Category Archives: Travelling

Flight excursion to the North Cape (Norway)

Two weeks ago, Jérémie and I took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes (the 160hp F-GUYA) to make a flight excursion from Toulouse to the North Cape (Nordkapp, in Norway) as part of a “Fly out” organized by the Aviation Society of the Airbus Staff Council, together with 2 other aircraft, the F-BERB (with Norbert and Dominique, who organized the trip) and the F-PANI (with Anne and Nicolas).

At the beginning of the post I will focus on the different flights and share some pictures (taken either by me or Jérémie and Dominique, the ones with more quality) and at the bottom of the post I will leave some more technical details helpful for the preparation of such a trip.

Day 1 (July 17th) – Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) – Verdun (LFGW)

We departed one day before the other airplanes to ensure that the engine hours of our airplane would not be consumed during a Saturday with good weather in Toulouse. However, North of Aurillac the weather was not so good so we waited until early in the afternoon to fly to Verdun. Even if not necessary we filed a flight plan and climbed to FL075 for most of the trip, to fly VFR on top of the clouds around the Massif Central and we just descended under the clouds some miles before the destination.

Once at Verdun we refueled the airplane, parked it for the night and booked a room at the Ibis budget hotel, which is however 5km from the aerodrome. A kind member of the local aeroclub gave us a lift to the hotel.

Day 2 (July 18th) – Verdun (LFGW) – Doncourt (LFGR) – Tønder (EKTD)

The morning after we did not have a transport to the aerodrome as apparently there were no taxis in the surroundings, so we had to walk to the airport; a hike that took us well over an hour with the bags and by some wheat fields.

We then made a short (~40′) flight to Doncourt, not without flying over some of the fields and memorial monuments of the WWI battle of Verdun. We then arrived to Doncourt, which has as A/A frenquency 123.500 and that was confusing as there are other aerodromes not too far using the same frequency, causing you to hear messages unrelated to the aerodrome you are about to land.

At Doncourt we refueled again and had a chat with a member of the local club. I went to pick some snacks from a local backery (less than 1km away) while we waited for the F-BERB. We then had a picnic at the aerodrome before departing for Tønder.

For the flight to Denmark we had to file a flight plan. We used a simple route based on the location of some VOR (DIK NOR BOT NDO). We were going to overfly Luxembourg and the whole of Germany. We climbed again to FL075 and were cleared (after the F-BERB) by the ATC (Langen radar) to fly through class C spaces around Cologne and Düsseldorf. Later, we listened in the radio that the F-BERB was descending to 3,000ft and below somewhere North of Bremen so we followed suit. From there and until nearly the border with Denmark the ceiling was at around 2,000ft, but since the ground is almost at sea level the flight was still comfortable. The West coastline of Schleswig-Holstein was wonderful.

When we arrived at Tønder the F-PANI was already on ground and the F-BERB landed shortly after. Our flight plan had not been properly communicated and we were not expected, nor could refuel as we did not have local currency (DKK). We booked rooms in hotels in the village which was at walking distance. We then gathered at the Cafe Arthur and enjoyed our first dinner together as members of the fly out. There Dominique offered us a bottle of Saumur red wine that he had brought to celebrate that first night.

Day 3 (July 19th) – Tønder (EKTD) – Bergen (ENBR) – Trondheim Værnes (ENVA)

We woke up early as we wanted to be ready at the aerodrome at 7am to refuel the airplanes and had a 25-minute walk before to get to the aerodrome. The person in charge of the fuel station arrived a bit later but we were ready for departure at around 8am. We had filed another flight plan to fly to Bergen in Norway.

Flying over Denmark, despite its flatness, was nice, with the coast to the West, small crop fields and villages, including the coastal city of Esbjerg where my brother spent 2 weeks of the summer of 2002. We flew by the coast up until the village of Hanstholm (close to Thisted aerodrome) and then took a North West heading towards Norway with a transit of just above 30 minutes over the North Sea.

Once in Norway we continued flying along the Southern coast, overflying the airports of Farsund Lista, Stavanger Sola and Karmøy until we reached Bergen. During that flight of over 4 hours we enjoyed the good weather and the views.

