Tossa de Mar

The next stop north from Blanes on the coast road—by way of the mass-market resort of Lloret de Mar—is Tossa de Mar (80 km [50 miles] northeast of Barcelona, 41 km [25 miles] south of Girona), christened "Blue Paradise" by painter Marc Chagall, who summered here for four decades. Tossa's walled medieval town and pristine beaches are among Catalonia's best.

Set around a blue buckle of a bay, Tossa de Mar is a symphony in two

parts: the Vila Vella, or Old Town—a knotted warren of steep, narrow, cobblestone streets with many restored buildings (some dating back to the 14th century)—and the Vila Nova, or New Town. The former is encased in medieval walls and towers, but the New Town is open to the sea and is itself a lovely district threaded by 18th-century lanes. Girdling the Old Town, on the Cap de Tossa promontory that juts out into the sea, the 12th-century walls and towers at water's edge are a local pride and joy, the only example of a fortified medieval town on the entire Catalan coast.

Ava Gardner filmed the 1951 British drama Pandora and the Flying Dutchman here (a statue dedicated to her stands on a terrace on the medieval walls). Things may have changed since those days, but this beautiful village retains much of the unspoiled magic of its past. The primary beach at Tossa de Mar is the Platja Gran (Big Beach) in front of the town beneath the walls, and just next to it is Mar Menuda (Little Sea), where the small, colorfully painted fishing boats—maybe the same ones that caught your dinner—pull up onto the beach.

The main bus station (the local tourist office is here) is on Plaça de les Nacions Sense Estat. Take Avinguda Ferran and Avinguda Costa Brava to head down the slope to the waterfront and the Old Town, which you enter via the Torre de les Hores, and head to the Vila Vella's heart—the Gothic church of Sant Vicenç—for a journey back in time to the Middle Ages.

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