Roses (Catalonia), Spain October 2023 (Tour 8)

We decided to drive to Spain for the day from Banyuls sur Mer, taking the D914 coast road to the Franco-Spanish border. From there, well… we were intent on having a pintxos lunch so, almost any town or village in Spain would do. We’d follow the N260 in Spain and make our mind up as to the final destination en route. This trip was as much about the coast road as the pintxos.

The coast road to the border was everything it promised to be. It is a slow route because of it’s many curves and hairpin bends but, except for a handful of motorbikes, it was surprisingly quiet and offered exceptional views along the Catalan coast. The route took us through Cerbere and then up through a series of interesting rock formations to the Belitres Pass and into Spain.

The border is marked on the French side of the Pass by a long abandoned customs post which is now almost completely covered in graffiti and; on the Spanish side of the Pass by the Retirada Memorial, erected in 2009.

The Retirada (the Memorial del Exilio del Paso de Belitres to use it’s correct name) is a pictorial representation by Columbian artist Manuel Moros of the suffering of hundreds of thousands of republican refugees fleeing Spain for France as General Franco’s armies descended on Barcelona towards the end of the Spanish Civil War. And it didn’t end there; a year later, in 1940, this same Pass was used by refugees crossing the other way, from France to Spain, while fleeing from Nazi Germany. I suspect a fair few of those who left Spain in 1939 were amongst those who were compelled to return in 1940. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. Whatever, the photographs on the memorial capture the anguish and despair of the refugees. It’s a sobering memorial.

Once across the border and into Spain the road became the N260. This led us down through Portbou and then two other little fishing villages, Colera and Llanca.

Don’t ask me how it happened but, we soon found ourselves parked up in a place called Empuriabrava. Don’t go there! Reclaimed from swampland by some German entrepreneurs during the late 1960’s, Empuriabrava is a purpose built tourist resort of some 8,000 people (rising to an incredible 80,000 in the summer months). It is built around what I am advised is Europe’s largest residential marina, with some 40 kilometres of canals and more than 5,000 boat moorings. “Naff” is possibly the word that best describes the place. There is nothing about it that is remotely Spanish, let alone Catalonian, and from what little we saw (we couldn’t get out of there quick enough) it appeared to be populated largely by Russians. Vanya likened the place to an ill thought out and awful imitation of Port Grimaud. I thought she was being kind.

And so it was that we arrived in Roses. In a facebook entry on the day we arrived, I described Roses as being to Spanish beach resorts what Waitrose is to supermarkets (i.e tasty) but, looking back, any Spanish beach resort with any authenticity about it would prove tasty compared to Empuriabrava … but that shouldn’t detract from Roses.

In common with most towns and villages on the Costa Brava, Roses was a fishing town. It still has the largest fishing fleet on the Costa Brava but is now unashamedly a tourist town and probably one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Costa Brava. What sets it apart from so many other places on the Costas and what I like about the place is that it is not in the least tacky. The words fashionable and chic spring to mind (but, we are out of season). Moreover, it sits on the northern tip of Roses Gulf and is the only beach resort on the Costa Brava that faces west (which, if nothing else, will make for some great sunsets).

We parked the Van in the south of the town on a wide boulevard in the modern residential area of Santa Margarida and then, with the wide sandy beach and calm turquoise sea to our right, we strolled along the promenade towards the town centre.

Hotels, restaurants, cafe-bars and sculptures line the promenade all the way to the old fishing port. At it’s centre there is little left of the original village; just more hotels and restaurants, large apartment blocks, shops and boutiques and the odd monument and; on Sunday mornings a farmers market with 200+ stalls. There’s no doubt about it; Roses’s focus is towards it’s high quality blue star beaches and there are plenty of them.

