A Patch of Sky

Just to let you know the almond blossom is out in the Catalan countryside!

almond blossom

Such a sign of hope and renewal.

I can feel it in my life too with new plans taking form.  Every day, thoughts of the Camino, which we will start walking at the end of March, make me feel both excited and a bit scared. We are decorating the upstairs flat to have a space full of light and peace. Even the Resident Adolescent is changing into an easier person to live with, his offer to help me make pancakes last week was so totally out of the norm that I had to pinch myself to know I wasn’t dreaming.

We did it together and it was easy and nice.

“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”
Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

The migration of birds helps me understand my life

Starlings over Marazion Marshes

I promised myself I would write here today and although it is late at night I want to keep to that promise.

Now that I have this brand new beautiful blog I feel shy about writing unless it is worthwhile, interesting, wonderful and perfect.

Impossible expectations of myself only freeze my creativity.

So here I am writing just an ordinary post, hoping at least to capture something of the moment that I am living through right now.

I am back in Cornwall yet again.

I arrived about three weeks ago and tomorrow night I leave Penzance on the sleeper train to London. On Saturday I will fly to Barcelona and then travel on by train to Granollers.

It is the first time in years that I have been back in Cornwall in November and  I have loved it.  The weather has been pretty good and I’ve been able to walk along the deserted coast path and on the empty beaches. The winter birds have arrived and the summer tourists have gone.

The roads are quiet and the streets of Penzance have been returned to the locals.

Starlings going home to roost

But I found myself aware that I am no longer a local.   I am not a tourist but am definitely a visitor. Some people in my village of Lamorna didn’t recognise me.  Others are surprised to see me at this time of year and every day someone is asking,  ” How long are you here this time?”  and  “When do you go off again?”         It is perfectly natural for people to want to know these things.  There is something disturbing about someone who comes and goes, someone who used to live here and be part of the fabric of life but who suddenly upped and went off to live in Spain.  I hear an element of accusation in the questions, a hint of annoyance as if I decided to go because Cornwall wasn’t good enough for me.

Being a migrant means I am expected at certain times of the year and am seen as a strange occurance at others.  As if I have flown off course.

This makes me sad and makes me long to settle down and stay again, to be a year round resident.

And yet…..

I feel the call of the south.   I want to go  where the sun shines with more warmth.  There is something – and  someone who is calling me.  And in the spring I will start to dream of Cornish cliffs and of my country cabin.

I don’t like feeling like a transient visitor when I come to Cornwall but somehow this is now my reality.

I have always felt drawn to birds and known a link between their lives and mine.

It helps me understand my life now when I think about migration


Tren dels Llacs

Last weekend we took the Tren dels Llacs from Lleida to Pobla de Segur in the Pyranees. It leaves at 10.30 am and so we stayed overnight in Lleida

tren dels llacs

It is a trip I have wanted to do for years and finally it happened. You can go during the week but it is an ordinary train and there is no time to stop at the other end. On Saturdays they run a tourist train – it’s a beautiful old one with compartments – and you have a few hours to explore Pobla de Segur

alt=tren dels llacs
the beautiful old steam train is a work of art

It wasn’t expensive, 27 euros return for each person, and they took great care of everyone with free gifts, a couple of funny men who moved through the carriages making people laugh (not me of course – too British!)  and a stop-off on the way home for a glass of wine and a pastry with escalivada.

I took a lot of photos and here are some of them – including the train toilet which was very wonderful compared to the ones we have now. 
Modern trains have tiny toilets
electronic locks on the doors giving you no sense of privacy or security
you often can’t find how to flush it

and the actual toilet no longer gives you the pleasing feeling of the tracks thundering by straight down the hole

alt=tren dels llacs
remember old corridors?

There is a view from the window – which you can open!!!  See above.
Anyway, enough about the toilet, though I did like it – here is the corridor. It is a proper one making you squeeze your tummy in to let anyone past

And you can stand there with the window open and gaze out

alt=tren dels llacs
remembering looking out the window?
alt=tren dels llacs
Babcock & Wilcox

When you go between carriages there are those lovely in-between wobbly bits where again you can see the tracks rushing by
Right, now we get to the reason for the trains name – The Lakeland Train

We passed through tunnels and crossed bridges and passed numerous lakes

At Pobla de Segur there was a reception committee with a trumpet.
The doors opened inwards which made it feel better when hanging out the window – I love windows that open – who changed them in modern trains?

