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The International Writers Magazine: Hacktreks in Spain

Romantic Break in Spain
Natalya Popova

You may say: "What’s so special about holidays in Spain? - a heavily cluttered, over commercialised coast behind concrete bars with multi-storey hotel-blocks situated just over the road". However, you might be pleasantly surprised - there are some exclusive, even sentimentally idyllic places.
Where? Not as far from you as you think - just 15 miles west of Girona airport, which is in turn just one and a half hours by air from London or Bournemouth.

Last Friday - left work at 3pm.
Checked in at airport 3.30. Flight left at 5.
Landed in Spain 7:55 (their time). Hand luggage only - in a hire car by 8:20.
Drove to the coast and ambled around looking for a nice looking hotel

Some of Costa Brava is wonderful - there are plenty of fine beaches with picturesque rocks and rocky cliffs proving the name of the coast - "wild" (Costa Brava) and making it perfect for snorkelling, diving, swimming and just exploring. The coast stretches for 58 miles (93 km) from the French border to the point where the it joins the Barcelona coast just south of Blanes. However, some bits are dire.

We were fortunate to find a stunning hotel at Empuries - old fashioned, small, on its own in a little sandy bay and next to the ruined Greeco-Roman city; snow capped Pyrenees in the distance. You would never expect to find such a pearl so close to the industrial tourist monster such as L’Escala. This beautifully quiet resort is cleverly hidden in a inlet of rocks and pine trees.

The Empuries hotel is painted all white and built in two wings - two and tree-storey. The enormous veranda (very cosy, 1930-s style) overlooks the elegant curve of the blue lagoon. The only road you cross to get to the beach is a narrow cycling pass sweeping out of the pine alley towards the old town of Empuries (road leading you from activities - via leisure - to history and culture!).

Now a Museum, the impressive old settlement of Empuries is one of the most important Spanish classical sites, where Phonecians first settled in Spain just below Saint Marti, and where Scipio landed with his army to cut off Hannibal’s attack on Italy in 218 BC (2222 years ago!). Remains of old Greek harbour wall (stunning and still very strong! 278 ft (85m) long!) are still washed by the sea - right here, just a short walk from the hotel.

Walking further along gives you full appreciation of the Bay of Roses - the beach is very pretty and well-sheltered - shallow and so clean that the water reveals nice patterns layered by the waves in calmness - rocks, and packs of shy fish around them - brilliant for kids. Plenty of beach stuff is on offer -we very much loved the pedallos with fitted water slides - great! - for adults too!
Further along the beach - a little village with some very nice restaurants and Tapas bars. I can be proved right by telling you that this place is not the usual tourist Mecca - their serving staff can hardly speak any English. So get a dictionary before making a choice out of Tapa Tortilla Espanol / Tapa Aceitunas / Tapa Patatas Bravas or whatever else is on the Tapaz menu- if not adventurous in trying local food. Fancy real seafood experience? - have a fried octopus or marinated sardines - they are delicious! The local church can be of some interest as well. It is opened for public and still performs weddings. We were very lucky to witness one - the bride was brought to the church by her farther in a red (Ford) Mustang, and then accompanied inside the church by two little angels dressed as bridesmaids, no less nervous then the bride.
Back to the hotel, walking through the park and then passing by the Museum.

The hotel is designed in a very plain style. Absence of modern accessories seemed deliberate - no TVs and internet connections (if you can’t survive without those things - go to concrete L’Escala or you can watch TV in the common living room downstairs). No excess of extras - only a couple of very simple but stylish pictures, clean and tasty rooms. The only decoration motives were the real flowers entwined around the white columns on the veranda and the real bouquets on the tables.

Yes - the big veranda overlooking the sea splashing at your feet, was the top paradise - white walls, white table clothes on white tables, then yellow sand and the blue sea meeting with the blue sky at the horizon- lots of space, lots of air. Romantic, being all exclusive feeling…
You can spend your entire life here, just sitting on the terrace and watching the sea - enjoying yourself stuck in-between the times (next to the Roman settlement, surrounded by 1930-s style - in 21st century), and eating delicious food....

You’ll absolutely love their food! - great set menus, 21 Euro including wine:
Fish lasagne, hake with broccoli and asparagus and lemon cake;
Milhojas of aubergine, tomato and goat cheese; Lamb; warm chocolate cake with mango ice cream;
Salad of cabbage, mash and strawberries; Veal; warm chocolate cake with mango ice cream;
Ruccula salad with idiazahal cheese and mango, dorado; warm chocolate cake with mango ice cream (mmmm, a theme developing here?).
And Catalonian bread for breakfast - what can be better!

Sunday: lie in, breakfast on the veranda, wander round the Greeco-Roman city, drive up and down the coast, fresh sardines for lunch, fall asleep in shady spot.
Check in at airport at 6.30 pm
Fly back at 8, plane lands in UK 8.55 our time, out of airport by 9:15,
Home by 9:45.
The hotel was a bit more expensive than an ordinary 2-star hotel, but it was well worth it - as well as the whole weekend affair. (what was interesting - the hotel’s website couldn’t be easily find via Google - which can only mean, that it is so popular with the locals that it doesn’t need to be widely advertised). However - this is the info from their business card - Tel/Fax +34 972 77 02 07  
© Natalya Popova, ASI, October 2004
Natalya was born and spent his childhood in Tajikistan (former Soviet Republic); moved to Dorset from Moscow five years ago.  Then gained a degree in Metallurgy received in Moscow Technological University.  Currently he is working for a local bank.  He has has published an article of Venice in the "Italy" magazine (on  the web) and a few articles in the "London Courier" (in Russian). 

Buy Natalya's new childrens book The Guinea Pig Story

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