We were shocked by the nasty air pollution in Barcelona, much worse than when we were there before, about 7 years ago. In fact, the air was worse that when we moved to LA in 1977. It has the same situation, a coastal town surrounded by mountains. And not just cars, but people burning trash and farm waste.
We had reservations up the coast from Barcelona in Platja de Aro in Costa Brava. In this section of Spain, they speak Catalan and are somewhat hostile to Spaniards. Catalan is a mix of Spanish and French, with strictly local words thrown in. Platja [plaat-yah], for example, is playa [plaa-ya] in Spanish, meaning beach.
Ron is an excellent travel agent and, over the years, I have learned to trust him completely in making arrangements. Usually, he consults me at every turn, but this year, I had a series of infections that deadened my brain. He tried to tell me the arrangements, but I missed a lot of what he told me. This turned out to be a treat in the end, as each of his plans was a wonderful surprise to me. Our hotel was one of these.
Hotel Sant Jorge is an upscale place perched on a cliff over the Cap Roig [pronounced Royzh…French would be Rouge --- Spanish, Capa Roja = Red Cape]. Cap Roig is a big red rock flanked on both sides by beautiful and tiny white beaches.
We arrived early, but the hotel had a room ready with an ocean view. Despite that, I fell asleep, while Ron puttered about, including putting a glass of water on my night table. Eventually, he too fell asleep, but awoke to terrible leg cramps. He has been plagued by these in recent years, made much worse by hours on an airplane. He took a blazing hot shower, which eased the pain and we decided he’d do well with a walk. After some advice from the desk clerk [say Grathia, not Gracias], we strolled down the hill to downtown.
Costa Brava is a tourist region. Picture any beach town in the US, especially Spanish-inspired ones on the West Coast. In December, however, nobody goes to the beach. And, apparently, no businesses are open in the afternoon…
We were lucky to find a small “fast food” place open, called Ky’s. I really do not know how to say this, but “key’s” is my best guess. We each had a lovely shredded chicken salad with queso fresco and nuts. We added Patates Bravas, which turned out to be roasted chunks of potatoes with a lovely sauce which resembled French dressing. Coca Cola Light [in Europe, Diet means parliament] and crusty bread completed the feast. I was surprised to discover it was only 1:30 pm.
Platja de Aro is a party town, like most coastal towns everywhere. The clubs and restaurants have themes and food from all around the world. Polyglot.
We found a small store open, optimistically called “Supermercat” i.e., supermarket. [Mercado in Spanish]. Though I looked longingly at some incredible sweeties, I bought 2 liters of Coca Cola Light. There was lots and lots of booze in the store, including our old friend Damm beer and something called Buckler Sin.
We walked back up the hill, with the cokes slung between us. About halfway up, there was an excavation of a Roman villa, with an arrangement of magpies. Within the villa, there were enormous storage jars—big enough for me to crouch inside—dug into the earth to hold them upright. I assume olive oil, wine, perhaps grain could be stored inside. Maybe Jesus could turn the water into wine there.
Cypress, olives, ice plant, bay laurel—no wonder California is called “Mediterranean.”
Back at the hotel, I sat writing on the small balcony, while Ron downloaded our first batch of photos. I put the temperature at high 50s—delightful. As we sat, a fishing boat came by, looking like a Viking ship, with shields along the sides. As it came closer, we could see it was not shields but the means of hauling in the nets. I’m just as glad it wasn’t Vikings.
Gulls were sitting on the water and flying past us, laughing like children. I assume these were laughing gulls. Small sailboats were dotted around; a perfect day to sail. The Mediterranean is a beautiful deep blue, with green and sand in the shallows. Wonderful susurrus* of the waves. And towards Barcelona, a horrid brown haze hovered. [Ron asks if susurrus is that VA Indian dish with fish, beans and corn. No, says I, that’s succotash.]
We set out for a walk on the beach, walking down steps and pathways that look like those wonderful resort paths at the Grand Canyon—artfully rustic. These in Spain had just had the railing replaced by smooth 2x4s. The beach was a perfect crescent, scooping toward Cap Roig. The sand was large particles, too large to allow water to give it cohesion; our feet sank and slipped with every step. We could see the Cap had extended much further out in centuries past, but had worn down to one pyramid rising perhaps 25 feet high. We poked around, but realized that it was too rough and steep to scramble up, especially in the beginning of our trip. We followed another little crescent beach to a point where the path grew rocky again and rose sharply. There in a nook was a aged boat house belonging to the hotel next to ours, and clearly unused for many years. I collected a few rocks, shells and some sand—what is it in people that we collect memories this way?
We had supper in the hotel bar. Spaniards don’t eat dinner til quite late [8-10 pm], so we ordered Catalan ham and cheese served with country bread thinly smeared with tomato. To sleep, with the susurrus of the waves heard through the open balcony doors.