Garrotxa 2

Breathtaking views, medieval villages, forested volcanos, basalt rock – the photographs took themselves …

Who wouldn’t pull over to get these views?



Medieval village built on an outcrop of basalt.


St Joan les Fonts

Three lava flows lie on top of one another here – the oldest dated to around 700,000 years ago, the next at 170,000 years and the last at 130,000. Given the lengths of time between each eruption – how can they say the volcano is definitely extinct?


St Joan des Abbdesses

I was a little caught out by the nighttime temperatures here – but then realised the altitude was 786 metres; the heating got switched on and we left after just the one night!


Santa Pau

The medieval village here is separate from it’s modern counterpart, something I really appreciated.

🙂 🙂 🙂


The first town as one enters the Garroxta, Besalú’s history goes back to the ubiquitous Romans but it’s better known for its medieval buildings and bridge over the R Fluvia. The current inhabitants are proudly and fiercely Catalan.

Protest against the imprisonment of Catalonian separatist politicians

Some parts of the bridge date back to the C11th

It’s a good place to wander

I’m now heading into the area of 30 (hopefully) extinct volcanos in the Garrotxa natural park …

🙂 🙂 🙂

A Fan … (or a stalker!!)

My first impressions of Roses were that it was a little disappointing and I have to admit that I’ve seen many places that are cuter, more picturesque, less concrete touristy and to be frank, just plain better. But there really is something about this place that has got to me. Some of that is undoubtedly the convivial company, I’ve new pals in John, Iris and Graham. And then there is Sue; Sue is one of my regular readers and, bless her, followed my route from Mirepoix, via Argeles to Roses just to come spend a couple of nights here and meet me. She even took the twisty windy route. How fabulous is that? I’ve got a fan …  (or a stalker!!) Safe journey home Sue, see you in Yorkshire!

I think one of Roses (pronounced Rosas locally) charms is that it remains a working fishing port and town; it therefore has a heart, unlike Argeles Plage which is pure tourist spot/marina. Roses has a lot of history; its first invaders, long after the Stone Age peoples left their hill-top settlement, were the Greeks. They left their mark with the first harbour. After them it was quiet hereabouts for a few hundred years until the Romans turned up (as they did, everywhere) and built on top of the Greek ruins. All went quiet again for a few more hundred years after the Roman Empire collapsed, until the Moors arrived. The Moors got overthrown by the Christians after another few hundred years. Things then went relatively quiet again for yet another few hundred years and Roses became a quiet, backwater fishing village … until the tourist hordes “discovered” it.

Doing the mending

Backdrop Pyrenees

The “quiet” season

I’m having a good time, thanks to having a social life, my three night stop is turning into three weeks. Current (and as usual, flexible) plan is to stay for a bit longer before heading down towards Barça. I can’t believe it’s only three weeks til the descendants arrive …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Very different reflections on the past.

I’m not sure what I think about the refurbishment of the shops in Mirepoix’s medieval centre. At first I thought the new all glass fronts and revamped interiors were too modern; then I realised that the “old shabby chic” shopfronts and interiors weren’t original and that maybe I was just reacting from the point of view of my love of shabby chic. It might even be I disliked the new look because not all the shops have been completed. I shall defer from opinion until I see it finished. Anyway I found it hard to wander round with the usual enjoyment with all the plant around and decided to hightail it to the coast.

Mirepoix before the recent renovations

It wasn’t much of a hardship to drive one of my favourite routes running parallel to the Pyrenees, the views quite make up for the parts where the road surface is extremely poor and the camber frequently wrong, especially as I suspect that is what makes the road so fabulously underused!

On Sunday, the day after arriving at Argeles Plage, right down in the corner of south western France, I meandered through the pine trees heading for the promenade when I was, at first distracted by a heavy Gendarme presence, and than told I couldn’t proceed along my chosen route. There appeared to be some sort of demonstration (which I was politely informed would be over in 30 minutes) and from the flags I saw I thought it must be the Basque Separatists protesting. LWD and I detoured round and walked the promenade to the port – where I was unable to finish more than a few mouthfuls of the disappointingly cold leathery crepe that arrived along with my drinkable tea.

The next day I took LWD on the same walk up to where the beach and pinewood had been cordoned off. On the beach I discovered an exhibition of photos of the camp that was set up in 1939 to house the 100,000 Basque refugees who escaped over the mountains from Franco’s forces in Spain. The previous day had not been a protest but the 80th anniversary of the events. The camp was set up right on the beach, it was early  February when the first refugees arrived and the conditions must have been horrendous. Exposed to the elements, families were split, as women and children were housed in one camp and men in another, taking up 1.5 kilometres of beach. The camp remained open for two years before all the refugees were dispersed to more permanent accommodation.

Argeles Plage

And I, 80 years later, find myself camping in almost the exact spot, although parked somewhat more comfortably and for far more pleasant reasons. The story does go to show that in 80 years dictators have not disappeared, and that ordinary folk are always the ones who suffer most. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


It’s a dog’s life on the Levels.

