The Costa Brava is, of course, famed for its many beautiful beaches (and we’ll come back to those in more detail at a later date) but for today we’re going to focus on one of the lovely villages in the region that makes for a lovely day trip: Pals. In future blogs, we will cover other local hamlets, so this is just chapter one!
Situated just a few kilometres inland from the sea, Pals is a well preserved medieval village that traces its origins back to, at least, the 7th century. In fact, its name suggests possible ancient Roman origins as “Pals” derives from “Palus” which meant ‘swampy place’ in Latin. The first documentary evidence relating to the castle of Pals dates back to 889 and the second to 994.
Towards the end of the 13th century, many coastal towns were being fortified for fear of pirates, especially from North Africa, and Pals was given a huge loan by King Martín in 1401 to enlarge its walls and moats. It is worth noting that Pals was closer to the coast then than it is now as the sea has retreated about 2km since about 1300!
Between 1460 and 1472 there were a number of peasant revolts collectively known as the War of the Remensas, culminating in the ‘War against King Juan II’ or the Catalan Civil War. The Catalan term remençarefers to the “possibility of redemption from servitude” and the revolts were a reaction by the poorest of the rural peasant population against abuses of power by the nobility of the region. Pals castle was badly damaged during this civil strife and after the fighting ended the victorious King Juan II allowed the use of the stones from the rubble of the castle to rebuild the town walls and the church of Sant Pere. Of the original castle, only the “Tower of the Hours” (so called because it has always been a clock tower!) was preserved and can still be seen today, along with the church which has been in existence for over 1000 years now!
Although the medieval part of the town had fallen into some neglect with the passing centuries, in 1973 it was declared a ‘Site of Historical Interest’ and was beautifully restored to the condition you see it in today. It makes for a very interesting hour or two strolling around and reading the history in greater depth than is possible to go into here. You can read the story of each important building in Catalan, Spanish, French and English and when you’re done there is a very pleasant Main Square where one can just sit and take in the atmosphere while enjoying a beer, coffee or ice cream.
Arroz de Pals
Pals is also famous for its rice, or “Arroz de Pals”, which is renowned for its exceptionally high quality. Introduced by Arabs from Valencia it has been cultivated since the 15th century with the exception of the 19th century, during which cultivation was curtailed in order to eradicate diseases associated with the crop. The rice is sowed from the end of April to the beginning of May and harvested from the end of September to the beginning of October. Arroz de Palsfalls under the brand “Productes de l’Empordà”, guaranteeing that the rice is produced, processed, quality controlled and packaged in the region
If, after all that, you fancy a bit of beach time you don’t have to go far as the 4km long Platja (beach) de Palsis only a 10-minute drive away. When you arrive, you’ll find a cluster of restaurants and bars and a few shops right next to the parking lot, but once you step onto the strand there isn’t much in the way of development and the beach itself is fairly pristine. In fact, it’s located in a conservation area so while snorkelling and scuba diving are allowed the noisier water sports are not permitted. And if you’re a golfer and want to make a full day of it you could arrange to play around on the golf course situated right alongside the sea!
All in all, Pals and its surrounding area has plenty to offer and really shouldn’t be missed. Even if you don’t have a car it’s still easily reachable by public transport. There are more buses in the peak season but even in the quieter months, with a little planning, it’s still an easy journey of about 30 minutes to Pals from Palamós with most of the buses also serving Platja d’Aro and Sant Antoni de Calonge amongst others. The bus company is Sarfa and you can look up their timetables here. The same bus also serves the beautiful town of Begur, but we’ll cover that in another blog in the very near future!