And so to Empuriabrava -another beachside experience – a resort town built for the tourists, Floridian in style and aspect. Built 40 years ago on the alluvial flats of the Muga river the canals slice through the land choc-a-bloc with luxury yachts. Millions of Euros locked up in hulls which could possibly staunch the financial wounds of Spain!
Built cycleways make easy, flat riding through the town up over a bridge and along dusty roads past apple tree orchards towards the old town of Castello d'Empurias. A ghost town on Sunday – we cycled the narrow streets and alleyways stopping to look at the gothic church built like a cathedral with a massive double granite font and at a local football match until half time was called.
At breakfast on our pitch Graeme noticed some ant stirrings and thinking he had disturbed them moved his chair.
Around the front of the Bongo another nest was writhing, winged ants emerging in their hundreds, launching themselves up and away.
A bad sense of direction of incorrectly coded DNA saw them dotting the puddles and then spread out on the ocean's surface
like ditched cargo planes, abdomens upwards. Ant hari-kari? Fish food? Do they all fly at the same time from everywhere and like bacteria rely on their sheer force of numbers to propogate? Is it programmed, ceases at a certain latitude – a rolling programme of ant releases?
We wandered along the flat sandy stretch of beach trying to avoid the ant carcases until we came to the harbour wall of Roses, enormous hotels looming over the beach. Time for a swim and a hasty departure.
We wind our way down the coast through rich farming land full of productive orchards and old Spanish haciendas. Natalie our ever-eager sat nav insists we drive through the centre of small towns, stopped by local police directing school traffic, down narrow one-way streets and back onto the ring road.
At least it is not my map-reading skills being called into question.
Graeme has always had a burning desire to go to the Costa Brava, not one I shared, I must add, but after our fantastic visit to the Cap de Begur I am a convert. This is the Costa Brava that used
to be, this is the Costa Brava where one sips a pina colada on a balcony overlooking rocky coves.
The drop down into Aguiablava is worth the twisting drive, a perfect cove of golden sand lapped by exquisite azure waer. Lunch at the Toc de Mar gives us our first taste of genuine Catalan food. A dark, luscious paella with baked clams, mussels, langoustines and prawns. The somewhat dull appearance of the dish (coloured with squid ink) is somewhat enlivened by the fabulous taste!
I want to while away the afternoon but with no campsite in view we decide to press on. Consulting Natalie we see there are sites at Palmyros – a busy port- euphesmism for crowded and hectic, so we push on to Gerona, the prefect Catalan city says the guidebook. It may well be but the only campsite which is south of the city is closed. We found that out after a long detour through a small village and on through farmland to the dairy where it was situated with a closed for the season air about it. We call up three others – no answer. Last try – we can
see ourselves spending another night in a carpark – we strike gold and head back to the coast past Begur, La Maset in Sa Riera. Not far north of where we had had our lunch – a circular route we could have done without. We finally turn off the engine!
Finding a campsite in the dark is always a strange feeling, you set up, surmise where the sun will rise and set and hope for the best. Walking down the 300m to the beach I marvel again at the rocky outcrops with nary a highrise in sight. A quiet beach comes into view surrounded by old fishing cottages and boats drawn up on rollers on the beach.
I can see moonlight through the camper skylight. Surely I have had many hours sleep? In a few minutes it seems, the dawn chorus begins in the treed surrounds. The moon stays ghostly above the cliffs as the golden morning light drenches the balconies of the houses suspended on the cliffs. As I walk along the short coastal path I see a lone figure sitting supping her coffee and reading. The village is still shuttered. A path
of sunlight crosses the cove as the fishermen head out.
The names Tossa and Lloret de Mar send shudders down my very neck. But this is the Costa Brava I had dreamt of finding. But more delights are to come. Following the coastal path in the opposite direction we are looking for the footpath access only beach of Illa Roja.
From the path high on the clifftop we look down to an idyllic beach. A huge rock stands sentinel to the cove. 'That must be it,' I say excitedly and then 'oh, my, that's a big one!' Closer inspection revealed that this was indeed a home for big and not so big things. Not game enough to join the naturists at play we continue on to the next beach Platja del Raco.
Rounding the corner, over the rocky platform we realise this beach is not for us either. The usual long beach bordered by hotels and high rises. We reluctantly elect to join the exhibitionists cavorting on the Illa Roja.
Apparantly it's rude to stay clothed on a nudist beach – wild swimming was called for – stripping
Church of Santa Maria
Cathedral proportions at Castello d'Empuries
off our togs we plunged into the crystal clear water.
It is hard to avert your eyes. Curiousity killed the cat, it is said. Not curious but fascinated I watch two men struggle into skin-tight wet suits arranging themselves with gay abandon. They swim and later return their graceful crawl cutting through the water. The show is not over. Naked yoga is the next eye-popping experience.
'You're not supposed to look', says Graeme but I can't help it. Yoga has never been so interesting.
Other unusual sights are his and hers tattoos. Well they obviously couldn't have matching clothes. Rolls of skin and folds of fat. Frankly, some body parts should never be on display.
I speak to the young man at the campsite about La Maset. Many moons ago when there was nothing but mountainous scrub at Sa Riera, Juan had an idea. His wife Anita's parents owned land perched high on the hill above this fisherman's cove.
Before houses, before tourism Juan wanted to create a campground in this magical spot.
Roads were cut in, huge stone retaining walls were built and
the dream started to become a reality. Camping pitches were cut into the terraces and the visitors began to arrive.
Today, Juan wanders La Maset, his wife long gone, his son and daughter-in-law running things now. Additions have been made through the years, a restaurant, bungalows, a games room, basketball court, computer room and of course a swimming pool.
And then on to beguiling Begur. A market was set up around the impressive sounding Eglesia Parroquial de Sant Pere where fishwives used to set up their tables in the morning after the catch. Today a mixture of stalls display the usual hodge podge of jeans, wallets and souvenirs together with locally sourced cheese, olives and fruit. Medieval towers rise above the twisting cobbled lanes. The towers were built to hide the population from marauding Mediterranean pirates by drawing up wooden ladders after they had scuttled inside.
We walk up further to the castello with 360 degree views East to the coast, North to the Pyrenees, South down the coast and inland to Pals and beyond.
Reading the plaque on the wall of the imposing town hall I learn
it was built in 1902 by the 'Indianos' returning home having made their fortune mostly in Cuba. In the mid 1800s about a quarter of the population left this poverty stricken town to seek their fortune in the Americas. Many of course did not succeed but those 'Indianos' who returned wanted to bestow some of their riches on their previously deserted town.
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