Calella to S’Argo

Continuing our walking tour of the Costa Brava, this post covers our walk from Calella de Palafrugell where we spent two nights at the Hotel Sant Roc, the nights of June 16 and 17 and on to S’Argo where our tour ends.

At Hotel Sant Roc we had a lovely dinner on the terrace with a view of the town below with some color in the sky as the sun set. With a day off from walking we spent some time exploring the local environs including the the beautiful botanical gardens at Jardins de Cap Roig; also the home of a renown music festival. A trip to the beach was in order also where I rented mask, fins and snorkel from a local dive shop to explore some of the underwater life around the rocks just off the beach. We could easily have spent a few more days here, or a few weeks. A beautiful spot overlooking a picture postcard city. And even though we weren’t on the walking route we logged 9 km just touring the gardens and the town.

Alas, on June 19 we put our hiking boots on and continued our walking tour, hiking over rocky headlands, and along the clear turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, past quaint fishing hamlets and beautiful beaches. It seems that swimsuits are optional on many of the beaches along this stretch. We observed that nude sunbathing seemed to be more popular with middle age men.

The evening of June 18 found us at Hotel Ancora in La Fosca. Having logged 10 km. With some of the day left we walked to the waterfront in Palamos where we were hoping to watch the fishermen unload the day’s catch. We arrived well after the last boat had unloaded, so we toured the Museu de la Pesca, which turned out to be quite an exhibit and well worth the time and the cost.

June 20 we were once again on the trail, walking from La Fosca to Hotel San Pol in S’Argo. This stretch of the tour took us along miles and miles of white sand beaches, walking along the promenades adjacent to the beach. Many apartment buildings and hotels that line the beaches have their windows shuttered with the tourist season yet to come. Many carnival rides and vendors were setting up on the beach, and it looks like this is going to be a busy place soon.

Between the long stretches of white sand we climbed up steps, over trails, across rocky headlands down steps to tiny sandy beaches, up more steps, around more rocky headlands. Up and down, up and down. Each headlands giving a postcard view of the beaches below and the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.

Along the promenade in Palamos we ran into several other people that were on the same walking tour as us. They recognized us by the “Macs Adventure” luggage tags we had on our day packs. We walked with them for several miles for the last stretch of our walk to S’Argo. They were staying in a different hotel, the S’Argo Hotel, having booked a “deluxe” package through Macs Adventures, we went on to Hotel Sant Pol which while not “deluxe,” certainly met our needs. We had walked 20 km (12.4 miles). In the evening we raised a glass of wine to toast completing our “Hidden Gems of the Costa Brava” walking tour having logged 77.4 km (48 miles).

Rocky Paths

On June 9 our walk takes us to the top of a mountain, Mare de Deu del Mont where we spend the night in simple hotel that had been a monastery. The next day we hike down the other side of the mountain to Besalu.

A word about rocky paths is in order. After several days of hiking mountain trails Joann said she didn’t realize how rocky the Pyrenees are. I replied that if the Intuits have 200 words for snow, then the Catalonians must have 200 words for rocky paths. Here are some of my favorites.

Steep trail with loose rocks, ploughed by wild boars. This looks like a tilling machine had gone down the trail and turned over the dirt and rocks, making everything in the trail loose dirt and rocks.

Then there are the rocks that roll around under your feet, the steep, slick limestone slabs with a sprinkling of oak leaves and pine needles to challenge your confidence in secure footing. Fist size rocks, ankle high rocks, rock falls with knee high boulders. The list could go on.

Many of the trails we walked are little used, little maintained and  sometimes subject to erosion.

At several places on our walks we saw branches that had been cut, presumably to clear the trail for walkers, but the cut branches are usually left in the middle of the trail. Initially I would pick these up and cast them aside, and then I had the revelation that perhaps erosion control is more important than personal convenience. Perhaps the branches are left to help control erosion.

 The walk up the mountain was easier than we had expected. Even so we logged 11.2 miles  (17.5km) with close to 3000 feet of elevation gain. It was 6:30 pm when we reached to hotel, overcast and starting to rain lightly.

