Apr 07

A Mystery Weekend with Dave and Margaret

Well, we are now in Italy working on the boat. However, contrary to what might have been your expectation, this post is not about boats or sailing or even Italy. It is mainly about a weekend we spent in the Yorkshire Dales – with a comment or two on Mike’s birthday first.

As there was no 29th February this year Mike had all the excuse he needed to have a minimum two day birthday. [In actual fact, he needs no encouragement for this and even makes sure it happens when there is a 29th February in the year!]. Anyway the first day [28th] dawned bright and sunny…..well, it always does in books, but the reality was it snowed.

We had a lovely day just relaxing and eating fine food…… unfortunately another fairy-tale as the day was really spent plumbing and decorating. However, the fine food bit of the day lived up to expectation by way of a couple of juicy steaks preceded with an experiment on my part – caramelised onion and goats cheese tarts. What I lacked in technique I made up for with ingenuity. The finished product didn’t look quite like the photo in the recipe but tasted damn good- which is all that matters.

His second birthday [1st March] was very much like the day before – except we didn’t have the fine food. I guess we just weren’t up to celebrating properly this year, though we made a good attempt on other occasions like Cath and Mag’s joint birthday meal, an excellent evening of fine Italian food at Chris and John S’s, a great Indian meal with John and Kath, a visit to Lesley and Kath for Rugby and Campervan envy, a visit by Steve and Mary, several brilliant evenings in Winterley and finally a wonderful St Patrick’s night meal at Cath’s with Mags “Kiwi sorbet Prosecco” to put us in the mood. Well, it was a green drink!

Despite the above mentioned snow, spring had arrived….

……and we looked forward to a weekend we had planned to thank Dave and Mags for putting us up for almost 3 months. It is amazing that, despite a number of times when the experience hasn’t lived up to the imagination in relation to weather, I still plan in the belief that all will be hunky dory. So, what’s wrong with a walking weekend in the Yorkshire Dales in March? Well, nothing if we had gone on the weekend of the 10th March or the 24th but we had booked for the 17-20th and it rained and rained and when it wasn’t raining it was drizzling or pouring down!

That said – we therefore had good reason to spend time drying out and warming up inside a number of wonderful pubs. If memory serves me right we went to ten over the three day period – all of them traditional Dales hostelries full of character [and characters!].

We started out at “The Green Dragon” in Hardraw village and, after a couple of drinks to stimulate us, walked for all of five minutes to visit Hardraw Force which is situated within the pub grounds.

It is a pretty setting and the fall is quite spectacular…

…especially when seen from behind.

Well done Mike for volunteering to get very wet and to Dave and Mags who followed him. Determined to see if he could have got any wetter Dave also decided to play tight-rope walker across the remains of a bridge.

I am not sure I approve of having to pay to see the waterfall, but I suppose it is on someone’s land and, if you fancy owning it yourself, you may be interested to know that the pub and the waterfall are currently up for sale.

Our next stop was Askrigg Village….

…. where, having found the correct path at our second attempt, we walked a four mile circuit taking in the “free to view” Askrigg falls……

…..and Whitefield’s Gill Force…

……before climbing up to Low Straights Lane….

….for great views over Wharfedale.

The sun actually made a brief appearance, casting a lovely light onto part of the hillside and Dave was so inspired that we all had to pose for a “Selfie”!

The following day we walked from our accommodation – “The George” in Thoralby….

….along to Aysgarth village where we visited an Edwardian rock garden….

…..which Mag had read about in a local magazine.

It covers about 0.14 acres and was designed as a kind of walk through “alpine” grotto. A mountain stream and small cascade add to its atmosphere. I am sure that in sunshine the garden looks much better and at other times of year when full of colour it would be lovely.

A pretty hellebore had made a brave start.

We then retraced our steps a little way and made the turn for Aysgarth Falls which were in full spate.

