It's nearly fall...or maybe it's fall already. Time has been slipping by with alarming speed, as always in the last moments of summer. Wandering around Barceloneta and its beaches with a lump in my throat, I had been feeling the pull of the sea, the sea...the sea at summer's end.
So, Felipe and I gave in and went for a heady final romp along the coast last week, floating, swimming and somersaulting in the heaving, roiling, galloping sea of an Iris Murdoch novel. And now we're spent and content and ready for fall. Well, as ready as one can ever be.
We found the Costa Brava, where we frittered away last week, a long string of contradictions--rugged cliffs, quaint fishing villages and out of control development. To many, this part of the coast, which starts some kilometers north of Barcelona, is a stomach churning mess of package hotels and mass tourism.
This August, my poor Polish cousins, who thought they would spend their hard earned money on a week of vacation bliss in Spain, ended up in the hotel jungle in the down at the heels Malgrat de Mar, just to the South of Blanes. By the time we got to them, they were very nearly in the depths of depression.
What makes my cousins' experience all the more sad is that there are still beautiful spots along the Costa Brava. To be sure, they're best enjoyed in June and September rather than July or August. In the still warm off-season, you are very likely to find yourself all but alone in the lulling waves of the Mediterranean, particularly if you're up for a little stroll along the cliffs. I'll tell you all about the Camí de Ronda, a footpath along the coast, in another post.
On the recommendation of our friend Louise, who once frolicked on the coast in a billowy yellow skirt, we spent last week in Calella de Palafrugell on the other Costa Brava, the one right out of a Merchant and Ivory film. Calella de Palafrugell, about an hour and a half outside of Barcelona, is a pretty fishing village, which retains all the romance of the coast as it once must have been: colourful sail boats pulled up onto the shore, pristine beaches of polished pebbles, merrily painted houses and charming restaurants lining the boardwalk. It's a tourist town through and through, but one of genteel tourism, the kind that brings back all your best memories of holidays by the seaside.
We stayed at the stately Hotel Sant Roc (www.santroc.com), which overlooks the town from a privileged cliff-top location on the outskirts (its terrace is pictured above). It's currently offering a 3 nights for the price of 2 deal, which is truly fantastic given that prices are already at low season rates. As for restaurants, we opted for Can Gelpí (C/ les Voltes 11, tel. 97 261 4572) and Tragamar (Playa De Canadell, tel. 97 261 5189), both of which serve very respectable seafood accompanied by spectacular views out to sea and the music of crashing waves.