June 10 we start down the mountain to Besalu. Another long day, neither of us are very fast going down hill with aching knees. Joann had thoughts of taking the taxi down with our baggage, but we persevered and took our time. Near the top of the mountain we were hiking through lovely pine forests with lush grass and wildflowers. By mid-day the pine forest had given way to the oaks of the lower elevations.

At 4 pm we reached the little town of Beuda. We were hoping to buy a snack here. In this part of the world business close after the lunch hour and remain closed to 6 pm or so. Nothing is open, and there isn’t much here to begin with. We see a couple of people leaving a restaurant, so we step inside, The manager takes pitty on us, and we have coke and fruit salad.  There is also an ancient church here, Church Sant Feliu de Beuda first documented in 1004.

It’s 7:35 pm when we reach Casa Marsial, our accommodations for the night. We logged 12.7 miles (19.2 km). Even so, after dinner, I have to explore the bridge which was well lit and looked like an invitation for some nighttime photography.

Santa Pau and a Loop Hike

On June 3 we made our way from Girona to Santa Pau by bus, finding the local bus stop near our apartment in Girona. For this leg of our trip we’re carrying all our luggage. I carry a day pack and a travel pack. Once we start our walking tour our luggage will go by taxi and we’ll go on foot with just our day packs.

We transferred buses in Olot where we had few minutes for a snack; coffee, apples and coke. Once in Santa Pau we found our lodging at Hotel Sal Sastre right across the street from the castle. We spent some time walking around the medieval town.

On June 4 we began our Macs Adventures walking tour with a loop hike from town up to a high point at Santa Maria Finistres. Here there is a hermitage which has some historical significance. We had a very quite picnic lunch here. This is truly a place of solitude. From the time we left town at 10 am and when we returned at 3:45 pm we had the entire trail to ourselves. The trail was a moderately steep track up the mountainside passing through beechwood and oak forests. Our feet crunched through the leaves on the trail and there was no sign of anybody else having used the trail recently. We clambered over a couple of fallen trees and passed a number of sections in the trail that had been rooted up by wild pigs, as if a roto-tiller had gone through. I would imagine that some sections of the trail could be slippery following a rain, with slippery leaves and mud but with dry conditions we had good footing. It’s a very pretty hike through the cool shade of the forest, passing by farms and pastures closer to town. When we came out of the forest we could see our town on the hill in the distance.

Having returned to town, we had logged 10 miles. The Macs Adventure hike is a nine mile loop. We manged to add a mile with a trip to town in the morning to buy bread, cheese and salami for our picnic lunch. After 10 miles it was time for a cold beer.

La Pedrera

May 28. Our first day of touring in Barcelona starts with a tour of La Pedrera, one of the architectural wonders created by Antoni Gaudi. Casa Mila, or La Pedrera as it is commonly known was built in the early 20th century. Construction began in 1906 and the building was finished in 1912. Well worth the tour if you are visiting Barcelona. Get your tickets ahead of time though. We arrived at 9:00 am, a little flustered since we started off on the wrong direction on our walk, and then discovered that we had left the tickets in the motel room. Internet connection was sparse so we had trouble pulling up the confirmation email on Joann’s iPhone. It seems that the clerk at the counter was gracious enough to believe our story and we were able to tour. The tour is self-guided with handsets to listen to narration about the features of the building. Gaudi in known for drawing inspiration from nature and his devotion to the Church.

The tour starts on the roof of the structure with the fanciful design of the roof vents. From there you go down the the attic where you can see the rib like structures that support the roof. The attic served as the work area for servants. The building itself was designed as an apartment building.

From the attic you go down to one of the apartments which is furnished as it might have been in the early 20th century.

Watch your Pockets

May 31, 2019. Waking up from a sound nights sleep. I’m wondering what time it is. I look at my phone and I’m flabbergasted. 10:40! I had no idea we had slept that late. For the previous two days we had tour tickets for 9:00 am both days, so we were up at 7 am to grab a bite to eat and then off on foot to find our destinations. On Tuesday it was La Pedrera at 9:00 am then on to the Picasso Museum at 12:30 and the Palau de la Musica Catalana at 3 pm. At 9 pm we went out in search of Tapas, having our first taste of acorn fed Iberian Ham. On Wednesday it was Sagrada Familia for our 9:00 am tour, followed by a spontaneous walking tour and then a bus up to Park Guell at 6:30 to see more of Gaudi’s work. We logged 10 miles on foot over the course of the day and decided we’d forego the alarm in the morning and get up when we felt like it.

