A Homage to
Catalonia

The Smiling Plain

The legend of L'Empordà



Josep Pla, a prolific 20th-century Catalan writer, once mused that although Catalonia was such a small country, it was very mountainous. If only it could be stretched out such that all the mountains and wrinkles were pulled flat, he thought, it would cover a very large area. But then Pla was not a man of the mountains; he was a man of the plain (even his surname means plain). He was born in L’Empordà, a plain formed by material washed down over thousands and thousands of years from the mountains and laid down by the rivers on their way to the sea.

Many years ago, a shepherd in the mountains sang to the morning sun, and a mermaid in the sea sang to the moonlit nights. They fell in love, and the mermaid said, 'If you knew how beautiful the sea is'; the shepherd answered, 'If you knew the light over the hilltops'. 'If you came down, you would be my husband'; 'If you came up, my joy would be complete.' So the mermaid reached up towards the mountains and the shepherd reached down towards the sea, and from their embrace was born ‘the smiling plain of L'Empordà’, as the poet Joan Maragall called it, a plain that joins the mountains and the sea rather than separating them.