Letter From Europe 1: A Room With A View
A brief hiatus in service there while I spent the weekend pottering in the countryside. I hadn’t intended to spend it sleeping next door to Europe’s largest Battle of Waterloo model, but you know how these things turn out. Said vast model, the work of some twenty years, survives in a converted castle in Southern Spain, which now mainly hosts Dutch weddings. But the unexpected was, it turned out, to be expected everywhere we went.
The Costa Brava still carries connotations of the 1970s package holiday. Erroneously, for the English have moved on and the coast has been reclaimed by locals and the French, who live just across the border, but it’s the inland area that amazes anyway.
Between the rugged, rocky coastline and the Pyrenees mountains, there are more stunning ancient villages like Pals and Begur than you’ll ever find in Provence – and without the coachloads of tourists who disfigure the equivalent French destinations. The landscape is by turns both English and inescapably Spanish, lush and fertile thanks to fierce sun and storms.
You need a car, boots and a translation app called WordLens for the unapologetic Catalan menus. Touring is easy – there are few cars on the road – restaurants are sophisticated and discreet – and the surprises keep coming. We met a man who renovates extraordinary clocks and automata, and who had just restored a yellow Victorian pianola, found odd museums from ceramics to toys, and ate beneath olive trees in a thunderstorm, periodically blinded by the swinging glare of a lighthouse.
We drove although you can get there via Girona through the accursed Ryanair. Oh, and wherever you stay, you’re likely to get a Room With A View.