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Walking the Costa Brava Alone... Brava Indeed. September 2017

Spain-Costa Brava

September 20, 2017

"The one who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready." Thoreau

My plan was to travel with friends to Spain to hike the Costa Brava coastal trail from Blanes, about an hour drive north of Barcelona, up to the French border, a 16 day trip. Those who initially showed interest slowly dropped out and I was faced with not going or going alone. With encouragement from Steve I made the decision to go it alone and it turned out to be the most amazing time. I look forward to more and more solo adventuring in the future.

From Cardiff I took the train to Union Station, Los Angeles and the bus to LAX, on to Barcelona and a bus to Blanes. Planes Trains and Automobiles. I'm looking forward to finding the GR-92 Camino de Ronda trailhead and heading to Lloret de Mar on foot!

After finding my little hotel and having a little snack from my backpack my clothes are laid out and ready to being my adventure tomorrow.

September 22, 2017

Blanes to Lloret de Mar

Today I started out with a Clif bar and a lukewarm cup of instant coffee. Lloret de Mar was my destination and should have taken about 2 hrs. 40 mins. I don't believe this accounted for time I spent gasping for breath on the endless flights of steep stairs and hillside up to the castle of San Juan at the top or stopping to take in the view along the way. Anyway...I left at 10am and arrived at 3pm. It is as beautiful as the internet told me it would be and I'm enjoying moving at my own pace and doing my own thing. There are several small, quiet coves that can be seen from up on the bluff where the trail is. Upon closer inspection I noticed that one was a nudey beach. Once in Lloret I put on my bathing suit and went to lay at the beach for a bit. I thought I'd fall asleep but I was too hungry so I went to find a late lunch / early dinner. I have promised myself I would try the Spanish fried anchovies those while here...maybe tomorrow.

September 23, 2017

Lloret de Mar to Tossa de Mar

OHHH, I was sore this morning, but managed to get up and dressed and down to breakfast at the hotel. I grabbed an extra bread roll and some cheese and was going to get some ham to put together a sandwich to go when I saw a sign that said not to “buscar” the food…. But I buscared some anyway, put it in the zip-lok bag that happened to be in my pocket, and enjoyed it for a picnic lunch later in the day at the beach.

Before leaving Lloret I stopped at the Tourist Office to have them clarify some information about the trail. After getting their recommendations I headed off, feeling more confident than yesterday in my ability to follow the trail markers. They suggested that I head up a short cut right out of town to avoid an initial 400 steps up that were on the trail…but I realized that meant I would be missing some amazing and dramatic views, so I took the steps. The views were just breath taking…exactly what I imagined and came here for. Today I am overcome with a fullness and gratitude for being able to be here…for Steve supporting my dreams and helping me realize them. I love Train (the band) and I kept hearing the words from one of their songs in my head today…”It’s not just a day dream if you decide to make it your life…”.

There was varied terrain and views today. Once I left the ocean front cliffs, I moved through some exclusive neighborhood streets, then through piney woods and cork trees. It struck me that some parts of the walk today were like a cross between Torrey Pines and the Cinque Terre with a pinch of Mt. Soledad, La Jolla.

I was running out of steam as I made the final push toward Tossa de Mar when suddenly, out of no where I stumbled upon the Tossa de Mar Volkswagen Club’s vintage car show. It seemed funny to see dozens of cars that were so typically Southern Californian on a hillside in Spain.

Arriving in a strange town on foot is something I just love!…I can’t really put into words why, but coming into Tossa was delightful. It’s quaint, though still full of tourist. I can’t imagine what the busy season looks like. The streets seem to have a gravitational pull toward the beach and once I got there I could get my bearings and figure out where my hotel was. I will stay here for two nights and am thrilled. Though the hotel and the room are smallish and simple, the bed is amazing and I have a bright little balcony which I immediately put to good use. I’ll shower and put on a sensible walking shoe and head out to find some early dinner. These Catalonians keep difficult hours for me…dinner at 9pm, drinking until the wee hours and quiet in the morning until about 10am. I'm having my dinner while they're having afternoon tapas!

September 24, 2017 ·

Tossa de Mar

Yesterday evening I set out looking for just the right place for a single gal to have dinner. Some places looked a little too romantic…dimly lit, where all the people were at tables for two, leaning in for intimate conversations. While others places were full of raucous Brits who were clearly enjoying their “holiday”. I opted for the fancy tourist place along the main beach where I could look out at the castle and enjoy the view of the promenade. By this point I was feeling shaking from hunger, so I knew I needed something substantial. I went for the spinach and pesto raviolis and a salad…and it was perfect. Dinner was done by 7:00 which is a good two hours before most of the locals and tourists start eating. The streets were full of people strolling along with their families, having ice cream. Slow pace. Nice. I walked up to the castle to take a look around and didn't realize that there was an old (read ancient) neighborhood behind the castle wall. I wandered around the beautiful cobbled streets with it’s stone buildings, flower boxes in the windows, laundry hanging out back. Really pretty. Feeling justifiably expausted I headed back to my hotel for the night and watched Alaskan Bush People in Catalan on tv. …and felt a sore throat coming on.

