In Aigua Blava, for example, the path from the hotel
to the public beach involves a 20-minute walk down two
flights of stairs, a climb up several more, a zigzag through a
neighbor’s patio — the first time I went by she had the door
open and was making lunch — a long dirt path, several more
flights of stairs, a tunnel, another path, a footbridge and,
finally, a steep, wooden stairway.
As they say in Spanish — vale la pena It’s worth it.
The beach is quiet, the water crystalline. A couple of
small restaurants serve tapas and sandwiches and beer.
Small umbrellas can be rented. As can paddleboards.
The following days flowed in a rhythm of morning at
the swimming pool (hotel), afternoon at the beach (Aigua
Blava or the nearby towns of Llafranc and Calella de
Palafrugell) and evening dinner in Begur, a medieval town
of 4,000 that sits on a rocky knob 1,000 feet upward and 15
minutes by road from our hotel.
Begur is a popular summer destination for Barcelonans and
to satisfy their urban palates it abounds in sophisticated restaurants. Visitors, such as ourselves, have discovered the town, but
its tight streets and pocket-size plazas have yet to be overrun
with English and Russian tourists (as are the beach towns south
of Barcelona). Think of it as Mill Valley compared to Sausalito.
Our favorite meal in Begur came our first night there,
when we arrived late and without reservations. A conversa-
tion with a young couple who were closing their shop directed
us to Rostei — and better travel advice we’ve never had.
A large stone terrace at the rear of the restaurant overlooks
the town, the peaks of the surrounding hills and a neighboring
vineyard that belongs to the owner’s son, the source of the tart
sauvignon blanc that accompanied a scrumptious dinner of
watermelon, tomato and mozzarella salad; ceviche of scallops;
bacalao with white beans and bits of Iberian ham; and an entire
baked turbot. The coup de grâce was delivered on the house by
the owner — strawberries coated with thick, dark chocolate.
As I did in the stupefied wake of so many meals we consumed
in Barcelona and along the Costa Brava, I made the precipitous
drive down from Begur to my hotel thinking I’d never eat again.
But, of course, I did. Just hours before we boarded our
outbound plane from Barcelona to Frankfurt and back to
San Francisco, my wife and I were at Bar Lobos, a modern,
animated tapas place a couple of blocks off La Rambla, attacking another plate of padrones, oohing over slices of eggplant
drizzled with honey, draining another bottle of Rioja riserva
and doing our best to ensure that we would at least remember
forever the calories, if not the culture, of Catalunya. M
Le Méridien Barcelona, lemeridienbarcelona.com
Tapas 24, carlesabellan.es
BEGUR, AIGUA BLAVA
Hotel Aigua Blava, hotelaiguablava.com
IF YOU GO