Olot and Volcanoes

Incensed by the completely inept websites and lack of specific detailed information in English about exploring Olot ONLINE, i am on a mission. 'They' still think if they ration the information online, you tourists will flock to their information offices and pay expensive guides to show you around and take you on interminable 4 hour walks in 35 degree heat. I am here to save you! It's not difficult. There are far too many people like me around here, qualified as Volcanic Park of the Garrotxa Guides, is why! Rant over.
Banyoles Lake

So here you go:
From Girona,  detour to Banyoles Lake for walk and breakfast (1 hour 15 minutes all the way round), on to Besalu for Medieval Jewish Quarter 1 hour tour (easily found in the centre) and lunch at restaurant Oliveras (week day buffet). Or you can do this on the way back, or other quick escapes from Girona. Banyoles is a 20 minute car ride from Girona. Besalu, 15 minutes longer.

Arriving in Olot, head for the Plaça Major, from there go uphill and you are at the foot of the Montsacopa Volcano (called 'Sant Francesc' if asking direction, because of the church on top). Walk up it via the 'stations of Christ' and down via the steep steps, or t'other way round. The cemetery is at the foot of the volcano steps. It takes 30 minutes, longer if you linger at the Carolingian war towers on top or have a picnic in the crater (not a bad idea). Pick up picnic stuff from the Olot covered market, c/ Mulleres.

Pere Colldecarrera - La Moixina
From the centre, you can walk to La Moixina, a reclaimed marshland area, favourite place for the Olot School landscape artists of yesteryear (see Art section on www.Gironalet.com website for a textbook example). Head towards the river, follow it round till you reach Parc de 
Les Mores, cross the main road after the park and follow the country lane. You will pass La Deu Restaurant and La Moixina Restaurant, Olot institutions, past their best, but still with potential for a good lunch, a pleasant sit on a shady terrace, a drink of fresh cold water from a natural spring. It's a circular walk of about an hour if you start from the car park of La Moixina for example, add half an hour each way if you start from the centre of town and it's hot. The walk itself is shady with streams and rivulets to walk by and magnificent views to the volcanoes and mountains. (I will walk it this afternoon and post slightly more specific directions here)

This combination of Sant Francesc and La Moixina is a combination we walked with an ex-pat. group from Girona and they all loved it. http://www.gironagrapevine.co.uk 'Girona Grapevine' - they meet for coffee at 11am every Wednesday in La Farinera cafe, near La 
Punxa, just ask directions, and all visitors are welcome. Catalans go to practise English.

El Croscat
Santa Margarida

For more volcanoes, on another day, drive towards Santa Pau from Olot. There is a sign for Santa Margarida Volcano car park on the right, before you arrive at Santa Pau. Park there and walk either El Croscat (other side of the road) or Santa Margarida if you don't want to get heat exhaustion. El Croscat Volcano is fascinating, it was used as a quarry during Franco's time, and now you can still see the innards, beautifully presented. Santa Margarida crater contains a little hermitage, very picturesque from on high. 

Also very popular is La Fageda, one of Europe's lowest altitude growing Beech Woods, happy on it's porous volcanic rock. Whatever you do, don't go at the weekend, as it is full! It's a lovely walk and you can visit La Cooperativa d'Olot for an ice-cream or yoghurt. Even the website isn't in English but there are some indicative photos.(http://www.fageda.com).

Saratoga - near the apartment

It was 2 o'clock so we had to wait for a table for a few minutes, but nothing like the wait for those arriving after us! This is not a tourist trap, partly because it is a few minutes from the old town, very near the apartment in fact. It's clocking off time for office workers so they come in two by two and four by four. The week day 'menu' is 12,50€ for 3 courses. Between my friend and i we managed to polish off one very tasty fresh cheese and smoked salmon salad, one 'escalivada' mousse, one 'paella' and one 'rostit' of chicken and sausage. Ice cream. The service is very pleasant and efficient and consistently good, we have been various times and the premises are clean,  modern and pleasant. 
There are some photos on the website below. 


Easter in Girona 2015

Easter Saturday

Dance Lindy Hop

11.30 a 14h.
Web: www.jazzdegirona.com
Place: Pont de Pedra

Street Band

4/04/2015 12pm Plaça Independència
Banda de Música "La Lira" de Vilafamés (Castelló de la Plana)
At 11am they will walk round the town playing - these streets:
Pompeu Fabra, Plaça Catalunya, Sant Francesc, Santa Clara i Plaça Independència

"Temps del romànic" exhibition (Romanesque Times)

17/02/2015 al 17/05/2015
C. Ciutadans 19 17004 - GIRONA
Web: agenda.obrasocial.lacaixa.es/ca/-/tiempo-del-romanico

Easter Sunday

Open Day for Museums of the Town (Free entry)

Jornada de portes obertes als museus de la ciutat

Dies: El 5/04/2015
Hora: 10 a 14h.
Web: www.gironamuseus.cat
First Sunday of each month
History of Girona museum, Jewish History museum, Cinema museum

Easter Monday

International Sports Day! 

