Thursday, 21 March 2013

Exploring the Coast

Wednesday March 20

Today we, explored some quiet roads adjacent to the site, looking for butterflies, flowers, birds and photographs. Maureen noticed an olive grove with stripes of red earth between the trees, so she was out with her camera and tripod to capture this image.

We continued to the coastal region between Vinaros, Benicarlo and Peniscola. At Peniscola there is a massive castle built on a rocky headland built by The Knights Templar between 1294 and 1307 AD. In 1960 it was used as a location for the film El Cid.

The resorts were relatively unspoilt, with few high rise hotels or buildings, mainly appartments and aparthotels overlooking the promenade and an attractive beach.
We decided to have lunch in Benicarlo, and sat outside in the sunshine at a restaurant overlooking the port.
After some discussion with the waiter, we managed to decipher the Menu Del Di, and settled to an excellent lunch which included beer, bread, olive salad, starter, main course, sweet and coffee for a total 26 euros. I think we will return later in the week! 
On the way back to base we called at the supermarket, and then got lost in the dark, going miles out of our way. Once I stopped swearing at the satnav  and started trusting it, we were guided home by 7:30 pm.


Monday 18 March

Today we travelled south from the district of Girona, past Barcelona, Tarragona and Tortosa to a caravan site at Sant Jordi, approx. 12km inland from the coastal town of Vinaros.
With over 200 miles to go and the city of Barcelona to negotiate, we decide to take the  A-7 AutovĂ­a del Mediterráneo. The toll cost for the journey was close to 30 euros, which was a bit of a shock, but as it was after 6pm and going dark when we finally found the site, we concluded that it was a wise investment.

Tuesday 19 March

A rest day, setting up camp and exploring the local environs. Just a few km. from the site we came upon a beautiful monastery called:
Emitorio de La Mere de Deu de la Salut (s.XV11)

Our campsite has massive potential, and is in a state of ongoing development, overseen by Kaz, Pete and their team of dedicated helpers.
We were treated to a very friendly welcome, including the offer of a cup of tea, however we had something a little stronger in mind after a long and tiring journey. Kaz offered us a very good deal, and we also have wifi, so we are here for at least a week. We are up in the hills at an altitude of 102 m (335 ft.) with extensive vistas in every direction including out to sea.

Last days in Catalonia, and then south to Valenciana

Saturday - Sunday 16/17 March

There is still much to do and see in this area, but a longing for some warm sunshine is urging us to head south.
Before we departed we visited the Museo d'Arquelogia de Catalunya, at Empuries on the Golf de Roses, and spent a breezy few hours at the wild beach at L'Estartit overlooking Les Illes Medes.

 Les Illes Medes

Empuries is a brilliant archaeological site with two separate towns, each  with distinctive architectural features. The town of Emporion (Greek for market place) was founded by the Greeks in 575 BC. The site was later occupied by the Romans, who built a completely separate town, on a much larger scale, a short distance inland which included streets, houses, baths, forum, amphitheatre, basilicas and temples, all surrounded by a substantial wall. In the second half of the 3rd century AD the site was abandoned.

The Greek town.

The Roman forum.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Tramuntana

Thursday 14 March
Over the last few days, we have been battered by the Tramuntana, a cold fierce wind that blows down from the Pyrenees at this time of year; it can last for up to 12 days.
Today's excursion is to Olot at the base of the Pyrenees via Banyoles and through the mountains of The National Parc de la Gorrotxa which has many cones of extinct volcanoes, with heights up to 1000m. The park is heavily forested, with small villages and farming settlements in the fertile river valleys.
As we approached Olot expecting to see some great views of the Pyrenees, the clouds came down and shrouded the mountains.
We decided to return to the coast along the valley of the river El Brugent, with beautiful mountain scenery on either side as the road snaked along the fertile valley. As we approached Tossa de Mar, we headed east across the hills of Les Garrones winding through lovely forests of cork trees, eventually dropping to the plain and heading back to L'Estartit for G and T, and a late meal of pork chops fried in herbs and garlic accompanied by potatoes, cauli and a glass of local red. A fitting end to a fascinating adventure.
Total journey distance 140 miles.

Friday 15 March
Our plan today was to visit the wetland nature reserve of Parc Aiguamolls de L'Emporda  but along the way we realised that the wind was still cold and strong, so the trip to the reserve was aborted, and we decide to explore the countryside heading in the general direction of Cadeques, where Dali once lived. Along the way we had some great views of the snow covered Pyrenees and also saw some interesting bird life, including a Red Kite, a flock of Little Egrets and a couple of White Storks.

 We found  a sheltered lunch stop by the river at Sant Pere Pescador, before driving over the hills of Cap de Creus to Cadaques. The road had fabulous views and many twists and turns, unfortunately  Maureen began to feel ill with all the movement. We stopped for a while at a lay-by overlooking Cadaques and the sea, before descending to park up and explore the village.

