Delicious Drives Spain Route 2
By Jackie De Burca
After our first Delicious Drive with Hertz, we continued north, heading into the south of Catalonia, to discover the magical landscape of the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park. The setting has attracted film crews, including Sahara and U2 for Vertigo.
Catalonia’s second largest wetlands has been a protected space since 1983. Driving down its narrow roads, that are embraced by paddy fields, you may spot flamingos flying or just relaxing in the marshes.
The Delta de l’Ebre is famous for its food, natural beauty and ornithology. It is one of most important places here for bird-watching. But even if twitching isn’t your thing, the unique landscape, unspoilt beaches, sand dunes, kitesurfing and great food make it well worth the trip.
A boat trip & meeting the Mussel Professor
For years I have eaten mussels from the Delta, and up to now they are the best I have tasted. The reason for this, the experts have told me, is because the River Ebro flows into the sea in the area, giving the mussels extra flavour and nutrition.
So I decided to learn more about this by taking one of the boat trips that takes you around the Delta and goes to Musclarium, where you can learn about the mussel and oyster farming processes, along with a tasting.
Cisco, who gives the talk there, is obviously both passionate and very knowledgeable about his subject. So we nicknamed him the Mussel Professor! He spoke in Spanish, but no doubt the local tourist office offer English speaking tours.
The process that the mussels and oysters go through, before they reach our table is absolutely fascinating. The mussels take over two years before they are ready for us to sample. After hearing all of this, the tasting which included mussels, oysters and Cava was even more enjoyable.
A must-have experience….
To go out on this boat trip, you need to head to the port of Sant Carles de la Rapita. Go past the Yacht Club (Club Nautica) and continue along to a small hut which has a yellow flag – this is Embaraciones Badia Alfacs. We found them relaxed, very knowledgeable and friendly, making the trip all the more enjoyable.
Boat trips take around one and a half hours, with departures at 10am, 11.30am. 1.30pm and 4pm. The trip costs €12 for an adult and €8 for a child. Please note that this doesn’t include the tasting, which costs €15 for a two-hour tasting session, which includes mussels, oysters, wine and Cava. The Sant Carles de la Rapita Tourist Office also organise trips which include both the boat and the tasting, priced at €25, but they have tours from €16 also.
I have to admit that I came off the boat on a bit of a high! Between the exhilarating sea air, the charming, informative guide, the remarkable scenery and of course my memorable tasting and education session – it was a great few hours out. You also get to see the Delta de l’Ebre from a wonderful perspective. Definitely a must-have experience!
Tasty local ingredients in a paella
Back on dry land again, we drove down the amazing, narrow roads of the Delta, where from time to time you can see houses that seem to be stranded in the middle of the paddy fields. We headed down to Eucalpytus Beach to take in more of Delta, which is a superb spot for those of you who enjoy kite-surfing.
After immersing ourselves in Spain’s second largest rice producing area, it seemed rude not to find a good place to have paella. There are a number of great restaurants dotted around the towns of the Delta de l’Ebre, so it’s a hard choice.
We opted for Lo Patí d’Agust, because of its reputation for paellas that are made on an open wood fire. And we certainly weren’t disappointed with their delicious seafood paella, packed with locally sourced ingredients and that slightly smokey, woody taste.
Variety is the spice of life…
Time for some exercise, after so many foodie treats! Staying in Catalonia, but heading inland and past Tortosa, you’ll find one of the many natural parks that this country has – Els Ports. From time to time driving or hiking through this dramatic scenery, you may be lucky enough to spot some local goats.
Els Ports is a huge favourite with those who love nature, hiking and great, locally sourced food. Driving to Els Ports from the Delta de l’Ebre takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes. I often do this trip in the same day, as I adore the contrast between the two different landscapes, and they’re only a little over one hour apart.
We parked the car near a restaurant that has both lovely food and gorgeous views from certain tables over the sparkling turquoise rock pools below.
Food with a view
Font de Sant Pere offers a three-course lunch (Menu del Dia), during the week with some wine for €13.00 or choose from the a la carte menu. In case you didn’t know the Menu del Día was created by Franco for the workers.
Also very close by is another favourite, which has both a restaurant and a tourist and camping complex, called Molí l’Abad. This is another spectacular spot to have a drink or eat a meal. We haven’t slept over night there, but the complex set up looks idyllic.
We enjoyed a good long walk in Els Ports Natural Park, breathing in the beautiful scenery and incredibly fresh air. It had been a fantastic day! Between the boat trip, meeting the Mussel Professor and spending time in those two natural beauties – Els Ports and the Delta de L’Ebre, we needed a good night’s sleep. We wanted to be ready for our next adventure on our third Delicious Drive with Hertz.
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