Any mention of the Spanish costas inevitably conjures up images of package holidays and busy beaches in the shadow of high-rise hotels.
But although the Costa Brava, in the north-eastern corner of Spain, was a popular package holiday destination for Brits 50 years ago, it’s easy to escape the cafés offering English fry-ups. On a recent trip we found the area awash with glorious coves harbouring quaint beaches, wild rocky coastlines overlooking a sea-green Mediterranean, tasteful small resorts full of boutique hotels and open-air restaurants serving up fish just plucked from the sea. Even better, the region – Catalonia – is the home of cava, the sparkling white wine that is Spain’s answer to champagne.
We discovered that much of the Costa Brava remains a largely unspoilt corner of Spain, popular with the Spanish but less well-trodden by others. We chose Calonge as our base. In the foothills of the Pyrenees, it’s a pretty medieval town a few miles inland from the coast, about 40km from Girona and 115km from Barcelona. Our villa, Casa Maxilla, was perched on the side of a steep hill just outside town. Its ultra-modern decor and glorious infinity pool were matched only by the view from its endless windows – velvety pine-covered forests sloping down to meet the sea. It was a panorama of which we never grew tired during our week-long stay.
Calonge old town is a maze of narrow streets that occasionally open out into squares, such as those near the well-preserved medieval castle, with its zigzag-topped ramparts and imposing 18th-century Sant Martí church. We finished an early evening stroll taking in the sights with tapas at the busy Cercle Calongi restaurant. Its outdoor terrace was full of locals enjoying the warmth of a summer’s evening.
Most days, we’d venture out to explore some of the quaint beaches for which the area is famous. Platja del Canadell, a quiet corner of the pretty town of Calella de Palafrugell, is a small Blue Flag beach flanked by a pretty promenade of 19th-century villas. We unfurled our beach towels and lazed in the late afternoon sun, occasionally negotiating the slippery rocks on the shore to take a dip in the Med.