Nestled in the Spanish Pyrénées the tiny enclave of Llivia is a little oasis of Catalonia surrounded by France. It is literally an island of Spain in the middle of the French Pyrénées.
It is popular during the ski season with many people owning a second home here, spending their holidays in the peace and beauty of this pretty little village. Walking around the village their are plenty of cafes and attractive houses of many bright colours to attract the attention and a stroll around the central lake is a good way to wile away an hour or so. The lake is home to a black swans, swan geese and ducks with plenty of varieties.
Vall de Nuria is not really a valley at all but a glacial cirque. During the last ice age a large glacier sat on this spot and carved out the distinctive bowl shaped terrain.
There is not any road to the hotel village which is apparently the highest in Spain at 1964m and it is only accessible via train or the old fashioned way …. walking.
Although there is a ski resort here the area is preserved as a natural wildlife sanctuary where it is possible to see chamois, marmots and wild horses. The popular Pyrenean pastime of mushroom hunting is also possible here.
The Sardana is a traditional dance popular throughout Catalonia. It is celebrated over three days each year in the small village of Setcases.
The village name actually means “Seven Houses” and whilst there are certainly a few more than seven it is really quite compact.
The festival celebrates being Catalonian and everybody seems to participate meeting in the village ‘centre’ to dance the Sardana, laugh, enjoy some music, good conversation and remember their roots. Bright Catalan flags are on display and everybody seems dressed up some in the colours of the region making for a very colourful event.
Dancing takes place in circles of anything from just a few to large circles of twenty or more all holding hands in a sign of friendship and togetherness. The steps are a little tricky and despite my legendary natural rythmn my own attempts were a little more Faildance than Flashdance.
Harvest time is a period for celebration throughout the World with festivals such as ‘Thanksgiving’ in the US and Canada, the origins of which date back to European festivals.
It also heralds the arrival of autumn.Farmers take to the fields to bring in their crops as the leaves on the trees are beginning to turn before they are shed. They then fall gently to the ground, providing a new colourful carpet on the floor of the deciduous forests around the Planet.
I came across this particular scene whilst having some fun on a segway near the village of Llivia in the Catalonia, in the Pyrénées. It was kind of fun taking the picture from my two wheeled steed.
A hot air balloon may not strictly speaking be an ‘air ship’ but I doubt if there was one of us in the group who’s heart did not skip a beat when it was confirmed we would be hot air ballooning.
Setting off early on a chilly morning with mist still in the valleys drifting slowly away to present a hazy view from high. This excited bunch of travel children rode the air currents over the forty volcanoes in the region for nearly ninety minutes.
Listening very carefully it was possible to hear the sounds of everyday life beginning as the World below us began to awaken. It was necessary to listen very carefully as the most common sound was the whirr and click of the cameras as we attempted to capture every amazing vista that presented itself in front of our lenses.
This was my highlight of the week and pretty sure it was for most of the others too, thank you Spanish Pyrenees!
The beach and harbour at Llançà are perfect for watersports, sea kayaking, dinghy sailing and windsurfing are just a few. There is an artificial breakwater which protects the bay from the worst of the elements, it is not particularly attractive but provides a sheltered and pleasant environment.
There are also a number of caves in the headland which overlooks the harbour, they can only be accessed from the sea, kayaking probably being the best option.
The town appears to be quite attractive although there was not sufficient time to really explore it, it did seem that it had a wealth of shops and restaurants with plenty of variety to keep the most fussy of tourists happy.
The Romanesque style Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll dates back to 888 and was founded by Count Wilfred. It subsequently became the mausoleum of the Counts of Barcelona and it is possible still to see the tombs of the more illustrious of these.
I recommend enjoying a well informed tour by a guide in monks robes, whilst he may not be a genuine monk his narrative is genuinely interesting and provides a welcome distraction in the impressive main hall.
It was a pleasant surprise to find these ‘giants’ stood outside on completion of our guided tour. It is possible to climb inside and carry these figurines around on your shoulders, they weigh over 60kg each but seem quite light when carried in this manner.
It was fun to later see their normal ‘handlers’ moving around the square and the local children running alongside playing in their robes.
It’s not everyday you can wander around inside a volcano extinct or otherwise let alone find a church there, which incidentally appeared equally as extinct.
It is possible in La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park of la Fageda d’en Jorda where the Church of Santa Maragrita sits in the crater of the volcano of the same name.
It requires a relatively short but quite steep walk up an easily followed path, the forest is interlaced with similar tracks most of which are marked and provide easy navigation around the forest.
It is a particularly pleasant walk on a suitably sunny day providing some cover from an unforgiving sun.