Costa Brava is the area along the northern coast of Spain that is known for its beautiful (but crowded) beaches and rocky coves. August is essentially vacation time in Spain. Many of the shops and restaurants in Puzol have signs on them saying "closed for vacation - back in September." So, we decided to join the throngs of vacationers and do a loop through Costa Brava and the Pyrenees before the weather got too cold.
As opposed to trips to Spanish cities, trains or busses are not the best option for trips to smaller towns in the mountains or on the coast. Luckily, we just received our international drivers' licenses in the mail, allowing us to venture out by car. Heading towards Barcelona, we passed through the town of Cambrils where a second terrorist attack took place this month. It is strange to be living in a place that people in the United States are seeing on the news. It makes an attack seem much more real when it is two hours away.
We made our way to the town of Tossa de Mar in time for almuerzo at 3:00 at a traditional Spanish restaurant along the beach boardwalk. By picking the menu of the day we were able to sample fresh seafood and paella for a very cheap price. Honestly, the beaches in Valencia are better than those on the northern coast, but like a Vail or Aspen for skiing, the ambiance, shopping, food, and hotels make Costa Brava a destination. It took us a while to get oriented, but once we did, the area was absolutely beautiful. The tourist section of Tossa de Mar is a whitewashed walking town that prohibits driving. Winding through the narrow, stone streets filled with shops and cafes is delightful. Almost everyone in this area is a tourist, so people are out until midnight strolling through the shops. Costa Brava is truly a European melting pot and Americans are rare here. Occasionally we heard people from Great Britain speaking English, but mostly we heard people from Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Italy. Pamphlets and menus have descriptions in 4 or 5 languages, with each country's flag beside that language. English is symbolized by Great Britain's flag.
The main beach in front of the boardwalk is completely full of bright umbrellas and almost impossible to swim in because of the crowds. It is also a pebble beach, so sand castles aren't an option. I couldn't see the appeal until we discovered the coves. If one walks to a more obscure beach cove it is less crowded and nestled into stunning rocky cliffs with blue clear waters. My favorite thing was diving in and swimming out to climb on the rocky outcrops. It was exhilarating and beautiful. We also took a boat ride around the coast to about 7 coves. The boat had a glass bottom, which allowed us to see schools of fish and jellyfish. The boats ventured into spectacular caves, which made the the crystal blue waters turn aqua.
There are several things that make you remember you are in Spain amidst these sea activities. One is that a medieval castle towers above the town. The castle is lit up at night above the beach. Climbing to the top takes you to the ridge above town that also leads to many of the coves. Like many small town castles, it is built into the landscape and is just something people look at each day. The castle in Tossa de Mar is one of the oldest in Spain, dating back to 100 a.d. Much of the original stone walls are still there. With the waves crashing at the bottom of the castle, one can imagine it being a fortress against sea attackers.
A second reminder is the bathing suit style and nudity that accompanies all beaches in Spain. But, more on this later. I am going to devote another blog to the beaches in Spain.
Cold cuts and croissants make up Spanish breakfasts at hotels. By watching, we have learned that most people also crush whole tomatoes onto bread. We also observed people filling up bowls with coffee to allow larger amounts. My favorite thing about breakfasts is how relaxing they are. I am always looking for the differences between Spain and the United States. One of the main ones is the time people spend over a cup of coffee and how focused they are on what they are doing and who they are with. I have yet to see a television on during a hotel breakfast, or people sitting with their newspapers and computers. The coffee, company, and scenery seem to be all that matters. In Tossa de Mar, there is no shortage of the latter. I was lamenting that we had to leave until I remembered that since I live here, I can come back. This is one place that would be worth it.
- Hotel Restaurante Capri, Beachfront at Tossa de Mar
- Restaurant Bahia, Tossa de Mar on beachfront
- Pizziera Anna, Tossa de Mar on Calle de Tint
- Hostal Jaumet Bar, Lleida on route to Figueres
- Castillo de Tossa de Mar
- Swimming and hiking at Es Codolar Cove
- Fondo Cristal open air glass bottom boat up the coast to Cala Giverola
- Foot treatment with garra rufa fish eating away dead skin cells
- Strolling through Old Town
Sally and her family have moved to Spain for a year starting July 2017. They are living in a little town called Puzol, which is about 12km north of Valencia. Her kids, Carson and Celia, are attending the American School of Valencia, an International School located in Puzol. The goal for the whole family is to experience another way of life, and learn Spanish. This blog tracks their travels and experiences.