Estagel (in the Pyranees somewhere)

A little village called Estagel

Learning to speak French by full emersion is not working too well but we seem to get by with a lot of laughter and animation. If we say ‘oui oui’ and ‘voila’ a lot they are happy and we feel competent. This morning we chatted to a guest at our B&B by pointing to the food on the table and saying the name. If it got any deeper than this we had no idea what was going on.Remarkable conversation!

Our B&B in Estagel is set in a small village in the Pyranees mountains, France. Mature aged women sit on each street corner nattering on their deck chairs, sometimes with knitting and often planted square in the middle of the narrow road. The men do a similar thing but with their arms folded and a frown on their foreheads. After exploring Callouire and Ceret on the way we were quite weary but webdiscovered that the B&B was unattended, apart from by Blanc. the Border Collie. The neighbouring matured aged women offered their sympathies (in French) and assured us she would be there soon. Alas, after wandering the streets for a while, Michelle arrived apologetically explaining that her husband was in hospital having an op for cancer.

The B&B was a 300 year old building which has been restored beautifully. We took a great shine to the owner and her dog and she whipped us up a gorgeous meal for dinner where we chatted to the other guests who couldn’t speak English. The miming and charades were quite hysterical.

We stayed there for 4 nights, and felt quite a part of the village, exploring the Cathar castles during the day and other small villages, with the exception of Perpignon, which is a large place which we promptly got lost in. After a French lunch in Perignnon, at an Australian bar (where the menu was in French and nobody spoke English). At the point when we realised we had no idea where the car was, a massive storm hit the town with flash flooding and thunder and lightening. We were trying to shelter under a small canopy but got drenched regardless. Eventually we found the car and decided we were better to stick to castles and villages!

Col enjoyed taking the dog for walks in the morning. She jumped in the river and plays fetch, nagging continually for us to play with her. She is very smart and has us both enchanted.
Our climb up 2 of the Cathar castles have been huge highlights so far. They were way way up the mountain tops and quite dangerous and tricky to climb but well worth it. We climbed up to Le Chateau de Peyrepertuse and La Chateau de Queribus. Google them for photos… it’s worth it! I have limited internet so won’t spend the hour it takes to upload them for you.

Just in case you wanted to know…
There are more dogs than loos in France
For breakfast we have been eating Fromage (cheese) mixed with honey and cake or brioche
Laughter gets you out of any tricky situation
I have the record number of bandaids and blisters on my feet

On the way to Cadeques

On the way to Cadeques, Spain (home of Salvador Dali) we stopped at a little village called Besalu. It was such a joy to see the ancient little village without the tourists. The village swelled with pride over it’s heritage.

More pics here

Our drive to Cadeques was sobering. We WOULD have been cycling this and when we saw the narrow winding road up the mountain we realised how much easier it is by car!

Cadeques is the home of Salvidor Dali who loved to paint the village in cubism style. It is so romantic and lovely to bask in the sunshine, drinking wine looking over the beach. Although, the beach consists of rocks bigger than your hands and people are LAYING on them. I stuck to the pool in the hotel I have to admit.

Colin is very entertaining with his ‘Spanish charades’. Yesterday I dropped icecream down my cleavage and he managed to tell the shop girls what I’d done and ask them for a serviette. Instead they gave him a teaspoon and thought they were hilarious. Hmmm. I might leave him behind next time.

More pics here

Almost towed away in a tow truck

Imagine our dismay in seeing a tow truck arrive to help us with our broken down hire car this morning. He drove all the way from Barcelona, to save us from a ghastly mishap on a public holiday far away from help. It turned out to be a flat battery, which he jump started so we were glad not to be towed away! We are hoping like crazy that it’s the first and last time it happens as we are off into the Pyranees from here on.
After the first hiccup we arrived at Girona and had a wonderful day exploring the ancient town on foot. Climbing castles and cathedrals, fort walls and into places where angels fear to tread… for 6 hours solid. I’m re-naming the MOTH ‘Commando’. If it wasn’t for all the food and wine we consume we would be the biggest losers for certain.
Girona was an unexpected surprise.It reminds us of Venice, without the crowds and the water canals. It has the added bonus of enormous castles and cathedrals which take your breath away… especially when you climb them in the heat.
NOTHING is open today, including the supermarkets so we had the added bonus of no crowds. It’ll be interesting to see how crowded it is tomorrow when it all comes alive!
By the way, I’ve discovered I can send REAL postcards from my iphone. I sent three from Italy once. 2 of them never arrived and one arrived 10 months later. Let’s see what happens to these ones. If you don’t get one… it’s lost. OK?

I love a good castle!

‘Speak to me oh chocolate lips’! Colin shouted to the GPS, which had stopped talking to us. Pity he had his window open, his loudest voice on and a Spanish woman was standing at the curb in full earshot.
I decided that driving to Tossa del Mar was too precarious for our first experience on Spanish roads, in a manual car leaving from the centre of Barcelona. Tossa del Mar required driving along the coast for 2 hours on hair pin bends. Unfortunately we missed the turn off and ended up going anyway.
When I retire I am going to eat olive pate at a Spanish castle overlooking the beach in the sunshine while drinking beer. I tried it today and I think it was 10 of the best experiences I’ve had. Yes it was worth the hairaising drive to San Feliu via Tossa del Mar and is what this holiday is all about. Experiencing the  ‘off the beaten track’ villages and having adventures.

Driving into Tossa del Mar village, sent us plunging into 10cm wide roads with 1000’s of pedestrians and no cars other than us. Were we meant to be on the road? No idea. After parking the car, we took a ticket and aimed to return after 2 hours as it cost 3 Euro per hour. Guess who lost the ticket? Me. After a frantic search, we begged the ticket woman for mercy and got away with a 5 Euro bill. Phew!
Travelling with the MOTH is like travelling with Croc Dundee. Here we are in this gorgeous ancient town, waiting to order tapas and he asks the waitress for an Australian menu rather than an English one. We could hear the laughter out the back when she went and told the kitchen staff what he said.
The MOTH has decided that there are no crazy driving conditions he hasn’t experienced after today. The GPS took him on some pretty precarious trips… I mean ‘adventures’.
We arrived in Sant Feliu safe and sound and are about to enjoy a nice meal overlooking the ocean. Tomorrow  Girona…

More photos here:

¡hola! Barcelona

Flying in a plane is like childbirth. It’s pretty awful to sit in one small chair for 24 hours but you know it will be worth it.

The sun is shining (31 degrees at 5pm)  in Barcelona and we are weary but finding it an exciting, vibrant artistic city to visit. We’ve been on the ‘hop on hop off bus’ for 2 days. The first day we just sat on it but today we visited the Sagrada Família cathedral (see pic) and climbed to the top. I can’t describe how overwhelming that place is. SO big and creative. It took my very breath away! It is the 8th wonder of the world… and fully justified!

On the buses

We also went to Guel Parc which is full of amazing mosaic sculptures and buildings too difficult to desribe, all designed by Antonio Gaudi. I’m just about ready to go home and start smashing plates for mosaic work again after seeing that!

Tomorrow we are off to Sant Feliu de Guíxols for one night and then to Girona in the car. Yes… the manual car driving on the other side of the road. Argggh! I’m getting the valium ready.

Our last week will be spent back here in Barcelona so we’re pretty excited because we didn’t get to see all we wanted and we haven’t got the Flamenco dancing down pat yet.

Having trouble finding a sim for my mobile broadband so not sure when I’ll be blogging next.

Adios Amigos!