Flors Violes Festival in Palafrugell, Spain and One of the Best Meals Ever
I admit to being a little drunk as I stumbled into what our itinerary listed as “lunch with the locals” in Palafrugell, Spain. Breathless, I finally found the right alleyway where the restaurant was hidden that our tour guide pointed out earlier “in case we got lost.”
I was lost and spent the previous hour hoofing it down random alleys, each one presenting hope that it was in fact the right alley, yet disappointing me in the end.
Thankfully, I found a few craft beer stands to help keep me calm in my panicky quest (and possibly hampering my ability to remember the mental breadcrumbs dropped earlier), as I had no working cell phone from which to call the guide, nor did I know the name of the restaurant to ask for directions. I just knew “lunch with the locals,” which, most likely, would get me nowhere.
Finally, I was close to running out of alleyways to check when I stumbled upon the restaurant, L’ARC. I approached the table a sweaty mess, accidentally tripping over my chair and spilling the filled wine glass that was waiting for me into my now cold appetizer.
Embarrassed, I apologized to those seated around me as I sat down to what I can only describe as one of the most memorable meals of my life.
But first, let me tell you how I wound up lost and drunk.
Flors Violes Festival in Palafrugell, Spain
The meal itself was part of Palafrugell’s annual Flors Violes Festival to help welcome in spring. Earlier in the day, our tour group was dropped off in the village. Our guide led us past the main church and down a few nondescript alleyways to the restaurant where we were to gather for lunch before departing the town center for one of its coastal outposts. She then gave us the choice to either follow her organized tour of the town and festival or opt for some self-exploration.
To be honest, I didn’t see much appealing in the town from my periphery glance. It wasn’t one of the quaint, medieval villages that one pictures visiting in Spain. Instead, it was more of a sprawling village built in the 17th century. I figured the best way to see some notable sites was to follow our guide’s lead which promised to visit the many art displays and music patios that the annual festival is known for.
Besides, I’m prone to getting lost. While normally I enjoy the discovery of getting lost while traveling, the timeframe was a bit short for me to get unlost. Thus, it was best if I stuck with the group.
At least that was my plan…
We weren’t fifteen minutes into our two-and-half hour tour before I lost the group. It was my second trip with a new camera, and I guess I lingered a little too long as I snapped photos of some food purveyors (As a foodie, they’re my shiny object…). I looked up from the camera, and the group was gone. Like nowhere in sight gone.
I was left to my own sense of direction and exploration.
I started to walk what I dubbed as the “loop.” It was where the festival’s main art vendors set up booths to display and sell their wares. The loop also bled into the weekly Sunday food market. I meandered through the crowds, hoping to find one of the music patios or art displays that were scattered throughout the town for the festival. A nice aperitif on a sundrenched patio with live music in the background sounded damn near perfect.
I followed the loop back around to the beginning with no luck at finding a music patio or art display. I paused and made note of where I thought the restaurant was located.
Two hours left… Where to next?
I walked down any street that looked appealing, hoping to stumble upon something, anything.
I wandered into a “shopping mall” and then immediately wandered back out (I don’t do malls), following a street with decorative overhangs. Soon, the sound of a guitar player filled my ears. I followed the music to a lone musician standing in front of a closed storefront. I joined a few locals and listened to him play and tell stories to the gathering audience which I didn’t understand (I speak Spanish, not Catalan).
While he was entertaining, he didn’t quite live up to the promised music patios.
I followed another long road that was lined with booths. The road climbed up a steep hill, past the cork museum, where I popped in for a brief tour. The newly constructed museum provided a fascinating glimpse into the region’s cork industry. I spent a half hour reading the placards describing how cork goes from tree to wine bottle. All the while, my mind kept going back to the vision of an aperitif on a sundrenched patio.
I exited the museum and continued to walk up the long road. The booths transitioned from food market into gypsy market. Vendors hawked anything from children’s toys to linens and lingerie. I paused to snap a few pictures and witness real village life.
I admit, that up until this point, I was a little bored and discouraged. I convinced myself that I was missing out on something grand by losing the group. As I glanced around at locals going about their weekly routines, I realized that it was the rest of the group that was missing out. While they were visiting the scenic overlook and probably a church or a town hall, I was witnessing real life.
I looked down at my watch, happy with what I had found during my brief encounter with Palafrugell. I had about 45 minutes left. That was plenty of time to mosey on back to the restaurant and stop at a few craft beer stands I noticed earlier in the day.
And that’s when I got lost
The craft beer stands were easy to find. I stopped at the first one and pretended like I understood the vendor as he explained the flavor profile of his beers. While I sipped my ESB, a percussion ensemble paraded past. I followed (beer in hand) as they entertained onlookers in their impromptu parade.
Finally, I found the music that I was looking for and followed the group for several blocks until it disbanded. I polished off my beer and stopped at another previously remembered craft beer vendor. While I listened through another description that I didn’t fully understand (I really need to add beer words to my Spanish vocabulary), I heard jazz music off in the distance.
I sipped the beer, tossed a muy rico to the brewer, and followed the jazz. I had 30 minutes until lunch. I figured the restaurant was 15 minutes away, so I allotted myself 15 minutes with the music and beer.
Big mistake as I trudged through several side streets and alleys before I finally found my destination, arriving 15 minutes late.
Dinner at L’ARC
The now cold appetizer was an assortment of bites that were each artfully prepared. There was an olive served on top of a caramel, apple pudding with an added brininess from an anchovy. The nibble was a delightful blend of sweet, salt, and sour that opened my palate to the rest of the morsels of tempura fish and shrimp and a creamy hummus.
While the food was good, the company was even better. Over countless bottles of rosé, I became acquainted with those around me. Across from me was a couple expecting their first child two weeks after Mrs. G. and I. Next to them was a family of four. We communicated through my broken Spanish, toasting to impending parenthood, and laughing as I searched for words in a language I rarely use.
I’m sure many avid travelers would have described me as a loud American, and I probably was, but nobody else from our tour group of travel bloggers tried to befriend the locals in our lunch with the locals. And wasn’t that the purpose of the lunch? By the end of the dinner, we were exchanging emails and snapping photos together.
The main course of the feast was similar to a paella but made with what my tablemates described as a dry rice. The color was closer to black than the brighter paella. The dish also did not contain saffron, but did include the standard seafood of calamari, shrimp, and prawns. It was brinier than a standard paella and paired beautifully with the fruity rosé.
While we ate, Augustine, the other soon-to-be father, made sure I knew how to properly suck the head off the prawn. It was a dare that I happily took, slurping the sweet and salty flavor punch of juice down the hatchet. As I pleased my inner culinary caveman, he refilled my wine glass and we toasted to good food.
We rinsed and repeated through several bottles of wine as we washed down the delightfully salty dish with good wine and cheers.
Flors Violes in Palafrugell is an annual festival that I highly recommend. The festival provides a glimpse into life far off the beaten tourist path. The festival is held the first weekend of May and is a celebration of the break in weather with flowers, art, and music. I recommend visiting on a Sunday when the Sunday Market is also taking place.
While no train goes to Palafrugell, the town is accessible via bus from Barcelona. You can catch the Sarfa bus at Estació del Nord. The trip takes two hours.
To make dinner reservations at L’ARC, call 0034 972 30 34 19 and ask for a table at the Flors Violes dinner. L’ARC does not have a web site.
What favorite festival have you been to while traveling?
Disclosure – Muchas gracias to Palafrugell for inviting me to attend the Flors Violes Festival. Regardless, readers receive my honest feedback as my opinions are not for sale.