Port Bou, Spain, is a tiny tourist town in the northeast of the country, just south of the French border.
The heart of Port Bou is, not surprisingly, a small bay which faces on the Mediterranean Sea. Said bay's water is sapphire blue and astoundingly clear. The "beach" is covered in smooth rocks, not sand. It's also covered in gorgeous topless French/Spanish/Italian women.
The majority of people in Port Bou at any one time are tourists, and the majority of the tourists are French. It's character a lot like those skeevy beach towns in New Jersey or New England, but made classier by the fact that it's European. And a bit more interesting by the Guardia Civil barracks in place of the hick town sherrif.
But the locals have a secret. They party. They party hard. And they do it when the tourists aren't looking. I discovered this entirely by accident.
A friend of mine and I were staying in Port Bou as a stopover on our way to Barcelona. We'd gone out for a drink on Saturday night and during our semi-intoxicated wanderings we heard what sounded like a band playing.
We stumbled across a gigantic street party. It seemed to draw all the locals. All of them. The only people missing were the disgruntled teens (who go to the Rocó Pub for its disco lights, televised Tom and Jerry and checkerboard floor instead).
The man who owned the deli where we'd had lunch that afternoon recognized us, shouted a greeting, and wove his way to us with a couple of beers.
"This happens every Saturday night!" he told my friend, in Spanish.
Apparently, when the tourists leave, the residents throw down and kick back.
These parties are known to go on until Monday morning.
I felt like I'd had a glimpse into a secret world...what the tourist industry does after it gets to stop catering to tourists. Ahh...
The band they had playing seemed to specialize in contemporary, inoffensive Spanish pop tunes played robotically. You've never heard such a lack of swing to a beat. If it were possible for a live band to play Muzak, this is what it would sound like.
Eventually, to our amusement, they busted out covers of "O Bla Di, O Bla Da" and Dire Straits' "Walk of Life". The vocalist seemed to be singing in phonetically-learned English, and the rhythm was as mechanical as could be, but the crowd loved it.
It's amazing what you can learn by following the sounds of revelry.