Back in the early seventies I  remember when the parents of a school friend of mine took ownership of their first Japanese car.  Sky blue with body work so tinny that an eleven year old could make an indentation in it with their finger.  All in all it was a car by name but little else, nothing special.  And so it was with our first sortie with Japanese whisky.  Put on to Nikka by a customer a few months back we duly purchased a bottle of Nikka Pure Malt Red Label on a visit to our French ‘cash & carry’ in Perpignan a few weeks ago.

With some anticipation we opened the bottle and were left somewhat deflated.

Nikka Red Label is deep amber in colour.  To the nose it is citrus with hints of nail varnish remover.  The taste is narrow, sharp and peppery with some smokiness.  Adding water only left the taste somewhat flat and bland.  Finally, the aftertaste was slightly smokey and left the mouth feeling dry.  Overall, somewhat disappointing.  Let’s hope its kin are better.


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This wee ditty relates to one of the lovely things that has happened since we opened some two and a half years ago.  It all started with the arrival of a couple from Boston, Massachusetts in May of last year, by the name of Monique and Harwood.  As with many of our guests they were interested in our story relating to La Rectoria.  We greatly enjoyed their time with us, exchanging anecdotes and stories and then they were gone.  Since their brief stay 14 months ago friends and friends of friends of theirs have graced our door to take our hospitality and each with the same cordial New England charm.   Deborah and Hank last November, Anne and Stan in April of this year and finally Catherine and Myrion and family just this week.   And at this point serendipity plays a role as the day before the arrival of Catherine and Myrion, Jane and William arrive…..from Massachusetts to find that they have  mutual friends with Catherine and Myrion.

Thank you to each and everyone of you for beating a path to our door and we hope that we lived up to your expectations.  And please continue to give us your tired……

We will come to see you at some point in the not to distant future.


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Some of our ‘Patriots’

So we’ve erected a new signpost indicating where we are off the C63 just north of the Sant Feliu de Pallerols.

Well, in all honesty we have never had a signpost to La Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda in all of the time we have been open.  This has not been because we haven’t wanted one, it has largely been down to the local ‘red tape’ involved in having one put up

Unlike in Britain you can’t simply erect a sign (and I guess there there are limitations as to what is permitted) and that is it.  Having said that, I have a strong suspicion that as with many things here what is allowed and what is done are often not exactly the same….ya know whot I mean!

I hope never to make another reference to a trite reality show boy band, but following a the train of thought re-indications and roads what do I hear on the radio this afternoon but Cream’s ‘Crossroads’ with the supreme guitar picking of Eric Clapton.  So with a little wandering of the mind up popped Squeeze’s ‘Up The Junction’, Saw Doctors’ Irish road trip hit ‘N17’, Chuck Berry’s version of ‘Route 66’  and for a bit of METAL Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’.

I’ve digressed way too far, so back to the signpost.   The old one read, ‘Sant Miquel de Pineda 0.5km’.   The new one reads ‘St Miquel de Pineda’ with 2 icons added – one of a church, the other indicating us with the symbol for ‘Turisme Rural’.  A subtle change eh! but clarity is everything.

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So it’s clear now.  Follow the arrow up the hill and you’ll be with us in a couple of minutes.  See you soon.



On getting up each morning, freshened up and dressed my first act is to take Bismarck for his first walk of the day.  Our giant schnauzer takes a bit of getting going, with a big stretch of the back, then his massive fore and hind legs, he ambles with a spring in his step towards the door.

Even though it is May, it is still quite fresh as the sun comes up.  And as we step on to ‘La ruta del Carrilet’, the vie verde path adjacent to the house, Bismarck and I are greeted by the cats, Dolly our blonde Parton look alike and McGonagall the ginger.

Dawn on La Ruta el Carrilet - Maig 2014

Dawn on La Ruta el Carrilet – Maig 2014

The chill morning air catches the face washing away any lingering reminents of sleep. As the four of us make our way up the old railway the new light that rises over the hills of La Garrotxa penetrates the fresh foliage of the trees and birdsong fills the woods.  If you are lucky you might catch sight of a red squirrel, roe deer, wild boar and all manner of creepy crawlies at ground level.

La ruta el Carrilet Maig 2104

La ruta el Carrilet Maig 2104


Looking down Vall d'Hostoles from el Carrilet - Maig 2014

Looking down Vall d’Hostoles from el Carrilet – Maig 2014

Ours is a short brisk walk prior to breakfast and commencing the tasks of the day, but it provides a ‘space’ both in which to think and to marvel.  The latter is a daily joy as with each day small perceptable changes occur – yesterday it was the wild sweetpea up by the field that caught my attention, pink and fragile clinging to the plants around it.   Now however, if sunny it is the light that amazes; funnelling down the corridor of trees that line the path forming curtains of light on the banks of the path.  The sunlight magnifies the contrast in the many shades of green in the leaves of the trees, grasses and wild flowers.  Let the photos complete the picture for you and the serenity that awaits you here in La Garrotxa.


