Costa Brava, Spain (July 2015)

For part 2 of our Spain adventure, we set our sights on the Costa Brava region of Spain.  I selected the small, medieval town of Begur for our base.  It’s about 2 hours or slightly less away from Barcelona (see map below).

We picked up our rental car in Barcelona rather than head out to the airport (in the wrong direction).  That part went fine.  I should have bought a map instead of relying solely on my GPS but we eventually got there.  (After realizing my rookie mistake of having toll roads turned off on the GPS, a leftover from my UK days.  We got to see some unexpected country side.  🙂 )

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Talk about a major change of pace!  After the hustle/bustle of Barcelona, we slowed way down.  We arrived around 2pm with a few hours to kill before checking in to our villa at 4pm.  The whole place was pretty much shut down for siesta time.  Time to relax!

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We made a few day trips to Figueres and Girona but we mainly stayed in town, took some walks in the morning and chilled by the pool in the afternoon.  All this with our good friends from England, the Connells.  It was great to spend the week with them.

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Our home for the week was “La Chumbera“, shown above.  It was a little “tired” and certainly not fancy but it was well located, had enough room, a great pool, a passable grill and lots of outdoor seating.  On the downside, it didn’t have A/C (which we knew about) and not enough fans to go around to all the bedrooms.  The WiFi was more miss than hit which was a little frustrating as well.  All in all though, we were all satisfied.

The days wonderfully melded together so I won’t give a day-by-day blow but rather I’ll highlight the various activities.

A Walk into Town — Begur Castle

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One day early in the week, all 7 of us walked into town to explore the “square” and walk up to the castle.  The map above isn’t that helpful if you haven’t been to Begur but the red line is what we did.  We walked down from our neighborhood, crossed a park and then hiked back up into town (it is a bit hillly).  From town we walked farther up the hill to the castle.  We completed the loop and took a slightly different way back through town.  About 4 miles in total.

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On the road around to the castle, a quick peek of the Mediterranean Sea. Begur is 3-4 km (couple of miles) from the water. We would hike to various beaches later in the week.
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a different view of the sea with a little haze on this day
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Mas d’en Pinc — a Catalan farmhouse with a fortification tower. Owned during the 1960s by a famous flamenco dancer; it now belongs to the Begur Town Council.
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the kids, with the sun at their back, atop Begur Castle
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sea view from castle
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hey, there’s La Chumbera (our villa), with a little zoom, from the castle

Back at the Villa

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our sea view from the villa
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the castle from our villa
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Begur village/town
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sun rise from the villa

Figueres — the Salvidor Dalí Museum

Prominent Spanish surrealist painter Salvidor Dalí was born in Figueres which is about 90 minutes up the road from Begur (Dalí wiki).  He decided to turn the Figueres Theater, which had been severely damaged during the Spanish Civil war, into a museum dedicated to, well, himself.  Though not the most modest gesture, it has worked out well for the town (city?) that draws many visitors to the museum.  We joined the masses for one of our day trips.

The museum is very unique.  As you know, we are not really “art” people and this surrealist stuff is hard to grasp for us knuckle-dragging engineers.  I read that Dalí felt that if you needed help interpreting his work, then basically you weren’t worthy.  Well, I guess we weren’t worthy.  It would have been nice to have some of the history and backstory (and, yes, some of the interpretation) to help us understand it better.  I think we would have gotten more out of it then.  As it was, it was still an interesting day out.

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Museum entrance
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Dalí statue out front with some “Oscars” on the roof
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the courtyard in the center of the museum (the rest was indoors)
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need a little help with this one
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interesting ceiling shot, presumably a play of sorts on the Sistine Chapel but I really haven’t a clue

A second part of the museum, in a different building, housed some of Dalí’s jewelry designs. Nicole grabbed a view snapshots on her phone.

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this bedazzled lips seemed to be famous
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as did the long-legged elephant
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crown jewels? ruby heart?

Walk to Sa Riera

There are a number of small beaches and coves around Begur which makes it a particularly nice base.  Andrea and I set out to walk to the closest one, Sa Riera, the next morning.

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It’s the blue trail above; pretty much a straight shot north through some nice woods.  We had a hard time finding the trail head (operator error X 2) but we got there.

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I even had my geeky GPS.  Just over 4 miles round trip from the house.  600′ downhill to the beach and 600′ back up.

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Looking back up the beach at Sa Riera — the sand here was very coarse. Our early start beat the crowds (and helped with the heat).
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another Sa Riera shot
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and one of the calm waters w/ 1 swimmer (and Andrea touching the Med)

A Note about Dinners

One nice aspect of the villa was our ability to casually eat in.  I enjoyed venturing to the local grocery and with a valiant team effort we ate in all but the last night.  Derek manned the barely adequate (open) grill and I took care of the rest.  We ate burgers/sausages, chicken, fish, paella (sort of) and various meats/cheeses supplemented with fruit, vege, and salad.  It was great; all the better with the great company!