I decided against setting an alarm to get up this morning because it’s one of only 3 mornings out of this 16 day trip where I’m staying in the same town for two nights and don’t have to pack up and leave. When I woke up at almost 9am I knew that my sore throat was legit. I assessed my “have to’s” and my “want to’s” for the day headed out for coffee and croissant, then to the tourist office to figure out the next leg of my journey, then to the beach.

Tomorrow I will catch a ride to Sant Feliu de Guixols (which, as far as I can tell is pronounced something like “San Feelu day Gee-yo”. This part of the GR-92 heads way inland, which is lovely, I’m sure, but at 13 miles long, I’m just not that interested. During the high summer season there is a boat that shuttles between all these coastal towns but I missed high season by a week…so I’m left with two options…a very long bus ride on the main highway or a fitty dolla taxi ride on the coast road that takes 35 minutes. I’ll let you, the reader imagine which one I chose as a little prize for reading this far.

While having my coffee I watched VW bug, after bus, after Karmin Ghia drive into town and turn the corner I was sitting on. When I finished up breakfast I could see that THIS was the main VW club rally. The little affair I stumbled upon yesterday afternoon was just a prelude to this, the biggest VW car rally one could ever imagine. It went on for blocks and blocks. I realized that this was not just the Tossa de Mar VW club. People must have come from at least all of Spain, if not beyond. I don’t think there are this many vintage VWs in all of California, which is funny because the rally was, at least visually, all about California surf culture. Once I started coveting I knew it was time to leave so I headed to the beach. Everyone in Tossa who wasn't at the car show was there with me.

I believe that every American girl/gal/woman should take a trip sometime in their lives, especially in their teens and 20’s to a European beach town. Having grown up in So. Cal I know all too well that girls are acutely aware of their bodies and though many are at the brink of “perfection” few have any confidence and…the worst part is that girls spend most of their lives acutely aware of their bodies. It’s good to go somewhere and look at the masses around you and see people of all shapes and sizes just enjoying life, loving one another for who they are…not the least bit concerned about rolls and overhang and such. Can you even imagine? American values are so messed up. (ps…I saw a boat load of unclad boobs today…on 20 year olds and 80 year olds. None of them looked like our media says they “should” look and no one cared.) Ok. I’m done with that.

Around 2:00 people started leaving the beach so I wrapped it up too and stopped at the market for my lunch provisions. My family loves their “European picnics” when traveling. There's nothing I like more than some foie gras with a fresh roll and some veggies and a glass of the local wine on my balcony.

After a little rest I decided to go walk around the old part of town again, winding up and down the little tiny walkways…there was the sound of laughter and voices and clinking of dishes and life going on. Still full from my mid-day meal I opted to just find a nice spot for a drink and watched the sun fade away and the lights of the town come on. Then I wandered back “home” through those little streets like a boss…like I’d been here a whole week or something. …and I’m still in bed by 9:00..which again, is about the time most people around here are having dinner. It's how I roll.

“And then I realized that to be more alive I had to be less afraid, so I did it.

I lost my fear and gained my whole life.”

author unknown

September 26, 2017 ·

Tossa de Mar to Sant Feliu de Guixols

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

As I tried to fall asleep last night I started thinking about fear. Like everyone, I have things that cause me angst…make my chest tight and my breath short. As it got closer to time for me to take off on this trip those feelings intensified. When I looked at each of them in the face, they weren’t that scary. But that’s why fear Lurks, especially in the night, when we are alone in our thoughts, isolated. Rarely does it confront us boldly in the light, when we have our resources about us. For, in the moment it steps out into the light, when we can see it for what is really is, it can lose it’s power to control us and hold us back. My fears about traveling alone aren't about personal safety or that kind of thing. They are really silly…fear of not being able to figure out technology (anyone who knows me knows my phone is my nemesis)… fear of public transportation (can’t figure out how to use the self check in at the airport or buy a ticket from a train or bus kiosk)…fear of embarrassing myself by not being able to see what amount is printed on the currency because I don’t have my glasses handy. Like I said, silly stuff. But it all piled up into a big hairy beast of Fear that made me ask myself (usually around 3am) if I was doing the right thing to come on this trip. Then, in just doing it, the unknown becomes known and the fear is gone. I also have found that the more I “just do it” the more I can remember that everything pretty much always works out well enough. There are young people around who are willing to help me with my phone…someone to ask how to check in or buy a ticket…and as far as I know, no one ever actually died from embarrassment.

