The first week of July was downhill all the way, at least virtually, as I wound a tortuous route towards the coast. The first place I came to was Sant Martí del Brull a Romanesque church in the center of the town of Brull in the Osona region. The attractive chuch was built in the eleventh century and renovated in 1588. The soft pink stone building is beautifully preserved and quite unusual with its arched roof and tower. Opposite is the town hall. Other than this a few small houses scattered amongst the trees seem to be all there is of Brull.
It was more than ten miles before I came to the next building, Sant Martí del Montseny, a chapel In the village of Montseny. No one is quite sure of the age of the little square whitewashed chapel but it has been there since at least 1601 and probably much longer. There was once a hermitage beside the chapel. The hermit is long gone and his house, sadly, demolished.
Two miles on I came to the village of Montseny itself. It was a pretty little place of narrow winding streets and painted houses nestled on the mountainside. The three hundred or so residents have beautiful views but pay for these with steep streets to climb.
My next stop was eighteen miles into the week when I found two villages side by side, Sant Esteve de Palautordera and Santa Maria de Palautordera. They sit in the valley of the River Tordera at the foot of the Montseny Massif and, frankly, I couldn’t tell where one ended and the next began. They both had houses of pinkish brick with terracotta tiled roofs with nothing to distinguish one from the other. Between them they were the largest place I’d seen all month.
Now there were little clusters of dwellings here and there beside the road and soon I’d reached the next real village, Llinars del Vallès. This had the feel of a proper town to it, with factories, large schools and wide streets. My route skirted just the edge though and it was soon back to winding mountain roads surrounded by trees.
The week was coming to an end when I reached Dosrius, at the head of the Argentona River. There has been a village here since 963 and its original name was Duos Rios, meaning two rivers. The rivers in question flow only during wet weather but join to form the Argentona Riera. When the small rivers swell they flood the narrow streets of the little town. A bridge is under construction but it has halted and no one knows when it will begin again. The main industry in Dosrius is textile manufacture and two Torres crisp factories. Tourism also contributes to the economy as the area is popular with walkers and there is a donkey sanctuary and a large adventure park.
The week ended, with 32.29 miles walked, on the outskirts of the city of Argentona, a place I was looking forward to exploring. It would have to wait until the next week though.
One mile into week two I was passing through the city of Argentona on the south east side of the granite Litoral range. If I’d been there for real I’d certainly have spent some time exploring. It’s both a tourist and horticultural centre and has some interesting buildings. What more could I want?
The late gothic church of Sant Julià was restored by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and there are several bulsings from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including the intriguing Cassa Gotica. Even the modern Town Hall is well worth a look. With so many interesting buildings I could tell I was getting closer to Barcelona by the mile.
Now I could almost smell the sea and, as I paaased through an industrial estate, I could just see Torre Can Palauet, a tower and country house on the outskirts of Mataro. Perhaps I’d have stopped if I’d been walking here for real. The cylindrical tower dates from 1568 and has crenelated battlements. There is a chapel on the ground floor. It looks like an interesting place to visit.
Five miles into the week I finally reached the sea at Vilassar de Mar, a seaside resort and dormitory town for Barcelona known for its horticulture. On my last virtual adventure the sea was my constant companion as I walked the coast of Great Britain. I was glad to be beside it again, at least for a while.
Following the coastal road, Carrer Cami Ral, or Royal Way, I passed seamlessly into Premià de Mar, the next little seaside town, barely any different to the last. The church of Sant Cristòfol was worth a look and the buildings, an eclectic range of styles and designs reminded me Barcelona was getting closer.
El Masnou was more of the same but it had a museum of Catalan ceramics and another of pharmacy and medicine. It is also famous for growing carnations, for textiles, ceramics and glass. The town began life as a Roman village called Cal Ros de les Cabres.
At twelve miles I came to Montgat, yet more of the same but this time more upmarket and probably more expensive.
Next was Badalona. On the banks of the Besòs River, it is the third largest city in Catalonia. It was founded by the Romans in the third century BC. The modern city was built over and around the Roman town. The fourteenth century monastery Sant Jeroni de la Murtra was where Christopher Columbus was received after his first voyage to the Americas. Boat building and fishing are important industries And there are gas, chemical and mineral oil works along with a historic distillery producing Anis del Mono, a spirt made of herbs and anise.
Then, twenty miles into the week I was on the Avinguda Diagonal walking familiar streets again. Barcelona is one of my favourite cities, it has everything I love, a beach, the beauty of Parc Guel, the architecture of Gaudi…
Looking through photos of my past trips there made me want to go back for real and see it all again. So many fond memories. Standing on Passeig De Gracia the first time, wondering where all the Gaudi buildings were, then looking up and seeing Cassa Battllo. The many faces of Sagrada Familia, the queues, the views from the top, the winding stairs down. The old man who appeared from nowhere and asked us if we were looking for Park Guel. He looked like Gaudi, walking with a cane. It seemed strange that he knew we were English and where we were heading. We crossed the road and looked back at the park where we met him and he’d disappeared. We both swore he must have been a ghost.
