The Book

Casa Rafela – The Book? Yes!  The idea is  twofold: to make up the gap left by the so-called professional guides such as Fodor’s or The Rough Guides, which whistle through the highlights without taking the time to stop and enquire, to find the why’s and wherefore’s, etc. – and as a result miss out on exactly what they purport to offer! And secondly  to preview the  on-line version of the Guides that we provide for guests staying at the house. This has the dual purpose of allowing guests to plan their time well in advance. as well as helping people decide to come and explore this fabulous region, and deciding to stay at Casa Rafela, of course!

A very important part of this process, however, is for us to be able to research in advance anything that aren’t to be found here! Sometimes guests have arrived at the start of their holiday with enquiries about specific activities that we don’t know about off-hand – by which time it’s too late for us to do anything about it! For example; fishing in the rivers and lakes is strictly controlled, but permits are cheap and easily available if one knows how to go about it.

Contents of The Book!

  • The Area in Detail; gives an overview to understanding what the region has to offer, National Parks, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Our Favourite Walks . . . all you need to know that isn’t in the ‘professional’  guides!
  • Landscape and Climate; helps plan your holiday, how the weather varies at different altitudes and seasons – plus detailed charts and this week’s weather forecast from the Catalan Met. Office!
  • Nature and Wildlife; all the details for the enthusiastic naturalist as well as those with a passing interest in an easily readable format; the chapter links to official guides to the nature reserves and guides to the flora and fauna, plus our own birding list – just waiting for more additions!
  • History and Culture; the landscape is a living monument to its history, with its husge number Romanesque churches and monasteries and castles that appear in every vista; a thumbnail guide to the who’s and what’s of the area – including the founding of Fígols, on January 31st, 999 CE!
  • Food and Wines; what do the locals eat, and why? How to get the best out of the local markets and produce Casa Rafela’s well-equipped kitchen and avoid that sinking feeling that everyone else in the restaurants knows what’s best on the menu! – and what to drink with it . . .
  • Maps and Guides; based around specific locations within the region, themes rangeing from our favourite restaurants, eating al fresc, details of sports and activities, an ever expanding treatise on the areas’s History, and more . . .

For newcomers to Casa Rafela: we have been making up these Guides since we first operated the cottage as a holiday let in 2003. Such has been their success, as evidenced by the wonderful feedback that we have had from our guests, that we spend each winter reviewing, improving (we hope!) and extending the guides. One of these days there will be a ‘real’ book about our area  aimed at the general reader (I have already written three books on Spain – it’s definitely habit-forming!  – although the third one, under the pseudonym Sean Ryan isn’t out yet). If ever the Casa Rafela Book does appear, however, full acknowledgements will include reference to all of our honorary ‘Figolins’ who have played such an essential part in the gestation process!

Some further reading:

For more information on Catalonia I recommend the following sites:

Ara Lleida: is the official site of the Regional Tourist Board for the province of Lleida, where Casa Rafela is located. The site is an enormously useful source of detailed information – which readers will find I use a lot! One of the highlights is the section dedicated to ornithology: this lists all of the avifauna to be found in the province, their location, plus audio footage of the calls of each species – a delight to while away those tedious hours in The Office!

Pirineus – Catalunya: is the site of a special tourist authority aimed at promoting the Catalan Pyrenees as a whole. It is a useful source for an overview rather than detailed information.

Catalonia Tourism Service: is the site of the Catalan Government’s (the Generalitat) tourist bureau. Provides an excellent and detailed guide to the ‘Naciò‘ has to offer! A special feature is the series of virtual booklets on many aspects of Catalonia and how to explore the region.

Palau Robert: is an actual palace in Barcelona as well as the ‘virtual’ world you will see here. The palace is literaly the portal or gateway to Catalonia’s culture. Excellent reportage of exhibitions and events as well as special guides to the region. Of particular note are the ‘Tourist Routes’ to the various local districts, called comarcas. Far from being ‘touristy’ these are detailed guides for walkser, cyclists and motorists. The list include arduous walks, mountain bike trails and off-road tracks for 4X4 cars, as well as more gentle routes with a bias towards history and culture. To view and download the guides: open this link, select ‘Tourist Routes’ from the menu on the left. Click on ‘Pallars Jussà’  from the interactive map, or if this fails select ‘Pallars Jussà’ from the top of the list of drop down menus on the right of the map . One or other of these should work – sorry, it’s not my fault!

For more personal information on the rest of Spain I recommend the following sites: – Iberianature, IbNat for short, is owned and operated by my friend and sometimes collaborator Nick Lloyd. It is probably the defnitive site in English on the Spanish (and Portuguese) nature and environment scene. Linked to IbNat is the Iberianature Forum, which is both friendly and informative on a huge range of aspects of the Spanish scene; including culture, litertature, history and (thanks to certain members who shall remain nameless here!), plenty of advice and comment on food and drink! – This guide-cum-blog, written by keen naturalist Lisa Stuart, provides an introduction not only to the Picos de Europa national park itself but to the area as a whole, perhaps better known as ‘Green Spain’. The region  includes the Cantabrian coast, Asturias and Leon and the site features holiday lettings and guided holidays.

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    All material in this web page is subject to copyright: © 2012 Simon Rice. The downloadable guides are free to use.
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