As the world's worst, most curmudgeonly tourist, who looks at sunbathers in confusion and not a little contempt for people who travel a long way to bake in the sun and, I presume, go in a vegetative state, here I am recommending any traveller to Spain to stay in Calella de Palafrugel, on the Costa Brava.

Yes, even if you only want to sunbathe.

Aesthetically it has it, with tasteful architecture and that fishing village feel, no garish high-rise apartments, or over-priced restaurants serving fish & chips and steak & eggs to podgy Poms; burgers and pancakes to fat Americans.

This town you can see the boats right there catching your lunch and dinner. And the prices are very reasonable. I walked past a man delivering bags of fresh cockles and trays of glistening sardines. Our first lunch my wife had grilled whole dorade and left just the skeleton. Mr Boring Kiwi had grilled lamb chops and would have them once a day if my wife's frown wasn't so icy.


Over 30 years later, I still don't get my wife taking pleasure from lying in the sun. Not that that stops her; she just gives me a sorry-for-you look and we part ways for the duration. On holidays with people I am only happy if I am on cooking duty. Anything than loll around and to me reading is activity of the mind and soul. Tanning is not.

One thing that does not change no matter what country: children on the beach. Little ones dipping fearful toes into the sea for the first time. Running terrified from a moderate wave in a process that quickly becomes mock terror then utter delight. The universal picture of every child of certain age perfectly happy with a plastic bucket and shovel. Fussing mothers in the pure joy of parenthood. Dads teaching their kids something.

Try to imagine parents in a heated argument - you can't. But we'll all know couples with children who split up. Not a sign of marital problems when at a beach with the kids. In the Western world the divorce rate is close to 50 per cent. I've never seen or heard a single squabble between parents on a beach. But fair to say my observation are from a lip-curling distance.

New Zealand is unique with our food gathering at our beaches. Pipi, cockles, mussels, paua, even crays. And of course we have our beloved baches, a Kiwi institution I've also never got. The basic, jerry-built, home-made, ramshackle "architecture"? Uh-uhn. The complete lack of privacy that tininess imposes? Please. But to express a dislike of a Kiwi's bach is like saying you hate rugby: sacrilege.

As we live near Spain we've come to love the place. The Spanish are friendly and not money-oriented in an obvious way; their inexpensive wines are excellent and they don't do a mean pour. Wine prices at bars in Auckland are shocking. I understand exorbitant rents give restaurants and bars no choice but to pass that on.

To express a dislike of a Kiwi's bach is like saying you hate rugby: sacrilege.


The owner of our town's most popular restaurant told me his rent was the equivalent of $500 a week. I've heard of Auckland restaurateurs paying more than $7000 a week. And I see people are renting out their homes to Lions tour supporters for outrageous sums.

There go my lips again, curling contempt for greedy renters and rapacious landlords.

Another thing unique to Kiwis is our friendliness. It is perfectly normal to invite a stranger home to your BBQ. Why do nice, warm people accept clamping cars and towing them away with hugely disproportionate monetary penalties?

While we're at it. Why do the nicest people in the world turn into monsters behind a car wheel and become road ragers, fist-shakers, finger-rammers, eye-bulging, vein-extruding, salivating beasts willing to make a petty road incident a fist fight? Men - and more than just a few women - who in every other way are civilised, kind, smiley, easy-going, typical Kiwis?

We don't have the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome at our rugby games, as madly passionate as we are for the game. Get behind a wheel and cyclists become our mortal enemy, and every other vehicle is a potential conflict waiting to explode.

Maybe we should learn to chill out at the beach, gather some pipi, flop around in the sun being mindless but harmless.