2016, 5th European Tour, Catalonia, Europe 2016, Spain, Van Travels

2.1 SPAIN – Catalonia

Illes Medes from headland above Sa Riera

 

TUE 20 SEP 2016

After crossing the border into Spain we left the motorway at Figures, and drove to Cala Montgo SE of L’Escala, but were surprised to find Camping Neus closed. Jane not keen on trying Camping Ile Matua, so we left heading for Palamos. On the way we decided to go to Sa Riera, below the old town of Begur, and stopped at Camping El Masat. The campsite restaurant was closed for the evening, so we ate overlooking the cove, at a fairly expensive restaurant, where we had rice ‘Catalan style’ for 2 persons. The meal contained a variety of seafood, which was tasty, but the majority of the meal was rice in a thick dark sauce with a fairly plain flavour. We should have had the paella!

WED 21 SEP 2016

Wasted the morning sitting around at the van, as the weather had cancelled our plans for a beach day.

Sa Reira

Sa Reira

We had a tapas lunch near the beach, including a delicious Calamare Andalusia, then walked along the road towards Sa Tuna, initially climbing above Sa Riera IMG_6169with glimpses of the villas in the pine forest overlooking the sea. IMG_6195We turned round to return before descending to Aiguafreda. On the way back we had stunning views of the Illes Medes, shaded by clouds in contrast with the bright sunlight on the pines in the foreground, IMG_6191IMG_6193the Montgri Massif rises up to the west of the islands, with the historic town of Torroella de Montrgi visible below. IMG_6196

THUR 22 SEP 2016

Blue sky, a beach day, Alan went snorkelling on the W side of the cove past Roca Negra. Calamare Andelusia for lunch (again!). Beach and swimming in the afternoon. IMG_6202Ate in the campsite restaurant, meal of the day, cod croquettes, monkfish (Alan), lamb (Jane), although not as good as previous meals here.

FRI 23 SEP 2016

Weather forecast not good for the next few days, so we decided to visit Gerona, which has been on our ‘for future reference’ list several times. Left Sa Riera heading for an ACSI Campsite S of Girona, on the way we detoured to have a look at the coves at Aiguablava and Fornells to the S of Begur. Aiguablava has a convenient parking area, and views across to Fornells. IMG_6211IMG_6217Fornells has a small harbour,IMG_6228IMG_6223and three small coves (two with sand). On our way out, we stopped to have a look at Camping Begur, which is walking distance (uphill) from the town. To get to the coves would require a long walk, all uphill on the way back, or driving the van down (or a scooter!).

On our way we stopped at Palamos and had lunch in the van parked above La Fosca beach, then drove to Camping Toni Manescal, near Girona. This is a very pleasant basic rustic site, only €11/night + local tax IMG_6235

Some noise from Girona airport. A Via Verda cycleway is about 2km to the East at Llambilles, it is then only 7km on the cycleway to Girona.

For future reference: Consider staying at Camping Begur for a few days, €80/week in low season (24 Mar > 9 Jan, 11 Sep > 30 Sep.

SAT 24 SEP 2016

After breakfast outside, we cycled North into Girona on the Via Verda cycleway, locked the bikes up at the Tourist Office, crossed a bridge to view the colourful riverfront buildings, IMG_6297IMG_6370then walked round the historic centre. The cathedral is approached via a huge set of steps from the square below, IMG_6274as there was a charge to go in the cathedral, we missed the interior, with the widest Gothic nave in Europe. The spire of the Esglesia de Sant Feliu was damaged by lightening in 1581, and never repaired. IMG_6267After looking round the old town, IMG_6291IMG_6294we stopping for lunch in the old Jewish Quarter, before walking round the medieval city walls,

