After leaving the too-perfect beauty of Pals, we needed a new place to overnight. Despite the lack of warmth, we decided to head back to the coast and spend a night at the beach. We chose a secluded parking spot at the end of a dusty track at El Mas Pinell beach ( 42.018222, 3.192852 ) and squeezed in between the dog-walking day trippers. Our chosen route in was a sandy trail, rough and pitted, but we later discovered the much better road in from the north, tarmacked most of the way, that would have saved us a few bumps. But we were practically on the beach here, thirty seconds stroll from the sea, so all was well. (bar the weather). We walked the sands, tentatively testing the sea with our toes, but not braving a swim. At least initially. After a return to Benny and to fill ourselves with tea and bravado, we returned to the sea for a splash around and the briefest of dips. The wind ripped the heat from us all too quickly and we retreated back to Benny to regain our warmth.
One by one our single-use beach friends peeled away, and we were alone by early evening. This left us free to enjoy a sun-setting walk with the soft sound of the lapping waves as our only companion. We collected a few pieces of smooth, white driftwood with thoughts of fashioning door handles or stool legs from them, in some mythical future existence where we become competent at wood-working. We rose early in the morning and walked our tea mugs along the beach, lapping up the solitude, before making the decision to move again. We were definitely feeling restless on this trip, unrooted. We drove away from the coast, via the much better northern road, and turned north to visit the popular tourist town of Roses. We had skipped around it last time we were in the Costa Brava, instead heading straight to Cadaqués. With no formed expectations we were a little surprised by what we found.
We parked easily in a free car-park ( 42.266346, 3.166726 ) near to the walled Citadella de Roses and walked into the centre. Roses was much bigger than we thought, with an expansive crescent of golden beach lined with all manner of shops and apartments. It looked much more like the Spain of package tours, Costa del Sol and drunken tourists than anywhere else we had visited in the Costa Brava. Behind the glossy façade lay a maze of tiny streets and small plazas filled with snacky restaurants and pubs touting for customers. The car parks were filled with foreign cars, mostly French, Italian and Swiss, with the local Spanish looking to have skipped town for the holidays. We walked as far as the marina and returned the same way, eyeing up the beach and the frothing sea, but again turning down an opportunity to swim.
Instead we drove a short way south along the coast to reach the town of Empuriabrava where we parked in a scruffy, quirky free aire ( 42.258463, 3.115425 ) that was almost full. The marked spaces were over-wide, much too generous, almost like a campsite. We and two other adjacent vans parked right in the centre of our bays and later found two other vans had sneaked in between us. There was still ample room for all of us. We had a short exploratory walk around the nearby streets. The whole town was based on strips of water, with each house having a road to the front and a boat to the rear, offering a very different feel to anywhere we’d visited before. The following morning we went for a run through the bright streets and down to the beach, exploring around mini-marinas and curved avenues, eyeing up which style of house we’d prefer from the plethora of choice.
We ran out to a small marker at the end of a jetty. The sea was crashing wildly against the rocks, with large waves rolling through the protected narrow opening of the town’s waters. We watched several small craft try to breach the waves and escape to open sea, only to be repelled back to the calm waters to think again. One larger vessel, lifeboat sized, bounced strongly through the crests, impressively catching metres of air between each successive wave. I was glad to be watching rather than on board; the passengers must have been shaken to the core. We continued our run along the beach then back a different route, still gaping at the extent of this mini-Venice. It was an interesting maze of affluent neighbourhoods and waterways, not at all similar to the tourist trappings of Roses.