Sunday, 21 May 2017

Homage to Catalonia

Conclusion of the day - we have neglected the delights of the top right hand corner of Spain, tending  to rush through Catalonia on the way to the bottom left. This time we have lingered, the ten days at Cala Montgró is the longest time we have stayed in one location since we started travelling as a way of life in 2014. In fact, thinking about it, apart from the ten days Easter break deals to the Med we took in the nineties and early noughties, we rarely ever stayed anywhere longer than a week, we always have had itchy feet.

So, the highlights - the Ila Mateua campsite certainly. It's not some soulful hideaway. However, though it is extensive, because it spreads through a forest of maritime pines, split in two by the road to the beach, the place never felt overwhelmingly busy. At weekends the half which is packed with Spanish family's statics did take on a fiesta atmosphere, but down in the grey-haired expat enclave life went on as usual. There was an air quiet conviviality among the mixture of German, Dutch and British retirees, people were friendly, but not pushy or loud. No brash fluttering national flags here. We did have friendly neighbours and chatted about this and that, but never actually got to the point of finding out names. Candy Crush Dutch lady, nice couple from near Abersoch, we remember you with fondness, whoever you were!

In reception, one wall had been decorated with a mural sized black and white photo of a shipwreck with Punta Grossa - the rocky promontory behind the site - in the background. Judging from the appearance of the foundering steamer, the picture must date from around 1900. Back then, Punta Grossa was bare rocky hill topped by a pot-pie Mortello tower. The tower is still there, now surrounded by a merangue swirl of stylish villas overlooking Cala Montgró's perfect cove. 

Though the area has developed, it has not been ruined.The pine forest and rocky coast between L'Escala and Estartit is protected, so the north side on the Cala Montgró is developed, to the south is an an empty tract of pine forest covering the coastal hills behind a little frequented wild coast - a costa brava! So although you are only a couple of kilometers from the delights of L'Escala old town (a great place for cheap tapas with a Med view), equally, a short bike ride down a track in the opposite direction and you can discover your own personal pine forest full of birdsong and spring flowers.

Even closer, a climb to the top of the campsite then a short cliff-top path takes you to a stunning view a across the Bay of Roses to the Pyrenees beyond. We took to going for sunset walks up there; nobody else seemed to bother, often we had the view to ourselves proving that you don't have to travel to the ends of the earth to experience its beauty.

So, Cala Montgró - a very civilised spot. We will return one day I am sure. The place definitely has a loyal fan base, Candy Crush lady has been coming here for decades and a British chap in another pitch, she reported, first visited in 1974. What makes it really easy to linger is the local supermarket sells such excellent fresh produce - not expensive at all - so we whiled away our days cooking up great meals using the outside kitchen and simply mooching about.

.On Sunday we drove  to the other side of the bay. It was the final day we had use of the hire car. Roses itself is much more 'fun in the sun' beachy Spain. Not really our thing - but we stopped for a coffee and people watched for a bit, then drove back to the relative tranquillity of Cala Montgro.,

The main reason why We stayed here longer far longer than planned, was Laura's surprise visit. The upside of this was visiting places in the hire car that we probably wouldn't have done by motorhome, not just the Dali Museum at Figueres, but also a day trip to Girona. It's another example of Spain's delightful university cities. On this particular Saturday afternoon a Spring Festival was in full swing. The streets were decked out with big bamboo signs proclaiming pro-environmental messages, the footbridges across the river El Ter festooned with flags and flowers, the cafés buzzing and the small stage in the main square being prepared for an evening concert of a cappella music. 

The longer we spend in Spain the more its warmth and conviviality grows on us, how often in a British city do you think to yourself, this place  is really enchanting?

There is a downside to our extended stay. With our ferry booked for the 30th, we are going to have to scoot rather than wander homeward. I had half sketched out in my mind a more meandering route which would take us through some of inland Catalonia, through the old town of Vic, then skirting the southern foothills of the Pyrenees take the road through Huesca and Jaça to Pau. Another time, one journey spawns another, there is always the road less travelled to tempt us onwards.

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