Gaudi’s architecture is somewhat bizarre, incredibly interesting, stunningly creative and innovative and a major drawcard to Barcelona. Recently uploaded selection at .bit.ly/gaudian . Trust you’ll enjoy.
There has to be an exception.
Mentioned last time how friendly and helpful French people have been. There has to be an exception. The other day walking through village yearning for a coffee, came across this cafe, door open, darkness inside (but that’s not unusual we are finding) walked in as you do. I’m about halfway into the joint when “monsieur, monsieur, monsieur” can be heard loudly from the doorway we had just walked through. Turn around and there’s this woman who had been sitting at a table outside smoking as they do, and talking loudly on the phone, as they do, like one of those undesirable customers every cafe owner must get.My rapid retreat is followed by some un-understandable volley of rapid fire french. At this stage I realise she is the owner. “Deux cafe au lait sil vous plait” I ask, “OK”, then feeling like a bite, a croissant or similar, as you do, I ask in broken French, “and something to eat”. “OK”.
Thinking we are heading in again, I stride purposefully forward, my eyes adjusting to the darkness seeking the counter to see if there is anything to select from. Voila! I see a cabinet, like those drink cabinets they point too, with a get your own sweep of the arm, if you ask for a cold drink, move towards it, open it and start to look inside. Just at that moment my peace is shattered. Blaring from near the door comes “MONSIEUR, MONSIEUR, MONSIEUR”(thought that had happened a moment ago). But this time the smoking, loud talking outside proprietor is now striding towards me yelling “THIS IS NOT A SELF-SERVICE (REPEAT)”in broken English. Now we are even, but I’m thinking hey we are not really welcome here, so I wave Anne out of the place and follow to the much more dulcet tones of she with the loud voice’s “au revoir”.
We got what we wanted from a much nicer man in a much nicer place just a couple of doors along.
Cafes, as I’m sure you know, though different from ours in terms of offerings and coffee quality are an important part of daily life where dogs often outnumber patrons.
No we haven’t been to a bullfight.
But just as bullfighting in Spain is on the decline, we find a couple of rings in the area around us in France. Drove to a smallish village the other day and there near the entrance was a newish, small ring complete with toreador with horns on head statue.
Driving the vineyard lined narrow country roads is always an enjoyable experience for me. often vines give way to rough edges frequently with wild pomegranate, apples and escapee grape vines. The shooting season’s in full swing. Might have mentioned that before. Wandering the vineyards its amazing what you come across. And all that gunfire must have sparked the desire for a duck dinner. Well at least duck skewers on our bbq,
Many of the village entrance roads, and canal edges, are lined with plane trees. It is said Napoleon started this (somewhere I read the Romans did, so who knows) but now some are being removed as they have been responsible for car accident deaths.
Another constant here is the need for continual navigating around (well not always around as some just are not that shape), roundabouts that seem to have infested the country. The only things that contest these for popularity is churches. Even in our little town there are 2 I have found, usually locked only operating once of twice a month. Actually I think the roundabouts work quite well. some are large sods (I’ve driven around a number more than once trying to find the right exit. Others, small or barely existent. The need for so many, sometimes only metres apart, must come from the number of entry points each town has. Usually about six. On one occasion we “circumnavigate” a more triangular “roundabout”, and just when I think I’m through there’s a pedestrian crossing, an old couple waiting to cross, I wonder whereto and stop for them. They scurry across to some large wrought iron gates in the middle, open them and head into what is clearly their home. So a home in the middle of a roundabout, but that’s not all, as we leave the apex of the roundabout (?) I notice some impressive headstones. I guess the family burial plot, who knows, but in this triangular roundabout.
Round another corner, and another village. This one Poilhes has Canal du Midi running through it. A couple of significantly different boats pass on a bend in the canal.
Narbonne is a nice city for a day or two. Main attractions are its museums and cathedral, also the Canal de la Robine runs through it. Below the canal at night, part of the Cathedral of Saint Just, a recovered 1,000+ year old mosaic and a statue of someone I’m sure I know but just can’t recall for now.
By now the weather is turning colder and a strong wind is kinda making the day difficult.
Spent a night at a seaside holiday place La Port Nouvelle, lovely ocean beach, but not much else that’s memorable, except our hotel that is. The last place open I think, the room quite nicely done up with concealed blue lighting (ugh). The entrance was tiny, struggled to get our one bag though and even bigger struggle to get it in the lift, all so that when we reached our floor we could be assailed by darkness and an almighty stench. You know the one that you face when out of sheer desperation you are forced to enter a public toilet the local council has taken off its regular cleaning list. Shan’t be returning there. However did get some nice sunrise shots next morning.
