Monday, 1 September 2008

Sun, sea and sand - and cultre and gastronomy - on the Costa Daurada

It is always hard to think of places to go on holiday that offer a wide variety of things to do without busting the budget. City breaks are fine for Mum and Dad on their own, but dragging small children around the Metro (or equivalent) can be a nightmare. Seaside resort can be great as a family escape, but can leave Mum and Dad feeling they've left civilisation behind. France has lots of choice when trying to combine the two, although it can be pretty pricey, and the beaches around places like Cannes and Nice aren't exactly geared up for buckets and spades.
So here's an alternative: Cambrils, on the Spanish Costa Daurada.
Cambrils is one of the main towns of this 'Golden Coast', which stretches south of Barcelona to just south of Tarragona. It's close to the main tourist airport at Reus (15km) and just 10km from the larger and better resort of Salou. Taragona itself is a 20 minute train or bus ride away. Cambrils is a much nicer propect than Salou, however. It tends to cater for families and couples, and generally doesn't go in for raucous 18-30 type clientele.

Although it is still an unashamedly touristy place, it has an historic core a kilometre or so inland, with a mediaeval church, narrow, windy streets, a traditional indoor market, a mediaeval gateway and a convent with an impressive 14th tower, the Torre de l'Ermita, located on the route of the former Royal Road from Barcelona to Valencia. To the west of the centre are the remains of a Roman Villa, now a museum of antiquities, where you can view the remains.

On the coast itself is a large port - a mixture of marina and fishing port - and the 17th century watchtower, now a small museum. Around this is the more touristy area of hotels, beaches, shops, restaurants and a very impressive seafront drive, all palm trees and elaborate paving.

There are also some seriously attractive 'Blue Flag' beaches - several miles of them - as well as a few parks. Less than 15km away is also the huge 'Port Aventura' - Spain's answer to Alton Towers, and accessible by bus and train.

On the gastronomic side, although the resort caters happily for families with pizza and Chinese restaurants and a few 'fish and chips' type places, Cambrils also has some seriously swanky fish restaurants, and has a couple with Michelin stars. Fish is landed here every day, so it is guaranteed to be fresh.

Although most visitors to the town from the UK still go with package tours, there are also some very competitive short breaks available, via Reus airport.

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