Thursday, September 27, 2012

Roses. Bay, Beach, Sequence of Settlements, Invasions

Bays and their peninsulas on the side make perfect settlement spots.  The trouble is, once one group sets up shop, another casts a covetous eye on it, and the warfare begins.  At Roses, with its Bay of Roses, evidence of settlements BCE (Greek) through Roman, through more Greek (from the Marseilles area), and Visigoths, and the monastery at Santa Maria de Roses arises in about 944 CE.

The beach holds many attractions.

The monastery is at the end of this side of the bay's peninsula.

She went in.  Is she still out there?

In this heat wave, we did not shop around for restaurants, and the hotels were all crowded.  Find an elevated deck area, breeze if any, outside in the shade, and just sit and eat bits after bits, until darkness comes and all cools off.  Serious meals start at 8PM at the earliest.  Tapas any time, and is enough to satisfy.

For those of us without reservations, arriving at a fine resort late in the day means taking what you can get.  Go to the tourist office and they will call around.  We found two rooms, separate, at the local hostel, Rom Hostel.  Hot, but that is not their fault. Aim the fan and stay still. Dan got over-hot and was too polite to bang on my door -- now he knows to knock a little louder and announce reasonably that it is indeed he, and I would awaken mejitly.

Note on bad economic times and hostels:  entire families, and many, many older people, were at the Rom.  This was not just full of backpacking kids. A hostel may be the only way to afford some time at the beach.  Safe, clean, friendly.

Sleeping at hostel. The possibility of hostels means sleeping gear that doubles for street-wear, for going to the loo/shower down the hall.  I use a black T-shirt dress for sleeping, Dan sleeps in shorts.  That also saves on packing. If two of you accept a room for four, expect two more to join you. If you take a room for 1, you will get more privacy but it may be hotter.  Trade.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Roses, Citadel at Roses. Costa Brava, Spain

 Ciutadella de Roses
Citadel of Roses, Spain

The walled citadel at Roses, known as the Citadel of Roses, takes more than a mere walk-around to absorb. By surviving appearances looks Renaissance, 16th Century; and most of it is. Inside, however, are ruins of ancient Greek and Roman walls, structures; and commemorations for battles conducted here through ages. The site of Roses was important for its bay, trade, openings into the interior. Everybody added to the fortification, and finally it all got walled in and even parade grounds and barracks built. Within Roses or a few miles, are reminders and places to explore, ancient to modern times.

The fortification grew:  see successive walled areas.  And this site covers it all well:  For history-military buffs, sites like this are a fine starting point for the panoramic view of human conflict.

The strategic location of the Citadel at Roses:  The foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains are within easy reach.  Defend against invaders from what is now France; or try to take refuge from invaders from south and west, the Moors.  The fort here also was a backstop for invasions from the sea, at Roses, if the smaller fort-castle there fell.

The citadel also was a defense for King Pere II el Gran's forces in the thirteenth century.   A Peter the Great of Catalonia and Aragon was born in Valencia in 1240 and died in Vilafranca Barcelona in 1285.  He was mummified and now rests Sant Cugat, north of Barcelona. The body may be viewed there.  Click on the translate button at  He apparently dyed his hair blond with a broom substance, see  Pere II el Gran was also credited with the victories of his forces at Roses (but against whom?).

Plaque commemorating victory of  the Catalan-Aragonian king, Rei Pere II El Gran, King Peter II, the Great, at the Ciutadella de Roses, Citadel at Roses.

There are gateways opening to land, and to sea.

Parking in Spain:  find a spot, then note specifically the color of the curb or outer limit line parallel on the street side.

White?  Free parking.  Stop looking for the Pay-go.  Yellow or red?  Pay-go.  Find the machine, estimate your time, pay in, put the stub on the dash.  Towns and areas are inconsistent, so ask or do what others in that line are doing, see

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Empuries. Ruins of Empuries. Greece, Rome on the Costa Brava

Empuries, Costa Brava, Spain

This area has been a center of trade since the 7th Century BCE.  Etruscans, Phoenicians, Greeks. The name Empuries comes from the Greek Emporion, that means, of course, Greek.  Then came the Romans.  By the end of 300ACE, however, the city had been eclipsed by Barcelona, Tarragona and Girona.

