Everyone has their own Empordà, shaped by personal experience, family heritage, years of reading, tradition, dreams or fantasies. For some, the Empordà is a walk through the Alberes, for others it’s an evening in the Bay of Roses, or a trip up to the Mare de Déu del Mont, panoramic views over the coast from Sant Pere de Rodes, or a
beachside bar. Or lunch at the Motel restaurant. Or all of these things at once.
For me the Empordà is an urban experience, and where I most get a sense for the region’s identity is in the streets of Figueres. I also like the open plains and the mountains, the water springs and the beach bars, the vineyards and the olive groves. But my Empordà is made from asphalt and pavements, traffic lights and lifts, trains and buses, people, hoards of people, travelling to and fro across the city.I like the serenely chaotic traffic on Thursdays, the silent, narrow streets and the roads transformed into avenues. I am an urban rambler and delight in walking from the old station to the new TGV terminus, I am unnerved by and attracted to the strange people I see in the street -am I also one of them?- strolling through the deserted city on a Sunday afternoon. My Empordà is one where every other street corner offers a place to stop and talk, as you try to weave your way through the urban landscape. Figueres is a city of friends and acquaintances, of endless greetings that see you nodding politely as you go. I like to wander through the city with a sense of the Baudelaire about me. My tramuntana is not the one that shakes the holm oaks in Maçanet or that drives the waves across the promenade in Escala. Mine is the one that whistles through the Parc-Bosc or swirls about the bus station at the junction of Carrers Sant Llàtzer and Pompeu Fabra, knocking you from your feet if you’re caught off guard. I know that my vision is, of course, a biased one, inherited from my childhood and youth in Barcelona, but right in the heart of the commercial bustle around the Town Hall or in the silence of the Rambla at three in the morning -when it is never more magnificent-, heading for my favourite market stall or listening to the multilingual announcement that hails the arrival of the train from Barcelona-Sants is where I most feel I am in the Empordà; and that this is a unique land. ⁂
Juan Manuel Soldevilla Albertí
Juan Manuel Soldevila Albertí is a literature teacher at Ramon Muntaner highscool in Figueres. He writes about many things (literature, comic books, cinema…) and often about Figueres and the Empordà, where he lives since more than 25 years ago.