By this stage I was wet through – obviously being in Wensleydale I had mistaken myself for Wallace, or was it Grommit, who wore the wrong trousers! Anyway I wasn’t a happy camper and decided enough was enough with regard to walking that day. Being the gallant gentleman Mike decided to escort me. [The reality was that he rather fancied the dry clothes, hot coffee and Sunday paper experience that I said I was going to indulge in]. Being hardened troopers Dave and Mag decided to continue with the walk.

In typical “weather witch” fashion, when we got back to the pub half an hour later after walking into wind and driving rain all the way, the sun decided to make an appearance and by the time we picked Dave and Mag up in Bolton Castle we had blue sky. We tried to go to Hawes for a late lunch but had to turn back due to flooded roads and, after finding a suitable alternative watering hole in West Witton, we stopped off in West Bolton to look at the “Sorrelsykes Follies”.

It seems that the 1860’s construction the “Bishopsdale Rocket” is the most famous….

…. and the 1920’s “Pepperpot” also gets a mention in some guide books.

What I didn’t know until I was reading up about them later was that part of the farm we could see below us is also a kind of folly, having a C18 Palladian mansion frontage, and there is a sham ruin and some form of elaborate arched gateway which we didn’t see.

The blue sky didn’t last long and Monday was again overcast and drizzly. I had planned a triangular walk taking in Hubberholme, Bucken and Cray but as the route was described as being “very slippery when wet” and as part of it was alongside a beck which was, by now, more of a river we opted for a walk around Kettlewell. I had found an article which was a much abridged version of a book about the cottages and houses in the village – when they had been built, their various usage over the years etc. which gave us a better understanding of the history and culture of Kettlewell.

One building not mentioned in the guide was the parish church inside which we found what I think is quite an unusual stained glass window.

The centre window commemorates a local young man – a 20 year old Sub-Lieutenant of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who, in 1942, went missing in active service on an operational flight from Malta.  His brother, a Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant who survived the war but died aged 47, was also mentioned.

We were all agreed that as an example of a “whole village” it was really quite outstanding. There was no real evidence of new build or anything to mar its authenticity. I remember visiting some years ago when its annual scarecrow festival was taking place and thinking then what a great place it was so I am glad I have been back.

“The Falcon” in Arncliffe and “The Craven Arms” in Appletreewick formed part our route home. Both these pubs are well worth a visit and if any of you fancy a week long walking experience then “The Inn Way” may just be the thing for you. I have heard that the original Dales “Inn Way” book may be out of print but there is plenty of information on the web.

I am not sure what Dave and Margaret were expecting from their “Mystery Weekend”. I am pretty sure it wasn’t what they actually got! However, despite the weather it was a fun packed time, we visited places they hadn’t been before and we shared beer, food and laughter in equal amounts and, because of the weather, we saw some rivers and waterfalls at their best.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2017/04/07/a-mystery-weekend-with-dave-and-margaret/

Feb 28

Four days in Italy…..and a new boat!

Yeah…. we have a new boat. Not sure what her name is going to be but she is a Taswell 49 and is currently on the hard in Livorno, Italy.

There will be lots more photographs of her in blogs to come but here is a quick preview of the galley….

…and the saloon….

We are really pleased – not only to have found a boat we like – but also that the search is actually over and we can get back to being liveaboards. Well, soon, anyway.

Not that looking hasn’t had its compensations. As the title of this blog and the initial photograph suggests, we have had some good times travelling to places we haven’t been before. You might remember Cadaques and the NE part of Spain we went to in December and this time, in early February, we were able to visit Rome.

We have also been able to see more of family and friends. At the end of January we spent a night with Steve and Mary and were introduced to a fairly recent addition to the Atthews family….

I think the Alpaca on the right is Mary’s, but I am no expert in alpaca recognition!

We also went for a lovely walk, starting in Holywell – named for the well at the shrine of St. Winefride. Part of the walk took us down the Greenfield Valley trail – a former railway track, past the ruins of several copper mills and also Basingwerk Abbey.

Ahead of us we could see the River Dee and we soon reached the estuary….

…..with views SE to Connah’s Quay power station.

Looking NW towards the mouth of the Dee, we could see across to West Kirby on the Wirral.

Don’t know if the tide always goes out this far… but I have heard you can walk out from W.Kirby to the small island – maybe another time.

