Posts filed under ‘Vic’

Lunch on top of a mountain

Map of CatalunyaAs some of you know from Alan’s blog, last Sunday Sebastian, Alan and I took the train up to Vic for a bit of hiking.

What a day! We left Barcelona on the 9:22 train to Vic and our friends Pau & Mireia met us at the train station. We first met Pau & Mireia at Jackie & Sebastian’s place. Mireia is a PhD student who worked with Jackie at the research lab in Barcelona. Pau works as a contractor (sort of – they call it a “technical engineer” here) and, as a member of a hiking club up in Vic, he helps preserve the regions’ trails. They are a wonderful couple and some of the nicests & warmest people we have met here and the reason I get very deffensive when anyone says the Catalan are cold and unfriendly.

But I digress. Back to our hike. Pau had made reservations at a restaurant – Sanctuari de Cabrera – at a centuries’ old house on top of a mountain outside of Vic. It seems to be quite a local institution and families make a big outing out of hiking to the restaurant on the weekends. We drove part of the way and then hiked the last two hours to the restaurant. You can read all about it here. The path up there was wonderful and the building itself was…. well, you’ll see it on the slideshow below:

Click here to start slideshow

The place was obviously known only to locals. The owner freaked when Pau told her that we were from Canada & Brazil. It was the best trip we have done here. That’s what travelling is all about for me – going off the beaten track and connecting with the locals. And this weekend we got a taste of the real Catalunya…

Needless to say we had a wonderful time and will be going out with Pau and Mireia on another excursion soon… The question is: will it be the sleepy towns around the Pyrenees or the Costa Brava?

February 23, 2007 at 12:42 am 4 comments

Cantonigròs

This past weekend we went on a camino with Pau and Mireia. This hike had been in the works for quite a while. Sebastian and I had talked about organizing one way back in January. We wanted to hike up north, around Vic and Pau, who is a member of the hiking feferation in Vic, knows many of the trails there. We contacted him about a month ago to see if he was available to go for a hike with us. Sunday was the day we went. We let people know where we were going and when to meet but in the end only Alex, myself and Sebastian went from Barcelona. We left for Vic on the 9:20 train out of Placa Catalunya.

Pau i Mireia

An hour and a half later, we arrived in Vic. Pau and Mireia met us at the train station and off we went. They told us that they had made reservations for lunch and that we would be hiking to the restaurant, eating and hiking back. We were in for a huge, pleasant surprise. We headed off in the direction of Olot, which is north of Vic. The highway progressively climbed as we got further from Vic. The whole landscape changed from what we were used to in Barcelona. Most of the trees were bare of their leaves and the sky, wow, so dramatic. The sun and clouds were having this huge battle for dominance and the clouds were winning each skirmish, although at times it seemed the sun would win. It was like this for the entire day and made for some of the most dramatic skies I had ever seen.

So here’s a photo of what Barcelona was like on Thursday of last week, lush and green. Keep this in mind when you view the photos from our hike.

We pulled into a parking lot for a restaurant and our hike began. we were in an area called Cantonigròs. Pau pointed the way and off we went. The light was really flat so it was hard to get good photos since there was hardly any contrast.

We walked down the highway to a dirt road that went towards the mountain.

Actually, the road ran along a valley in between mountains, the scenery was amazing. We walked past working farms and the livestock was right there. Some of the biggest bulls I have ever seen were here too. These are cows by the way.

The path eventually started to wind it’s way upwards. It started off with a gentle climb and as we entered the forest we ran into some hunters with their dogs. We could hear dogs howling since we entered the valley. I’d never seen hunters with dogs before (except in the movies) so it was quite a treat.

Aparently there are a lot of wild boars here and signs were everywhere warning hikers of the possible danger. We kept on walking upwards and the path started to narrow at points as we made our way across the terrain.

