Cava? Cava!

Sant Sadurni d'Anoia Travel Blog

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Freixenet cavas
Comment çava? Well the answer would have depended on whether you'd have asked the question at the start or the end of the day. Because the start, it could hardly have been worse.

I got up really early this morning to take the train to Sant Sadurni di Anoia. I wanted to make a day trip there because it is the heart of the Cava region. Cava (the Spanish word for cave) is the Catalan answer to Champagne. And just as the Champagne region, this is a registered produce area that lends it's name only to local products. I don't know for America, but in Europe Cava has pretty much replaced Champagne in the ranking for most popular sparkling wine. It is so much cheaper, and tastes so wonderful! As a big fan of Spain, I have to embrace cava, and I do. Not just because it's Spanish and cheap, but also because I love it big time.
Freixenet cavas
So I wanted to visit at least one cave, and if I had to pick just one, than it would no doubt be Freixenet. This maybe isn't the most romantic company, because it's big, commercial and international. But it's easily the best known brand, at least in Belgium, and I guess in many other countries as well. It was the first Cava I ever tasted, and still one of my preferred brands. Think of the complete black bottle with the black label and golden text: Freixenet Cordon Negro. That's the one!

So walked up to Placa Catalunya still sleepy. It had quit the antibiotics so I was now allowed to taste some wine :) and I definitely wanted to do so. But arriving on the square it first took me some time to find the right entry to the station. Apparently only one of all the metro entrances also leads to the train station, which I found a bit confusing so early in the morning.
Freixenet cavas
My mistake... I arrived on time though, bought a ticket, went through the checkpoint and on to the platform. After 20 minutes it was time for my train to come, but the TV screen showed 10 minutes delay. So the next two trains stopping weren't mine. When the right train entered the station, it had the same destination tag as all the previous ones, but it shouldn't go to the same destination... So again, I was confused, not sure if maybe the right train would be delayed a bit extra and would be the next one... I asked a guy on the platform and he asked another, but by the time they figured out an answer (lo siento, no lo sé) the doors closed and I was left in the station for another hour to wait. I was so pissed. Basically, I was pissed to myself because I should have just jumped on.
Sant Sadurni
After all, every train passing through Placa Catalunya in that direction stops in Sants station next. So if I had boarded the wrong train I could still have switched there... Yet in all my confusion I didn't think of that at the time, and so I had no other option then spending an hour in the noisy and hot underground tunnel, as my ticket was checked and I could not exit to sit in the morning sun. That made me pretty upset, or better, sad. I felt like crying again, even though the situation wasn't that bad or dramatic. It just felt like sh** and at the early hour, I could not deal with that. I don't know what I've been having during this holiday. The withdrawal from the pills maybe? But it marks the whole journey that I've been extremely emotional, both in positive and negative ways.
Sant Sadurni
While normally, I consider myself pretty relaxed and relativistic, now I got moved by the smallest event, extremely amazed, happy,... or sad.

That said, after an hour I got on the right train (again delayed for some 10 minutes) and arrived in Sant Sadurni after an uninspiring ride of little over an hour. The weather was brilliant, however. The Freixenet factory is right next to the train station so it wasn't a long walk. But arriving at the gate didn't bring good news. The guard asked me for a reservation that I did not have. I had checked the website though... I must have missed it. I didn't know it was necessary to reserve a tour. Luckily one of the guides passed on her way home and told me that if I was alone, maybe I could argue with the receptionist to make an exception.
Sant Sadurni
I imaged this to be a fun excursion and I had been looking forward to see the facade of the factory and all it's promotional cars standing in front of it (a very Disney-like image). But as I walked the front yard, now I felt miserable. I was once again angry with myself mainly, and it ruined all the pep-talking I did with my brain earlier, on the train. Another thing to go wrong... The receptionist was friendly but firm and he denied to sell me a ticket. I must have looked really sad because after a while, luckily, he changed his mind. "Please, can't you make an exception? I came especially from Barcelona all alone (pity me, pity me!) to visit you! Just one person? Por Favor.
Sant Sadurni
Me encanta su Cava.". Snif snif... Puppy eyes... "Ok señorita, I will subscribe you for the Castillian tour. Be here at 1pm". Honest sigh. Score! Ok, now I felt a bit better again. At least he gave me the ticket for a tour in a language I understand... well... only a little. But it was a ticket still.

The tour left at 1pm and it was not even 11:30am yet. On a Sunday, with everything closed and the town deserted. But it was ok. It could have been worse. I got up early for nothing, would have been on time for the English tour if I didn't miss the first train, begged the receptionist to let me pay for one of his tickets, and then got stuck in a dead town for an awful long time. Why not?
Sant Sadurni isn't that sweat... It's not ugly either, but nothing special.
Freixenet cavas
Neither is the scenery around it. Believe me, I've had plenty of time to explore. But I did have an incredibly nice Catalan bread with cheese and a coffee in the only bar I could find open, right on the main road to the city center. The lady there was so friendly, the food was so cheap and for the first time this day, by noon, I finally started to feel really happy again. Nothing can cheer me up as much as some good food!

The second time I walked over the patio of the factory I could enjoy the sun better. The guard recognized me and smiled, and the tilled "Freixenet" above the door now looked much more appealing. Slowly the place filled with Spanish people. I tried not to look like someone that only understood half of what they were saying, but it must have been obvious that I was a foreigner.
Freixenet cavas
And I was so tired my head felt like a stone and everything seemed to pass in a haze. I had to remind myself to focus when the tour finally started and we got to watch the introduction video. I did my very best to understand what was said and to my surprise, it worked pretty well. Even the guide that took us on a walk through the caves didn't speak too fast. I have missed quite a lot of the details in the information, but I think I got the picture alright. And of course, after seeing the old caves and taking a short train ride through the new parts of the factory (I admire the guys driving skills, he didn't knock over a single pallet of cava), the moment supreme was the tasting I have been looking forward to so much.

Making my way back to Barcelona, I placed myself in the sun on the platform of the station to wait.
Freixenet cavas
It was really warm, and as I don't drink much often, just the one glass had made my head floating a bit. I remember some Americans next to me talking about if the train rails were on... No, how did they say it? If they were hot. Electric, I reckon. Because there were wires above the trail to connect the train to, and they wondered if that was for delivering stream to it or not. I had never known some train rails are "hot". Not in Belgium that is, they are all connected to cables. In my floating condition, that kept me wondering for the next half hour and a good part of the train ride back. I imagined myself crossing a railroad in America, getting fried upon touching the electric rails... But yes, I felt pretty happy again.
Freixenet cavas
Even though, I had originally planned to visit the Palau de la Musica Catalana in the afternoon, but now definately would miss the last tour there. At least I had gotten what I came here for, sweet Freixenet. The road to it felt like a pilgrimage of some sort, "hard" and full of disappointment. And even the tour wasn't that spectacular or unmissable. But still, it was cava. THE cava, and it is a little holly to me, still. Cheers to Freixenet, and to Sant Sandurni!
sarahelaine says:
I went to the Cordeniu one in 2001, but Freixenet is way nicer.  I'm jealous. 
Posted on: Feb 21, 2010
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Freixenet cavas
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Sant Sadurni d'Anoia
photo by: ana_pt