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My September Catalan & Ebro

Discussion in 'Ruta del Ebro' started by oursonpolaire, Nov 2, 2016.

  1. oursonpolaire

    oursonpolaire Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Camino(s) past & future:
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    I have just returned from a stroll from Montserrat to Santo Domingo de Silos. I will post the second half on the Castellano-Aragonese page.

    I arrived at Barcelona airport too late to start walking from Montserrat, but took a look around the impressive gallery underneath the Abbey– they had one of Picasso’s first paintings, of an altar boy-- before I returned to the village of Monistrol for a meal at La Barca, a restaurant which, in the Spanish manner, had rooms above (27€). There was a 23€ tasting menu, with tuna carpaccio, langoustines and clams with noodles, as well as a few other things which I could not identify. The other hotel nearby was very closed indeed, although the turismo in Montserrat had been quite certain that it was open. https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30201990690

    Day 1- Montserrat to San Pau
    I headed out in the funicular to the Abbey the next morning, obtained my first sello, and leapfrogging a posse of students, headed out by the cedars to the chapel of Saint Cecelia, where I took a break. It turned out that they were a group from one of the universities in Barcelona, and they were doing a study walk, reviewing a chapter of a religious book at each stop. While it would doubtless have been edifying to walk with them, I went on. This Camino goes along the carretera by the side of the mountain (the more adventurous can take the mountainside paths, which require some climbing experience) until the parking lot by the Vicenc Barbe wildlife refuge. From there, one follows a fairly difficult trail over the hills to San Pau de la Guardia– indeed at one spot, I had to remove my pack to safely climb the path.

    I arrived at my hotel, at which I foolishly thought I did not need to book a room. It was closed for the week. As it was my first day and the second half taxing, I was a bit tired. A woman down the street told me that there was a truckers’ café about a km away, so I headed there. Truckers’ cafés in Spain, as in France, offer reasonable meals of good quality, and gazpacho was followed by a plate of grilled shrimp, and melon. Rooms were above for 25€

    Day 2- San Pau to Igualada
    From there it was a straightforward thing to regain the Camino and walk into Igualada. This is a pleasant stroll through Catalan countryside until about 3km east of Igualada, when one has to walk through a forest of factories and car dealerships and where, on a previous Camino, two Bulgarian sex trade workers approached me-- when I pointed out that I was on a pilgrimage, I was offered a pilgrim's discount!! Shades of the middle ages on the Camino!

    Igualada is one of these small Catalan cities where in the evening the plaza becomes the town’s living room and day care centre. It was in the Plaça Cal Font where I had my first orxata, and I celebrated there with another. I returned to my hotel on the electrified staircases which addressed the annoyance of hills in the town. The church of Santa Maria offers a baroque jazz musician on its retablo- https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/29868670223

    Day 3- Igualada to La Panadella
    The walk out of Igualada proceeds for about a kilometre or so of suburb before one passes an ermita and heads out. The countryside is gentle and there is a spot at Santa Maria del Camí for coffee. From there it is a long slow uphill slog for about 4km out of Porquerisses to La Panadella where the Hostal Bayona, a truckers’ stop, provides a substantial pilgrim discount for a room and for dinner. In this case, conejo a la plancha and a bottle of rosé.

    Day 4- La Panadella to Cervera
    This is a relatively short day as well, heading off into a grove out of the back of the parking lot at the Bayona, and following a gravelled country road for about 4 hours in Cervera. The trail grows faint for the last 2km, and it is best and easiest just to follow the hydro-electric pylons into the outskirts of the town. The last 2km are uphill, as this was once a fortified city built on a plateau above the valley, but the Hostal Bonavista was easy to find. The main street is pedestrian and there is a university here, so the cafes are full of students exploring the meaning of life. I took my breakfast at what was clearly once (perhaps still is) the major intellectual hangout from the 1920s– the Casal de Cervera (although research suggests it is a post-civil-war construction).

    Day 5- Cervera to Tárrega, and then to Lerida/Lleida
    While there are no stops until Talladell, just a km or so east of Tárrega, this route also follows country roads in fairly gentle countryside. However, I hit Tárrega during the street art festival and, while there were streets full of jugglers and musicians, there was no accommodation. Hampered by a lack of wifi, I did not research the next stops adequately and so bussed to Lerida.

