They were stunning in the afternoon sunshine. I was amazed as to how I'd manage to miss them before. I've been to Pals more times than I can count. I've wandered around with my camera clenched to my face taking photos of everything, but I've never actually looked outside of the wonderful little town I was visiting. And just look what I missed over there on the seaward horizon!
Emi and the WonderDog were amenable to going on a wild goose chase in search of the islands, so we all piled into the car and headed off in the direction of Platja de Pals, the official town beach, which is some little distance removed from the town itself.
We'd not been there before, but with a little bit of careful sign-reading and following in the general direction of the sea we soon arrived.
A little while later, driving on down the main road past the golf resort where my brother and sister-in-law hang out at weekends, we turned off for the Platja de la Fonollera i Mas Pinell.
|Montgrí in the distance|
We drove through orchards of pink and white apple blossom. Vast concrete irrigation channels followed the side of the roadway. Huge tractors ploughed the fields and every now and then familiar farmyard aromas wafted in through the open windows. We carried on around twisting corners and past rice fields until we came to this amazing beach.
|Platja de la Fonollera i Mas Pinell|
The Fonollera i Mas Pinell Beach is vast, wild and undeveloped - a bit of a rarity on the Costa Brava where there's been a lot of development along the coastline. And there, sitting just off the beach, were my islands, the Illes Medes, to give them their proper Catalan name.
|Medes Islands from the Fonollera i Mas Pinell Beach|
Aren't they amazing? You can just about make out the lighthouse on Meda Gran, the largest island - about a third of the way along from its landward shore. There are seven islands in total, and they are all uninhabited. A lighthouse keeper used to live on Meda Gran, but these days everything is automated and solar-powered, so no one needs to stay there full-time to take care of it.
|Lesser Medes Islands|
Some of the smaller Medes are little more than rocky outcrops - but they're seriously splendid rocky outcrops all the same!
|Fonollera i Mas Pinell Beach with the Medes Islands on the horizon|
As I understood the rules and by-laws no one was allowed to remove any plant material from the beach. As a result it was littered with the most beautiful driftwood. Whole trees had been washed up and beaten by the wind and the waves into the most exquisite, tortured forms.
|Washed up tree on the Fonollera i Mas Pinell Beach|
On the other side of the beach there's a salt water lagoon where all manner of sea birds live. The dunes were cordoned off, and no one was allowed to go there so as not to disturb their nests.
|Fonollera i Mas Pinell Beach|
A rather serious-looking chap with a very serious-looking camera had set up his pitch on the edge of the lagoon. His enormous lens scanned the wetlands. He looked like he totally knew what he was doing. I'd have loved to ask which birds he was trying to photograph, but I couldn't depend on the WonderDog to behave himself and not scare the photographer's quarry away, so I had to keep my distance. In the meantime the WonderDog was having a seriously good time running around on his extendable lead with the wind in his fur and another wonderful offering of fine, soft sand for him to dig huge holes in to his little doggy heart's delight.
|Fonollera i Mas Pinell Beach|
The lagoon trickled into the sea through a shallow channel in which the current was very gentle. A few children had stripped off and were swimming in the shallows where the spring sunshine had warmed the water a little. It didn't seem warm enough to strip off and join them, but I'm sure it would have been fun splashing around, snorkelling and looking for sea animals in the lagoon. It struck me that this would be the perfect location for Emi and his cousins to enjoy a day out later in the summer. Throw in a picnic, a few buckets, spades and fishing nets and the job of entertaining them would be pretty much done.
As it was Emi and the WonderDog were content to play in the sand and dig complex inter-connecting tunnels.
|Emi & the WonderDog, Fonollera i Mas Pinell Beach|
Meanwhile I wandered along the shoreline watching how the stream from the lagoon mixed with the waves to create little eddying currents that seemed to be totally out of step with the rest of the sea.
It is a truly beautiful beach. There are no shops, bars, restaurants, amusement arcades or anything else that's been created by man. It's just a wonderful, unspoilt place, and if you do go there, please take care of it and leave it just as it was the other day when we passed by.
All the best for now,