Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer routine

Life in the village is very, very busy and crowded. Restaurants are quite full and the rotisserie chicken shop has a hundred lovely smelling chickens cooking every time we pass by. Shopping in the Spar supermarket takes a lot of patience. Since the town is now charging for parking the free parking lot at the other supermarket is always full so it again takes patience just to find parking.

When we have coffee at the Nautica in the morning overlooking the marina, there are a few boats going in and out but most just sit at their berth. I wonder if they ever go out? It is good to see a lot more people working around the marina. Many locals rely on the summer employment that all the visitors provide. By eleven each day the main street is buzzing with Spanish, French, Belgians, Germans and a few Brits.

Friday morning's market continues to grow. If you don't get there early it is almost impossible to even see the produce at the fruit and veggie stalls. Fortunately, one of the vendors spots us as regulars and keeps taking our shopping from us so we can continue gathering up our fruit and veggies.

It hasn't rained for a few weeks and there is no rain in sight. This means that everyone is at the beach every day. With the main holidays in France and Spain in the month of August, it is definitely busier. There is still some room on the beach and lots of room to swim in the well marked off area, which keeps out windsurfers and boats. Strangely enough we were the only people on the raft today, which is in the middle of the swimming area. There are also fewer sailboats anchored beyond the swimming area today but some days last week there were thirty boats.

Our beach is fairly family oriented. Today I had a quiet smile to myself as one little French boy talked about building his "chateau" sand castles for him. Anything goes at the beach. All the women wear bikinis no matter how old and many are topless. Speedos aren't the only swimsuit for men. Oddly enough younger men are wearing long swim suits resembling board shorts just like North American men. Mr. Bean would certainly stand out at this beach if he did his machinations getting dressed under a towel. Here people just peel off when it is time to matter how young, old or how thin or obese.

When all is said and done it is all manageable but not necessarily as pleasant as some of the quieter months. Saturday nights are the worst, disco night. We have two competing discos. I say this because they seem to thrive on taking down or papering over each others advertising. The discos open at eleven and continue until four am., except for this past Saturday night it was six am. Even worse it had a bongo theme. We aren't really close to the discos but noise travels here right to our open windows. At six the bongos stopped and then  the cars and motorbikes revved up. There are few solutions to this problem: wear earplugs; go somewhere else; or stroll down to the disco and see if any old people go. Except for the bongo evening it could provide some entertainment on a Saturday night.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fire strikes close to home

Over the past two days a  series of forest fires raced through a huge swathe of the Alt Emporda, and are only now being brought under control. On Sunday afternoon we went to the beach, completely unaware of the drama unfolding less than twenty kilometres away. The same wind that was whipping up waves for us to play in was also helping to spread dozens of fires, destroying thousands of acres of woodland and agricultural land, injuring many people and killing at least four. 

On Monday morning as we drank our coffee our server Carlos pointed to the news on the television behind us. It appears a discarded cigarette started the first fire near the border town of Porthuis. From there, high winds spread the flames to Portbou, La Jonquera, Capmany, Cantallops and numerous other locations extending south on either side of the A7 autoroute. Roads were closed and people warned to stay indoors. From our patio we could look in one direction and see all the usual activity on the beach, but turning our heads just a little we could see a dirty brown cloud drifting along behind the ridge line.

This morning (Tuesday) we awoke to the smell of smoke, and found the usual blue skies replaced by a dull haze. However, the news reports indicated that the fires were largely under control, previously closed roads now open. Although people were still being asked to stay indoors, we needed to see what had happened to our beautiful 'backyard'. Driving to the top of the mountain behind us we could see the brown haze seemingly covering the whole Emporda plain. We drove west and saw the first signs of fire not far from Cantallops. Some areas were completely burned while right beside them were sections untouched by the flames. In some cases the road itself was the dividing line. We could see areas where the flames had consumed all the grass and brush but perhaps only the bottom eight feet of trees. The outer bark at the bottom of one very old olive tree felt like cinders but it was still solid underneath and the leaves looked unharmed. I hope that it survives. In the same area the pines were scorched and the underbrush burnt but the grape vines right beside them appeared totally fine. Everything had a very burnt smell. We saw one farm compound that seemed untouched while all around it the ground was charred and blackened.

