Category Archives: Spain

Viva Espana!

Recently returned from a mini trip down to Spain (or Espana as they say!). I had a meeting with my running/drinking club (Hash House Harriers) in Madrid and decided to extend the trip and explore the Aragon region in the northern Spain Pyrenees. The trip started off and a good note with the first night in the old town of  Ainsa. It is located in the lower mountains of the Pyrenees while still having some great views of the bigger hills.

 

Ainsa

A view from Ainsa of a mountain range in the Pyrenees covered in clouds.

Because it is not prime tourist season yet, I was fortunate enough to be able to park (with about 20 other campers) just outside the village with spectacular views.  I continued on the next morning taking the scenic route and ending up with a stop in a gorge called Mirador del Rio Vero.  While the gorge looked like a beautiful hike, it was the vultures that were resting on a rock ledge that seemed to catch everyone’s attention. We were all waiting for one to fall asleep and fall off the ledge and then recover in a graceful flight. Didn’t happen but still fun to watch 🙂

Vulture

A volt of vultures resting up before heading out for the hunt.

It was then on down the road as I had to be in Madrid by that afternoon. Unfortunately….bad luck as my VW camper lost all power in the rolling hills outside of Zaragoza. I was able to get the VW restarted and carefully returned 70km to a Zaragoza VW dealer. It was not a good prognosis but on the positive side, the dealership was across the street from the train station, so I left the VW there and jumped a train for the weekend in Madrid. When I returned, I found after 5 days, they hand’t started any repair, so I got to spend 4 more days in Zaragoza. I was only planning to do a drive by of Zaragoza but it worked out much more than that….and I’m glad as I was able to discover this nice city with it’s cathedral, chapels and great food. The main cathedral, El Pillar, is a must see, both inside and out.

cathedral

The Basilica of our Lady of the Pillar stands majestically above the Ebro river.

After the car repair, it was a direct shot to the Pyrenees. The excitement started to mount as I began to see the snow covered peaks in the distance, with small villages sitting serenely in the foreground. My quest was finally being realized!

Binies

The little village of Binies, acting as a gateway into the Pyrenees.

I went to visit the town of Hecho, recommended by the guidebook, but I was not particularly taken by the setting so I went a bit further seeing a sign for a campground up the valley.  After driving about 5 miles up a windy mountain road, I found the campground….closed! So I kept on going another few miles until I came upon a clearing that was gorgeous. I did encounter a road block by some locals but quickly bypassed that!

sheep

Some local sheep owning the road. They were as curious as I was.

A little further up the road and I encountered more free range animals. In this case, it was a small group of horses with the adults wearing cow bells. This colt was very friendly and kept coming up to see what I was doing.

Colt

A friendly colt in the mountains above Hecho.

I proceeded to make a nice dinner and wait for the sunset which was going to be coming in fairly soon. It was well worth the wait as I saw some gorgeous cloud and light play on the mountain tops.

Hecho

The sun setting and clouds drifting on a Hecho mountain top.

From here it was on to my final destination which was Torla and the Ordesa y Monte Perdido national park. This was where the big mountains were, with hiking trails passing waterfalls and flowing rivers throughout. It really was a paradise and a place that I will return to often.  A definite holiday destination for me in the future.

Torla

The small town of Torla, the gateway to Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park

I ended up bypassing the national park and staying in Bujaruelo valley where there were numerous hiking trails and a great campground.

Bujaruelo

A river flows down the beautiful Bujaruelo valley.

Bujaruelo

A mountain range while hiking in the Bujaruelo valley.

 

Bujaruelo

A waterfall while hiking in the Bujaruelo valley.

 

Bujaruelo

A panoramic view of the Bujaruelo valley.

 

I ended my trip a couple of days early as thunderstorms and heavy rain came rolling in. The good thing is that this paradise is located only about 5 1/2 hours from my house so I will be able to return and explore much more. Highly recommend visiting this region if you like mountains, rivers and waterfalls! Happy trails and Viva Espana!

 

Also posted in Mountains Tagged |

Mini Euro Trip

With winter finally over, I was getting anxious to get out of the house and off exploring more areas. So into the van I went and headed off for Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, basically a mini Euro trip. Sounds like a lot but very achievable as each location is reachable within a day’s drive.  The first stop was down south to the northeastern point of Spain in the Catalonian region. First stop was an old monastery called Sant Pere de Rodes, built in the 10th and 11th century by Benedictine monks. The monastery is still in great shape and well worth a visit for the building and views of the Mediterranean.

