L'Estartit is a small town on the Costa Brava coast. It's located in the North East of Spain and is part of the municipality of Torroella de Montgrí. It used to be a fishing village, I know this because I have seen old pictures of the town on the restaurant walls. There is also a tourist board which tells you a little bit about the history of the town.
It benefited from an influx of tourism in the 1960's, which put it on the map as a summer holiday destination. Sadly, this resulted in the town losing some of its original charm. I went back a few years ago and it was beginning to look overdeveloped. I hear things have quietened down a bit recently, so I went back hoping that it still retained the appeal it once had. I almost don't want to share this town with you, for fear of too tourists heading there next year!
What L'Estartit means to me
It's difficult to put into words what L'Estartit means to me. Simply writing this post is going to prove difficult, as it holds such emotional significance. I used to go to L'Estartit every year as a child with my family.
Most years, we would embark on an epic journey, driving from Calais to Spain. As kids, my sister and I loved the journey, it was such an exciting adventure for us. Most of my happiest family memories are hidden in this place.
Sadly, my father passed away when I was 18, which was obviously devastating, and further exaggerated the emotional connection I have with L'Estartit. I have been back there a couple of times with my boyfriend since my father passed, but not with my mum and sister.
After nearly ten years since our last family holiday, we decided to head back to the place that means so much to us all, knowing it would be bitter sweet. Here are the highlights from our special trip.
My favourite apartment view
Of all the places in which I have stayed, I don't think I have found such a stunning and peaceful view. We used to stay in the same apartments every year, and in 2015 we stayed in them again. The apartments offer a breathtaking view of the whole of L'Estartit, including the long coastline, harbour, mountain and the vast ocean. This picture really sums up the beauty of this charming town.
Sizzling Spanish dishes
Having eaten an endless amount of Spanish dishes, I have a few personal favourites. My all time favourite Spanish dish has to be Paella. However, it is difficult to find a really good Paella, as it has to be done right, and thankfully there are a few places in L'Estartit that do it right.
Next would be stuffed mussels, which I am not sure is a traditional Spanish dish, but if you like seafood, they are to die for. They put a fish and potato paste containing fresh mussels inside mussel shells and then deep fry them. This year, I tried Swordfish for the first time, and I loved it. I had it covered in garlic and olive oil and served with vegetables and potatoes.
Shopping for souvenirs
L'Estartit actually has pretty good shopping. There is a long narrow street with all sorts of quirky shops selling jewellry, swimwear, clothing, pottery and souvenirs. You could spend a few hours shopping and come back with all sorts of unique things. I ended up buying a map of the world, where you can scratch off where you have been, and some hareem pants.
Meeting up with old friends
As we have been to L'Estartit so many times, we know the locals pretty well. When we went into our favourite cafes and restaurants, they recognised us. It was pretty tough telling our local friends that our father was no longer with us. However, we ended up sitting out at the beach bar reminiscing about old times and sharing stories about my dad, which was lovely.
Hiking around L'Estartit
L'Estartit is fast becoming a top hiking destination, with hikers from around the world visiting to take advantage of the scenic walking routes. The three of us went on a hike around the mountains and hills, and I was blown away by the views.
It's not easy terrain to walk on, as there are bits of rock sticking out everywhere, but it was worth the effort. You can literally walk right up to the cliffs, which I found terrifying. I just about built up the courage to kneel down and peek over the edge so that I could look at the water below.
If you are in the area you must pay a visit to Peratallada. It's a very local, medieval town and classified historic site that's untouched by tourism and is located 22km from Girona. It's name comes from ‘pedra tallada' which translates as ‘carved stone'. It's carved of stone from the surrounding moat and is one of the prettiest villages you will find in Spain.
We went there for a meal and to wander around the fascinating little shops. It's another place we used to go to as a family, we always went to the same restaurant that serves amazing spit roasted chicken. We went there again this time and it was still just as tasty.
You can see the Illes Medes island from the beach, which sits a kilometre off the shore. It's a protected Natural Park, a lot of tourists come here to go diving. Many divers return to L'Estartit year after year. We used to kayak out to the island and also speed around it on the back of a jet ski.
Swimming in rough sea and building sandcastles with my sister
As we went towards the end of September this year, the weather was a bit unpredictable. The seas were a little rough on some days, which was actually a bonus. My sister and I are both strong swimmers and always loved to play in the waves here when we were younger.
We repeated history this year and tackled the huge waves together, it was great fun. On a few cloudy mornings I went for a run barefoot along the soft, sandy shoreline. It was so refreshing and relaxing running alongside the clear blue waters.
Overall, it was a wonderful trip. I knew returning to L'Estartit wasn't going to be easy, but it was something we needed to do as a family. I may love travelling all around the world to some truly spectacular places, but L'Estartit will forever hold a place in my heart.
It may not be pure paradise, but it is a lovely, pretty beach town that's perfect for family holidays. I probably won't return for a few years, as I have many more places I want to see. Who knows, one day, I might take my own family there.