We drove through an area in which we knew the fires had been dealt with (otherwise we wouldn't have been there!) but we passed various emergency services vehicles on the roads. Some no doubt were checking on small flareups such as one we saw at the base of a tree, and another along a fence line. A little bit alarming knowing how easily the winds here can spread embers. We watched as two Canadair water bombers disappeared across a hill line before returning a few minutes later, perhaps dousing the remains of fires near Portbou.

We returned home to find the skies above our village returning to the serene blue we are used to. But we look at the wooded hillsides that surround us with new eyes now. It has been a huge wakeup call. Having a proper emergency preparedness plan of our own now seems like a very good idea.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Nit de Fado

This evening we had tickets for a night of Fado, courtesy of NĂºria Piferrer on vocals accompanied by guitarist Vicenç Solsona. This was just one of many concerts to be offered in El Port de la Selva over the summer.

Fado is a Portuguese musical form dating from the 1820s or likely earlier. Traditionally, Fado is characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. Today Fado can be about anything, but must follow a certain structure. Our concert was held in the village church, a beautiful setting visually, but less ideal acoustically. The sound bounced around so much in the church's cavernous stone interior that it muddied the full effect of Nuria's magnificent voice. Still, it was a lovely evening.

This music festival also includes classical concerts in the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, at the top of the mountain behind us. We can only imagine what it would be like to hear music performed in such a dramatic setting. Next week we will find out!

Young storks ready to make their own way

Today we took a quick trip to the Aiguamolls Nature Reserve to check on the progress of the  baby storks. It has been a few weeks since we saw the oldest of the young fledglings standing on their nests flapping their wings in preparation for their first flight.

The first storks we encountered were the ones nesting on the cow barn. A few of the nests were empty but others had baby storks, in the same black and white colours as their parents, standing perched on their nests. One nest was a complete shambles, the nest where the four babies lived. These were among the last to hatch. There they were all standing waiting for the mother stork to appear with their food and they weren't disappointed. Mother arrived and fed the very hungry young. Long open beaks begged the mother to feed them first. As well the mother seemed to regurgitate some food, which was quickly gobbled up.

We moved past the big field where the most nests are, but they were all empty; however there were lots of storks in the field, young and old, some foraging, others standing on one or two legs and others just sitting down enjoying the sunshine.

On the way back to the main pond we stopped for a few minutes to watch a serp d'aigua snake cross back and forth across the road before disappearing. We noticed the second wave of figs growing on the trees but they aren't ripe yet. Once nearly ripe they are picked very quickly.

At the pond we watched two roller ducks feeding upside down with feet kicking like mad making splashes high up in the air. A few other rollers were swimming around and some  were in hiding in the tall reeds. The male rollers are readily identifiable with the vibrant purple patch on their wings. It is very different from a few months ago, with the back pond now almost completely dry. We're looking forward to the cooler weather when the Aiguamolls becomes more lively once again.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Farewell Andorra, we'll be back!

Another travel day! We left Andorra with definite plans to return and perhaps sample the spa again. The hot days, cool nights, mountain air and beautiful scenery make Andorra a must visit. Our hotel Grau Roig was perfect, great room, good food and a lovely little spa. The deal found on Travelzoo was exceptional. Even the morning wake up calls from the cows' bells and deeply melodious moos were enjoyable.

We retraced our route through the mid Pyrenees twisting and turning on the two lane road with innumerable switchbacks, lots of traffic and slow trucks. Once we were down in the valley after Prades, we made good time and stopped to buy our fruit and veggies from a local stand.

