Seeking a less ordinary holiday in 2019? Just over a two-hour flight from the UK, find out why Barcelonians love this historic hidden gem
If you’ve outgrown the ordinary and long to escape sun-bathed Brits enjoying all-day breakfasts this summer, why not follow the Catalan crowd with Oliver’s Travels and experience the unsung delights of Spain’s sweeping Costa Brava coastline.
Chic, vibrant and overflowing with a confetti of cafes, restaurants and boutiques, the exuberant town of Begur – just an hour-and-a-half north of the Catalonia capital – is the hidden gem Barcelonians flock to for history, culture and sublime scenery.
Flanked by the Pyrenees, the town – with its quaint narrow streets, distinctive architecture and medieval castle ruins – is home to some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches, from smooth sandy stretches lapped by crystal waters to wild, rugged coves awash with subtropical greenery.
STAY IN STYLE
Magnificently modernised, yet still retaining its authentic Spanish allure, Villa Azucena, in the heart of old Begur, welcomed my family and I with the ultimate wow factor the second we arrived. Ideally located just a stone’s throw from the central plaza, this spacious, stunning six-bedroom villa is the epitome of holiday accommodation perfection, boasting private infinity swimming pool with extensive sunbathing area – plus a lush lawn, fire pit, BBQ and outdoor dining area ideal for al-fresco evenings under the stars.
Set over two floors with fully-equipped kitchens and living areas on both levels – particularly useful for our eight-strong party – the spacious open-plan design is superb for socialising, relaxing or simply sitting back and soaking up the mystique of this exquisite haven.
With four sizeable double bedrooms and two triple rooms – as well as six modern bathrooms – the villa radiates tranquillity and has an abundance of natural light, while the downstairs lounge has a calming conservatory feel with patio doors opening out onto the delightful garden area. Whether it’s a stroll to the local supermarket for freshly baked croissants, or a visit to the plaza butchers for BBQ delicacies, our most memorable moments were balmy villa evenings by the fire pit, toasting marshmallows in unrivalled surroundings as soft Spanish melodies drifted off into the night.
SCENERY AND HISTORY
Most days, picnic packed, we walked mile after mile, relishing the network of picturesque woodland and coastal walks, our pick being a 20-minute tree-lined hike to striking Sa Riera Beach, where 300 metres of golden sands are framed by restaurants, bars and rolling hills.
To its left, amid rocky cliffs, a steep path meanders the majestic coastline, providing stunning views of the ocean and neighbouring beaches and coves. Nestled atop a winding hillside showcasing bird’s-eye views of beautiful Begur are the remains of its medieval castle – known locally as the Esclanyà Tower – which encompasses centuries of ancient history. The pleasant stroll from the town centre is surpassed only by the breathtaking panoramic landscape visible from the summit, where a sculptured ceramic map points out places of interest including the Bay of Roses, the Pyrenees and the Medas islands.
DINE IN OUT?
Begur’s cuisine reflects a Mediterranean region rich in seafood, supplemented by its inland area where a range of outstanding fresh fruit and vegetables are grown. Drawing on the town’s seafaring history, the restaurants are an eclectic mix of modern and traditional, the speciality of the Empordà region being the rock fish which is served in a variety of recipes. One of our favourite restaurants was Aiguaclara a quirky bistro that wouldn’t look out of place in Soho.
If you, like me, adore the ambiance of your accommodation, then another option is to bring the restaurant to you! Dineindulge is affordable, simple and provides a truly special private dining experience, combining personal chef hire with five-star cuisine.
Our talented chef for the evening, Jhonathan, was pleasant, polite and punctual, and swiftly set to work whipping up a deluxe signature meal for eight, explaining the preparation and inspiration behind each delectable offering. I chose crispy pea and mint fritter for starter, followed by rib eye steak and red wine jus, with vanilla crème bruleè and blueberry compote a mouth-watering end to a divine gastronomic journey. With menu options starting from £24.99 per head, packages can be booked at home or on holiday in nine different countries, including the UK, France, Spain and Italy.
The whole holiday experience was booked through luxury villa specialists Oliver’s Travels.
Experts in the exceptional, whether it’s a romantic retreat, friends’ adventure or family getaway, you can rely on outstanding hand-picked accommodation with a dash of the sublime. Quirky, lavish and one-off, Oliver’s Travels choose from the top two per cent of properties, ensuring a supreme pick whether it’s a villa, castle, cottage or chateaux.
The icing on the cake for our family was Oliver’s Travels exceptional concierge service, offering guests the option of a chef, food delivery, maid service, childcare, fridge stocking, spa treatments and restaurant bookings, as well as helping arrange car and boat hire, transfers, flights, activities and more.