Those nearest the town centre (the Platja Nova, the Rastrell and the Salatar) are wide family friendly beaches with fine sand and clear shallow waters and they are very popular during the high season; as is the beach just to the north of the harbour (Platja La Punta). Beyond that and accessible by car and local transport are the smaller, quieter but no less welcoming beaches of Platja Palangres, the Canyelles Petites and the Canyelles Grosses (also known as Platja Almadrava). They too offer golden sands and shallow waters and they tend to be frequented by local families in the summer. Further north, some 7 kilometres from Roses and on the edge of Cap de Creus National Park, is Montjoi Creek (where the world famous triple Michelin Star restaurant ‘El Bulli’ used to be located), Joncols Creek and Cala del Canadel. The sand on these particular beaches is darker and mixed with flat stones but the water is clearer still. Finally, there are numerous other small secluded beaches deeper inside the National Park (Cala Calitjas Creek and Cala Rostella being two of the larger better known ones) but these are stony and rocky and not so accessible and the water at Cala Rostella is considerably deeper. To reach them they require a bit of walking (unless you access them from the sea) and they tend to be the preserve of divers and nudists (or so I’m told).

Beach holidays don’t hold the same allure to Vanya and I as they used to (we can’t take the heat) but, going forward, I could be tempted to use Roses as a base from which to visit some of the surrounding countryside and especially the coastline although, it would have to be out of season. September and/or October would be as good a time as any. I think too that I could be tempted to charter a boat to better explore the coastline. Now there’s a thought.

After a short wander around the town, we set off back along the promenade to the Van, stopping at a beachfront restaurant on the way for pinxtos and a beer.

Oh. I mentioned the restaurant, El Bulli. It was owned by the Barcelona chef Ferran Adria and, until it’s closure in 2011, was one of the most famous restaurants in the world, holding 3 Michelin Stars from 1997 and being voted ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ 5 times in a row by Restaurant Magazine. Not once did El Bulli make a profit in the 27 years Adria was Head Chef but this is perhaps not surprising given they employed 40 chefs and had just 50 covers. It seems Adria’s focus was (is?) primarily towards avant-garde cooking; pushing boundaries and; creating new dishes with the whole menu being completely changed every year. Now that would have been a restaurant to visit.

We’ll return to Roses but for now, it’s back to Banyuls sur Mer and then north to the UK although; we still have a few days before having to catch our train back to Folkestone. It’s booked for Sunday 8 October.

Cambrils (Catalonia), Spain February 2022 (Tour 5)

And so, on our way to warmer climes, we arrived in Cambrils (some 20 kilometres south of Tarragona) and decided to stay for a couple of days. Our reasons were that firstly, it was getting warmer by the day (and the forecast was even more promising); secondly, there is far more to Cambrils than L’Estartit (and for the most part it is open) and; thirdly and perhaps most importantly, we arranged for a local vet to see Nala and Beanie about a Spanish Pet Passport (now that, because of Brexit, their existing EU Pet Passports have been made redundant).

Our decision proved to be good one. The fact is, we needed a rest. Ordinarily we take our time on these tours, driving as little as possible and properly exploring and/or experiencing the places we choose to stop at. That wasn’t the case on this particular tour. Storms and freezing weather across the whole of France had compelled us to head south as quickly as possible. It was time to get back to doing things right and that day’s sunset promised great things…

We stayed at Camping La Llosa which sits on Playa La Llosa and was an easy 15 minute walk into the town. Cambrils could be described as just another Spanish summer holiday resort, albeit one with 9 kilometres of 10 blue flag, golden, sandy beaches but, what sets it apart is it’s proximity to the three mountains of Llaberia, Argentera & La Mussara (water and mountains go so well together) and it’s many fine restaurants, including at least one holding a Michelin star (the Ca L’Estrany).

Ca L’Estrany was not to be but, on the seafront we found a small restaurant (Braseria de Porte) which had an appealing menu and we sat and ate and stayed until they closed. Vanya rated her meal, Crayfish followed by a Seafood Paella, as one of the best of her life. I tried Razor Clams for the first time in my life but found them a mite rubbery. No matter, we would both recommend the Braserie de Porte.

Razor Clams. They were a tad rubbery but I’ll try them again. I’ve seen a Rick Stein recipe which appeals

The next day I went for a long walk along the coast to and from Salou – no reason other than that I fancied the exercise.

During my walk along the coast I stumbled across a rather intriguing work of art which I subsequently learned was created by David Callau Gene in 2011. They are sculptures of three fishermen and two mermaids and were put up to mark the 100th anniversary of a great storm which killed 140 Cantabrian fishermen, many of them from Cambrils.

Yes, we enjoyed Cambrils – as much for the rest as anything. And yes – we managed to get Spanish Pet Passports for the dogs. They now have dual nationality.