    Day 6- Lerida/Lleida
    My general approach has been to take a rest day after a week, as the adrenalin burn of the first few days wears off, and before the body tells you to stop. The Zenit hotel provided lovely sheets and an excellent bathtub, and was my temporary home in this Catalan city. There are two cathedrals, and the mediæval one on the hill provides a special sello for pilgrims as well as a special entrance rate. https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30501222935

    Day 7-Lerida/Lleida to Fraga
    As I walked into the hamlet of Bulsenit, I saw a raft of vintage cars, Rovers, Bentleys, Jaguars, Renaults, Mercedes, and SEATs. It was the village’s fiesta. The pre-mass choir was warming up, so I was able to sneak into the sacristy and persuade an amused priest to give me a sello. He exclaimed that no Canadians had been seen there since the civil war. More will be coming, I assured him, and I was told that they would be very welcome.

    Day 8- Fraga to Candasnos
    After a tough start through an otherwise agreeable small valley, the 24km to Candasnos is not difficult. However, the pueblo was somnolescent and two of its three hotels were closed for the season. However, the truckers’ stop La Colina was open and my spartan but clean room set me back 18€– the room was priced in pesetas. I walked into town and had a drink at a bar (La Hermandad??) on a side street where the landlord joined me on the stoup and gave me quite a bit of information about cloud formations as well as the local cat population. There were more cats at La Colina, as well as a decent dinner with the truckdrivers. I slept fitfully on account of some demented dogs. https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/29869180033

    Day 9- Candasnos to Peñalba
    I was up at 6.30 and was told that breakfast was available from 7.00. As I went downstairs, about five truckdrivers were in line to use a shower off the restaurant. Apparently they slept in their cabs, but took a shower for 2€ before breakfast.

    The Camino leaving Candasnos starts off very well and comfortably, heading out on a side road south of the Guardia Civil cuartel– it is all well-marked. Along the Calle Valcuena however, when the C/Valcuena turns SSW away from the N-11 about a kilometre or so east of Peñalba, the sign for the Camino directs the pilgrim into a gully below and parallel to the N-11. After about 100 metres, the path becomes impassible on account of vegetation which was in places higher than my head. The pilgrim has a choice of cutting through the underbrush, which I did for about 200 metres, or of walking along the side of the carretera. This involves walking on the highway side of the barrier which, given the speed and volume of traffic, is extremely risky; or of hanging on to the steel railing and risking a fall of three to four metres.

    After about 400 metres of this dangerous choice, the Camino path clears up about 500 metres to the east of the Restaurante la Ruta, on the eastern outskirts of Peñalba. I had a very welcome beer at the restaurant, then headed into the pueblo to find a place to stay. After this 10km, I was going no further.

    However, the only accommodation was at the la Ruta, east of the pueblo. I found a bar with the sign reading La Posada, but there were no rooms. However, the innkeeper (Asuncion Beltran– say hello from me if you pass through– the restaurant at the Posada was quite nice), frustrated with my poor Castilian, set up a conference call with her daughter in Ireland, who suggested that the brother of a friend might have a room in a casa rural being renovated. A third person was brought into the conference call, and soon a fourth on the construction crew. It was agreed that a room would be made ready for me at the El Balsetón in C/del Carmen for 30€. The construction guys came around to pick me up, and deliver me to the casa rural, which was very comfortable.

    Day 10- Peñalba to Bujaraloz
    As it was only 10km to Bujaraloz, I decided to walk another 8km further to a hotel along the road, the El Cievro. Now, the reader may well ask whey I did not enquire in Bujaroloz as to whether or not it was open, or even telephone the hotel, to which I have no real answer. They may wish to learn from my error, even if Google Earth makes the hotel look as it were lively and open for business. In any case, I cheerfully trudged to to the hotel, going around by the side of the gasolinera, only to find that it was definitely closed. Renovations were promised. The clerk at the gasolinera was only moderately sympathetic, and sold me a coke as a gesture of commercial solidarity. Here is a photograph of the neighbourhood https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/29878186684

    I had a choice of walking to Pina de Ebro, a distance of 16km, likely arriving about 7 or 8 pm in the dark, or of hoofing it back 8km to Bujaroloz. I chose the latter course of action, plugging in my ipod and heading back. On arriving after over 2 more hours walking a steady pace, I found the hostal Monegros III, where the sympathetic landlord got me up to my room. He saw that I was not in much shape to head off to find a restaurant, so made me an excellent pizza, made even more delicious by my exhaustion and his hospitality. Other bar-users looked upon me with sympathy and curiosity.