We head to the area generally referred to as Aude Nature hoping to see and photograph some bird-life. Still seems scarce around the prime spots we were referred to, nothing to shoot, so give up on the west side of this great estuary and wetland area and head for the other side and the town made famous by the Newman’s. Not the Paul Newman’s, the Eric and Carol Newman’s.
On approaching Gruissan we come across another canal with a couple of old boat restorations going on. Here’s one of them.
Round the corner I spot some flamingos flying, not close enough, then go stalking storks.
Pretty much everything else seems blown away by the wind.
The wind we learn is the tramontane and can blow at up to 120k’s. It originates from the same central area as the better known mistral winds.
The town of Gruissan is like many here divided into new and old towns. The new is essentially built around 3 massive marinas. These are marina’s spectacular, ones that NZ boaties would just lust over. A really classy modern town that attracts 120,000 in the peak season. That’s over now and most shops and restaurants are closed. Enough are open though for us to get all the meals we need. The old city has the remains of a chateau on the hill, built about 1100 and a fairly typical small town, narrow streets, tight corners and streets littered with cafe tables and chairs to be navigated around. Oh of course a couple of great churches too. Not planning to, but late in the day we decide it’s worth staying longer and book into the 1st B & B (Chambres de Hotes) we come across. What a find. Probably the best accommodation on this trip, beautifully renovated and built from rock pilfered from the the chateau (you can what remains of the chateau below). All these places have so many stories. The proprietor of our B & B answers a lot of questions over breakfast and we learn a bit (I’m sure there’s a ton more) from him
Both the estuary (Etang de Thau) and the ocean are photogenic.
As is the Il’e Saint Martin salt works which date back to Roman times and as you can see still producing the stuff by the mountain-load.
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as Gabriel Miro famous Spanish author of late 19th early 20th century called Parcent.
And then there’s the narrow village streets, such fun to drive around, the historic architecture, and churches, the way many places have more than one way to spell their names, the Bones Festes, and the funny cappuccinos. Guess this is Spain.
Gas bottle delivery truck negotiating the narrow streets and even more difficult corners doing a multi-point turn.
A trip to the coast, the Costa Blanca and some of the picturesque villages and resorts makes for a colourful outing.
First stop about 40 mins away, Calp, reasonable sized town and home to this sign and the largest rock in the Mediterranean on the edge of the town, behind a cool marina.
Great restaurants waterfront activities, beaches and very touristy things, but well worth visit.
From Calp one can head up or down the coast taking in the amazing Mediterranean views, resort towns and tourist hotpots.
Altea, picturesque old buildings in its back streets. the waterfront comprises a very touristy promenade lined on one side with bars and restaurants and the other with the hordes covered sunbathing visitors.
Vilajoiosa, famous for its brightly painted houses is an historic fishing village. Lovely spot, and well worth the drive to visit. We misjudged the sun and the faces of waterfront buildings were all in shade. Drat, but we’ll return.
Closer to home are the plethora pueblos or villages each with it’s own distinctive feel and charm. Only 5 minutes down the road is Alcalali. These are a few of the street and building scene here. We had a coffee in the little square, bought a few supplies from local mini- supermercado and followed the postie around as he pushed his pike up and down the hilly streets delivering letters and chatting with locals. we had to do that as Anne wanted to post some cards and while he was busy doing this his PO was closed.
Went out to another town for dinner. Orba, about 10 minute away. Again, sat in square while our orders were delivered along with many other diners. What an atmosphere. Balmy evening in the Plaza de Espana surrounded by the old church and buildings like these taken from our seat, till about 10.30 when we headed home.
Incredible terraced valley between two ranges, another interesting town or two, and the castle on a rock.
The other side of the Coll de Rates mountains takes us through the windiest road I’ve ever driven as we descend into the Vall de Tarbena then back up the other side. Both sides are terraced extensively as this photo tries to show.An amazing drive.
When we get to Tarbena and its square with a couple of cafes and the ever present church its time for a coffee and dry toasted baguette with olive oil. That’s morning tea in the amazing cafe Casa Pinet cafe, museum like, totally packed with paraphernalia and picture from civil war era.
Any mode of transport works here. The John Deere parked in Tarbena square outside the church of Santa Barbara I’m guessing, while a local farmers drops into one of the adjacent cafes.
Guadalest bell tower built on a rock, alongside a small town comprising a wonderful old home, now a museum that was the original family’s here. Now a tourist magnet with a number of funny little “museums” and a ton of souvenir shops selling tons of Chinese tack. Great to visit for its history.
Markets were the order of the day, Saturday last. First there was the massive Xalo market then only a few metres down the road, the Lliber night markets.
