Here we are in the medieval town of Montblanc (pronounced Mountblank), not to be confused with the mountain, Mont Blanc – that was last year. We arrived yesterday afternoon after catching the train from Valencia, with a change at Tarragona (a station we passed on the way to San Sebastián earlier in the trip).
Montblanc was founded in 1163, by the first king of Aragon and Catalonia. It was an important royal seat for many centuries, but went into decline in the 17th century – thanks to a bit of plundering by Catalan troops in the mid 1600s, followed by epidemics, floods and bad crops. But, it started to recover in the mid 19th century thanks to the arrival of the train and the development of the wine industry (although phylloxera knocked that on its head in 1893). The wine industry recovered, only to be thrown into chaos by the Spanish civil war. However, in 1947 Montblanc was declared a National Site, and restoration of its medieval past began. The town now thrives on tourism, although it is hardly packed with tourists – rather, is a fairly sleepy little village, at least at the moment.
The wine industry has also recovered, and the town has a very funky wine cooperative store – and there are some interesting labels amongst the local brands, not to mention grape varieties. Anyone heard of Trebat??
One of the brands has an outlet in town – unfortunately closed as of September, so we don’t get to taste.
It doesn’t take long to walk around the town seeing the main sights. We visit two of the churches, the first being Sant Miquel (13th c):
Legend has it that the battle between St George and the dragon took place in Montblanc:
There is a 12th century bridge built on top of Roman bridge remains:
And yet another askew chimney:
There is a very small market in the main square on Friday morning:
And a cake shop with some fascinating wares in the window:
The streets are narrow, and there is some lovely paving in the square outside the main church. Not to mention interesting stone wall carvings and gargoyles:
And surely Banksy has not been to Montblanc????
We are staying in a little 2 star hotel called Fonda Cal Blasi. We are on the top (3rd floor) and have our own terrace, with French doors opening on to it (great for getting our washing dry today). And the bed is electronic – we can raise the head, and/or the foot; not really what one expects in a Pensione but perfect for the afternoon lie down with IPad!
The Pensione is owned by the rather eccentric Carles, in his straw hat and braces, and Carme, who does all the cooking. Carles is a chatter, and likes to come out with homilies like a happy wife is a happy life to whomever he is talking, which means we hear it several times in one evening.
Dinner last night started with Carles demonstrating how tosta catalana was made – the Catalonian version of bruschetta basically: toasted bread, rubbed with garlic then rubbed with half a small tomato. He then puts the jamon on top. This was followed by a sort of omelette with grilled peppers and mushrooms, then I had rabbit and Pete had the local grilled sausage, plus a plate of perfect crisp fries, and we finish with flan for dessert (with tiny poached pears as garnish). Way too much food, and not enough veggies, which we are craving.
We had the Catalonian toast again for breakfast, but this time with tiny balls of goats cheese and local salami – a great way to start the day ( not to mention home made croissants and home made peach jam):
What’s not to like about Montblanc? But, we leave tomorrow morning to start our 6 day walk. Wish us luck for good weather.