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Cirques Calcaires in the Parc National des Pyrenees

Cirques are rock formations carved by glaciers

A summer vacation brought me to Lourdes in the south of France a couple of years ago. After spending a day in the city, I was more than ready to go hiking in the mountains. The Pyrenees are just a day trip away from the city. I purchased an organized excursion that would bring us to Cauterets for half a day. The bus drops you at the entrance to the Pyrenees National Park office. Cauterets is located about 32 km (20 mi) southwest of Lourdes. Here you can take a ski lift to the Lac de Gaube and also see the Pont d’Espagne stone bridge over the river. This is a great starting point for many hikes. The shoreline of the lake and surrounding slopes are covered with glacial rock formations. That excursion turned out to be nothing more than a bus ride that I could have done on my own. The bus driver only spoke French but I was able to communicate using signs and my watch. We only had 2 hours to do it all. We had to stand in line to get tickets for the ski lift, the lift would take us up to a trailhead where we had to walk another 20 minutes to the lake. We really had to run in order to see the lake on top and the bridge below. The situation was aggravated when we lost precious time as the ride up in the ski chair suddenly stopped halfway up the mountain leaving us dangling in the air for about 15 minutes. Time was ticking but the view was spectacular.
I wanted to see more of the Pyrenees so I was glad I contacted a local guide a few months earlier. When I arrived in Lourdes, I called her to arrange a full day excursion. The day trip would take us to see 3 different Cirques. These are circuses or arenas carved on mountains by eroding glaciers. The glaciers have disappeared exposing the remaining valley and the surrounding circular rock formations. You really feel like walking into an amphitheater. It was a long day and we had to also run in order to see it all. The Cirque de Gavarnie was our first stop for the day. We had to hike almost one hour to reach the Gavarnie Waterfall which at 422 meters is the highest waterfall in France. The second stop was the Cirque de Estaube where we had the opportunity to hike along the shoreline of Lac des Gloriettes. This is an artificial lake formed by a water dam. Finally we drove to the Cirque de Troumouse for a short visit. We returned to Lourdes just as the sun was going down and the light was getting interesting at the end of the day. The mountains are beautiful but you need to be in place early or late in the day for good photographic opportunities. Our adventures in the Pyrenees were not over as we would return the next day to follow the Tour de France.

Un territorio protegido en la frontera de Francia con España

Aproveché mis vacaciones de verano para visitar la ciudad de Lourdes en el sur de Francia. Luego de ver la ciudad, los Pirineos estaban cerca y quería ver algunos de estos picos. Lourdes se encuentra muy cerca de los Pirineos lo que hace posible una visita de un día. Terminé comprando una excursión de medio día que nos llevaba a Cauterets a unos 32 Km de Lourdes. La guagua los dejará a las puertas de la oficina del Parque Nacional de Los Pirineos. Aquí comienzan muchos senderos y se puede ver el puente de piedra conocido como Pont d’Espagne. Una silla de ski sube a los visitantes que quieren ver el Lac de Gaube. Este es un lago rodeado de formaciones glaciares. La excursión resultó ser nada mas que un viaje en bus que cualquiera hubiera podido hace por su cuenta y de esa manera contarían con mas tiempo para ver el lugar. El conductor del bus solo hablaba Francés pero logramos comunicarnos. Contábamos con dos horas para ver todo. Había que hacer cola para comprar boletos, luego tomar la silla de ski hasta la cima donde comenzaba un sendero que nos llevaba al lago. Caminar este sendero toma unos 20 minutos. El tiempo no nos daba y terminamos corriendo mucho. La cosa se complicó un poco más cuando la silla de ski se paró y nos dejó colgando sobre la montaña por unos 15 minutos. El tiempo corría pero la vista era asombrosa de verdad.
Siempre había deseado ver estas montañas asi que unos meses antes me habia puesto en contacto con un servicio de guía de montaña. Al llegar a Lourdes, les llamé para organizar una excursión de un día completo. Visitaríamos los 3 Cirques más famosos. Los Cirques son como arenas o circos en las montanas que han sido cortadas por la erosión de los glaciares. Les dará la sensación de entrar a un anfiteatro al acercarse. Fue un día largo y también terminamos corriendo. La primera parada nos llevaba al Cirque de Gavarnie. Aquí se camina un sendero por una hora hasta llegar a la cascada mas alta de Francia. La cascada de Gavarnie cae 422 metros.  Luego visitamos el Cirque de Estaube donde pudimos caminar alrededor de el Lac des Gloriettes. Este lago está formado por una represa. La última parada sería el Cirque de Troumouse. Ya se hacía tarde y estábamos cansados así que no caminamos mucho aquí. Pronto llegó la hora de regresar a Lourdes. Nos despedíamos de los Pirineos justo cuando la luz del sol comenzaba a saturar los colores. Porqué sucede esto siempre? Hay que planificar bien para estar en el sitio correcto a la hora correcta para tomar buenas fotos. Las aventuras en los Pirineos no se acabaron ese día ya que volvimos al día siguiente para seguir la acción del Tour de France.

