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Hostel Spa Empuries - Eco Heaven

beachbabesEn route to France for our habitual ski trip I insisted that we make the journey more interesting with breaks in QA hotels. I'd been reluctant to leave Spain, my home, at all as the temperatures had suddenly risen to perfect mid 20s and dynamic blue skies. Our first real departure from Winter and we were heading away from it all for the mountains - and snow!

Thankfully our half way break was in coastal Catalunya and the sun had followed us. Empuries itself seemed fairly built up, accommodation bundled together on clifftops, but to its side lay a few pretty coves and ancient Greek & Roman ruins - all strung together by an inviting coastal path.

We had an hour of unintentionally exploring the area in the car before we found our way (turn by Lidl) to the Hostal Spa Empuries. This LEED gold certificate eco hotel is alone on the gorgeous sandy cove of Platja Portitxol. It's vegetable garden, collection of bikes and shabby-chic sofas make us immediately feel at home. This newer trend of casual sophistication, relaxed but efficient service, seems to have been created with me in mind.

bikesandvegThe ecological and sustainability bit is serious here. They support the C2C principle that promotes only using materials that are sustainable and may be re-used in other ways. The hotel and staff raise money and give to the Solidarity Programme to build community facilities and projects in Burkina Faso - the second poorest country in the world. Hostal Empuries produces approximately 1/3 of the energy they consume and 100% of the electricity is sourced from renewable resources.

Our single storey room in the recently constructed modern part of the hotel had a vast bath, crisp sheets, stone and wood finishes, and discreet extra beds for the kids which could be hidden behind novel sliding wood doors. The glass entrance wall looked out over your own small terrace to the gardens and sea beyond. But the light is then perfectly obstructed at night with black-out curtains. Where bathroom products may be minimal and the hairdryer basic due to eco-considerations, the rooms are built sustainably and are of the highest quality and comfort.

A spa and treatments are available at extra cost, but this is a No Kids zone. However on weekends there is a drop-in creche open in the afternoons if you want a bit of time away. The gym looks out towards the beach although it doesn't open until 11am (apparently - this was not my priority!). There is a beach-type bar with paddle boards for rent a few paces away and you can join a yoga a class on Sunday mornings. Plenty to keep you quietly occupied.

After our hefty drive we were happy to slouch on the outdoor sofas overlooking the small beach with goldfish bowl G&Ts in hand while the kids ran off some pent up energy.

ruinsThe original building was built here in 1907 for archaeologists and now offers simpler hostal rooms at an economical rate, some with balconies overlooking the beach. The paintwork may be peeling here and there but actually it adds to the charm of the place. The location, sea-salt nibbled as it is, really couldn't be better.

Dinner in the bistro restaurant was delightful - our table looking out at the fading light as it shimmered on the water and the meals were organic and tasty with home-grown vegetables. The children made friends and moved aside to a slouchy leather sofa and then onto the ping-pong table in the games room while the parents had a good natter.

Next morning we grabbed bikes first thing to zip along the Dune Walkway and decided the extensive ruins were visible enough for us through the fence from there. The sea-air whipped up our hair and our appetites for the delicious breakfast ahead - crushed tomato on fresh bread with cheese, pastries and fruit too - before joining our new friends by the seaside.

By the time we left for the next leg of our trip we were feeling sun-kissed and holiday-blessed. That feeling we are all searching for when we pack our bags and set off from home. We got some strange looks when we turned up in the ski resort (hours later!) in our shorts though!

Hostal rooms from around €170 / Spa rooms from €235 for 2.