Floating in the sea in Llançà on a Sunday morning, I vaguely remembered something I had read years ago about this laidback place in the Alt Empordà, at the northern end of the Cap de Creus peninsula on the Costa Brava.
The book I was thinking of was Fabled Shore: From the Pyrenees to Portugal by Road, written in 1949 by the prolific author Rose MaCaulay who, in her 60s, had driven right around the Mediterranean coast of Spain and along the Algarve.
One of the first stops on her journey was Llançà, which she described as “a crescent of sandy beach full of fishing boats (sardines are the main haul), shut at its southern tip by a rocky island and a castle, so that the little bay is smooth and sheltered like a lake.”
Although it is now a laidback, lowrise resort, sprawling gently around the curving bay, Llançà is still recognisable from Macaulay’s account. She wrote of drinking coffee “after an exquisite early bathe in the still, limpid, opal, waveless sea, to which I stepped carefully down the sands between the drying nets”.
More than 60 years later, I was walking between rows of kayaks, sunbathers and teenagers playing ball games. I strolled along the pristine promenade that flanks the bay to the Miramar, where Macaulay stayed:
“On the beach just above the nets and boats is a small white inn with green shutters, the Miramar, with tables and benches on the sand outside it. Here I spent the night; from it, on that hot July evening, I bathed in the smooth curve of sea, that lapped about me as cool and warm as silk, while stars came out, and the great rock jutted into still water a gainst a rose-flushed west. Afterwards I dined at one of the little tables on the sandy verandah, among the local fishermen and a few Catalan visitors. The patron and his family were charming…”
The Miramar is now one of the best restaurants in Spain. Although it has been run by the Serra family since it opened in 1939, the chef is Paco Pérez, who has been awarded two Michelin stars for his cooking here. He also oversees La Enoteca in the Hotel Arts in Barcelona, which has one star.
You can’t stay at the Miramar these days but you can still swim in the crystalline water, as I did that day. And I’m definitely going to have lunch at the Miramar next time I’m there.
Fabled Shore is now out as an ebook and is available from Books4Spain, which is a great site for books about Spain by Spanish and international writers.
For more information about this area, have a look at www.costabrava.org.