On the way back we sat in the restaurant car – yes they have that too – and watched it all again but from the other direction

Lovely day, lovely trip and I would highly recommend it. 
If you would like to learn more about the Tren dels Llacs and a lot more about the history of the line then take a look here.  I first heard about the train on the web site Iberian Nature which is also well worth a look.

Menorca – Walking Through Spring Flowers

On Day 4 we drove up to Es Grau stopping on the way to visit the Natural Reserve of S’Albufera D’Es Grau.  Aiguamolls de L’Emporda it is not but it was still a pleasant walk past various wetlands and if there were not many birds around it was probably our fault for arriving in the middle of the day.  They could do better with information about the plants and birds but money has been cut from the funding of these places and it is a blessing that they exist at all

 I learnt that the Menorcan gates that you find all along the Cami are made from olive wood and every year there are fewer people who are skilled at making them

Es Grau is a pretty town on the edge of a wide curving beach

 Much of it is covered in the seaweed that is all around this coast

 It may be a nuisance to the bathers and sunbathers but it is an important part of the ecology of the area. Some people call for it to be removed for the summer but this would seriously disturb the small organisms that live on the edge of the sea.  The weed forms itself into hairy balls that are sometimes as large as tennis balls

Birds singing in the bushes accompanied us on our way

Gorse in flower smelling of coconut reminded me once again of Cornwall

Spring blossoms that I never knew the names for

Wonderful smell of herbs

Perfect walking on wide undulating pathes

Dunes and sea-blanched drift wood

On an almost deserted beach  I had an evening swim before doing some peaceful yoga stretches to calm my aching legs. We have now been walking every day for four days

 Every so often the path winds away from the sea but it is never far from view

There is something so satisfying about a triangle of blue. Reminders always of Cornwall – this time of Penberth, yesterday of Kemyel Crease, another day of the path from Carn Dhu to Mousehold.
Why does the mind so want to find familiar patterns in new places I wonder?

If you are looking for more information about Menorca this site is interesting

In the evening we returned to a pizza restaurant in Ciutadella and had exactly the same as we had two nights before. Not because we are boring but because it was so delicious and the waiter was friendly and the tables were looking out over these beautiful buildings. Dinner followed by a gin and lemon – the pomada that is traditional in Menorca. The gin is made locally on the island

Cala Galdana to Cala Turqueta

There is a long straight road across Menorca linking Ciutadella on the west to Maó on the east. It’s a bit like Cornwall in the sense that when it is cloudy on one coast you can go to the other and find hot sunshine and when it is windy on the north you can go south and the sea will be peaceful and calm

On Day 3 we drove along this road on our way to Cala Galdana and the beginning of a walk along the Cami de Cavalls to Cala Turqueta.  There are several prehistoric monuments along this route and on this day we stopped off at Navetta des Tudons which is a large burial chamber 1200-700BC

One of the most beautiful coves is Cala Macarella

There are lots of little viewing places along the route

Above the bay are some caves

 still used in the summer and fenced off with metal gates

They have the best views imaginable but are not so easy to get to

The smaller cove next door is Cala Macarelleta where we stopped for a rest but even though it looks inviting I didn’t manage to get in for a swim. Most of the beaches are naturist with a mix of clothed and naked bathers. There were dogs too.  Walkers and cyclists but no horses!

 The wind was blowing cold ripples over the sea and even I couldn’t find the courage to go in.
We always had to walk back the same route to find the car but it never seemed to be the same as different things are visible from the other direction

Behind me is a typical Menorcan limestone wall

Back at Cala Turqueta I had the swim I was dreaming of – the water was cold but the wind had dropped and as the sun was going down, birds were singing and the beach was almost empty.
At Cala Galdana you have to face the horror of two huge hotel complexes built without a care for the beauty of the location. Sorry for the poor quality of this photo but the light was going as we arrived.

Even Menorca has these monstrosities although not as many as on the mainland of Catalunya.  Galdana bay is somewhere you would expect extreme care to be taken with building regulations and yet someone somewhere gave permission and others are making money.
Still, it is true that most of the time on Menorca you are looking at this…..