Cathedral tower and distant views from City walls

Cathedral tower and distant views from City walls

Ancient & modern

Ancient & modern

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superb views from the walls

IMG_6331and finished with a drink in a shady square near the river, IMG_6363before cycling back to the campsite. Alan was very impressed with Girona, and in particular, the work carried out to enable (free) access to the city walls, which provide superb views of both the city and the countryside beyond. IMG_6343IMG_6350The city was founded by the Romans, and the medieval centre is built on top of the Roman foundations. Another place to return to. Sunny and warm all day. IMG_6354

SUN 25 SEP 2016

After breakfast outside, we cycled back to the Via Verda cycleway at Llambilles again, but this time turning South heading for Cassa de la Selva and Llagosteria, but a puncture on Alan’s bike forced us to abandon the ride as we had no spanners to remove the wheel, so couldn’t change the inner-tube, a lesson learned! A temporary fix using sealant spray into the valve only lasted as far as Llambilles, then Alan had to push the bike back. Thunderstorm in the late afternoon.

MON 26 SEP 2016

Left the campsite, which we would be happy to return to, heading for Palamos, where we stopped at Autocaravaning Palamos, a commercial Aire we stayed at earlier this year.

Autocaravaning Palamos

Autocaravanning Palamos

€12/night inc. elec. Although the previous deal of 5 nights for the price of 4 was no longer available. After lunch at the van we walked to La Fosca beach, Jane lay on the beach whilst Alan walked to Platja de Castel, one of the few undeveloped beaches on the Costa Brava,

Platja de Castel

Platja de Castel

to the east of La Fosca, past the attractive restored fisherman’s houses at Cala S’Alguer. IMG_6389IMG_6395We had a glass of cava in the beach bar on the way back to the van. We cooked large prawns, calamares and chorizo with tagliatelli (delicious!). Mixed sun & cloud all day.

TUE 27 SEP 2016

A relaxing morning sitting outside the van in the warm sunshine. IMG_6422After lunch we spent the afternoon at Platja de la Fosca, good swimming, sea nice and warm, quite breezy so we found a sheltered spot behind rocks. After stopping for a drink in the beach bar we cooked pizza with extra prawns, lardons and cheese topping in the pizza pan, very tasty!

WED 28 SEP 2016

Blue sky , sunshine and 25 deg. La Fosca beach all day,

La Fosca beach

La Fosca beach

Alan went snorkelling around the headland to the NE of the beach below the castle ruins and round to the next bay, excellent! Lunch in the beach bar, calamares Andalusia, chipirones and tomato bread. Beach and swimming in the afternoon.

THUR 29 SEP 2016

Another good day, sunny but with a breeze, La Fosca beach all day again. IMG_6426IMG_6434Alan snorkelled round the headland again, bigger waves breaking on the rocks made it more exciting, no one else out there. Lunch in the beach bar. IMG_6430Alan snorkelled round the rock extending out from the beach (Roca Negra), lots of fish including a large shoal of anchovy. After the beach, cycled onto Palamos

modern marina on the way in to the old town

modern marina on the way in to the old town

and went out to the end of the commercial jetty, then had a look at the fish market, IMG_6453IMG_6456

a pre-dinner drink overlooking the harbour, IMG_6463IMG_6465followed by a look round the old town.

sunset from the old town

sunset from the old town

Ate in El Galeo tapas bar, where we have had excellent tapas on several previous occasions, very good, but not as good as previous visits, the choice is dependent on what they are cooking at the time you are there. Back to the van in the dark (no lights), sat out in shorts and T-shirts until 9:45 pm.

FRI 30 SEP 2016

Last day for the beach, weather forecast to deteriorate over the weekend. Alan walked round the coast, stopping to look at Cala Margarida,

Cala Margarida

Cala Margarida

a small group of houses/villas overlooking the sea with a small pebble beach, then round Cap Gros, with good views over Palamos, IMG_6478IMG_6489the Formigues Islands (visible just below the horizon), IMG_6517the undeveloped beach of Castel and La Fosca beach when descending. IMG_6503

La Fosca beach & beach bar

La Fosca beach & beach bar

La Fosca beach

La Fosca beach

Alan snorkelled round Roca Negra again, before lunch in the beach bar, Gezpachio (Jane), ensaladilla rusa (Alan), IMG_6538followed by spicy mussels with citron. More swimming and snorkelling in the afternoon,

beached whale alert

beached whale alert

followed by a cava in the beach bar. Made salad with prawn pil-pil and onion bread, very tasty.

