Thursday, July 23, 2015

Iberian Adventures: Costa Brava

Dan and I have returned home from our adventures on the Iberian Peninsula! We had a great time, and stopped in New York before returning home, which helped with jet lag. But I could have stayed longer, as I say with every trip.

Sunday, June 21
We arrived at the Barcelona airport after a short layover in Zurich. It was not a fun journey for me, but Dan enjoyed the flights, watching lots of movies, eating both our meals, and even got a two-sided puzzle from the flight attendant (he asked when he saw her give one to a child). After getting our luggage (we checked one bag because SwissAir has strict weight restrictions for hand luggage), we picked up the rental car and drove to the Costa Brava. The drive was pretty straightforward until the end, but eventually we found our hotel in Llafranc. The room was cozy and comfortable. After showering we walked down for dinner at a restaurant along the water. Dan was happy to have his first jamon Iberico, so happy that he started eating before I could take a photo. We also had grilled local sardines and prawns -- yummy. Dessert was Catalan custard, which was like flan, with the crunchy top of creme brûlée. The server offered a digestif on the house, which was a very strong limoncello-like liqueur. And we saw a Frenchie on the beach after dinner!

First dinner in Spain

Monday, June 22
We were up early after our digestif-induced sleep. Dan checked his Giants news on the balcony, and I checked out the view. Unfortunately there was a giant tree blocking the sea view from our room. But I guess the tree provides shade, so that's important. We took a walk through town looking for dogs (a possible Spinone Italiano sighting, but too far to confirm). There was a huge spread for breakfast, which we enjoyed on the terrace. Dan went for the cured meats, while I was excited about the fruit selection. After breakfast, we walked along the coastal path to Palafrugell. It was very scenic, lots of little coves for sunbathing and swimming, reminded us of the Cinque Terre in Italy.

Palafrugell

Snorkeler

We walked up to the botanical garden at Cap Roig, which was lovely. Dan enjoyed seeing all the succulents and cacti, and I liked the hydrangeas. And the view!

Botanical garden at Cap Roig

Hot and sweaty

We hiked back down to Palafrugell and had lunch by the water. I had my first tinto verano. Then we had gelato for dessert. And we went swimming at the beach in Llafranc. Our hotel had beach chairs and towels, so Dan was pleased. [He hates the sand.] Plus all the beaches in Spain have faucets and showers for rinsing, of which he approves. After a nap, we wandered around town looking for dogs. Then we had dinner at Chez Tomas, which was delicious. Also the green olives on the Costa Brava are very good.

Monday, June 23
We slept in until breakfast, hooray! After breakfast, we hiked up to the lighthouse toward Tamariu. The first part of the walk was along the road, and straight up. Not that fun. But the view of Llafranc and the Costa Brava was nice.

Checking out the view

We stopped to use the facilities at a fancy hotel, and saw some ruins of early Iberian settlements. Then we continued on to Tamariu, through trees, meadows, farms, a lushly landscaped property, then stopped at a restaurant in an isolated cove...lots of ups and downs...eventually walking over rocks before we reached the village. We saw a few other hikers, but not nearly as many as in Cinque Terre.

Cala Pedrosa

Tamariu

The beach at Tamariu was very nice. There was even a diving spot in the water. And the water seemed warm. But we had not brought our swimsuits (foolish), so we just sat and checked out the scene. We walked through town, then took the bus back to Llafranc and went swimming there. After a nap, we had lunch at the hotel's one star Michelin restaurant. The meal ended with strawberries dipped in hot chocolate, then frozen in liquid nitrogen, table-side. Fancy.

After lunch we drove to a Pals, a medieval walled village. It rained! Dan saw a burro he wanted to buy, and there was an antique shop with Spanish Sesame Street. We didn't get the burro, but picked up a sausage and a ceramic piggy bank (for a friend who collects them), then drove to Begur, a hilltop village with a castle. We picked up a map at the tourism office and checked out some historic buildings. We also saw a cool bamboo rainpipe and pretty doors. And a butcher. The sunset after the rain was very pretty. It was the eve of St. John's feast day (I think), and there were fireworks all night, to drive off the witches.

Begur

Begur



We drove down the hill for dinner at Sa Rascassa. Unfortunately we couldn't sit on the terrace because of the rain, but it was still a great meal. Dan had the secret pork Iberico that we had seen on every menu so far, and I had razor clams. And chocolate coulant for dessert. Yum!

Wednesday, June 24
After breakfast we drove to Cadaqués, to see the Salvador Dalí house in Portlligat. (I had reserved a time the previous day.) What a surrealist wonderland! And so beautifully situated, overlooking a picturesque cove of fishing boats. I really enjoyed seeing it.

Salvador Dali house

Salvador Dali house

Dali art studio

Lounging on the lips
  
Egg theatre

Salvador Dali house

We had tapas in Cadaqués, and a tinto verano for me, while we checked out the beach. It was a gorgeous afternoon. We walked around town, had gelato, then picked a sand-free cove to go swimming. Lovely! But then, I scraped my foot on the reef getting out of the water, and it would not stop bleeding. Yikes. Dan went to get the car, and instead of staying for dinner, we decided to head back to Llafranc. And then! We saw a beagle on the beach on our way out of town! I couldn't say hello, since we were in the car (also the bleeding), but my first beagle sighting in Spain!


Tinto verano

Tapas

Cadaques

Carol in Cadaques

After the scenic (and twisty-turny) drive back, my foot finally stopped bleeding. Hooray! We stopped at the pharmacy for expert advice (clean the wound). Enjoyed the sunset over the beach in Llafranc and had a huge seafood platter for dinner. The Costa Brava days had gone by so quickly...

Sunset in Llafranc

Thursday, June 25
Packed up after breakfast, said goodbye to the sea view, and drove to the train station in Girona, where we dropped off the rental car. After finding the luggage lockers for our bags, we bought train tickets for Barcelona, then set out to explore the town. We picked up a map at the tourism office, and I had (foolishly) hoped to have lunch at Can Roca, the parent restaurant of Cellar de Can Roca, which had been voted the world's best restaurant. The lady at the tourism office informed me that a reservation is necessary (makes sense), and also that it was far from the city center. So we wandered off, and Dan found a great spot for lunch on the Sant Domenec stairs. This was our introduction to the prix fixe lunch menu of Spain. Starter, main, dessert, and wine for 14€! Yes, please.

Lovely lunch spot

Lunch in Girona

After a leisurely lunch, we walked the remains of the old city wall, looked at a couple of churches (both had entrance fees), strolled through the old Jewish quarter, crossed a couple bridges...Girona is nice little town.

Girona

Painted archway

Girona view from bridge

Next stop, Barcelona!

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