Tarragona (Catalonia), Spain February 2022 (Tour 5)

Leaving L’Estartit very early by our standards we set off further down the Catalonian coast for Cambril pausing at Tarragona on the way.

Much of our time in Tarragona was walking to, from and along the lively, wide, tree lined Rambla Nova (the city’s main street) where we also sat and enjoyed some of the local beer and tapas. We saw a few of the city’s sites during our short sojourn but missed so much more. You need a good two days at least to do the place justice.

Walking alongside one of Tarragona’s fine beaches (the Playa del Milagro) to the Rambla Nova, we passed the remarkably intact remains of an ancient Roman Amphitheatre built during the reign of the Emperor Augustus in 2 AD. Augustus wintered in Tarragona, or Tarraco as it was then known, after his Cantabrian campaign. The amphitheatre could accommodate more than 14,000 spectators and in 259 AD was the scene of the martyrdom of Bishop Fructuosus and his two deacons. How on earth any one person, let alone 14,000, could enjoy such a spectacle is beyond me but the amphitheatre is just one of many Roman ruins in the city which, collectively, have caused Tarragona to be designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Tarragona’s Amphitheatre

Tarragona’s 15 kilometre coastline comprises a number of beautiful beaches and the Playa del Milagro with it’s wide sandy shore is one of the most popular. One of the best views of the beach and it’s palm fringed promenade is from the Balcon del Mediterraneo which is to be found at the eastern end of the Rambla Nova.

Looking down over Playa del Milagro from the Balcon del Mediterraneo

There are some interesting statues dotted across Tarragona. One in particular on the Rambla Nova caught my attention. It sits towards the western end of the avenue and is entitled “Castells of Tarragona”.

The forming of the Castells (Human Towers) is believed to have started early in the 18th century in or around Tarragona and it has since spread throughout Catalonia. Indeed, an annual competition is now held in Tarragona every summer with teams known as ‘colles’ descending on the city from all over Catalonia to compete in building the tallest and most complex towers made only of human beings of all ages and sizes standing on top of each other. As many as 500 people have been known to form a colle and it is not unusual for the towers to reach ten tiers. The concept has attracted so much interest that UNESCO has declared the Castells a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.

As was mentioned beforehand, this was a brief stop in Tarragona. There is a great deal more to see in the city (principal among them being the Roman Forum and the magnificent 12th century Cathedral of Santa Maria) but we had to move on – our dogs were due to see a vet in Cambril.

L’Estartit (Catalonia), Spain February 2022 (Tour 5)

As we moved along the A9 in France towards Spain it started to rain (albeit lightly) and the cloud cover over the Pyrenees increased but, no problem, almost as soon as we crossed the border the skies began to brighten. It wasn’t yet sunny but it bode well.

By the time we reached L’Estartit on the Catalan coast we had completed almost 1,000 miles in the Van since leaving Brighton and we were beginning to feel very good about the weather. All of the forecasts that we checked promised sunshine for the next week (especially if we were to continue south).

L’Estartit, like so many places on the Catalan coast, is a holiday resort primarily for the Spanish. There’s not so much of the lurid, ‘kiss me quick’ trash that is to be found on the Costas further south in Spain but neither is there much left of the old picturesque fishing ports that used to dot this coast. Fishing and the associated cottage industries have given way almost entirely to tourism and, in winter, the small towns and villages on this coast are now almost empty; with many of the hotels closed and countless villas and apartments (now second homes and holiday lets) all boarded up.

L’Estartit is no different to the other places. I walked almost the whole of the town during the late afternoon and early evening to find that most houses and apartments are locked and shuttered and not a single restaurant was open (or likely to open). I found just two cafe/bars and a kebab takeaway open and none of those three places were particularly inviting. A local I spoke to confirmed that only one or two restaurants in the town ever opens in winter and that is usually at weekends.

For all that, I did enjoy my walk around the town. L’Estartit has some nice cliffs to the north of the town, an interesting island protecting the harbour, a very nice beach front and a smart fair sized marina (especially given the size of the town). I suspect that a significant number of L’Estartit’s summer hordes arrive by boat.

La Seu d’Urgell (Catalonia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

Leaving Montagut we headed off towards La Seu d’Urgell in the Catalonian Pyrenees, just to the south of Andorra. Two stages of this year’s Tour de France are being held in Andorra next week and we have it in mind to visit during the event.

