You have 18 hours…
For 8 or 9 of them, sleep. I would recommend the Hotel de la Moneda in the Jewish quarter of Castello d’Empuries. Linger over breakfast. Use the wifi. People watch as the locals come in for a cup of coffee and a natter.
My parents-in-law live near Rosas, very close to the French border. While the Hubby and I are not the biggest fans of Spanish urbanisation, we love the village of Castello d’Empuries. It’s a medieval town where people perpetuate their traditions and keep on doing what they do. On summer nights, local bands play traditional music in the town square and people get up to dance the Sardana, Catalan folk dances. They cook whole monkfish on the plancha. They drink flagons of local rosado.
For 1 hour, take the kids go-karting while you have a cold beer. There are a number of places. We just went to the nearest which has two tracks – one for younger kids and the other for the general public, with adapted go-karts that have a limited top speed. My 8-year-old could drive by himself and felt like he was flying… This place is right next to the Aquabrava aquatic park with mad slides and wave pools and such. A riot in the summer, but it was much too cold now, obviously.
For a couple of hours, have a snack on the terrace of the Garriguella co-operative and chat while drinking a lazy glass of wine. Eat bread rubbed with tomato and garlic, drizzled with olive oil and topped with a locally cured anchovy fillet. Browse through their shop and buy cava, preserves, oil, vinegar, wine, turròn…
Explore the old town and walk off the calories on the Roses promenade at sundown. It’s flat and paved, so you can do it on foot, roller skates, scooter, with a buggy, a wheel chair, or one of those pedal cars for up to 5 people. Don’t buy the rip-off merch from the street sellers, though. If you even look interested, they’ll try to talk you into buying their stuff and are super persistent. The restaurants along the seafront are generally rubbish, too. But the view is amazing.
Eat ice-cream. You only live once, plus the choice of flavours is astounding (Kinder Surprise egg, dulce de leche and Smurf. Yes, you read that right: Smurf. And it’s blue.).
If you have more time, you obviously have to go to Figueras and see the Salvador Dali museum. But you need time to queue, time to look, and time to recover over tapas and wine.