Monastery

The Sant Pere de Rodes monastery located above El Port De La Selva

 

Following that interesting stop, it was on down the road to the village of Cadaques, Spain. It was in this once small fishing village that Salvador Dali spent some childhood summers and perhaps drew inspiration for his wild art. It was definitely a place of scenic beauty with mountains coming down to the sea front.

Cadaques

The village of Cadaques, Spain

Neaby Cadaques in the village of Port Ligat is the home of Dali. He didn’t just have his artwork in museums as can seen by the interesting exterior of his home. Wouldn’t it have been fun to have him as a neighbor? I don’t imagine property values dropped when he decorated though.

Dali

Dali’s house with some interesting heads located in Port Lligat, Spain.

Next stop on this trip was to one of my favorite Pyrenees locations and that is the principality of Andorra, located high up in the mountains. I always enjoy going by there because of its natural beauty. Plus you can’t beat the tax free gasoline, alcohol and colognes, a must stop for bargain shoppers!

 

Andorra

The mountains with ski areas above Andorra.

Following Andorra and a quick pit stop at my house, it was onwards to northern France. First on that agenda was to visit the house and gardens of Claude Monet at Giverny. It was here that Monet spent his last half of his life painting and gardening creating several impressionistic masterpieces. Well worth a visit, especially in the springtime when in bloom!

Monet

Monet’s house and garden at Giverny, France.

Monet

The Japanese footbridge in his water garden that Monet made famous

With a bit of nature and artistic culture under the belt, it was time for some sporting action so further north I ventured. Next up was the kite festival in Berck Sur Mer located in the very north of France. There is a reason that they hold the kite festival there as there is a continuous wind and I have to say it was mighty cold the first day. Fortunately the sun came out strongly and so did the kites. I was amazed at the maneuverability that these kites had and really loved all the colors in the sky.

kite festival

The kite festival in Berck Sur Mer, France

kite fesetival

A car fashioned out of kites with wheels that turned at the kite festival in Berck Sur Mer.

kite festival

Random kites floating in the sky at the kite festival in Berck Sur Mer, France

kite festival

Horizontal kites seemingly slicing the sky into sections at the kite festival in Berck Sur Mer, France

 

Well, it was au revoir to France and on further north to a town that I have been trying to visit for a couple of years. Finally I made it a priority and got myself to Bruges, Belgium. I had heard many glowing reviews about this town and have to say that it lived up to its reputation. From the cobble stoned streets and towers to the ancient bars with hundreds of beers available, it is truly a great place to wander for a couple of days. I’ll definitely put it on my revisit list, especially since I found a great campsite not far from town.

Bruges

The Market Square in Bruges, Belgium.

I still had a couple of days before I needed to be in Antwerp so I did a quick trip to one of my favorite cities, Amsterdam. There is a great campground located on the edge of the city giving you quick access into the center. This was the first time I took my foot scooter in and it worked great but I think the bicyclists in the bike lane didn’t know what to do with me in their lane. It all worked out and I will continue using my foot scooter on future trips. While there, I did a walking tour that travel writer Rick Steves gives away for free. His walking tours are great as they point out hidden gems that you wouldn’t notice unless you knew where to look.  This one below really caught me by surprise. It says HOMO SAPIENS NON URINAT IN VENTUM which translates to A WISE MAN DOESN’T PISS INTO THE WIND. The structure isn’t that old and the constructors had a sense of humor.

roman

A columned structure with some advice in latin in Amsterdam

With all the waterways in Amsterdam, it is always fun to be looking at what is going on. I caught this swan creating beautiful ripples while cleaning himself.

Amsterdam

A swan creates beautiful ripples while gently cleaning himself under a bridge in Amsterdam.

Following Amsterdam, I started heading towards Antwerp but made a stop at the Keukenhof gardens located in Lisse, Netherlands. I had heard stories about the 80 acres with 7 million flower bulbs and thought springtime would be the perfect time to visit. Unfortunately, so did a million other people and I have to say I didn’t stay long as the crowds were just a bit too overwhelming for me and it just wasn’t enjoyable. It was a beautiful place but maybe there is a better time to visit, who knows.

