According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), mindfulness i.e., paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental health. Our visit to the forest of La Fageda d’en Jordà in Girona, northeastern Spain was the perfect opportunity for us to practice mindfulness.

 

Stop. Breathe. Repeat.

We were halfway into our Catalonia road trip and had made it to La Garrotxa, a county in the province of Girona, in northeastern Spain.

Following a visit to the charming medieval village of Santa Pau, we headed to La Fageda d’en Jordà, a forest located within the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. From the Costa Brava to the Pyrenees mountains, Catalonia is blessed with many areas of incredible natural beauty. This is one of them and an excellent place for practising mindfulness.

 

Visiting La Fageda d’en Jordà

Time to ditch the car. The forest of La Fageda d’en Jordà is best experienced on foot.

Stop. Breathe. Repeat.

We had only been walking for about thirty minutes but it didn’t take long before we settled into a rhythm. 

Our smartphones had lost signal, meaning we could no longer rely on Google Maps for navigation. Ancient Roman roads once came through this area. “They didn’t need the internet to navigate back then,” we observed.

Free from digital distractions, it was time to test our sense of direction and pay attention to the signposts marking out the walking trails. We also had to trust each other to choose the right forks in the diverging paths we came across. 

Trust. That requires mindfulness too.

Stop. Breathe. ‘Click! Click’. Repeat.

La Fageda d’en Jordà, roughly translated from Catalan means ‘Jordà’s beech forest’. Someone told us earlier that Jordà was the name of a nearby volcanic crater, one of many in the natural park.

Omo walking among beech trees in the forest of La Fageda d’en Jordà

The massive beech trees which formed a high canopy around us were our hosts for the afternoon. The thickness of their foliage filtered the afternoon sunshine, casting shadows and creating the perfect lighting that photographers adore.

We were practising mindfulness but still could not resist the urge to capture the beauty around us with our cameras. The wind picked up, causing the branches to mimic a nodding motion, suggesting that we had mother nature’s permission to ‘cheat’ a little.

 

Practising mindfulness means paying attention

Stop. Breathe. Repeat.

Our October visit meant that the incredible transformation we were witnessing was just the start of the seasonal change from summer to autumn.

The rich green leaves were slowly succumbing to the approaching winter chill; their yellowing process interrupted by specks of rusty red, reds which would become the dominant colour until the leaves finally dried up and fell off the trees.

The forest bed beneath our feet was already covered with them, dead leaves and seeds. Death and life. Life and death. The never-ending cycle. 

Everything around us had a vibrancy that demanded our attention. In the stillness, colours, sounds and scents felt amplified. In the absence of a tour guide, we willingly embraced the role of spectator and marvelled at mother nature’s perfectly orchestrated performance.

A light breeze tapped us on the shoulder and seemed to whisper, “Inhale! Exhale!” We filled our lungs with fresh forest air. The feeling was relaxing and reinvigorating. Mindfulness!

Stop. Listen. Repeat.

By shedding their leaves in the autumn, trees cleanse themselves of the old and prepare themselves for the new. Nature was asking us to pay attention and be mindful. We were listening.

What we heard was a message. That sometimes we cling onto things in our lives that we would be better off letting go – toxic relationships, idle possessions, hurts and grievances. By letting go of the past, we make way for new things, new opportunities and the chance to start again. 

 

The Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park

The Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park itself is an outdoor paradise. 

Spread over 12,000 hectares of protected land, it is home to over 40 extinct volcanoes such as Croscat and Santa Margarida, all covered and surrounded by rich vegetation and forests such as La Fageda d’en Jordà. 

Hikers will have the chance to experience the changing colours of the forest over the course of the year. In the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park, autumn is the best time to witness this transformation firsthand.

Unfortunately, our time was limited and we failed to reach one of the volcanic craters we had set out for. Tracing our way back to the carpark, again, without Google, we had to trust the signs and each other…one final opportunity to practice mindfulness.

HDYTI Tip: You need at least half a day to properly hike in La Fageda d’en Jordà.

 

Nature, Mental Health and Wellness

It is no longer news that the world’s forests and green spaces are vital to our survival. Not only do they provide the much-needed biodiversity that our planet requires in order to sustain itself but they also provide psychological benefits for humanity.

Beech trees in the forest of La Fageda d’en Jordà

The proven benefits of nature and spending time outdoors include improvements in our physical and mental health. Unfortunately, research suggests that many of us are not taking opportunities to get out into nature.