The thought of being alone and getting sick on a hiking trip in a foreign country could be one of those things that kept me up at night worrying. But, like I said, I ended up starting to feel lousy when I had two nights in a town, so not the rigorous physical activity that the other days would have had, and I was planning on taking some wheeled transportation to the next town, so that worked out. Everything always works out. Juan Carlos Moreno, my driver, couldn’t quite find the street where my hotel was when we arrived in Sant Feliu De Guixols, so I just told him to drop me where we were. I walked about 2 minutes in a random direction and looked up to find that I was on the very right street, with the hotel sign in sight. The door had a small sign on the door that said something about being back later with a phone number to call…but not having an international calling plan, I just decided I’d go check out the beach and come back later. As I stepped away from the door, I heard someone call my name. Now given that I’ve hardly had anyone even speak any English to me in several days, it was pretty nice to hear my name being called! It was Paolo who runs the hotel. He was just leaving to pick up his kids from school when he saw me at the door so he came back to check me in.

It was 1pm when I arrived in town so I decided to head right out to explore. It is a much larger town than the past three I’ve been in. There is a marina on one side of the cove and some rocky cliffs on the other. The main sight to see besides just the water front is the monastery, so I cruised over there and poked around for a few minutes. Even though I love seeing old buildings and streets, and doors and such, I’m just not that into the actual history. I read all the information on the town anyway…something about 174 armed townspeople taking back the island of Mallorca from the grabby Muslims…and a guy named Roig getting a valuable tapestry off a Turkish ship. Ok, done that. Back down toward the harbor to find something to eat.

Like I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’m not a great lover of the seafoods overall, but I was set to venture out of my comfort zone and try the fried anchovies. Today seemed as good a time as any. I was hungry and figured that would work in my favor. I decided to just go wild and ordered the mixed fried seafood tapas figuring I’d get the anchovies and other. The rather curt waiter brought me instead the plato de chipirones…little fried baby squid…which was fine, but it was a lot of chiperones. Not the bold seafood move that I was geared up for though.

I stopped by the market to grab some items for Europicnic dinner on my balcony and snacks for the walk tomorrow and just managed to find my hotel again as the thunder and rain began…and now I’m enjoying the sound of rain, with a breeze blowing through the curtains in my sweet and simple room. Forecast says it’ll be done by the morning. Everything always works out…

PS. I managed to fit everything I “needed” for 16 days in a 34 liter sized day pack and keep it at the 22 lbs that the airline allowed. It took a lot of consideration and assessing every item to determine whether it could be used for at least 3 different things. Included in that pack is a laptop, camera, phone and all the chargers and cords, etc. as well as the guide book I was using to get me to the right places. Although the weight really wasn't too much, my pack felt too full and I realized that if I wanted to buy anything at all on the trip it would be a very tight squeeze. Last night I laid everything out on the bed and gave it all another look. I managed to eliminate about a third of my “mass”, including the guide book, went to the post office and shipped it home. So much of what I think I need is just excessive.

PS. I have a bathtub in this room! Yipee!

Evening - Day 4. Philosophical Ponderings / More things to remember when I get home.

I ran down the street to the little market to pick up some things for my Europicnic a la balcon. As I came through the door into the little market, I once again am greeted. “Hello Sharon!”…It is my new best friend in Sant Feliu, Paolo, the hotelier. He so easily could have just gone about his business and not noticed me. This is why his tidy, spotless, cozy, 1 star, 40$ a night, breakfast included hotel is so well reviewed. He is just excellent!

Anywho, when I got back to the Hotel Del Mar and went up to the 4th floor, I saw an open door to an upper patio that clearly wasn't for the general public, so I took a peek. It is where the hotel laundry is hung to dry. There is something beautiful about a hard working, simple life. I know I’m only glimpsing from the outside, but I don’t see all the trappings of too much money…too much free time…too much of everything that we suffer from in our 'good lives' in Southern California.

When at the market tonight I ducked through a small doorway marked "cava"... Man alive...I've never seen so much wine! The best part about it was seeing a wrinkled and weathered old man bent in front of one of the huge wine barrels, filling his jug with a favorite. Looking around the room, I saw bulk bird food, rabbit food, raw grainy salt, nuts and beans. It smelled a little dungeony, back alley...a little like the Old Ox in Pacific Beach used to smell, mixed with hazel nuts and rabbit feed.

September 26, 2017

Sant Feliu de Guixols to Plaja d’ Aro

The breakfast spread at the sweet Hotel Del Mar was wonderful. Paolo, like I said, just does what he does with excellence. As I was finishing up, Julia the 10 year old daughter came in to introduce herself and say hello before going to school. Precious.