(go for a walk! - head for Sant Daniel)


La Vajol - Ruta del Exili (Walk into Exile)

During the Spanish Civil War, many people had to flee across the border to France on foot and there were several routes through the mountains. This route from La Vajol in Catalunya to Les Illes in France, was famously taken by Lluís Companys (President of Catalonia), Manuel Azaña (President of the Spanish Republic), and Manuel Aguirre (Basque Lehendakari) in 1939 to escape Franco's forces, as well as by thousands more. In France the gendarmes took the exiles to the internment camps, one of the most notorious being on Argeles beach. The memorial statue of the man with his amputee child is a representation of a photograph taken at the time of two such people on the route.The route on foot is from La Vajol - Monument a l'exili - Can Comaulis - Can Barris - Coll de Lli - Les Illes (Catalunya Nord aka France) - Coll de Manrella - La Vajol - Mina Canta - La Vajol.
Distance: 13 Km.

We arrived in La Vajol, had a little wander around the small hamlet with its' Romanesque church (closed) and then headed for the monument, which considering it is the only such monument in Catalunya, was isolated in a disgracefully unkempt back lane with a derelict-looking caravan parked round the back. (Nobody else tells you that). Things improved, though. It being December and hot, naturally, we passed on the suggested complete re-run of the exile walk/cycle. We took the car part of the way up, walked to the commemorative plaque, where we had a picnic, then took the car to the top. We drove over the top of the mountain and down into France and Les Illes, where we had coffee in the charming Hostal dels Trabucaires, it being a little late for 'omelette'. It was magical, a time capsule, though the road is not to be driven by those with nice cars! It is almost vertical and unpaved. We spent the afternoon in the La Jonquera Exile Museum which is fantastic.

Route Description
Taking the GI-505 road towards Coll de Manrella, we soon come to the Manrella-Comaulis restaurant, a good place to park for those travelling by car. One hundred metres further ahead, we come to a turn-off to the left, where a sign indicates the path to Coll de Lli hill, Cabrera Castle and the Sanctuary of Les Salines.  

Just beyond this building, we come to a crossroads, where we continue straight on towards the village of Les Illes in France. At this point there is a small esplanade with a wire fence, where signs indicate the French border. Another sign, which reads Gite d’étape, indicates the direction towards a rural holiday homein Les Illes. We have now reached the top of Coll de Lli hill.

Our path now leads downwards, along a slope of low-to-medium difficulty. In autumn, the track, which leads through a chestnut wood, is thick with fallen leaves, which makes it difficult to negotiate, and it is advisable to walk along the side of the path itself. The last stretch of the path runs through private property at which, though we have right of way, we must open a gate and follow the path to a second.

Passing through this second gate, we find ourselves in the centre of Les Illes, where the exiles arrived after climbing the Coll de Lli. The first building we reach is the Hostal dels Trabucaires. This hostel is a historic establishment where, according to the local people, President Companys stayed. When he left, the hostel keeper made him an omelette, though he was unable to pay her for it as he had no money. There is a saying around these parts that the Catalans still owe them an omelette. Opposite this hostel is a Gite d’étape (rural holiday home). Another interesting site in Les Illes is the monument to the International Brigades and the republican army.

The quickest way back to La Vajol is to retrace our steps along the same path. An alternative route is over the Coll de Manrella hill, though the journey is longer and the path is not so easy to follow due to the many forest tracks that cross it. However, on leaving Les Illes, those returning by this route should take the cement road towards the Mas del Batlle farmhouse then follow an easterly direction until they reach the forest path to Coll de Manrella.

On reaching Coll de Manrella hill, where we enter Catalonia once more, we find the pyramid-shaped monument known as the “Temple of Peace”, erected to the memory of Lluís Companys. The monument was erected here precisely, not because President Companys passed through this point, but because it occupies a better site, more open and accessible than the Coll de Lli, which is the route that Companys actually took. The monument is also easily accessible from La Vajol, the journey taking just a few minutes by car.
http://coneixerhistoria.cat/en/routes/the-route-into-exile/ (thank you for great description of walk above)

Directions to La VajolN-II national road to km. 773, or A-7 motorway to Exit 2 (La Jonquera), then take N-II towards Barcelona to the sign indicating the turn-off to Agullana and Maçanet de Cabrenys GI-500. From Agullana, the road to La Vajol becomes the GI-501.

Exile Memorial Museum
La Jonquera. 43-47 Carrer Major 

Girona Temps de Flor (9-17th May 2015)

Every year Girona has a week in May for artistic floral displays to be seen all over the town. 
The most important aspect of this week is the opening up to the public of all the hidden patios of the Old Town and many of the secret passages of the Jewish Quarter, filled with flowers and visitors. They are very atmospheric, though i officially complain here and now that more natural plants and flowers should be used. Catalans have an unfortunate penchant for artificial flowers. However, many of the displays are more 'art' than flora and the toilet brush display in one of the medieval Jewish houses, is still a highlight for me. I am always impressed by the whole-hearted and time-consuming participation of the people and associations in these cultural events in Catalunya and Spain. There is a decent route map you can follow, but it's usually so hot, what with the sun and the extra bodies an' all, you won't need to consult it. Go with the flow... Just don't expect to eat a decent lunch (at the weekends) and reserve a table for supper, if so inclined. 
One of the spaces in the city decorated with flowers during the festival. Girona.

Images from 2014