On November 5th I headed towards Manresa (Spain) to attend the Fira Mediterrania de Manresa, an expo and showcase focusing on Mediterranean performing arts. Manresa is about 66 km away from Barcelona (about 50 minutes away) and is located in the autonomous region of Catalonia (Spain).
I was part of a group of international journalists and bloggers invited to cover the event. My group included Megan Romer (USA), a journalist and blogger specialized in world music, who has written for about.com and currently writes for http://wobeon.com published in the mainstream media in the U.S. market; Yvon Ambrosi (France) who runs http://akhaba.com, a leading French-language world music and travel publication; Manuel Cuellar (Spain), a former El Pais writer who founded cultural publication elasombrario.com; Vincenzo Membola (Italy), host and editor of radioluogocomune.com, a leading media outlet in southern Italy; Annachiara Casimo and Andrea Russo, Italian journalists and editors of stanzesonicheblog.blogspot.it, a blog that reports on new releases by Italian and international independent labels; and Giuseppe Palmisano, editor of www.dlso.it, a site dedicated to the study and dissemination of Mediterranean music.
The media guests were placed at La Mola Hotel and Conference Center. It’s a great hotel part of Hilton’s DoubleTree brand, affordable and comfortable. Although the Fira takes place in Manresa, La Mola is located in neighboring Terrassa (about 30-40 minutes by car), surrounded by a Mediterranean forest, next to a golf course.
The hotel’s L’Obac Restaurant and Sofora Gastrobar serve some regional Catalan dishes, foods from other parts of Spain as well as sandwiches and international food. A must have is the pantumaca (spelled in various ways in Catalonia) or pan con tomate, thin slices of toasted crusty bread with a tomato and olive oil spread. They are great if you eat them plain. However, it becomes a delicacy when you add thin slices of Spanish iberico ham.
The buffet breakfast is quite good. In additional to the traditional eggs and local country sausage, you also get an assortment of regular and whole grain crusty breads, croissants, pastries, yogurts, Spanish deli meats, such as serrano ham and chorizo, tortilla de patata (Spain’s traditional potato omelet), juices and more.
The hotel was designed to take advantage of natural light, the responsible use of land and construction materials, preservation of local vegetation, recycling programs, natural cooling systems, water and energy conservation measures, the use of solar panels, and a new biomass plant that has reduced the hotel’s energy consumption by 34%.
On November 7th we were given a tour of the ancient part of Manresa. During the Middle Age, Manresa was one of the most important cities in Catalonia. As with other influential cities of the time, the Catholic Church built a basilica called Colegiata Basílica de Santa María (The Santa Maria Basilica Collegiate of Manresa), one of the most representative examples of the Catalan Gothic. It is popularly known as La Seu (the See) de Manresa. We visited the basilica and were shown the transition in style of the Gothic era paintings inside La Seu. The church is located at Baixada de la Seu 1.
Although most of the city walls are gone, you can still see a few remnants. You can also stroll down a few narrow winding streets that were common in that time period.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits spent a few months in Manresa and wrote some of his works.
Visitors can visit one of the oldest streets in the region, called Carrer del Balc. This street dates back to the 1300s and was still used until 30 years ago. Now it’s closed to public traffic although you can take a short tour.
We later had lunch at a restaurant called Vermell, located at Carrer de les Piques 3 in Manresa. The affordable menu included a green salad (amanida catalana), two types of rices served in paella pans: mountain rice (arros de muntanya) with butifarra sausage and seafood rice with rock fish and baby squid. For desert you could choose between a homemade flan with lavender (flam d’espigol), white cheese with honey (recuit de drap de Fonteta amb mel) or chocolate brownie.
Later that night we went to the Kursaal Theater downtown to see one of the highlights of the Fira, the concert by superb musicians Jordi Savall and his Hesperion XXI ensemble (read the Jordi Savall concert review).