Hospitalet de l’Infant – larger excursions

While spending two quiet weeks in Hospitalet de l’Infant in May 2019, we go for two larger excursions, first to the Ebro Delta, then to the Roman villa Centcelles returning via Reus.

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The Ebro Delta – again worth a visit

We have visited the Ebrodelta again and again, also now we drive there early in the morning to capture  the morning sun. The rice has been seeded and has started to grow.

Ursula tells me, what she has learnt from a TV show (Arte): The ampullariidae or apple snails (Apfelschnecke in German) eat rice offsprings. In the last seven years, their population has grown strongly in the water of the irrigated rice fields. The damage was such that the farmers had to seed the rice once more. As a consequence, the farmers started to seed their rice in less or no water to make it less comfortable for the snails. In addition the glossy ibis (plegadis falcinellus) love to eat the snails and their population also grew which is help from nature to fight the snails. This is what we understood from the TV show.

With snails and Ibis in mind, we play with the light in the rice fields…

… and in the ponds of the delta.

Then we lose our orientation in this flat land with one rice field after the next and a few ponds around, end up near Ell Muntells and find some flamingos in the ponds nearby.

We have lunch in Amettla and then return to our balcony overlooking the Mediterranean in the sun.

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Centcelles – astounding Roman mosaics

Tarragona was the capital of Hispania Citerior in Roman times (since 200 BC). We have seen the city wall, the circus, the theatre, the cathedral and the archaeological museum in Tarragona some years ago. In the museum, we then noticed  the special exhibition of children’s drawings of Centcelles, the Roman villa that later was used as a Roman mausoleum. Centcelles is some kilometres northwest of Tarragona, in a small city called Constantí, and this is where we head to today.

What we see in the villa-mausoleum of Centcelles is from the 4th century AD. Perhaps Constans, the son of the Roman emperor Constantin the Great, was buried here (he died in 350 AD).

The main attraction is the hall with the cupola decorated with mosaics.

The mosaics are unique. They were redicscovered in the late 19th century and restored in the 1950s. The scenes of the mosaics have been completed by the renovators, but very discretely, just to help visitors identify the scenes. 

The lowest row of mosaics shows hunting scenes…

... near a villa that is supposed to be this villa of Centcelles.

The second level refers to the bible – a very early documentation of Christianism in the Roman Empire. The Arche Noah looks like a box.

Daniel stands in the lions ditch… the lion is full of life.

This mosaic shows the scene of Jonas being swallowed by the whale.

On another mosaic, three men can be distinguished. It is assumed that they are martyrs that denied to pray to gods and had to die in the fire (which can be seen in the right-hand lower corner).

The third level is dedicated to the seasons. The best kept mosaic here is the boy that carries grapes-  obviosly representing “autumn”.

Next to the cupola hall with the mosaics are some amenities of the Roman villa such as this bath.

Source: Barbara Bongässer: Katalonien, Kunst, Landschaft, Kultur, Könemann, Köln 2000.

Returning from Centcelles we stop over in Reus.

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Reus – a charming small town

We have visited Reus before to explore the route of modernism and the museum about Gaudí who was born here.

We now return for a short stroll through the center of this charming town starting with Plaça Prim, named after General Prim who was born here and became Prime Minister of Spain in the late 19th century.

Just round the corner we find the Xixona that sells gelats i torrons. Their selection of ice creams is extraordinary. I have ice cream made from fresh goat cheese (reminding me of the Catalan dessert mel i mato) and Ursula has lemon ice cream with little nibbles of lemon zest.

We stroll through the pedestrian area with the art nouveau buildings…

… cross the Plaça Mercadal with the townhall and the green modernist Casa Pinyol…,

… pass by the Casa Rull, another art nouveau building from 1901…

… and return to our balcony with the view of the Mediterranean.

Yes, Reus was again worth the detour.

 

 

In Hospitalet de l’Infant – relaxing

It is two quiet weeks that we spend in Hospitalet de l’Infant, end of May 2019, after our grand tour across northern Spain.

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Enjoying beach life – reading, walking…

There are various beaches in and around Hospitalet. In May they are still pretty quiet.

Dogs may need washing after a day on the beach.

The sun rises early behind the port of Hospitalet,…

… soon makes long shades…

… and then warms our balcony, where we stay during the day, sunbathing, swimming…

… and reading. Some of our topics are art and landscape in Catalonia, the history of the Iberian Peninsula and Spanish cooking and wines. In the Larousse about Spanish wines (2008), I learn more about the Txakolí wine from the Basque Country. There is a white variety called “Zuri” and a red grape called “Beltza” and the vineyards are in three areas, one of which we have seen, namely Getaria.

When back at home, I will have to try cooking the oxtail in wine sauce with chocolate. I have eaten it once, and it was delicious (Karlos Arguiñano, “1000 recetas de oro”, Barcelona 2019).

We have found these books in the library of Hospitalet. They dispose of an excellent book selection and rent them out free of cost, even to tourists (we just had to register our names).

Sometimes we have lunch in one of our favorite restaurants such as in La Becana in Ametlla where I eat steamed mussels…

… and, for dessert, a crema Catalana with the crunchy sugar.

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Small walks around Hospitalet – to the Ermita, the Punta or the Iberian village

From time to time we go for a walk around Hospitalet. One of our destinations is the Ermita de Sant Roc. A drivable road leads up to the Ermita. We walk and pick some rosemary to spice our meals.

