Spring and Summer Getaway to El Vendrell and Coma-ruga
A visit to the birthplace of a world-renowned Catalan
El Vendrell and Pau Casals are inseparable. The musician was born and lived there for the first period of his life, before exile took him away from the Baix Penedès and the Costa Daurada. His memory permeates the whole town: you can visit his family home, where he spent his summers, the auditorium is named after him, a beautiful sculpture by Joseph Viladomat in Plaça Nova pays homage to him... even the motorway that takes us to the town bears his name. But El Vendrell offers plenty of other things to enjoy during a short but activity-packed getaway.
Morning day 1: The world of Pau Casals
There's no time to waste so as soon as we get to El Vendrell we'll start tracing the roots of its most famous native. Pau Casals' family home isn't hard to find, it's just a stone's throw away from Plaça Nova, at number 4 Carrer de Santa Anna. During the hour-long guided visits to the house, the guides endeavour to reveal the human side of the composer and musician. For example, they'll explain that his mother had eleven children, of whom only three made it to adulthood, and that the house was first rented by Casal's parents on their wedding day. In fact, his father came to the town to tune the church's organ, fell in love with the place, and decided to stay. Pau Casals always said that his love of music came to him from his father and his love of peace from his mother.
The house is simple, and though the furniture is not original, it does date from the same period in which Pau Casals walked up and down those dark, narrow stairs, thanks to donations have been made over the years. Among the original elements that have been conserved are the front door and a number of doors that come complete with cat doors so that the house cats could roam freely around and scare away the mice. Those were different times. The period in which Casals died in exile in Puerto Rico in 1973 was also, luckily, very different from the present: during the visit we discover that when the news of his death reached El Vendrell, many neighbours came to the family house to leave floral tributes while the people in the town got together to organize an unofficial homage since the town hall, following orders "from above", distanced itself completely from the proceedings. Those who organized the tribute later suffered persecution.
El Vendrell offers a number of combined routes under the heading The World of Pau Casals which, as well as taking visitors to his family home, allow them to explore Vil·la Casals, his summer home from 1910 to 1939, which is now a museum. To do so, we'll have to travel a few kilometres towards the sea, to Sant Salvador, where the white walled Vil·la Casals stands on the seashore. It was here that Casals came seeking a refuge of peace and tranquillity between world tours. Located nearby, the auditorium, designed by the architect Jordi Bonet, also bears his name and offers a programme of concerts throughout the year. Reopened as a museum in June 2001, Vil·la Casals tells the story of his life and professional career through audiovisual presentations and original objects and documents. Before your visit, be sure to check out the Vil·la Casals agenda for details of concerts, conferences and night visits.
Afternoon day 1: A dip in Riuet de Coma-ruga
If the weather is good, you can head for the nearby township of Coma-ruga to take a dip in medicinal waters, an activity that is especially recommended if you're travelling with children. Here, the leisure area called Riuet i Estany, located on Coma-ruga beach, is ideal for a refreshing and safe family dip. The curative properties of waters in this stream and pond, which have their source in the Bonastre massif, have been known since the 19th century, when building work in the area started with the construction of a spa. Nowadays, the waters have been canalised, which has done nothing to impair their medicinal properties, and despite the proximity of extensive beaches, you will always find both old and young people splashing about here. On the road to Sant Vicenç, at the entrance (or exit) to El Vendrell, you will find Cellers Avgvtvs Forvm, which offer guided visits and the opportunity to taste three vintage wines and vinegars. The winery's name comes in part from its vines, which are planted along a stretch of the ancient Via Augusta. So now you know, here you'll find vines whose roots stretch down and back in history to produce DO Penedès wine.
Morning day 2: The notary Antoni Deu collection and the sculptor Apel·les Fenosa Foundation
We did warn you that there are plenty of things to see and do here apart from exploring the life of Pau Casals. First, we'll visit Museu Deu, which contains one of the most outstanding art collections in Catalonia, including works by Joaquim Mir, Martí Alsina, Ramon Casas, and members of the Olot School.
The museum owes its existence to a donation made by the notary Antoni Deu in 1987 and was officially opened eight years later in an ancient mansion house at number 6 Plaça Nova. With a constantly renovated exhibition catalogue, made evident by the fact that you'll be furnished at the reception with one of those modern devices that use QR codes to get information on the art works in the collection, the museum has three floors of exhibition space, of which the ground floor is the most spectacular. Here you will walk on glass floors covered by a magnificent collection of oriental rugs and through rooms rich in religious sculptures including a striking Romanesque crucifix.
On the upper floors you'll find works by the aforementioned artists and a remarkable collection of sculptures (by Clarà, Llimona, Hugué...), as well as items of Catalan blown glass.
We'll now head for the Casa del Portal de Pardo, one of the most emblematic and unique buildings in El Vendrell, which dates from the 16th century, in order to explore the sculptures in the collection of the Fundació Apel·les Fenosa. Sculptor Apel·les Fenosa fell in love with this house one day when he was passing through El Vendrell on his way to Montblanc in 1957. Despite some financial difficulties he decided to buy it and use it as a study and seasonal home. The name of the house comes from its location, next to one of the portals or gateways in the town's ancient walls and, while its façade is outstanding, the interior, and especially its splendid sunlit garden, designed by his wife, Nicole and decorated by Apel·les Fenosa with a number of his own works, are also well worth visiting.
If you have time, either this morning or in the afternoon, have a stroll around the town's pedestrian streets, which, like the nearby Coma-ruga, offer a diverse array of shops, bars and restaurants.
Afternoon day 2: Towels and sun cream
The end of our visit is approaching and you won't forgive yourself if you leave without experiencing one of the beaches of El Vendrell. Here you have various kilometres of blue flag quality beaches with fine golden sand. So let's grab a towel and some sun cream and head for the previously mentioned beaches of Coma-ruga or Sant Salvador, or the beach at Francàs. Each has its own charm, but whichever one you choose, you'll leave with a good, if rather salty, aftertaste and a desire to come back one day to El Vendrell and its surroundings.
WITH THE SUPPORT OF PATRONAT MUNICIPAL DE TURISME DEL VENDRELL
Where to stay and where to eat
Located in the artist’s summer residence and studio, a restored 16th century building with a beautiful Mediterranean garden, the Foundation’s museum contains an important collection of original sculptures in terracotta and plaster, as well as a selection of monumental bronzes.
- C/ Major, 25, (El Vendrell)
This house-museum near the sea is where the musician Pau Casals rested during his breaks between world tours and where visitors can now explore his career and the gardens, sculpture gallery and music room of the house, which was reformed by architect Antoni Puig i Gairalt in the 1930s.
- Av. Palfuriana, 67, (El Vendrell)
In the centre of Vendrell we can visit the house in which Pau Casals was born and where he spent his childhood and youth. It’s a humble house with furniture dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. The guided visits allow visitors to learn about the human side of Catalonia’s greatest cellist and explore his origins and how his home town greeted the news of his death.
- C/ de Santa Anna, 4, (El Vendrell)
This is one of the most important art collections open to the public in Catalonia, thanks to the donations of the notary Antoni Deu. The ground floor rug room is exceptional, as are the upper floors with valuable examples of sculptures, jewellery and blown-glass.
- Plaça Nova, 6, (Tarragona)