Simple Sunny Timariu is my Catch of the Year
Occasionally in this bicontinental life of mine, I have a week to spare with no commitments on either continent. I love it when this happens! Domestic flights within Europe are ridiculously cheap, which means I don't have to think twice when I have a void in my calendar. I can be anywhere on the continent within a few hours, and after a very rainy month in the Netherlands, I was ready for some sunshine. My friend Shannon happened to have a business conference in Barcelona during my limbo week and bingo! We had a match. Come a bit early! I said, I’ll find us somewhere affordable to hang-out for a few days. Shannon flew into Barcelona from Vancouver, I, from Amsterdam and together we boarded a bus heading north.
To live up to my promise of something affordable, I had booked us a random beach hotel for a few days, about 100 kilometres up the coast from Barcelona. I wasn’t sure what the Costa Brava would provide for a beach holiday in October, but we were about to find out.
We arrived in Timariu at dusk, dropped our bags in our room and made our way to the roof terrace of Hotel Hostalillo, where we ordered tapas and drinks in the warm evening air, and sat murmuring our disbelief to each other that we had discovered paradise, quite by accident. Our little fishing village was a curve of whitewashed buildings, separated from the sea by a perfect crescent of sand. Our hotel was set off just to one side of the bay, and below us, at the shoreline, a signpost indicated that the coastal trail, GR92, marched right across our breakfast terrace.
We slept with our door open to the sea breeze and the sound of the waves lapping at the sand, and in the morning we sat seaside and munched on warm pastries and tropical fruit while we chatted about our day. Shall we start with a swim at that wee beach just below our room? Explore our village? We opted for a one-way hike toward the south. We'd eat a leisurely lunch along the way, stop when we'd had enough hiking, and take the coastal bus back to our new home for a swim, or a siesta!
The path was rugged, but easy to navigate once we learned the code; tell-tale red and white stripes painted onto rocks or trees. Two parallel stripes meant straight-on, a right-angle indicated a left, or right turn, and a slash through the stripes shouted wrong way, go back! We zig-zagged up and down cliff walls, scrambled across rocky outcroppings, and wandered across idyllic hidden beaches. We were giddy with our tropical find.
A couple of hours into the hike, we ran out of drinking water. Where there should have been an al fresca beach cafe, there was only an empty patio with a few drips of water coming from a tap. Ascending the winding trail from the beach, we met another party. Have you come from Llafranc? I asked. Yes, only another hour or so, was the answer. Is there somewhere to find water? We held up our empty bottles. Uh – well, everything is closed due to the general strike. General strike? We’d missed that memo. No restaurants, no taxis, no busses. We had not planned a return hike into our day. I was dehydrated, and my legs were protesting another climb.
We powered on hoping a solution would find us, but we were, after all, in Catalonia. Yes, that Catalonia. The one that wants independence from Spain. The one throwing spontaneous general strikes and protests. To be honest, at the time that I booked my flight, I didn’t even know I was going there, let alone landing during the week of the independence vote that went wrong. Of course, I knew I was going to Spain, and I knew I was going to Barcelona, what I missed, (yes, it is time to brush up on my Spanish geography) is that Barcelona IS Catalonia. I know that now.
We arrived in Llafranc worn-out from our long, dry hike, and asked around in vain for public transport, not today, General Strike!, was the constant mantra. Finally, a woman came to our rescue – I’ll drive you, she said with a British accent, I'm Sophia, come with me. We walked a few hundred metres to a walled villa. As we approached, a gate swung open to reveal a palm-lined patio, an infinity pool tucked away into the hillside, and, parked in the driveway, a very comfortable looking Lexus sedan. Phew! Oasis complete. We sat around the pool with our new friend, rehydrating over stories, and travel tips, before she drove us back to Timariu. Note to self: Be a kind stranger to weary women.
We spent the next few days walking the coastline until we were happily exhausted. I swam in the warm sea, drank a fair amount of chilled vino blanco and read from my new book, What's up with Catalonia? Each evening we watched the sun set while choosing between Paella and Fresh Catch of the Day.
I would be naïve to think Timariu is undiscovered. During my explorations of the town, I found a large campsite, about a dozen restaurants, a couple of small grocery stores, a bakery, and many signs clipped to shuttered windows announcing En Lloguer (For Rent). All of this infrastructure is there for a reason, and I’m guessing that during the summer it might be difficult to find a spot for my beach blanket. But in Autumn, it's my kind of place. The Costa Brava in October, it turns out, is the perfect beach holiday.
Hover over the pictures (or choose landscape on mobile) for more pictures of our adventure.