Veronique is a reliable tour guide who speaks English and Spanish. You can contact her thru their website at Detours-Pyreneens.

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The Gave de Gaube near the Pont d’Espagne

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Long hike up to the Gavarnie waterfall.

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The Gavarnie waterfall is barely seen here in the center.

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A lakeside Café with a great view.

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The Lac des Gloriettes and the Cirque d’Estaubé under harsh early afternoon light.

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The green valley at the base of the Cirque de Troumouse was our final stop

Hiking in the Cazorla Natural Park

Spain´s largest nature reserve

During our visit to Cazorla, we managed to do several hikes in the Park. The Park is the largest nature preserve in Spain and the second largest in Europe. It is an enormous nature reserve and we just saw a tiny area of it. It is very difficult to capture the enormity of this place in a photo. We were expecting to see an explosion of color in the forest. Unfortunately, the warm temperatures and lack of rain delayed the onset of seasonal colors in the trees. As a matter of fact, the lack of rain this year was affecting the olive trees down in the valleys and hillsides. The olives were drying up in the trees. I would not be surprised to hear that this year’s harvest and olive oil production was low.
One of the things I learned during the hikes was that I need to minimize the weight that I carry on my back. My camera backpack weights around 9 kg or just under 20 lbs. I don’t have a lot of room for water and snacks. After several hours all this weight takes a toll on my knees and back even with the help of hiking poles. During one of the longer hikes, I undersestimated the amount of water necessary and I knew that I would not be able to finish the trail. The sun was unusually intense and the trail lacked any shade. I was lucky to find a couple of clean water fountains that tapped water right out of the mountain side. Had it not been for these two water sources, I would be in serious trouble.

El rio Borosa es el primer gran afluente del Guadalquivir

Durante la ultima visita a Cazorla, caminamos varios senderos por el Parque. El Parque es la reserva natural mas grande de España y la segunda de Europa. El area protegida es enorme y solo recorrimos un area pequeña. Es muy dificil capturar toda esta enormidad en una foto. Esperabamos ver una explosion de color en el bosque. Desafortunadamente, las temperaturas altas y la falta de lluvia retrasaron el cambio de color de los arboles. De hecho, la falta de lluvia afectaba a los olivos mas abajo en el valle y las colinas. Las aceitunas se estaban secando en los arboles. No me sorprenderia si la produccion resulta ser menor comparada con otros años.
Una de las cosas que aprendi durante las caminatas es que debo reducer el peso que cargo en mi mochila. La camara y el equipo pesan alrededor de unos 9 kg o 20 lbs. No tengo mucho espacio para llevar agau o comida. Luego de andar por un par de horas todo el peso comienza a sentirse en la espalda y las rodillas. Durante una de las caminatas mas largas, no estime adecuadamente la cantidad de agua que debia llevar. Pronto despues de salir, sabia que no seria posible terminar el sendero. Tuve la suerte de encontrar un par de fuentes de agua en la montaña. Sin ellas me hubiera encontrado en un problema mas serio.

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The trail around the Utrero Canyon

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Wild berries were very sweet

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The Borosa river is full of cascades and waterfalls

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More water drops in the Borosa river

A photowalk thru the historic center of Girona

The historic center of Girona is full of interesting old doors

The city of Girona is located about 100 km northeast of Barcelona. It is one of the major Catalan cities and its historic center is a major tourist attraction. The train ride from Barcelona takes about one hour. The day trippers make for a crowded experience in these narrow medieval streets. If you can stay here overnight you might be able to avoid them and take a quiet walk thru the historic center early the next morning. Many cultures dominated this city. Iberians, Romans, Moors, Jews, Visigoths established themselves here. Even Napoleon’s troops took over the city for a few years. The Jewish ghetto or Call is one of the best preserved in Europe. Here are some images of a few of the old doors you may find walking in the old center.

You can see more images of Girona here on my previous blog post on the Eiffel bridge.

You can also follow my friend Dana on her blog at Time Travel Plans.

El casco antiguo de Girona y su viejas puertas sorprenden

La ciudad de Girona está situada alrededor de 100 km al noreste de Barcelona. Su viejo casco histórico es una gran atracción turística. El tren desde Barcelona toma una hora. Las excursiones de día abarrotan los estrechos callejones medievales del centro. Les recomiendo quedarse una noche para que puedan disfrutar en tranquilidad temprano al día siguiente. Muchas culturas han hecho historia al pasar por aquí. Los Iberos, Romanos, Musulmanes, Judíos, y Visigodos se establecieron aquí. Hasta las tropas de Napoleón tomaron la ciudad. La Judería o el Call es uno de los núcleos medievales mejor conservados de Europa. Aquí les dejo unas imágenes de las maravillosas puertas que encontrarán caminando por el Barri Vell.