Walking toward Mostyn Steve told us about an old ship – the Duke of Lancaster – which was apparently deliberately “beached” with the intention of converting her into a nightclub. Don’t think the project went quite according to plan!

And so….on to Rome. Although Rome is about a four to six hour drive from Livorno, at this time of year there were no convenient flights from Manchester to Pisa [just 30 minutes from Livorno] so we opted for the drive along the Italian coast rather than Manchester to Stansted – well, you would wouldn’t you!!

We didn’t land until about 9.00pm and therefore spent the first night in the Ciampino district close to the smaller of Rome’s two airports. Two things happened which made us wonder if our trip was in some way doomed.

Firstly we arrived at the accommodation, having been ripped off by the taxi driver, to find that we weren’t expected as our reservation had been cancelled by Booking.com because of an apparent problem with the debit card. I was most concerned about this because all three hotels had been booked through that website. The proprietor of the B+B was brilliant. She was able to provide us with a different room and also phoned the other hotels [in Livorno and Rome Centre] to check they had our booking – which they did. Phew. So what went wrong with this booking I don’t know – but have since found out that a Manchester hotel booking for July, made at the same time as the other three, didn’t go through either. Internet connection? Apple? The bookings.com website? Who knows……..

The second “incident” was when we went to collect our hire car the following morning. As well as the instructions for collection being totally wrong which wasted us about 30 minutes, we finally got to the right desk and Mike was asked for his passport, credit card and driving licence. Passport and credit card – fine, but he couldn’t see his driving licence in his wallet. He looked and I looked. OK I thought – looks like we are going to be catching a train but then remembered that I still carry the now obsolete green paper sections of our driving licences in our passport wallet. I said something along the lines of “Oh here it is Mike” and we handed it to the car hire guy who processed our booking. Whether he knew that it wasn’t the official licence I don’t know – but it worked! Just to finish off that story – on our return to the UK I looked for our driving licences in my purse as that was the only other place they could have been. No licences. So, I looked again in Mike’s wallet where, tucked away in a “back” slot, which we had both forgotten about, were the licences. We had them all the time.

Fortunately, those two hiccoughs weren’t precursors of more and the drive to Livorno went to plan. Given that we have now bought the boat we are going to be spending at least a month in Livorno kitting her out – so you will no doubt get to hear about and see photos of the city. Someone recently described it as “the Grimsby of Italy”. Well any Grimsby readers will be pleased to know that when Mike went back recently he found it to be a very pleasant place and during our short time there we found a couple of great pub/bar/restaurants and I think this photo shows that it ain’t that bad at all…..

We spent the following morning viewing the boat with Sonia and Luciano who encouraged us to peer into cupboards and look in the bilges etc. and who showed us where things were stored and how they had set things up. We were certainly sufficiently happy with what we saw to believe that a survey would reveal little of concern and, following lots of enthusiastic discussion on the drive back to Rome, we contacted Sonia with an offer and very soon reached an arrangement which we were all happy with. Mike was there last week when the survey was done and he has really got a feel for the boat now and believes that we made a very good choice.

Anyway – about Rome.

Just to say that two days and nights is not sufficient time to see everything but, you can certainly make good inroads – partly because the old city is relatively compact and easy to walk around.

We had pre-purchased tickets for the Vatican museums and as these tickets mean that you don’t join the main queue we made a fairly leisurely start strolling through St. Peters Square [just five minutes from our little apartment]

…..and past St. Peter’s…..

….towards the museum. We also saw a couple of members of the Swiss Guard in their brilliant uniform……

The Vatican Museums are vast and housed in a spectacular building.

There are, apparently, 7km of exhibitions and one of the greatest art collections in the world. As you will all know, the highlight of the museum tour is, supposedly, the Sistine Chapel. However, call me sacrilegious if you want but I found it to be a real let down. Yes, the ceiling frescoes are beautiful and the “Last Judgement” painting on the wall quite striking – though maybe better before the 41 fig leaves and loincloths had been added to spare the delicate sensitivities of Pope Pius IV – but so are the walls, ceilings and doorways of many of the other rooms and at least you are able to take photographs of those!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was so much else to find fascinating. Given our lifestyle we rather enjoyed seeing this painting depicting St. Anthony of Padua – the Patron Saint of Shipwrecks!

