It is easy to oversleep behind wooden shutters that blot out all daylight and the next morning we woke way beyond our normal wake up time and had breakfast on the pavement as the temperature began steadily to rise.
Even in Spain it seems it can be difficult to make plans based on the weather but with the benefit of hindsight we would probably have organised this trip in reverse because for the first few days when we visited the beaches there was a lot of cloud and temperatures were little more than average but now that we proposing to visit the cities the temperatures were predicted to reach almost forty degrees.
So we decided to rearrange the itinerary and return again to the seaside and this time visit L’Escala at the southern end of the Bay of Roses. L’Escala is the town that I had dismissed as the Farol of Norman Lewis so it would be interesting to test my theory because at another time it may have possible to find evidence that points towards this alternative suggestion.
It was only a short journey to the coast and almost completely uneventful until we spotted a field of sunflowers that Kim wanted to stop and photograph. I don’t know what it is about sunflowers but they do seem to excite visitors from Northern Europe, it is probably the spectacle of thousands of happy waving heads in contrast to the solitary one or two that we grow in our own gardens usually with disappointing weedy results. This is because as their name suggests they need the sun and that is something that is not too plentiful or reliable in England.
I left the road and parked the car on a dirt track and I didn’t see a problem with that because it didn’t appear to go anywhere in particular and then we disappeared into the field to take our pictures. Suddenly there was an almighty commotion and an irate woman was shouting and gesticulating and demanding that we move the car.
Wow, she was in a real temper and only after I had apologised several times, bent myself double in a penitent sort of way and beamed at her with a cheerful face as big as any of the sunflowers in the field did her fierce countenance break into a reluctant and belated smile as I moved over and let her pass. For the next few minutes my ears were burning and I don’t think that it had anything to do with the sun.
Satisfied with our photographic efforts we completed the last few kilometres to L’Escala, parked the car and walked through the tangled knot of narrow streets of what I imagine was once the old town towards the seafront. It was quiet and it was relaxed and I knew immediately that I liked the place and we came to the sea with a statue commemorating what L’Escala was once famous for – sardine fishing because before tourism and hotels, before glass bottomed boats and pedalos, before yachts and marinas this was once a thriving fishing village and the most important catch was the sardine or the anchovy.
From the statue we walked along a causeway overlooking a rocky sealine where gulls and cormorants searched for fish and fishermen snorkelled with nasty looking harpoons which I imagine made this a no go area for recreational swimming and on towards the sandy beach and the marina to the south where to my horror Kim spotted a street market and I knew that we would be sucked right in.
It was horrible in there, really horrible, with rows and rows of stalls that went on seemingly forever with people pushing and shoving and traders shouting and bullying and there was no way out left or right and so feeling giddy and the palms of my hands sweating with fear I just had to keep going . Eventually we broke through the overhead canopies into daylight and I thought maybe it was all over but this respite was only temporary and after a short break it carried on. At this point however Kim excused me from the ordeal so I went and found a bar at the edge of the sand and twenty minutes later we were both happy because I had enjoyed a cool Estrella and Kim had bagged a couple of bargains.
It seemed only right now to find somewhere for a plate of sardines so we left the busy tourist beach and made our way back to the old town where we found a suitable looking place and a plate of the local speciality before returning to the car and moving north a little way along the coast to the small village of Sant Martí d’Empúries.
Being the weekend this delightful place was absolutely swarming with people and I am sure that most of the population of nearby Figueres had left the city for a day at the beach. It was a good thing that we had eaten in L’Escala because there was no chance of a table in the busy Plaza Mayor but we managed to grab a table at a lively beach bar to have a cold drink before taking a short swim in the sea. To be honest it was far too crowded to be comfortable so we didn’t stay long and after we had brushed the sand from our burning feet we returned to the small village and its handful of sights.
Some say that this is the earliest inhabited place along the Costa Brava but the real reason it seems that it all looks so immaculate is because it was given a serious makeover in preparation for the Barcelona Olympics when Sant Martí d’Empúries was the place that received the Olympic Flame that was brought in from the sea, I assume directly from Mount Olympus.
On the subject of Greece, very close by here is the archaeological site of Empúries that was established here in the sixth century B.C. by Greek traders and settlers but I wasn’t that confident of getting to see it because of Kim’s recent travelling revelation that she doesn’t really like ancient ruins so I chose not to mention it and I caught the suggestion in the back of my throat before it came spilling out.