The next morning we had our free breakfast on the top terrace of the hostel, complete with free and unlimited cortados!!! We debated whether to stay another night but decided to forge on, so we continued driving up the coast in search of a campground bungalow near Tarragona
. We ended up at the campground Torre de la Mora, just beyond Tarragona. It wasn't cheap, but for 70 Euros a night we had our own wooden bungalow next to lots of other bungalows in a large stand of pine trees. Luckily not too many other people were around, and the campground had direct access to a nice beach as well as an amazing pool. We were a little freaked out at first by all the rules, regulations, warning signs, and security guards (was this Spain??), but we decided to get into the spirit of things and take advantage of all the amenities. So, that night we figured that my 21 years working in catering had given me the right to be the first in line at the free paella and sangria buffet at the pool bar. We then stayed for the cheesy after dinner game show hosted by the campground's activities directors, two hyperactive and crazily cheerful guys, one from India and the other from the Jamaica. At one point we even found ourselves on stage, clapping our hands and wondering how in the world they got us up there!
We spent the next day at the pool, hiding our beer and food from the life guard, and Dan smoking when she wasn't looking. Still, it was a great pool, and had we wanted to, we could have played tennis, ping pong, petanque, or done yoga and aerobics. It was definitely the place to go for families, and most of the people there were Dutch or French. The campsites out on the bluff next to the tower had incredible views, and it certainly was a nice setting
. We decided to stay one more night in spite of feeling like we were on a cruise ship at the beach. That night we were treated to the worst flamenco show I have ever seen in my life, something that reminded me of a second rate bad Las Vegas flamenco interpretation, with the men wearing way too much pancake makeup. We lasted about half an hour, then went back to our bungalow to drink gin and tonics.
The next morning Dan began the artful disguise of the dent in the rental car (you take a plastic bottle with a mixture of water and dirt, then spray the car after scientifically analyzing which direction the waves of mud would have hit), since I was not quite 100% sure my credit card would cover the damages. (Rest assured, I called the next day, and they would cover everything up to the value of the car, as long as I had declined whatever insurance the rental car company had offered me, which I had, the driver was approved by them, which he was, and the car was paid for with the credit car, which it was). We waved good bye to Camp Fun Times, and started our drive up the Costa Brava. On our way out of town we stopped at an internet café, parked behind another car on the street, went in for ten minutes, came out and found a parking ticket on our windshield. Was this car plotting revenge for its mud bath?? After paying the 42 Euros and giving the rental car the evil eye, we drove on.
We had tried to find an apartment in Barcelona, but due to some festival, everything was booked, so we tried to find a place in Cadaques or anywhere near Roses, where the chef Adria Ferran owns the restaurant El Bulli, rated number one in the world. We had delusional fantasies of being able to go to dinner there in spite of the fact people make reservations a year ahead. Naïve, I know, but we called nonetheless everyday for three days to see whether someone had cancelled. No such luck. So, after a LONG drive through Barcelona (wrong turn put us on the wrong highway, stuck behind a traffic accident) and then on a winding road along the Costa Brava with incredible scenery, we pulled in at Play d'Oro, and the Campground Cala Gogo. The Town of Palya d'Oro is a long street of tourist place after tourist place, trendy shops and discos, in other words, horrible, but our campground was on the other side of town and again had its own access to a secluded cove on the beach. This time we had a mobile home, which had two bedrooms, was much roomier, and had a view through the trees to the Med. Another plus was being able to barbeque, so after a frustrating three hour tour of the supermarkets in Playa d'Oro (the downside to traveling with a picky chef), we had a dinner of rib eye steaks and a bottle of wine to soothe our road weary bones.
We decided to skip the kid crowded beach and relaxed the whole next day in the campground's comfy chaise lounges under the umbrellas. Having been kicked out of the chaise lounge area the night before by the security guard and me ranting and raving at him about loving Spain precisely because it didn't have so many rules, and what was wrong with quietly sitting there enjoying a glass of wine anyway?, we decided to not be the "bad campers" again that night. We had a quiet evening outside our mobile home and made plans for Girona, where we would spend our last night in Spain.
Following the advice of our two friends in Monforte del Cid, we left Valencia and drove to Peniscola. We immediately liked it, even though it was fairly developed. We headed for the end of the long beach closest to the old town with the walled-in fortress on top of the hill. Right away we found a great, clean, cheap hostel with a friendly owner across the street from the beach and with a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. (Why is it so easy sometimes, we wondered, and such a struggle other times?). The beach was clean, big, practically empty, and the water was calm. A long relaxing afternoon on the beach was a perfect end to the day. The old town had lots of narrow little streets to explore, and despite the tourist knick knack shops, Peniscola was quite beautiful.