On entering another room there was a whole display of frescoes. I asked Mike when he thought they had been painted and, like me, his impression was that they were relatively modern.

It shows what we know about art because in actual fact the fragments on display were painted in 1480 – a series of music making angels, cherubs and apostles.

As you will have seen from one of the photographs above, the museum exhibits include a huge number of classical statues such as this one of Tiberius Caesar.

There are also Bernini statues, currently being cleaned and restored.

In some of the statues the restorers identified dust deposits which showed that some of the materials used by Bernini and his followers – such as wood and straw- had been affected by insects. As a result, several statues, like this partly restored angel, had to be dis-infested before restoration could begin.

There are three internal courtyards, the most often visited being the “Cortile della Pigna” which takes its name from the Augustan era bronze pine cone…..

In the centre of this courtyard is the “Sfera”, a 4m diameter ball by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro.

Back inside, the Sala Rotunda features an enormous red basin found at Nero’s Domus Aurea [Golden House].

I was equally impressed by the mosaic floor and by others that followed.

I didn’t find an identifying plaque against this….

….but suffice to say it is probably big enough for the post match bath for the Italian Rugby Team!!

There are also many Egyptian and Etruscan artifacts and I have to admit to being more interested in these than the Greek style statuary.

 

 

 

I say Greek style because I had thought that many of the statues I was looking at were Greek and it goes without saying, for people who know me well, that anything Greek is of great interest to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, the statues were Roman copies. Their sculptors got their ideas about shape, form and style from the Greeks.

 

 

 

 

The “Two Horse Chariot” is in a roped off room and, with the sun streaming in, it was difficult to get a good shot.

The chariot was used as the episcopal throne in St. Marks, Rome between 1516 and 1771.

Between 1580 and 1583, the then Pope Gregory XIII had 40 huge topographical maps made which are now exhibited in the Galleria della Carte Geografiche. Mike was busy studying our first sailing ground in our new boat!

Four frescoed rooms named the “Raphael Rooms” comprised Pope Julius II’s private apartment. Rafael only actually painted two of the rooms, students working to his designs decorated the other two.

The fresco above was painted after the death of Julius and incorporates his successor Pope Leo X. The fresco is of Pope Leo the Great meeting Attila the Hun in 452AD. Leo X appears in the painting as both Leo the Great and as the cardinal on Leo’s right [the furthest left figure in the painting].

In the other Rafael painted room, the reigning pope witnesses the Expulsion of Heliodorus who had been sent by the King of Syria to steal treasure from the Temple of Jerusalem. The chair bearer on the left has the features of Marcantonio Raimondi, Raphael’s engraver and friend and the other bearer resembles the artist himself.

We did not take a guided tour and were quite glad about that as we were able to choose what we did and didn’t spend time looking at. I am sure that there were bits that we missed but we spent more time in the museum than those on the tour – though possibly they could go round again? Anyway, one of the rooms they whizzed by without stopping was one containing paintings by more contemporary artists and here we found one by our Spanish friend – Mr Dali…….

Probably the highlight for us was a temporary exhibition of Rembrandt etchings.

The “Hundred Guilder Print”….

….is Rembrandt’s most famous etching of Jesus healing the sick and it got its name because of the high price paid for just one print from it.

Others I really enjoyed looking at were this….

….of Adam and Eve and this….

…of Rembrandt himself. Incredible stuff.

By this stage having exhausted ourselves we decided that a late lunch was calling and exited by the amazing spiral staircase.

Lunch was taken sitting outside a typical street café…

….and we then just wandered wherever our feet took us. We had intended finding the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain but you should always leave some reason to return and we found it much more pleasant to just stroll. We found ourselves in a less visited part of the “Centro Storico” – the Via Giulia….

….with potted orange trees and, at its southern end, the “Fontana del Mascherone”.

