Disembarking the dock on the Jolie Biche, a fishing schooner built in Algeria with its original 1957 three-cylinder Badou engine, the sea tour celebrating La Garoinada begins. It is the first of many annual celebrations in the Costa Brava area in Catalonia, Spain. Heading out to the open sea with the excitement of eating freshly caught sea urchins, the gastronomic festival begins taking place in Palafrugell and the surrounding areas; mainly the charming fishing villages of Tamariu, Llafranc, and Calella de Palafrugell.
La Garoinada celebration history
La Garoinada has been an annual celebration since 1992. The traditional gastronomical event is one of the most well known in the area and the first celebration of the year. Many restaurants participate by offering a set menu with the unlikely delicacies served as a starter, a seasonal entree, and dessert for 40 EUR (42.50 USD). The celebration runs from the middle of January until the end of March, the prime sea urchin fishing season. The sea urchin is circular and about the size of an adult palm. It is prickly with long spikes and in this area, they are deep purple or black in color. Other colors include dull shades of green, red, blue and brown. There are hundreds of different species of sea urchins, but only 18 are edible. The sea urchin is also known to be called eriçó de mar (“hedgehog of the sea”), garota, and garoina in Costa Brava.
The sea urchin boat tour
Shortly after leaving the dock, the captain of the boat will give a brief history of the area and explain some of the differences between the sea urchins. Guests on board the boat help with preparing the items that are going to be consumed while on board. One person opens the bottle of wine and pours it into the Porrón, a traditional glass drinking container. Drinking wine from the narrow spout can be a challenge for a lot of people, even when not on a boat. Most get just as much on their face and clothes as they do in their mouth. If you do not want to drink wine from the Porrón, small plastic cups are available. Another guest on board will be delegated to cut the fresh bread into slices to eat with the sea urchin. A third will cut a sausage into thin slices.
Only the captain cuts the sea urchin open. With a large pair of scissor like cutters attached to a bin he cuts the bottom flat half of the urchin off. The flat unused bottom falls into the bin for easy cleanup. Cleaning out the thick dark viscera then rinsing the top shell of sea urchin in a bucket of water they are then placed upside down on a tray and ready to be consumed. The only rule with eating them is if you touch it and take it, you must eat it. The five brilliant orange strips clinging to the inside of the shell can be eaten with a piece of bread to scoop them out or with a plastic spoon if you prefer. Most people call this the roe or eggs of the sea urchin, but it is not. It is the gonads (sexual reproductive organs) of the sea urchin.
Other Tela Marinera boat tours
If you don’t like sea urchin or are not in the Palafrugell area at the beginning of the year, the company offers other tours. Based in Palamos (Costa Brava, Catalonia) you can take either the Jolie Biche or the Rafael, a 1915 boat, on several tours including tasting sea prawns, ‘the pirate route’, ‘sea night’, and the ‘Excursion to the Islands Ants’.
The Habanera Festival of Calella de Palafrugell is on the first Saturday of July, an annual event since 2000. You can watch the traditional concert away from the crowds on the beach and enjoy a relaxing view from the sea on Rafael.
Board the fully equipped Jolie Biche for a four-hour fishing trip. Everything you need to fish is on board, including breakfast.
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Morning or afternoon at sea
Many options are available if you are not in Llafranc for the annual La Garoinada celebration. Any time of the year is great to spend the morning or afternoon out at the sea enjoying local cuisine and stunning views. While in Llafranc, a great place to stay at is the Llavent Hotel. Check out the Tela Marinera website for more information on this and other tours.
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