Roses and the Catalan Coast
In 2013 and 2014 Steve paid two visits to the Catalan Coast in his capacity as tour manager for Great Rail Journeys, and Ted stowed away as usual. It is now too long ago to provide any great detail or recommendations but these brief notes may help anyone else planning a visit to the area.
Sunset over the Gulf of Roses (above) and the village of Cadaqués (below)
The tours were based in the resort of Roses (Rosas in Spanish), a small town about 25 kilometres south of the French border. It’s a historic town and today the main activity is tourism though it retains a sizable fishing fleet. There’s a wide range of accommodation, restaurants , bars in the town and it makes a good base for visiting the area. The town is laid out round the Gulf of Roses and is well-known for spectacular sunsets.
Places which we visited included Cadaqués, Figueres, Besalu and the provincial capital, Girona. Cadaqués is an attractive village, smaller than Roses, known for its connections with Salvador Dali and other artists. Boat trips run to Cadaqués from Roses providing good views of the dramatic coastline of the Cap de Creus. On one occasion we hired the local road train for an outing to the hills between the two towns – off the beaten track along dusty cliff-top roads in the Cap de Creus Natural Park.
Figueres is a pleasant small town 20km inland from Roses, centre of the comarca (county) of Alt Empordà, to which Roses and Cadaqués belong. A few hours can be spent in the cafe-bars along the rambla in the town centre. The town’s main claim to fame is as the birthplace of Salvador Dali and it houses the outstanding and bizarre Dali Museum, the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dali, which he designed himself.
Besalu is an unspoilt medieval town inland from Figueres, an ‘historical national property’ with ancient streets, walls and a twelfth century bridge over the River Fluvià.
Besalu (above) and Girona (below)
Many tourists bypass Girona on their way from the airport to the coastal resorts. The city is the provincial capital and centre for a wide area of Catalunya. It retains some of the old walls and an old town on a hill to one side of the River Onyar, which is lined with attractive houses on both banks.
Practicalities: Since the high speed line between Perpignan and Barcelona opened in 2013 it is easy to travel from London to Catalunya in a day by train with direct trains from Paris to Figueres Vilafant (5km out of town) in about 5½ hours. The region can be easily reached by air using Girona airport.
In addition to Paris Figueres Vilafant is served by high speed TGV/AVE trains to Barcelona and Madrid.
Regular regional trains run between Barcelona, Girona, Figueres town station and the French border. Regular buses link Roses with Figueres and there are several buses daily between Roses and Cadaqués
The tour groups used the Almadraba Park hotel, just outside Roses but linked by shuttle bus. It is set in its own grounds above a beach, with a huge swimming pool, views across the Gulf of Roses and excellent food. The tour ‘Roses, Cadaqués and the Catalan Coast’ continues to operate and deparures in 2019 and 2020 are available. See www.greatrail.com .
Copyright. Text and photos © Steve Gillon, July 2019.