When you cross the border from France to Spain the first town is La Jonquera, where there are lots of supermarkets for shoppers from both sides of the border. It is also a big stopping point for trucks travelling between the two countries. La Jonquera is also famous for its prostitutes, who line the roadways and roundabouts. Usually, they are everywhere, but we noticed, as on the way to Andorra, they are all gone. Prostitution is legal in Spain but not on the roadways. The police have cracked down with 30,000 euro fine for the prostitute and the john. They've totally disappeared!

Once back in the Port it was down to the beach to cool off from the thirty-six degree celsius heat. Since last week, the beach is much, much busier with people from all over but mainly Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and some from the UK. Thankfully, it is not too busy to swim as long as you go out beyond the waders.

We have totally adopted the Spanish lifestyle of eating lunch at two and dinner at nine.  Tonight it is homemade gazpacho with the veggies from the fruit stand.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Caldea -- a thermal water paradise

We decided to stay one more day in Andorra after the rigours of yesterday, and visit the Caldea, the huge spa that is a must visit in Andorra. The spa is located right in Andorra de Vella by the shopping district and this time that area was much calmer than on Bastille Day. But first, after several years of looking Seamus bought a fabulous pair of prescription glasses at a very reasonable price. A visit to the Mac store showed comparable prices to North America. The sales were on and the markdowns were high. Certain items like vitamins are much cheaper than in France or Spain.

Now to the Caldea, Europe's largest mountain spa resort. We opted for the Wellness area where we started with the hamman that looked like something out of Ali Babba with a lovely tiled seating area and a tall cone shaped fountain with a little pool, where you scooped cold water to cool down. Next was a relaxing bath in the thermal water where we just floated. The third stop on the circuit was the sauna, which was followed by a full body plunge in fourteen degree water. We were advised to stay in for thirty was a long thirty seconds but when we came out it was a magnificent feeling, tingly all over. The Aztec bath was next. This was a thermal water circuit that you had to traverse four times with little pebbles on the bottom of the pool to massage your feet. Now it was time for the orange bath, with floating oranges in a Japanese garden. This may sound strange to float with a number of oranges but apparently it exfoliates your skin. This was topped off with a soak in the outdoor jacuzzi.

We went downstairs to thermoludic area, which was massive. First we jumped in to the thermal lagoon for a float around. Here there are side jacuzzis and steps you can climb to jacuzzis that tower over the lagoon. There were fountains that you could stand under and that thirty-two degree water rushing on your head felt wonderful. From here we floated through the channel to the outdoor lagoon. In the middle is a giant fairly aggressive jacuzzi and around it a channel with jets that people walk against. We went in the channel and went with the flow and zipped around floating on our backs. Lots of fun! After the jacuzzi there was a section of jets and a wall where you rested your head with the sun shining down on your face. The jets were lovely pummelling your upper back.

We returned through the tunnel, got out of the lagoon and went into the indo-roman baths that were a warm thirty-six degrees. There was a catch to this. The next bath was fourteen degrees. Seamus managed the thirty seconds and ducked right under but I got in to my waist twice but couldn't take the cold. Brrrr.

Now it was time to stimulate our blood flow. First we passed through the warm sirocco wind to the icelandic bath. Here there was a huge ice maker making chipped ice. If you were brave you rubbed it over your body and then walked through a very cold pool and then into a warmer pool. We did this a couple of times. It was fun with people icing up their partners. Since we had the hamman and sauna in our area we skipped this and went on to the aquamassage area. Here you stood in front of a strong jet of hot water that moved up and down your body. We finished with a coloured shower, a light eucalyptus mist that felt especially lovely on your face.

It was back up to the wellness area for another hamman and zen bath, just floating before we decided to leave. The Caldea has a huge number of treatments and perhaps next time we will try something but today what we did was perfect.

Monday, July 16, 2012

More exploring in Andorra

We woke up this morning to the very loud clanging of cow bells and mooing right beneath our window. Looking out the window we saw a herd of cattle crossing the hotel lawn. There must have been about a hundred of the beige cows native to the area, with the odd pure white calf. At one point someone from the hotel moved them on but more kept coming. They decided to hang out right by the ski lift.

