A picnic in the park

16 July 2017

After a morning rubbing down the tangerine paintwork in our living room, turning myself into something resembling the tango monster in the process, it was a relief to get out of the house this afternoon. It was also something of a relief that the good weather held for the Itchen Spitfires Summer Social. An afternoon sitting on a wet blanket in Victoria Country Park wouldn’t have been too appealing.  Continue reading A picnic in the park

Dragons, coffee lost property and football – first published 29 September 2014

The MacMillan coffee morning in September 2014 had me thinking about my last days at Silver Helm when we organised a MacMillan afternoon tea on the ship. This meant the day was tinged with sadness at what might have been and missing all the fun we had. The melancholy couldn’t last, not when Mia came into the office dressed as a dragon anyway. It’s not every day you share an office with a dragon after all. Mind you, she did get rather hot in her costume and, by lunch time, had had to peel the top part down. Continue reading Dragons, coffee lost property and football – first published 29 September 2014

July miles

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.

Sant Martí del Brull From google Street View

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.

Sant Martí del Montseny From Wikimedia Commons by Alberto-g-rovi

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.

Montsenay Fromm google Street View

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.

Sant Esteve de Palautordera From Google Street View
Santa Maria de Palautordera From goigle Street View

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.

Llinars del Vallès From Google Street View

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.

Dosrius from Google Street View

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.

The outskirts of Argentona from Google Street View
Week one miles

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.

Argentona from Google Street View

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.

Torre Can Palauet From Google Street View

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.

Vilassar de Mar From google Street View

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.

Premià de Mar From Google Street View

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.

El Masnou From Google Street View

At twelve miles I came to Montgat, yet more of the same but this time more upmarket and probably more expensive.

Montgat From Google Street View

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.

Badalona from Google Street View

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.

Cornellà de Llobregat From Google Street View

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.

Viladecans from Google Street View
Week two miles

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.

Castelldefels Castle From Google Street View

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.

Garraf from Google Street View

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.

Stiges from Google Street View

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.

Vilanova i la Geltrú From Google Street View

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.

Central térmica de Cubelles from Wikimedia Commons by bea&txm
Calafell Beach from Wikimedia Commons by  hobbs_luton
Week three miles

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.

Comarruga From Google Street View
Torredembarra From Google Street View

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.

Tarragona from Google Street View

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.

Vila-seca From Google Street View

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.

Cambrils From Google Street View
Week four miles

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.

Way too many photos at the Whiteley RR10

12 July 2017

This month really does seem to be all about running. No sooner had we got the busy weekend of parkrun birthdays and 10k races over than it seemed we were off to yet another running event. This time it was the RR10 at Whiteley. There are pluses and minuses to this venue in my opinion. On the plus side is the Costa in the shopping centre by the car park. Tonight the lovely Tori and Teresa forced me to have one so I was happy walking along the narrow lane towards the start wth a coffee and in my hand.  Continue reading Way too many photos at the Whiteley RR10

German germs and black swan cygnets – first published 24 September 2014

Holidays always seem too short and our German adventure in September 2014 was no exception. When I left work the Wednesday before we went to Cologne the prospect of thirteen whole days off seemed like a long time. As with all holidays it flew by though. When we got back home, in the early hours of Tuesday morning I had great plans about what I was going to do over the following week. What I didn’t count on were the German germs I picked up courtesy of Easyjet’s recycled air. Continue reading German germs and black swan cygnets – first published 24 September 2014

Sweltering in the sun at Wyvern

9 July 2017

This turned out to be a real running weekend. After the celebrations of Southampton parkrun’s fifth birthday came the last of the Itchen Spitfire Championship 10k races, the Wyvern 10k. Commando’s illness and that fact he’s in the same age category as speedy Gerry, meant he had little chance of winning anything but he was still running the race. From the outset it was clear it was going to be a hot one.  Continue reading Sweltering in the sun at Wyvern

A romantic gesture and a football stadium – first published 19 September 2014

Commando had finished the Cologne Marathon and I’d had a lovely walk along the medieval walls. With a late flight ahead of us we had one more day to explore Cologne. Of course, after Commando’s twenty six point two mile run and the fourteen miles I’d walked while he was doing it, we didn’t plan on a great deal of walking. This ruled out the Chocolate museum, much as I’d have liked to taste it, I mean see it. Commando had a plan though, he wanted to see the football stadium. After running all that way the day before I thought he should get his wish. Continue reading A romantic gesture and a football stadium – first published 19 September 2014

Happy 5th Birthday Southampton parkrun

8 July 2017

This morning it was quite bizarre to rock up at parkrun and find the Run Directors were actually the 118 twins complete with moustaches. Ok, so Rob has usually got some kind of facial hair going on but I’ve never seen Kim with a moustache before. Oddly, it kind of suited her. The reason for all this frivolity was a birthday. Southampton parkrun turned five years old this morning and everyone was in the mood to celebrate. The theme was heroes, obviously. Continue reading Happy 5th Birthday Southampton parkrun

Racing for the finish line – first published 18 September 2014

The cool of the September morning in 2014 when Commando was running the Cologne Marathon was rapidly turning into a sweltering day. Feeling thankful to be approaching the river I walked along Severinswall wondering how Commando was coping running in the heat. My jacket had long since been tied around my waist and I was still too hot. Hopefully there would be a cool breeze on the Rhine. The map told me this last stretch of wall was short and there were no more gates or mills to look out for. It was a surprise then, to come upon a large tower surrounded by a truly ancient circle of wall. Continue reading Racing for the finish line – first published 18 September 2014

An evening stroll on the green

6 July 2017

My hot walk along the river wasn’t the end of my walking exploits today. Once I’d started I couldn’t seem to stop. This evening I had a photo shoot for Spitfire Run Leaders at the beginning of their club run. Commando drove me down to The Feather and I took the head shots required and a few others of runners standing around chatting before they set off. After the run Commando was going straight to work so it was up to me to make my own way home. As he had our only car this would have to be on foot. Luckily the temperature had dropped from boiling hot to balmy by this time so I didn’t really mind.  Continue reading An evening stroll on the green