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For some reason, a steaming plate of Spanish paella just tastes better when enjoyed beneath a 12th century fort.
Then again, most things seem a little surreal when in the presence of something so mind-bogglingly old. Things like a bottle of red wine enjoyed from a rooftop overlooking the Mediterranean, or lounging in a hidden cove and wondering when the last time someone poured pots of boiling oil from the ancient walls above you. Or maybe that’s just the wine talking.
You’ll have to excuse me as it’s easy to let your thoughts drift in a place such as Tossa de Mar, a traditional fishing village turned cozy hideaway on the stretch of utopia that is Spain’s Costa Brava. Literally translated as “The Wild Coast”, much of the Costa Brava has fallen prey to modern resort development—nature’s greatest predator—although through the development some towns have been able to retain their old fashioned roots.
Towns such as Tossa de Mar.
With a population of around 5,000 inhabitants and located about 90 minutes north of Barcelona, Tossa de Mar is the perfect Mediterranean hideaway for anyone who wants to rent a whitewashed villa and simply disappear for a while—just totally and completely check out. In Tossa de Mar there are books to be read, wine to be drunk, and plenty of time to fill with whatever you damn well please. And when you’re sick of doing nothing, you can always go and explore the fort.
Formally constructed by the Romans in the 12th century, the walled city protected a village of nearly 80 homesteads, nearly all of which are restored/preserved and remain standing today. The only completely intact Roman fort on the entire coastline of the Costa Brava, the views from the summit lighthouse offer panoramas of a jagged coastline that plunges dramatically into the transparent sea below.
Visitors to the fort can also get a sweeping view of the three small beaches that form the Tossa de Mar beach scene, the smallest of which is a 30 meter forgotten cove that is nestled right between the narrow streets of the old town and walls of the stoic fort.
Of course, this town is a little more than just lounging on the beach, exploring the fort, and having steaming paella paired with Spanish wine. Those wanting to explore what’s beneath the azure shoreline can scuba dive Tossa de Mar with any one of a number of dive operators in town, and the town isn’t exactly devoid of modern shopping options for those looking to round our their trendy Euro style (Dolce and Gabbana anyone?). There are sightseeing cruises that explore the seaside caves and meander along the Tossa de Mar coastline, or, you can enter a 10K race on a whim as I did mingle with a crowd of hundreds of Catalan runners, all of whom realize how lucky they are to make their home along this craggy coastline by the sea.