We took our time over the journey pausing at Ripoll (to stock up on supplies) and near Cercs on the Panta de la Baells (to enable the dogs to take their now customary morning swim). There were other stops too but these were just brief photo opportunities

We arrived at La Seu d’Urgell early afternoon and and parked up some 3 km outside of town between the two small villages of Castellciutat and Montferrer. This gave me plenty of time to conduct a brief recce of the town. It’s a small, fairly pretty town of some 12,000 people, sitting at the confluence of the Segre and Valira Rivers just 12 miles to the south of Andorra. This area is all about cycling, white water rafting on the Segre and, surprisingly, cheese – Spanish cheese producers descend on the town from all over the country every October for a major cheese fair.

Having walked the 3 kilometres to d’Urgell in 33 degrees centigrade, I was delighted to stumble upon the cool tree lined avenue of Passeig de Joan Brudieu near the centre of the town. A couple bars on the avenue were open and locals of all ages were simply sitting in the shade and chatting over a beer, wine or coffee. I can appreciate now why such avenues are a feature of so many Spanish towns. They provide much needed relief from the hot afternoon sun.

From the Avenue I made my way to the old(er) part to the town where most of the shops sit in a stone arcade (which, once again, is designed to protect the local inhabitants from the sun) and that arcade led me to the Romanesque Catedral de Santa Maria.

Just a short walk from the Cathedral is the Olympic Park which was built for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The white water canoeing and kayaking events were held there in 1992 and while those same sports facilities are now available for locals to use, much of the area has been given over to gentler pursuits. For instance, there are now two very welcoming bars in the complex (not that I had time to use them – I had to get back to the Van for the football – England v Italy in the European Championship Final at Wembley).

And so to the football, after starting brilliantly (England were 1-0 up within just 2 minutes following a great strike by Luke Shaw) it turned into a disaster with Italy first equalising and then, after extra time was played without any further score, winning on penalties. The saddest thing is that Italy deserved their win.

The football was memorable on two counts. Firstly, England lost despite having the home advantage and being odds on favourites. The second was the electrical storm which hit us just after Italy equalised. Strong winds came from nowhere and caused absolute havoc across the campsite. We made it into the Van just before the thunder, lightening and heavy rain struck. We got away with it but some serious damage was caused to the vehicles and tents of people camped both sides of us.

The next day was about my visiting the two local villages of Castellciutat and Montferrer and finding us a pub for lunch. That was easy. Montferrer has no shops, bars or restaurants – absolutely nothing. Castellciutat has only the one pub but it did us proud. Despite it being Sunday (or because of it?) the pub was packed with locals who all seemed to know each other and the mood was lively and friendly. Add that the beer and food was good and inexpensive and we were more than happy to while away a good two hours sitting at a table outside and relaxing.

And so to Andorra…

Montagut (Catalonia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

Day 15 of our Tour saw us visit Besalu and then move on to a very quiet campsite just 13 miles away near Montagut i Oix on the edge of the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone National Park. There is very little of any interest in the area (unless you enjoy walking rough woodland trails up and down hills) but that suited us fine because we had booked in for two days with a view to simply chilling. We did that alright and enjoyed ourselves so much we stayed for a third night.

One absolute must during our stay was to watch the European Championship Semi-Final match between England and Denmark and that was achieved despite the camp having only very weak 3G and seriously poor Wifi. Vanya managed to stream the match on to two different I-pads (don’t ask me how) and while the I-pads took turns freezing one at least would work sufficiently well for us to follow most of the match. It wasn’t ideal but it worked and of course England won!

About 400 metres from our campsite alongside the road to Tortella is a narrow 28 metre high single arch 14th century bridge which crosses the River Llierca. Would you believe, Vanya actually made it to the top of the bridge? It was the river flowing very slowly under the bridge which most impressed the dogs. It became their private swimming pool with Beanie in particular loving the daily swim.

Of course, I cannot sit and do nothing even on chill days and so on two of our three days at Montagut I wandered off into the Garrotxa Park on short walks. They weren’t brilliant walks because (a) many of the trails are indistinct and (b) the tree line in this part of the world is so high that it is virtually impossible to get decent views but they kept me occupied.