At the tarmac in Bergen we spent some time between refueling and then waiting for the police to check our EU Covid-19 passport so that we were cleared to enter the country. We then purchased online the week pass covering the landing fees in all Norwegian airports, filed another flight plan and off we went for our next destination: Trondheim.

In that second flight, the sky was covered with clouds but the ceiling was not very low so it allowed for a relatively comfortable flight enjoying the views of the different islands. Once arrived at Trondheim we refueled, parked the plane, were taken in a small bus to the general aviation exit of the airport and walked to our hotel (Radisson Blu at the airport). We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and studied the weather which started to degrade.

Day 4 (July 20th) – Trondheim Værnes (ENVA) – Brønnøy (ENBN) – Bodø (ENBO) – Alta (ENAT)

In the first flight of the day we tried to reach Brønnøy overflying some fjords in the interior and flying over Namsos but before reaching that point there was no visibility and the F-PANI and us had to take a U-turn back to the fjord of Trondheim and get to the coastline overflying Orland airport. In flight we learnt that a NOTAM had been published informing that there was no Avgas that day at Brønnøy. Despite of that we landed there, which wasn’t easy as just when arriving there were some showers, so we had to hold first at the South and then changed our plan and approached the airport from the North West. At the airport we studied again the weather to the next airport where we could refuel, Bodø, a flight of just over an hour.

During the flight to Bodø we had a lower ceiling (at around 1,200ft, flying at below 1,000ft) and showers here and there. Though just at the airport the weather was clear. We landed, refueled, quickly ate some bananas and got ready for the next flight to Alta.

For the flight to Alta we would have liked to enjoy the view of the Lofoten islands, but seeing the weather and winds, we rather flew towards Leknes and then by the Western coastline of those islands. We passed by the West of Andenes. At that point the weather conditions were not very good, the flying was not easy. We counted with the help of the ATC and the messages exchanged between our 3 airplanes. Once we passed the latitude 70°, North of Tromsø, we got encouraging messages from the F-PANI, but as we were approaching Alta the weather was still not getting better, with very strong winds entering the Stjernsundet fjord to get to Alta. The airport in Alta was at the end of another fjord and at that point the wind was calmer and we landed.

The airport was closing so we just had time to get some help to get a taxi, book a room at the Scandic hotel and had dinner at Du Verden. The study of the weather during that dinner was not very positive, but we still gave us until the next morning to decide what to do the following day.

Day 5 (July 21st) – Alta

Before breakfast at 7am we looked at the weather and decided not to attempt to reach the North Cape that day, as the conditions were not very good with winds, rain and clouds. We booked another night at the hotel and the group split in two: Dominique and Norbert went to the airport to refuel the 3 planes, while the rest of us went to the museum of Alta to visit the Rock carvings (see related post). On the way there there was some rain but later on the sky became clear and we continued walking around for a total of more than 12km that day.

Back at the centre of the village we got some food for the plane (so we could have something to eat in the stops), we took a closer look at the iconic Northern Lights Cathedral and later met the group for dinner at a pizza restaurant, where again we studied the weather for the following morning, when we would attempt to fly by the North Cape followed by a flight to Tromsø.

Day 6 (July 22nd) – Alta (ENAT) – Alta (ENAT) – Bodø (ENBO)

We woke up early again, took breakfast together at 7am and got ready to go to the airport and wait for the weather to become more favorable. After about an hour, the F-BERB departed first by the fjord and then flying over the terrain to reach Porsangerfjord at the East and reach the North Cape from the South. A bit later the F-PANI and us left following the fjords (flying by Hammerfest) and reaching the North Cape from the West, took some pictures of it and then took heading for the South West.

The F-PANI flies much faster and at some point they reached a situation without visibility so they took a U-turn and so we did and both airplanes flew back to Alta, where we refueled again and stayed for some more time waiting for a front of clouds and rain to pass.

We then departed again, this time reaching the coast directly through the fjords to then follow the Western coast of the Lofoten islands on the way to Brønnøy. That flight was a very complex one. Already getting out of the fjords was difficult with very low ceiling, flying at 500ft, some showers, low visibility… flying with the help of the GPS to ascertain where the other side of the fjord or the next island would appear.

