Travel

What is this?

 

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If anyone happens to stumble by my blog, sees this image and knows what it is… please tell me in a comment.

We were sauntering around Santa Pau, Spain, a medieval village in Catalonia about 1 1/2 hours north of Barcelona.  I peeked around a corner and noticed this, stopped and looked for a bit but couldn’t figure it out so snapped a quick photo and continued my meander.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Santa Pau

 

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Old Door in Santa Pau – 2018

“Travel early and travel often. Live abroad, if you can. Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially.”  (Tom Freston)

I am finding this to be true, this quote from Tom Freston.  The more I travel the more educated I am about the world.  The more educated I am about the world the more open I am to new experiences, new ideas.  The more open I am to new experiences, new ideas the more curious I become.  The more curious I become the more I wish to discover.  The more I wish to discover the more open I am of other people and their ideas.  The more open I am of other people and their ideas the more I love LIFE.

Happiness = Travel + Curiosity + Adventure.  IMHO.

Besalu, Spain

 

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“My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.”   (A. P. J. Abdul Kalam)

The above is one of my favorite photographs from Besalu, Spain.  It encapsulates the colors, the mood, the laid-back vibe of the medieval village.  When I took the image I didn’t even see the woman sitting so serenely.  She was a bonus when I arrived stateside and began processing my images.

Castellfollit de la Roca

 

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“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”

(Gilbert K. Chesterton)

On our way to Besalu we passed through a scenic little village that was as beautiful as any other scenic little village you’ve ever seen. Charming. Delightful. Filled with small curvy roads, narrow alleys created by towering stone medieval walls. Back onto the roadway to Besalu my son-in-low slowed and pointed to the right. “That’s Castellfollit de la Roca,” he said. (I had to look it up on the map.) My jaw dropped because the village we’d just driven through could be seen perching upon a cliffside. “We’ll stop on the way back for photos,” he said. So we did, and in doing so we noticed the massive Catalonian flag draping down the cliffside.

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Beneath the cliff lies a beautiful valley where an old mill site sits, along with a new bridge. We found our way down to the bridge through a lush area filled with community gardens. Many men were busy hoeing and picking vegetables – a photographic gem of a place but I left them alone and walked to the bridge with my family.

 

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From our perch below on the bridge we could better see the giant Catalonian flag cascading down the cliffside, right below the medieval watchtower.  Such pride, these Catalonians.

 

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One final look and photo of Castellfollit de la Roca with running stream and the beautiful flag. I had a new appreciation for this village on our way back to the hotel after seeing it from below.

The Chairs of Besalu

 

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High Chair – Besalu, Spain

Sauntering through the medieval stone walls of Besalu, Spain, was a transport back in time.  All my thoughts about old Spain flew away as I literally stood on the ground about which I’ve read in history books.  My romantic self loved the high walls, stone roads and old doors and windows.  That romantic self also dreamed about living in this ancient, artistic city filled with the smells of cuisine, the air vibrating with conversations of the locals in Catalon.  We sat in a central square, pulling up chairs beneath umbrellas for shade, ordered our beers and sat silent, immersing ourselves into the world of Besalu.

After a sweet respite soaking in the atmosphere we paid, took our leave and rambled on through more streets whereupon we happened upon …. chairs.  Chairs attached to walls. chairs in odd places.

 

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Two Chairs – Besalu, Spain

A plaque on the wall told us these are the Chairs of Career Rocafort.  Two artists, one from Italy and one from Girona.  The creator of this work, Ester Baulida, says “these chairs symbolize the difficulties that humanity has in accomplishing its aims and resolving the problems it has to confront.”

In searching for information about this I found interesting tidbits from other bloggers that all ran on a similar vein.  Here’s what one said: “Another highlight of the museum was the chairs. These pieces of furniture were nailed long ago to the walls of the dwellings from the outside with legs. In such an interesting way, the townspeople struggled with dark forces in the Middle Ages. Chairs were nailed to sit on them to catch the spirit (in particular, witches) flying over the city. If there are chairs outside, why should she climb into the house? On the other hand, the furniture is nailed so that you can not sit on it, and so there was no reason to linger among people.”

Well, turns out the chairs have nothing to do with witches, unless one interprets that the chairs symbolize politicians … then, wait a minute….!  Ha!

Returning from Spain

 

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Boarded Up, Besalu, Spain 2018

Jet lag has left me and I’m revisiting a recent trip to Spain via processing the photos.

Besalu was my first time experiencing medieval villages of Spain.  The textures of old wood juxtaposed with stone the color of sienna made me want to weep at its beauty.   We visited family in the village of Olot in Northern Spain, about an hour and a half north of Barcelona.  There, my son-in-law acted as interpreter and tour guide for our week long journey into Catalonia.  I’ll post pics as processed.

 

Ode to Preservation

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A copse of gorse has been planted by time, wind and birds atop the monument

“Culloden is a war grave.  We ask that you treat it with respect.”