The wind blew all night and the morning is cool and a little bit breezy but the overcast sky has made the lighting on the water beautiful. As I started out the water was flat glass with a couple of fishing boats being the only movement in what otherwise looked like a still shot.

I had read in my guide book that today I would run across a few places where I might lose the trail. Well….I did. I was flat out lost. After a good deal of consideration I tried what looked like the most well worn of the branches of trails that I could see. My inkling grew strong pretty quick that I was going the wrong way, so I turned to go back to where I had seen the last marking. At this point I moved from just mumbling “Lord, I need a sign” to an actual request “Lord, I’m asking you to give me a sign. Help me know which way to go.” Look, I’m on a coastal path with mansions within earshot, so I don't want to make it sound like I’m lost in the wilderness, but I’m kind of sick and my knee is giving me trouble so I’d rather not add a bunch of extra miles by going the wrong way. Just as I got back the the last trail marking I had seen, lo’, there were a couple of Swedish hiker ladies with their guide book in hand and the same bewildered look on their faces that I’m sure I had. We decided to work together and within a couple of minutes I heard them call out that they found a marking. It wasn't life or death, but I appreciate God being so quick to give me what I needed especially as I’m a bit fragile today.

Arriving at the beach of St. Pol kind of tired, I wanted to lay down on the sand and rest for a while but it was still pretty early and not quite warm yet. The towns are startlingly empty. I passed only a couple of people walking on the boardwalk that ran the stretch of the beach and only a handful of people on the beach. It was serene and I found a bench and took a short break. With only 6-7 miles for the day I could take all the time I wanted.

Until just the last section of the day, the trail ran right along the water, on cliff tops and along beaches. At one point it dropped right down on the sand at the cove of La Conca. Needing another break and something to eat, I stripped down to my bathing suit, spread out my large scarf and laid down and listened to the water lapping up on the rocks as a ate an apple. Two older ladies were sitting about a dozen yards from me and I could hear them talking and laughing…. It was nice. Peaceful.

Feeling rested and ready I pushed on for what should have the last 30 minutes or so which took me about an hour. At the Port d’ Aro I took a wrong turn and wound up down on the beach. The sand was big and grainy and very taxing to walk on. I could choose to walk across the sand about 300 yards to where the beach promenade started or backtrack about 3/4 mile. I chose the sand which meant hopping a small outlet with water running to the ocean. Though giving it all I had, I came up slightly short and soaked my shoes. Once up on the promenade I could tell I was close to finding my hotel.

Again, it's odd how void of people the whole beach area is. I’m guessing it’s just a tourist town and the season has come to an end. I moved a couple of short blocks away from the beach to the main road and spotted my hotel. This is my first larger hotel on this trip…the Spa La Terassa. The room is quite modern and “fancy”. There was a video running on a loop in the room of a fish tank, complete with bubbly sounds. Nice touch. There is a very nice shower with multiple spray locations and functions (one shot straight out, full force at my face-surprise!) …and there is a hair dryer so I can try to dry my shoes. But truthfully, I really like the small guest houses better than big and fancy. It’s nice here, but it’s got no soul.

After a shower and wardrobe change I went back down to the beach to get something to eat and found a nice cafe that was open and had my big meal of the day. The wind was cold so I decided to call it a day early…had another shower, fell into my king sized bed and a nice long nap. Tomorrow is another short day. In the guide book they have it to do Sant Feliu to Palamos on one day, which is 13.6 miles. I’m glad I opted to break that into two halves instead.

I don't know if I mentioned it yet, but I just had a total knee replacement three months before setting off on this journey. I think that has something to do with my general fatigue.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”– Mark Twain

September 27, 2017 ·

Day 6 - Spain

Plaja d’ Aro to Palamos

I started today with a little Rick Renner. For those of you who know who that is, I’m sure you can appreciate his wisdom. If you don’t, that’s ok. I’m not gonna push my “religion stuff” on you other than to say that it was about noticing all the miracles in our daily lives. The point was to take note of God’s faithfulness and goodness to us on the regular. So I kept that in the forefront of my mind throughout the day…. And boy…He did not disappoint.

Unfortunately, in spite of taking over 70 pictures today, I was unable to even come close to capturing the complete jaw dropping sights that appeared around ever turn. The first half of the day was continual stairs, up and down and in and out of many coves and across beaches. …and the colors in the water just took my breath away. Today also had several little tunnels to go through, which was kind of fun.

At just shy of the half way point I stopped in a quiet cove, threw on my suit and got in the water. I knew I still had a ways to go, but reminded myself that no matter how good the next town was, it wasn’t better than where I was right in that moment…so I stayed longer and swam some more.

