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The Pyrenees The Vall de Boi and Garrotxa Regions

This is the story of our recent trip to the beautiful Catalan Pyrenees in May 2018. It's a short story, we only had about a week in the mountains, but during our stay in this beautiful region, we completely fell in love with it.

Vallde Boi and Aigüestortes National Park

Our first stop in the Pyrenees was the Vall de Boi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for it's Early Romanesque churches and it's majestic scenery. Even though I was just as impressed by the small mountain villages, which are seemingly unchanged for centuries.

We visited the Vall de Boi at the end of May, and there was still snow on the peaks and in the forests. Looking at the houses with their thick walls, slate roofs, and small windows, everything here is build to withstand the long, harsh winters in the valley.

The village of Taüll, with the church of Sant Climent

Interesting wooden structure...

When I say that everything seems to be build to last...I'm not so sure about this structure.

Time to start exploring the valley

We try to live a plastic free life. That means, no plastic bottles, no take away cups. There are so many wells in the Pyrenees, that there is no need to bring bottled water. The only time we had difficulties finding free water was in the cities.

Judith is ready!
Let's Go!

We spent the fist day walking the trails in the Aigüestortes National Park. The name Aigüestortes roughly translates to twisted waters. Which is a pretty accurate description for the maze of small creeks and lakes up here.

Aigüestortes National Park
Water levels were quite high after the snow melt.

Shades of green. Evergreen pine forests dominate the landscape in the valley. The forests are home to over 60 species of mammals, and more than a 120 species of birds. Even brown bears and wolves can be found here!

We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the world, but it's hard not not be impressed by the beauty of the Pyrenees.

Vertical!

I loved the colour of the water in the mountain lakes!

One of the best things about a walking holiday in the Pyrenees in May? We literally had the place for ourselves! During our 5 hr walk we met maybe 3-4 other hikers.

A twisted path over the twisted waters
Twisted Waters

Time to visit some of the famous churches.

The biggest and best preserved of the churches, Sant Climent de Taüll. Most of the churches were built in the 11th century. The design takes inspiration from churches in the the Lombardy region of Italy.

A bit more information about the history of the churches.

Bell towers...fantastic views but no lifts!
Original fresco

Some of the murals were removed from the churches in the 1920's. Today this would be pretty much unthinkable, but it was argued back then, that this would make it easier to conserve the artwork for the future. This is were modern technology comes into play. I have seen a lot of laser and light shows, but nothing was as fascinating to watch as this. The mural in the picture below is a laser projection. The artwork is recreated bit by bit in front of your eyes. Here's a link to a video that shows the whole laser show.

The image below has been censored.

Ouch!
We feel your pain brother!

Look at the color of the stone work and the color of the natural stone. It's almost like the church just grew out of the ground.

Cavallers Reservoir, getting lost lost in the forests, and the road to heaven

Cavallers Reservoir
View into the valley from the reservoir dam

I loved this place! I could have spent a whole day here. There was just one problem, snow! Tons of it blocking the path around the reservoir, so we had to abandon our plan to walk around the lake.

Men vs nature. One the hand, when I look at the dam, I'm fascinated by the engineering, on the other hand, a big concrete structure like this isn't exactly a pretty sight.
This would be the perfect location for a dystopian movie!
Driftwood

Since we had to give up our plan to walk around the reservoir, we spent the rest of our second day...driving around the valley, visiting churches, (literally) getting lost in the forests, and some more driving around. It was worth it though! We drove up a little mountain road to one of the ski lifts in the area. And the views from up there were just...wow!

This stretch of road looked interesting on the map. It looked even better in real life!

Another one of my favorites! Looks really great printed.
Little Green Cabin

One last church before we leave the Vall de Boi. The little church of Sant Quirc de Durro sits on top of a hill, overlooking the valley.

One can just about make out Cavallers reservoir in the background

No mountain chapel without a holy well!

Goodbye Vall de Boi.....we’ll be back!

After three days in the Vall de Boi it was time for us to move on to our next destination....

La Garrotxa, Santa Pau

The picturesque town of Santa Pau in the Garrotxa region of the Pre-Pyrenees, was our base for the second part of our journey.