Pueden ver mas imágenes de Girona aquí en mi entrada de blog acerca del Puente Eiffel.

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The passage of time works wonders on old metal.

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Simple twisted metal turned into door handles.

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Combination door knocker and handle. See photo below for a closer look.

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A closer look from the side of the previous photo

The Tarragona Cathedral was built on top of a Roman temple

Catedral de Santa María de Tarragona

La Catedral de Santa María de Tarragona está construida en la parte más alta de Tarragona, sobre un lugar que ocupaban con anterioridad un templo romano, una catedral visigótica y una mezquita árabe. Se declaró monumento nacional en 1905. Tiene semejanzas a modelos franceses como la catedral de Amiens y sobre todo la de Reims. El parteluz o mainel de la puerta es una escultura de la la Virgen en cuyo pedestal tiene representadas escenas del Génesis con la creación de Adan y Eva y el Pecado original. Un gran rosetón que mide once metros de diámetro está situado sobre la puerta principal. Se estima que la nueva catedral se comenzó a construir alrededor del año 1171. Tras un studio del subsuelo de la Catedral, se han hallado indicios que bajo la misma se encuentra el templo romano dedicado a Augusto.

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Approaching the Cathedral from Carrer Mayor

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Front entrance resembling the Reims Cathedral

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Side view

Traces of a roman temple were found under the Cathedral

The Cathedral of Santa Maria de Tarragona is built on the highest part of the city over the remains of a roman temple, a visigothic church, and an arab mosque. The Cathedral was declared a national monument in 1905. The main entrance has similarities with those in the Cathedrals of Amiens and Reims. A statue depicting the Virgin Mary divides the entrance in two. Its pedestal shows scenes of the Genesis, with the creation of Adam and Eve and the Original Sin. A large rose window with a diameter of 11 meters is situated above the main entrance. Construction of this new Cathedral is estimated to have begun around 1171. Traces of a temple dedicated to the Roman emperor Augustus were found under the nave.

Tall ship Juan Sebastián de Elcano visits Florida

Tall ship moors at Port Canaveral

These are a couple of images the tall ship “Juan Sebastián de Elcano”. The photos were captured as we headed out of Port Canaveral for an offshore fishing trip last week. The ship had stopped briefly in port while cruising to Newport. Unfortunately, I could not schedule a visit since the ship was leaving on Friday. I wish it had stayed for the weekend.

As part of its 84th Training Cruise the “Juan Sebastián de Elcano” tall ship was participating in the ‘Tall Ships Race’ with other South American training ships, starting in San Juan (Puerto Rico) and following the route of Juan Ponce de León in 1513. The ship was also taking part in the festivities to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean in Colón (Panama), the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of Florida (USA), and the 525th Anniversary of the Royal Netherlands Navy in Den Helder (Holland).

 

Buque escuela hace una parada en Port Canaveral

Aqui ven unas fotos de el Buque Escuela Juan Sebastián de Elcano. Las fotos fueron tomadas en Port Canaveral mientras saliamos a pescar a alta mar. El barco entraba a puerto  por solamente 3 días. Desafortunadamente no contaba con el tiempo para arreglar una visita abordo.

Durante el LXXXIV Crucero de Instrucción se participará, junto a otros buques-escuela hispanoamericanos, en la regata de “Grandes Veleros” que partirá de San Juan de Puerto Rico, conforme a la ruta que siguió Juan Ponce de León en 1513. Además participará en los actos conmemorativos del V Centenario del descubrimiento del Océano Pacífico en Colón (Panamá),  el V Centenario del descubrimiento de la Florida en Miami y los actos conmemorativos del 525 aniversario de la Armada holandesa en Den Helder (Holanda).

 

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Juan Sebastian Elcano photographed as the sun was rising

 

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View of the ships’s bow

 

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The tall ship is moored at the cruise ship terminal in Port Canaveral

 

Andaremos por el mundo, we will walk around the world

Welcome to my blog.

I have been very lucky to experience some great trips. All my adventures have been carefully planned for months before flying out. All this planning keeps me awake late at night.

I have decided it was time to air my thoughts on Travel, Photography, Food, and Wine.
I will comment on some great trips and experiences as well as the not so nice ones.
Maybe you will find good tips and avoid some of my mistakes.
Finally, many of you have traveled more than I ever will so I welcome tips and suggestions as well.

Travel is addictive and I hope that like me, the more you travel, the more you want of it.
As Mark Twain said – Travel is Fatal to Prejudice, Bigotry and Narrow-Mindedness.

 

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