Where were you when the world changed with the spread of Covid-19? We were happily isolated on Spain’s glorious Costa Brava, perched in a tiny but perfectly equipped apartment on the 10th floor, overlooking the bay of Roses. With views like this, we were happy to quietly keep to ourselves, stepping out of the almost-deserted building daily to wander a lonely beach or a rocky path. We’ve spent time previously on this beautiful coast closer to Barcelona, but this time we’re researching the area further northeast, almost to the French border, for an upcoming private tour…and we’ll include these enticing sights in our Wonders of Barcelona tour as well.
The flamboyant Surrealist artist Salvador Dali called the Costa Brava home for 50 years, and we’ve taken previous tour guests to the Dali museum in Figueres, which was so crowded that several of us quickly walked through, then sought out a cafe in town to relax with a drink! Our visit to Dali’s house-museum in Portlligat, a tiny hamlet on the next cove from lovely Cadaques, is a polar opposite, with only 8 guests allowed at a time. Inside and out, Dali’s quirky creativity is obvious – a polar bear in a salon? Why not? Eggs on the terrace? Why not?
Also obvious is his appreciation of a view – both outside, and in, where his bed is positioned so that he was “the first person in Spain to see the sun rise” – via a precisely positioned mirror. He knew just what he wanted to see, and to convey with his inimitable art!
Days of exploring are followed by breathtaking sunsets from our little balcony, and perhaps a moonlight stroll to complete the day.
Cadaques, adjacent to Portlligat, is often called by Spaniards “the most beautiful village in Spain”, its whitewashed buildings clustered around a delightful cove.
Cobbled lanes lead to quiet paths along the water, where we stroll before stopping for a sublime seaside lunch.
Heading west along Roses Bay one day, we pause at Sant Martí d’Empúries, a tiny walled village crowned by a stalwart church. Flanked by a pine forest on one side, on the other spreads a long sandy beach, with views back to Roses.
We fit in one more hike along Cala Montgo before catching the last United flight to the US from Barcelona – we know we’ll have two weeks of self-quarantine ahead of us so we’re enjoying this freedom and the beautiful views as much as we can! Our hiking guide pamphlet warns of steep cliffside paths, and we scramble upward for a while, look back at where we started, and decide that the safer option would be to head back towards the flatter boulders, where we pause for a selfie to look back on until we can return to the Mediterranean – when will that be?!?
As we’ve guided our guests through the beautiful town of Aix en Provence for the past 17 years, we’ve pointed out the many niches,
filled with Madonnas and saints, on corners of buildings, explaining that “in medieval times these comforting icons were installed during the plague so that the quarantined residents, unable to attend mass, could instead pray to these figures that they could see from their windows”.
Did we ever imagine that, once again, the world would be confined to their homes as we are today? France is currently on a 15-day lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
We can see the cathedral bell tower from Ambiance d’Aix, our home in Aix en Provence – do you think that would “count” as a prayer niche?!
One of the things we love about our French home is the sound of those church bells. On Wednesday last week church bells rang out throughout France for 10 minutes, beginning at 7:30 pm, as an act of solidarity and hope, and people were encouraged to light candles in their windows at the same time.
In secularized France, I wonder if many now look out their windows to the Madonnas and pray?
Even if not, those peaceful Mother and Child statues
seem to bless the lively squares below (can you spy the figure on the corner?).
I think of this one as the market Madonna.
A rare snow draped the shoulders of this one a few years ago.
Just around the corner from our home is this unusual Black Madonna,
on the corner of “scrape your elbows” lane – a cobbled path so narrow you have to hold your arms against your body as you walk through.
Pray we will, that this virus will soon be conquered,
and the calm Madonnas can smile down on busy-once-again squares!