Hola! Blue sunny skies & the Mediterranean welcome us to Spain and Barcelona. Bruce is casting a weather eye over the Mediterranean. Camping Tres Estrellas is in Gava, about 20km south of Barcelona. We have a beach-side view. Less than 3m from the sand and 50m from the water!!.
Our journey south has been wonderful including a special France Passion “cultural experience” in the tiny village of Nailhac. It is in the Dordogne – the Perigord to be precise. Having virtually closed our eyes and picked a spot on the map it was indeed a stroke of luck (or genius on Bev’s behalf!!) Being still quite new to the travelling scene we feel a bit of trepidation and excitement as we drive onto someone’s property! What will it be like? Will Bruce find a flat comfortable spot to settle for the night? No need for any concerns of course!! There are room for 6 motorhomes on level ground!! With two other ones there we pull in and go to find our host, Bernard!! After searching half the farm we found him & after a warm welcome we are invited to “aperitifs” at 6:30!! This was in a large room behind his home with a large dining table! He is very hospitable & enjoys meeting his guests. He provided vin rouge (red wine), Vin de la Noix (a delicious walnut liquor – made from the young leaves of the walnut tree – so good, we bought a bottle!!) and a bucket load of walnuts!! We had seen signs up “Route de la Noix” but had no idea. La Noix is Walnut. Conversation was quite amusing as we tried to communicate with them in limited French! The other couples were all French! We all ended up laughing a lot and eating heaps of delicious walnuts.
Bernard informed us of the sites to see in the area & suggested we stay a few more nights with him!! (Usually the stopovers are only one night). We took his advice and drove into the village of Hautefort and toured the enormous chateau (where they hid important valuable artwork, stained glass windows, etc. during the second world war). More info on Chateau de Hautefort here.
In the village was a Medicine Museum. A comprehensive collection with everything from historic bedpans, urinal and commode chairs to operating tables & historic nurses uniforms. Glad there have been some advancements made in this area!
Whilst in Hautefort village we devoured the “menu du jour” at the local bistro – the only one in the village!! Three courses for only €12 each – including café!! Pretty good!!
Back at Bernard’s noix and canard farm (walnut and duck), three more motorhomes had arrived and out came the “COMPLET” sign. We had left out the “reserved AUSSIE BRUCE” sign, so our spot was safe!!
That evening, twelve of us gathered around Bernards table for aperitifs!! And more interesting chatter!! Bernard, we discover, is the inventor of a special Foie gras/ canard dish. That evening, we met a great young man from UK originally and now working and living in Nailhac. He was most helpful in translating our table discussions and explaining the skills and passions of Bernard. Hugh sent a message that night, it sums up our experience, so I will repeat it here:
A pleasure to have met you both, looks like you are on an exciting adventure!
Very lucky you stumbled across one of the most understated households in rural France, where you find some of the best treasures in French cuisine. Bernard, Inventor of the Magret Farcie (Fois gras stuffed duckbreast), hailing from the rural tradition of the Perigord Noir known for Walnuts, Black truffles and Fois gras, and a beautiful rolling chalkland countryside, chateauxs and stately gardens, Bernard certainly knows a thing or two about flavours -fortunately this time I was passing and am able to boast about everything that they do, as I know them too well and they will likely only let the tastes do the talking. The Lorserie is where you find a warm reception, compassion, and strong sense of sharing, with a knowledge of food and cooking from the perigord unrivaled in authenticity, and of course, Bernard, who I am proud to call my friend. Glad you were there to participate, and overwhelmed by your openess and effort to take part (everyone was really impressed at how well you were doing…) I really hope you have a great voyage and have an amazing time in Malaga! All the best, and don’t forget a bottle of Monbazillac with that fois gras! A Bientot!
After purchasing some of his famous Foie gras, duck legs and noix liqueur we reluctantly went on our way but not before we were given an enormous sack of noix (Walnuts)!! How fortunate to stumble upon such an amazing France Passion stay!!