We wandered along the sea front, took a few photographs, and had a coffee overlooking the Med. before heading home via Llanca to avoid the winding route over the mountains.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Wednesday 13 March
Today has been very cold and bleak, very windy and overcast. We spent the morning around the caravan, relaxing and keeping warm, After lunch we set off in the car to explore the local environs.
We drove down to the coast to have a look at the angry sea, Maureen took a photo through the car window, and then we carried on to the centre and port area  of L'Estartit, which is a town without soul. There are lots of appartments, a marina, and very little evidence of the old town; no doubt L'Estartit comes alive in the summer.
We then drove to L'Escala which is located at the southern end of Roses Bay. We drove through the town down to the sea front where the raised car park was exposed to the full force of the gale coming off the sea. we managed to take a couple of photos, either through the car window or by sheltering behind a rock obelisk. The snow covered, cloud shrouded, peaks of the Pyrenees could be seen across the bay, an opportunity for a great shot on a better day.

From L'Escala we drove south towards the headland of Montgo towards what looked like an interesting hilltop village. Unfortunately when we got there it was a development of villas, ruining what was once a wild and beautiful headland. The roads were atrocious with ruts and subsidence everywhere. We managed to find a parking spot with a view across the bay and the torrid sea. After taking a few pics we took we headed to L'Estartit and the supermarket via a back road through Ulla. On the way we saw the possibility of a few shots across a vineyard to the trees and hills beyond.

After an interesting browse around the supermarket, we headed home for a late meal. By this time the wind had reached storm force, and it continued to batter the caravan throughout the night. Are we in the wrong place at the wrong time one asks!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Camping Les Medes, L'Estartit, Girona

Tuesday 12 March
We are spending an easy day around the campsite, it is warm and sunny especially when sheltered from the cool breeze.
I have been checking on the bird life around the site and so far I have identified the following species:
Tree Pipitt
Woodchat Shrike
Garden Warbler?
House Sparrow M/F

The site is 0.5 km from the sea, along a quiet road through the fields. There is a development of apartments overlooking the beach, which detract from the lovely view across to the Iles de Medes, a small group of islands just off shore, which are a nature reserve. Extending west from the end of the road a wild beach extends into the distance. 

Over the Central Massif and into Spain

Sunday 10 March
We set off on our journey to Lodeve (our night halt) at approx. 09:30, on a beautiful sunny spring day. We headed south towards Vichy, then west towards the motorway. We passed through small villages where the locals were out buying their bread from the local patisseries, which were open on Sunday. Eventually, we picked up the motorway and began our journey south.
We pulled in at an Aire to sample the croissants and coffee only to find that it was just rest area. We made our own coffee and settled for a biscuit instead, and then hit the road south.
The traffic was becoming busier, so we decided to stop again at a services, for the coffee and croissants; unfortunately this was a very busy services more akin to the M6 with various shops and lots of people including coach loads of children and teenagers. The coffee and croissants were poor standard, so we moved on feeling a tad peeved.
The amount of traffic continued to increase and the road climbed up and up over the Central Massif reaching an altitude of over 1200 metres. We encountered 2 serious accidents, each involving several cars, with one car on its roof, probably a typical weekend on French motorways.
We stopped at a quiet Aire with views for lunch, and continued towards the Sir Norman Foster Bridge across the Gorges Du Tarn, where we stopped at a rest area to admire the view and take some photographs. The bridge is very graceful, magnificent and beautiful, and fits in perfectly with the surrounding dramatic landscape. The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the river Tarn near Millau in Southern France. Length 2460 m, Height 343 m.

It was now moving towards 18:00 hrs. so we pushed on, arriving at our campsite at Lodeve by 18:30. We quickly got set up, had a meal and retired to bed by 21:00, tired but pleased with our efforts to reach a campsite that is within striking distance of Spain.
We were on the road by 09:30 in warm sunshine, with 150 miles to go to our camping at L’estartit on the Mediterranean coast.
As we approached the Pyrenees the weather went off, with foreboding black clouds and a drop in temperature, leading eventually to some very heavy rain, which combined with narrow lanes at motorway improvement works, the driving was somewhat challenging.
Eventually we crossed the border, and as we descended into Spain, the weather gradually improved, until we were driving along in lovely warm sunshine. We reached our destination, of Camping les Medes, near L’estartit by 15:30 hours.
The staff were very welcoming and efficient, and we had soon chosen our pitch, set the caravan up and sat down for a very late lunch of bacon and eggs with french bread and tea.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Our 2nd. Campsite in France

This site is approx. 350 miles south of Calais, in the Morvan National Park, close to Nevers. We decided to have rest day here in preparation for our next leg of 300 miles to Lodeve. There is plenty of wildlife about here, including, red squirrels, brimstone and comma butterflies, tree pipits and bullfinches. Today has been very pleasant and sunny at 17deg.C

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Travelling through the Chunnel

 Here we are enjoying the ride through the Chunnel, very relaxing and a great way to travel to France.

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