That soon ended as we started some serious upward movements. The path varied from lots of vegetation to rock. The sky kept up the show and at this time, the clouds were really winning the battle. They were so thick it was getting dark.

You could see we’d climbed a fair bit up into the mountains

and of course we had to shoot some photos (just the excuse I needed for a rest)

After our rest, ooops, I mean photo session, we climbed at a much quicker rate. The slope of the path increased quite a bit. I was sweating like mad. I sweat easily, even just doing my weight workout. I keep meaning to ask a doctor if it’s good to sweat so easily or is it a sign that something is up. I’ll have to wait until I get back to Canada I guess. Here’s the view from a little higher up, note the sky again. The sun is starting to gain a little ground.

At this point we’re “almost” at the restaurant. It’s on top of that mountain in the back and if you look closely you can see the trail that leads up. This was going to be fun (tongue in cheek).

We started up the trail and Sebastian, the mountain goat, went bouncing up the trail. You can see where we had come from and now, where we are going.

I went up at a good rate and stopped about half way up. I could actually hear my heart pounding, it was amazing. On the way up there was a marker and it gives you an idea of just how high we’d climbed in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

On top of this mountian were more trails continuing on and walking the narrow trail gave you fantastic views on both sides of the range.

It was weird because the sun was winning the war on one side and it seemed like the clouds were gathering on the other side to attack.

This was an amzing place to be. So close to the edge and nothing to guide you. You really felt the three dimensional world when you looked at the edge of the cliff.

There was also a geological marker placed at the top and there were indicators to different areas on the horizon.

As high as we were, the trail climbed even higher. Since our table was ready we only went so far.

From here we turned around and went back to the restaurant.

The restaurant, Sanctuari de Cabrera, is in a building that heralds from medieval times. It was a church and a sanctuary and the church is still there beside the resaurant. A really amazing place and a fantastic treat.

We had salad, mountain paella, beef, wine, dessert,coffee and penty of great conversation. I might add that at the beginning of the day, we, or should I say they, decided to speak only spanish and catalan. I survived and even managed to get into the conversations.

Pau and Mireia even taught me how to drink wine from a porron, a catalan wine dispenser. It takes a bit of time to master and after pouring lots of wine on my face and shirt, I finally managed it.

Here’s some clearer photos of the porron.

The room was very humid with all the cooking going on and the outside looked so uninviting. Fog was just rolling across the ground and being inside was so comforting.

The cooking was done like it has been for centuries, by fire. The kitchen had few modern conveniences since the place was so isolated.

When we left, it seemed like the sun was finally going to win the war, at least in the valley we were heading down into. The dark clouds were still blowing across so it could go any way.

The return trip took far less time than it took to get up there and when we finally made it back to the car, the sun poked out and gave us a grand farewell.

Shortly after that photo, the clouds waged a massive assault and won the day. Less than 2 hours later, the rain started.

Pau and Mireia had given memories that we will treasure for the rest of our lives. A fantastic day with fantastic friends.

February 19, 2007 at 8:11 pm 5 comments

Vic

This weekend began with a movie on Friday night. A bunch of us, Sebastian, Francisca, Jackie, Jordi, Isa, Alex and I met in Sant Antoni for a movie. We went to see Copying Beethoven. It’s a film about producing the premiere for his ninth symphony. The next day Sebsatian and Jackie were taking us to a small town called Vic. Alex has wanted to visit this town for quite some time so we jumped at the offer.

They picked us up at home and off we went. When we arrived we met Jackie’s co-worker Mirella and her companion Pau. What great people they are, so friendly and warm. They live in the area so they became our tour guide. We were going to tour the town and then head into the mountains for a bit of a hike. Pau belongs to la Unió Excursionista de Vic and knows much about the surrounding area. He is an avid hiker and was going for a 35 km hike the following day. He was telling us about a particular hike that is around 80 kms in length and is rated as a very difficult trail because of the constant large changes in altitude. The record for this hike is 12 hrs. Needless to say, they are all in top condition and they reminded me of the atheletic attitude that my friends in Montreal have.

