anything else anyway – and most shops and activities will be closed for lunch until about 17h. Most restaurants serve a nice 3 course meal for less than 20 euros (and it includes wine & water). There are quite a few restaurants around here we recommend: or favourites are Ca la Serreta in Cretas, Fonda Angeleta and Baudilio in Valderrobres; Venta la Parra on the road between Horta de Sant Joan and Prat de Comte; El Sitjar in Calaceite; or Miralles in Horta de Sant Joan… and there are many, many more.

At night, it’s fun to go out for tapas around or just after sundown. Every village has at least one bar, and every bar has its own tapas; the 3 bars in Cretas are excellent (very different from one another), the bar in Arens has the best fish, there’s a brand new bar in Lledo,… but most of all, we like going to Valderrobres where the many bars in the Calle de Santiago Hernandez Ruiz (yes, that’s one street name) leading up to the Plaza de Espanya have a unique atmosphere and excellent tapas. Going out for tapas and drinks is remarkably cheap as well, if you compare it to prices around the coast or in other countries.

Activities and excursions

The good thing about living here is that we’re in the middle of nowhere, but you can be everywhere in no time: you could go to Portaventura (the big-ass adventure park in Salou) for the day. See castles in Valderrobres (15 mins), Miravet (45 mins) or Morella (1h). Visit a city like Alcaniz or Tortosa, which have historical buildings, some nice shopping (mostly smaller shops, no big malls there), cathedrals and much more. In Horta, there’s a new agency (ran by a fellow Belgian couple) that offers Picasso & knights templar tours in many languages.
If you don’t mind spending some time in the car, even big cities like Zaragoza (2h), Barcelona (2h30) or Valencia (2h30) could be an option. Or you could just go for a day at the beach (less than an hour)… If you like the sea but don’t want your standard beach, the Ebro Delta is a must-see: there’s rice fields, flamingos, kite surfing and much more.
Do keep in mind that many things (castles, shops, activities) are closed during lunch time, on Saturday afternoon and on Sundays.

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Vulture feeding time (safely from behind glass) at Mas de Bunyol in Valderrobres

Fiestas & ferias

There are many cultural events in the summer here as well; between the beginning of August and the end of September, every single village will have its own week of fiestas. Traditionally, there’s bulls running through the village streets (sometimes it’s just a cow – and in some instances children carrying fake wooden bulls), firework artists, competitions and of course loads of food and drinking. Apart from that, there are many smaller events – for instance there’s jota (the local traditional dance) festivals – in Calaceite on the 6th of August, or Cretas on the 10th. There’s a tomato exhibition (with jamon and drinks as well) in La Portellada on the 6th, open air opera on the 8th and open air jazz on the 10th (both in Calaceite), a spectacle called “freak show” in Beceite on the 13th, musical nights at the Sant Salvador convent in Horta every Friday night – and let’s not forget the “noches de estrellas” where you get to observe Jupiter, Saturn and moon craters through a telescope. Although if you just want to see the Milky way, constellations and the occasional shooting star, you can probably see those from your bedroom balcony if you’re staying with us this summer (or living closeby and in the middle of nowhere as well)…

 

 

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