On The Road (To Recovery)

After the family members returned to their homes, Sheila and I carried on our trip hugging the French coast heading south towards Spain. By the town of Peyreac-De-Mer  we passed salt lakes and plenty of flamingos.

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Then beside an unusual row of restaurants that sold only shellfish.

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Their middens were all the same and just on the waterside.

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As was this beast of a motorhome spotted in a car park near Perpignan.

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We crossed the border to Spain on a very windy and steep road that hugged the coast at the extreme western part of the Pyrenees that took us to the beautiful town of Portbou. 

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There were plenty of fish in the sea and I caught a few but nothing we wanted to eat so they went back.  Most interesting thing in the port was the yellow yacht in the background.  We struck up a conversation with a couple of Brits mending their boat who told me the story of the Marguerita.

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According to the Brits and the town’s Tourist Information Office, this once beautiful yacht had formerly been the pride and joy of John Wayne who owned it in the 1940’s and named it after his lover.  If you search there are photos on the web of him on the vessel. 

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Now, unfortunately the hulk lies rusting and rotting away on the harbourside with little chance of anyone forking out the half a million euros needed to buy her and probably just as much to get her seaworthy again.  The Marguerita was modernised in the nineties and brought over the Atlantic to sail around the Mediterranean where she sprang a leak and was beached just along the coast a little. The French coastguard hauled her out at the nearest port which was Portbou.

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The Marguerita, a long way from Sausalito California and no hope of ever going home.  Anyone want to write a song about this? It has all the elements needed for a hit.

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Still heading south along the Spanish coast, we parked along the seafront in the beautifully named town “Roses” and walked out along the breakwater where I had a fruitless spot of fishing.  (Well I only had a slice of brown bread for bait – that’s my excuse anyway.)

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Then stopped in L’Escala to listen to the bronze band on the prom.  Away then from the coast we drove on to the city of Gerona (Girona) for the manhole covers.

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Oh and they also have a cathedral with nearly a hundred steps to go down and back up just to take this photo.

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This is the river Onyar which was full of big carp that were just crying out for me to go fishing but I would have been a bit conspicuous in the city centre.

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We camped by the lovely lake Banyoles, just outside of the city.  There was a good track around the lake shore that we walked once and cycled twice.  The lake had been the venue for the Olympic Games rowing events and has marked lanes for races.  It is a natural lake formed by a subsidence into an underground abyss during the Pliocene era but bits still fall in, the latest fall was in the 70’s. 

One mystifying and totally inexplicable road sign spotted on the adjacent road had me guessing as to its meaning. 

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No Wellington Bombers? 

Do Not Land In The Water?

Danger Low Flying Junkers Ju88?

Ghost Planes Emerging ?

Your suggestions on a self addressed envelope please.

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On then to Saint Joan De Les Abadesses which just like every other part of Catalonia was caught up in the drive to become independent.  The Catalan flag was displayed on every available space. 

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Pont Vell has its origins in the 12th century but has been through a run of bad luck.  It was destroyed by an earthquake, rebuilt then blown up at the end of the Spanish Civil War.  It was rebuilt in 1976 but purely as a decoration as only pedestrian traffic crosses it now because of the bridge on the bypass.

Someone built this wall from just about any material they could scrape together just to confound future archaeologists.

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By this time, autumn had set in and displayed her subtle colours across the landscapes. 

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Reflected in the ever present Catalan flag.

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Even up in the Pyrenees near the French border in the village of Pallerols.  This is it.  The entire village.  It isn’t difficult to know everyone of your neighbours in the mountains.

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Just beyond Pallerols we pulled in to a layby to do a little birdwatching.

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Or more precisely to give the Griffon Vultures a chance to do a little people watching.

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The vultures circled around us for 20 minutes or so then decided another spot over the other side of the valley was slightly more interesting then just winged it.  I wished I had the odd chicken carcass on me or a dead donkey to scatter over the cliff side just to have kept them there.

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The impossible to pronounce “La Guinguetta d’Aneu” just south of the French Border northern Catalonia.

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This cow paused to ring it’s bell prior to emerging from the wrong carriageway……no concept whatever of the highway code.

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Well, this is what separates the French from the Spanish up there in the Pyrenees. Even in the height of summer you could go skiing if you really felt the urge. 

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If you are small enough, you can create your own micro-climate even at these altitudes.

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A beautiful hidden valley that had no access to those motorhome type travellers – 4WD only I am afraid.

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A glance at the satnav shows you the way up over the mountains is not going to be quite straightforward. 

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The road ahead confirms this. 

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So does the river.

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Back almost on the flat on the French side of the Pyrenees we camped for a couple of nights overlooking the town of Montrejeau.  We walked down through the town  to the lake and River Garonne.  By far the most amazing thing about this place was the abundance of lizards.  They were everywhere.  I counted at least one per metre along a sunny stone wall as they dashed in to their hiding place as I passed.

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There were other creatures there but not in the abundance of lizards.

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The journey beyond this became a little familiar to us as we were on our way to stay with our friends Nigel and Lindsey.  We passed the familiar landmark of Montpezat’s windmill and much of that part of the world has been covered elsewhere in this blog. 

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After our stay with friends we stopped in the pretty little town of Bellac for a peer in to the waters of the river Vincou from the 13th century bridge.

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And this believe it or not is the last picture I took before my heart attack the next day. 

I had a heart attack in Baziages but passed it of as arthritic pain in my right shoulder and arm.  Another one got me that night in Gien on the banks of the river Loire but that was similarly passed off.  It wasn’t till the next heart attack the following morning that we decided enough was enough and we went to the nearby hospital Clinical Jeanne D’arc.  whilst the heart attack was proceeding and staggered in to the emergency entrance.  Unfortunately the doctor who examined did not recognise what was happening right in front of him and sent me on my way with a prescription for pain killers.  (They still haven’t forgiven us for what we did to Joan of Arc.)

Strengthened with the false belief that this was not my heart, Sheila set her mind to driving me to the only place where we could stop, unwind and investigate the problem and that was my brother’s place in Evesham – England.   Sheila drove without a pause for over 500 miles.  Through the centre of Paris at rush hour, north to Calais for a ferry, up the M2, around the M25, up to Oxford and across country to Evesham.  She drove that van like she stole it with me in bed groaning in pain for much of the time.  Sheila’s determination to get me to a safe place saved my life for which I will be eternally grateful.

The problem was recognised immediately I set foot in the local hospital and from that moment on I was in the hands of a confident and competent system.  I received a couple of stents and am now well on the way to a full recovery with the help of Sheila, Dave and Jackie. 

We will be back on the road one day soon. – PROMISE!

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