Olives and olive oil is what brought the Greeks and Romans to the Iberian peninsula some 3,500 yrs ago and it has been a crucial commodity ever since. The south of Spain produces the quantity with thousands of hectares cultivated in the poorest soils where nothing else will survive the extreme weather, but around Lleida in the western part of Catalonia there are also extensive plantations.
Empuries is only some 30 minutes drive from Girona and is right next to l'Escala on the coast in a beautiful setting of sand dunes and pine trees. This area was first settled by Iberian tribes but it is really with the arrival of the civilizing Greeks in approx 300BC that both building and commerce began. Empurion, as it was known, was connected to many other trading ports around the Mediterranean, all eventually supplying the main markets of Greece and Italy with wine, olive oil, nuts ( almonds and hazelnuts), hides and wheat.
This trade became so important that the Romans decided to take over the whole Iberian peninsula to guarantee their supplies for an expanding empire. The remains we see today show a very sophisticated and prosperous community which enjoyed saunas, cultural entertainment, gymnastics and music which even today we can feel envious of.
Known as the Cami de Ronda, the coastal path that goes all along the Costa Brava up to the French border, has some truly spectacular parts, and this is one of them. It’s only short (an hours hike) but the dramatic scenery and views make it a great introduction to the “Wild Coast”.
After last weeks storm damage, the wooden walkway was either completely destroyed/submerged/brocken as you leave Sant Pol beach in S’Agaró heading south. Once you climb away from sea level, which you do rather quickly, the normal well kept and sign posted path resumes. There are modern houses and blocks of apartments dotted up the hill, but somehow they do not intrude overly, and anyway, ones focus is towards the sea. The path follows the inlets and rugged outcrops as it winds it’s way up to a point from which there are views over the whole Sant Pol beach and bay in the distance.
The really nice part about this stretch is how thoughtful the local council have been in putting picnic tables and benches in strategic places for maximum enjoyment. A legacy from a previous upgrading long ago is a pedestrian tunnel complete with alcoves and windows so you don’t miss any of the wonderful sights as you pass under some splendid mansions garden.
The flora and fauna are protected and the wind blown shapes of the pines and cork oaks add to the surreal but peaceful environs, except for the circling gulls nesting along the cliffs. All too soon we come around the headland on the other side we catch sight of the marina and town of Sant Feliu de Guixols. As we leave the wild coast behind my mouth starts to salivate at the thought of a small glass of wine with a seafood tapa in the bars around the port…