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Picture it: Lloret de Mar, Catalonia. 2012. A young girl stands in a blue tank top and hopes her flimsy strapless bathing suit top will withstand the vigors of a hike along the Costa Brava coast.
Well, um, except that young girl was me, and that top, a magenta bandeau that I found for $12 at H&M and immediately deemed a steal, was clearly not made for the purposes of hiking. Frugality has its drawbacks.
I dressed for swimming. Sea kayaking was the excursion originally scheduled for this morning, but high waves have prevented an outing for a group of travel bloggers whose collective kayaking experience would be described as dubious at best, laughable at worst. (There goes my training for my hypothetical future trip to Antarctica, I think with a grimace.)
No, kayaking is off the table today — but it’s a perfect morning for Nordic Walking along the coastal path that covers Lloret de Mar.
We are to be led by two Scandinavian men clad in body-hugging spandex from head to toe, ski poles firmly in their hands. Their names, uttered in a lightning-fast and unfamiliar cadence, escape me. I privately dub them Sven and Sven, and we set off.
Lloret de Mar has a bit of a strange identity. You’ll find high-end tourists here, spending their days lounging by the infinity pool and dining on spicy spider crab and rice in beachfront restaurants.
But more common are the Brits on cheap package holidays, jumping overzealously into the only real sunshine they’ll see this year. 24 hours in, they end up curled up in the fetal position, sunburned and hungover, beneath a beach umbrella.
That part? Not so attractive. But once you get beyond the beachfront with the cheap package motels and kebab stands, you’ll find a coastal path that is unfathomably gorgeous.
The path is free to hike, and various hiking routes continue all the way up and down the Costa Brava coast. It’s easy — rather than struggling alone dirt paths cut with tree routes, this is a well-maintained tiled route. The only hard part? Lots of staircases.
And it is all very much worth it. Climbing this path feels like strolling through an ancient Mediterranean village, set precariously upon the sea.
Fifteen minutes in, Sven and Sven have vanished from the pack, and are likely doing squats and lunges over the ocean’s edge by now, toasting each other with Aquavit. It’s the usual conundrum of a blog trip. Local tour leaders aren’t briefed on the nature of travel bloggers — that we photograph everything in sight, even edit photos on our phones, and update constantly with Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We take much longer than usual tours.
Most guides are good-natured about it. A few become cross.
But how could you look at a view like that and not want to photograph every last inch of it?
Finally, we make it to the greatest viewpoint of all. Standing on the overlook, watching the waves crash over those jagged rocks as the early morning sunshine swept over the coastline, I drink in the image before me. This is the Mediterranean at its very best.
What vanished faster, I wonder?
Sven and Sven, the Scandinavian fitness junkies? A platter of jamon iberico in front of me on any given day?
Or any doubts that Costa Brava was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen?