Sunday, November 5, 2017

5 Days in Stockholm


damp overcast day walking through Kungsgarden

If you are hoping for a longer post describing our 4 and a half days in Stockholm I think you willl be disappointed. I am a bit unhappy that I can’t write more too as we were there for a long time. We had bigger plans and maybe we could have pushed harder to carry them out but the weather was against us the entire time we were there. It is hard to get motivated and so certain things when every day is, at least, completely overcast and moderately breezy. Toss in a couple of days of on and off again modest rain with blowing conditions that certainly pushed the windchill below 40F and  perhaps you can see how our enthusiasm waned. Still we did explore the city to a degree and we did see and experience some very good things. I’m going to focus on those.

Our hotel , Courtyard by Marriot, is on Kungsholm. Kungsholm is one of the 14 (I think) island that make up Stockholm. If you are starting to imagine a city where water is always in sight and clearly affected by water: stop. No doubt Stockholm’s access to the Baltic Sea and the interior lakes of Mallaran and Vartan (to name 2 I know of) has a great effect on the city but as a pedestrian you won’t notice the water all that often. This is not Venice. From our hotel you certainly do not see any water. 

We were perhaps a quarter mile from the nearest train stop. That train quickly took us to the heart of downtown or wherever we wanted to go.I don’t think I’ve ridden escalators as long since riding the Metro in Washington DC. Trains were clean and quick.  Our biggest  problem is dealing with words, the street names, that just don’t come easily. But we got by. We found pedestrian streets and all sorts of people wandering about the cold (OK, normal temperatures really but we were not expecting it) blustery days as we tried to find things to do.

A visit to the Museum of Modern Design (my name). Was on the agenda and it is worth it. At least if you are interested in modern design and art especially with a Swedish bent. The lunch we had at one of the cafes, Blum I think, was also quite nice and fairly inexpensive. A walking tour through Gamlastan is also worth it. But the numerous stores that sell all sorts of good including artisan works seem to have rather limited hours.  Even after 11:00 plenty of shops were still closed up tight. But Gamlastan is the old town of Stockholm with properly twisting cobblestone streets and that helps make it worth a visit. We might not have seen much in the stores but we spent a couple hours there nonetheless and even had some very nice coffee. Coffee in Stockholm came in good amounts. No tiny little cups of Americano let alone finding just a brewed decaf or a nice sized latte. Nope. In Stockholm coffee drinks were a proper size. Is their a relationship between temperature and coffee size? Colder air temperatures yield larger coffee drinks.
ships island

City Hall from Lake Mallaran

hospital

We also took a boat tour. X runs the tours and the two-hour tour is definitely worth the money. The boat is comfortable, protected from the weather, and the audio guide is excellent. It’s totally canned but well put together. You will get a sense of history, a bit of knowledge about Swedish culture and values, a sense of what makes Sweden Sweden. It is more than a mere recitation of facts that can quickly go in one ear and out the other. And when the weather is iffy as it was for us sitting inside the boat absorbing the sites of Stockholm and listening to the audio is a fine way to spend some time.
walking in Gamlastan

Another superb tour is the one provided at City Hall. You see the building from a distance on the boat tour. The building tour itself gets you up close and personal. It is a remarkable space. I don’t honk you will find City halls much like it elsewhere. From the great exterior courtyard , to the Blue Hall (not blue at all) where big events like the Nobel Prize awards dinner happen, to the Golden Hall filled with exquisite mosaics depicting  Sweidsh history and other things , and more the tour is de finely worth your time and the modest fee. 
City Hall of Stockholm



If you like sculpture visiting Carl Milles’ house and sculpture garden is also worth it.  I don’t think I even knew his name but the property with its sculptures is quite nice even on a cold and rainy afternoon like we had when we went to see it. I can understand how he drew inspiration from the natural surroundings as he looked out on Lake Vartan and created his art.


Mom in Carl Milles Hayden

Hand of God sculpture

Lookong to Lake Vartan

Finally visit the Culture House right across from the Centralum train station. From play areas for kids, to eateries, and many exhibit spaces for expeditions devoted to Swedish arts and design this is an intriguing place worth taking a look at. We also managed a decent lunch there which is always a plus.

A Note From Judy
The downtown areas were crowded with shoppers. We were in the high end districts as well as the more middle class or lower middle class areas. Lots of people and these are not the tourist spots (Gamlastan is a tourist area).

Photos
1. Walking through Kungsgatden towards the docks to take a two-hour boat tour. It’s not much above 40F and blustery to boot. I think Mom has 5 layers on. 

2. The red castle-like
Mbuilding was, I think, an old naval fort and munitions store. It’s part of the ship building island that you must pass if you intend harm to the city. 

3. A view from our boat tour of City Hall on the shore of Lake Mallaran. We would learn later just how remarkable a building this 100 year old building is. 

4. I think this is a hospital viewed from the boat. It is larger than it looks as a huge portion is underground. The hospital was built during the height of the Cold War and therefore has a bunker meant to deal with a nuclear strike.

5. It is a rainy chilly morning on the streets of Gamlastan: Stockholm’s old town. 

6. I can barely give you a sense of the grandeur of the City Hall with this exterior courtyard photo. 

7. The aptly named Golden Hall inside City Hall. If you want to get married there just reserve the space.

8 Birch trees and Pegasus were n Carl Milles’ sculpture garden. 

9. Mom provides a bit of scale in the sculpture garden of Carl and Olga Milles.

10. The Hand of God in the Sculpture garden looks out on a ruffled Lake Vartan.

11. A final view of the Milles’  garden. He drew inspiration from his surroundings and perhaps you can see why here as Dad descends the steps. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Spain Trip: Barcelona - 2 Days in the Big City

La Pedrera rooftop

I actually am not going to have too much to say about our time here in Barcelona. We didn’t visit many “destination” sites during our day and a half here. No doubt we could have checked out many places but that was not our choice. Instead we spent the time just walking the areas within a few miles of the hotel. It is better to say over the hours we walked a handful of miles using the hotel as our base. For example, yesterday - the whole day - we probably walked between 7 and 8 miles. 

The city is a mix of broad avenues and narrow streets. It lacks the twisting narrow streets with exceedingly narrow sidewalks of a place like Seville or Granada let alone the twisty streets and sidewalks of Punto Delgado in the Azores. Of course, Barcelona is a city of several million and has gone through many re-designs and expansions over its long history. Even the “old city” though feeling older doesn’t feel quite as ancient as other old centers. Along with the broad and narrow streets toss in large palazzos and, of course, La Rambla (sometimes referred to on signs as La Ramblas). The latter is the long pedestrian way lined with innumerable shops and cafes and restaurants and no doubt all sorts of other shops . La Rambla is also clearly where the greatest concentration of people, likely mostly tourists, are. Boy is it crowded. The crowds thin out considerably if you get a few blocks away from La Rambla but they can still be thick. 

This is a bustling city and a cosmopolitan one. You will hear many languages spoken in many accents. No doubt most of what you hear is being spoken by people like us: tourists. But tourists need infrastructure and the city provides that in abundance with touristy places and plenty of more “local friendly” places you can find if you look just a little bit harder.

One thing Barcelona is known for, famous for, is the buildings by Antoni Gaudi.  Sagrada Familia, still unfinished, is his biggest work but he designed many buildings. We’d been to several before several years ago and this time just planned to visit one: La Pedrera. We recalled others places fondly like the Serpentine benches of Parc Güell. La Pedrera though stood out in memory especially for its roof.

The roof of ochre stone slabs has several structures on it. Like all rooftops you have chimneys, ventilation housings, and other things sitting on top. Gaudi saw no reason not to make these things intriguing to the eye as well as functional. They certainly are both. It really makes the rooftop a special place to just be on. We were also struck by the public spaces in La Pedrera more than the apartments themselves. When first completed in 1912 a family, the people who commissioned the building, lived in the first couple floors and rented out the rest of the space. They had a huge living area: 1,300 square meters (better than 13,000 square feet). Today the private dwellings are much smaller. The attic, again today, is back to being one great curving , catenary arch filled, space. Originally it was where things like laundry and other community-related machinery (elevator motors, for example) was housed. The attic also provided dead-air space to help insulate the building. It’s a neat place with the arches. The grand central space around which everything is built is also cool. But, I don’t think I would want to live in La Pedrera with all the people tripping through every day to see the public accessible spaces.

Our wandering took us through some parks including past a triumphal arch near the Picasso Museum. We glimpsed the sea but did not actually go right to it. We visited a huge street food market that completely overwhelmed us in its size and throngs of people milling about buying meats, veggies, fruits, drinks, prepared food, and no doubt more. On La Rambla  we saw some interesting busking going on from the fellow making huge soap bubbles to several slow-moving performance artists and a surprisingly small smattering of people playing music. Sadly, we also saw a fair number of homeless people sometimes just sleeping right there in plain sight during the day.

We scratched the surface and I am sure you could do a lot here. We did a lot back in 2009 but this was enough for us this time.

Some final thoughts: We stayed at Hotel Curious which is a couple blocks off of La Rambla and so its street isn’t too busy with people.  If you want a spartan room that is also just big enough then take a look at this hotel.  My room reminds me , in terms of size and functionality, of my cabin  on the Hurtigruten ship Vesterallen. Except that cabin had a porthole which let in some natural light and though the room has a window it is an interesting window that looks out on a shaft that houses the elevator, but had a lighted photo of a cut scene. 

Food: No end of places to eat in Barcelona. The places that serve little thick crust pizza-like things were quite nice to see and we got food quickly. At the other end, the cafe we had lunch at yesterday took a good half hour to get us our salad and quesadillas. The place we had dinner the first night should have been good but it turned out to be a bit of a bust because of what we ordered not being quite what we wanted. But our finding of Bacoa, the burger place, was a wonderful find. Very good burgers though I’d skip the fries.

From Judy
Crowds and crowds of people on the streets most everywhere on La Rambla and all the main avenues we walked on. Smaller side streets in neighborhoods outside the old center were quieter and a good place to get a cup of coffee and a snack. The one destination stop for us was a visit to one of Gaudi ‘s most spectacular buildings in terms of ingenuity and engineering   - La Pedrera- or as it’s more familiarly known Casa Mila.  Build in the early 1900s for a bourgeois family it is a multistory building where the family lived on the first 2 floors and they rented out apartments on the upper 4 floors. The roof terrace and the area that is called the attic (it was once divided into 13 apartments) are the most spectacular. The chessman like structures on the roof all serve an aesthetic purpose disguising air vents and stairways and other mechanicals that usually just make the skyline look ugly. Over 200 red brick catenary arches of varying widths make the  attic space an engineering marvel but are also amazingly beautiful. Also in the attic space are several models showing the engineering techniques for this building and the famously still to be completed Sagrada Familia. The audio was terrific. 

We walked a large rectangle in and out of streets covering 8-9 miles, but with no ascents or descents. We saw just one protester in the government square, some police in evidence, but no big guns and maybe just the usual for the large crowds. 

Photo
1. The roof of La Pedrera is a great place. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Spanish Pyrenees Walk 12: Cadaqués and Cap de


Dali house terrace

Our final day has arrived. The sun gleamed off the whitewashed buildings of Cadaqués as we ate breakfast and planned what to do for the day. Inntravel had a couple of suggested walks and we knew we were not going to tackle the 18km trek. The 15km, out-and-back, hike to the lighthouse atop Cap de Creus seemed much more doable especially if we took a taxi to the lighthouse and walked back. We decided to spend the morning in Cadaqués and the afternoon would be given over to the walk with a possible lunch at the resturaunt at the lighthouse.

Cadaqués began to grow on us. Our apprehension, if that is what it was, of the afternoon before eased. It is a resort town but it has character for all that and certainly places worth checking out. If you spend any time here it is well worth your time to visit Salvador Dali’s home. He and his wife Gala lived there for several decades. It is a remarkable place for its size, intricate passageways, unusual outside cascades and interesting design.  You will certainly find things to admire even if you aren’t particularly interested in Dali’s artwork itself. We spent well over an hour exploring the house and surprisingly substantial grounds. It sits at the base of a small cove and you can see how the cove could inspire someone of an artistic bent.  
bedroom of the Dali house

an egg and the sea

Christ in rubbish

mom and Ken on lips

By the time  we were done it was time for late-morning coffee. This is a hit or miss thing for us. While we have generally enjoyed the pastries, coffees have been so-so. Sometimes exceedingly tiny, barely more than a shot or two, of coffee even if you get an Americano.  It’s just not satisfying sometimes.  We worked our way through the twisting sometimes steep paved and cobblestones (well like cobblestones) streets to a grocery to get supplies for lunch. We had come to suspect that although the lighthouse resturaunt might be excellent that it would also eat up more time than we wanted to give it and not have small lunch-like meals anyway. 

We were able to get a taxi to drive us to the lighthouse. An open-topped Jeep pulled up and we tossed our packs and trekking poles in the back and got in. If you think of something like the Pink Jeep Tours of Sedona, AZ you should have a notion of what our vehicle was like. We zoomed off and up the twisting two-lane  paved road that takes you past multi-million dollar homes nestled in coves before rising steadily through rock and scrub filled slopes to Cap de Creus lighthouse which sits on the easternmost tip of Spain and has provided navigational aid to sailors since the mid-19th century. It was a ride well worth the 10 euros per person. I think the walk was nice enough but it is an out-and-back 15km walk that could seem dull if you go both ways so splurge and do it one way. Since getting a taxi from Cadaqués is almost certainly always going to be easier I suggest doing what we did and ride to the lighthouse and walk back.
parents on top of Cap de Creus - Spain’s easternmost bit of land.

ken and Dad

lighthouse on Cap de Creus

looking towards Cadaqués

If my GPS is to be believed the lighthouse is on a headland that’s about 240 feet (73m) above sea level. It looks higher than that. Your walk starts on the road but within 750 meters you join a trail that takes you into the rocks and scrub and gradually winds down and sometimes very close to the road. Now and then you climb up and over a knoll of rocks and through a denser section of prickly scrub. This is a harsh landscape. We actually would mess up a bit and lose the path and be forced onto the road sooner than we should have been. That speeds up the walking but probably doesn’t change the views much. You actually don’t get many views of the coves below as you descend. The main feeling is that you are walking through a tough to live on land.

The road certainly has traffic but it isn’t moving that fast so you don’t feel too nervous even if walking on the road. We enjoyed the descent and within 2 hours we were passing by the cove of the Dali home. Not long after that we made one last climb and steep descent before returning to the hotel. Even with a break for our sandwiches and later oranges we completed the walk in about 3 hours and I think enjoyed it quite a bit even though we had more road walk than we had wanted (some by design to avoid a tougher stretch on rocky path down into and then back out of a valley the road curled around).

Dinner at La Sirena was decent but pricy. Far more pricy than Casa Nun the night before and I would recommend Casa Nun far more highly than Sirena.  We suffered sticker shock when we saw the price for the sangria (23 euros).  But even with that we have enjoyed our time in Cadaqués.

Distance of walk: 7.8km
Moving time: 2 hours 22 minutes
Stopped Time: 24 minutes
I am not sure I trust the ascent and descent numbers. While we had some ups mixed in with descent the reported number just seem wrong (ascent:122m; descent 185m). 
Sunny skies with a  high just about 80F.

Photos
1. The whitewashed stone wall and an egg as seen from a terrace in the house Salvador Dali and his wife Gala lived in for decades.

2. The Dali bedroom. Photo by Judy.

3. A view from the top of a tower, I think called Pots Tower, of the Dali house.

4. From the uppermost point of the Dali house looking down on “Christ in Rubbish”- a construction from the fertile imagination of Dali.

5. Mom and Ken on lips by the lap pool of the Dali home.photo by Jonathan

6. Mom and Dad at Cap de Creus lighthouse.

7. Dad and Ken in the same spot as the previous photo. Photo by Judy.

8. The lightouse at Cap de Creus. This is the easternmost tip of Spain.

9. Looking towards the invisible Cadaqués. The town is in a farther away cove than you can see here.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Spanish Pyrenees Walk 11: Going to the Sea



We had a late start today. Our taxi to the starting point of the walk arrived at 09:45 and in about 30 minutes dropped us off at a spot high in the hills not far from an old American, maybe now Spanish, military base. I suppose it must still be in use because a large radar station sits atop of mountain not that far away. The sky was overcast but the weather report promised it  would clear up as the day progressed.  At first we would have to hope for spectacular views of the coves and bays of the Mediterranean Sea below.
overcast morning. Mom and Crab Claw Cove

We were walking along an old mountain road and so were able to set a brisk pace. This is pretty wide open countryside.  Rocky, scrub filled,  hard to imagine farming ever happening here though we passed an old ruin or two of farmhouses. The clouds moved off and the sun came out making the promised views much more obvious.

Our first lovely view of the cove that the hamlet of Monjoi sits in was a nice treat. Just 1.5 or so kilometers away we were promised, by our Inntravel guide, that a cafe sat on the beach waiting to welcome us. It would be the perfect time for a late-morning coffee and pastry if we could have them. The trail left the road and wound down switchbacks, sometimes a little stony, towards the hamlet. Occasional sounds of life drifted up but it didn’t look like much as we descended. The sound of surf steadily increased and the gorgeous blue green of the cover drew us on in. Too bad the beach doesn’t compare to the lovely color of the water. Not much of a beach except in name only. And, sad to say, the cafe not only was closed but gave all signs that it had been for quite a while. 
Montjoi

We climbed out to the coastal road, a surprisingly busy road where we probably saw a dozen cars go by over the next couple km, and began to walk around the headlands to our next good stopping point

That turned out to be at Casa Rapla.. We left the road walk for what turned out to be a bit tougher segment than we expected. Dropping down into a modestly rocky narrow valley only to climb out again before coming in a few hundred meters to the cliffs of a cove in which a fancy hotel sits. This hotel was also cited in our guide as a place to eat. The path wound down once again somewhat stony parts to the barely-a-beach and the hotel. It is clearly fancy. It is also clearly  a place to go for a meal but  If you want a modest lunch you best go elsewhere. If you want even just a start of ham and melon be prepared for sticker shock. Unless we misread things that starter was 25 euro. Must be some super melon and super ham. Even just getting a couple dishes of tiramisu flavored ice cream and one big beer was a challenge. I would swear our waiter forgot about us. It just should not take minutes and minutes to place the order and then get a bowl of ice cream. At least it was tasty and the setting was nice. But we knew we would be feeling hungry by the end of the walk as the picnics provided by the hotel in Pilau-Saverdera were mediocre to say the least-an interesting idea of a takeout box of pasta, a hard boiled egg, and a small tomato. 




Up and out of the hotel cove. Perhaps the steepest bit of ascent of the walk was on the first road and then stone path. Since the temperature had steadily risen to about 80F we felt it as we climbed to the top of the land once more. When we came to a coast road we were at about the 10km mark: 5 or so kilometers to go.
Cadaqués in view

The rest of the walk was pretty much entirely on the coastal road. It’s a dirt-gravel road that is well built and pretty quiet. Now and then Cadaqués would pop into view. We could see the whitewashed buildings curling around the bay from quite a ways off.  Eventually we were walking through the resort town and feeling a bit underwhelmed. Maybe it was because it is a resort town that we felt that way. Maybe we were just tired. It would turn out that our feelings were misplaced but I am getting ahead of things.

It is a very nice bay that the town sits on. It’s a bit of a shame that you have to take some care of the ever-present motorcycles and scooters and some cars that zip on by on the narrow bayside road. We passed numerous restaurants , a casino, and more. We found La Notta, a oh so fine smoothie and snacks place, and that was wonderful. A few hundred meters further around, that is northernly, the bay and we found the Playa Sol Hotel. Hurray.  
smoothies at La Botta

Cadaqués from La Notta

This was a charming walk even if a lot of it was on country roads. I can imagine it being a lousy walk if the weather turns on you as there would be no real cover from wind and rain. However, our mostly sunshine-filled day though warm was lovely.
Cadaqués st night

Distance:  15.7km
Ascent 322m
Descent: 704m
Moving Time:  5 hours 20 minutes
Stopped Time: 1 hour 32 minutes includes way too much time at the fancy hotel for ice creams; and maybe 15 minutes at La Notta for those lovely smoothies).
High Temperature: 81F under mostly sunny skies

Photos
1. It looks more threatening than it actually is. But it was a touch cool and breezy so Mom was wearing a bit more than she would otherwise do. In the distance you can see Crab Claw Cove.

2. Montjoi and the very sheltered cove. Too bad the cafe bar was closed. The hamlet looks like it barely exists. But it was a nice walk down to it nonetheless.

3. Can you tell that we are dealing with a rocky descent? A lot of the land hereabouts is stony and full of scrub. This is definitely not a lush region.

4. Like photo 3 but a bit farther along. We are soon going to climb up and walk a couple hundred meters on headland before dropping down into the cove of the fancy hotel. 

5. Mom and Dad with a first really good view of Cadaqués some 3km distant.

6. Smoothies; what a treat and intriguing way to package them.

7. Standing just outside La Notta and looking at a portion of the town of Cadaqués. 

8. Just after sunset in Cadaqués. The view is from just outside the hotel Playa Sol. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Spanish Pyrenees Walk 9: Garriguella to Pilau-Saverdera

leaving Garriguella


Let’s start with dinner in Garriguella on October 18, 2017. We had an adequate, fortunately inexpensive, meal at one place and figured to go there again. A big plus for us was they were open early. The other place kept “Spanish hours.” We walked over arriving around 19:00 and found it closed. The other place wasn’t open. A little bar/cafe was open but we couldn’t decipher the menu and what we could figure out wasn’t appealing. We were stuck. But we had noticed 2 grocery-type stores on the block. Time to find food we could heat up at the house-hotel we were staying at.  A butcher shop provided us with a pasta and meat dish along with a meatball dish; another shop yielded tomatoes and drinks. I am quite sure the total cost was tiny and once we returned and warmed everything up we actually felt we had a tastier meal than the meal at the resturaunt on our first night in Garriguella.  Now this wouldn’t have worked if we hadn’t had access to a kitchen with microwave and a hostess who was fine with our using the stuff. But the kitchen facilities did exist and she was fine so all is well that ends well.

We set out at 08:44 under heavily overcast skies. Throughout the night it had stormed including thunder and lightning. You could tell rain was still in the air, though as we departed the house it was only spitting just a little bit. The Inntravel notes say the walk is 17km and we agree with this number (I actually failed to turn on the GPS track right away so likely lost 50-100m but that’s not really much). The first few km of the walk would take us out of Garriguella first along the surprisingly busy paved town road to dirt roads that wound through farms slowly gaining elevation as they passed by olive orchards and vineyards (maybe).  It was becoming clear that if this were a cloudless day the views would be quite good indeed.
on trail

We continued on through the hills passing beehives and old Spanish civil war (Nationalist) bunkers that even under these cloudy conditions had superb views of the surrounding countryside. We could see a long way too.

After crossing a very busy road, likely the most dangerous bit of the hike,  we entered a natural park area and continued to climb along a dirt road. Up we went and the sounds of a rock quarry faded away. It was easy going and the weather though gray was still co-operating. I suspect the temperature had crept up a bit into the low-mid 60F range. It was nice hiking weather and we were making good time. 

At 11:30 things changed. The rain came. At first it was gentle but though it slackened from time to time it also intensified a fair bit too. We were first walking along a narrow trail between two paved roads and we had a little tree cover. We lucked out sometimes when in more open country as the rain eased a bit. That was especially true on a 400m or so stretch of road walk. But it didn’t last.  As we climbed a steep and rutted dirt and stone track that would climb for nearly a km to the top of a hill where lonely homes sit, one under renovation and the other occupied, in the rain pelted down. This was not a place you would want to get stuck.  It eased off some at the top but the wind picked up so we felt the chill as we paused to have snacks and keep the internal fires burning. 
heading to lunch

We were still having a good day even if the steep climb had made us nervous whether we were truly on the right path. As we walked across the top of the hills towards our next goal, a ruin of some sort, the rain tapered off completely. At the ruin - call it about11km I think - we settled down for a fast lunch. The sun even made a very brief appearance. Just enough to show a shadow or two but it didn’t last. By the time we hoisted our packed again (15-20 minute lunch ) that moment had pretty much passed.
mas vente

As we approached Mad Vente (Farm of the winds) we found we had entered another type of terrain: a tiny pine grove. Lovely.Our only complaint is that we got confused by the directions. But once we sorted things out it was an easy walk down a dirt road with what would normally be exceptional views of the Bay of Roses and the towns that dot the Mediterranean shoreline. Today you could see the sea but not all that well. 
Bay of Roses

Ermita Sant de Onofre

Perhaps just before 14:30 we reached Elmira de Sant Onofre (Shrine of Saint Onofre). According to the notes it’s about 2km from there to the end of the walk. It is a tough 2km. Specifically a solid 1.5km down what the notes warn is steep and rocky and requires use of your trekking poles. In other words: very slow going for me. I am pretty sure it took over an hour to make the bulk of the descent . I am sure Mom and Dad had lots and lots of time to wait. Though it had been a wet day the path, such as it is, was remarkably dry. It drains well and the rocks were surprisingly unslippery (unlike say wet cobblestones in a village street). I am still glad it wasn’t raining as I plodded down the slopes slowly descending something like 300m in the 1.5-2km distance. While ascending would have been physically tiring I think I would have preferred it as much as Mom would have loathed it.

Once we were at the bottom it was fairly straightforward, with some fits and starts and asking for help, to find the hotel Niu de Sol. My room doesn’t seem to have any solid stone walls but Mom and Dad do. It is clearly another ancient building that has been nicely re-purposed.

We won’t have any real time here in Pilau-Saverdera to explore. It appears to be sizeable and yet retains that air of old-ness. We know people are about as we can hear them from our second floor hotel rooms. Some dogs bark now and then too. We have had a very satisfying dinner at the recommended resturaunt and we’d have had coffee and desert had they come back to our table in a more timely fashion. Perhaps it is just as well that I , at least, did not as i feel pretty full. I’m not quite sure what Patanegra is but it was a tasty cut of meat, well seasoned with vegetables and potatoes. Mom and Dad enjoyed their dinners too. 

It has been a very good day with a walk that though tougher than some was certainly well worth it even though it did rain for 75 minutes or so.

Distance 17.35km (a bit short as I didn’t start the track right away; likely 17.5km)
Ascent: 550m
Descent: 505m
Moving time: 6 hours 18 minutes
Stopped time (parent’s would be longer): 1 hour 8 minutes
High temperature upper 60s. Overcast with 75 minutes of moderate to hard rain.

Photos
1. Leaving Garriguella.

2. We’ve been walking for an hour and though we can’t see much it has been enjoyable walking so far.

3. Coming up on lunch time. We’ve left the renovated house and occupied house that both sit lonely on top of a hill well behind. The rain has ceased and we are ready for lunch.

4. At Mas Vente Mom and Dad are figuring out where we go next. The directions were a tad confusing.

5. It is hard to see much but the Bay of Roses is down there. The Meddeterranean Sea.

6. Looking back towards the Shrine of Saint Onofre. That is a nasty path winding up the slope to the shrine. Very slow going for me to make my way down from there.

Spanish Pyrenees Walk 9: Garriguella to Pilau-Saverdera

leaving Garriguella


Let’s start with dinner in Garriguella on October 18, 2017. We had an adequate, fortunately inexpensive, meal at one place and figured to go there again. A big plus for us was they were open early. The other place kept “Spanish hours.” We walked over arriving around 19:00 and found it closed. The other place wasn’t open. A little bar/cafe was open but we couldn’t decipher the menu and what we could figure out wasn’t appealing. We were stuck. But we had noticed 2 grocery-type stores on the block. Time to find food we could heat up at the house-hotel we were staying at.  A butcher shop provided us with a pasta and meat dish along with a meatball dish; another shop yielded tomatoes and drinks. I am quite sure the total cost was tiny and once we returned and warmed everything up we actually felt we had a tastier meal than the meal at the resturaunt on our first night in Garriguella.  Now this wouldn’t have worked if we hadn’t had access to a kitchen with microwave and a hostess who was fine with our using the stuff. But the kitchen facilities did exist and she was fine so all is well that ends well.

We set out at 08:44 under heavily overcast skies. Throughout the night it had stormed including thunder and lightning. You could tell rain was still in the air, though as we departed the house it was only spitting just a little bit. The Inntravel notes say the walk is 17km and we agree with this number (I actually failed to turn on the GPS track right away so likely lost 50-100m but that’s not really much). The first few km of the walk would take us out of Garriguella first along the surprisingly busy paved town road to dirt roads that wound through farms slowly gaining elevation as they passed by olive orchards and vineyards (maybe).  It was becoming clear that if this were a cloudless day the views would be quite good indeed.

We continued on through the hills passing beehives and old Spanish civil war (Nationalist) bunkers that even under these cloudy conditions had superb views of the surrounding countryside. We could see a long way too.

After crossing a very busy road, likely the most dangerous bit of the hike,  we entered a natural park area and continued to climb along a dirt road. Up we went and the sounds of a rock quarry faded away. It was easy going and the weather though gray was still co-operating. I suspect the temperature had crept up a bit into the low-mid 60F range. It was nice hiking weather and we were making good time. 

At 11:30 things changed. The rain came. At first it was gentle but though it slackened from time to time it also intensified a fair bit too. We were first walking along a narrow trail between two paved roads and we had a little tree cover. We lucked out sometimes when in more open country as the rain eased a bit. That was especially true on a 400m or so stretch of road walk. But it didn’t last.  As we climbed a steep and rutted dirt and stone track that would climb for nearly a km to the top of a hill where lonely homes sit, one under renovation and the other occupied, in the rain pelted down. This was not a place you would want to get stuck.  It eased off some at the top but the wind picked up so we felt the chill as we paused to have snacks and keep the internal fires burning. 

We were still having a good day even if the steep climb had made us nervous whether we were truly on the right path. As we walked across the top of the hills towards our next goal, a ruin of some sort, the rain tapered off completely. At the ruin - call it about11km I think - we settled down for a fast lunch. The sun even made a very brief appearance. Just enough to show a shadow or two but it didn’t last. By the time we hoisted our packed again (15-20 minute lunch ) that moment had pretty much passed.

As we approached Mad Vente (Farm of the winds) we found we had entered another type of terrain: a tiny pine grove. Lovely.Our only complaint is that we got confused by the directions. But once we sorted things out it was an easy walk down a dirt road with what would normally be exceptional views of the Bay of Roses and the towns that dot the Mediterranean shoreline. Today you could see the sea but not all that well. 

Perhaps just before 14:30 we reached Elmira de Sant Onofre (Shrine of Saint Onofre). According to the notes it’s about 2km from there to the end of the walk. It is a tough 2km. Specifically a solid 1.5km down what the notes warn is steep and rocky and requires use of your trekking poles. In other words: very slow going for me. I am pretty sure it took over an hour to make the bulk of the descent . I am sure Mom and Dad had lots and lots of time to wait. Though it had been a wet day the path, such as it is, was remarkably dry. It drains well and the rocks were surprisingly unslippery (unlike say wet cobblestones in a village street). I am still glad it wasn’t raining as I plodded down the slopes slowly descending something like 300m in the 1.5-2km distance. While ascending would have been physically tiring I think I would have preferred it as much as Mom would have loathed it.

Once we were at the bottom it was fairly straightforward, with some fits and starts and asking for help, to find the hotel Niu de Sol. My room doesn’t seem to have any solid stone walls but Mom and Dad do. It is clearly another ancient building that has been nicely re-purposed.

We won’t have any real time here in Pilau-Saverdera to explore. It appears to be sizeable and yet retains that air of old-ness. We know people are about as we can hear them from our second floor hotel rooms. Some dogs bark now and then too. We have had a very satisfying dinner at the recommended resturaunt and we’d have had coffee and desert had they come back to our table in a more timely fashion. Perhaps it is just as well that I , at least, did not as i feel pretty full. I’m not quite sure what Patanegra is but it was a tasty cut of meat, well seasoned with vegetables and potatoes. Mom and Dad enjoyed their dinners too. 

It has been a very good day with a walk that though tougher than some was certainly well worth it even though it did rain for 75 minutes or so.

Distance 17.35km (a bit short as I didn’t start the track right away; likely 17.5km)
Ascent: 550m
Descent: 505m
Moving time: 6 hours 18 minutes
Stopped time (parent’s would be longer): 1 hour 8 minutes
High temperature upper 60s. Overcast with 75 minutes of moderate to hard rain.

Photos
1. Leaving Garriguella.

2. We’ve been walking for an hour and though we can’t see much it has been enjoyable walking so far.

3. Coming up on lunch time. We’ve left the renovated house and occupied house that both sit lonely on top of a hill well behind. The rain has ceased and we are ready for lunch.

4. At Mas Vente Mom and Dad are figuring out where we go next. The directions were a tad confusing.

5. It is hard to see much but the Bay of Roses is down there. The Meddeterranean Sea.

6. Looking back towards the Shrine of Saint Onofre. That is a nasty path winding up the slope to the shrine. Very slow going for me to make my way down from there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Spanish Pyrenees:Figueres

A special guest post from my parent Judy and Jonathan Knight. 

dancer?

Today, October 18, we decided not to hike but instead visit the Dali Museum in Figueres, about 10 miles  southwest of  where we are currently  staying, the village of Garriguella.  But how to get there? Bus schedules were not good and so a taxi seemed in order.  Our hotel owner offered a third choice: she was going into  Figueres and would drive us there.


We arrived in Figueres  about 10am and following street signs quickly found the Dali Museum.  The museum was designed by Dali, and there is no mistaking that the building is a Dali work as well as devoted to his work,as the attached photos plainly reveal. The highlight of the museum visit was a special exhibition of jewelry designed by Dali. We did not know about his interest in and creation of jewelry. In a word, the pieces are stunning, so much so that we purchased a catalog of the jewelry exhibition providing more details about each piece.


After the museum visit  (we were there for about 2 hours),  lunch was next, easily found given the profusion of restaurants in the center of Figueres.  Before our visit to the city, we had not known of it or the Dali museum.  A visit to both is recommended, with train time from Barcelona to Figueres about 1 1/2 hours.

Dali museumfascade



To return to Garriguella we got a taxi at the train station. The ride was no more than 20 minutes. 


The attached photos were taken by Kenneth. While he got less out of the visit to the museum than we did, his photographic skills exceeded ours.


Judy and Jonathan