Dancing in the streets;
In Alcalali (just 5 mins from us) we stumbled into their Bones Festes (don’t ask what that means, except they all seem to have one hell of a time). We had caught the last night of the event in Parcent the first night here when watermelon seemed to be the theme for some unexplained reason.
Then a day and uncomfortable night in Valencia. After checking into our hotel found the aircon didn’t work. Well, that’s an understatement, it pumped luke warm air into an already 30 c + environment. I hear you saying, so what, get it fixed. tried that, no joy. Went out hoping all would be restored by our return. Uh uh, no. They still couldn’t fix it. Thier recommendation – open you window. Did that, then could’t sleep too well, from the clatter and traffic from below.Add to that the rock hard bed – what a night, and now they want me to do a trip advisor recommendation! The joys of travel.
Our short stay in the city was otherwise very enjoyable with the Hills and Jordans.
The Valencia Cathedral entrance beyond the long shadows of the gate.
On our return to Vila Joyosa we made it on to the city port. Actually only a fishermans port but very interesting. Fishermen drying and mending their nets and some of the little boats they venture out in raise questions not just of safety, but also economics. How an they make a living from these wee tubs?
And this red one wasn’t the smallest or the least seaworthy.
After a few very enjoyable day we returned the Hills to Valencia to continue their cruising.
A visit to the arts and science district is a must. Never got inside any of the spectacular buildings, too busy photographing the stunning white architectural exteriors. After about 3 hours we still missed as much. Be sure if you are in Valencia, allow plenty of time for this visit.
Then there’s the story that seems to typify the Spanish. Nothing happens here quickly. Planning something, allow double the time needed (AT LEAST) anywhere else. Picked up a parking ticket for parking in a white lined parking space. That is the lines seemed to us to mark the area within which parking was allowable. Funny, 100 euro fine on back windscreen on our return. No right to argue, no place to go and fight so left with only option – to pay up. Where do you do that? at a bank, where else? First bank, teller fiddles on his computer for 5 minutes then tells us wrong bank, points out name of correct one. Eventually find one of those some number of cities away, same story, can’t do it here either. So I still have the ticket, unpaid because after some searching time walking, driving on the lookout, the one we are now told can do it seems to not exist. Have to keep looking I guess. There’s a 50% discount if paid before 20 days. Espana !!!!
Trust all is well wherever you are, adios.
Not quite on the road so much off on another “expedition” and more for my library of photographic images plus these smartphone versions.
Buenos diaz, we’ve arrived at our home for month. It’s hot mid 20’s – 30’s c.
Flying low over Manises, Valencia we could clearly see the fruit fields below.
Mainly citrus. This I thought would be the the economic mainstay of the region. Once out of the airport we got our car and headed toward Parcent to meet Garry who is to take us to our digs.We drive, then off the highway, through orchards and olive groves.
The landscape here is hilly, most villages which are everywhere you look, often walking distance apart or only a couple of minutes drive set on hillsides or in the valleys there must be 30 or so of them from the vantage point of our home. Much dryer here. The orchards and groves don’t look as lush as the ones seen from the plane. After two nights in local restaurants I now know the main industries are poms and fruit/olive growing. The only Spanish voices heard in the establishments (one is even called Victoria) was from wait staff.
Our home is lovely, built way up a hill in what we know as Spanish style. Seems as villages grew and the poms arrived they have spread themselves through the hills around the traditional villages.
From NZ a stopover at Houston TX. An interesting city, our mistake was to stay out of it. The Galleria area would be great if the only thing you wanted to do was shop. Massive shopping center with all imaginable chain and department stores imaginable, but a good 20 mins from the action. That being the architecture, parks, walks etc on the Downtown or the Museum district with it scores of museums, galleries, the large Hermann Park.
Then if you camp down here you are that 20 mins closer to things like the Nasa Space Center, Galveston Island etc. If you ever want a reference for a Houston or NASA guide let me know. Elizabeth was excellent
With a couple of hours to spare before leaving, nothing to do around hotel hired a cab and headed for museum district. Oh well next time as we only have 1.something days this time.
Adam, our very cheery Ethiopian driver really tried to be helpful, unfortunately most closed for Sunday morning but he did make a suggestion we see the Menil gallery (shot from the gallery hallway) . So we humored him. Glad we did. This is worth the visit. Don’t miss it if you have any interest in art. Would also commend Adam for a driver, got his number too if you ever want it.
Flight from Houston to Frankfurt provided me with window seat, which I like, however row 69 and about 10 around them are all over a ginormous Airbus 380 wing. It’s like looking out at a white football field.