My first walk was along part of Spain’s GR1 route and it took me from the Pont de Llierca up to and well beyond the Oratori de Plansalloses which chapel is popularly known as the ‘Saints Bodies’ after a legend that tells of the small bodies of numerous children being found there.

My second walk, the next day, was a longer route which took me in the opposite direction from the Pont de Llierca up to Montsiposit and then on to la Creu de la Ripolla. Absolute waste of time. The Santa Creu cross at the top of Montsiposit was more of a disappointment than the Oratori de Plansalloses. I had to fight may through a mass of thorns which cover the Montsiposit summit only to discover it the Santa Creu is little more than a small trig point with a cross on it. If that wasn’t bad enough, La Creu de la Ripolla proved to be nothing more than a yellow signpost pointing the way back to my start point and various other destinations.

Leaving the walks aside, we still enjoyed our stay in Montagut.

Besalu (Catalonia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

Wolfgang Dino, whom we met in Tossa, recommended Besalu as a place to visit and so we did just that (although I made a meal of the journey when, just two kilometres from Besalu, I took the wrong turning off a roundabout and added 20 kilometres to our route – Plonker!). Never mind; we got there in the end and we still had plenty of time to look around and enjoy a tapas lunch.

Besalu is a well preserved and enchanting little town on the Fluvia River at the edge of the La Garrotxa Natural Park in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Access to the town is across an 11th century Romanesque bridge, the Pont Vell, which leads into a maze of 11th to 14th century stone buildings and narrow cobbled streets date all of which are enclosed in the original 12 century town walls. The place is brimming with history and character and while there are a number of tourist shops, their focus is towards locally produced items, lace and ceramics (especially colourful Catalan pottery) and it really does not appear a particularly tourist destination.

Towards the centre of the town on the Place de la Libertat is the Church of Sant Pere de Besalu. Founded in 977 and consecrated in 1003 it is all that remains of a much older and larger Benedictine monastery on this site. There is a town market on the Place de la Libertat every Tuesday.

There is a second church within the town walls, the Church of Saint Vicene, but it doesn’t have the same impact as the Church of Sant Pere.

Besalu is one of the towns listed in the ‘Camino de Sefarad’ which is a network of Jewish Quarters, “each with significant Jewish Heritage”, stretching across Spain. Besalu had a sizeable community of Sephardic Jews (i.e. Jews who lived in Spain until the time of the Inquisition and who spoke a Spanish Hebrew patois known as Ladino) but this particular community disappeared not long after Pope Benedict issued his Bull in 1415 which prompted yet another systematic persecution of the local Jews by their Christian neighbours. The Christians in Besalu elected to board up the doors and windows of houses and block off all streets in the Jewish Quarter (except the one route out of town) and within 20 years all the Jews had gone. Besalu’s Jewish Quarter fell into ruin but in 1964 an almost perfectly preserved Jewish 13th Century Public Bath (the mikvah) was unearthed during local construction. It is this mikvah which secured Besalu a place in the Camino de Sefarad – there are only three still standing across the whole of Europe.

Tossa de Mar (Catalonia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

Previously a quiet fisherman’s village on the Costa Brava, Tossa de Mar may now be considered the most northerly of the busy modern beach resorts that are typically Costa Brava and for that reason Vanya was not impressed with the place but for me it has a great mix of new and old and, at the risk of appearing a pompous git, integrates tradition and contemporaneity or modernism. Vanya won’t be impressed with that either.

One feature which sets it apart is the old town. It is the only place on the Costa Brava to have an almost fully preserved walled (medieval) town complete with castle turrets and cobbled winding streets. It’s not that large but it kept me amused for a good hour.

The town has 5 or 6 gold coloured Blue Flag sandy beaches within easy walking distance of the town centre. Sitting under the old town battlements the largest of these beaches, the 400 metre long crescent shaped Playa Grande, was ranked among the best 25 beaches in the world by National Geographic Magazine but just the other side of the castle and protected from North winds by the headland is the prettier smaller beach of La Mar Menuda.

There are purportedly three churches in Tossa de Mar but to me the the Esglesia Vella de Sant Vicenc amounted to little more than a ruin. The Saint Vicenc de Tossa is smallish well preserved church with a particularly nice ceiling but my favourite is the very little Chapel of Our Lady of Socorro.