    Day 11- Bujaraloz to Saragossa/Zaragoza
    As the stages were awkward and as I was really quite tired of my long sunbaked stretches by the N-11, I accepted a ride from one of the previous night’s barflies into Saragossa. It turned out that he was going in for a meeting with his oncologist, and took me to the Cathedral of El Pilar, where he wanted to visit the shrine before he met with his doctor. This was clearly a private moment, so I thanked him and went to the sacristy to get a sello. This was handed out by a canon sacristan, just coming in from matins, who doffed his cope and, wearing still his surplice and biretta (with the amaranth pom pom of a canon), tried out several fountain pens from his fountain pen holster (he was most gratified when I showed him that I had one of my own tucked into my pilgrim’s satchel) for a truly magnificent sello.

    Day 12- Saragossa/Zaragoza
    Saragossa is an interesting rest stop, with lots of history and a couple of cathedrals. I booked into the industrial but comfortable enough Ibis on the other side of the river. As well as a few good meals, I should notice that I dropped in for an evening mass at the small parish church of San Gil Abad, primarily attracted to the area on account of the tango dancing in the square nearby. All during the mass, we heard tango music, including a broadcoast of Carlos Gardel singing Mi Querido Buenos Aires– it sort of worked. The elderly priest, who provided me with a sello for my credencial, seemed quite amused by it all, and said that he thought he recognized the music from his youth. https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/29885360584

    Day 13- Saragossa/Zaragoza to Utebo
    The turismo officer was helpful in marking a map out of Saragossa with the Camino route on it. I walked out on a Sunday morning and found myself strolling with a walking group of about 120 persons out for a recreational hike. I took the Camino de Monzabarba as the chica de turismo had recommended, and it was well-marked.

    I continued along for about 15km to the pueblo of Utebo to look at the Church of Our Lady of the Ascension and decided that I really didn’t feel like walking further. After some investigation, I found a pension in the south end of the town on C/San Lamberto run by a friendly young couple (Hostal Don Juan pensiondonjuan.com)– the only other accommodation is the 4-star hotel Europa (and I have since learned a 3-star in the poligono to the SW). The Europa’s restaurant was closed that evening but there was a cheery bar next door (La Trobada) where I had a good dinner of gazpacho and cordero, and a chupito from the landlord as a pilgrim needs strength. Utebo's Church of the Assumption has a tower with remarkable moorish tile-work https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30480040666

    In the morning, I dropped by the ayuntamiento to get a sello only to be told very firmly indeed that they did no such thing and I must find the policia local. The clerk’s clear directions were no help, so I dropped into the Guardia Civil who, puzzled and amused by my request, complied.

    Day 14- Utebo to Alagon
    Still slothful, I only schlepped to Alagon, where the turismo officer showed me the Mudejar church and the Ignatian college, the ceiling of which featured what is said to be Goya’s first painting. The hotel Angeles on Plaza Alhondiga offered me a comfortable room and an excellent dinner of grilled fish. While this was a dusty little town, people were friendly, and the streets full of cats. https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30480021156

    Day 15- Alagon to Gallur
    The walk to Gallur was agreeable and I fear that I stopped at more than one fig tree to enjoy what there was to offer. In Ottawa, a fig costs $1.50 and here they grow on trees! This was where I met my first and only other pilgrims between Montserrat and Santo Domingo de Silos— two Norwegian women in their late 70s– they had been friends from the war but then they had married “boring men, who would not travel,” so as soon as their husbands died they began to hit the road and this was their 4th Camino together.

    As I entered Gallur two friendly older women walking their dogs directed me to the C/Constitución (I am informed that in days gone past, almost all streets by that name formerly honoured the Caudillo). The church of San Pedro, which gives a great view of the town, was closed that evening. The landlord of the Hotel Colono and his cheerful tribe of attractive daughters saw me housed and fed.
     
  2. oursonpolaire

    oursonpolaire Veteran Member Donating Member

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    I couldn't figure out how to upload my photos, so I fear that readers will have to click away. I'm working on this.
     