According to the Global Wellness Summit (2019 trends report), “more people are living in settings with little – and sometimes no – nature. Not only has this resulted in a decrease in experiencing the joys of nature, but it has also meant that the healing power of nature is not readily available for most people in the world.”

The chance to improve our mental health by mindfully experience nature is why places such as La Fageda d’en Jordà are worth preserving.

We are challenging ourselves to do exactly that. We are striving to be more mindful of each other and of the natural world around us. Although life does get in the way sometimes, we are learning to stop, breathe, listen and repeat.

Do you practice mindfulness? Share your tips with us.

For more details about visiting La Fageda d’en Jordà, visit the park website (English).

For other mindfulness experiences in Costa Brava, see this article by award-winning photojournalist, Lola Akinmade Åkerström.

 

Travel information

La Fageda d’en Jordà is only one of the many reasons to add La Garrotxa to your Catalonia road trip itinerary. This county within the province of Girona is home to many charming medieval villages such as Santa Pau and Besalú. 

Add to that a first-century monastery, thirteenth-century castles and lots of Roman architecture and you’ll have enough to see for two days. 

We include the following local recommendations for your planning.

 

Where to stay in La Garrotxa – Hotel Mas La Ferreria

Hotel Mas la Ferreria is a 14th-century churchyard/blacksmith’s forge turned into a beautiful boutique property with lots of history and character. 

Surrounded by a charming landscape, this is where you wake up to see the sunrise over the Pyrenees mountains in the distance and walk out into a private garden to feel the morning dew under your feet.

Medieval building in La Garrotxa, Girona Province

Our north-facing room, named Suite Barcadura, was one of eight (each one unique) in the property and located outside the main property at the back of the house. 

Suite Barcadura had a modern-art-studio meets rustic-barn interior design. The wide bed, rain shower, and in-room bathtub were key highlights. The eco-friendly bath amenities were a thoughtful choice.

Suite Barcadura in Hotel Mas La Ferreria

A bigger swimming pool would have been nice. However, upon further consideration, we felt that it would look out of place given the obvious effort to preserve the original character of the property and its connection to the surrounding landscape.

Home-cooked meals (the manager’s mum is also the chef) are available in the family-style dining room. In ancient times, we were told that the multi-purpose space was used as an animal shelter and sleeping quarters for the family. 

Spanish breakfast at Hotel Mas La Ferreria

The dinner menu is uncomplicated, the ingredients super fresh and the quality of food excellent.

This is one property where you will regret not staying a few days longer.

Prices for the room pictured are €230 per night including breakfast. Off-season discounts and special packages are available. Visit the Hotel Mas la Ferreria website for details, email info@hotelmaslaferreria.com or call +34 972 29 13 45

 

Where to eat in La Garrotxa – Cal Sastre, Santa Pau

Catalonia is where you come to find world-class and accessible gastronomy in the most picturesque places. Innovative chefs and restauranters are supported by a network of growers and producers who place emphasis on supplying the highest quality ingredients.

We were therefore unsurprised to find one such gastronomic outpost deep in the Catalan heartland of La Garrotxa.

Cal Sastre, a quaint family-run restaurant/hotel in the medieval village of Santa Pau is worth the twenty-minute drive from Hotel Mas la Ferreria. Cal Sastre is run by an attentive couple, Jesús Pont and Eva Moliner, who are eager to introduce guests to exciting Catalan specialities.

Cal Sastre, restaurant in Santa Pau, Girona Province, Catalonia

Appetisers included ‘Fesols de Santa Pau’, an exquisite specimen of beans specially cultivated in the volcanic soil of La Garrotxa – think white beans with a creamy texture and full of flavour. 

Fesols de Santa Pau, a local bean variety at Cal Sastre, Santa Pau

Main meal choices included a beef dish that was slow-cooked for eleven hours in ratafia sauce – another Catalan revelation. Ratafia itself is a local digestif which includes over 25 different herbs and aromatics.

For dessert, we tried the ‘La Fadega’ – their award-winning cactus ice cream topped with delicate yoghurt foam. This was as close to perfection as we’ve ever tasted in a dessert.

The knowing look and nod of approval from proprietor Jesús Pont as your eyes close in appreciation tell you that he knows exactly what you’re experiencing…a zen moment.

Book ahead for this one: e-mail hotel@calsastre.com or call +34 972-68-04-21.

 

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Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).