So indicated the sign to visitors upon entering Culloden Battlefield in Scotland.  After a moving video, where we stood in the middle of the battlefield as the fight began and ended so quickly and tragically, we slowly and silently exited the visitor center and stepped out into history.  This treasure, this field is listed in the National Trust of Scotland.  Red flags indicate British troops.  Blue flags indicate Scottish clans.  It is sobering to stand where people died in battle, where lives were lost, where the Scottish clans were decimated. In that foggy, overcast, damp day we were all humbled by the experience.  Blue and red flags snapped in the breeze.  This battlefield had no monuments but the one above. Stones marked the spot where various clans had stood; McLeod, Fraser, MacGillivray…

I write about this today because of a burning issue currently going on in Scotland.  The Highland Council voted to allow a housing development close to this historic place. From the BBC “The site is about half a mile from the location of the battle, fought between Jacobite and government forces in April 1746, it is within the battlefield’s conservation area.”  According to another report, “A campaign set up to protect the area argue that the land forms part of the historic Culloden Battlefield site and had hoped the committee would give archaeologists a chance to examine the location before making a decision.”  The National Trust of Scotland believes the battlefield may be larger than the current battlefield site that exists.

I’m not anti-growth, but instead prefer “smart growth.”  Why in heaven’s name would Scottish developers wish to do this?  Purely greed, I”m afraid.  Even my beloved Scotland holds greedy Scots.  This is my vent today.

Iona Benedictine Abbey

 

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Iona Benedictine Abbey, Isle of Iona, Scotland  2014

This year’s Christmas cards from us was once again created by my love of Scotland.  Iona Benedictine Abbey is the cradle of Christianity into the British Isles.  My Twinnie just shared with me this article from Historic Scotland:

“On 7 December 521AD Saint Columba, founder of the monastery of Iona, was born in Donegal, Ireland. Columba was banished from Ireland in 563AD following a disagreement about the ownership of a religious manuscript, and left Ireland, landing at the Kintyre peninsula with twelve companions. He moved further north and reached the island of Iona, where he established a monastery.

According to tradition, Iona was the first place in Scotland from which Columba was unable to see his homeland, and so he choose this as the site for Iona Monastery. From here, Columba worked both as a politician and a missionary, visiting King Bridei in Inverness and writing hymns and books for the monastery.

The life of St Colomba is told by Adomnan, the ninth abbot of Iona, who wrote Vita Columbae, the main source of information for the saint’s life.”

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Benches in the Rain, Iona Benedictine Abbey, Isle of Iona, Scotland

St. Columba followed us throughout the Highlands, showing up in many references from Urquhart Castle and beyond.  The peace of this place is palpable.  People stay here for weeks upon weeks on retreats.  That’s something I’d like to do.

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It was here, above, where St. Columba prayed each evening.

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One of four major Celtic crosses at the Iona Benedictine Abbey.

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A peek inside the Abbey.  I was surprised and impressed to see bookshelves to the right upon entering that shelve Bibles in every language.  Borrow one, return it.  Iona Benedictine Abbey is inclusive and welcoming.

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A House of Prayer for all Nations.  As we approach this Christmas season my personal prayer is to be more inclusive, more welcoming and impart a kinder, gentler self out onto the world stage.  Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas, ya’ll.

Ardvreck Castle

 

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Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt, 2014

Ardvreck Castle in the Highlands of Scotland was the home of the MacLeods of Assynt.  The MacLeods were traditional Lairds of Assent and Sutherland.  The castle is a 15th-16th Century L-planned fortified tower house.  Battles came and went and the MacLeods of Ardvreck Castle was eventually overtaken by their bitter enemies the MacKenzies of Wester-Ross.  Lightning destroyed the bulk of the castle much later and the ruins sit majestically next to the A837.

Naturally, there are ghost stories – the favorite being this I read on British Express:  “Legends cling to the enigmatic ruins. It is said that the ghost of a MacLeod chieftain’s daughter wanders the beach, weeping. She married the Devil in an effort to save the castle from destruction, then she drowned in the loch. Another ghost, a mysterious man in grey, wanders about the castle ruins.”

Scotland is the perfect setting for ghost stories.  That, plus after touring the Highlands one gets the true sense of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings for much of his inspiration was drawn from these mountains, lochs, brooding clouds and damp rains.  Scotland inspires.

Ode to Scotland

 

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Scotland Saltire flying at Ullapool, Scotland, 2014

My feet are firmly planted in the USA and I love it here.  This is my home, my country.  However, I am unable to shake the profound, deep love that’s developed deep, deep within me for the beautiful country of Scotland since visiting in 2014.  Those ancient rocks and lochs, towering mountains and a thousand shades of green hugging a multitude of villages that house people I’m certain are ancestors.  They have to be.  I just feel it.  There is nothing like a malty Scottish ale from the tap, oh my the goodness.  Whiskey was never my thing until a tasting there and ever since a 14 year Oban is always in my cabinet for special times.

The photo above is Ullapool, Scotland.  Lying beside Loch Broom in the Northwest Highlands, Ullapool itself is said to be derived from the norse ‘Ulla-Bolstadr’ meaning ‘Ulla’s steading’.  The further north you go the more Norse connections you see.  Anchored by the fish and sea trade, Ullapool is one of the many fishing villages commissioned by the British Fisheries Society in the 1780’s to help create trade and grow Scotland.  Let’s just don’t talk about the clearances – makes me sad.

Whenever two contrails create a saltire in a blue sky I photograph it and send to my bestie, without whom I would never have gone.  She was chasing her roots; I was along for the ride simply to photograph a place I’d always wanted to visit.  I cannot wait to go back.  Haste ye back the airport sign said as I left, weeping.  I will, I will.