(for Mam, who loved a bargain holiday, and Dad, who loved Yugoslavia)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

CheapSkite Day Breaks

You don’t have to fly off somewhere to have a bargain break. And the sun doesn’t have to be shining either.

Cheap skite for a wet day
I was googling different types of travel breaks to see what could be reinvented less expensively here and came across ‘mosaic holidays’. In fact I knew an academic couple who did a one week, 8-hour a day mosaic holiday in Verona a decade ago and the wife said it was furnace hot and altogether the most gruelling experience of her life - and she had a row of kids and a bombastic, ever-restless husband (the holiday was his idea of switching off).

Well this is absolutely not that kind of break. In the blissful liberation of being in a hiatus between jobs for the first time in years I browsed a dozen beaches this week, gathering bits of seaworn pottery. There was no one around, just a few strays like myself doing the same thing. Or similar anyway. Several were gathering glass. A Frenchwoman was poring over the stones looking for orange and cream sea-hardened periwinkles that had come loose from their shells and been washed up. She collected these extremely rare finds to put in a transparent glass vase and she told me her back was broken and her eyes were strained but she was happy (though probably not as happy as I was). This day-holiday, by the way, cost €4. I had a flask of coffee with me. On another posting I will describe the super tuna sandwich that everyone should have with them when they set out on a day's ramble.

I read somewhere about some famous Warren Buffett type who was burnt out after years on Wall St and took a sabbatical on a deserted Caribbean island. He took long beach walks every day gathering bits and one day when his heart leapt at the glint of a spectacular piece of seaworn beach pottery he said he knew that he had experienced greater euphoria than a killer trade would ever give him again. 

This is the kind of thing I imagine he saw: 

When you get home you can put all the bits together in a design that pleases you and get even more value from the day.

And here are one or two I made earlier:

Art, Health and Gourmet Eating for Refined Cheapskates
Freeform Art Workshop at the (beach below the) Atelier of Salvador Dali in Portlligat, followed by a handsome 5 hour walk on smugglers’ coastal paths and lunch - without a reservation! – at El Bulli (beach)

The middle section here (Portlligat, through Cadaques, over the mountain and south along the coast to Montjoi bay) is not for the faint-hearted. It is a 4-5 hour walk and there is no bus or taxi rank at the end of it to take you back to where you started. So you have to have cooperative friends, or forget the walk and settle for the creative endorphins let loose by the elevated company you have not quite spent time with today.

I’d like to say the material for the following portraits all came from Portlligat beach, but to be honest only about half of it did, the rest being from Cadaques. But technically Portlligat is only a suburb of Cadaques and Dali was a man who liked to go into town on his night off with the best of them.


On the left here we have an unusually subdued Mae Worst and on the right an understated self-portrait of the great master himself Servidor Doily after a night on the town. 

El Bulli is rated the world’s best restaurant and you have to book three years in advance if you want a table in August (but not August 2011 or 2012, when the great chef is taking a break). You don’t have to take a break, though. You can dine al fresco beneath the modest walls of the place, like the two Dutchmen I met feasting on twigs and berries after descending from a 10-day trek in the Pyrenees. I like my food, but if you think this photo shot isn’t staged, you are very wrong. You don’t want to be drinking wine before driving back the twisty mountain road to town. I brought the accoutrements from home on a boring, bad old day just for something to do and to take this hasty photo. 
That’s El Bulli above the cork in the wine bottle. 
You can see what a lousy day it is, which is how come I managed to lay it all out for this compelling shot,  and then pack it back into my rucksack to eat at home, all without being spotted by beach strollers.  

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