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tossa at night

Sunset over Tossa de Mar (click to enlarge)

Don’t let us bore you. It’s just that Tossa de Mar on the Spanish Costa Brava is this incredibly charming place, so when our daughter Sybil came to visit, we had to take her there. She’s been around Europe a bit, but she’d never seen the Mediterranean, or a Roman ruin.

One reason Tossa remains so unspoiled, I suspect, is that there is no direct train or bus from Barcelona or Girona. We took a one-hour bus to Lloret de Mar, a well-developed tourist city with casinos, discos, a water park, minigolf, and go-karts (Tom was tempted). At the bus station in Lloret, we hopped onto the shuttle to Tossa, 35 winding-road, up-and-down-mountains minutes away.

Hotel Cap d'Or

Sybil and me in front of the Hotel Cap d’Or

After a quick cava at the splendid seaview upstairs terrace at the Hotel Diana, we checked into the amazing Hotel Cap d’Or, a white stucco building with green shutters and flowered balconies, which sits tucked between the 13th century Vila Vell and the broad gravelly beach that leads to the sea. The hotel was built in 1790, but is air-conditioned anyway. We ate our (included) breakfast of cold cuts, fruit, yogurt, and house-made pastries under orange-colored umbrellas looking out at the turquoise Med.

Villa Romana

Villa Romana — over two thousand years old

Since the hotel has a great restaurant and comfy outdoor chairs, we could have spent the whole three days without budging. Instead we explored the Villa Romana, the remains of a Roman mansion with its mosaic floors and copious baths nearly intact. It sits on a hill that once had a view of the sea, and just beneath are the foundations of stables and shops where the real people lived.

Entering one of the seaside caves

Entering one of the seaside caves aboard our glass-bottomed boat

Our other major noteworthy expedition was aboard a small glass-bottomed boat, from which we could peer down into the rocky underwater world that extended up to the cliffs around us, giving the Costa Brava its name of “Fierce Coast.” The boat poked its bow (and sometimes its entirety) into several caves where the crew fed the fish with stale bread; the fish came to the surface and snapped at it.

When there were no rocks beneath us, the sea beneath was a transparent pale turquoise bubbling by, one of the most beautiful colors I’ve ever seen. How the Mediterranean has stayed so clean I cannot imagine. It’s not exactly uninhabited.

The rest of the time we did nothing. We strolled the shops with their colorful beachwear. We sat on the beach and read and burned. Tom and Sybil put ankles in the water; I went all the way in, savoring the sting of the cold and the feeling of being wrapped in frigid turquoise smurf-colored jello. When you are in that experience, you cannot think of anything else but the cold and the wonder of it.

As we checked out, we asked what it would cost to just live in the Hotel Cap d’Or for an entire year. I don’t think our hostess believed we were serious.