Yes, Catalonia is part of Spain (presently!) but its culture is distinct enough to warrant its own section. The region varies greatly: the beach resorts and towns of Lloret de Mar (Costa Brava) and Sitges (Costa Dorada), the mountains of the Pyrenees to the North, the Roman city of Tarragona towards the South and the vineyards of Penedès in the middle and the capital city of Barcelona.

Then there are the Països Catalans, those regions that speak the language: Andorra, the Pyrénées-Orientales department of France, Alghero of Sardinia and in Spain Valencia, parts of Aragon and Murcia and the beautiful Balearic Islands including my spiritual (and once physical) home of Ibiza.

The landscape of Catalonia

The land has had a big impact on Catalan artists such as Salvador Dali, whose dreamscape paintings often feature scenes reminiscent of the region’s countryside. Yet Dali is only one of a plethora of surrealists from Catalonia, don’t forget Picasso who was born in Barcelona, along with Joan Miro just to mention a couple. And then there’s the architecture of the capital, the Art Deco Modernisme so unique to Barcelona, enhanced primarily by the genius of Antoni Gaudi.

Obscure Catalans

The originality, and, let’s face it, eccentricity of its famous artists and architects, is representative of Catalan culture, rather than being at odds with it. We only have to observe some of the region’s traditions to realise this, from the pooping Christmas character, the Catalan Caganer, that features in the nativity scene, to the now UNESCO-protected Castellers; human castles where during various festivals people form into a human pyramid anything up to 8 stories high.

My favourite quote from a Catalan

‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.’

Pablo Picasso