There’s a place in this world that’s like no other. It’s a place of both breathtaking beauty and absolute peace. It’s a place where one can enjoy the pleasures of every sense: beautiful seascapes for the eyes, peaceful waves for the ears, floral fragrances for the nose, warm sunshine on the skin, and mouthwatering delicacies for the palette. The place? Costa Brava, in the northeast corner of Spain.
After several busy months of school and work, and a push to get his latest novel completed, my husband the author wisely booked us a week in the most idyllic of houses right there in Costa Brava, just north of Barcelona, with our family. It’s a favorite vacation destination for Val, and he continually returns, either with the rest of us or not. There he’s able to get all the relaxation he needs, with the full natural apothecary of natural relaxants as benefit. Sun, sea, and good food always do us all a world of good!
The Spanish Sun
Spain is famous for its sunshine, and for good reason. The coastal regions boast a balmy Mediterranean climate year round, while the interior and south melt under a scorching sun in the summer. The Spanish sunshine is good for growing oranges, but it’s also good for serotonin levels, which help a person feel awake and alert throughout the day, and better able to relax at night. The result of this type of environment is that of feeling better rested, full of energy, and in a better state to tackle life.
Those who suffer from seasonal depression know well how a good sunny vacation can effect one’s mood. From our home in the wet and windy Netherlands, where sunshine is in scarce supply, we could feel the difference–immediately. Few clouds and a bright clear sky helped us to feel cheerful and energetic all day long. From sun-up to sundown, the light changed from pink to gold, with purple tones increasing until night.
Even at the end of October, beach goers in bathing suits sun-bathed and swam in the water. The weather was absolutely perfect, not too cold or too hot. The sunshine was soothing on the skin, without ever being strong enough to burn.
Now free of writing obligations, Val took the kids on multiple beach hikes in the Spanish sunshine, along the rocky shore.
The Mediterranean Sea
Staying near the Mediterranean Sea was nice in multiple ways; the beautiful seascapes and gentle sound of waves were quite therapeutic, and swimming in the salt water brought out our sense of freedom and fun. It gave us the ability to relax and really let it all go. October tends to be the month when the water temperature is at its highest (after warming up in the summer months). While it was still refreshingly cool, the water was never cold enough to cause goosebumps or body aches.
Our daughter Lucy was the most active in the water. Wearing her aqua shoes to protect her feet from the rocks, she used the diving board affixed to the stony shore to dive multiple times into the Med.
The food we ate in Spain was incredibly good. We spent hours on the terrace overlooking the big garden, enjoying the local tastes. Here we could take it slow and really enjoy every bite.
We used the large kitchen in the vacation house to produce some of our Spanish favorites. For example, we enjoyed simple tapas (Spanish snacks or antipasti) such as croquetes, jamon, and Spanish oranges on the terrace. We also tried some good, hearty, traditional meals of grilled cod, homemade tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), red gazpacho soup, Spanish white beans, and Catalan sausages called butifaras.
We also sampled the juice from local–very local–limes.
One of the main draws to this particular house, which Val had visited before, was this beautiful lime tree which bears fruit in the Fall. Its limes are large and absolutely popping with intense citrus flavor!
We used many of them during our stay, and luckily the house was equipped with a handy electric juicer.
During his first stay in this house several years ago, Val created his own drink called ‘The Costa Brava,’ which he shared with us on this trip. To make it, he mixes Coca Cola and juice from the amazing limes of this tree. He made ‘Costa Bravas’ for us every evening after sun and sea!
I also used a few of these limes to make a lime pie. A few supplies from the local supermarket–sweetened condensed milk in a handy tube, and a lot of maria biscuits to crush for the crust–rendered us a heavenly pie. Result: a dopamine overload!
A New Novel
Val used some of his free moments to read through the preliminary proof copies of the recently completed novel, October Revelations. The Spanish environment was the perfect setting to counteract the cold streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg in the book, and the relaxation under the Spanish sun ensured that neither the tragically-thrilling subject of the novel, nor and the approaching deadline for release, would overwhelm him.
Then finally, having returned to the Netherlands, the novel was released on November 12th! The result of years of work, it may now be Val’s magnum opus.
We launched the book with an event at The English Bookstore in Maastricht. There Val gave a presentation on October Revelations, as well as some background about the other novels in The Deceit of Riches Trilogy. He read from the first chapter, where the first bomb threat at the Russian news magazine is revealed. You can read a sample and learn more by clicking on the image below:
We highly recommend Spain’s Costa Brava, as well as this scintillating new novel–perfect ideas for providing relaxation and fun. If you are stuck at home because of COVID-related travel restrictions, we highly encourage you to ‘Travel Europe Through Books’ to discover new parts of the world, while filling your mind with exciting new adventures. Bon voyage!