Lloret de Mar: it’s a name I first heard in primary school.

We didn’t travel to Spain when I grew up, but friends and neighbours did. They went to Mallorca and Ibiza for the school holidays – and to Lloret de Mar. Some bought holiday flats and villas along the Costa Brava and further south. Today, there are entire Norwegian colonies along the coasts of Spain, complete with schools and everything else from home. For all intents and purposes, it is home, only warmer and with cheaper wine. Some political parties even have their own local chapters down here.

My school mates brought back clicking castanets, soaps with pictures of dark, mysterious señoritas, and oranges with the leaves still on. Very exotic. Back then, oranges were available mostly in winter up here in the northern world. Strangely, they’re still the snack of choice when skiing. (Strange, because frankly, oranges are a bit messy.)

When the Costa Brava Tourist Board offered to take a bunch of bloggers to Lloret, I rearranged my schedule to have a look at this mythical place from my school days.

Was it anything like I had imagined? Well, I suppose it’s difficult to live up to an image seen through childhood’s rose-tinted lenses.

Lloret de Mar today

Today’s Lloret has a lovely setting with clean and pretty beaches, and beautiful coves and gardens. It has its share of bland blocks of flats and beach hotels…

… but also the beautiful Rigat Park Hotel on top of the hill overlooking Fenals Bay; warm and colourful, inside and outside.

Lloret was one of Europe’s first package destinations, a resort town for sun-hungry northern Europeans.

It’s a lively place, especially popular with the young crowd. Clubs and discotheques abound, and ‘proppers’ are there to lure you into their particular bar with free drinks. If you play your barhopping cards right, you might get free drinks all night, I’m told.

Many of the tourists here today are Russians.

A few locals I spoke to went so far as to say they’ve saved the town. Tourism was on the decrease, then came the Russians. And they don’t just buy flats, but also villas like this one.

This pink finca is guarded by watch-dogs – real and in stone…

…and is inside Jardins Santa Clotilde, a gorgeous garden and a Lloret highlight.

I was only in Lloret for a day, so there’s bound to be interesting things I’ve missed.

Have you been in Lloret de Mar? Any further tips?

PS Did you spot the red-and-yellow striped Catalan flag in any of the photos above? As I write this, Catalonia is holding parliamentary elections. President Arturo Mas is expected to be reelected, and if he is, he will likely hold a referendum on Catalan independence. Find out more about that in Catalonia – a new European state? (Both sides have chimed in in the comments, too.) Other European regions, Scotland, Flanders, and more, are on the same path. Interesting times are afoot.

Disclosure: I was in Lloret de Mar as a guest of Pirineu Girona Costa Brava Tourist Board. All opinions are, as ever, my own.