We decided to explore some of Andorra today. Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe, bordered by France and Spain, but not part of the European union.The official language is Catalan with Spanish and French spoken everywhere. It is the only country in the world with two heads of state, the Bishop of Urgell and the French president, who are co-princes. It means the French president, Francois Hollande is in fact a monarch in Andorra.

We drove through some spectacular mountain scenery to the Col d'Ordino, a peak that has has been traversed at times by the Tour de France and the Vueleta a Espangna cycling races. From this point we looked across at a number of mountain peaks ranging as high as three thousand metres. We watched some French boy scouts ready themselves before taking off on an overnight excursion loaded up with huge back packs. They set off in single file with a flag bearer in the middle of the pack.

On the descent we stopped at the town of Ordino. Like many places we passed, the buildings were all constructed with local stone, which meant that the older buildings and newer buildings were all quite similar in appearance. There is a lot of new building in Andorra for the ski industry but none of it is tacky in appearance. Many of these stone buildings had lovely wooden flower boxes with an abundance of red, pink or orange geraniums. Everything looked just perfect.

After a lovely bowl of gazpacho we continued our drive. There are not lot of crops growing except for tobacco, of which we saw quite a bit on the way up to the Arcalis ski resort. We passed one non functioning ski lift but a little further up the mountain found another that was working. People were walking down a path that looked fairly easy. We assumed it was the path down from the second lift but we were later proved to be totally wrong in our assumption. In our ignorance we opted to ride the lift up the mountain. The trip was wonderful as we moved higher and higher passing a glacial lake and some bits of winter snow that still had not melted. Finally, at the top, above the tree line we climbed a path to look out over the magnificent rocky peaks of the Spanish Pyrenees.

It was at this point that the fun began. We were unsure of the path down but Seamus clarified that we followed the path the skiers would take but there was a catch to this. Without the snow the start of the path was scree made up of small stones that slid underfoot. We started down very carefully. Surely this could not continue. This ski trail was full of sharp, steep switchbacks. There was some respite when we came across larger stones to walk on or patches of grass. Many times we went around the switchback only to find more of the small stones. Not only that we seemed to be going farther and farther away from the car park. Finally, two more switchbacks, one rocky then grass. Needless to say, on the last rocky part of the trail I took a tumble. Picking myself up, I made it to the car. I must say I can't see any joy in hiking on such a treacherous trail, where you don't even watch the scenery as you are too busy watching your next step.

We stopped in Andorra de Vella at the huge spa Caldea but since going in the thermal waters would take over three hours, we decided to return to the hotel and go in our little spa. Back in our room we could hear the cows again. Many were sitting on the hotel lawn, while a French family was playing a game with sticks and a man was working out right next to one group of cows with his personal trainer. It was quite funny to watch.

It was off to dinner in the hotel but not before conveying to one of the servers that rap music with the repetition of motherfucker was not great dinner music. He didn't really get the inappropriate word until finally, in French, I conveyed that it was a bad word. What a day!

Tour de France up close

It was down to breakfast sharp at eight o'clock this morning. What a spread! There was a beautiful fresh fruit salad plus bowls of fresh pineapple, strawberries and melon. Atop this display were little fruit tarts. I sampled a small coconut milk and pineapple drink that was delicious. There was every kind of nut, yogurts, cheese and bread alongside croissants and cereals. You could even make your own nutella crepe or choose bacon, eggs and sausage. Needless to say we fuelled up for a long day at the Tour de France.