After 1h30′ the sky became somewhat clearer and just when we were going to fly West of Andenes airport we received a message from the F-BERB informing that the weather by the interior of the Lofoten islands was better and we could see some light from afar at that point so we changed plans and took heading for Evenes airport. We then enjoyed an hour of very pleasant flight over the islands and turquoise waters.

We flew past Bodø and exchanged some messages with the other airplanes about plans in Trondheim after refueling at Brønnøy only to find that some 40nm South of Bodø visibility was very bad and the ceiling very low. The difference now was that the area is full of small rocky islands, so at that point we made another U-turn and flew back to Bodø. The visibility at the airport was very low as well so we waited holding flying in circles at some 600ft for a few minutes about 20nm South of the airport until the controller offered to guide us to the airport under Special VFR.

We landed, refueled, called the tower by phone to thank the ATC for his help, booked a hotel by the harbor (Radisson Blu) and had dinner at Bjørk. Back at the hotel we studied the weather again and decided to go early to the airport to see if we could depart the following morning.

Day 7 (July 23rd) – Bodø

We reached the airport earlier than 7am to see if we could leave, but hesitated as the weather conditions were still quite degraded and were not getting better. After a couple of hours at the airport we gave up, called our colleagues at Trondheim (who then pursued their trip) and went back to book another hotel (Zefyr) and took the opportunity to visit the Norwegian Aviation Museum (see related post).

In the afternoon I went to rest at the hotel, while Jérémie went visiting around the city. For dinner we went to Burgasm (with a very comprehensive variety and customization of burgers).

Day 8 (July 24th) – Bodø

This day the weather was still pretty bad, as another low pressure front was coming from the South West and expected to hit the coast. We went to visit the Salmon centre by the harbor and then to the airport to move the airplane and align it with the strong winds that would blow later in the evening (and hopefully clear the local weather so that we could depart the following morning). That evening we had dinner at En Kopp, with very good fish dishes.

Day 9 (July 25th) – Bodø (ENBO) – Kjeller (ENKJ) – Tønder (EKTD)

We left the hotel at 6am to try to be ready to fly at 7am and so we did. That day the weather was finally good, with just some clouds at 3,000ft around Bodø but clearing further South. We continued flying along the coast down to Brønnøy while climbing first to 4,500ft and then to 6,500ft in order to fly to the interior of the country, East of Trondheim, flying over Røros and approaching the TMA of Oslo Gardermoen from the North, flying by the East of the CTR and finally landing at Kjeller aerodrome (the first aerodrome built in Norway in 1912), where the weather was completely different, blue sky and hot temperatures.

Funnily enough, at the fuel station of Kjeller we met a local who had been in Toulouse learning to fly aerobatics and knew some members of one of the aeroclubs in Toulouse Lasbordes. We had lunch there, studied the weather again ahead of the crossing of the sea and the flight over Denmark, where storms were announced.

Shortly after we took off again from Kjeller, overflew Rygge and continued our flight to the South very close to the separation between the Norwegian and the Swedish FIR, while having the Swedish coast in sight for most of the time until we could see from afar the thin peninsula of Skagen in Denmark. This time we flew closer to the East of Jutland to avoid the storms that seemed to be more to the West. We left Aalborg to the West, then Billund and the ATC of Skrydstrup helped us in flying through some local cumulonimbus and showers, until we were finally in sight of Tønder.

At Tønder we met some of the members of the local club and later came the person in charge of the refueling station (as Norbert had called him to make sure they were aware of our arrival). This time we were able to pay in euros, so we refueled that same afternoon, before we were offered a lift to the Motel at the centre. We then went again to Cafe Arthur.

The following day would be a long one and the weather forecast wasn’t very good for Denmark or Luxembourg, but seemed OK to cross Germany. Following the example of the F-BERB we decided to go very early to the aerodrome to take off as soon as we could.

