Anytime you reach the sea unexpectedly, it’s a good day. A million words have been written about the seductive mix of ocean waves, blue skies and soft mounds of sand, wherever they may be in the world.
A beach vacation is a pretty special thing, but a beach retreat in the middle of a work day? When you should be at home answering email or typing away at your computer? That’s pretty unbelievable.
Let me tell you the story of how I ended up in the charming little beach town of Calella de Palafrugell in the province of Girona, part of the Costa Brava region in Catalonia, Spain.
Surprise Beach Day
The earlier part of the day started like most weekdays – with work. I was in Barcelona, waiting near Catalunya Square, where a colleague was to pick me up and drive me to an industrial laundry facility north of Barcelona, about 30 miles south of the border of France. (At the time, I was an editor for a business publication focused on commercial and institutional laundry, in case you’re wondering what the laundry connection was. I was also freelance and location-independent, hence the Spain trip.)
For half the day, I toured the facility of giant washing machines, conveyors full of linens and industrial-sized dryers. I took photos of the assembly line of towels and blankets and tried not to be overwhelmed by the size and repetitiveness of it all. I took notes and asked questions, scribbling away in a notebook, trying to keep it all straight. After a few hours, my brain was completely full.
The tour of the facility didn’t take all the time we allotted for it (to my relief), and since we had the benefit of extra time and a car full of gas, my colleague suggested we drive through a coastal town he knew about on the way back, which was music to my ears.
Ending up at the beach when you thought you’d be in a gigantic laundry factory all day is super-decent treat. And Calella de Palafrugell is not at all hard on the eyes, as you can see from my photos.
The downside to this little distraction is that we only had about an hour to kill—one measly hour! But that one hour is precious to me, because it will always represent the time I sort of played hooky from work while I was in Europe and ended up in a gorgeous place I didn’t even know existed. Those are the moments you hope for when you travel, but can never plan or guarantee.
I do wish I’d had more time for a full-on tryst with this seaside heaven, rather than a quick-and-dirty romp. Now, all I can do is daydream about the 5 things I would have done in Calella de Palafrugell, if I’d had the time.
1. Stroll the narrow, twisted streets and admire the architecture
Late October is the off-season in this town, apparently, so many of the shops and restaurants were closed. But that just means I would have had more sidewalk to myself. This town is the epitome of European charm, with small mom-and-pop shops and homes with flower-adorned balconies.
2. Stop for a meal at one of the seaside cafes
Since we didn’t have long, my colleague and I indulged in a quick cup of coffee at Restaurant Can Palet, a place with a shady patio and great views of the ocean and sand. But if I’d had a whole afternoon to sit at that place, I would have ordered lunch with a few beers and simply watched the vacationers enjoying themselves on the beachfront.
3. Take a dip in the waters of the Balearic Sea
Back home in the Midwest, I’d never dream of swimming outdoors in late October. By then, I’m usually only a few weeks away from pulling my best winter coat out from the back of my closet. Here, the weather was still absolutely perfect, and I could only imagine that the water was still pretty warm, too.
4. Stroll through the Cap Roig Botanical Gardens
I’m addicted to the luxury of botanical gardens, and always make a point to visit them in whatever cities I visit (Montreal, St. Louis and Santo Domingo are my faves, in that order). The Cap Roig Botanical Gardens are unique because they incorporate a castle constructed over a span from 1927 to 1974, as well as unforgettable views of the sea.
5. Spend the night at the perfect place
Hotel Garbi looks like a cute option – for around $100 you get boutique-style digs with a swimming pool, free parking and free WiFi. And the views look awesome. (Note: They’re booked up until April 2016.)
A more affordable option might be this Airbnb place – a little loft overlooking the sea and the beach below.
For now, plans for spending more time in Calella de Palafrugell will have to go in my never-ending travel bucket list. Although, I do have a ticket booked for Paris this coming January, and I could pretty easily get back there if I made it a priority. Hmm. The possibilities.