Saturday 30 October 2021

The RRS Sir David Attenborough, Greenwich, South East London

Moored in Greenwich ready for its maiden voyage, the RRS Sir David Attenborough is billed as one of the most advanced polar research vessels in the world. It was due to depart the UK on 17 November. The 129 metre ship was commissioned by the National Environment Research Council and built by Cammell Laird for operation by British Antarctic Survey.  It has a crew of 30.

Sunday 24 October 2021

Classic Cars at Girona Airport, Catalonia


An annual rally for classic cars that are at least 46 years old, Le Grand Tour travelled from Almeria to Zaragoza to Girona in 2021. The drivers parked the elegant old motors at Girona Airport before catching flights back to wherever they came from. In 2022, Le Grand Tour will travel from Girona via Andorra and Carcassonne through southern France to Toulon.

Gravel Ride Loop South from L'Escala, Catalonia

Involving some 300 metres of climbing, this 30 km loop takes in some rich scenery in just 90 minutes of intense riding on a mountain bike or gravel bike. To start you need to find Cami Del Termes, which runs east-to-west on the southern edge of L'Escala. As you head inland along this road, you'll come across a track (Cami Dels Escalencs) that plunges south (see pic below) into open countryside with fine views of the hills (see pic above) that are home to Castell del Montgrí. After a few kilometres, the track turns left and into Cami de Torre Ferrana, which heads down to the hamlet of Sobrestany, before skirting the main road and curving south to Ulla. From here, you follow suburban roads and tracks (marked for bikes) through Torroella de Montgrí (with the desolate castle high to your left). When you get to L'Estartit, you turn back north, climbing very steeply on a road (Carretera de l'Escala a l'Estartit) that takes you past an attractive stone manor house and up into the forest that covers the unpopulated high ground between the two seaside resort towns. For a while, this route becomes a rough track, covered in stones and scree, before descending to meet smooth, inviting tarmac for the fast run back to L'Escala.

Carretera de l'Escala a l'Estartit, near L'Escala, Catalonia


Running from Montgo towards L'Estartit, this serene forest road passes a camp site and climbs upwards through the trees before fizzling out into a gravel track that crosses the hill top.  It is a pleasure to cycle, particularly downhill (from south to north): As you swoop along this empty tarmac, you are sure to have a smile on your face.

Sant Pere de l'Escala, Catalonia


This substantial eighteenth century church in the heart of L'Escala has a handsome Baroque facade, almost worthy of a cathedral. 

Saturday 23 October 2021

Rupit, Catalonia

In the Collsacabra mountains, the ancient village of Rupit straddles the eponymous river. Even on a tranquil sunny day in Autumn, there is an adventure sports vibe - the buildings have the kind of solidity you might associate with Alpine settlements. You can park your car for a few euros and wander across the hanging rope bridge into the heart of Rupit, where you will find hardy medieval architecture, cafes, craft shops and probably scores of fellow tourists. Still, you can quickly lose the throng by venturing into the atmospheric side streets and discovering the many different vantage points from which you can admire the way in which Rupit blends perfectly into the rugged Catalan landscape.

Walks around L' Avenc de Tavertet, Catalonia

Renovated by the commentator and politician Matthew Parris and his family, L' Avenc de Tavertet is a sixteenth century manor house set on a stunning escarpment. To get up to the two small car parks north of the big house, you need to take some tortuous country roads, complete with potholes and steep gradients. Alternatively, you could cycle here or hike part of the long-distance GR-151 route, which traverses the crags of L'Avenc. In any case, it is well worth the effort for the far-reaching views from what feels like the roof of the world. There are some trails that work their way through the undulating forest behind the house. Although the signs are intermittent, you should be able to find your way back to the cliff edge.

Monday 18 October 2021

Olympic Flame Monument, L'Escala, Catalonia


On the northern edge of L'Escala is a dramatic sculpture by Rosa Serra to commemorate the arrival of the Olympic torch ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.