Instead of taking the very twisty road to the Andorra border, we opted for the tunnel right by our hotel. Once in France we admired the grassy mountains that were obscured by fog yesterday. With the sun shining it made the drive through the mountains even more lovely. We decided to stop at Ax les Thermes for bread and ended up buying a ham, cheese, egg and tomato sandwich on a fresh baguette and two raspberry infused pastries. Ax was our first point of today's Tour de France route and it was evident by the French television crews leaving their hotel for their trucks. As we drove towards Tarascon the side of the road was already full of cars and caravans many sporting their country's flags or just decorated in someway to support the Tour. At Tarascon the traffic slowed down considerably as the Carrefour arches were being raised.

By now we were crawling along but there was such a festive air we didn't really mind. The gendarmes were stationed along the route with more caravans and cars. Many people had set up their picnic tables and were sitting enjoying the show. We knew we had to reach Vicdessos, the start of the stage one climb before the road was closed at 11:30. We made it in lots of time but the narrow road to the start of the climb was already closed to traffic. The few cars that were there must have arrived very early or even last night. Luckily, we parked right by the turning. I asked one of the gendarmes how far it was to the summit of Port de Lers....11 kilometres. That is farther than we wanted to go so we lightened our load and set off up the hill. After walking not too far we found a spot that overlooked a turn and a climb. Perfect.

It was only 11:30 and I had forgotten my book but it didn't really matter. There was lots going on with people passing by, all carrying baguettes, cyclists going up and down the mountain, gendarmes whizzing by on their motor bikes and Tour souvenir vans selling their wares. Nestle ice cream vans did a good trade. Then girls came by giving everyone Tour trash bags. Now there were more souvenir trucks and official cars. Vittel vans came by and if you were lucky you got handed water.

The sun disappeared and the sky began to look quite dark. Maybe we should have bought a Tour umbrella. At last the Tour caravan appeared. All the sponsors have floats in the Caravan. First of all there was a huge yellow jersey cyclist float followed by cartoon characters. This went on for a long time with floats and then vans from the same company throwing souvenirs to the crowd. We ended up with quite a haul including 5 hats -- three of these the red and white polka dot jersey Carrefour hats -- a variety of candies, madelaines and even little sausages. We didn't get the big green hands but we did get key chains, a magnet, a pillow, cards, a yellow nylon Tour backpack, three Bottles of Vittel and some detergent. It was all good fun and kept the crowd entertained as they waited for the riders to appear.

More official cars passed after the caravan, as well as media, gendarmes and team equipment cars. Finally, a race car came by with the news that the Tour would arrive in forty minutes. People were still arriving and by now everyone had eaten their lunch. Another wait and the news that the first riders would arrive in twelve minutes with the peleton in half an hour. Lots of media cars from France, Australia and Russia passed by. There were more and more photographer motorcyclists -- one person driving and the second perched behind taking pictures -- passing by to get in position for the race. A helicopter hovered over the town and then passed overhead. We heard the beep of the gendarmes and suddenly the first riders are coming up the hill with Sanchez, Sagan and Casar in the breakaway group. What chaos! There are team cars, Tour officials, media motorcyclists all in this small space following the first group. Then they\'re gone. Usually, the peleton is three or four minutes behind the breakaway group but we knew that we would be waiting longer this time. Had there been a crash? Finally, the peleton. Everyone was in this huge second group, Wiggins, Evans, Frome and Nibali. All the Brightly coloured team jerseys just kept coming and coming. Suddenly, I saw a coveted water bottle coming in my direction landing a few feet in front of me right at the verge of the road. If you have watched the Tour on TV you will have seen riders discarding their empty water bottles throughout the race; they are a popular souvenir. There were four media motorcyclists coming towards me. I made a split second decision and grabbed the water bottle from a Saxo Bank cyclist. The peleton finally passed once again followed by team car after team car topped with all the bikes, more media, gendarmes and sadly a van that said, "Fin de Tour". As we walked back down the hill I was pleased to hear people commenting on my Saxo Bank water bottle.

