the entrance to the airport, a huge abstract sculpture presides. It’s a sort of man with a plane on his head but he looks tortured, or mad perhaps, like a character from Picasso’s Guernica rendered in three dimensions, which I’m happy to see vanishing in my rearview mirror as I drive away. Along the entire coast of the Levante between Benidorm and Tarragona there are villages of whitewashed houses, freshly built, their values having sunk to almost nothing. Foreign second home buyers have seen nest eggs dwindle, sometimes planning permission wasn’t formally gained and villas have been bulldozed by the authorities.
I drive on to Terrassa, in the hills above Barcelona. It’s a bit out of the way but it’s worth it to see one of the most impressive golf course hotels in the world. Because it’s been folded into Hilton’s Doubletree brand, the La Mola Hotel is somewhat understated – you don’t read much about it and few people go there.
I take a walk around the complex, looking at the pool, the golf course, the conference rooms. There are scarcely any guests playing golf, no-one in the pool, and the conference rooms are begging for a corporate presentation.
For the first time on the trip I feel it’s a real shame, as this building is genuinely glorious. It’s low rise, boasts lashings of warm wood, muted colours and wide expanses of glass. From my room – one of the most comfortable I’ve stayed in for months – I survey the horizon. I can see Sir Norman Foster’s Torre de Collserola TV Tower poking up over the top of Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona. And that’s where I head next.
We all know tourist Barcelona – The Ramblas, the mesmerising Barri Gotic and the Plaça Catalunya where George Orwell cowered between