The second half started out with the same kind of terrain, then dropped down onto a board walk that was probably 2 miles long. I passed closed up condos and hotels…very few people and walked and walked and walked through St. Anton de Colonge until it finally became Palamos and I knew I had finished for the day. Finding a park bench in the shade I pulled out my hotel information, looked at the map and saw that I was exactly across from the street that would take me to the hotel… everyday miracles…just acts of faithfulness and goodness that I can appreciate.

I always wonder what kind of hotel situation Im going to arrive at. The highest ranked or best reviewed ones are not necessarily the ones I’ve chosen. I’ve considered the most economic options that have internet and hopefully include breakfast. Then I weed through and try to find one in a good location that doesn’t sound terrible. So far they been at least ok, but overall I’ve been extremely happy. Today, the Hostal Vostra Llar is a real delight.

After getting settled I went over to the Museum of Fishing that honors the lives and livelihood of the fisherman of these towns of Costa Brava. Very well done and I’m glad I did it. Afterward I went next door where the fishermen were bringing in and displaying their day’s catch for the daily auction.

Having not eaten since 8:30 breakfast I was starting to feel a tad famished and decided to find a nice dinner, as it was 5:30. Oh, no can do! Every place in town is closed from 3:30 until 8:00. I stopped in the market for a baguette and some cheese just to hold me over, but now I’m too full and tired to go out to eat. Oh, well… there’s always tomorrow.

“The sun shines not on us but in us.” ~ John Muir

September 28, 2017

Day 7 - Spain

Palamos to Llafranch

Ive been seeing signs posted everywhere about a referendum to be held on 10/1. There are flags on balconies and poles all over that say "sì". When I check into my hotel yesterday I was greeted by a young lady who lives here but just got back from a year studying at Berkeley. I made a comment that I was sorry that that was her experience of America...all the recent upheaval and riots. Then she asked if I knew what was upcoming in their vote on 10/1. She said "Now you'll get to have the same experience here! You should be...ok....If you stay in the tourist areas...". Hmmmm...could get exciting!

There are two routes out of Palamos heading north for the GR-92. One way (the official way) is a inadequately marked, boulder scramble around the rocky point that guards Palamos harbor. The other way is Carrer La Fosca (road) that cuts directly across that point and delivers one right upon the trail after it has rounded the rocky point. My route of choice was via the road, although I had a bear of a time finding it. After just a few minutes of wandering aimlessly I asked a man who was walking quickly, clearly in a hurry to get somewhere. I asked in Spanish…he started to answer in Spanish that was about as good as mine. Then, thank goodness, he just asked if I spoke English. He said he was going that way and it was easier to just have me trot to the car with him and he’d drop me there. He was Dutch. On his way to the notary to get some paperwork signed to buy another vacation home here. Anyway, I was very happy to get the lift.

Once I got underway by foot power the trail headed uphill to the Castell de Sant Esteve de Mar.

From there it was spectacular cove after breathtaking view, tunnels and stairs…and it all kind of melds together until the colorful fisherman’s huts of Cala S’ Alguer. So picturesque. Then the trail turned inland and up, headed up through a little farmland and up a long, long, steep climb up through woods of oak and cork trees that seemed to go up fo-ev-a. Did I mention that it was up? Up at the top of that mountain I met a really nice couple from Norway and we chatted a bit, caught our breath and took in the expansive view. Then the trail turned down hill leading to Calella de Palafrugell.

I get a catalog every few months from a travel operation called Backroads Travel. They do some amazing adventure type tours all over the world and I’ve actually looked at their catalog for ideas of places I’d like to go and itineraries, etc. Anyway, I rounded a corner on a dirt road and their was a Backroads Travel van with a picnic set up for their group of travelers. I stopped and talked with them for a few minutes…people from all over the US. Some as singles and others with a friend or two. We ended up crossing paths a few more times during the day as the van shuttled them around and let them out to walk a bit. Honestly, I was so happy I wasn’t doing a canned trip like that. However, having snacks and cold drinks waiting at the top of mountains did kind of look nice!

Calella de Palafrugell was the next town/village along the trail and it was really quaint. Less big port town than the past few towns. The guide book had this as a stopping point, but the only hotels were too “resorty” for me, so I added another 30 minutes walk to the town of Llafranch. It seems to be a British holiday destination…very cute but touristy.

I was so hungry, but again, had to wait until 8:00 for a place to open and feed me. While waiting on a bench watching the sun set, my new friends from Norway walked past and we commiserated about having to wait to eat. Nice people. I enjoyed some prawn and scallop raviolis and skeedaddled back to the hotel to escape the mosquitos who were enjoying me.

Tomorrow will be a short distance to the small town of Tamariu. Hasta Mañana .

OH, and I wanted to report a disappointing lack of cat sightings thus far in Spain. And, just for the record, it appears that the Yorkie is the preferred dog 10 to 1.