Greek and Roman ruins here are still "legible" as a full town, complete with water and water purification systems.

Patterns of mosaics and tiling are complex.  Roman mosaics were made in panels, with drawings found underneath to direct the placement.  They were not made on the house floor itself, but in a workshop, section by section.  See Archeology Magazine, Nov-Dec 2012 at p.40, article: Mosaic Masters.

Then Dan turned around.

Touch the exhibits in the museum.  You are supposed to.  Pass your hand over, and the mosaic picture appears, then fades back into the past.

Then, stuck.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sant Feliu de Guixols, Spain. Sant Pere Pescador. Costa Brava

Saint Felix of Gerona and his World

Saint Felix apparently came from Carthage in the 4th Century, with a Saint Cucuphas, and was martyred here.  Why?  Still looking.

As we look, pay attention to the snaky road up the coast at Costa Brava; leave time to admire, and expect many, many side car-parks, paths down to distant beaches.  Between Blanes and Tossa de Mar are some of the loveliest views of craggy cliffs and shoreline anywhere.

Sant Feliu de Guixols is the town where the road finally veers back inland.  The "Guixols" part may mean "ropemaker" from the word "lecsalis."  That Wikipedia information makes sense with the coming town, L'Escala. Is there a connection.

History of Benedictine Rule.  At Sant Feliu is a Benedictine Monastery (Benedict 480-547) including older ruins from Roman times. It dates from 900-950 CE.  By that time, the Benedictine Rule, stemming from 529 CE based on an earlier Rule of St. Basil for the Benedictine Order, dominated Europe, including England. See Benedictine Monks at

From a Founder in Christianity, who forced no-one to do anything, and accepted all to come near, and never put a Rule ahead of need, now Enter regimentation, strict Rule, punishment, abolition of independent thinking, obedience, exclusionism, no questioning, dominion.  The Institution overcame the healer, the preacher, the example. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.

Poverty and celibacy were not included in the vows of the time, but now are considered incorporated.  The Benedictine Rule predated the other major Orders by some 500 years -- Dominicans, Jesuits, Franciscans, all of which included the poverty and chastity.  The Benedictine monasteries were set up to be self-sufficient, no reason and no allowing exit from the Order's land without permission of the Abbott. Commitment after taking vows was for life, enforced by punishments for veering from the strict Rule. Worship, reading, work. First service of the day:  2AM.  Everybody up.

A monastery in the area was helpful to the locals:  the feudal dominion and control over agricultural production exercised by the monastery, also offered good examples for farming methods, protection (this was a fortified monastery), charitable works, receiving Pilgrims, copying sacred books, keepers of their view of history.  See site. On the other hand, control of local practices also led to adding their farms to monastic lands (make Last Rites a "sacrament", be at the death bed, just leave it to the church?), and that in Sweden and Denmark led to resentment at the accumulating wealth. What happened here?

Up the road is an alternative, north of Sant Feliu:  Sant Pere Pescador.  It is a small town with that enchanting name, and a nondogmatic one.  This representation of Sant Pere Pescador in stone (need to check our logs) is the facade of Sant Pere Pescador, Saint Peter the Fisherman, at Figueres.  Ask as you vet:  Which is closer to the Founder:  Saint Peter the Fisherman, or Saint Peter ensconsed in rigidity, riches, and ritual, and then rejected so that Paul's ideas could root.

But Peter lost, and Benedict and his Rules ultimately won.  Who really won? Who lost.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Palamos, Begur, Montgri. Living like Kings of Aragon.

Palamos.  Once per trip:  A breakfast presentation.  This is our morning delight at a modest hotel, family-oriented, a little away from the beach so there is quiet.  The Saint Joan at Palamos - -

Tomatoes and peppers and other salad vegetables at breakfast balance the fats and grains we are so accustomed to clogging us in the morning. 

More balance:  a little pastry then some plainer stuff. Sour of yoghurt or creme fraiche.