Having received the BACK ROADS OF FRANCE book from Lisa and Bruno, we decided to follow a route they advised. Two of the most beautiful regions of south-west France are the Tarn and Midi – Pyrenees. Our route explores the best of them, taking in flowing rivers, rocky limestone outcrops and unspoilt medieval villages. Rocamadour gives “hillside town” a new meaning! It’s France’s second most important medieval shrine (first is Mont Saint Michel) and is part of the Compostella Pilgrimage!
Meandering through the mountains we visit Albi, where the massive cathedral and palace is now a museum dedicated to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who was born here. Checking the height of Bruce and the road clearance ahead!!.
Our first Spanish stop was in Sant Feliu de Guíxols (Sant Feliu to us locals!!) This is the COSTA BRAVA in Spain. We stayed two nights in the free Aire site in the middle of town. Julie and Jason (ourtour.co.uk) had recommended this town and Aire particularly – so thank you!! It was great. Aires are not Campings (Caravan Parks), nor are they a carpark. They are half way in-between. You can only be a motorhome (camping car (French) or autocaravana (Spanish) to stay at these places. The guidebook advises there are 15 spaces here. There is at least 30 motorhomes here.
Sant Feliu was buzzing.for other reasons too. The OXFAM Trailwalker – was to start 100km away and finish some time between 7pm Saturday and 6pm Sunday! Amazing atmosphere & what an achievement by all participants, especially as it rained for five hours during their night trek!
Catalan musicians & dancers came to welcome them to the finish line.
In Sant Feliu we saw a show. It was Friday night, and Trio Rodin were in town!! Piano, violin and cello. Awesome!! Check them out here! No language barrier – as there was nothing spoken!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xU6EY8bWLAQ
Next stop – Barcelona & La Sagrada Familia – Wow!! What can we say about that!!.
Barcelona was a declining city prior to the Olympics in 1992 – even the Basilica that Antonio Gaudi designed, was only half finished – construction had commenced in 1882. It was only 12% complete when Gaudi died (hit by a tram on the way to Sunday Mass in 1926 aged 72). One projection anticipates completion around 2026, the centennial of Gaudí’s death — accelerated by additional funding from visitors to Barcelona following the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Construction is proceeding at full pace now – with 3 million visitors annually – each paying €14.80 to “look around inside”. We paid €19.30 each and that included a guided tour. Full name Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (in English – Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family.) It inspires awe. The most important recent tourist (before Bev and Mark) was Pope Benedict XVI, who consecrated the church in a huge ceremony in November 2010. When the church is finished it will have 18 towers: 12 dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), one to Jesus and another to Mary. When completed, the highest tower will be 170m tall – The Jesus Tower – with a cross on top. You will be able to see it from the harbour.
Construction on La Sagrada Família is not supported by any government or official church sources. Private patrons funded the initial stages. Money from tickets purchased by tourists is now used to pay for the work, and private donations are accepted through the Friends of the Sagrada Família. It is all anonymous. There are no “NAMING RIGHTS” or “CORPORATE SPONSORS” – Quite a relief in this modern age!!
Two days before our arrival in Barcelona, Mark went online and purchased admission tickets and a guided tour. We were surprised that most admission times and nearly all tour times were already sold out. It is so popular that queues can extend up to 2 hours or more. It is advised that you bring sunscreen and water and something to keep you occupied while you are waiting!! We are still in the quiet season!!
The whole experience was amazing. Our guide was excellent. We were a group of about 20. Each had a radio with headphones so when Francesco talked into his microphone, we could all hear. We followed him around for 75 minutes. He was informative and passionate on the Sagrada Familia.
We had seen a documentary before we left Australia and Whitney had mentioned it was a “must see” – we were not dissapointed!!!!…!!
We are staying at a Camping about 20km south of the city. Camping tres Estrelas. An ACSI camping with a bus to the city centre from near the gate. Not a bad view for only €19 per night!!
Whilst in Barcelona, we also did the Fat Tire Bicycle Tour of Barcelona. From 4pm to 8pm, we cycled through the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) and old town, cruised around the Olympic Village, Port Vell and Barceloneta beach, stopping along the way to take photos and hear the fascinating history and stories of Barcelona from an excellent guide. Steve is Brittish – has lived in Barcelona for three years and was a great guide. (Click here for further info).