Monday, 26 November 2012

Grillou crosses the Pyrenees (1)

There's not much - almost nothing, in fact - that I miss from north Norfolk, but apart from the wonderful hot and buttery toasted teacakes at The Owl in Holt (sigh), I do miss the birds and the big skies of the marshes. Grillou is brilliant for birds - we have to keep remembering, for example, not to take for granted the fact that we have red and black kites flying over the garden pretty much every day - but there's something about wetland birds that reaches the twitcher in me that other birds just can't reach.

And so it was that I unanimously decided that we'd spend our holidays this year near the Ebro Delta in Catalonia, one of southern Europe's great wetlands (of course the fact that we'd be within spitting distance from the Priorat wine area may just have swayed the choice a little ...!). We're still getting used to the fact that we can be in Spain in less than an hour and a half, just about twice the time it used to take us to drive to our nearest town of Norwich; at the beginning of November we set off on a leisurely five hour drive through the dramatic scenery of the southern Pyrenean foothills, down onto the Lleida plain, up again into the craggy olive-growing mountains of southern Catalonia and then down to the banks of the Ebro, where we'd rented an apartment for a couple of weeks.

We didn't get teacakes, but we did get big skies and birds, including thousands of flamingoes (now you don't find those in Norfolk :) ) as well as some species that were new to us, like the red crested pochard and black-necked grebe. We also got great walking, clementines straight off the tree, wonderful wines, fabulous scenery, amazing sunsets, and some - um - fairly crappy weather ( if we'd stayed at home we'd have had nigh on wall-to-wall sunshine and 20+ degrees; although we had some good days it was relatively chilly and on occasion positively torrential). It's a great region that combines within a relatively small area three of my favourite things: birds, mountains (albeit little ones) and sea. Oh, and wine :), though I may have mentioned that already. So here and in the next post or three I'll share some photos and a taste of a part of Europe very different from our lovely Ariège.

A misty dawn over the Ebro

Our apartment was in the town of Mora d'Ebre, in the historic part which runs right along and behind the river. To be honest, the town itself isn't much to write home about, but it's well placed for exploring, the river banks are lovely, and this was the view we woke up to each day: 

From the balcony of our apartment
Bridge over the Ebro in the mist

Cormorants on their way up river

Looking up river

First hint of sunrise



Margaret Lawrenson said...

Gorgeous photos. We only had a day in the area during a holiday in Valencia, and at that stage it didn't get under my skin. Perhaps we should give it another go

Kalba Meadows said...

Well, more photos to come! But I suspect you'd love it, especially the three parcs naturels for walking. And the wine of course, though I think I said that already :)

Margaret Lawrenson said...

No no, I don't believe you've ever mentioned the wine before ;)