Curtain of light on el Carrilet

Curtain of light on el Carrilet


Light and foliage - Maig 2014

Light and foliage – Maig 2014

On a somewhat overcast and dreich Wednesday, Goretti and I set off for Figures and on to Alt Emporda on a fact finding mission.  We’re putting together a proposal for a tour operator that specialises in gastronomic guided holidays.   Small exclusive groups that want to sample the authentic food and culture of the places they visit, staying in places offering comfort and charm.

We’d been given the name of the celler (vineyard) we were heading for, although neither of us had heard of it, never mind drunk the wine.  The final few kilometers took us through some pretty inauspicious countryside, not helped by the inclement weather.

With the help of a cheery local and armed with directions to our destination we found the entrance, well ordered with new timber fence and large sign….’Terra Remota’….Remote Land.  The name kind of fitted the bill as the place was a bit off the beaten track.   But the remainder was full of surprises.

As we drove the short distance off the main road along the dirt farm track the vines opened around us, relatively small ordered fields, each marked with a name, Emma, Miquel, Béa etc. and the corresponding grape, syrah, granache, their borders broken by stands of pines.   Then as we looked to our left there lay the edifice of the celler itself.   Sleek, flat, battleship grey and quietly brutal.  It looked like some secret military installation or the layer of a Bond villan and yet with its low profile set below the skyline of the hill around it, it blended into the the landscape.


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We entered through a glass door into what I guess you would call the sampling room.   Cardboard cases of wine stacked neatly with notes on the wines on offer.  We were greeted warmly by our host Osban who instructed us to meet him on the uppermost level of the celler.  We climbed the ramp adjacent to the side of the building with the vines stretching out in the fields below.  At the top we were confronted by a long, large iron door set against the grey concrete of the structure.  To the side of the door was the flat roof of the floor below, covered with green flowering vegetation.  Osban immediately laid out the mission statement of the celler which is to produce, ecological good quality vine in as natural a manner as possible in a way that compliments the natural environment.

As we entered the building one half expected to be met by Auric Goldfinger.  Below us on both sides were lines of the 10,000l fermentation vats.  Here again energy and environmental considerations are uppermost as gravity is used wherever possible to move grapes or wine.  The interior concrete sarcophagus provides an ideal environment to hold the wine as it develops and ultimately you are led down to the bottling area and ultimately the space beyond where some of the red wines are matured in french oak barrels.

And so we were led up through a narrow passage back to where we started in the sampling room and on to the tasting.   And honestly, nothing disappointed.  Both the white, ‘Caminante’ and the rosé, ‘Caminito’ were crisp and dry the latter for me with strawberries and rasps to taste.  The first red, ‘Camino’ was round and dry but  the second, ‘Clos Adrien’ was a total winner.  More legs than a Robert Palmer video with fantastic body and dry tannins.

So for about 32€ per person you can have 4 hour tour followed by a hearty picnic among the wines.  My kind of idea of perfect day out.  And Terra Remota is well worth the visit and the wines to be sampled.  And I think we’ll be including some of the wines here at La Rectoria.



Well here is a big thank you to all at Eurotracks for putting together this pack.  7 days to explore La Garrotxa between Besalú and Girona on foot and by bike taking in Santa Pau, and the heart of the Volcanic Park and on to ourselves for two nights before departing for home.  Below is the link giving all the details of the itinerary

Good luck and come and visit La Garrotxa!

So you don’t ski…..

The idea of winter sand and sun doesn’t ring your bell…

….and you just want to get away from days of perpetual rain or snow and freezing temperatures.

Well, there is an alternative……La Garrotxa, Catalonia.

In the last couple of weeks we have welcomed two British couples that have taken advantage of our Catalan winter weather……if that is what it can be called.  OK for two months we have regularly awoken to hard frosts, but as the day unfolds it is typically bright and sunny.   With the arrival of February and ever lengthening days you can walk with the warmth of the sun on your back.  This week we have seen our first primulas and other spring flowers.  A pair of yellow butterflies were cavorting in the garden a couple of days ago and the our early morning walks with our Giant Schnauzer, Bismarck are accompanied by the sound of birdsong chattering across the valley.

Our guests this week enjoyed a Monday morning cycle ride through the Val d’en Bas and on to Olot in bright sunshine and 20ºc.   Alternatively you could take a walk along the via verde or on one of the many signposted walks or for the more flush amongst you, what about an early morning hot air balloon trip taking in the snow capped mountains to the north.  Want a break…..there is plenty to do here in La Garrotxa in the middle of winter!

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 ‘Cycling on a winters day in the Val d’en Bas’ (phot0: consorci del vies verdes)


‘Winter walking’ photo:(Turisme Garrotxa)


‘Hot air ballooning over La Garrotxa’ (photo: Vol de Coloms)