The Skyline of Santa Pau in the evening light.

The Volcanic La Garrotxa region of the Pre Pyrenees is a fascinating area...even though I have to admit I didn't know that when I booked the hotel. I was simply looking for a romantic hotel in a not too busy location. And the hotel Cal Satre in Santa Pau is exactly that.

Allotments on the edge of Santa Pau

We went for a walk through the village on our first evening. And one thing we immediately noticed, were the little allotments on the edge of the village. Every households seems to have one. It was so good to see people keeping an old tradition going. Growing their own vegetables is something that the people here have done for centuries. Even our hotel had his own little plot of land. Santa Pau is espacilly famous for it's beans, and so we had freshly picked beans from the hotel's allotment for dinner.

Home grown vegetables for the hotel kitchen

Serene. That's the word that best describes the atmosphere in Santa Pau. No one here seems to be stressed, there are very few cars, the little alleyways provide cover from the sun, there are small restaurants that sell three course dinners for 12 Euros, for me, this looks like the perfect place to just....chill out, write a book, or just enjoy life.

Old town, Santa Pau

This passage is the entrance to the market square. How many carts must have passed through here over the centuries?

The 20 km/h speed limit sign is overly optimistic. The alleyway is just about wide enough for a car.

The entrance to our hotel in Santa Pau
Early morning

Santa Pau is located in the Volcanic La Garrotxa region of the Pre Pyrenees. There are several walking trails through he forests that surround the town. We decided to walk the trail that would bring us out to one of the volcanoes, but also included a few churches and the famous Fageda d'en Jordà forest.

Hills and broad leaf forests

Whilst the Vall de Boi felt like an alpine landscape,rugged and wild, the Garrotxa region is much milder, more inviting. Walking through these dense forests was pure joy. I'm a fan of forests! I spent my childhood exploring the forests around my home village in the Harz mountains.

A little chapel in a volcano crater

One thing we are really, really good at is getting lost! Even though we (think) followed all the signs, we somehow managed to completely miss the volcano....

Volcanoes, there are so easy to overlook

The Fageda d'en Jordà forest.

A caterpillar blocking the road

One thing we didn't miss was the church of Sant Miquel de Sacot. What a view! This scene feels more like a painting than a landscape. The view alone was worth the walk.

We made it to the Croscat Volcano the next day. Here it is, sliced open like a giant wedding cake

The Vall de Nuria

The Vall de Nuria is probably most famous for it's rack railway. The railway line starts in the village of Queralps and follows an old pilgrim path through the valley. We walked the old mule path and took the train back down into the village.

The old mule trek

This was our last day in the last Pyrenees, and probably the walk we most enjoyed. Why? Easy answer, the scenery!

The walk is also quite challenging, it's a 1000m climb up to the shrine. I know, it's not like climbing Mount Everest, but still, one can definitely feel the air getting thinner.

selfie time

The Wild West! The mountains, the railway line, for me this looks like something out of a Western.

The Virgin of Nuria shrine at the end of the pilgrim path.

There is also a big, big hotel and a train station. Which I won't show because they are a bit ugly...

On the train back from the mountain.

And that was it! Time to say goodbye to the Pyrenees for this year. But we’ll be back! Oh yes, definitely! I’d love to see the forests of the Garrotxa in the autumn, or hike all the way up to the summits in the summer.

our final stop, Girona!

After 5 days in the mountains, we had to make our way back to Barcelona. So why not stop in Girona for a cup of coffee and a quick walk through the city?

The Game of Thrones steps. The city center of Girona is beautiful and definitely worth a visit! It was just a little bit too busy for us, so we wandered around the little side streets.

Not that the side streets were much quiter:)

S

I don't know what the South Americans celebrated, but they put on a great show!

A few shots from Girona

Time to sit down and relax.

Finally...coffee!

I said this before, we fell in love with the Pyrenees! And it wasn't just the scenery that impressed us. The people are friendly, the hiking trails are well marked, and the regional cuisine is fantastic. So yes, we'll definitely go back there, maybe even next year.

The End....

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