Pau and Mirella

Once we found them we headed off to the main square in Vic. It was filled with vendors selling everything from live chickens to rugs. Lots of produce so everyone was stopping to buy a few grapes at one stall, some apples at another and Jackie had to buy some red peppers from a vendor who said they were “muy picante”. She took a bite from the pepper and said it wasn’t hot at all. I tried a bit and found it HOT but I think it was my imagination because the following day I bit off a chunk and it was sweet, not spicy. Jackie is Indian so I think her taste buds are geared towards spicy. The spanish don’t like spicy foods so when a spaniard tells you it’s spicy then it’s mildly picante, and I mean mildly. I am not a fan of hot but even I have tougher taste buds than the spanish. The following photo is a multiple exposure to try and give a sense of how busy it was in the square.

As we walked around the square I came across this bronze of some kind of gnome. The expression was quite entertaining so I couldn’t resist. Notice how full his mouth is, must be a sampling of all the food for sale in the square.

Alex took this opportunity to test out her new lens.

As I said, even rugs were for sale here. Maybe you’d buy some food then pick up a small rug to sit on and have a picnic.Hmmmm, there’s a thought for next time we’re there

We wandered out of the square down some small streets and came across these ruins of an old palace. There were newer buildings on the other side of the walls but I couldn’t help but wonder where those doors and windows led to when the palace was in use.

The palace was originally built around an even older structure. When they started to demolish the palace they “discovered” this roman temple that had been there for 2000 years. How can you lose and then re-discover a building ?????

I’ve been playing around with new digital processing that requires multiple exposures and special processing afterwards. It’s called HDR and the following is a sample of the effect of HDR. It’s not a true HDR shot because true HDR requires highly specialised equipment to view.

After leaving the temple we wandered into another peaceful little square. I took another HDR shot so the children look like ghosts.

The face of the statue was covered with cobwebs but I loved the expression he had, so wistful looking.

The girls were feeling frisky as you can see Alex, Jackie y Mirella.

We left the little square to go to a restaurant that Pau and Mirella had chosen for lunch. On the way we came across a huge construction site that bordered on very old structures. It struck me that the old was giving way to the new and I tried another HDR shot. I love the graphic effect that you can get with this technology.

We had an amazing lunch at L’Alzina with wine and entrees. Marti and Eli showed up. They are friends of Pau and Mirella so we were able to meet even more people. I have to say again that the people we are meeting here are some of the warmest and friendliest people going. I’ve heard it said that catalans keep their distance from strangers but I have never experienced that. Every one I’ve met, including strangers on the trains and buses have been super. I keep seeing the face of a woman I tried to talk to on one of the city buses. I was asking her how you say a particular colour in catalan. Her face just lit up with the warmest smile ever, it was amazing. She even told us she was going to the apartment where she was born to see her sister.

After eating we walked back to the square. Marti and Eli invited us back to their home for tea so we walked through the square on our way back to the cars. All the vendors had packed up and left. It was as if they were never there to begin with.

I had to take a group shot in the square

Then I asked them all to jump around for this hdr shot. I wanted to see the ghost effect. I think it’s pretty cool.

We went back to the cars and drove over to Marti and El’s place. All I can say is wow. They live in a building that is 300 years old. It was getting dark so I couldn’t take many photos. What a place, like it was from a movie. Her father had a house nearby that was a 300 year old converted church. Eli showed us her new horse. She rides in the mountains and they are right in the middle of them. We played pool and drank tea and chatted. More friends of Marti and Eli came over but I didn’t get to chat with them. Sometimes I’m a little hesitant in getting into a conversation because of my limited spanish and my non existant catalan. They were playing with their new puppy.

It was a storybook ending to another great day here in Catalunya.

November 7, 2006 at 11:56 am 4 comments


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