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and here’s that great company: Nicole, Alex (with his mouth full), Kuk, Annabel, Derek and Andrea with the lovely Begur in the background

Aiguafreda/Sa Tuna

We aren’t really beach people so there wasn’t a huge pull to get to the beach, particularly with our own pool.  However, we did want to continue to check them out during our morning walks.  On the next morning, Derek and Kuk joined Andrea and me for a walk to Aiguafreda and Sa Tuna via Begur.  We left the kids to sleep in and roll into the pool when they felt like it.

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This is the “pink” walk on the map above.  Again, probably not that helpful, but you can see we are checking out the next main coves.

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A little over 5 miles this time and about the same down and up from before since neither the house nor the sea changed elevation!

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can’t remember where I took this, but you can see we had some overcast skies — good for walking!
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Aiguafreda — very clear waters; not much of a beach to speak of but more for snorkeling and water activities
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the crew at Aiguafreda
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me and my sweetie (and our hats)
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another view of Aiguafreda as we walk up and over to the next cove
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looking back to Aiguafreda — not very big at all
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we made it to the next cove over: Sa Tuna

In all honesty, we should have kept going a little bit farther around the coast but we decided to head back instead.   I was unnecessarily worried about the kids since I didn’t know how long it would take to get back and I didn’t want them to freak out (we didn’t sort out the workable phones before leaving).  Oh well. It turns out we made really good time coming back (going out was a little trickier until we fully figured out the signage) and we even had time for coffee in town.

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a view from the other side of the castle that we saw on our way back
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some more group shots at dinner that night with the Med in background
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and another one with Begur in the background

Girona

Our next day trip took us to the city of Girona (pop. ~100,000) with its city walls and Gothic architecture.   We opted for, yes, another walking tour.  This one was led by the Tourism Info Center and a very passionate guide, Anna, who was very proud of her city.

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view of Girona across one of the rivers near the start of the tour
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along the river Onyar (?)
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and another (both river shots taken by Nicole)
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the “lioness” that one is supposed to kiss for good luck and happy returns
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not everyone likes every walking tour

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Girona’s gothic cathedral entrance (we didn’t go in this time)
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witch gargoyle — legend has it she wouldn’t stop shouting nasties at people so she was turned to stone
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a different view of the cathedral
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and another

Though I didn’t blast you with a bunch of photos from Girona, we did have a good time. We had a nice lunch and some ice cream after the tour and then headed back to the pool.

More Coastal Walks: Aiguablava

On our last day, the adults decided to do one more coastal walk.  This was started a little farther away in Aiguablava (we drove there) and then proceeded up the coast to Fornells, Platja Fonda and most of the way to Cap De Begur (though we may have technically stopped short).

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Had a decent climb up from the beach to get to the viewpoint before turning around.  Just shy of 4 miles but a little more vertical than before (and warmer).

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Aiguablava before the crowds. Though still not large, this was the closest to our definition of a beach with fine sand.
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looking out from Aiguablava into the sun and water
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looking back after climbing out; notice the clear water (and empty beach)
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a little higher, looking back over the rooftops
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a nice, little harbor nearby
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this infinity pool was really cool; I think it was for hotel guests only though
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we’ve done a bit of climbing, that’s for sure
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a couple of fancy houses on the point
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odd to see the fog (or low clouds) roll in while we were there
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the hardy hikers with the “fog” in the background
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my turn
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and the two of us–pretty cool shot
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another with the eery fog
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a pensive, or at least resting, Derek
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Catalonia flag as we are walking back
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looking back at our foggy hill (glad we got some unobstructed views in as well)
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Wow — the beach filled up while we were gone. Not much sand left.

We did manage to eat out one night; at least the adults did!  We decided to treat ourselves to a nice night out at Restaurante Aiguaclara.  The food was outstanding (maybe even better than Hisop) and the service and atmosphere were perfect.  Great night out with 2 great friends.

I had the “puff pastry with wild mushrooms” and suckling pig (positions 4 & 5 below).  Everyone was happy with their choices.
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Summary

As you can probably tell, we had a wonderfully relaxing holiday and a great visit with the Connells.  The laid back nature of the trip combined with the great company really suited as well.  It’s too bad we are thousands of miles apart, but I certainly look forward to our next co-vacation wherever that may be.

Two more photos below that adequately sum up the week:

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BFF’s

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Each girl is sporting their own Derby High GCSE class of 2015 shirts with all the girls’ names.  I thought it was really nice of the class to include Nicole who schooled with them for 3 years but only 6 months or so at GCSE levels.  Nicely done!

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