An uncrowded beach, family-run inns and guesthouses, fishing boats and genuine local cuisine: a place familiar to millions but unrecognisable in this postcard scene from the 1950s.
There were none of the earlier mentioned struggles of recollection when I turned to the next two postcards in my time-worn pile.
So much to remember here. So many highs. Such a crush of never-to-be-forgotten places, people, events and incidents enjoyed in a couple of weeks.
And memorable on a different level for being a time of decision-making; truly the crossroads on my journey through life.
One cannot help but wonder, and doubt, if the boozed-up thousands who nowadays
Truly unspoilt: Lloret de Mar in the day before the tourist hordes.
throng the high-rises, restaurants, bars, discos and clubs of this grossly overdeveloped strip of once idyllic Catalan shore derive even a smidgen of the happy and abiding memories that have been mine for more than fifty years.
These were fifteen days of wonderment, unabated pleasure and a simmering of youthful romance.
It was where I learnt how to make a salad dressing – something in those austere days unknown and almost unheard of unless it oozed as a thick cream from a Heinz bottle.
This was thanks to another lone, but more worldly, traveller living in our small guesthouse only a few steps back from the beach. He called for vinegar, olive oil (surely to be used only for medicinal purposes), a shallow dish and condiments.
I watched fascinated as he melded them into an unctuous concoction, part of which he spooned over our salads and the remainder he invited me to use as a dip for chunks of newly-baked bread.
It was my initiation into a world of food I never knew existed and which has given me lasting pleasure ever since.
The culinary wonderment continued. As the message on one postcard naively notes, “I had a meal the like of which you’ve never seen, consisting of prawns, shrimps, mussels and squid in a rice dish plus chicken. Paella it is called.”
I also commented, “The way these people eat is unbelievable.” A comment probably resulting from a visit I made to the legendary Los Caracolas (Snails), already then more than a century-old and still today the haunt of the world’s movers and groovers.
Somehow its status among the rich and famous passed me by; I was simply in awe of the setting, the atmosphere – and the food. This was fine dining in extremis, but done with not a single hint of snobbery or elitism. How could there be when little ol’ twenty-something me from the back-blocks had not only passed through its doors but also could pay the bill.
These explorations into the culinary world were not the only steps into unknown territory. There was my first attendance at a bullfight (okay, each to his own) and being enraptured by the whole extravaganza. Call it my Hemingway period. “Will go again,” said my postcard home.
Catalan cellar nights: with Diane [get that jacket and tie!!]
Then there were the night-time excursions into the cellar bars for copious wine and Catalan folk music. This was usually in the company of locals of my own age as I broadened my knowledge of the language that I had already been trying to learn back in England.
Again there was a wide-eyed comment on the postcard: “Just got in at 3.30 am – early by their standards.” And again, “I’ve seen the fishing fleet return three times now at way past 3 am.”
Back then the local boats would pull up on the beach and unload a haul of anchovies. Today?
Nearly always throughout this Spanish interlude I was accompanied by Diane, a delightful young woman I had met back in Worthing. She worked in her family’s travel agency which was right at the forefront of what became a massive explosion in packaged holidays.
Already they had built their own villa in the hills above Lloret as a base from which to run holidays to a handful of guesthouses in the area. It took little persuasion to get me to book one of their Lloret de Mar packages, especially as Diane would be there to escort and guide me.
Coincidentally, not only had I been learning Spanish but also contemplating changing careers to become a tour host, preferably based in Spain. The money was good, the commission a bonus and there was a long break in the off-season when I could teach English in Spain.
The two weeks in Lloret took me closer to making the change, especially when the involvement with Diane deepened (siestas at the hillside villa, Sunday family lunches at her home back in Worthing, the hint of a job with the firm … and more, suggested Diane).
It was touch and go.
Then family intervened. Let’s just say mum and dad were not best pleased to have me decamp to live among a lot of foreigners, drifting around Spain, an uncertain income and, above all, that big no-no of “no security.”
Back then parental control and influence were far stronger. Not like these free-wheeling times when even pre-teens seem able to dictate terms.
So I relented and, as is often said, the rest is history.
But I can’t help wondering down what paths I would have wandered if I had followed my passion. And what did become of Diane?
One thing is certain; I would be making a big detour around what the once alluring Lloret has since become.