Saint Joan:  Of course, the hotel cat. With my cat allergy, I am pleased to report that everything was so spotless that I never wheezed, not once.

Aragon's history includes Charlemagne taking it back from the Moors in 801, the French fostering a dominion of Barcelona that then became so strong it defied France, and in 1035, Sancho III of Navarre establishing the Kingdom of Aragon and dividing it among his sons.  See on Kings of Aragon.  Catherine of Aragon was the Spanish wife (the first wife, of Henry VIII), mother of Mary. See

Montgri.  Palamos was the port for the Kings of Aragon, after a move there from Montgri.   Montgri is known for its 13th Century Torroella de Montgri. 

We found a sign for this castle and veered back to find it.  With new road construction, it was still inaccessible by car, so we offer here the distant view: hike up, some 2-3 hours. We moved on. We have never had a theft problem, but leaving a car, obviously a tourist car, knowing it will be there for hours, is not wise.

The fortress-castle was never finished. It is known more the commanding site than specifics of historical confrontations.

Aragon.  More on the history of Aragon. Hot, dusty, views, visions of the waftings of lives and fortunes.  Remember the wealth, the glory of kingdoms gone, and the misery of the poor beneath, is that so, as now.  Here, Catherine of Aragon, in Royal Doulton, trying to convince Cardinal Wolsey (not shown) not to annul her marriage to Henry VIII.  She lost.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tossa de Mar. Costa Brava. Walled city.

Tossa de Mar is the best-preserved medieval walled city on the Costa Brava, if not all of coastal Spain.  Beaches are perfect first-day stops, but pick yours carefully.  Sand is repetitions.  Choose a unique side-interest. This walled town is on the beach itself, where fishermen and area dwellers could take refuge quickly. See history at

Access is walking. 

Ava Gardner:  Ava Gardner is at Tossa de Mar because she arrived there with actor James Mason in 1950 to film "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman."  See

Friday, September 14, 2012

Blanes. Trip II. Barcelona loop through Pyrenees. Here, Blanes

A new regional trip: Spain, Pyrenees and France.

1.  Route after the fact:
  • Barcelona, drive up the 
  • Costa Brava to
  • Blanes
  • Tossa de Mar
  • Sant Feliu de Guixoles
  • Palamos
  • Montgri
  • Escala / Ruines des Empuries
  • Sant Pere Pescador
  • Roses and Castillo de la Trinitat (Citadel), across to 
  • Figueres and Castillo de San Pedro (Citadel)
  • Purenees to
  • Ripoll, up the 
  • Seu D'Urgell and 
  • Puigcerda, to 
  • Andorra and France.  Reenter from France at 
  • Roncesvalles, visit 
  • San Juan de la Pena
  • Jaca and Castillo de San Pedro (Citadel)
  • Castillo de Loarre
  • Huesca
  • Graus
  • Lleida
  • Terrassa
  • Barcelona 

Barcelona is an ideal landing place for a trip to the South of France, Languedoc and Provence mainly, bracketing with Spain.  Get a non-stop flight, rent the car, and travel for the half-day saved in making connections; enjoy the Costa Brava.

We had no fixed time for entering France. Avoid the motorways to get accustomed to the rental car, be sure to ask (if you use Hertz) for a Class C to get the small size needed for village roads and tight parking.  A Class B will result in big SUV's waiting for you. Turn them down.

1. Blanes.

The beaches closest to Barcelona will be the most crowded.  Aim for Blanes to get more leisure.  The area has been settled since Roman times. Romans, Visigoths, then Moors.  See  Who was there before the Romans?  It was virtually destroyed in wars thereafter, but is a fine touristy stop.  Excellent for a first lunch.

2.  GPS tip:  In our Peugeot, the GPS I brought from home with a Europe map in it, only worked if put in the lighter one way and one way only.  Do not lose hope if yours loses its connection.  Keep putting it back in, rotating around, until it works.

Stay on secondary roads to get accustomed to the car and find restrooms easily. We also were grateful for a local Peugeot dealer to show us why the GPS was not working. Turn it with the light facing the driver.