September 29, 2017 ·

What?!? Day 8? No wonder I’m tired!

Llafranch to Tamariu

“It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can also inhibit our observation of others; then, too, we may become caught up in adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, or feel the need to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.” ~Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

Today was to cover less than 5 miles, so I had no sense of hurry at all…enjoyed breakfast…two cups of coffee, then headed out. I think that, pretty much across the board, every town or village I left required an “up” of one kind or another, either inclined road or stairs. Today was no exception. Stairs. Lots of them. About 30 then a landing, a turn to either the left or right and then another flight, and so on. I turned up my “strong music” with very definitive, step timed beats and started motoring up. By about the third landing, on the last step I caught the toe of my “lazy leg” and fell forward. Thankfully it wasn’t wasted. The group of 22 English and Norwegian hikers behind me got to enjoy the spectacle.

From the stairs the trail turned into a grossly steep (grossly long) winding road that snaked the rest of the way up Muntanya Sant Sebastìa, to the light house which is known as the most powerful lighthouse in Spain. I sat (actually, almost bent over double gasping…and sweating) for a while while the Europeans (probably in their 60s) arrived at the top…. not gasping or sweating as bad as I was.

I kept wanting them to just go on ahead of me, knowing that once they passed me I would probably not encounter them again, as they are just more fit and used to walking over mountains than I am. But, alas…they stayed longer at the lighthouse and didn’t pass me so I marched on ahead.

The trail turned into a narrow goat path, rocky and covered with roots on a steep cliff above the Mediterranean … glorious…. And mildly nerve wracking. There were some tall rocky step downs that gave me trouble because of my knee. I just took it slow and steady and didn’t take many pictures during that part. There was a short stint through some farmland then a hard right turn back toward the coast, down through a narrow canyon that was full of oak trees and then a jungle of vines and suddenly emptied out into a small cove with a little, tiny cafe. Two sweet old ladies and a guy in his 20s were working there and they had a small menu of food and drink. It was probably only 11am but I knew I had to stop and get something because it was just such a cute place. One of the ladies was quite taken with me and my backpack and my being alone. It seemed to make her really happy. Which was nice, because I was really happy too.

I was just set with my pack back on when the slew of Euro hikers funneled down to the beach…perfect time to take off again. The exit from that cove went directly up the cliff in tight switchbacks with rocky step ups. I kept thinking what a legal nightmare this kind of thing would cause in the USA. I had to pay very close attention to what I was doing there. Eventually I reached the top and a pine forest covered the bluff. Somewhere, in all those trees, on a tree trunk there would be the white and red stripes that marked the trail. It was kind of fun to see how quickly I could find them and make my way across the bluff. Then, it was back along the rocky shore as I neared the next cove, which would be my stop for the day in Tamariu.

I knew from the guide book that I would like this town and I do. I’m in a beautiful hotel up above the beach…very high brow. I quickly changed and got into the amazing water and swam for a long time. There are more Americans here than any other place I’ve been thus far. It is a very small town in a very small cove…just a few restaurants…which all are serving lunch while I want to be at the beach and will be serving dinner when I want to be in bed. So, I found the market and grabbed all my goodies for hotel terrace picnic and will head back out for a walk about around sunset.

September 30, 2017 ·

Day 9

Tamariu - Begur

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” ~ Gandhi

Today was my last hiking day, Tamariu to Begur. By the guide book was 4.67 miles with a good deal of it following the road. There was the other option, continuing to follow the GR-92 trail that went somewhat near the coast but then turned inland. I had decided that since this was my last day, that I didn’t want to take the short route up a paved road. I knew that I’d be hiking at least 5 hours, but more likely closer to 7 because I don’t think I move at the rate the signs are marked. At the first opportunity, I made a wrong turn, of course up a steep hill, but then figured out what Id done wrong but quickly corrected…1/4 mile total off course.

Back on track I left pavement and started into a woody area where there was some Habitation Control (wild pig hunting) in process…which was exciting. Between the hunters, the hounds and the thought of scared, wild pigs it made an otherwise boring section a bit more exciting, especially when the gun shots rang out.

On the whole, the trail moved away from the coast today. Ultimately, I was headed for the medieval town of Begur, which is still “coastal” but not right on the water. There were some trails that ran along the coast early-ish in the day and passed through the itty bitty coves of Aiguablava and Sa Tuna. There were a lot of stairs today...even by Costa Brava Trail norms. Past Aiguablava the trail really turned up and stopped being a trail, instead becoming a full blown, straight up rock cliff climb, which went on for about 1 hour. Lazy leg did great. In fact, lazy leg kept her toes up and has nothing to hang her head about today!

