Almost exactly a year to the day since the Brexit referendum I wonder if I should declare my identity-crisis at Girona airport’s passport control! I don’t, and my air-conditioned onward-bus purrs comfortably through sultry evening sunshine to Hotel Alegria Nautic Park in Platja d’Aro, the first of several quaint coastal locations on my packed, three-day itinerary.
A Catalan supper in the hotel’s poolside restaurant, with a shimmering sun sinking behind the magnificent Pyrenees, is an enticing aperitif before tomorrow’s short stroll into town.
Lined with soaring palms, the spotlessly clean pavements are decorated with nautical engravings - mermaids, rippling waves, seaweed, King Neptune.
Platja d’Aro, once a small fishing village, is now a busy Mediterranean resort.
Substantial archaeological remains of a Roman Villa and Spa confirm the town’s long-enduring popularity, where seekers of sand, sea and sun are always guaranteed to be on cloud nine - though clouds in the ever-blue sky are a rarity!
A sculpted life-size (ubiquitous!) mermaid guards the golden sands of Platja Gran beach where over a mile of multi-sized bathers wearing multitudinous styles of swimwear recline under multi-coloured parasols.
My beautiful German guide came to Costa Brava 18 years ago and stayed.
“I like the sea and sun,” she smiles in full agreement with the beach’s multinational throng.
It’s World Gin Day so we sip an icy Bramble cocktail, tip a euro to a tattooed snake-charmer, and peruse El Racó de l’Epi’s mouth-watering menu in one of the host of extraordinarily fine, local restaurants.
“We know it’s old because the middle is gone,” explains Martí Darnaculleta, standing in the hollow trunk of an almost 1,000-year-old olive tree.
Trees are the pride of his ‘Celler Mas Eugeni’ vineyard in Calonge - vine trees for his distinctive Fondils and Vella Lola wines; cork-oaks for their corks and olive trees for his expanding olive oil production.
Martí is equally proud of his centuries-old family tree.
Dinner later in the Aradi Restaurant in Platja d’Aro is memorable.
Translating as ‘lamb cooked over a low temperature with onions and roast sweetbreads’ the main course is uniquely delicious.
“This is a lovely place,” guide Gloria Lomas understates next day in former fishermen’s village Tossa de Mar.
Gloria points out the 1st-Century BC Roman villa of Ametllers and walks the steep, twisting, cobbled path through the emblematic, breathtakingly beautiful, 13th-century walled Vila Vella, the ‘old town of Tossa’.
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman was filmed here in 1950 and an Ava Gardner statue gazes longingly over the ramparts for James Mason!
Jet-boats from Tossa beach (see Platja Gran beach mentioned above, except smaller!) sail to Lloret de Mar, passing tree-shrouded summer residences perched on the rugged, rocky cliffs above the teal-coloured Mediterranean.
Restaurant Romaní’s award-winning mini tarts, tapas and traditional fillet of duck with pears herald my visit to Lloret de Mar’s spectacular hill-side Jardins de Santa Clotilde where self-confessed ‘cocktail mixologist’ Manuel demonstrates the preparation of a traditional Daiquiri - “the way Ernest Hemingway liked them!”
Ernest would also have loved the NM Suites Hotel over in Platja d’Aro with three styles of glitzy, ‘new concept’ rooms, some with private-balcony pools!
Next on my itinerary is historic, amazing, beautiful Girona with its ancient Cathedral, a Jewish Quarter with Irish links, the Arab baths, and a D.I.Y gastronomical extravaganza called the Local Market - all of which will shortly get a full page in the News Letter!