One of the most beautiful places I have found in Europe recently is the wedge of land between the city of Gerona and the Costa Brava, in Spain. In high summer, the crowds can be pretty odious. But off-season, it’s a magic place. We just spent a week at ” Mas Caterina” ( Mas means country house or farm) near Madromanya, a hilltop village surrounded by cork and oak forests. It was a beautiful, old stone house with stables where they rehabilitate horses and a hilltop swimming pool with a view to the Med. The hillside is covered with head-high rosemary bushes, oleander bushes and olive trees and there are numerous medieval villages nearby. I wasn’t much in the mood for tourism, though, and spent most of the time lying on the hot tiles by the pool, reading or doing back-dives. The only sounds were the buzzing of insects and the call of birds. The region also has great food and wine. The local ” Vi Negre “, a robust red, is cheap and delicious. The people are charming. After a week, we headed north over the Pyrenees to France, where we have installed ourselves in a sleepy village in Aude. The biggest event of the day – almost the only event – is the arrival of the bread van in the morning, delivering fresh baguettes and croissants.