España #2 Catalonia

Not keen on returning the horse to Barcelona Airport, so talked her owners into dropping it back on the coast in Catalonia and giving us a cheeky lift into town. There are a couple of routes out of Ainsa. One is described as ’Possibly the greatest motorcycle route ever’. Further research also mentions that some of the tunnels don’t actually have enough room for 2 cars to pass inside. We are no strangers to risk and excitement but fairly keen on seeing our several hundred Euros deposit returned ‘sans haircut’ in a few days time. A quick shoofty at the map and the ever faithful park4night app finds Sant Julià de Vilatorta about 3 hours away.

€3 per night for plug in power, water in/out facilities. Cracking looking medieval town and a heap of awesome walks tick the necessary boxes for a couple of nights. Throw in a bar selling dodgy labelled, but excellent vino and some incredible ale 🍺. Sorted! Two nights here and we are on first name terms with the bar staff so probably time to move on again.

Besalú is another ancient fortress town in this part of the world mentioned by a couple of chaps back in Ainsa. Maps says only about an hour away, bolt all the windows and flappy bits down, off we go. Spectacular tree lined road waves us off. 20 minutes later we have covered about 3 kilometres! The twisty, narrow roads were probably designed for the hoofed variety of horse rather than the rather larger 3.5 tonne, left hand drive example that we currently call home. Happy we emptied all of the smelly fluids before setting off! We finally arrive. The horse parking area here is a dusty, shadeless plot, also being used by coaches to bus in small Armies of similar minded folk. Probably won’t be staying the night here. Clambered past the tour groups waiting for the toy train up the hill and headed into town.

Holy crap again! The way in is over a fortified walkway complete with portcullis and seriously uninviting doors. The tourist shops inside are selling bow and arrow sets next to cross bows, maybe to remind us modern folk of the town’s original purpose. Not sure that Aussie customs would approve of such hardware so wandered past in search of tapas. Found a cheeky little place on the edge of one of market squares inside. Local Catalan Tapas and sangria seemed to fit the bill so we ordered with confidence. Sangria arrived first and any thoughts of the dusty carpark were blissfully rinsed away. ‘Roman squid’ and local anchovies arrived next. In hindsight, the clues were right there! The ocean in this part of the world is certainly NOT local and pretty sure the Roman empire never included frozen/battered squid rings on the legionnaires lunch menu! Anchovies were delicious once you navigated a path past the soggy bread wiped with tomato pips. ’Squid’ was nasty, chewy worm like things in shitty batter. Surely can’t get any worse? Croquettes and jalapeño peppers 🌶 next. Oh dear! Four deep fried turds that needed an axe to access the barely warm insides and a handful non descript blobs of batter/cheese/chilli fresh from the overused deep frier! Foolishly, we scoffed the lot and washed it down with the tasty sangria. The rubbish served up as sea food platter with mounds of deep fried stuff and a few week-old prawns in any RSL would be better than this stuff! Seriously considered shoving a few fingers down our throats to get rid of it. Found a handy gelato stall to see if that would make us feel better. It didn’t, but we happily wandered around this ancient place for an hour so before avoiding the train loads of geriatrics and returning to the dusty carpark. Definitely not staying here tonight.

Sulked in our van for a while whilst scouring the internet for somewhere devoid of dust and deep fryers. A campsite at Sant Llorenç de la Muga looks like it ticks the boxes. Shady plots, 20 mins walk from the nearest small town. Also happens to be yet another ancient fortress town on the bank of a river. Arrived a bit late so plugged the van in, grabbed a head torch and wandered into town. Almost dark when we arrived but hard not to be impressed by ancient water wheels and portcullis guarded entry points. After a few late nights of music and general lack of sleep, it was almost bliss to find the town virtually closed. Closed that is with the exception of a community hall type thing in the main square that served snacks and beverages. Don’t mind if we do, Dos Cervezas por Favor 😀. Headlights on and took the gentle stroll back to camp. Super quiet night although the rock hard bed in our trusty horse is starting to take its toll now, looking forward to a ’real’ bed.

Lazy, late, dippy eggs for brekky. Toast, marmite, filled up the Camelback with a full 3 litres and went off exploring. Apps like Komoot are unlikely to appear on most phones. It’s for idiots like us who decide to wander about without phone reception in the middle of nowhere. Headed up to the watchtower outside town for a shoofty. Perfect idea in the mid afternoon sun! Beginning to understand the whole siesta thing. Utterly cracking view from the top before our electronic guide works her magic with incredible accuracy through forests and back to town.

Two nights here and our Spanish van adventure is coming to an end. The 🐎 lives in Pineda de Mar on the Costa Brava. Birds of a Feather come to mind as we book into a campsite near the beach for our last 2 nights. Not a lot to shout about in Pineda de Mar unless sitting around a pool being entertained by screaming kids and pissed POMs is your bag. Calella is about a half hour walk and looks more hopeful. Oh yes! This is what heaven must look like! Cheese and other yummy stuff is there too. Rude not to.

Sloped off for wood-fired pizza next then a slightly irresponsible midnight hike back home. Quiet night in with pasta and Netflix for our last night before being violently roused at 3.30am by the doof doof set. Van clean and return tomorrow. Barcelona next

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