Friday, 23 January 2015

Snow at last!

At last there's some snow on the Pyrenees!
 I took these photos from the top of Monte Corona in Sabiñánigo.

Saturday, 10 January 2015


When I left Zaragoza yesterday morning there was fog from the city until the start of Monrepós, after which bright sunshine. In Jaca the weather is beautiful; sharp frost and clear skies.
We went for a walk in the village of Barós, following a track up towards Monte Oroel. The views back towards Jaca and the Pyrenees are spectacular.

The old village of Barós

Looking towards the Canal de Berdún where the fog lurks in the valley.

In the village itself, I was surprised by the glimpse of the little church which apparently originates from the 11th century. The only part we could see was a side wall with Romanesque arcading and some rather interesting capitels:
The one on the right looks as if he's playing an instrument.

Here's a wall in a house near the church in which  you can see a couple of ancient carvings have been included. The wall is newly reconstructed.
All in all it was a lovely outing.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Autumn in Le Somport

We went for a lovely long walk this morning, in the cross-country ski resort of Le Somport. It's not open for skiing yet; there's hardly any snow, although there was apparently more earlier in the week. The ground is very wet and muddy. On the Spanish side of the mountain range the trees are glorious colours on the trees; mainly yellows but also russet and red. Once on the northern face in France, however, nearly all the leaves are already on the ground.
This is a slope called Les Framboisiers

Lots of ferns in the damp conditions

First chance to tread on snow

Looking down the Aspe valley into France

A little "ibón" or tarn

Capercaillie reserve

Lots of wild boar have been rooting here

In Spain, some autumn colours

Saturday, 1 November 2014


Yesterday I really wanted to get away from Zaragoza for a while, so we went to Calatayud. It's 90kms drive, on motorway, but rather an old one which wouldn't get a seal of approval these days; steep slopes and sharp bends-often both at the same time. It's the road to Madrid and there was much more traffic than we're used to on the motorway to Huesca.
I wanted to see the castle in Calatayud; from the motorway it makes an impressive silhouette. Don't bother trying to get close to it! We did; struggling up a steep track finally to find a rather broken down wreck. Not romantic or picturesque, just broken down.
The town itself was rather nice. On the route up to the castle there were two Mudejar towers.

nice statue of man reading and dog

Statue of the Baron de Warsage

Detail of the Mudejar tower of the church of St Andrew

Really impressive Plateresque doorway, 16th cen

Outside the Modernist bullring

La Almunia de Doña Godina; another Mudejar tower
One thing we noticed: in these towns of Mudejar towers, where the Moorish inhabitants were evicted from their homes by the reconquest, their "descendants" are there again in considerable numbers, enriching the cultural "mix".

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Guided tour

Last Saturday I went on a trip; well, two trips with a group of Japanes tourists who had come to Spain especially to visit Romanesque buildings. They had a guide with them; a lady who could understand English. She spoke to the people in Japanese through a discreet mocrophone into the earphones they all wore. Although the trip was meticulously organised and the guide had printed sheets with all the information, I did a lot of explaining. Every little detail I could think about, concerning any of our surroundings. They were interested in everything!
I love showing off the amazing buildings we have in the area. There are some ancient and very singular ones, in amazing surroundings.
In the morning, we went to see three churches in the Serrablo, near Sabiñánigo.

This is San Martin, Oliván. The photo isn't mine; if I'm offending, I'll take it off.
Inside, it's a nice little 11th century church, extended with a double nave and a non-original tower, but the look outside is rather spoiled by such a showy graveyard. It does show that people are living and dying in the village.
To get to the village of Oliván, you have to drive up a long narrow road. Poor bus driver; he was rather worried about turning the bus round in such a small space; it was a 30-seater. Last time I did it, the driver wasn't at all nervous and his bus was much bigger! 
From Oliván we went the few kilometres to Lárrede. The church of St Peter there is probably the prettiest of them all and it's kept locked. You need to call and ask for it to be opened by its caretaker .
This one is Latin-cross shaped and has a tall, elegant tower with Mazarab windows at the top. It was heavily restored in the 1930s. The graveyard here is discreet, with small tombstones.
I deliberately left St John of Busa for last. We had to pass it to get to Lárrede; just a couple of kilometres, but it's rather special. The chapel stands on its own in an empty field, just off the road. Of the village it was made for there is no trace. It looks to me like an attempt which didn't quite work. The apse is covered with what looks like the prow of a ship; possibly they couldn't work out how to make the stone dome. One side is as crooked as the Tower of Pisa.
My tourists looked at the architecture, the flowers, the mountains, everything. 

In the afternoon the trip was to San Juan de la Peña (St John of the cliff). I love taking people there to see their reactions when they see the buildings nestled in the overhanging rock.