We both enjoyed wandering the narrow streets of Tossa de Mar and we both appreciated the warm welcome of the locals. We stopped first at Dino’s Bar Ristorante on Calle San Telmo for a drink or two and got to talking with the German owner, Wolfgang Dino, who has lived in Catelonia for more than 50 years. He gave us his thoughts as to the best places to visit in the area and invited us to stay on and watch the Spain v Italy semi final of the European Championships but we were already committed to a nearby Sports Bar where the equally friendly owner had reserved us a table.

One other piece of relatively useless information before I head off out but it demonstrates the very real contrast that is Tossa de Mar – This town was the first place in the world to formally declare itself as an anti-bullfighting city. You wouldn’t expect that in Spain. Well done Tossa!

El Port de la Selva (Catalonia), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

So we made it across the border from France without any issues. Because of Covid, Spain currently requires that anybody entering from either Britain or France be double vaccinated (or have a recent antigen test and isolate, etc) but nobody is checking. Indeed, it is as life is normal with no border controls at all. Having said that, we were double vaccinated before leaving England and we had the antigen test before entering France and in Spain as in France and England everyone does appear to be wearing face masks indoors.

Vanya found us what I thought at the time was an expensive campsite but, to be fair, it sits on a beach with crystal clear waters and with the Sierra de Rodes Hills serving as a backdrop – what more can you ask for? The fact is, too, that at this time of the year all campsites in Spain are bloody expensive and we’ve since had to pay considerably more – yes I am once again running behind with the blog.

The chosen campsite was on the coast at Platja El Port de la Vall, a twenty minute walk around the bay from El Port de la Selva, just to the north of the Cap de Creus and our first priority after camping up was to take the dogs for a swim in the Med. They loved it. Me, I thought it was a bit cold (and I never went in beyond my ankles).

We were never intending to stay more than one night at this place, and had already decided upon our next destination (Tossa de Mar), but we made time to walk around the bay to El Port de la Selva. There is an excellent well lit coastal path connecting El Port de la Vall with El Port de la Selva and this path takes you by numerous rocky coves with small pebble beaches.

El Port de la Selva is small former fishing port with a population of less than 1,000 which is now given over to the production of olive oil and what I will call ‘light’ tourism. Tourism is clearly the town’s principal source of income but there are no high rise buildings and the town remains quiet and unspoilt. It certainly wasn’t crowded with tourists during our visit and such tourists as we saw (heard) were all Spanish. Of course it might be different at weekends when nearby Girona and Barcelona empty out.

The wholly whitewashed town comprises an esplanade and two or three narrow streets all running parallel with each other and a series of even narrower alleys bisecting the streets. You could not get lost in this place. There are a number of bar restaurants and a handful of tiny shops but none selling the usual tacky rubbish associated with so many seaside resorts. Vanya really liked the place.

We spent far too much time in the town hunting down an ATM (don’t believe the google map which shows at least three – there is only one and it didn’t work!) but otherwise we thoroughly enjoyed sitting outside a bar on the promenade waiting for the sunset when it was time to return to the Van to stream the Spain v Italy semi-final. The problem with ‘Light’ Tourism is that football is not catered for (even when the national team is playing).

“La Jonquera” (Catalonia), Spain September 2020 (Tour 3)

Why on earth did we go to La Jonquera? Vanya had been told that the cheapest wine in France or Spain is to be bought at a retail outlet called La Jonquera on the Spanish-French Border where Spain’s Els Limits meets France’s Le Perthus. So off we set.

In reality Els Limits/Le Perthus is a shabby run down border town whose main claim to fame until recently was it’s roaring sex trade. Even though prostitution is legal in France, brothels are not and when the Paradise Club opened in 2010 (in Els Limits on the Spanish side of the border where brothels are legal) it’s 90+ rooms became quite a mecca for prostitutes and their clients (and it very much remains so today if the number of scantily clad girls hanging around the various lorry parks is anything to go by).

It seems the present mayor of Els Limits is trying to clean the place up (some hope) and a massive retail park has opened. Apparently it is the largest border outlet centre in Europe and if you are into last years labels and designer gear it is a must. For my part it is one of the shabbiest and seediest places I have ever been and it is to be avoided.