Day 10 (July 26th) – Tønder (EKTD) – Doncourt (LFGR) – Alès Cévennes (LFMS) – Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL)

We woke up at 4:30am and left at 5:10 for the aerodrome. While walking the sky was clear, but when the aircraft was ready mist was taking over. When we were about to align on the runway we could not see further than half of it, so we went back to the parking, switched off the engine and waited a few minutes.

A bit later, when the mist seemed to have cleared a little bit and we had good visibility of the whole runway we tried again to take off and this time we went to the air leaving the low level mist below us and we continued our flight on top to the South, immediately crossing to Germany.

We flew at 4,500ft until Nordholz and then climbed to FL065 to have better visibility of the cities ahead of us. Later, ahead of reaching the class C spaces around Düsseldorf and Cologne the ATC gave us clearance and asked us to climb to FL070 to stay in VMC conditions, as around Cologne the clouds became more numerous and were quite abundant by the time we overflew Luxembourg.

Once we had crossed to the French air space we looked for a hole among the clouds so we could get below by flying down in circles making a downward spiral, and so we did, until we were below the ceiling at just around 1,000ft above ground level. We then informed the ATC of Strasbourg that we diverted to Doncourt instead of flying to Verdun, in order to land sooner instead of flying longer at that low altitude.

We then called the BRIA of Bordeaux to close the flight plan, refueled the plane, ate a little and studied the weather in France, which didn’t seem very good around the Massif Central nor West of it. After some careful study we guessed that the safest approach would be to make a small detour and fly South towards Toulouse by Dijon, Lyon, Nîmes, Montpellier and Carcassonne, and so we did.

We only encountered some showers before reaching Dijon, but further South the weather was good and we only had to watch out for some glider activity at some points around Lyon. We made a refueling stop at Alès Cévennes before getting ready for the last flight of the excursion.

Flying to Toulouse through the corridor of Montpellier – Carcassonne is something I had done a few times, so we just focused on staying alert as the day was getting long and we were becoming tired.

We finally landed at Toulouse Lasbordes, where Dominique and Norbert (who had arrived two days earlier) were waiting for us. They brought a bottle of champagne which we drank by the airplane still on the tarmac. They then helped us getting the airplane in the hangar, we said good-bye, continued cleaning the plane, filled in the papers… and savored the moment of what we had just accomplished: flying VFR all the way to the North Cape and back.

Trip preparation and tips

  • We flew for over 46 hours, the other plane departing from Toulouse did 43 hours. On flying days the average flying time was almost 7 hours per day, with a maximum over 9 hours the last day. We completed 15 flights.
  • We were stranded 3 days without flying, the other airplanes only 1, but the F-BERB in a similar excursion years ago also lost some 3 days. We also had to delay our departure by 4-5 days due to heavy rain in the North of France, Belgium and South of Germany around the targeted departure date. Thus, it would be prudent to budget in your calendar at least 10 days for the trip.
  • The excursion was mainly about flying, preparing flights, refueling, studying the weather (at dinners, breakfasts and refueling pauses). We only had time to visit the places when we were stranded. Thus, it is trip for dedicated aviation enthusiasts.
  • We opened an account at the Norwegian Avinor site. It’s free of charge and it contains all the aerodrome charts, AIP, weather information and a tool to file flight plans. In that site you’ll be able to get a week pass to cover all the landing fees for about 94€ (in July 2021).
  • For the preparation of the flights and the navigation we relied on SkyDemon (I took 1 month subscription for 14€) from an iPad Mini (however I used an external GPS connected to the iPad, this proved tricky for the battery management in the flights over 4 hours). The good resolution of SkyDemon was very valuable to fly along the coast when visibility was low.
  • Special attention needs to be paid to where you can refuel. About half of the airports in Norway do not have Avgas 100LL. Most of the ones that do have Avgas do not accept cash or credit card payment, but are divided into those which accept the Air BP card (which we had) and the ones accepting the Shell card (which we didn’t have, those part of the AFSN network – there was an AIP from just a few months before informing about that). Therefore we were effectively restricted to about one fourth of the airports (that is an element when thinking about flight planning and potential diversions, whether they may occur at the end or beginning of a flight). The best would be to depart with both the BP and the Shell cards.
  • All of the airports we landed were of moderate size with long runways.
  • The Norwegian ATC was quite helpful all along the trip and accommodated to many of our requests. When flying low sometimes we did not appear in their radar and sometimes the radio reception was poor, but those instances did not last long.
  • There was not much VFR traffic in the North, most of the other aircraft in the frequency were commercial aircraft from mostly Widerøe, Norwegian and SAS.
  • We did not make any hotel reservation in advance, only when landing at each airport in the afternoon, as we were not sure of whether we would be able to make it to the intended destination (a couple of times we didn’t). Once landed we made the reservations via booking.com.
  • The overall budget (including the cost of the flight hours including fuel (the largest cost by far), landing fees, hotels, meals, etc) for our plane has been around 9,500€ (less than 5,000€ per person).