  3. KinkyOne

    KinkyOne Veteran Member Donating Member

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    I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
    Beautiful photos in your links and very welcome post/journal in general!!! Thanks!

    For posting photos you click "Upload a file" button (down, right, under your post), browse through your files, choose the photo and click "Open". That's it. Then you have an option to post them as thumbnails (under your post) and readers will open them to see them larger or you can choose to put them into your text. In that case (actually in both cases) I suggest you downsize them to at least 1000 horizontal (vertical will change automatically) and post them in your post one by one regarding to the text you're referring to. I know, seems very complicated, but also very easy once you get the grip. You also have a "forum sand box" to try all of that out without being afraid of mockering :D
     
  4. SabineP

    SabineP Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Thank you Oursonpolaire : what a wonderful read. The people at Hotel Colono in Gallur are indeed such good hosts.
     
  5. peregrina2000

    peregrina2000 Moderator Staff Member Donating Member Donating Member Donating Member

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    And thanks to you, Sabine I had a meal there that was way above the camino average, and a particular surprise given how small and out of the way the town is!

    Oursonpolaire, have you also walked from Tarrega on the route via Huesca? If so, I wonder how that compares to the route from Tarrega through Lerida to Zaragoza, and whether I should put that segment on my list of possible short caminos. Looks like that's about 6 days?

    For me, the Catalan from Montserrat to Huesca was probably the least "magical" camino I've walked. Part may have had to do with the fact that it was June, everything was already brown and harvested. Part may hgave had to do with the fact that the stopping points weren't particularly lovely. Just wondering what your overall impression/assessment of Tarrega to Zaragoza is.
     
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  6. oursonpolaire

    oursonpolaire Veteran Member Donating Member

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    I've just noticed peregrina2000's query. Yes and no. In 2007 and 2009 I walked the Montserrat-Huesca route but only as far as Monzon. A combination of the isolation and general desolatedness was a bit too much for me. In 2007 the marking was really really awful and I was lost several times. I complained to one of my contacts in Ottawa and he made enquiries, and told me that it would be better when I went next time (!) and he would stand me a bottle of embassy brandy if it was not. Hoping to cadge a free bottle, I repeated the Montserrat run and found out that the waymarking had improved incredibly. However, I still found the isolation and general ennuie too heavy even if I did like the dusty little towns of Linyola and Tamarite and Alfarras interesting, and skipped by bus from Monzon to Huesca. Looking back, I think I might have managed it if I had had an ipod at the time-- but anyone doing this route must have passable Spanish and an ability to manage on one's own.
     
  7. peregrina2000

    peregrina2000 Moderator Staff Member Donating Member Donating Member Donating Member

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    Did you sleep in Linyola? That was, I think, where we stayed in the outbuilding of a former pilgrim who opens the place up for pilgrims passing through. Very nice of him, we appreciated it enormously, but the accommodation doesn´t even get near to the definition of "rustic." There was a bathroom, however. When I asked LT whether she was going to wash her clothes, she told me -- no, because the sink is dirtier than my clothes are. :p Dusty is a good word for Linyola, though it doesn´t capture its whole personality.
     
  8. oursonpolaire

    oursonpolaire Veteran Member Donating Member

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    I stayed in Linyola but not at the place referred to-- both times I went in September, and the Amics guide said that it was generally occupied by farmworkers during the grape and fruit-picking season. The first time, I stayed in a very basic fonda near the plaza (can't find information on it) and the second time at the Cal Rotes, a very nice casa rural-- it is now under new ownership as a restaurant with rooms above (La Guspira). In 2007 I took my dinner in bocadillos and tapas at the Ateneu in the plaza-- it looked like the intellectual place in town, with several tables of intense teenagers with journals.
     
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  9. peregrina2000

    peregrina2000 Moderator Staff Member Donating Member Donating Member Donating Member

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    What???!!! There's a three star hotel in Linyola! And a basic fonda! (could this be it -- http://www.telefonosynegocios.com/lleida/linyola/pension-pinyol.html) I must have been sleep walking because I never saw anything like that. And we couldn't find anyplace to eat other than the Café Casino around the corner, which was not exactly a happening place. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.
     
  10. oursonpolaire

    oursonpolaire Veteran Member Donating Member

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  11. oursonpolaire

    oursonpolaire Veteran Member Donating Member

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