Lucky Girona residents have the best of both worlds it seems-easy access to scenic mountain landscapes, and a short drive to a dizzying array of fine beaches, bays and coves that even Robinson Crusoe wouldn’t say no to.
When you heap praise on Catalan friends, regaling them on their wondrous naturally sculpted heritage, they often simply shrug their shoulders. A complacent, satisfying but proud acceptance is how I see it. Many have their own favourite sandy escape, closely guarded secrets with names I’ve never heard of. Tiny, charming and hard to access coves that prompt ‘wow I never knew about this place’.
As an outsider there’s the thrill of visiting and experiencing individual beach locations. Holidays are fine for that and the Costa Brava has prospered enormously.
We first encountered Calella de Palafrugell when we toured Catalonia while on our holidays, way back in 2001. These days we’re avid fans of its annual music festival (July/August) at Cap Roig, an old botanical garden. Facing the sea, the grounds are transformed into an outdoor auditorium, and many famous faces have appeared here, including Tom Jones, Sting and Elton John. Not to be outdone, there are also plenty of Catalan and Spanish artists featured.
One way you can enter is via nearby Palafrugell, a modestly sized ordinary looking working town, handy for stopping for supermarket supplies, and possibly resupplying your drinks cabinet. It has a huge warehouse sized shed, Vins i Licors Grau selling wines across all price ranges, by the bottle or by the case. We were also here once to see its spring festival full of colourful carnival floats, music and costumes.
Further northwards the coastline gets craggier, more impressive and more expensive. Resorts like Begur link to ever smaller, exclusive postage stamp places like Sa Riera, Aiguablava and Tamariu. Mention to friends that you have a place in any of them and don’t be surprised by raised eyebrows.
The last time we came to Calella was to discover one of its scenic coastal paths. We started with good intentions, but it wasn’t long before an attractive beachside restaurant loomed ahead. The lunch light bulb came on, and we didn’t need too much encouragement to stop. After all, when the sun shines, thoughts turn to more culinary matters. We’ll do that walk next time.
There are plenty of holiday apartment blocks and houses set back from the beach and spreading up into the hilly areas above. Thankfully there’s little in the way of high rises or interfering commercialism. Also absent (as far as I can tell) are any obvious signs of tackiness and ‘cheap and nasty’ parts to avoid. Of course, there are hotels and camping areas but younger party goers looking for any nightlife will be disappointed.
If you work your way down to the seafront and along the beach you’ll see a number of small coves that are a great part of its appeal, all close to each other. Platja del Canadell is a popular spot. Others further along include Platja de Malaspina, Platja de les Barques and Platja d’En Calau all next to each other. Thankfully, they’re all close to shops, cafes and bars in town.
The next one along is Platja Port Pelegri (below) which has steps down to the sand, and a restaurant (Fiego) a stone’s throw from the water.
The swanky beachfront in Calella is largely traffic free and full of shops and eateries, attracting evening diners and strollers taking the evening air-well worth staying for some late entertainment. Summertime evenings this stretch also has a smattering of stalls selling local crafts and jewellery.
For a small, picturesque, charming and popular Catalan resort it offers plenty of handy beach-hopping options to fill your day, if that’s your thing.
Out of season Calella is deathly quiet with few people and empty streets, the only plus being plentiful parking. Some of the beachfront cafes open only on weekends, making a winter visit worthwhile, especially when it’s sunny.