I thought as I finally hit the high point and as I started down, that I would be descending into Begur, but instead it was the small town/cove of Sa Tuna. Almost deserted. Today is very overcast with some menacing dark skies looming over the mountains. I was thankful that I enjoyed the extra time a the beach yesterday, as it would be my last chance. Turning downward to the cove of Sa Tuna meant that there would once again be another rise back over the next mountain in order to reach the next cove. This area is not unlike the Cinque Terre in Italy…but higher and longer between towns. Sweaty day.

As I rose up, and up and up from Sa Tuna, with, according to the signs, only about a half hour left until Begur I had my first moment of concern for personal safety. The trail turned through a vine and tree dense area and there were two guys who were coming up the path behind me. I thought it prudent to have them in front of me rather than behind, so I faked a phone call on the side of the trail while they passed. #oscarworthy Then I had to keep up with them enough to keep an eye on them for the rest of the way up that hill, which was a challenge!

This time gave me the opportunity to think about how I viewed certain people I had come across and why some would appear “concerning” over others. I’m sure that in this day and age people might be quick to point a long, judgey finger at why I would feel “concerned” about one demographic over another. But then, if it was your mother, aunt or daughter in that situation would you think otherwise? I decided that listening to the intuitive voice is what I would always do. Cautious with courtesy.

All that is especially funny to me, because the next human I ran across was who I've got to call the “crazy lady of Begur”. I haven’t seen “homeless” type people at all on this trip, until this gal. I had come out of the wooded path and hit a main road. Down the way a lick I saw a parking lot and some buildings and a “crazy lady” with some pretty well worn clothes and a stroller with some stuff in it. She was basically verbally assaulting every car that came out of the parking lot. They all rolled down their windows, at least partially while she demanded something. As much as I could tell, she was trying to get a ride back to Sa Tuna. I passed by her and she said something to me. I just told her “No intiendo”, (which either meant that I didn’t understand her or that my store wasn’t open for business…Spanish class was a long time ago). I certainly wasn’t in the position to give her a ride. Once I passed, I realized that I really didn’t know where I was, so I turned back and went past her the other direction to try to go back to where I had seen the last trail marker. Clearly I had missed something so I turned back toward her a third time. She was just finishing up with her last assault on a Renault and turned her attention toward me again. I just said “Begur?” And pointed down the road. She looked at me and laughed. And in perfect English says “Begur? (ha ha ha) Begur is right here (points to parking lot)…Right up those stairs!” The “crazy lady of Begur” speaks at least 3 languages…so again….I take the opportunity to think about how I view certain people that I come across.

After a series of small daily miracles I wound up at my hotel which is a very old place…just up my alley. After doing sink laundry, eating my baguette, pate, lettuce and cheese that I packed for the day and showering I ventured out into town to look around. I also wanted to head to the tourist office and find out about how I get out of town on Monday to head to Girona. Tomorrow is the big referendum vote and I have no idea if/how that may effect business here. I was able to buy my bus ticket for the only bus that leaves Begur, early on Monday morning. On the way from the tourist office it started pouring rain. I stopped for a drink in the town plaza and it really was coming down. Leaving the plaza I stopped by a restaurant that my guide book had mentioned and made a reservation for ONE for a bit later in the evening.

At 730 in the dot I rolled into the 2017 Michelin Star Aiguaclara Restaurant and was seated at an awkward TV tray sized table for one in a walkway by the toilet. Anyway, humbled and trying to sit comfortably with my tail between my legs, I ordered a great salad and some risotto. It was very good and I enjoyed it and was glad to only have a quick 3 minute walk “home’ to the Hotel Hanoi (I know, funny) and encountered a very nice cat on that walk, which was a high point.

October 1, 2017

Day 10 - Begur

Stayed put in Begur today. Walked the little streets, up to the castle, had a fantastic lunch and met some nice British people...two separate couples...both of whom live in France and drove down for a quick vacation. Interesting to get their perspective on America and our problems (obviously completely formed by media...Yes Americans who voted for Trump are all racists...but Germany's problems have been created by lax immigration policies... Yet nice to hear them say "well...we in Europe certainly have our own share of problems, don't we?" Yup. Tomorrow I'll take the only bus from Begur to Girona early in the morning and go meet my good friend who has flown in to adventure for a few days with me. What a treat!

Today was the big referendum vote. While up at the castle looking down at the town below, I could hear crowds of voices but couldn't tell where it was coming from. Once I got back down in the village I found the lines of people waiting to vote. It was calm but you could feel an excitement in the air...positive vibe, nothing negative. I later learned it was a very different scene in Girona and Barcelona.

October 3, 2017

Day 11 - Begur to Girona

As always, I get up way too early, and leave way too early to get where I need to go. I had already laid everything out that I needed for the day last night and packed everything else, but got up at 5:00 anyway. The little hotel had a coffee machine down stairs so when I was all ready, I went down and made a double espresso and sat quietly in the small parlor and tried to read the paper and drink my coffee…and pass some time.

