Having spent few days now reacquainting ourselves with Colonia de Sant Pere, we have not yet been able to work out how the place remains so relatively unchanged. We’ve walked along the coastal path in both directions, discovering that in the even smaller settlement of Betlem there is nowhere to get any kind of refreshment at lunchtime (probably quite appropriately so since in the original Bethlehem there was notoriously no room at the inn) and in the other direction that quite a number of people still enjoy nudist bathing even in October and that you can eat well if not extremely cheaply in a small place called Son Serra.
Having said that, looking at the bill from the Restaurante Lago, our lunch would have been considerably cheaper had Phil not opted for chipirones and then dorada, two fairly expensive items. The food was very good, however, and the portions quite huge. We could probably have managed with just one ensalada especial between the two of us for a starter and skipped the chipirones. They did cheat a little though, putting bread and olives on the table before the food arrived and then charging for them. That sounds rather like Portuguese practices to me.
Still, it’s all part of the adventure and, as I said, it’s rather nice to see that the whole of this little coastal strip is largely unchanged. Not a building above three stories and not a tattoo parlour or a karaoke bar in sight. I wonder how they have managed to preserve it so unspoilt.
La Colonia de Sant Pere has been in existence since 1880, founded by the Homar brothers from a place a little inland by the name of La Devesa. They were taking advantage of the Ley de colonias agrícolas y poblaciones rurales which gave financial incentives to people prepared to go and cultivate new bits of the island. Others followed suit and came to join them so that by the end of the 19th century it had 53 houses and 66 officially registered families, of whom 41 lived here permanently.
The population went up and down for the next 60 years or so until the tourist boom started and wealthy folk began park their boats in the marina. La Colonia still remained small but by the year 2000 it had around 500 houses (including bars, shops, etc) and a fixed population of 250, increasing considerably at weekends and in the summertime.
So, it’s still not what you would call huge. The streets are set out in a nicely geometrical grid. There’s a largish square in front of the picturesque church and you can take a walk along a paseo marítimo (passeig maritim) lined with tamarind trees. It’s a very peaceful place, ideal for relaxing and “chilling” but not a place to come to if you seek a lively nightlife.
In fact, today we had some difficulty finding ourselves somewhere to have a late lunch. We had walked up to a local point of interest, an old hermitage halfway up the mountain, and had got back later than planned. Just about everywhere had stopped serving lunch and we ended up at a café on the seafront with baguettes de jamón de york y queso and a plate of chips washed down with a couple of cañas. But we are not complaining. No indeed. We are enjoying the peace and quiet.
We’ve also been looking in the estate agents’ windows. Kühn and Partner (the very name reflects the fairly large German presence here) advertise wonderful houses and villas with beautiful swimming pools at exciting prices like 1 780 000 euros, 2 350 000 euros, a snip at 850 000 euros or, if you feel adventurous, a plot of land with planning permission for a mere 89 000 euros.
Doing this and laughing at the outrageous sums of money being asked for dwellings here, I remembered that we did the same the last time we were here, around eight years ago. It was after that visit that we took ourselves off to language schools in Italy with the idea of maybe going to live there for a while. And then we had a series of holidays in Galicia and eventually THE IDEA came into being. And so finally we went to spend a year, which became two, in Vigo, an idea that may very well be repeated.
But, in actual fact, the germ of THE IDEA was started here in Colonia de Sant Pere.