From here the view of Hospitalet and the coast line towards Salou is magnificent.

Another small walk takes us up to Punto de los Rojales…

… with another magnificent view of the Mediterranean sea.

High above the Ebro near Tivissa, we love to walk to the Iberian settlement dating from 400 to 600 BC and to the medieval Castellet de Banyoles. The Ebro could be well controlled from this point.

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Special event at Hospitalet de l’Infant – Cursa BTT

Hospitalet is a quiet place, especially now, in May. But…  one Sunday promises to be busy. Signs announce a mountain bike race, starting at ten up to two o’clock.

On Saturday evening, the trails are ready.

On Sunday morning the bikers arrive. They take out their bikes and warm up diligently by spinning on their bikes fixed to a stand.

Then they leave in groups behind the pine trees (teenagers, young men, veterans, ladies…)

The dog of one biker couple is waiting for the masters – what may take them so long, it may ask himself.

Yes, we spend two quiet weeks in Hospitalet recovering from our grand tour across the north of Spain.

 

 

 

Back to Catalonia (Hospitalet), with two stops in the mountains

On Saturday, May 19th, we drive from Zaragoza through the mountains to Hospitalet de l’Infant, south of Tarragona in Catalonia. On the way we stop in Alcañiz and Horta de San Joan.

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Alcañiz – domicile of the Calatrava order (still in Aragón)

We follow the road to Morella up to Alcañiz. Here we manoever our Audi through narrow-narrow streets, find the last parking slot near the city wall and walk to the  Iglesia de Santa Maria Mayor – baroque  from the 18th century – where we have a cafe solo.

We do not find the way out of the small town and land on top with its castle (now a parador) and this gorgeous view. This was the domicile of the order of the Calatrava.

Does our famous architect Calatrava have a relation with this order?

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Culture and lunch break in Horta de San Joan (now in Catalonia)

Horta de San Joan is a pretty small town in the mountains El Ports. Young Picasso was here twice, once as a teenager, when he stayed with the family of a friend of his and about ten years later again. This quote in Catalonian says: “Everything that I know, I have learnt at Horta”.

We visit the museum that tells the story of Picasso and Horta de San Joan. All the places that he painted are documented with fotos. When he was here the first time, he recovered from an illness. And when he was for the second time, he is said to have started his cubist way of painting.

Horta de San Joan also appears in literature. Perucho in his “Las historias naturales” described, how the scientist Montpalau (an invented figure) visited Horta de San Joan, when looking for the vampire Dip that terrorized the area in the first Carlist War, in 1840 (p. 164f): “Días más tarde… nuestras caballeros… abandaron Gandesa, en busca de la pista sangrante del vampiro… En Horta de San Juan visitaron la Plaza gótica porticada…

… y el convento de San Salvador…

… El aíre era muy frío y tuvieron que abrocharse hasta el último botón de la levita…El paisaje había cambiado ahora: Salvaje, grandioso, y como telón de fondo las altas montañas del Maestrazgo…”

(Some days later, our men left Gandesa, looking for the bloody track of the vampire… in Horta San Joan they visited the gothic square with the arches… the monastery of San Salvador… The air was very cold and they had to close their jackets up to the last button… The landscape had changed now: Wild, magnificent, and in the background the high mountains of the Maestrazgo…).

We do what  Perucho’s Montpalau has done… we visit the gothic square, enjoy the view of the wild mountains and the monastery and stroll through the narrow streets…

… adorned with Amaryllis…

… and barked at by cute little dogs,…

… until we lose our way and in the maze of streets and end up in front of this door. It is the restaurant “Gran Parrado”. It is one o’clock and we are hungry.

All tables are taken… the friendly manager offers a table in the bar. Lucky we are. We have a delicious lunch. This is the first course, cannelloni (yes, the Catalonians pciked that up in Italy) and codfish salad. My second Course is oxtail in chocolate sauce – very tasty. For dessert we choose fresh goat cheese with honey – a marvellous Catalonian specialty.

The host has a small wine cellar that he is proud of. Already Perucho’s Montpalau praised the wines from Terra Alta: “Se consumieron grandes bocoyes de vino de lágrima, finísimo al paladar…” (we drank large glasses of Lagrima wine, very fine in the palate”), p.163. I buy two bottles, one of them produced in Horta de San Joan (Els Costums made from Granatxa negra).

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Back at Hospitalet in the appartment of or friends

About one hour later we are in Hospitalet. The full moon welcomes us.

Two quiet weeks are ahead of us. Reading, swimming, going for excursions and enjoying the Mediterranean.

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Looking back at our tour that we have completed in Northern Spain

Our route through Northern Spain started with a short break in Donzenac in France and then continued to

  • Hondarribia (with excursions to Bayonne, Biaritz, St-Jean-de-Luz and Hendaye as well as San Sebastián)
  • Bilbao (visiting Getaria on the way)
  • Santillana del Mar (with excursions to Altamira, Comillas, Bárçena Mayor and the origin of the Ebro, Cabrales)
  • Oviedo (visiting Covadonga on the way)
  • León
  • Zamora (visiting Benavente on the way, excursions to El Campillo and Toro)
  • Santo Domingo de Silos (visiting Peñafiel on the way)
  • Zaragoza (or Sarragossa)
  • Back to Catalonia (visiting Alcañiz and Horta de San Joan on the way)