I am a travel and arts writer and author, specialising in Spain and have written about the wonders of the Iberian peninsula for The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail. I lived in Barcelona for several years, where I learnt to speak fluent Spanish (as well as a reasonable splattering of Catalan) and often headed up to the Costa Brava for weekends and holidays. I also write for other publications including Scotland on Sunday, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and Coast magazine. I now have family on the Costa Brava as well as in Andalucía which gives me a brilliant excuse to leave Britain’s unpredictable skies and escape to Spain as often as possible.
I originally trained as a BBC radio journalist and reported on stories from Barcelona for BBC Radio 5 as well as reporting from other countries for BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4. I subsequently worked on BBC Radio 1’s Global Update and was a regular contributor to BBC 6 Music’s The Freakzone I am also a music and arts journalist and the author of biographies of Bond film composer John Barry and ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot of The Mamas and The Papas (both published by Macmillan) and was recently featured in the BBC Radio 2 documentary – 'Laurel Canyon.'
My Costa Brava
Where I always grab a hot chocolate: Nobody does thick Spanish-style hot chocolate like they do in Xocolateria L’Antiga in Girona (Plaça. De Vi, 5). Not only do you get velvety sweet, pudding-style chocolate but you get a fantastic Art Nouveau or Modernista interior and facade.
My favourite stroll: Along the small cove beach at Sa Tuna or if I’m feeling more energetic, carrying on along the winding coastal walk to Cap Sa Sal with the glittering Mediterranean down below.
Fiction for inspiration: Voices of the Old Sea by Norman Lewis won’t tell you much about the contemporary Costa Brava but it will give you a magical glimpse of what life was like in the Costa’s small fishing villages before tourism arrived in the 50s and the changes it brought with it.
The most breathtaking view: If you don’t mind a steep climb, the mirador at the castle ruins in Begur looks out across vast swathes of the Costa Brava from Cap de Creus to the surrounding countryside with its Medieval hilltop villages.
The best spot for some peace and quiet: the gorgeous Botanical Gardens at Cap Roig are full of little secret hideaways and exotic plants and the rich scent of sage and flowers. The cactus garden has stunning views of the coast down below.
Shopaholics beware: just a few minutes away from the tourist shops near the Dalí Museum in Figueres, you’ll find some fabulous boutiques and specialist shops tucked away on streets like Calle Monturiol near the Placa Ajuntament or, for gorgeous handmade jewellery, I love Artefusa on Plaça dels Homes in Castelló d’Empúries.
Resort soundtrack: La Casa Azul are a hip Spanish indie pop act, masterminded by Barcelona’s Guille Milkyway (I suspect this might not be his real surname). Think a contemporary Spanish Beach Boys meets The Mamas and The Papas – the ultimate sunshine soundtrack for the Costa.
Don’t leave without: taking a swim or a stroll along one of the tiny hidden coves like Cala Bona, between Port Lligat and Cap de Creus or Cala del Pi between Palamós and Platja d’Aro.
My expert information
The sunshine and the extraordinary light
I love the way that even when it’s cold on the Costa Brava, it’s rarely grey. Most of the year the sun is amazingly bright and warming, so much so that I’ve gone out for walks on Christmas Day in short sleeves. It’s easy to see why painters like Dalí and Chagall were so taken with the light here.Read more...
The beaches around Calella de Palafrugell are some of the loveliest on the Costa Brava. You’ve got the long stretch of sand at Calella itself and the smaller beaches and coves nearby, as well as fabulous little bays like Tamariu and Llafranc just a short drive away.Read more...
The walled old town
The Costa Brava has its fair share of medieval, walled towns but Tossa is the only one that’s also on the coast. The narrow, cobbled streets are full of bars, shops and restaurants and it gives Tossa a completely different feel to the other coastal resorts. For me, this is one of the best things about the place – you’re kind of getting two for the price of one, beach and culture all in one go.Read more...
The views and the tranquillity
Looking out at the white boats gently nestling in this small harbour surrounded by the fabulously blue Mediterranean has got to be one of the most relaxing things I know of. You just can’t feel rushed here and it’s got the feel of a real get-away-from-it-all town. Once you’re here, people tend to stay for several days at least and just soak up the ambience, stroll along the harbour, go for coastal walks and generally hang out. I always find it an effort to muster up the energy to leave.Read more...
You’ve got history, culture and beaches. What more could you ask for?
Begur is one of the Costa Brava’s prettiest medieval towns. It’s perched high on a hilltop and it’s a lovely little town to wander around with narrow, winding, cobbled streets. But what makes this such a great holiday place for me is the fact that you’ve also got some of the Costa Brava’s most gorgeous coves and beaches just a short drive away, so you’ve got the best of both worlds.Read more...