This land of shimmering blue mirages envelops the weary traveller. Lulling and tranquil; warm, sensual, it lies low, just out of sight of clamorous Barcelona.
The two towns of Amposta and L’Ampolla are either side of a large Delta. The delta is formed by the constant outpouring of silt by the Ebro River. Even though we have been to both towns, I had not realised that they were differently named. I honestly thought that it was one town, Amposta, spreading along a large bay. Obviously that was wrong! It is not a scooped out bay, it is a bulging delta. And the two towns? They do not share a name and are in two different places, with the delta in-between. There; I am relieved to get that off my chest. Next time I will look at the map.
Of course, being on the Mediterranean coast, it is sure to be a winner for most people and yet, luckily for us, most people were elsewhere, leaving us virtually alone to re-explore this wonderland.
Reminiscent of the famous Carmargue area in France, although without it’s beach front hippy shacks and motor homes, this is more compact. No wild horses here; but salt pans and flamingos, sand, sea and big sky abound.
Of course it is not a herd of birds! The trouble is that where Flamingos are concerned, a ‘flock’ falls flat as a collective noun. This has to be one of nature’s overwhelming spectacles, which is why it should have a name commensurate with it’s glamour. It is also a reason why we come here.
A wetland of international importance, this delta is a Mecca for birdwatchers and botanists, which was the initial draw for us. It still has a pull for us, of course, but it is the wistful beauty of the place that has mesmerised us and it might capture you too.
The Case de Fusta is very busy first thing in the morning with the local men who pop in to eat, drink and talk remarkably loudly. Intimidating at first, they have ready smiles once they know that you are not going to make a pass at them, so take a deep breath, sit down at a table and order your breakfast. The cafe is set in a rustic complex for tourists, which is always closed when we come through in the winter and early spring. Luckily the cafe and it’s Aire is open year round.
If you are bored with Barcelona and Tarragona is a gonna for you, this might be your travel stop-over choice. Stay for a few nights and perhaps a little longer. Take in L’Ampolla too as it has a very different vibe to Amposta, despite it’s long sandy beaches, Flamingos, paddy fields.
Do you, like us, have a place that draws you back, or lingers in your soul, making you soften as you remember? Tell us about it here, at the home for the misty eyed traveller. Many thanks. The Wallys XX
Who would not want to spend time in a shimmering seascape?
Who would not want to spend time with Flamingos?
And who would not want to try cycling on sand?
It was a yes to all three questions, which is how we came to be in this wondrous bay for a few nights.
It is the place for a quiet winter stop over. A water-world that draws you in. The sheer beauty of the bay with it’s pretty and fairly sophisticated little town, long sandy beach and, just inland, lagoons is breath taking. The more we looked, the more we saw and the more we saw, the more we liked.
Sadly as we arrived the Covid19 lockdown was about to be confirmed by the president. We had one day on site, at the most; possibly, if we were lucky, two nights. As things turned out, we made the most of our one whole day by exploring the area on our mountain bikes, only to get back to the campsite to be told that we would have to leave by midday the following day.
We will definitely return to this magical bay.
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How to enjoy the Monaco Grand Prix weekend for little, or no money. Watch the F1 cars zip around the famous street circuit, go into the casino and the Cafe de Paris and many of the tourist attractions.
We can all name a few of the World’s iconic events, for example; the Hajj Pilgrimage, the Biennale in Venice, the Glastonbury Festival in Southern England, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the Snow and Ice Festival in China, Cannes Film Festival in France. Of course, all of us harbour a fistful of shindigs that we fancy going to one day, but this year, there are very few for any of us to attend.
Last weekend Covid 19 took it’s toll on the Monaco Grand Prix, which joined all those other sporting occasions and was binned. We Wallys and our friend, had planned to be in Monaco, in this super glamorous principality, enjoying the atmosphere that surrounds the Grand Prix weekend. In 2019, three of us went and we had a ball. Then and there, we decided we would all go again this year.
Not being able to go was painful. To help salve our wounds, I fished out the photos from last year, looked through them, and both smiled and shed a soft, silent tear. Even though we could not be there, we have decided to convince you that you should plan to go and soak up the atmosphere. Who knows, we may se each other there!
As with all big occasions, there is the opportunity to spend huge amounts of money, but you really do not have to. Most of the time, people are hanging out, mooching about and exploring the local sights, and that is something we can all do. Some have come to sit in their costly ticketed seats and take in the car race, blow cash in the world famous casino, and feast in the Cafe de Paris before heading back to their yachts to glug champagne. We had decided that, as we had been here many years before and knew a thing or two, that we would do some of the fancy things again. Why? Because we can!
If you want to see the F1 cars blasting around the track, but do not want to pay out a penny, go on the Friday of race weekend. The stands are open and they are free to enter for anyone. You will need a ticket for the Saturday and the Sunday. They are most expensive on the Sunday. Prices vary according to the location of your seating. They can be bought over the internet during the preceding winter and early spring and you do not need to use an agent or tour company. It is all straight forward.
The other thing you can do is walk the race track, tracing every twist and turn and being silly on the start finish line. All you do is make sure the racing has finished for the day and off you go. It is a very popular activity, you will be in good company.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is free to go into. All you do is step away from the crowd of tourists who stand on the far side of the street to admire the holy trinity that is the building, the conspicuous wealth of those who are fortunate to be allowed to enter and the fabulous cars they park outside by the kerb. Be brave, cross the road, passing between the most deliciously expensive rank of cars you are ever likely to get so close to and, taking a deep breath, walk up those very imposing steps, saying a polite hello to the guards either side of the grand entrance. If you have backpacks, handbags etc, they will ask to take a peep inside; be gracious, you are worthy of this place.
