On one of our walks in Dijleland, among numerous topics that crop up in our discussions, I once mentioned the concept of selective memory. This was provoked by the closure of our path with barriers to allow for the passage of a train.
‘This always happens when we pass a rail crossing.’
We disregard all those instances when we drive or walk through without stopping and then, the second time that we have to stop and wait, we remember that it had also happened previously and, since a closed barrier is much more remarkable and therefore memorable than a normally open passage, we fall prey to the illusion that the path is closed much more often it actually is in reality. Like many expats of Mediterranean upbringing who complain that it rains almost everyday in Belgium, ignoring all the (many) days when the weather is quite pleasant. Or when we fret about always having chosen the slowest moving lane in a traffic jam or at the supermarket cash. Again, selective memory.
I have selective memory myself, which I apply not only at traffic jams. I’m unlucky with the weather when I travel, I implied somewhere else in this blog. It rained everyday for 5 days when Gianluca and I went to Montenegro (quite to be expected in February…). Also throughout my 3 day visit to Porto, only for the sun to come out shining tantalisingly during my last few hours there.
Last year we went to Bucharest in July, where they have notoriously hot and dry summers. We had had a long spell of unseasonably cold and wet weather in late spring and early summer in Belgium and were looking forward to a few days of ‘real’ summer in Romania. But funnily enough, summer weather came to Belgium the day we drove to Charleroi airport to fly away to Bucharest. It was sunny. Absolutely gorgeous. Just when we couldn’t enjoy it. A few hours later we settled our things at the hotel in Romania and stepped out for our first walk in this city… in pouring rain! I wanted to cry.
It was bound to happen, therefore, that after three days of perfect weather in Girona – a debatable assertion if you don’t like temperatures to soar above 30 degrees – the fourth day, when we rented a car to go touring the Costa Brava, would be cloudy and threatening rain. Our plan was to follow a route on a map along the coast, starting from Calella de Palafrugell, stop at several coves and inlets and possibly enjoy a dip in the Mediterranean sea.
Considering that it was July at the Mediterranean coast, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of any traffic jams or overwhelming crowds. It was just busy and lively. Barely possible to park the (as usual, huge) car that I had rented, but I managed and the effort was worth while.
We drove up to the Far (lighthouse) de Sant Sebastià and admired a magnificent view of the Badia de Llafranc far below us.
Many of the best places you discover by accident. I decided to take a detour from the next scheduled stop and followed the signs to the Cala d’Aigua Xelida. I noticed a particularly scenic spot, parked the car and crossed the street to take a photo. We left our bags in the car as the idea was to take a snapshot and keep on driving. This is when the first drops of rain started to fall. There was a flight of steps going down into what may have been the entrance to a villa. Despite Gianluca’s protestations (he’s even more cautious than I am) we descended these steps and the panorama became clearer.
I noticed that this was a passage leading down to a secluded beach far below. Too far for my (elsewhere documented) sciatica, but not for my curiosity. ‘Let’s go a bit more and see how it looks from there.’ Soon enough we were too close to the beach, and too far from our car up the hill, to go back without reaching all the way down.
‘Surely, you’re not going to swim, are you?’ said Gianluca.
‘Of course I am, and so should you.’
‘I don’t swim when it’s raining, besides which, we don’t have our towels with us.’ We had left them in the car.
No problem. I had my bathing trunks on and that was enough for me. What a refreshing swim it was. Drying up afterwards didn’t prove to be much of a problem either. Using these days’ much abused jargon you could call it organic drying: evaporation powered by my own body heat. Climbing back up to the car was not so simple, but I survived the ordeal.
Gianluca did eventually bathe in the Costa Brava waters. Again, it was no mean feat getting there, not least because we took a wrong turn towards a private beach leading to a yacht marina – Aigua Blava.
All the way back up, we tried the other path towards Platja Fonda, which turned out to be just what we needed: another beautiful beach with dark grey sand and rather rough sea – but still tame enough for both of us to jump in for a refreshing dip.
My conclusive recommendation about the Costa Brava? Go there if you can. And then explore the rest of this lovely region.