A Wild and Wonderful Tour of the Costa Brava

Physician's Money Digest, June 2007, Volume 14, Issue 6

Spain's Costa Brava (literally meaning, "wildcoast") hides itself in the northeast corner ofthe country, well beyond Barcelona, andextends to the very border of France. Thetourist office of Spain (www.okspain.org/quicklinks/offices.asp) needn't worry that visitors to Spainmight think of hopping over the border to France—there's just too much to see in Costa Brava.

Wonders Along the Coastline

American tourists not too familiar with this partof Spain will be delighted to find great places to driveto, including the magnificent coastline with its deepcliffs and fascinating inlets. But those who want totake time to savor this gracious place will be equallypleased to find little fishing villages like Palamos,home to the 16th-century church of Santa EugeniaVillarroma, and a modern fishing museum, Museude la Pesca (www.museudelapesca.org), dedicated tothose who brave the dangers of the sea.

Tossa de Mar, another beautiful town with cobbledstreets, has seven circular towers that guard theremains of an old church and the governor's palace,which dates from the 14th century. Visitors can alsosee the ancient hospital of San Miguel, founded in1773. Donations for this charity hospital came froman emigrant, Tomas Vidal i Rey, who becamewealthy and successful in America. The plaque on itsancient wall has a cross and a skull and crossbones.

Around the corner is the modernistic Hotel Diana(www.diana-hotel.com), created from a Gaudiinspireddelightful private residence. Expenses on theCosta Brava are reasonable compared with otherEuropean locations. A double room in this hotel, forexample, runs from 66€ to 110€, depending on theseason. Those prices are not atypical—restaurantcharges were equally affordable. Car rentals, however,are higher than in the United States; a 7-day rentalof a compact Citreon C5 will cost about 370€, whichis approximately $475.

Endless History of Girona

Girona, the medieval-walled capital of the CostaBrava, is another great Spanish city (www.ajuntament.gi/turisme/ENG/entrada01.html). Situated onthe banks of the river, Onyan, with its brightly paintedtownhouses, Girona offers more than 2000 yearsof history. A walk up the riverside Rambla de laLlibertat takes you toward the city's spiritual coreand major landmark—an impressive 11th-to 18thcenturycathedral with the widest nave inChristendom. There is also an ancient monastery andother churches with spectacular Roman, Paleochristian,Romanesque, and Baroque sepulchers.

Girona has one of the largest and best conservedantique Jewish quarters in Europe; its Museum of theHistory of the Jews (34-972-21-67-61; www.ajuntament.gi/call/eng), situated on the site of a 15th-centurysynagogue, has a collection of incredibly preservedHebrew tombstones. Within the city, a cathedralmuseum displays the gorgeous 12th-century"Tapestry of Creation" and the Beautus, an illuminated10th-century set of manuscripts. Other museumsoffer Renaissance art and prehistoric archaeologicalcollections; Girona even has a museum dedicatedto the earliest days of the movies.

Three Points of the Triangle

For many, the main pleasure in Costa Brava isdriving the Dali Triangle. Salvador Dali (www.salvador-dali.org), Spain's mercurial, controversial, butbeloved artist, lived in the remote village of Portlligatnear Cadaqués. It was his workshop and home from1930 to 1982 (www.salvador-dali.org/en_index.html).When Gala, his wife and muse, died, he moved to theGothic-Renaissance castle in Pubol in 1970. Duringthe 2 years Dali spent there, he designed his final greatadventure: his Theatre-Museum, located in Figueres,near Girona, in a restored 19th-century theater thatburned down in the Civil War. It's the third leg of thetriangle and has most of Dali's work and personality.The exhibits in all three locations defy description:golden thrones, stuffed animals, elephant statues,strange sculptures like Our Lord of the Refuse, dissectedbones, large eggs on rooftops, ceramic loavesof bread, and dozens of large reproductions of theOscar Academy Award statue. And on display arequotes from Dali, such as, "I believe a man has asmuch right to be insane as he has to be sane." It's allthere in its bizarre exuberance, and it's glorious.