As you can imagine, the cobbled streets, the piazzas and their fountains are as enchanting by night as by day….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….and our evening stroll finished with once again crossing St. Peters Square.

Whilst looking at the Basilica…..

…..we decided we would visit it the following morning – which meant getting up at 6am ready for the doors to open at 7am. I didn’t think Mike would accompany me as 6am is definitely not his thing – but morning came and we both made our way back to the square as a lovely dawn was breaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second largest church in the world, St. Peters Basilica is quite spectacular.

The current church was completed in 1626 having taken 150 years to construct. Wandering round it with few people there meant we could enjoy the magnificence without having to dodge the crowds.

Most of the others who had joined us on the steps just before 7am were worshipers who made their way to one or other of the side alters or chapels for individual prayer or a small group service of which there were about six taking place in different parts of the cathedral.

The right foot of the much-loved statue of St. Peter has been partly worn away down the centuries as a result of all the caresses.

I loved this small font…..

…..and all of the ceiling domes were beautifully painted.

Most memorable of all is Michelangelo’s “Pietà” which sits in its own chapel ‘behind bullet-proof glass].

It was sculpted when the artist was only 23 years old and is apparently the only work he ever signed. Quite outstanding.

Back outside I couldn’t resist taking yet another photo of the square – I was particularly struck by the cross in the sky mirroring that on the needle.

You will note the lack of crowds and by this time it was going up for 8am so we could have left it a little later for our visit – but not much later. By 10.00am the queue was right around the square….

….and we estimated it would take two to three hours of queuing to get into the church.

As you would expect [or know if you have been] there is history at every turn….

…..and fantastic buildings round every corner.

Il Vittoriano is a massive white marble building which dominates the Piazza Venezia and which incorporates the central museum and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Walking towards the Colosseum from Il Vittoriano are the Imperial Forums.

They were largely destroyed/buried when Mussolini bulldozed through in 1933 but excavations have since unearthed them and the landmark “Trajan’s Column” stands proud in the middle.

We had also pre-booked tickets for the Colosseum but their “queue-jumping” claim did not work anything like as well as did the Vatican Museum tickets. Basically we seemed to queue just the same as everyone else before finding ourselves in the access limited amphitheatre. I suppose I am glad I have been because it is one of the sights in the world to see – but as sights go it wasn’t that brilliant [in our view].

We don’t deny that in its day it must have been quite a sight and was certainly a scene of combat where slaves were sent out to fight against each other and/or wild beasts in front of a bloodthirsty crowd who sat variously in individual seats right next to the auditorium or up in the top level of the theatre.

It fell into disrepair after the fall of the Roman Empire and later became a “quarry” for travertine and marble from which it had been partly constructed.

The best thing about the Colosseum ticket was that it also gave access to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. It was on the “Palatino” that Romulus supposedly founded the city in 753BC having killed Remus due to a dispute over the city walls!

Views from the Palatine are brilliant….

At the south-eastern entrance to the Forum, the “Arch of Titus” – said to have been the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe – incorporates scenes of conquest by Titus over Judea, one panel showing the procession of booty from Jerusalem and the other…..

………Titus on his chariot followed by “Victory”.

Some of the building are still being excavated….

 

 

…whilst others have been fully exposed showing the scale of what was once Rome’s showpiece centre full of temples, houses and public spaces.

Nothing much now remains of the “Casa della Vestali” – once a luxurious 50 room home to the Vestal Virgins…..

….and even with a plan of the forum it is still sometimes difficult to decide exactly which of the ruins formed which temple, gate or church.

But it was certainly well worth seeing and given that we only had two days I feel we got a real taste of what Rome has to offer and, you never know, regardless of not throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, we may be back for more amazing sights in the future.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2017/02/28/four-days-in-italy-and-a-new-boat/

Jan 12

Boat hunting and Cadaques

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It won’t be immediately obvious to anyone dipping into this post that it is really about our search for a new boat because it is mostly about the wonderful time we had in Cadaqués, Spain – with so many thanks to Jack and Christine for allowing us to stay in their lovely home there.

