We spent the last two nights of our trip in Girona itself. We had booked an apartment which turned out to be ideally situated for the Historic Centre, grocery and bakery shops and actually faced the starting point of the Girona Walls Walk which had been highly recommended to us as the ideal introduction to the city.
The Walls from our Balcony
The landscape, paths and routes of our journey over the Hills of Girona were beautiful but then so were the two cities we visited at the end of our week’s trip.
Here are some views of ancient Besalu. NB not a scrap of litter or graffiti in sight.
Portal de la Força – Castle Gate
Another theme that seems to have come out from my photos is that of signs! I was very impressed by the footpath signage, and indeed by the paths themselves, throughout our walk. ATG devise their own distinctive (and copyright) routes but they do cross over with many local, national and even international footpaths. The GR route is one.
“The Grande Randonnée (French), Grote Routepaden or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Dutch), Grande Rota (Portuguese) or Gran Recorrido (Spanish) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.” [source]
During our week in Catalonia I realised that certain themes were emerging. One of these was baths, but also we’d come across a spring. So I merged these pictures into a themed post for today. A detour from the chronological story.
I mentioned already that Can Batlle Guest House was quirky but comfortable. Even the bathroom fitted this bill!
For those who book the 5-day option the walk ends at Santa Pau. However, we learnt over the years that ATG can be very flexible with their dates and as I was intrigued by what I had seen in pictures and read in books about Besalu I wanted to include the walk to, and overnight stay in, Besalu at the end of the walking part of our trip. ATG were able to oblige so we set off on the Tuesday morning :
Santa Pau to Besalu: Footpaths pass craggy peaks and mountain rivers (opportunities for swimming in natural pools), before climbing to a high ridge with views. Then oak and pine forests lead to the medieval town of Besalú with its 11th century fortified bridge, Jewish bath-house and 12th century monastery church (12.7 or 13.5 miles, 6-7 hours).
Due to a bit of a mix up Miquel had to collect us and drive us to suitable point a short way along the route. The beginning of Monday’s walk was to be along a quiet but tarmac road but he dropped us in the central square of a village on the outskirts of Les Preses. We were soon on a stony track climbing quite steeply through woodland.
Joanetes to Santa Pau: Easy paths enter the Natural Park of Garrotxa passing Romanesque churches in picturesque woodland settings. Continue through beech forest between dormant volcanoes before reaching the medieval village of Santa Pau, an ancient barony with a castle founded in the 11th century (11.8 miles, 6 hours).
Mas la Serra to Joanetes: Enter the heart of the Collsacabra, a high isolated plateau with views across the whole of the Garrotxa. After visiting the hermitage of Sant Miquel de Castelló perched on a rocky outcrop, descend into the valley below to spend the night (5.9 miles, 3 hours). Or, a more challenging route with magnificent views takes you via the delightful village of Hostalets d’en Bas (8 miles, 4 hours).
Often on ATG walks you’re offered a choice of routes to reach the next point on your itinerary. Needless to say we chose the longer walks on this trip.
“Day 2 Rupit to Mas La Serra via La Salut: From Rupit, pass the Salt de Sallent, follow paths along the edge of the Collsacabra with splendid views, then walk through open grassy pastures and woodland to the superbly situated Santuari de Nostra Senyora de la Salut, before continuing on to accommodation in a spectacular setting (10.2 miles, 5 hrs).” [As usual we made some detours and covered more mileage than this … and took longer, of course]
Last week was my annual summer walking trip with my sister. For the sixth consecutive year we chose an ATG Independent Footloose holiday; our first in Spain. I say Spain, but we were very much under the impression that we were in a country called Catalonia with its own language, flag, foods and distinctive geography.