Very quickly we left the busy coastal roads and started to travel inland through a succession of dusty, terracotta coloured medieval villages all closed down for the afternoon siesta and sleeping under the shadows of their ancient churches.
Interestingly, a lot of the churches in the towns and villages of Catalonia have had to undergo extensive repair and renovation because during the Spanish Civil War this was a Republican stronghold under the control of the socialists and supported by communist funding and in the struggle with the fascist, Catholic Church backed Nationalists, many churches were pillaged, vandalised and used for alternative inappropriate purposes.
We were driving now on narrow country roads through fields of golden hay bales, rolled and drying in the sun, arable fields with crops waiting to be harvested and the occasional field of glorious sunflowers and then through rice fields in semi-marshland before we climbed again and approached the fortified medieval villages that are a feature of this part of the province of Girona.
We were heading for the village of Peratallada which it turned out is a heavily visited tourist bus destination for holidaymakers having an afternoon away from the beaches but it was quiet this afternoon as we pulled into the car park and grudgingly paid the parking fee before walking into the village.
It was nice but I couldn’t help thinking that all of a sudden I had been transported into Disney World, EPCOT World Showcase because this was an over-manicured, not a thing out of place sort of village that was beautiful to see but was hardly authentic. The cobbled streets were immaculate, the gardens would all have won gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and everything was groomed to perfection. The doors and windows were highly polished, the iron balustrades all black and shiny without a hint of rust and the steps and streets that undulated gently through the village were all swept scrupulously clean.
It was mid afternoon by now and the sun was beating down relentlessly so as much as we could we kept to the shady side of the streets as we walked around the meandering alleys until we reached the tourist heart of the village with pavement restaurants, chattering bars and a few overpriced shops and that really was all there was to do in Peratallada so we strolled slowly back to the car and plotted our route back to Caldes de Malavella.
This all looked rather straightforward on the map but what I failed to notice was that although it was only a few kilometres as the crow flies the journey involved driving over an unexpected mountain with a lot of twisting roads which increased the distance to be travelled rather considerably. Very quickly we left the long straight roads and soon we were beginning to continuously climb through a series of sweeping hairpin bends that took us ever higher and higher into the sky.
It wasn’t very helpful either when the satnav kept losing satellite reception which I found strange because at this altitude I could almost see them! For long periods I was driving without any assistance because having Kim as a navigator is like driving in a blindfold and I have to try and keep calm because at the first sign of impatience from me she descends into map panic!
Eventually we reached the top, the road levelled out and we began the descent over the other side towards the town of Casa de la Selva which was waking up after the siesta and the roads were becoming busy. At one point a beat up old truck came to a sudden and unexpected stop directly in front of me and then started to reverse into a parking spot which I was certain was far too small. I was very close and I worried he hadn’t seen me and that later when I returned the car I might gave to explain the missing headlight and the gouge down the side so I blew my horn to warn him. This had zero effect and he just kept coming so I did it again and then with the precision of a surgeon he slipped past the Volkswagen Caddy and manoeuvred perfectly into the parking spot and flashed me an indignant look for doubting his reverse parking abilities in the first place.
It was our final night in Caldes de Malavella and it was even quieter than the first two nights as we walked around the village on a hot and humid evening as black clouds raced in from the north and bullied their way into the sky. The restaurant that we had used the first two nights was closed so we walked to Vichy Catalan where the menu prices turned us straight back around again and we ended up in a back street bar where the owner was pleased to see us and although he didn’t have a menu as such he did persuade us to sit down and he prepared an impromptu meal of cuttlefish in between serving regulars at the bar.
We had enjoyed it here but after three nights it was time to move on so before going to bed we packed our bags in preparation for leaving in the morning and driving inland to the town of Vic.