But the hunt is on and as well as going to Spain we have also been to Scotland and to Wales and spent hours and hours and hours on the internet. We have continued to be overwhelmed by offers of help from friends from the use of their houses and cars to emails about known boats for sale. Many of these offers have come from friends in the US and, from a “continuing our journey” point of view it makes a lot of sense for us to be looking to buy there. In fact, there is a boat in Texas that I fell in love with when I first saw her some time ago but unfortunately, on top of everything else, we are suffering from “Brexit fallout”. Whilst the US dollar asking price has remained the same, the post Brexit exchange rate means that boats for sale there now cost about 20% more in UK pounds than they would have done in June ’16.

Even though our exchange rate with the Euro is also less favourable than 7 months ago the difference is less marked – hence our current concentration on European boats. We have looked at four boats in Spain, three in Scotland and one in Wales.

We saw a very quirky Seastream 46 which we liked, except for the stern cabin and, since it is also our home, it is important that we like where we sleep!

Had we wanted another Moody 44, there is a very good buy – well cared for, well equipped and a good price. However, I have continued to feel that a direct replacement of “Siga Siga” is not what I want and Mike has now set his sights on having a slightly bigger boat.

Unexpectedly, and disappointingly, we were not impressed with the two Moody 47 boats we saw. Sorry to any such boat owners who may be reading this but we felt that the quality of the later 47’s is significantly poorer than the early/mid 90’s Moody 44 that we had.

The layout of a Halberg Rassey 45 didn’t suit us and an Oyster 485 was being given a very thorough look over by a couple from Poland when we arrived at the yard to see her – so that was a none starter.

But – yeah! – we did like the Contest 46, well – one of them. We looked at two, decided that we preferred the two bedroom layout and thought that possibly we might have found our boat. However, our offer was not accepted and it appears that the owner is not willing to negotiate on price. As we had carefully considered the offer based on the current market, boat condition and everything which would need doing to make her “bluewater ready” we still believe our offer was very reasonable and have walked away.

So….still no boat. But we have had fun looking. We discovered that Cardiff is a really nice city, renewed our acquaintance with the marinas of the Clyde and explored a part of Spain we have previously not visited.

Well, that’s not strictly true as we have been to Barcelona – but the long weekend we spent there about eight years ago did not involve travelling outside of the city. Now we know that the Catalan countryside and coastline surrounding Barcelona is wonderful and well worth a visit. There are also lots of marinas so, anyone thinking of wintering in Spain might like to check it out.

Having hired a car at Barcelona airport we first travelled south, approximately one and a half hours, to “San Carles de la Rapita”. This town is situated on the coast near the mouth of the salt water lagoon known as the “Port dels Afracs”. It is an important fishing port, which was evident by the amount of seafood tapas available in the restaurants and bars. Can’t quite remember why but we actually ate Serrano ham rather than seafood and also enjoyed being able to sit outside in the early evening for drinks and hot roasted chestnuts from the vendor in the square.

The following morning we wandered down to the Marina……

P1090114 (640x457)…..to look at our first boat which was on the hard standing. Full credit to the marina who had enabled us to undertake the viewing even though it was a national holiday in Spain [which we hadn’t known when we booked the flights and accommodation and contacted the broker]. Having since read up on marinas in the Barcelona area I understand that San Carles is quite popular for wintering boats [especially if you want to remain as a liveaboard as the town is very nice] but that the boats generally need a haul out and clean afterwards because of the high weed content in the water – presumably because it is right on the edge of the lagoon.

We then headed back north, past Barcelona to catch our first glimpse of Cadaqués in the late afternoon light…

P1090125 (640x480)…as we drove through the town and up to Caials on the headland ……P1090117 (640x457)

…..where we were staying in Jack and Christine’s house. We soon settled in…..

P1090118 (640x457)…. and increasingly hoped that the boat just down the road near “Roses” might be the right one for us. Of the two we had come to see in Spain this, from the description, was our first choice and given the area in which she was berthed we felt that we wouldn’t mind if there was work to do on her as it would be a nice place to spend a few months – particularly if Jack and Christine were “at home”.