Now all you do is walk right through those huge doors and you are in. If you would like to have a small flutter, go to the obvious desk and hand over your ID or passport and at least 40 Euros. Otherwise, you can chill in the grand salon and bar. I had the salon and bar all to myself, whist the lads went into the gambling room and blew 80 Euros in, what felt like five minutes. The house generally wins, but I chatted with an elated American tourist who swirled towards me to tell me that she had come out a few cents richer than she went in. Her husband, however, lost the lot, but seemed happy about it.
This is the perfect place to spend a few quiet moments, and it is free of charge. You do not have to gamble here to enjoy the ground floor with it’s luxurious ambience and it’s gorgeous loos.
The Cafe de Paris is the place to ‘take tea’. A cuppa costs no more than anywhere else in the area, but it is the only place where, ‘dwarlink, you absolutely must pull up a seat and have a drink’. It is a grand building, heavily masked by awnings that shade the numerous outside tables. There is a casino here as well. If you fancy a proper meal, there are plenty of sensibly priced places that offer a good menu and there are also lovely parks where you can sit and eat a picnic; always a good choice.
What else does the town of Monte Carlo have to offer? The old town is worth strolling through as it wends it’s way up towards the Princes Palace.
Here are a few of the other attractions that we took in over the weekend. We have included the entrance fees in Euros.
Accommodation, even over the Grand Prix weekend is not expensive.
We hired a big apartment in Nice and used the coastal train to nip in and out of Monaco, which is about half an hour away. The trains ply the coast to the left and right of Nice; they are frequent and cheap.
Travelling from the UK was, for us, by train. Flying is an option, as is driving. Remember the Grand Prix falls over an English bank holiday weekend and, for some counties, a one week school holiday, both of which push up travel costs.
We hope our fun trip to Monaco has inspired you to go there for yourself, or perhaps, brought back great memories of your trip to the area. We look forward to hearing from you. Please use any, or all, of the buttons below. All the best, the Wallys plus one. xxx
The following video explains some of the reasons we love our Spanish winter home in Denia.
You may have read some of our postings about the town and the video illustrates the essence of it’s charm.
The Mediterranean coast of Spain is a perfect place to spend time and I hope this video will encourage you to explore it. Spain isn’t only about beer and sunburn, travel a few miles away from the coast and discover much, much more.
Thanks for watching, if you enjoyed our efforts please comment, share or subscribe xxx
L’Albarda Garden, Pedreguer, Spain
Pure paradise with some very special twists.
In contrast to the English National Trust’s overstocked, over co-ordinated and over primped gardens for the over wealthy, L’Albarda is a garden on a human scale. Intimate, balmy, exotic; inspirational. In fact only a year ago, it seemed to be all a garden should and could be, but, as it turned out, there were secrets hidden within it’s walls. Following this first visit, we determined that we would be back.
One year after our first look around this slice of heaven, an opportunity came for our second visit, which would be guided by a local professor of botany. Immediately, we said yes. And that is how we found ourselves heading out, in the warm winter sunshine, with a group of cyclists. We had all skimmed through the Spanish countryside on our bicycles, many of which were electric. Us two fools were on ancient, borrowed, bikes that were somebody’s cast offs. One had an ridiculously inadequate, back pedal brake and both were woefully shy of gears. From the East of Denia we cycled towards a place called Pedreguer.
It was to be a day of surprises.
What was surprising?
You are right to ask.
The first thing is that we made it there at all. Having avoided cycling for about 10 years, we were truly chuffed to find we were able to force our arcane steeds to their limits. In turn they certainly pushed us to our limits. At our age exercise is important, but the only very steep climb of the day, to the garden gate, felt like a killer; though, here I am, alive and well to tell the tale.
Another surprise? This garden is more than gorgeous, it turns out that it hosts a nationally important collection of native plants. It is a wildflower haven maintained using organic methods. We had noticed that the place had weedy areas here and there; and in a way it does.
Top off the first two surprises with a sleek, low, ground hugging auditorium, that is being constructed especially for operatic performances and this becomes the garden that keeps giving. Imagine on a warm summers evening being immersed in green lushness, with glimpses of sweeping, crystal clear, mountains soaring beyond the garden walls, the setting sun showering the firmament with the glowing embers of the day. All this before being called to step inside with your glass of Champagne in hand and with your charming escort accompanying you to your seat where you will be consumed by a whirlwind, goose bump raising, performance.
Our Professor walked us through the grounds, chatting along the way about the things we were seeing: Wormwood, used to make the drink Absinthe and another plant very similar to Thyme that is added to alcohol to enrich the flavour. We could all see where this was going.
Usually we know what we have seen. Our eyes take in everything and our brains grapple to make an accurate interpretation, which we accept as fact. Surprisingly little input is needed for our view of the world to change. In a couple of hours, this chap had caused a paradigm shift in the way we perceived the garden. Yes, it is an absolutely gorgeous spot, any fool can see that, reason enough for dawdling through it’s leafy calm. And yet, it is so much more than the sum of it’s parts, because of the owner’s higher aims to preserve and understand native plant life and to encourage others to embrace the importance of caring for our biosphere.
The guided tour ended. We thanked our guide and said our goodbyes. All that was left for our merry band of cyclists to do, was to head home. We pushed our bikes to the garden gates, mounted up and hurtled straight downhill. With one of us having to pedal backwards in a vain attempt to moderate the speed of the bike, and the other with no back brake, we gave up trying to slow our bikes. Instead we hung on like devils on horseback all the way to the bottom, where we were greeted by the safety of a level cycle way.
Oh how sweet the ride home, with memories of L’Arbada Garden lingering in our minds.
If you would like to leave a comment or question for either of us, please write it in the ‘reply’ box below. Thank you. Wally and Jen