Back in the car we made good progress for a while on our return journey but then crawled for many kilometres into Ax. We decided on a break and stopped for a coffee in a bar which just happened to have three televisions tuned to the Tour. What a bonus getting to see the end of the Tour, although I don't think that the French patrons were overly impressed with Sanchez' stage win. We walked around Ax and I ended up soaking my feet in the 77 degree centigrade Leper's pond, which was originally built for people returning from the Crusades who had leprosy. Ax has about sixty thermal springs that now make up much of their industry.

Once again it became very foggy on our drive back to Andorra but once we came out of the tunnel there was bright sunshine. By the time we drove the kilometre to our hotel, the weather changed again. We stood in the parking lot watching the mist roll right down the mountain before making a left turn and continuing on at some considerable speed.

Finally back in our room, we learned that just before the peak of Port de Lers someone had thrown tacks on the road causing a number of riders, motorcyclists and team cars to have flats. The peleton slowed right down throwing a lifeline to these riders, including defending champion Cadel Evans, so that they could catch up with the main group. This is the first time this sabotage has happened and really is quite disgusting, especially when you see the effort that everyone puts in to the Tour.

It was really special to experience the Tour first hand. We would definitely do it again. In fact we are checking out the stages in the Vuelta a Espagna that runs in the last two weeks of August and the beginning of September. I wonder if it would be as much fun as the Tour?

Off to Andorra

It has been quite a busy and long day. We left Selva this morning on our trip to the principality of Andorra. We drove through Roussillon in France through the lush vineyards and fields of happy, nodding sunflowers. The landscape changed and suddenly there were fruit trees, apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines. We passed lots of roadside stands, which we don't see in Spain, selling the fruit, every kind of tomato imaginable, snails and even pigeons. It was time for lunch and as always we are conscious that in France you may not get served after two o'clock. We spotted a restaurant just before Prades that looked quite lovely with all its pink tablecloths and vases of lavender, hydrangeas and the most beautiful smelling roses. I was very happy to eat the most delicious sole meuniere and frites.....mmmmm.

Back on the road we drove towards the mid Pyrenees mountains through the orchards, which then changed to fields of wheat. As we climbed into the tree clad mountains, the road became much steeper and we were in grassy areas with herds of cows grazing making music with their clanging bells. We passed through Salagusse admiring the fruit and veg at the main market and the local cheese piled high on the stalls. This will be a good place to stop on our return trip. The Puymorens tunnel, which is five kilometres long was very impressive but after the tunnel, as we headed towards Andorra, we ended up in a huge traffic jam. I think this was due to the steepness of the climb, the number of switchbacks and all the caravans. This gave us lots of time to admire the alpine meadows with purple loosestrife and lots of yellow and white flowers, mainly Queen Anne's lace. We got a chance to eyeball some of the local cows that were grazing right at the side of the road as we climbed the mountain.

Finally, we made it. Andorra. The first town, Pas de la Casa, was full of hypermarts and gas stations, which are very attractive to the French since the gas is about fifty centimes cheaper than in France. After more climbing and hair pin bends we finally arrived at Groi Roig, our destination. Our hotel is tucked into the mountain right beside a ski lift. The air is wonderful....that fresh, clean mountain air.

After checking into our hotel, which we found as an excellent deal on Travelzoo, it was off to Andorra de Vella, the main town. The mountain scenery was quite lovely as we passed through the little alpine resort towns that dotted our route. We had heard quite a bit about Andorra de Vella and I felt a little trepidation as I was anticipating a giant shopping mall. After all it has two thousand shops. It wasn't that bad. Andorra is a tax free haven so it is known as a shopping mecca but it was clean and modern and not too overcrowded. Many of the stores that you find elsewhere in Europe are here but I didn't find the prices that much cheaper. There were lots of lovely sporting goods stores with shoes that cost much more in euros than dollars. One thing that struck me was the number of camera or electronic goods stores that you don't normally see. It was reminiscent of walking down 5th Avenue in New York.

