As soon as our campervan was fixed in Rodez, we took decisive action and headed to Spain. It has been nice to feel our fingers and toes again this week.
Southern France was lovely – we enjoyed some spectacular walks, visits to wineries, good food etc. But it was just too cold and wet, and we weren’t prepared. Yes Sud-Ouest, France gets cold and wet. The toll of the chill was made evident when we took Zeus to the vet for his ICAD registration and found that he had lost almost a kilogram. For a 6 kg dog, that’s a significant % of his total body weight. He was also sleeping all the time, had no energy and frankly seemed like a depressed dog. The humans in the campervan weren’t fairing well either. We weren’t sleeping well, and constantly being cold was definitely affecting our moods.
But before Spain….
We stopped by Perpignan on the way to Spain where James got to climb at La Grappa Escalade, and we had a memorable lunch at L’Emile, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant in the old town area of Perpignan. It had some high tables and bar stools outside and a lot of happy people, eating and drinking. Inside was a small bar counter, where we sat. We love watching all the action in a kitchen, so lunch was a leisurely 2.5 hour affair that involved 3 courses and 3 glasses of wine each. We left feeling stuffed of tuna carpaccio, croquettas, tartiflette and more cheese.
Out of the freezer
Our first order of business in Spain was to thaw and relax. We booked a spot at a campsite in Pineda de Mar for 4 nights. PDM is a coastal town north of Barcelona, so we enjoyed day-time temps in the teens and overnight temps hovering just below 10 degrees, which is far nicer that overnight temps of 0. And the sunshine felt glorious after 2+ weeks of cold rain.
So everyone’s mood has vastly improved in the past week. Zeus has gained some weight (we’ve been trying to fatten him up) and has been his usually curious, energetic self on walks. He loved the day trip we took to Barcelona to check in on the progress of Sagrada Familia – still some ways to go, they’re targeting to complete in 2026, but it was awesome to see the progress since we both last saw it. Zeus got to meet and get hugs from lots of strangers on the train and underground. Aileen’s fingers sufficiently thawed and she managed to finish knitting a pair of socks. And James is glad his fingers aren’t frozen when he locks/unlocks the bikes, and he enjoyed a mountain bike ride around the nearby hills.
In addition to thawing, we got to give our van and selves a good clean, and we also got to cook some nice meals. We made a Spanish inspired pork stew, grilled some pork secreto (YUM), and had some rather tasty pork chops (notice a trend here? LOL). We’re finding that Mercadona supermarkets have a great selection of fresh food – we also made some grilled cuttlefish and a wild mushroom pasta.
After resting for 4 days we were ready to start exploring again. We headed southwest to Montserrat, a mountain range near Barcelona that is quite a spectacular sight. James likens it to a giant crinkly crisp jutting out of the ground. Aileen thinks it looks like the spikey ridged back of a Stegosaurus, but with nubby worn spikes. It is quite the sight to behold. We did several hikes in the area, and although overnight temps reached close to freezing, we knew we’d have to endure it for a only 3 days, before heading east again to a campsite we’ve booked near Tarragona.
We’re at a Cava producer as we type this blog instalment. The Penedes region just outside of Barcelona is Cava country, so we couldn’t not swing by for a swig. Penedes is a small valley tucked in between 2 mountain chains west of Barcelona, and Montserrat towers over it’s northern end. We enjoyed a wonderful tour of the Cava making process, and got to sample 3 Cavas. It was great to learn more about Cava, a sparkling wine that’s less appreciated in the UK than its sparkling brethren Champagne and Prosecco. Which is a shame as it’s distinctive it its own right. It is made predominantly from Xarel-lo, a variety local to the Penedes region, they use the traditional method to produce Cava – the same method used to make champagne, and it has DO designation.
We’re now heading back to the coast to thaw, and are looking forward to exploring further south in Spain.
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