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.

 

 

From Bilbao to Santillana del Mar

On Monday, May 6th, we travel from Bilbao to Santillana del Mar, along the coast.

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From Bilbao along the Ría Bilbao to the sea

Our GPS takes us to the modern and well-kept residential area with appartment buildings on the right hand side of the Ría Bilboa. Soon, we reach Portugalete.

Ursula talks about crossing the Ría using a puente colgante with a cabin. I am a little worried: I see our Audi hang above the river. But then it is easy: The puente colgante is a ferry boat that works like the four Rhine ferries in Basel (a wooden boat is attached to a rope). This ferry is larger (for cars) and attached to a metallic rope that glides along an iron beam, the design of one of Eiffel’s pupils. The guard tells me strictly that I am not allowed to leave the car…

After having crossed the Ría, we continue north to Santurtzi, located at the sea. We park our car in a narrow parking house.

The sun makes the port sparkle, and in the background I can see the Puente Colgante that we had used half an hour ago.

We continue crossing mountains and ugly beach resorts with beautiful sand beaches, until we reach Laredo. It is another old city center with another sandy beach and many more ugly appartment houses.

I am hungry. Heavy traffic here and not one single free parking lot. Finally we find one single free slot right in front of a pintxo bar. We have some tapas, drink some water, and as we want to leave… we find our car locked behind two cars parked on my side. One driver sits in his car and leaves. The second driver is nowhere. Ursula contends that now it is possible to get out. I am not convinced. Maneuvering on to the sidewalk around a tree and a hydrant and with the help of Ursula, of two more men and one women showing to me, how close I am to all that, I finally get out – but I am not really amused. “Land und Leute” or “country and people”, Ursula says, shrugging her shoulder. Hmm. I am not against “Land und Leute”, but to my opinion there are limits…

We take the motor way and one hour later we arrive in La Casona de los Güelitos in Santillana del Mar. I do feel at home in this quiet old country house that has been tastefully renovated.

The sun shines and after a short siesta we decide to visit the mountains south of  Santillana. Ursula has selected Bárcena Mayor that is said to be a typical Cantabrian mountain village. Driving through smooth, green hills with pastures, we reach a large parking area. A signboard promises restaurants, shops  hotels and guest houses. We get to a well-kept pretty village with thriving flowers all over, but it is empty. Not one shop open, not one restaurant open, everything dead. Pretty, but empty on this Monday.

We leave this place and continue uphill, uphill, uphill. A gorgeous panorama here. Smooth hills, green pastures with cattle – cows of all colours, goat and sheep.

After the Puerto de Palombera on 1250 above sea level we reach a high plateau with the Alto Campoo and the Pico Tres Mares behind us. The rivers that emerge here go either to the Atlantic in the north, to the Atlantic in the west or to the Mediterranean (hence tres mares). Signs point to the source of the Ebro. We find it, blue-green, in a lush forest.

It is a pozo (well) that emerges from the karst ground. The water comes from the creek El Hijar that originates at the sides of the Pico Tres Mares, disappears and appears again here, near Fontibre. The water is blue-green, due to the plaster, clay  and limestone that the water picks up underground before emerging. This is one well of the Ebro, there are more that have the label “source of the Ebro”.

What starts here as a small creek, flows through Spain – 910 km – ending in the Ebrodelta with its abundant bird life and rice fields (foto taken in November 2018).

We return to our Casa de Güelitos to have dinner in the small  restaurant. I have three kinds of cheese from Cantabria, a solomillo and a glass of Rioja tinto.

We sleep well in our quiet guest house. In the morning, I can hear a cock crow.

The Ebro Delta is always worth a visit

Again and again we have visited the Ebro Delta, when staying in Catalonia. We love it for its rice fields changing with the seasons and for its natural reserve lagoons holding a variety of birds.

This is what the rice fields looked like in spring 2018, all fresh, brown, ready to be watered and to grow rice.

Now it is November 2018. The rice has been harvested. The green stubbles remain.

The tractors are ploughing up the harvested rice fields. The birds are following the tractors – do they catch the worms that come out of the ground or do they find residual rice grains?

Whatever they find, it must be worth it. The birds are not afraid of the tractor and neither is the tractor caring about them.  

As always, we buy rice and olive oil at the Fusta shop. The rice produced by the Cooperative del Delta is called “Bomba”. In Swiss German we would say “är isch e Bombe”, which means, “the rice is super”.

Near the Fusta, in the lagoon de l’Encanyissada, we saw many flamingos in spring.

They were busy picking food from the lagoon (these two small spots are flamingos).

Not one flamingo now, in autumn, in the Encanyissada lagoon.

Instead, the layers of rock in the Montsià mountains behind the lagoon are very clear today.

Hunters have taken out their boats to chase ducks. Now we understand, why we do not see one duck in this lagoon.

We meet a ranger that tells us that the ducks hide in the reed (because of the hunting going on) and that there is too much water in the lagoon for the flamingos. We should look for them at the lagoon of Tancada. We drive there. The Tancada lagoon is full of ducks. They have congregated where there are no hunters. No fotos of ducks – our cameras do not look like guns.

There are no flamingos either. We give up and just enjoy, how the sun plays with the colours of the reed…

… and how the clouds reflect in the water.

In spring, the water channels were full with black-winged stilts (Himantopus Himantopus or in German Stelzenläufer) with their long red legs.

None of them around now, in autumn.

Poble Nou (literally “new village”) is located near the lagoon de l’Encanyissada, behind the reeds.

We sometimes have lunch in one of the small bars at Poble Nou, but now it is twelve o’clock and far too early for lunch in Spain. We take our way back to Hospitalet and stop in Ametlla del Mar. At the port we have fresh sole fish which is a delicious close up of another excursion to the Ebro Delta.