Costa Brava

View through the arch to the castle_1086

About an hour north of Barcelona, on the famed Costa Brava, sits Tossa de Mar, one of my favorite spots on earth. We happened upon it last fall, the day before my birthday, and we headed up again last week, for one more visit. It’s all there: the Roman ruins, the medieval fortress up on the hill, the little sapphire bay dotted with candy-colored buoys, and an effusion of beach glass all along the shore.

Church at the top of the hill_1008

Bay dotted with buoys_0933

Sand, with beachgoers in the background_0900

Up on the hill, tucked behind the archway of the old fortress, is my favorite cafe-with-a-view. As in, like, ever. The petals and I stumbled onto it last October, several potential birthday cakes flirting with me from a cart on the porch just inside the entrance.  We sat together on the terrace that fall day, shared a piece of cake, and gazed out across the general Mediterranean splendor of the town.

And here was the cake once again, actually calling out to me this time, saying, You know you want to be good to yourself for a minute.  (Wouldn’t you have been tempted, were a piece of cake using that kind of language with you?!)


Cafe with paper lanterns_1055

The cafe_1065

So we grabbed a moment that involved chocolate mousse cake and views.  Felt like my birthday all over again.  And of course we walked and hiked, Tossa being an ideal place for both, the streets of the old city an enticing place in which to lose yourself for a couple of hours.

Umbrellas on the path to the castle_0918

Becky shading her eyes_1297

The cannon_1033

View down the street toward the mar_1152

View back up the same street_1199

But I have to confess that perhaps my favorite thing about Tossa are the shards of beach glass that wash up along the shore. I could spend hours just sifting through the sand, searching for the perfect piece in that magically translucent shade of aqua. Not kidding: I could live on that beach and just fritter away my mornings hunting for glass; waste my afternoons in cake and gazing; and spoil my girls by bringing them up to do the same. (Yes, yes, of course I am kidding.)

Green beach glass_0906

(But you should see my collection of treasures tumbled smooth by the sea! Anyone want to teach me how to drill holes in them so the petals and I can make pulseras?–I mean, bracelets?  Wouldn’t they make fabulous gifts?! . . .)

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Eleven O’Clock Road Trip: Cadaques

by Becky on December 5, 2012

in Travel

Cadaques view from above_0210

On the northeastern coast of Spain, along what’s known as Costa Brava, a small town waits to welcome the Eleven O’Clock Kids.  Cadaques might as well have been in Greece, with its doors in every hue of sea green, and its stairways leading up to the olive orchards on the hillsides, and its clusters of whitewashed cottages.

Aqua colored door_0236

Whitewashed stairs_0218

Portal to Cadaques2_0350

Silas on beach in Cadaques_0403

The wind was up, and we huddled together, trying to stay warm, and failing.

Group hug2_0270

Group hug_0267

But in the narrow streets, the girls found reasons to smile: Miss Lavender, because the photographer said “Please?”

Tess under canopy_0368

Tess on street with decorations_0359

Tess in street in Cadaques_0312

And Mr. Goose, because he got to ride on the back of an indulgent sibling.

Tessa and Silas in Cadaques_0291

And Miss Zinnia, because, in spite of the fact that braces are still around the corner, she has been persuaded that plenty of people find her smile just lovely.

Millay in street in Cadaques_0326

(That, and the fact that bougainvillea abounds in Cadaques.  Hooray for riotous purples on frigid winter days.)

As the sun went down, the boys collected “gratitude” rocks from among the thousands washed up along the beach.

gratitude rocks_0409

Just a little collection for the Eleven O’Clock Kid back home.

The sun went down. The wind picked up. The streetlamps came on.

Three yellow streetlamps_0365

And we got back on the road.

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My youngest adores his older sisters. Mostly. And, like all “caboose” children, he sometimes finds the girls exasperating, like when they try to tell him his business. Or kiss his face so much he worries his dignity has been permanently compromised. That’s the beauty of getting out of the house. Out of town. Out of the country, even! In a new venue, all that sister love translates into the most miraculous forms of distraction.

On the coast of the Mediterranean: combing the sand for beach glass and rocks to add to a special collection. Brilliant.


Especially if you’re a boy who loves rocks of every kind, and more especially if you’re a boy with a sister who will stay in the sand with you until the tide comes up or the light dies or the world ends, whichever happens first. Having an older sibling of the female variety who loves to hunt for objects both small and beautiful–what a boon!


And older sisters are the perfect people to show off to, aren’t they? So you think you can skip a rock the size of a cell phone all the way to Greece, do you? But whether you can or can’t isn’t the point. The point is that two sisters will watch . . . and watch. And when you decide to downshift to smaller rocks (for the sake of the beach, of course, since we wouldn’t want to empty it of all cell-phone-size rocks, now would we?) and surprise!–the little ones SKIP!–it’s the big sisters who holler and cheer like you’ve just been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.


Will the world ever be as easy to conquer as it was the day your teenage sisters made you feel like The Master of Costa Brava? Hooray for them for all the times they hugged you so tight they nearly squeezed the life out of you. Their devotion will come in mighty handy someday, when the presence in your life of two good women may likewise attract the presence of others.


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For my birthday this last week, we headed up north, to the famed Costa Brava.  Tossa del Mar was the first town we landed in, and I’m fairly sure it’s not real.  That is, I believe we stumbled into a parallel universe, where, having been professionally photoshopped and airbrushed for the out-of-towners who wander through, everything(!) is made to seem improbably lovely.

Costa Brava_4492

Example.  I’ve never found so much beach glass on one beach.  Did the prime movers of this parallel universe know that I love beach glass almost more than life itself?–the only thing registering higher on my love-o-meter being the search for beach glass alongside my children?  I think I could move to Tossa del Mar, park myself and my kids on the beach, and stage a massive Beach Glass Hunt that goes on for, oh, a year or so.


Were we to set up shop here, Silas might want to take over the castle, just to keep things interesting in this seaside parallel-o-verse. He loves climbing around through the ruins. He could be the lord of the cliffs.

Costa Brava_4466

And naturally I would have to retain whoever baked the chocolate mousse cake pictured here, a slice of which the girls and I enjoyed at a cafe so charming it could only exist–you’ve got it–in a parallel you-know-what. After all, even in otherworldly places, gals require calories.

Costa Brava_4486

The afternoon felt like a moment from someone else’s life.  Maybe I was channeling the original mistress of the castle, in which case all that I surveyed was (for the time being) mine!


Or maybe Millie had it right: just take it all in. And smile. And hope to come back soon.

Costa Brava_4375

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