Viva Costa Brava
Olé! Viva! Celebrate the good life, Spanish style!
You’ve come to the land of superlatives. Sibilant superlatives. Sand, as golden as a summer sun. Seafood, plucked from the Mediterranean in the form of jumbo prawns, anchovies and monkfish. Sherry, rich in sippable flavor, handcrafted in the neighboring wineries. Saffron-laced paella, a staple here of short grain Spanish rice garnished with everything fresh and in season. Serrano ham, smoky and thinly-sliced served with pimento-stuffed olives and manchego cheese. And a finger-foodfest known as tapas that are snacks served up in every eatery from here to the French frontier.
Oh, by the way, the biggest “s” of all is “soccer”. Just know, though, that here it’s called futbol and the Spanish are mad for it. Crazy mad. Their national team is currently ranked first in the world. And they even built a stadium in nearby Barcelona that is third largest in the entire world behind only Sao Paolo, Brazil and Mexico City. Remember, though, that those are massive megalopolises. Barcelona, on the other hand, seems an absolute village in comparison for it is home to a mere 1.6 million fans. And be forewarned -- each and every one is a rabid fan.
So, viva Costa Brava. Viva Catalonia. Viva Palamós and all who come to sample her many pleasures.
You’re Not The First, You Know
Others came before you, especially as the French Côte d’Azur became more and more crowded with holidaymakers. Sunseekers sought new getaways and it was about then, in the 1950s, that Spain’s decision makers addressed this need. Hence, the Costa Brava was born. Actually… born. Spain believed that if they built it, the people would come. And they did. So hotels sprang up, marinas were strung along the seafront, golf courses were designed and a new chapter was written in the book of world-class destinations.
But even these thonged throngs who chartered in for the week weren’t the very first to visit. The Greeks and the Romans padded through in their thongs, but this time it refers to their sandals not their swimming costumes. They erected temples and marketplaces called agoras. The Jews were here, as well, and their history is preserved in a neighboring town called Girona. The Christians constructed monasteries where their faithful were lost in silent prayer. Today, one such structure in Peralda houses the private collections of the Segue Family that includes not only 80,000 books and fine wines, some dating back to the 14th century, but rare pieces of art as well. Visitors are welcomed to the Peralda Castle Museum for a detailed examination of this celebrated collection.
Art and The Artist
Perhaps the area’s most famous artist is none other than Salvador Dalí. Quirky genius that he was, he found a place called Púbol to his liking. It was here that he and his wife Gala accepted the challenge of refurbishing a 14th century castle that became their abode in 1970. Dalí’s bride of nearly 50 years died in 1982 and is buried on the castle grounds that today are part of a museum. Open to the public since 1996, it is called Gala Dalí Castle and is considered Dalí’s last workshop. In the courtyard there is a stone-lined swimming pool with an array of sculptures dedicated by the artist to the German operatic composer Richard Wagner.
While there are two other Dalí museums in the region, this serves as a window into the artist’s final days and his devotion to his wife who preceded him in death by seven years. Plan your visit wisely as tickets are very limited.
Capital City Girona
Art and soccer not your fancy? Then travel to Girona, the regional Catalonian capital surrounded by massive medieval walls. Churches are the order of the day here with the soaring Girona Cathedral the most impressive. A picnic along the Onyar River, beside its brightly-painted houses, is a must followed by a stroll through Independence Square. You’ll feel history envelope you here like an embroidered silk shawl draped with such flair around the shoulders of Spain’s loveliest ladies.
Meanwhile, Back In Palamós
It’s probably siesta time when the shops are shuttered and the restaurants are lively with conversation and laughter. Pensioners turn into human sundials in the parks, skooching from one shady bench to the next. Schoolgirls giggle at the beach. And handsome guys walk by looking… well, quite macho. Another afternoon lazes by as it has for centuries. And those who aren’t here in Palamós are probably in neighboring Tossa de Mar, an anciet city 28 miles away, now busy with visitors who lounge on the beach beside a medieval castle. Or, there’s Lloret de Mar just beyond Tossa de Mar, where high-rise hotels ring the white sand beach that is a staggering 1600 yards long. Tossa is often awarded the coveted “Blue Flag” for cleanliness and the water is absolutely transparent. For the record, the sangria here is chilled perfectly, and prawns the size of a dockworker’s thumb are served piping hot.
Karyn L. Planett