Around 5 minutes after 6 I decided to slowly walk over to the bus station (which I had already scouted out so I knew where I was going). There is only one bus a day, so I didn’t want to let anything make me miss it. But leaving 55 minutes early for my 4.5 minute walk to the bus in solid dark of night…in the rain was just plain silly. So I got over there and sat in a dark and empty covered sidewalk cafe and waited. I’m thinking, hey, Monday morning 6ish…coffee and croissants…people ready to take on the day. Not a soul anywhere until that bus showed up at 7:00am still dark as night.

Anyway, I had a nice bus ride through country side and small towns that I would have love to seen, but it was still dark until about 7:30-7:45. I pulled into Girona about 8:15 and was kind of shocked to be in a “big”city. I was pretty spun around with my map but managed to walk through the rain for about 20 minutes until I found the hotel. As I was getting checked in, my friend Bob came in.

Bob Lindley is one of my good friends from high school. We were dissection partners in biology and have some great memories of that class. But, we’ve really gotten to be closer friends over the past years through our class reunions and such. Anyway, when I mentioned to Bob that I was coming to Spain alone, he said “I’ll meet you there for a couple of days!” And that was that. We’ve explored all the streets of the old city, some more than once… Had a really nice lunch off a menu we were unsure of. We’ve joined in the celebration marches for the Catalan Independence.

And I’ve really enjoyed following and not paying that much attention to needing to know where I am and where I’m going. Bob seems to have that figured out and Im happy to just follow.

Viva Catalan!

ps...Wellll…you know it has been a legit hike when your toenails start jumping ship. One has ejected…two more are looking tempted. Hang tough little piggies!

Day 12 - Spain

October 4, 2017 - Girona

Today Bob and I were scheduled to have a culinary tour of the city and foods of Girona...but there's this whole upheaval politically, and at the forefront is the stand against the physical aggression and violence from the federal police, first trying to thwart the vote by disturbing the polling places, then by using physical violence against the voters. So today, the whole town of Girona, and whole region of Catalonia (huge) has shut down business for a general strike. So our "foodie tour" was sidelined, however, our fantastic tour guide gave us a rich historical tour really relating all that is happening in this current climate to what has come before in Spain and in Girona's history. It was fantastic and we felt we came away with far more than we would have from having some cheese and cured ham. As we were finishing up she was directing us back to our hotel in a way that would avoid the major rally what was scheduled for noon in Placa Catalunya, the square. She didn't get it that Bob and I had every intention to get in the middle of it. Now, mind you, this isn't Portland in November/December 2016. These people are really peaceful. Our guide was so excellent, and offered a very balanced commentary regarding the referendum, as she said, she was the only No vote of all of her friends. She shared some very interesting insights about the mind set of the people...and sadly, how the oppression and aggression of the Federal government in this referendum and the action of the police has changed so much of social dynamic. It was very "in the moment"!

We got lucky and found a rather fancy restaurant in a hotel that was open for service and enjoy a really nice meal and gin and tonic for lunch. Later in the afternoon we foraged in our bags and managed to come up with a small but adequate hotel room picnic with easy access window viewing of the parading in the streets below. Very interesting.

Day 13

October 5, 2017 · Besalu to Barcelona

“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.”

– Unknown.

We found our way via bus to the little town of Besalu. It's main feature is a picturesque bridge, which is what drew me in the planning stages of the trip. During the say there were quite a few people on the bridge and in the streets, but as afternoon wore o the busses loaded up and all was very quiet. We enjoyed a home cooked meal and went out at sundown to see the sights in the evening light. I couldn't quite get enough pictures, though clearly I tried!

It has been a real treat to have Bob join me for these last few days of the Spain trip. I don't love....or even like cities, so it has been very nice to have Bob navigate and be able to just follow along through city blocks and noise and people and traffic. We left quiet, sleepy Besalu this morning just before 10am and with a bus ride and train connection we were in Barcelona by 1:00. We opted to walk to the hotel which is on Placa Catalunya, and Las was a hoof, but a good way to see the city. After dropping our things we set out to see La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's big unfinished creation. ok, check. I really thought I wanted to find one great pair of shoes, or something usable from here that would remind me of the trip, but after walking for so long, I could only go a couple hundred yards down La Rambla looking and realized that I wanted nothing that was there. Bob and I decided to stop at the market for some dinner items and enjoyed our last Euro-picnic in his room before saying good bye, until we meet again. Thanks my friend. Tomorrow he will leave early for his flight to Miami, via NYC and I'll head for LAX. The trip has been an unbelievable blessing...stretching, physically, really rich in personal quiet time, and of course visual fabulosity. Looking forward to being home with the loved ones.

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