Keukenhof

Tulips glowing in the sunlight at Keukenhof gardens

Keukenhof

A wide range of flowering bulbs at the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, Netherlands

I wrapped up my tour in Antwerp where I spent the weekend running and socializing with a large group of friends. It was then back down to my house to host some guests and do a little more garden renovation. Next trip coming up soon will be a journey to Madrid for a weekend followed by some time in the Spanish Pyrenees hiking and enjoying the old villages. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Also posted in Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Holland, Netherlands, Pyrenees Tagged , , |

Euro Summer Wrap Up!

Well it’s been a couple of months since I last posted and I apologize. Not that I’ve been slacking but actually have been working very hard on my house putting in new doors and windows, new stone floor outside and basically preparing the house for a more comfortable winter. I’ve finally finished all the projects and happy with the results. While I haven’t taken any big trips, I was able to take a lot of 1-2 week mini Euro vacations around France, Spain, Andorra, Belgium, Holland and Monaco. So let me share a few pix from those locations….

I visited Alsace Lorraine for the first time. A beautiful part of France that has changed hands between France and Germany many times. You can really see it in the style of houses and a lot of the street names which are in German and French. One thing is for certain, it is pretty. Here is a shot in the little town of Colmar. Look closely and you can see the stork nest with stork on top of the church!

 

Colmar, Alsace

Street in Colmar, Alsace Lorraine, France

Another place visited this summer was St Martin Du Canigou, an Abbey built in the French Pyrenees mountains in 1009. It was a vigorous hike up to this but well worth the view. If you visit, you can do the loop trail which takes you back down on a trail through the woods and gives some great views of the Abbey.

St Martin Du Canigou

The Abbaye of St Martin Du Canigou in the French Pyrenees.

Recently, I traveled through the Dordogne and Lot regions which are located about the center of SouthWestern France. It is an area of farms, rolling hills, Foie Gras and great old villages. Here is a picture of the bridge Pont Valentré located in Cahors, France. It was begun in 1308 and finished in 1378, a quick 70 years to build! But obviously it was well built as it is still standing over 600 years later.  The towers were used by the military in the defense of the town but never actually saw combat.

Pont Valentré

Valentré bridge in the city of Cahors, France

The same bridge with some fall foliage coming through.

Pont Valentré

Fall colors at the Pont Valentré in Cahors, France

In addition to Cahors, I also ventured to Rocamadour which is a pilgrimage stop on one of the Santiago de Compostela routes. It had some beautiful chapels and very timely hot air balloon. I also found out through some research that there is a balloon festival every Sept so I plan on going back to catch that show!

Rocamadour Balloon

A hot air balloon rising above the village of Rocamadour

Earlier in the summer, I was over by Arles for a great photo festival called Les Recontres D’Arles. When leaving the festival, I passed a lot of sunflower fields and decided to get in and up close with one!

Sunflower, Arles

Sunflower in a field near Arles, France

I spent a couple of weeks over on the Cote D’Azur house sitting for some friends and was able to visit Monaco for the first time.  You can’t really grasp the density of the place until you get up above it and gather the view.

Monaco

A view of Monaco from the grounds by the Prince’s Palace

While in Monaco, I stopped in the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, a fantastic aquarium directed by Jacques Cousteau for over 30 years. I was really intrigued by this fellow, which I believe is a Blue Surgeonfish.

Blue Surgeonfish

Blue Surgeonfish at Monaco Aquarium

 

And my travels wouldn’t be complete without some visits to chapels including the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona…

Organs of Sagrada Familia

Beautiful light reflected on organ pipes of Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

 

the Strasbourg Cathedral at night during a light show projection…

Strasbourg Cathedral

The Strasbourg Cathedral with a light show being projected on the front.

 

and a tiny prayer room at Notre Dame D’Auvers in Arles

Notre Dame D'Auvers

A tiny prayer room at the Notre Dame D’Auvers
Chapel

 

Well that about wraps up the travels. The summer wrap up wouldn’t be complete without a parting shot from my village, St Martin De L’Arçon. It is really great after being on the road to come back to this peaceful place, get a nice glass of wine and sit on the terrace and enjoy the tranquility.

St Martin De L'Arçon

Sunset on a fall day in St Martin De L’Arçon, France

I’ve got a big trip coming up very soon, destination is a surprise (for my friends who know, don’t give it away!). I look forward to blogging from this future locale which will be quite a bit different from what I’ve posted lately.  Cheers and keep on traveling!

 

 

Also posted in France, Monaco, Pyrenees, Saint Martin De L'Arcon Tagged , , , , |