We had numerous warning about pickpockets in Barcelona, both prior to the trip and and while touring. We did have an experience that bears sharing. While learning to navigate the Metro we got on the wrong train. After getting off and feeling a bit disoriented a young woman came up to us and told us we needed to take the elevator up a level to get to the right train. We were on the elevator with her and two of her friends when one of them attempted to access Joann’s purse. She thought they might have taken a notebook , but on later inspection nothing had been taken. Just a lesson to be careful. We’ve been traveling lightly. Leaving our backpacks in the room. I carry my small Sony RX100 camera in a Ripoffs brand holster on by belt with a strong Velcro flap. My pants have zippered pockets and I keep my iPhone in one of those pockets. Even so, I feel a bit bare without the camera support items like the tripod and such, and on both Tuesday and Wednesday I exhausted my camera batteries with the spares in the my backpack in the room. Passport, credit cards and such I keep in a pouch that hangs around my neck and kept inside my shirt. Probably not foolproof but so far so good.

La Pedrera, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Sagrada Familia and Park Guell will require separate blog posts so stay tuned. Pacing myself between touring, editing photos and writing is a challenge.

Gaudi’s Lizard at Park Guell

Chasing Frank Lloyd Wright: Oak Park Walking Tour

On October 2 we arrived in Chicago to start our “Chasing Frank Lloyd Wright” tour. We spent our first few days in Oak Park, on foot. We took Uber from the Airport to our B&B, staying at an AirBnB listed as “Victorian Gem in Heart of FLW District,” on the corner of  Forest Ave and Superior. A lovely place to stay and close to many FLW houses. There are about two dozen of Wright’s houses within walking distance. We managed to visit a few. First and foremost is Wright’s house on the corner of  Forest and Chicago, a block from where we were staying. Build in 1889.

We visited this house as part of a tour offered through the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Photos were permitted on the tour, so I used my little Sony RX100 to capture some handheld images. Next door to the house is Wright’s studio, built in 1897.

And a short walk around town will take you to a number of Wright designed houses. These houses are all privately owned and not open for tours, although you can walk the neighborhood to view them and you can take photos from the sidewalk.

The Parker house, built in 1892, is one of Wright’s “bootleg” homes, one of several commissions Wright took under the table while working for Sullivan & Adler. Sullivan eventually dismissed Wright for his transgressions.

If you happen to have the opportunity to visit Oak Park and you are looking for a self-guided tour check our this link on Curbed. There are also a few phone apps you can use.  A search on the iPhone comes up with a Oak Park walking tour with the title “Frank Lloyd Wright Tour.” I didn’t discover this until recently, but I’d certainly give it a try. We used a printed guide we found in our room at our Airbnb. There’s also an app called the “Wright Guide,” which includes a comprehensive list of FLW projects. A must for any Frank Lloyd Wright Fan.

And of course there is the Unity Temple which is one of Wright’s most famous projects; a ten minute walk from Frank Lloyd Wright’s house. Keep in mind this is a operating place of worship. Visitors are welcome and photos are permitted, but you’ll want to check ahead to make sure you time your visit when you have access. We visited the temple as part of a paid, guided tour. I also returned to the Temple in the evening because I wanted to photograph it at dusk.

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Beaulieu: The Joy of Walking

I’m never quite so content as when I’m walking. Perhaps I’m just a restless soul, but put me on a trail and I feel at home. Something about walking that just soothes the soul. I’ve lived in the same house for some 30 plus years, and even when I’m at home reading a book, there’s a part of me that’s just anxious to be moving.

For our walk today our innkeeper drove us to an overlook above the ancient town of Curemonte. From there we walked to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, a distance of eight miles. At the start of our walk we met a woman who stopped to chat. Not that we could understand much of what we said, but her enthusiasm communicated enough. It’s clear she wanted us to know the delights of the local environment. From there is was up a hill, past farms, down into a valley, across a stream, and on over hill and dale, through woods with a light rain until we reached Bealieu. A delightful walk.