So we (LWD and I) continue to investigate our new surrounding in terms of finding suitable off lead dog walking, and I have to report that we are a little overawed by the amount of choice. We have trekked several routes along or near the banks of the R. Parrett, we’ve found a route into town by going around it, and a route on the disused rail line to Yeovil, not that we’ve gone quite that far yet, we stopped at the medieval abbey at Muchelney.


We’ve discovered The Hanging Chapel in Langport, a 15th century chapel built on top of a 13th century archway at the eastern entrance to the old town. It was a fairly common practice in the middle ages to have a chapel at the entrance of a town so that merchants and other travellers could give thanks for a safe arrival or pray for a safe journey on leaving. It is a Grade 1 listed building and a scheduled ancient monument. The chapel is still in use today as a Masonic lodge.


East view


West view

Today we climbed the steep banks of the highest hill in this neck of the woods.

Burrow Mump is a 79 ft high tor standing near the confluence of the River Tone and the old course of the River Cary, joining the River Parrett at Burrowbridge, surrounded by the low lying land, maximum 25ft above sea level, of the South Somerset Levels. Thought by some to have been used by King Alfred, he who according to legend let the cakes burn whilst on watch for Danish marauders, as a lookout point across the levels. Today the views from the top are 360° of drained farmland, in Alfred’s time the views would have been of swampy marshes. A medieval church was built on the hill in the 15th century. The current ruined church on top of the hill was built in 1793. The land and ruin were donated to the National Trust in 1946 as a war memorial to the men of Somerset.


All that and I haven’t even had to unpack the wellies – yet …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Winds of Change

I’m still “enjoying” lots of face ache. It turns out that it’s entirely possible to have toothache concurrently with sinusitis. I’ve cured the toothache part of it by having the offending molar removed yesterday. It remains unfortunate that the sinusitis has settled into the opposite side from the offending tooth socket so both sides of my face remain sore – thank Waitrose for fish crumble and mashed veg last night, and mashed bananas and strawberries with yogurt for breakfast this morning.

Last week was half term and we took the Smart One to one of his favourite haunts, Didcot Railway Centre. We always go by train as the centre is on the old marshalling yards adjacent to Didcot station. We picked an “in steam” day but surprisingly the place was the least crowded we’ve ever seen it. This year there is an ongoing exhibition covering the part the railways, in particular the Great Western Railway, played in the first world war, in commemoration of the centenary of it’s end. I found the inclusion of two of the GWR locos and a couple of the coaches used as ambulance trains during that war particularly interesting. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to provide treatment to the wounded whilst in a moving train.

The GWR ambulance train


In the field.

These days the Smart One is allowed to roam the large site unsupervised, he had a hoot availing himself of several free rides on both “in steam” trains.


The two “in steamers” for the day


A few days later and totally unconnected to our day out, following a long family discussion, K handed in her notice at her current school and sent out her first applications for posts advertised in Somerset. Rents in Berkshire are horrendously high and becoming unaffordable for a single-parent teacher’s salary. In the area we are looking at we will be able to get a 3 double-bedroomed house for less than the rent on the current 2 bedroom flat. Apart from the rent issue there are other advantages to the move. We shall be closer to J&B, who are delighted that they will only have a 45 min drive to visit and to quite a few old friends of mine and K’s, including my Bezzies. We know and love the whole of the south west and for K and I it will be going home. The Smart One is a little apprehensive but there are several “outstanding” secondary schools in the area, he will be closer to his Uncle and to his maternal Grandfather and only an hour and a half’s train journey from his Dad. He’s delighted that we shall be close to the West Somerset railway, a heritage line which ends at Minehead beach (!), and is already putting forward towns and villages with stations on the line as potential areas for me to house hunt! K will be doing the hard bit, applications (two already sent) and interviews and I’ll be doing the fun bit – finding us somewhere to live.

Watch this space …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Soggy Córdoba

With the arrangement to meet up at the Aire in Córdoba vaguely set for “lunchtime”, Jo and I arrived from opposite directions within minutes of one another and had no problems parking side by side. An auspicious start to our few days stay. Unfortunately the weather continued as it has for most of the winter, very inclement and disappointingly unconducive for photography in a very photographic location.

Umbrella’d we explored the streets and monuments of the city …

The christian cathedral was built within the vast moorish mosque

The roman bridge and the decorative plinth to a monument

Jo was very taken with an artist’s studio and waterboarded him for details of his techniques …


Wall art

We both enjoyed the many patios, indoor courtyards, some of which you could visit gratis, others in cafe’s costa cuppa coffee – but we were too mean to splash out for the “tour” …


Our evening of dinner with entertainment thankfully, did not force liquidation of our assets. Remembering the size of Spanish starters, we shared one (pumpkin soup) and also dessert (chocolate gateaux). Jo had a salmon main course and I, a lamb timbale. All in all an excellent meal – but the exhibition of Flamenco dancing that followed was beyond excellent, aside from the fact that as a Flamenco “virgin” I was totally awestruck, I was informed by a Spanish fellow diner that the Troupe was one of the best she’s seen.


We stayed for 3 nights and but for the unrelenting wetness would’ve stayed longer; still always leave with a reason to return, and there was still plenty left to see next time …

🙂 🙂 🙂