Raw large Gambas, note €1 coin for scale

large Gambas prior to cooking, note €1 coin for scale

SAT 01 OCT 2016

Breakfast outside, then left Palamos heading for Tarragona on the C35 free motorway, then the AP7 toll motorway (avoiding Barcelona), with the intention of saving time, and having a look round Tarragona in the afternoon. Arrived at ACSI Camping Las Palmeras at lunch time, we were given a pitch one row back from the beach front, with views of the huge freighter ships at anchor, waiting to dock. After lunch at the van we cycled into the city, there is no cycleway, but the main road has a wide verge. We started our tour at the remains of the Roman amphitheatre, with views of the sea beyond, IMG_6546followed by a beer in the Placa de la Font, IMG_6564before looking round the historic walled section, IMG_6569IMG_6572IMG_6588IMG_6606which includes the 12th C Cathedral, where a wedding was taking place. IMG_6580IMG_6590IMG_6598

There are many Roman remains in the city, as it was a base used for the conquest of the Iberian peninsular in the 3rd Century BC. After cycling back to the van, we ate at the campsite restaurant next to the beach.

razor clams

razor clams

The Las Palmeras campsite is huge, and extends for approximately 1.3 km along the coast,

Camping Las Palmeras extends to the trees in the distance

however, perhaps because it is so spread, out we did not find it too crowded. With such a brief visit to tarragona, there a several places we did not get chance to have a look at, another place to return to.

For future reference:

Pretori roma 1st C roman tower with access to the underground passages of the Roman Circus, used for horse and chariot races.

El Sarrello fishing neighbourhood at the Port

Roman Aqueduct ‘Pont del Diable’

 

SUN 2 OCT 2016

Breakfast outside in shorts and T-shirts in October, Alan could live like this! Drove to Montblanc, a medieval fortified town, within a ring of walls with 31 towers, dating from 1366. IMG_6627IMG_6639IMG_6643

coated bitter chocolate we tried on our tour of Montblanc

coated bitter chocolate we tried on our tour of Montblanc

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After having a look round, we drove to the Monestir de Poblet, this huge Cistercian monastery, founded in 1150, is surrounded by defensive walls, and is the final resting place of kings. IMG_6671IMG_6674IMG_6676IMG_6689IMG_6694IMG_6695We were very fortunate in visiting the Abbey church (free) during a practice session by the Ensemble Dali directed by Eirik Sorborg www.ensembledali.no a visiting Norwegian choral group, in preparation for a concert in the afternoon. IMG_6681The performance was stunning, without music or microphones, the acoustics and the atmospheric interior resulted in an exceptional experience. Before leaving we bought a bottle of Licor de Poblet.

We then followed part of one of the DK Back Roads Spain routes to Gandesa through ‘vinyards and gothic treasures’. The first stop was Prades, also known as ‘Vila Vermella’ (red town), due to the colour of the local stone. IMG_6700The Placa Major has arcades filled with bars and restaurants. IMG_6706IMG_6708We then drove through the dramatic scenery of the Priorat, a wine growing area, with exceptionally steep terraced vine clad hills, with ravines and dramatic vertical rock crags.

Priorat grapes

Priorat grapes

IMG_6721IMG_6728IMG_6730IMG_6738IMG_6741We turned off the road to climb up steeply to the mountain village of Siurana 735m (2400 ft) above the valley below, with vertical cliffs on three sides. IMG_6746IMG_6751IMG_6757IMG_6759

access road to Siurana, viewed from the village

access road to Siurana, viewed from the village

After looking round the village we had a beer in a little square, IMG_6762IMG_6770then stopped at Camping Siurana,

 

Camping Siurana

Camping Siurana

where we ate at the campsite restaurant. We had the ‘meal of the day’ €13 for 2 courses plus desert, wine, water and bread, very tasty and good value. The camping was €20 without electric (which would have been an additional €6).