It would be easy to use up the rest of my July miles just walking around the city. We walked marathons every day when we were there for real. Instead I kept going along Avinguda Diagonal towards Llobrigat where we stayed the first time. The week was coming to an end as I reached Cornellà de Llobregat on the Llobregat River. The city dates from 980 AD. It has a church and a tower used to defend against the Saracens. There is a castle there today but it dates from the fourteenth century. The Airport, El Prat de Llobrigat is nearby.
Then it was onwards to Viladecans, a service town with a hospital serving the Llobrigat area. The week ended just outside the town with 33.6 miles on the road to Castelldefels.
Week three began in Castelldefels, a town famous for its long beach. During the summer many residents of Barcelona come here to enjoy almost five kilometres of sandy shoreline. The Olympic Canal, built for Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic Games is also in the town . The thing I was really looking forward to though was Castelldefels Castle, a fortress built to defend the frontier of the Carolingian Empire against neighbouring Muslim territories. It stands on a hilltop just outside the modern town centre and includes a keep, a cemetery and a church behind a curtain wall. Thought to date from the tenth century, it had largely fallen into ruin by the nineteenth century.
In 1893 a young baker, Joaquín Figueras, broke into the rectory and stabbed the parish priest, Jacint Orta Berenguer, fourteen times. He also stabbed his ex girlfriend, Rita Bosch Orta, who was the prist’s niece, multiple times, shot her twice and raped her as she lay dying. He was caught and garrotted outside the castle walls two years later. Shortly after this a wealthy banker from Barcelona bought the castle and refurbished it. The church was also refurbished and used as a family chapel.
Five miles on I came to Garraf, a small but picturesque seaside village, nestled beneath the Garraf Natural Park. It began life as a fishing village but is now a popular resort with bustling beaches in summer. It has a railway station and a sports marina, built in 1902 for freighters loading stone from nearby limestone quarries. My reason for passing through was to see Celler Güell, a winery built by Antoni Gaudi. These days it’s a restaurant so I might have even stopped for lunch if I’d been there for real.
On I walked, past the quarry to Stiges a town well known for its Film Festival, Carnival, beaches and nightspots. People have been living in the area since Neolithic times but it came to prominence in the nineteenth century when it was home to Catalan painter Santiago Rusiñol and became quite an artsy place. These days it’s often called the St Tropez of Spain. It has seventeen beaches and is a huge tourist hotspot and one of the most gay-friendly places in the world.
Almost as soon as I left Stiges I entered Vilanova i la Geltrú, the capital of the Garraf area. This fishing port has grown into a city of sixty six thousand. It has a wealth of opulent nineteenth century buildings, many financed by Josep Tomàs Ventosa Soler a textile magnate who made his fortune in Cuba. His statue stands in the centre of the lovely town square, the Plaça de la Vila.
Next came Cubelles, a little village with a thermal power station a campsite and some beaches. Then at 28.7 miles the week ended in Calafell, another village beloved by tourists for its beach.
Week four began in another tiny beach resort, Comarruga. The popular beach is over two kilometres long. This was followed by Torredembarra another small beach resort nine miles along the coast.
At this point I may have been hurrying a little because I’d almost reached Tarragona, the capital of the province of Tarragona and I’d been looking forward to it for some time. It’s somewhere I’ve never been for real but it has many ancient ruins dating from its time as the Roman colony of Tarraco. There is a second century arena, Amfiteatre Roma, facing the Mediterranean Sea, a Necropolis with Roman tombs, the remains of the Forum and a walkway long the ramparts of the medieval Old town. Let’s face it, I would have been in my element.
It would have been hard to leave Tarragona if I’d been there for real but the miles took me onward to Vila-seca, meaning dry town. It has a large petrochemical complex and in recent years has become popular with tourists, with hotels, a waterpark, dolphin and sea lion exhibitions and a nightclub, Pasha.
The week and the month ended in Cambrils, another tourist town but one that can trace its origins back to prehistoric times. The modern town began to grow in Roman times and there are archeological sites, such as the ruins of the Roman Villa of La Llosa. The area was once regularly attacked by pirates and people living outside the walled town were kidnapped or killed. In the nineteenth century, as things became safer, the population grew and seafarers began to build their houses around the Port or Moors’ Tower, where a century later, The harbour, now the best known symbol of Cambrils was built. Over the last twenty years the city has become popular with tourists, mainly Spaniards who love to spend their summers on the beautiful beaches.
With just 133.48 miles and far too many distractions to stop me walking, July may have seemed a disappointing month. It has taken me from the clean air and quiet of the mountains to the busy coast though. Barcelona is now behind me, along with Tarragona. As for next month, who knows where I will end up. My chances of reaching Morocco before the year is out feel less and less likely but it would be nice to make it to Valencia by the end of August. We shall see.