Great view of sky. Bugger! Nothing left to do but leap int the on-board entertainment system. seems good range but stuck on Chinese, can’t rest, ask hostess who responds “something like, oh well too bad not your day” and buggers off Disappointments come in 3’s don’t they? After the meal they bring around cognacs or Baileys, and what do they do? Distracted by the constant asking for extras by the Indian guy sitting next to Anne they offer them to everyone all around and totally miss our seats.
Flying over Germany, France and Spain presented real interesting scenes below. Can’t get over the orderliness of the Teutonic landscape below.
Home for next month, Villa La Paz.
Now in Parcent Spain. Just arrived last night, after a small sleep headed into the village for a feed and to look around after dark.
Happened on a celebration the Bones Festes. Groups dressed up and yahooing, having a great old time in the streets of the village.
Another day, back down thru’ Parcent to Orbas. another of what must be about 30 villages that can be seen from our place. What a great little place, typically traditional Mediterranean. First stop, bar for a cappuccino at cost of only E1.20 each. Walk the streets, pick up some cookie things and pizza from a beaut little bakery joint.
Bar and street in Orba. Men supping their reds and espresso’s around mid morning.
Food, yep always important, & wine & coffee too. Some interesting experiences thus far. First in Houston Galleria all the usual suspects but decided once again to try Nordstrom restaurant to avoid American standard burgers and chips. Now here’s a tip. Always excellent food and service at Nordstrom. Better by far than the US normal places you find around places like malls or even on the street.
In Parcent last night we shot out to a place we’ve driven by a few times since being here. Looked ok by the signage. When we arrived noticed 3 courses, wine & water €12 but closed so down the road to Victoria’s. English fare, similar deal but €18. Running out of options so gave it a go. Well you could feed a small village on what we sent back. Not a quality problem, food was good. Just that they provided starters , bread + spreads with olives and a soup before the meal even started. No way a normal person could all this food justice. Well may except for you Gerald!! Ended up leaving without even getting to try the dessert. Looking forward to finding more tapas style places.
Quiet day today, but eventually headed to a supermarket village about 7 minutes away in Xalo. Walked the old streets for a while then stop in to a botega. Sign outside says 3 tapa + wine E9. Looks good. After the usual Hola, its ?habla ingles? then the language tryst commences. Fun. Tapas not of the style we are used to, but perfecto anyway, sometimes. Meat slices, bread and spread, potato salad and quiche. More than a meal. We keep learning.
Xalo form its outskirts.
Michael & Hannah and the two littlies arrive and provide more entertainment and reason to explore the narrow country roads and even narrower village streets. Again, great fun. A spot of sunbathing sounded like a good idea, so off the Grandella beach, about an hour away. For E28 you hire (actually Michael did, thanks) 2 deck chair things and an umbrella from those all set out out in rows
La Granadella is a small cove set between spectacular rock cliffs all round. the beach is stones and packed more tightly than a can of sardines. Off course when people are so close interesting events occur. Like I’m sitting on my deckchair minding y own business and become aware of something quite large around my left ear, gingerly turn my head to come face to face with some guys quite ample arse in the bright orange beach shorts I’ve ever seen. For a moment I thought the sun had dropped in. Couldn’t help worrying that he had full control of his bio-systems. It was close, but then after he had adjusted his arrangements his misses stood and revolved her over-ample butt into that same space, just mm’s away I’ll swear, now my worry was about her sense of balance. It’s all very close around these beaches, if you know what I mean!
People and shade silhouettes on the crowded beach of La Granadella.
It’s hunting season here and we are living in the Coll de Rates mountains. There’s the almost constant sounds of barking dogs and gunfire. Pretty hard to spot any wildlife, tho’ I did see a small squirrel scurrying along the power lines. He’d better be careful, we’re told they shoot anything that moves around here.
From our abode in the mountains
Just love driving around these little villages with their narrow roads, never knowing whats around the next right angle corner. The street scenes are quite picturesque, the people though are something else. The odd old lady with greet you with and hola, or buenos dias, in the main, no smiles, acknowledgements or even the cursory wave when you give way in the car. Strange.Found a couple of open churches today. Very austere exteriors and extremely ornate interiors, similar to Italian I suppose.
Interior and main alter inside Parcent Catholic church. Was originally a Mosque, but when the Muslims got done the last time the Christians took as their own. 17th Century I believe.
Hope you’ve been picking up the other images posted on Instragram too. Instagram address; briansphotography
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here’s a selection of abstract or background stock photos I’ve pulled together from my Abstracts and Backgrounds gallery.Please follow the links to see the full galleries. thank you.
Do you find; “The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real” Lucian Freud
Architectural & structural abstracts
Structural abstract, this one is a smartphone image.