MON 3 OCT 2016

After a very quiet night, after breakfast inside the van (too cold outside), we drove back down to the valley, after driving through more spectacular scenery, IMG_6780IMG_6789we tried to stop at Escaladi, a very small village full of little shops selling wines from the Priorat region, but we could not find anywhere to park, as it was busy with grape harvesting vehicles.

Escaladei

Escaladei

After continuing through more rugged and impressive countryside, we stopped to have a look at Vilella Baixa, another Priorat village, set on a rocky ridge, with taller buildings to make best use of the limited space. IMG_6798IMG_6800IMG_6807

Alan broke the key in the deadlock for the sliding door, and was not happy! It took a long time to remove the broken end of the key. After passing Falset, we were back on the main road (N420) to Gandesa, in the Terra Alta wine district, where we decided to drive south to Tortosa to get spare inner-tubes for the bikes from the Decathlon store before tackling the Via Verda cycleway to the east from Arnes-Lledo towards Benifallet. Equipped with inner-tubes, we stopped at the hospital in Tortosa, so Jane could get an infection checked out and antibiotics to sort it.

dramatic sky over Tortosa hospital

dramatic sky over Tortosa hospital

Several hours later she left with no progress, by which time it was dark. We abandoned our aim of staying at the campsite near Arnes, as that would require a long drive over mountain roads in the dark with low cloud, and would be too late to check into the campsite. We drove to ACSI Camping Ampolla Playa, where they very kindly let us in after reception had closed, we had a pizza outside the campsite restaurant.

For future reference:

Aire Valderrobres for medieval town on the river with castle, and nearby vulture feeding station and ‘observatorio de aves’ at Mas de Bunyol (phone ahead to arrange 9:00 am visit, €13) and 10 km from ACSI Camping Els Port for the Via Verda cycleway from Arnes-Lledo to Benifellet.

TUE 4 OCT 2016

After leaving l’Ampolla, we drove to Camping Estanyet S of Les Casis d’Alcanar, where we have stayed several times previously, and our 3rd visit this year. After lunch we walked into the town, the shops were closed until 5:00 pm, so Alan went fishing off the harbour wall, whilst Jane read her book. After a canya in a local bar, Jane went to a pharmacy for a ‘cure’, whilst Alan bought some worms and a shiny new fishing lure. Back at the campsite we met an English couple Dave and Bev, who joined us later for a meal in the campsite restaurant, where we had mussels then Rosa’s paella (very good as always!), followed by crème Catalan.

view from Estanyet restaurant

view from Estanyet restaurant

Rosa's Paella

Rosa’s Paella

WED 5 OCT 2016

After breakfast we drove to Ruimar on the Ebro Delta where the river enters the sea 970 kms from the source in the N of Spain.

wildcamping at the beach, Ruimar

wildcamping at the beach, Ruimar (only a short visit from us, to check it out)

Alan went fishing in the river and saw several fish jump. Lots of small sport fishing boats, Alan watched some of the fish being cleaned, all of a good size (species unknown to Alan).

information board showing fish of the Ebro Delta

information board showing fish of the Ebro Delta

Alan walked to an observation tower, from which the mouth of the Ebro could be seen,

mouth of the Ebro River

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Rosa’s fish dish

and a long stretch of the coastline to the North. Back at the campsite Alan had mussels and fish in the restaurant on his own, Jane suffering from a bad stomach after taking her ‘cure’. It rained in late evening.

THUR 6 OCT 2016

Left Estanyet aiming for Aguilas in southern Mercia, based on weather forecasts.