img_0085-1.jpg spain-2008-39.JPG spain-2008-51.JPG

To break up a long winter we decided we would try out a trip to the Spanish Costa Brava. We had not visited mainland Spain before and the warmer weather it enjoys in the early months of the year had a certain appeal. We headed south from Calais, down to Toulouse and eastwards to Narbonne, then straight down the motorway (A9) to the border and Spain. After crossing the mountains the weather was immediately warmer and drier and we left the motorway at Junction 5 and headed for l’Estartit and our campsite.

The campsite proved to be a good choice – it was small by Spanish standards (about 160 pitches), in the countryside, ten minutes walk from the beach and thirty from the village. We had cycle routes on the doorstep and visited nearby Torroella (a small town) and explored the coastline which had a large nature reserve. The clifftop walks from l’Estartit gave spectacular views over the Medes Islands which are a bird sanctuary. The rosemary which grew wild was in flower and the scent wafted across the hillside. On our cycle rides we passed orchards of almond trees covered in pink blossom.

img_0098-1.jpg spain-2008-67.JPG

We decided to visit Gerona which was only about twenty five miles away. We managed to park, even though the carparks were very full, and crossed the footbridge into the old part of the town. It was a Monday so a lot of the shops were closed, but it meant we had good views of the buildings along the narrow streets. We spent some time wandering through the warren of streets and alleyways and eventually found the end of the original town wall. This has been restored and has a pathway along the top. It was quite high and the views were very good – you had a much better feel of the layout of the city from there. Near its end we came upon an area of gardens which were nicely laid out and had been incorporated into the old part of the wall. It was peaceful there and had an almost monastic feel to it.


After a week we decided to head for Blanes so that we could get a train into Barcelona. On the way we visited the tiny medieval village of Pals. It had been beautifully restored and must be a tourist hot spot in the summer but we were early and there were few people about. We enjoyed exploring the tiny streets on our own and took lots of photos.

From our site at Blanes we travelled by bus and train to Barcelona. I was not prepared for the immense size of this city. As with all cities it was full of hustle and bustle. We visited the tourist office and found that the many places of interest were widely spread – to maximise what we saw we decided to take the expensive tourist bus pass option (20 euros each for a day). We spent a couple of hours riding on this bus but at least we saw a lot of places which we would not have even found by ourselves. The buildings and monuments were very impressive but I found it too much to take in during one day. We left the bus at the Columbus Tower and walked along the harbour front to Port Vell – it was very modern looking and very impressive. We had a walk up La Rambla which reputedly is full of market stalls but there were not that many; possibly because the weather was on the cool side. Part way up we discovered a covered market – it was buzzing with people. The stalls held an impressive display of fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs. The smells, sounds and colours were exciting and intoxicating. The images will stay with me forever.

spain-2008-2-73.JPG spain-2008-2-61.JPG spain-2008-2-40.JPG

After our visit we decided to return to l’Estartit for a few days and thought it would be a good idea to take the longer coastal route. It was a good choice – the road was spectacular; winding its way up and down the cliff edge past Tossa de Mar to Sant Feliu with wonderful views of the bays and coves. Nearing our destination we took a slight detour to visit la Bisbal d’Emporda, a town famous for its pottery. It was market day so we had difficulty parking but were impressed with the huge amount of pottery for sale in the shops – all at reasonable prices.


Our second week at l’Estartit was as enjoyable as our first. We were very excited one morning to find a Hoopoe walking about near the Camper – it is a most unusual bird. Our last couple of days on the site gave us a taste of the extreme wind that can blow in this area. It did not stop; day and night it blew – rocking the camper, even though we had a sheltered pitch. It was still blowing hard when we left. Heading towards Girona, Banyoles and Olot I wondered if it would be the same in the mountains, but after a few miles it disappeared and the sun came out. The road into the hills was a good one – it had been upgraded to motorway. We had a stop at Besalu which we had been told was a walled town. The approach over a stone bridge was quite picturesque and there were walkways and narrow alleys to explore.

As we moved inland the hills around became steeper and we entered the volcanic area around Olot. We circled Olot and took a back road towards Santa Pau and our campsite positioned about a mile above the village. The site had several permanent caravans on it but these were unoccupied. During our three night stay we saw only a dozen other campers although there were several workmen preparing the site for the season ahead. The surroundings were wooded and very pleasant, and the facilities clean and modern.

Whilst at this site we had a pleasant walk downhill into Santa Pau – another medieval village which is undergoing renovation. The weather was warm and sunny. There are 32 extinct volcanoes in this area – they are covered in vegetation which makes the whole area very pleasing to the eye. We spent one morning walking up one volcano called Santa Margarida. The walk was very wooded and had good views on the way up. An item of interest we saw on our walk was a string of brown furry caterpillars crossing the road. They were joined, head to tail, and the string was about four metres long. Most unusual. We walked around the rim of the volcano. The path was steep in places but very wooded and pleasant. The only downside being that the dense woodland blocked any views out into the countryside. From the rim we dropped down into the deep crater which had a flat grassy centre in which stood a small chapel. It seemed a strange place to build a place of worship – perhaps, originally, there had been dwellings there as well.


We enjoyed our lunch in relative peace but then two large parties of walkers arrived so we decided to head back to the campsite. This was an area well worth returning to – lots of walks and beautiful countryside.

Next day we left – to head homewards. The Pyrenees were covered with snow and glistened in the sunlight. I am sure we will return one day.

This entry was posted in Spain. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.