Thursday, February 27, 2020

Camí De Ronda: Birthday Hike In Cadaqués, Spain

Camí De Ronda Cadaqués, Spain – 4/11/19 - 4 Miles

Hiking in Spain on my birthday – what a gift!  Jim and I spent a few days visiting Costa Brava in Spain with our daughter, Megan, and her partner, Jordi. Our home base was an Airbnb apartment in L’Escala that allowed us to daytrip up and down the magnificent Mediterranean coast. I love hiking on my birthday to remind me of how fortunate I am in health and time and spirit – and this year was extra-special.

Exactly where in the world are we? Cadaqués is a coastal town in the province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain. It’s about 100 miles up the coast from Barcelona and about 12 miles from the French border.

Found a souvenir rock

Meg and Jordi explored the food situation while Jim and I tackled a little bit of the Camí de Ronda around the peninsula. Trail names and route-finding is a bit messy, and “Camí de Ronda” is a generic name as part of the GR92 coastal path which runs pretty much the length of Spain. We downloaded a snippet and did our best to follow it – with mixed results.  [Some blogs about hiking in this part of the world are here and here and here – good luck!]

Walking around the crescent of the town center.  Gee, I wonder what the trail signs will look like?

Is this right?

Found it! The first of NOT ENOUGH signs

Making progress, but the lack of signage was now a problem

The trail skirts along the bottom edge

A bit of a scramble down a thickly wooded slope with multiple user paths brought us to this cove

Back on the path (a path)

Past the homes with nice manicured garden terraces, the trail passes empty, overgrown hillsides with stacked-stone terrace walls that contained olive trees and grapevines in years past

Port Lligat is in sight where we are meeting up with Megan and Jordi

And here is where we lost the path (photo below). The stone steps go directly to the water, where presumably boats would be tied up. The iron gate into the walled garden did not budge.  Clearly it wasn’t possible to walk around the outside of the wall. What else could we do?

Scramble up the neglected hillside, hauling ourselves over the terrace walls (easy for Jim, difficult for me) and through the dense vegetation.  At first we were encouraged by a path obviously made by others, but it petered out and we made our own path.

Meanwhile, Megan and Jordi saw our tiny figures fighting through rough terrain and wondered, “What the hell are they doing? Why aren’t they on the path?”

After a half-mile up the hill, around the bend to a road, and downhill on pavement, we reached level ground and the shoreline at last.

So our hiking adventure was done. Whether the iron gate was locked or we didn’t try hard enough to move it, that detail is left for the ages.  Walking back through the village in search of a nice café for a celebratory birthday lunch was just as interesting.

Lunch at Lua

All together we spent 10 spectacular days in Spain, from the coast to the mountains to the hustle and bustle and museums of Barcelona (I got pickpocketed on the subway). We ate, we drank, we ate – those Spaniards eat eat eat! Our trip of a lifetime for 2019!

“I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it.” ~Rosalia de Castro (1837-1885) Spanish writer and poet

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Hiking at Montserrat Spain

Montserrat, Spain – 4/10/19 - 4 Miles

How lucky am I to go from exploring a North Carolina state park to hiking in Spain?

Luck: where preparation meets opportunity!

Our oldest daughter, Megan, moved near Barcelona with her partner, Jordi, in the fall of 2018, so Jim and I planned a visit to experience all things Catalonia with these awesome local guides. The trip coincided with my birthday (61!) so of course there was a hiking requirement. Or two. First up is Montserrat – “serrated mountain.” Just an hour-and-a-half north of the city, Montserrat rises dramatically out the valley floor, majestic and mysterious.

Montserrat has been considered a holy place since the 9th century when a group of shepherd children reported hearing singing and seeing bright lights descending upon the mountain. The light and voices were witnessed by many others, and soon thereafter a wooden carving of Madonna and Child was found hidden in a cave on the mountain.  Referring to the dark wood of the statue, it is called La Moreneta or the Black Virgin. Santa Maria de Montserrat, the Benedictine monastery, was established and has existed on the mountain in some form since then.  La Moreneta is on display there and Montserrat is considered the most important pilgrimage destination for the Catalan people.

“Montserrat in Catalonia Spain means a lot of things to a lot of different people. To some it is a monastery, to some it is a natural park, to some it is a mountain and for others it is all of these things. Whatever your reason for coming to Montserrat, you will be amazed by its unique beauty and spirituality - there is something special in everything from the stunning basilica to a flower on the side of a mountain path.” ~ from this website with related links that contain about all you need to know about this special place.
Looking up from the valley floor

A day trip excursion from Barcelona to the village at the base of Montserrat is easy by train and then you choose the cable car or the rack railway (funicular) to get up to the monastery (or you could hike it…) However, we were continuing on to Costa Brava for a few days so we traveled by car all the way to the parking lot up top.  

The basilica

With many hiking routes to choose from, we went for simplicity. First, the four of us walked to the Creu de Sant Miquel and then back down to the basilica. Photographs barely convey the immensity and grandeur of the mountain and words are useless.

Can you see the cross on the cliff edge?

Jim, Megan and Jordi

Coins left at the base of the cross

Back at the monastery, Megan and Jordi opted to explore the basilica and museum while Jim and I took a walk out to Santa Cova (the Sacred Grotto). [Link to the history and hike description here.] The way is steep and it slowed me down until I felt that I was on a little pilgrimage of my own. The crowds were gone. Along the path are sculptural representations of the 15 mysteries of the Holy Rosary, which I am not familiar with, but the depictions were compelling to stop and contemplate along the way.

The cable car we did not take

Looking over my shoulder

Stained glass panel over the doorway

Jim and I returned to the monastery and met Megan and Jordi for a bite to eat.  We entered the basilica but didn’t join the long line along the balcony waiting for a close look at La Moreneta.

We were blessed with fine weather and good company on a perfect day. There will be a “next time” for Montserrat – those other trails to the spires atop the mountain await!  For now, on to L’Escala on the Costa Brava!

“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” ~Eliza Doolittle