Finally, we'd had enough of the browsing. Back in the car we gassed up and bought the makings of a lovely picnic for tomorrow at one of the local supermarkets. This was an experience walking around sampling the local cheeses and hams. There was a huge chocolate and candy section as well as a giant wines and liquor area. The real delight was that it had lots of things that you might have to buy at specialty shops. Now we are fully prepared for tomorrow. It will be an early start as we are driving back to France to watch the Tour de France hopefully atop Port de Ler.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wind, waves and fine food in Cadaques

Another very hot day. We decided to drive over the mountains to Cadaques for our morning coffee and to find out about next month's jazz festival. We were pleasantly surprised to actually find a spot in the parking lot on the edge of town. Cadaques is always a little busy even in the winter. Although there were lots of people it was quieter than we expected as we wandered through the main square by the water where a market was set up with many of the same stalls we had visited a few weeks ago in Llanca......jewellery, aromatherapy, clothing, cheeses and sausages. We browsed our way to our favourite coffee place overlooking the beach and square, which is the best spot for people watching. It is always fun to try and figure out if the passers by are locals or tourists.

Since the tourist information office was busy we decided to go for a walk along the front. By now it had become incredibly windy. We watched boats bobbing around on their mooring buoys.  Since Cadaques is a really popular spot there were lots of boats moored well out into the bay. In fact it really resembled a boat parking lot. We watched one boater manoeuvre his way to a buoy, getting really tossed around in the wind and narrowly escaping hitting another boat. Once tied up the boaters wait for a zodiac to pick them up and take them into shore. It all looks quite complicated.

We decided to have lunch at Compartir, or in English, 'Shares', the new restaurant with the chefs from El Bulli. It really is a lovely spot. First of all they bring a small glass of their special sangria and a delicious shrimp and seaweed cracker. We started with the traditional bread with tomato rubbed into it. Then it was marinated sardines with orange pieces topped with a little basil and a green olive sauce. All these tastes were perfect together and very delicate. Next were shrimp and asparagus in the lightest tempura batter. For our main course we enjoyed Sea Bass cooked with pieces of seaweed and mushrooms. Again perfect and I loved the taste of the dark seaweed. Finally, we shared a warm hazelnut dessert that melted in our mouths. An espresso completed the perfect meal.

Going to restaurants that prepare food that you wouldn't or perhaps couldn't prepare at home is really a treat. Compartir has only been open for a couple of months and by the time we left there wasn't a free table inside or out. We never did find out about the jazz festival, leaving that for another time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sun, sand, swimming and people watching

The hot summer days have taken away some of our enthusiasm for exploring. Temperatures are in the high twenties and there are a lot more people every where you go. However, we did go to the Llanca market by the port this morning to stock up on fruit and veg. There are more stalls than in El Port de la Selva, and there is more variety. It makes for enjoyable shopping without being lost in the crush. One of the fruit vendors was offering samples of lovely melon and really sweet pineapples. Seamus got a sample of a deliciously ripe black fig before buying four for one Euro. One stall had lovely artisanal breads and pizza with either a sausage on it or anchovies. We bought the sausage one and a multi-grain baguette. There were beautiful sheep, goat and cow cheeses and lots of Serrano hams and sausages.

Later in the day it was back to the beach for a swim. Besides swimming and sunning, the beach provides lots of entertainment people watching. People of every shape and size in almost every state of undress.  When you see elderly ladies in their underpants peeling off on the beach when they get changed,  you know anything goes. As a result I am now wearing my bikini to the beach. It really all has to do with different cultures. It's mainly Spanish, French and Germans at the beach, although one day I spotted a Macy's bag. The American owners were all dressed in their one piece suits.

There are a few kayakers, people on paddle boards and some windsurfers to watch. By late afternoon five sailboats have anchored in the bay just beyond the floats that mark out the swimming area. By six the fishing boats have returned with their catch. All the little white cube vans from local restaurants and shops are lining up to take the fish to their final destination. This is our routine these days. The beach is busiest between five and seven with families arriving to cool off in the sea. So far it's not overly busy and what a pleasant way to spend the afternoon escaping the heat.