This is an old Catalan town dating back to the Greeks and Romans – I’ve seen the artifacts in the town museum. The main street (where I ate) is lined with trees and was once a river, going from the mountains and down to the sea at the bottom. Note, the yellow ribbons tied to trees and the electricity cables (more on that later).
I looked around the town for somewhere to eat beforehand and came back to Capote, which is at the bottom of the street, on the left as you look up. The menú del día here was the most enticing.
The interior is quite large – there’s a kitchen to the left and the rear opens up into a restaurant area. Even though it was about 24ºC outside, there were at least 10 people eating inside. The locals do not consider it warm just yet…
I was brave and sat outside – 24ºC is perfect summer weather to me!
I drank a vermut, while I reviewed the menu. I always ask for vermut de la casa – it’s the house vermut, which means that it’s local and often homemade. Sometimes they don’t have one, in which case I’ll drink one as a digestive, somewhere else, after lunch. IMHO Catalan vermut is much better then the imported brands.
I ordered mongetes a la marinera (white beans in a fish sauce) as my starter. They were excellent!
The wine arrived with my beans – it was a very drinkable house rosado in a half litre garrafa.
My main course was a delicious lluç a la planxa – hake cooked on the plancha (griddle), with sliced potatoes. I particularity like hake – this was cooked to perfection with olive oil, parsley and garlic.
For pudding, I had pastel de crema catalana – a tart made like crema catalana (which is similar to a creme brûlée). Note here, that the pastel has four dark stripes (cuatro barras) on top, like those on the yellow Catalan flag.
I was sitting eating my lunch, watching the world go by. I couldn’t help noticing that there was a couple speaking French on the table in front of me and that a very well dressed older lady came out from a door next to the restaurant and sat down. It became obvious that the lady was the matriarch and that her two sons and daughters run the family restaurant. The woman speaking French, on the table in front of me, got up to use the bathroom and commented favourably, on the Catalan braces that I was wearing – like the pastel above, they are yellow with 4 red stripes. Evidently, she’s from Barcelona and her boyfriend is French. At this point, the Capote matriarch joined the conversation, saying that she is Catalan Adalucian and that she believes firmly in Cataluña staying part of Spain.
In case you are unaware, there’s a huge political movement for Catalan independence and it can be quite a hot topic. I wear the braces because they were a gift and I’ve always been very well looked after in Cataluña. I also wear a little yellow ribbon pin (lazo amarillo), like the ones hanging from the trees in the picture above, of the high street. I wear this in support of democracy and the Catalan MPs who are in prison charged with sedition for organising an illegal independence referendum. Personally, I believe that the question of Catalan independence is something for the Catalans and Spanish government to decide – it’s not for the likes of foreigners such as myself to interfere. It’s difficult enough when Cataluña contains Spain’s second largest city (Barcelona) and many Spaniards have migrated here over the last century. It’s estimated that over 50% of the Catalan population is of other Spanish regional extraction. The question of independence poses a huge dilemma for many second and third generation Catalans who consider themselves Spanish and Catalan. There are many issues and grievances here, some of which date back to (among others) General Franco’s rule and the War of Spanish Succession.
Fortunately the political discussion was brief and I ordered my habitual carajillo for coraje (courage). At this point a homeless man came round and asked for money. I was quite impressed when the family matriarch (who by this time I’d discovered is 80 years old) took the man inside and got someone to make him some food.
Finally, when I asked for the bill I was amazed by the price – €13.70 for everything. I will be back!
Infused with courage and energy from the carjillo I set about exploring the town properly. Just behind the restaurant, in a side street, I came across an old defense tower (I believe there are two others), from the 16th Century – built to defend the town against marauding pirates.
On the same street as and opposite to Capote is the Ajuntament d’Arenys de Mar (town hall) – built in the 17th Century and originally a hostel and bakery.
The Església de Santa Maria (further up the main street) was built between the 16th and 18th Centuries and contains a stunning gold altarpiece by Pau Costa.
The coffee and brandy worked miracles – I walked up tiny little streets and eventually found myself at the top of the town, looking down on the Santa Maria church and port. Arenys de Mar is a major port for fishing, yachting and boat building. Sadly I missed the beautiful indoor market, which is only open in the morning on a Tuesday, but this gives me very good reason to return…