In Catalonia (Spain) – some excursions around Hospitalet: Ebro Delta and Tortosa

On a sunny Friday in November 2017, we get up early to take photos in the beautiful landscape of the Ebro delta and then continue to Tortosa on the Ebro. This is another excursion that we go for, while enjoying the small apartment of our friends in Hospitalet de l’Infant at the end of October until mid November 2016.


The morning light in the Ebro Delta

In November the rice fields have been harvested awaiting the next cultivation cycle. We enjoy taking photos in the atmosphere of this morning.


Ursula has a very good “photo eye”, when capturing the fields…


… and the black egrets reflecting in them.


Then the birds decide, we are too close and fly away.


We have a chat with a fisher – he comes here regularly from Andorra. And yes, I do understand that driving is forbidden here…


In Deltebre we visit the Ecomuseum. This place is a miniature Ebro Delta showing its plants and wild life as well as the economy: Fishing, the cultivation of rice and – more inland – the cultivation of vegetables and fruit.


Tortosa – Basilica-Catedral de Santa Maria

In summer we had visited Tortosa, and it was pouring with rain. The town seemed grey and not very welcoming and the cathedral was closed. Now we return, leave our car in one of these narrow Catalonian parking houses in the city center and set out to explore the Basilica-Cathedral de Santa Maria  with the bishop’s palace and the convent. The gothic construction started in 1347 (Thomas Schröder: “Katalonien”, Michael Müller Verlag 2015). From outside, the cathedral seems “uncompleted”: The roof is flat.

The nave is spacious with high vaults – just right for the archbishop in the 15th century.


The exhibition shows treasures such as this lamb embroidered in gold…


… or this funerary object.


I love the cloister dating from the 13th century…


… and use this photo of the arches for my 2016 Christmas card.



Tortosa – Jewish center

After a break in a small bar that serves excellent tapas, we stroll through the former Jewish quarter.


All that is left are the street names (such Carrer and Travessia de Jerusalem) and some plates explaining where the synagogue and the kosher butcher were located.


Now we find a halal butcher instead.



Tortosa – history  in the former slaughterhouse

The slaughterhouse has been built by Pau Monguió. This art-nouveau building now hosts an exhibition of the history of Catalonia. The display starts with the stone age, continues with the Iberians trading with the Phoenicians (“Iberians” comes from “Ebro”) , the Romans (Tortosa was then called “Dertosa”), the Visigots and the Moors. In 1148 Tortosa was sieged during the Second Crusade and reconquered by an allied army. In the 15th century, Tortosa became an important regional center and the seat of the archbishop. It lost its importance in the 19th century and particularly suffered from bombings in the civil war of 1936-1939.


I particularly like the coat of arms of the monastery Scala Dei near Montsant made from alabaster – it represents the Escala Dei or the ladder of God.


After a short visit in the Tortosa market, we maneuver our car out of the narrow, narrow parking house and drive back to our small apartment in Hospitalet de l’Infant.



The Ebro – the delta with rice fields and Tortosa

Tuesday – we head off about 50km south to explore the last kilometers of the Ebro on its way to the Mediterranean sea. The delta and – more towards the mountains – the town Tortosa are our target.


Rice – omnipresent in the Ebro delta

The Ebro delta looks like the hook of an anchor: In the middle there is the river branching into arms with lagoons. Two sandy spits go off to the north and south. The Ebro delta is one of the largest in the Mediterrenean. It has developed in the last eight centuries due to the deforestation which made the Ebro carry soil down to the Mediterranean sea.

In the delta rice fields under water dominate the scenery, among them a few villages.

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Black and white egrets walk here on their long legs. A large part of the delta is a natural reserve, also visited by migratory birds – great for bird observers.

In Deltebre we buy some rice products – rice “as such” and licor d’arròs amb herbes (rice licor with herbs). They even sell rice beer (not for me, I am not a beer drinker…).


Adventurous track on the sandy narrow spit going south

We continue to El Muntells and the Camping Eucalyptus. Here we find tracks that lead on to the sand. We follow them going south. Ever once in a while, we come across another car. It is a wild and lonesome scenery.

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We cross this water passage…

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… and stop at a small xiringuito (beach bar) with a large selection of drinks and food.

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We join four Germans with four dogs of varying size – from “calf” to “guinea pig” – all four the color of sand – the smallest, the “guinea pig” barking loudly.

It is very windy. My credit card, identity card and driving license fly out of my wallet and start to hop away on the sand. I run to catch two of them, but the driving license has disappeared. Finally we find it under the wooden beams of the xiringuito where the wind had carried it to. Uff.

We continue to drive south, until Ursula shouts: “stop, see, we are here, on the spit. This goes nowhere…”. Right. And our car cannot swim, once we have reached the end of the spit. We drive back to the Camping Eucalyptus and then follow the Ebro to Tortosa.


Tortosa  – a brave Catalunyan city

Tortosa, founded by the Iberians, then taken over by the Carthaginians and the Romans, was liberated from the moors in 1148. Highlights are the old city, the cathedral and the fortress that is now a parador.

We find a “blue” parking slot in the old town. I set my blue parking card to 7pm and we walk across the bridge to the old city center. In the middle of the river Ebro we see this monument:

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Franco has erected it to commemorate his victory of 1938 – over the republicans, and the Catalans had supported the republicans. 70’000 soldiers were killed here. A sad memory.

We stroll along the narrow streets…

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… and then walk around the fortress hill, and walk and walk and walk, until we finally reach the gate. This is the fortress which is now a parador…

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… with the view of the gothic cathedral (closed after seven pm and uncompleted, as many such churches are here).

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This is the view of the mountains, just after the rain.

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Lesson learned: Blue zone in Spain is not equal to blue zone in Switzerland

Coming back to our car we find a fine of 40 Euros. Hm. Pretty expensive. Only later we understand that in Spain, blue zone means that you have to buy a ticket and place it under the front window. This is different from Switzerland or Germany where “blue zone” means “set your blue card to “show your time of arrival” and get back in one and a half hours”. Okay, the fine is, what we call “Lehrgeld”, meaning “paying for a lesson learned”.


Dinner at the Petit Normand back in l’Hospitalet

We return to l’Hospitalet shortly after 9pm which is still early for Spaniards to have dinner. The “Olla” on Via Augusta 40 has changed its name to “Le Petit Normand”. I have a delicious rabbit with a glass of Granatxa from Montsant and Ursula enjoys duck. Excellent place. The owner is from the Normandie and has lived here for twelve years.

Another beautiful sightseeing day to remember îs ending.