My blogs are all about traditional Spain, encouraging visitors to this vibrant country to experience the Real Spain. The food, the wine, culture, the history and of course the people themselves. So when I thought about writing a blog about Calella, my initial thought was ‘Mass Tourism Spain’ nothing wrong with this but not my intention to write about so going against the grain. My friends over at the FB group Holidays to Calella were kind enough for me to post links to my blog and their love of Calella got me thinking. Calella is well known for its beaches, bars and mass tourism but instead of being flippant about another holiday resort on the Costas I decided to do some digging and discovered that there is a wonderfully rich history to the town. Then I remembered my own history with the resort on the Costa del Maresme and decided to do some digging. I have come to the conclusion that Calella is not to be assumed as just another ‘Costa’ destination for Brits seeking Britain in the Sun – as a town it is rich in history and has great traditional restaurants and small intimate bars tucked away in the side streets.
My uncle, Angel Vicente Samparez is a Spaniard, born in Badajoz on 4th November 1945, in a time when Spain was ruled by General Francisco Franco. Franco led the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War which took place from 1936 to 1939 and if you head to Parc Dalmau you will find the entrance to an air raid shelter from the Spanish Civil War. When you enter the shelter you start to realise the terror that the people who sought refuge here must have experienced and there are the stories all-around of the survivors accounts of what it was like to live in Calella in this era. Step outside and the Parc Dalmau is a peaceful and stunningly beautiful area of some 11 hectares and situated in the very centre of the city. Its hard to imagine civil unrest of a not too distant era in such beautiful surroundings.
My uncle left Badajoz and went to Naval School when he was 12, he went on to serve in the Spanish Navy as deep sea diver and when he left the armed forces he joined the Merchant Navy. He had fallen in love with the sea.
My Aunty Marilyn was in Calella 45 years ago on a holiday with her girlfriend when she met Angelo, as we went on to call him, at the onset of the boom of tourism to Spain, and the sea quickly became his second love. In the winter months he would work in Madrid or Barcelona. Later that year Marilyn moved to Barcelona to be with Angelo, although they did not live together as this would have been frowned upon in the day and they were often chaperoned on their dates by the family my Aunty worked as a nanny for. She returned to England after a year with Angelo and they married in October 1971.
We were all to return to Calella 14 years ago on my 30th Birthday. My whole family were there, we were staying in Malgrat but we all got the train to Calella early evening as we wanted to see where my Aunt and Uncle had met. I remember we ate in a beautiful traditional Spanish restaurant and ended up having drinks in small bars where the locals drank. This night brought many memories back for my Aunty and Uncle as we walked around the old town showing us where they met, where he had lived.
My Aunty and Uncle talked about how the town had grown over the decades of their marriage. Expansion has most definitely happened since the 1st Century AD when we know that the area was occupied by the Romans due to the remains of a Roman villa being discovered but there is no mention of Calella on record until 1327 when King James II of Aragon made a decree that there should be a weekly market thereby affording all marketers Royal protection. El Mercadal La Plaza – the Market Area Main Square is where the weekly markets were held.
The village is mentioned again in historical records when it was given township status in 1338 and in 1497 records show that there were 35 houses in Calella and another 9 houses in the villages of Capaspre and Vallderoure.
If its churches you like and religious history Pope Clement VII ordained in 1525 that the parish of Calella be created and so the building of a church took place. The Old town of Calella is still very much dominated by the church of Santa María with its Baroque façade and there are other architectural buildings to see such as the 14th Century Casa de los Salvador and the chapel of San Quirze and Santa Julita as well as the 16th century Casa Sivilla. Outside of Calella you will find the UNESCO site of the Montseny Biosphere Reserve and inside the reserve you will find a dozen small mountain churches including the parish churches of Montseny, El Brull, Sant Marçal, Sant Martí del Montseny and Aiguafreda de Dalt.
Calella due to its location became an ideal town for the ship building industry in the 18th century and by 1787 there were 2637 inhabitants of the town. With trade to the Spanish colonies in the Amercias Calella had become a boom town with larger ships needed to make the perilous Atlantic journeys and so the town grew and grew.
Sadly my uncle passed away suddenly in 2014 and he had always said he wanted his ashes taken back to his homeland and scattering the in Med, back to the waters he so loved. We as a family had discussed taking him back to Calella for the occasion but the town holds too many memories for my Aunty. We chose Ibiza where he had served in the merchant navy to fulfil his final wishes, hiring a boat and scattering his ashes in the sea he so loved at sunset. Had tourism not started to boom in the 1960s my family would not be who we are today. So thank you Calella!!!