From Barcelona we decided to have a few days break at Parador Sau about 12 kms outside of the township of Vic in central Catalonia. In Spain (and Portugal) there are a lot of disused monasteries and convents which the government has taken over. One option they have used is to turn these buildings into up market accommodation, whether it be on the main square such as in Santiago de Compostela or in rural areas. We chose Vic as it was in the right direction and had a swimming pool!
Arriving late in the afternoon after a glorious drive up the hill from Vic, a swim was in order, very relaxing sitting in the garden and cooling off. Dinner included. The Parador overlooks the dammed Sau River with people water skiing around the protruding bell tower of the sunken San Roma church!
The next day we drove into Vic township as it was market day, a very local style market in the Placa Major with no tourist stalls at all. As well as cruising the stalls we could not help noticing that the level of Catalonian flags, yellow ribbons and placards denouncing the imprisonment of political prisons that was on literally every building. It appears that Vic is very much the centre of Catalonian independence. History lesson: Catalonia has a disproportionately high GDP per person and area. It has its own language. In 2017 it held a referendum on whether to secede from Spain. The Spanish Government declared the referendum to be illegal and the an act of treason. Organisers were imprisoned and are still held without trial.
Around the city of Vic there were numerous Catalonian flags (four red strips on a gold background: representing four fingers of blood taken from Wilfred the Hairy’s chest as he died and drawn on his golden shield) yellow ribbons as marks of solidarity and posters with straight forward statements: ‘release political prisoners’.
On the way back up the hill we stopped at the Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres. It’s amazing where monks choose to build their monasteries! On a cliff overlooking the river (now flooded) a long way from anywhere.
Back to the Parador to watch the Wallabies play South Africa (yes the staff found it for me), however Ros’ back has got worse. What to do? Front desk recommendation was to visit the University of Vic Hospital, so another drive down the hill. We arrived around 7pm and after the usual hour wait for triage and then two hour wait for attention Ros was splendidly looked after by doctors and nurses, all speaking English, with pain killers and cortisone. We finally left at 2am! Late but worthwhile.
Sunday was slow as you can imagine: Ros being very careful and resting, John enjoying a few swims and watch the last day of the Open golf on TV: we were in 35 deg weather and doesn’t Northern Ireland look just the place to be!!!.
Except for John’s drive down to Vic again to find a pharmacy to fill in the scripts given to us last night to keep Ros going for the next three weeks. I was able to notice the beaut murals on the wall of the town hall, representing the four seasons.
How different the square looks without all the market stalls.
Monday saw us taking a slow drive from Spain into France across the Pyrenees (where we retracing the route used by the allies in WWII?) enjoying the scenery and views along the way.
We went via the towns of Olot, then skipped the 5 lm long tunnel de Collabos and instead took the windy road over the top of the mountain (great MG roads) past yet another monastery Sant Salvador de Biaya, through Sant Paul de Segunies where we saw an amazing sight, another MGB!
Finally then through Mollo (a ski resort in winter) and across the Coll d’Ares at 1610 metres, with its abandoned border posts. A further windy drive down into France until we hit the motorway Perpinya for 2 hours quick drive to Castillon-du-Gard for the next night.
Goodby Spain, across the border, Hello France!
PS we have been trying to keep up with the Tour, and in Barcelona I was finally able to find a live broadcast: in Spain, watching an event in France on German TV!