Four Perfect Days Running Costa Brava - Page 3
Photo by Chris Hunter
I hesitate, wondering what he has in store. Pablo veers off the trail and hops wildly from boulder to boulder next to the water. Without breaking stride, he flicks off his sandals, yanks off his top and sprints off the end of a wooden diving board, hitting the water with a sploosh.
By now I know Pablo well enough to know he won’t let me off the hook. Reluctantly I remove my pack and unlace my shoes. My hyper-efficient tendencies—which serve me well in ultramarathons—kick in and I feel slightly annoyed with the delay. After all, we’d only covered a few miles and many more remain. As I stand there contemplating, Chris sprints past me and enthusiastically takes the leap. But my clothes will get soaked and I’ll have to change and reapply sunscreen and we still have a long way to go …
The shock of plunging into the frigid sea is the face slap I deserve. Hauling myself onto the rocks with water streaming from my clothes, I laugh at my uptightness. Remember, Elinor, you’re on vacation; there is no schedule, no objective.
After changing into dry clothes at the car, Chris and I follow the GPS’s arrow pointing us inland. We miss the ocean’s cool breeze and sweat under the sun’s rays. Our feet sink into the sandy trail that takes us through a tree plantation. As we gain elevation, it turns to firm doubletrack surrounded by natural forest. After cresting the hilltop, we rocket down the other side until we reach a pancake-flat road leading us to the medieval city of Pals.
Traversing the ancient stone fortifications encircling Pals—reputedly Christopher Columbus’ port of departure—cars and paved roads are replaced with pedestrians and narrow cobblestone streets. Being in Pals feels like visiting another era. At the center of its beautifully restored Gothic Quarter is a 13th-century Romanesque tower called Torre de les Hores, from where sentries would scan the horizon for pirates and other invaders.
It’s all we can do to keep up with Pablo as he darts along streets so narrow my outstretched hands touch the buildings on either side. He abruptly halts in front of a small wooden door and motions us to sit at one of the three slim metal tables out front.
“We’re here!” he declares.
Chris and I glance at one another, wondering what “here” means.
“Our run is done for today; now it’s time for beer!”
We cheer and step through the small doorway into a room barely wide enough for a bar and a row of bar stools. We order three Estrella Damm Catalonian pilsners and take a seat outside in the warm sunshine.
Before long, Pablo reminds us that the day is not over; we have a spa appointment. A short drive takes us to Mas de Torrent, a luxury hotel of the prestigious Relais & Château Group. We walk through the hotel’s manicured landscape to Mas Spa, a zen-inspired ultra-modern spa tucked into a lush garden. For the next two hours, hot-water jets massage my tired muscles, an ice-cold plunge pool flushes the soreness from my joints and rosemary-infused bath products refresh my senses.
Later that evening we drive to Mas Camangau hotel in the nearby town of Begur, and the owner, Miguel, greets us like old friends. His grey-streaked hair is pulled back into a short ponytail and his jovial face sports cheeks as round as his eyeglasses. Grey stone archways frame the entrance to each room of the 200-year-old-farmhouse-turned-boutique hotel, giving it a cozy yet regal ambiance.
Miguel leads us out a back door and down more steps into a garden patio. “Your room is in the back where the horses were kept,” Miguel says with a chuckle. The old barn-wood door with iron fixtures opens to a charming room with a vaulted ceiling and modern amenities.
At what is normally my bedtime, Chris and I take our seats in the hotel’s restaurant, where Miguel announces that he has arranged a special tasting menu for us. The first delicious bite of salmon ceviche served with vichyssoise sets the tone for what is a five-course feast of Catalonian delicacies. Between gulps of local red wine we savor bites of hand-made aubergine ravioli served with mussels and rosemary, then delicate fish filets on a tomato purée topped with olive tapenade and chives, followed by thinly sliced roasted duck topped with a sweet sauce made with strawberries, raspberries and sherry.
Every dish includes local ingredients and some personal connection to Miguel or his family.
“The father of the wife of my brother grows this melon,” Miguel explains with pride when our server delivers two pieces of bisbalen, a Catalonian melon-jam-filled pastry dusted with powdered sugar. “And it tastes even better with this,” he says, pouring a sweet-smelling, clear liqueur into a couple of shot glasses.
“Oh, no, none for me!” I say, thinking ahead to tomorrow’s run.
“Well, I can’t say no,” says Chris as Miguel fills his glass for a second time.