Whilst we liked the small town of Roses and had a wonderful lunch on the malecón with views out to sea…..

P1090119 (640x480)……. severe disappointment with the boat viewing led us to more online searching and another boat to see, this time in L’Estartit [approx. half way between Cadaqués and Barcelona]. The extremely helpful broker there also took us to see a fourth boat in Empuriabrava, just down the road from Roses.

So, at the end of three days we had seen four boats and put one of them on a shortlist…..

P1090176 (640x480)…….to take forward to our viewing of the boats in Scotland and Wales, though as you now know none of them have come to fruition.

We then had to find things to do until our return flights. Hardly a hardship!

We walked into Cadaqués along the cliff path with spectacular views down the coast….

P1090127 (640x457)…and also of the town as we rounded the many small headlands…

P1090130 (2) (640x457)In one bay the water looked pink and, on closer examination, we saw that there were hundreds of jellyfish.

P1090146 (2) (640x457)Many had died and floated up to rest on the shingle….

P1090147 (640x480)….but there were a few still swimming around.

P1090131 (2) (640x480)Cadaqués started out life as a fishing village but over the years has expanded as a tourist resort. Having said that, there are no high rise apartments or hotels and all building is restricted by the natural geology of the town, nestled as it is between the hillside and the sea. Narrow passageways criss-cross the town….

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…. and as you wander around you can turn a corner and find a surprising and wonderful view.

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We were there at the start of “Seville orange” season ….

P1090170 (640x480)….though the local inhabitants were very laid back and didn’t seem to notice the vibrant colour!

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Many of the houses are blue and white and some have very ornate windows….

P1090152 (535x640)….and ceramic azulejos decorate the roofs.

P1090156 (480x640)For some reason, which I haven’t found an explanation for, a large number of inhabitants of Cadaqués travelled to Cuba during the early C20. Apparently they totalled around 1200 people [approx. one third of the then population]. Many of them became financially successful and later returned to Cadaqués where they constructed the larger houses in the village.

The most famous of the houses is the “Casa Blava” [not my misspelling, it is Catalan for Blue House]….

P1090122 (640x480)….seen here again with Mike going to investigate the menu of the wonderful restaurant in the left hand corner….

P1090151 (640x480)…..the “Casa Nun”. Great fish lunch.

P1090155 (2) (640x457)Many famous people have visited Cadaqués, in particular architects and artists such as Picasso, Magritte, Breton and Man Ray. Most significantly, Salvador Dalí, commemorated by a statue in Cadaqués….

P1090173 (3) (457x640)……built a house at Port Lligat – just over the headland.

P1090246 (2) (640x457)We attempted to walk there “cross country” but took a wrong turn. Still, we had magnificent views of the anchorage…

P1090217 (640x457) and the port ….

P1090218 (640x480)before turning around to collect the car and go by road so that we did not miss our timed appointment to visit the Dalí Museum House. As it was the first week in December it probably wouldn’t have mattered – in fact it is most likely that we needn’t have booked in advance [as we did] but the website had been so adamant that no booking and/or turning up late would result in missing the opportunity meant that we were eager to get there on time.

Dalí loved this small fishing harbour….

P1090219 (2) (640x480)….. and drawn by the landscape, the light and the isolation, he initially set up home in one of seven fishermen’s cabins in Port Lligat in 1930 where, except for a gap of about ten years during the Spanish Civil and Second World Wars, he lived with his wife Gala until her death in 1982. He felt inspired by not only the views from his home….

P1090232 (640x480)…but also the sense of timelessness and “geological peacefulness”

He gradually took possession of all of the fishermen’s huts creating a house on numerous levels with lots of small rooms and corridors. Apparently he deliberately kept some of them small as they were then more womb like.

P1090224 (480x640)His bedroom, however, was opened out and split level and although you can’t see it in this photograph a mirror on the lower level was angled such that he could watch the sunrise out of the lower room window from his bed.

