Pineda de Mar – Catalonia

Moving down the coast, we stayed in an Aire right in the centre of Pineda de Mar which translates to ‘Pines by the sea’.  This town had an incredible long, flat beach with not a cliff top to be seen.

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The town also had some beautiful old town houses and it felt very much like a Spanish resort for the Spaniards.

This place seemed deserted but we found a good cycle path right by the ocean and decided to cycle to the next town.   Exploring the area on our bikes we soon found what looked like an empty campsite however, on cycling through we discovered where all the winter campers were hanging out.  There must have been 50 or MH’s of all shapes and sizes and all nationalities.  We stopped to chat to an English couple who had been there since December and we were soon joined by a guy on a mobility scooter, also English……I was trying to imagine our van amongst this tribe and although there was a space on the front row right on the beach, we couldn’t bring ourselves to part of this mass winter migration.

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We cycled off home and Carlos’s cooked one of my favourite meals…..sausage & dauphinoise potatoes!

 

Delicious…..

 

 

Tossa de Mar-Costa Brava-Spain

Tossa de Mar, a beautiful memory from my childhood of my first holiday abroad with my parents and my sister Rebecca.  I was 6, she was nearly 4.  We still have some old photos taken in Tossa, one in particular is of me and my sister sitting on a wall in the old medieval town of Tossa which sits high above the beach and the new town below.   We managed to replicate this image years later when my sister and I took our children to re-visit our childhood holiday.  Barlie was 16, Izzy 13, Natalie, 10 and Sam 7 and we were camping in a nearby campsite called Cala Llevado which was a fantastic site with it’s own beach.  Another great holiday.  Unfortunately, the site was closed in February so we were unable to stay here.  So yet again, for a third time, I find myself sitting on the same piece of wall contemplating all the holidays of my lifetime.

 

The view from the fort

My memory of our accommodation is a fuzzy image of a small hotel reached by a steep road.  I remember the waiters wore black with long white aprons and I do remember they were very friendly.  One sat me on the side of a deep well filled with water which when my mum found me nearly gave her a heart attack!  I tried to find our hotel on this trip and I think I did but even if it’s the the one!  It’s very close…..

A small hotel in Tossa

Tossa has still managed to remain a small seaside town unlike it’s infamous neighbour, LLoret de Mar which should be avoided at all costs!

We were able to park the van on a nearby piece of land within walking distance of the town which was flat…..and important factor as this part of Spain is very hilly and most of the seaside resorts are down extremely steep roads.  This we discovered the day before when Carlos found a parking spot in Canyelles…..the road down into the village was not for the faint hearted!

Tossa became famous in the 50’s when they used the town as a location for a film with Ava Gardener in it called ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’ also starring James Mason.  The town have even erected a bronze statue of her!  We watched the film which was very cleverly edited but you can clearly see the beach which really hasn’t changed at all.  Tossa has retained it’s charm and managed to avoid masses of high rise hotels and you still get the feel of a small time fishing village.  The Costa Brava is a beautiful part of Spain and leaving Tossa,  we took the coastal road,  a very windy, steep road which hugs the mountains on one side whilst providing breath taking views of the ocean on the other.   Once again, not for the faint hearted!  Our next destination, Pineda de Mar a province of Barcelona.

Archie exploring the old medieval town

 

Carnival-Sant Feliu de Guixols-Catalonia

From Girona we were heading South to Barcelona since Lisa was flying back to the UK from there at the end of March. So we had a good three weeks to get there, which would have allowed us to walk at a leisurely pace – that is we had a long time to while away.

There was a place that Lisa had very fond memories of on the Costa Brava called Tossa del Mar. She had first visited this small fishing village when she was six years old and later when she took her daughters, this was a must visit location and somewhere I had never been. Our first stop after Girona was a lovely town on the coast North of Tossa, called Sant Feliu de Guíxols.

Sant Feliu is quite a large town, we denote by the fact they have a Lidl, but it also has an old historic centre, the small autocaravan aire is located a few minutes’ walk from the the old monastery which serves as the museum and tourist information. The Benedictine monastery, although in semi-ruin is a good example of the town’s medieval architecture. At the Plaça del Mercat. a fruit and vegetable market takes place every morning and the Plaça also has a fine fish market, full of locally caught fresh fish. On Sundays the weekly market takes place on the Plaça and along the Passeig del Mar with a range of stalls including cheap clothes well-liked by the locals.

To the South of Sant Feliu, the Costa Brava starts to earn its name, the road rises steeply and winding up onto clifftops where it meanders around many little bays with coves surrounded by pines with rocky or fine sand beaches. Here the coast becomes more rugged with forests of pine, oak, and cork trees and is an excellent place for determined cyclists.

We arrived here at the start of the Carnival weekend and were lucky enough to be able to watch the festivities and the parades. This is something that the local area takes very seriously, albeit with a light-hearted and joyous outlook. The floats for the parades along with their entourage were quite a scene and numerous, the themes varied from widely: African tribes, celebration of honey and bees, Neptune and the sea, Venetian masquerade ball, Candy Crush, the list just went on and on. The costumes were superb, and each member of a float had the self-same costume, hours of planning and preparation must go into this single weekend. The costumes were very good too, excellent workmanship was on show all round.

Ultimately the African tribes won best in Carnival and we left with wonderful memories of a lovely place to visit.

Besalu – Catalonia

When considering our next destination, we try to find Aires which are free, have facilities and are within a place of interest. Sometimes we are lucky and our next port of call did not disappoint.  Besalu really was breathtaking.  A medieval town entered by crossing the Veijo bridge built around the 11th century, which has a  magnificent toll gate in the middle. It really does look like a film set from the Game of Thrones.

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Walking through the city gate through tiny cobbled streets, you can’t help but wonder about our ancestors and how they lived hundred of years ago.  It must have been a wealthy town as it has a large Jewish quarter and many fine houses.

A city gate from the 9th Century

Besalu was the capital of this region before Barcelona and it’s steeped in history.  We stayed 3 nights in this beautiful town and I was sad to leave.

 

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Crossing the Pyrenees into Spain

The road from Le Boulou was very windy and began through green pine trees gaining height all the time towards the snow-line.  Carlos was driving and I was enjoying the beautiful views of the snow capped mountains in the distance.  The road I have since learnt, is classified as potentially dangerous, as some sections are more than 11% steep.  However, todays driving conditions were good and there was not much traffic on the road. On reaching the summit of Col d’Ares at 1513m, we found a place to park for lunch and admire the view which is the photo at the top of the post.

Our next stop was a free Aire at Sant Joan de les Abadesses which we nicknamed, St Joan the Badass!  Another deserted town with no-one around and it was freezing.  The only building of interest was an extremely steep an angled bridge.  One night was enough.