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Bewitched by the Costa Brava

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.

You wonder: “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 the Costa Brava coast is wonderful, bits are dire).

Travelmag’s finest looking contributor

There are plenty of fine beaches perfectly neighbouring with picturesque rocks and rocky cliffs proving the name of the “Wild” coast (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 it joins the Barcelona Movesme coast just south of Blanes. 

Found a stunning hotel at Empuries, old fashioned, small, on its own in a little sandy bay, right on the beach, next to the ruined Greeco-Roman city, snow capped Pyrenees in the distance.

One of those promised places is Empuries – the remains of an old Greeko-Roman town and a lovely hotel with the same name, comfortably situated on the finest natural sandy sweep, the Bay of Roses (8 miles long) running across the Mediterranean – just 1.5 km west of L’Escala.  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!). 

Nowadays a Museum, this impressive old settlement of Empuries is one of Spain’s most important 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 just a short walk to the west from the hotel.

Walking further along gives you full appreciation of the Bay of Roses  – the beaches here are 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 – ideal for snorkelling and brilliant for kinds.  Plenty of beach stuff is on offer –we very much loved the pedallos with fitted water shuts  – great! – and not only for kids!

Hostal Empuries – and its beach

Walking North along the beach takes you to a little village with some very nice restaurants and Tapas bars.  I can be proved right when telling that this place is not the usual tourist Mecca, that serving staff here can hardly speak any English.  So get a dictionary before making a choice out of Tapa Tortilla Espanol or Tapa Aceitunas or Tapa Patatas Bravas or whatever else on the Tapaz menu- if not adventurous in trying local food.  Fancy real seafood experience? – have a fried octopus or marinated sardines – delicious!  The local church can be of some interest as well.   It is open 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 on walls, 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, being so close, was the top paradise – white walls, white table clothes on white tables, then yellow sand and the blue sea meets 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 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!

A place of Greek and Roman ruins

There were, unusually for us, many serving and cleaning staff, in contrast to the constant redundancies and outsourcing realities of our everyday life.  This only added up to already characterised 1930’s feeling  – another one of being very well looked after.

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.

The hotel’s website couldn’t be easily find via Google – perhaps this means it is so popular with the locals that it doesn’t need to be widely advertised.   However – this is info from their business card – Tel/Fax +34 972 77 02 07

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