P1090226 (640x480)The rooms are packed with objects reflecting his diverse tastes. In the now entrance hall, which was originally the first hut and therefore his whole living quarters is the famous stuffed polar bear.

P1090221 (640x480)Dalí‘s three pet swans were kept as watch-keepers to his library and remain, stuffed, in that room.  An owl can also be seen behind the bear.

The studio he used most was built in 1950 and he designed and constructed a special “lift” for his paintings. A frame to which he attached his work could be raised and lowered through a gap approx. 6 inches wide in the floor. He could therefore stand or sit in the studio and paint without having to kneel or climb ladders. The frame can be seen in the photograph below and the bottom few inches of the board are actually below floor level through the gap.

P1090223 (457x640)We were told that that picture and the one in the next photo were two unfinished works which he left behind when he left the house.

P1090225 (640x457)The room which we found most interesting was his oval “acoustic” room.

P1090227 (640x480)Standing in the middle and dropping a pin would mean that everyone seated around the sides would hear it. It was certainly a strange sensation and it was easy to see how he used it to best advantage for gatherings of people so that they could all easily engage in conversation.

The outside of the house was constructed for his more “public” life with several courtyards for entertaining and an outdoor pool.

P1090240 (480x640)Bizarre art installations are scattered around the gardens…

P1090242 (640x480)P1090245 (426x640)P1090236 (480x640)…including this one…..

P1090233 (2) (640x480)….oops, no that’s me taking in the view from the peaceful upper level of the olive grove.

But most iconic of the artworks, for me, are probably the eggs.

P1090238 (640x480)Just north and east of Port Lligat is the Cap de Creus lighthouse, situated on the easternmost headland in Spain. We decided to drive there to see if we could find even more amazing views. We certainly did. The coastline south…..

P1090248 (640x480)And north….that’s France.

P1090251 (640x480)We had a wonderful open air lunch at the restaurant there….

P1090252 (640x480)….and certainly came to understand what Dalí meant by “inspirational light”.

P1090249 (640x480)Our third excursion was to the inland Catalan city of Girona on the banks of the River Onyar.

P1090179 (640x480)It is known for its medieval architecture and walled old quarter.

P1090190 (640x480)P1090189 (640x457)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately we didn’t have much time there so didn’t go into any of the museums or the cathedral but instead admired them from the outside…

P1090188 (640x458)Girona’s current university was re-established in 1961 but a centre of religious learning/university existed there in C15 – this being the entrance door…

P1090194 (2) (640x480)We spent most of our time wandering the old streets and admiring the shopfronts….

P1090214 (3) (545x640)And fountains.

P1090215 (2) (214x640)Some of the produce looked excellent…

P1090197 (640x453)P1090207 (640x457)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…. and we also saw a number of florists selling what I initially thought was a form of mistletoe.

P1090200 (640x456)Not sure now what it is but it seemed to be a festive purchase.

Several bridges cross the Onyar from where there are great views of the picturesque colourful houses.

P1090211 (640x480)The most famous bridge is the Pont de les Pescateries Velles…

P1090212 (640x470)…which, as you can see, was built by Eiffel in 1877 at a cost to the city of 22,500 peso.

Again, you might have noted the Catalan language – a mixture of Spanish and French. Understandably there are many French visitors to the area and I thought we had been mistaken for such when a shop assistant said “Merci” to us. It then became clear that thank you in Catalan is Merci and not Gracias.

Anyway having crossed the bridge….

P1090209 (640x457)….we found yet another brilliant tapas lunch….

P1090216 (640x480)And so, that concluded our quick visit to Girona and our stay in Cadaques.

It was then home for Christmas and New Year courtesy of Chris and John…

P1090254 (2) (640x490)….and some nice canal walks to remind us that England can be a nice place too.

IMG_0022 (2) (640x480)Thanks to Chris for these photos taken on her new camera….

IMG_0018 (2) (640x480)IMG_0019 (2) (640x480)It would be nice to think that next time I write a post I will be able to tell you that we have found a boat – but, realistically this might not be the case! In the meantime we are going to London for a couple of nights and to visit the London Boat Show – we can but dream!!!

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