La Fosca ... and the Castle of St. Esteve de Mar, Costa Brava, Catalonia

Yesterday we met up with a bunch of friends for a long, lazy lunch at one of our favourite restaurants, the Hostal La Fosca. We enjoyed some fabulous food and a good catch up, and then everyone headed for the beach. The children had their hearts set on an afternoon of messing around on pedalos, the grown ups wanted to stretch out in the sun and chat, but something else, the ancient castle of St. Esteve, sitting on the near horizon caught my eye.

La Fosca with the Castle of St. Esteve de Mar in the background

Now I have to 'fess up: I'm not really much of a beach person. I love going to the beach, but I have to be doing things on the beach - swimming, looking for Emi's little beasts in rock pools, combing the sand for treasure in the form of shells and sea glass. This business of just lying in the sun is not really for me, so I peeled away from my friends on the pretext of walking the Wonder Dog to go and explore.

La Fosca

With the Wonder Dog trotting along at my heels, I wandered off along the coastal path to the Castle of St. Esteve, clinging to the rock face, from which it has guarded the bay of La Fosca for close to a millennium. The first documented reference to this castle appears in the year 1063.

Castle of St. Esteve de Mar, Costa Brava, Catalonia

Originally some Roman patrician had a villa on this site. They think that he may have chosen to build it on a pre-existing Iberian settlement that fell to the Romans when they conquered this part of the world and incorporated it into their empire.

The castle takes its name from a chapel within which was dedicated to St Esteve de Mar.

Another deed of 1272 records the right of the feudal lord, who lived here, to collect a tithe of the fish landed on the beach of La Fosca, where we had lunch, and where the rest of my companions were enjoying the sun.

Castle of St. Esteve de Mar

In 1277 it was bought on the instructions of the King, Pedro the Great, with a view to forming part of the coastal defences supporting his new port in nearby Palamós. Pedro had wanted to open another naval base north of Barcelona for his fleet, and, after some thought and advice from his ministers, chose Palamós.

By the fourteenth century it had been retired from its defensive duties and had become a farmhouse with a pretty spectacular view, where a local family lived, and, no doubt, spent much of their time looking out to sea. However in the sixteenth century, when the coast was being harried by Barbary pirates it was refortified to play its part once again in defending the coast. And much, much later, during the sad years of the Spanish Civil War, it was again refortified with barbed wire and machine guns to control the bay.

The Wonder Dog and I walked on along the path until we came upon the Cala de s'Alguer. Fishermen have lived here since the early sixteenth century, and it remains unspoilt: a little jewel of a place, frozen in time, that seems to belong to another age. Then as now, the best way in and out is by boat.

Cala de s'Alguer
But things could have turned out very differently. This beautiful little settlement was once ear-marked for demolition by General Franco. But, as luck would have it, on the very day on which the pueblicto was to be destroyed the dictator died, and it was given a reprieve in the confusion that followed. Happily it survived, and today it has listed building protection.

Cala de s'Alguer

The Wonder Dog and I walked back along the cliff tops enjoying that magical hour in the afternoon when the sun starts to lose some of its heat and the shadows start to lengthen.

La Fosca
Then we came upon a rather sinister piece of graffiti. In Catalan, fosa común means mass grave ... . I don't know which mass grave it's referring to. It occurred to me that it might be a contemporary reference to all those poor souls who are perishing in the Mediterranean as they try to reach a safe haven here in Europe.

La Fosca

We rounded another corner, where the graffiti artists seemed to have been in a happier frame of mind.  I came upon this cheeky little chap, who reminded me of the Wonder Dog, and made me smile again.

La Fosca

All the best for now,

Bonny x