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San Francisco Javier y Castillo de Javier (Navarra)

El pasado verano de camino hacia Francia hicimos una excursión en Navarra, con parada en Javier, donde se encuentra el Castillo de Javier y donde nació San Francisco Javier el 7 de abril de 1506.

Castillo

La construcción del castillo se inició a finales del siglo X, en tiempos de Almanzor, como torre de vigilancia para defender el valle del río Aragón. Con el paso de los siglos se añaden estructuras hasta que en el siglo XIV se edifica el “Palacio Nuevo”, siendo propiedad de la familia Azpilicueta.

Escudo

En una de las salas del castillo se muestra un árbol genealógico con todos los “Señores y Condes de Javier” desde el siglo XII, comenzando por Aznar de Sada (1194-1203) hasta el actual Javier de Urzaiz y Ramírez de Haro (1975- ). San Francisco Javier, con el nombre Francisco de Jaso y Azpilicueta al nacer, fue el quinto hijo de Juan de Jaso y Atondo (Señor de Javier) y María de Azpilicueta y Aznarez de Sada (Señora de Javier).

Arbol

A los 19 años se fue a estudiar a la Universidad Sorbona de Paris, donde conoce a Ignacio de Loyola, junto a quien, entre otros, fundaría la Compañía de Jesús en 1534. En 1540 parte a Lisboa para luego seguir con su viaje como misionero a Mozambique, la India, las islas Molucas o Japón entre otros. Es por ello que en 1927 se le nombra como patrón de las misiones católicas en el mundo.

Painting

En el pórtico de la basílica que se encuentra junto al castillo, construida en 1901, se mencionan todos los lugares que visitó, junto con una cita del evangelio de San Mateo (16:26) “¿Quid prodest homini si mundum universum lucretur animae vero suae detrimentum patiatur?” (“¿Porque qué aprovechará al hombre, si ganare todo el mundo, y perdiere su alma?”).

Basilica

Portico

Dentro de la basílica se puede contemplar una losa que marca el lugar donde nació Francisco, dado que esa parte de la iglesia anteriormente formaba parte del Palacio Nuevo, derribado parcialmente para levantar la basílica.

Nacimiento

Javieradas. Fuera del castillo, unos paneles explican en qué consisten las Javieradas: unas peregrinaciones que se realizan en honor al santo desde 1932 por iniciativa de Camino Jaurrieta Muzquiz, rescatando una primera peregrinación organizada en 1886 en agradecimiento porque Navarra no había sido afectada por la epidemia de cólera de aquel año. Las peregrinaciones se realizan en el primer domingo entre el 4 y 12 de marzo, y al domingo siguiente.

Javierada

Por último, la festividad del santo se celebra el 3 de diciembre por ser la fecha en que murió el santo en 1552 en la isla Shangchuan (China), a los 46 años de edad. Sus restos se llevaron en 1554 a Goa (India) donde fue enterrado.

Libros

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First World War Armistice Day and Compiègne Wagon

Today, November 11th is commemorated “Armistice Day”, the day in which First World War representatives of the Allies and Germany signed at Compiègne (France) an armistice for the cessation of hostilities on the Western front at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month“.

NYTimes-Page1-11-11-1918

Last May, we visited the “Musée de l’Armistice 14-18” at Compiègne, in a forest north of Paris. The main attraction of the museum is the Compiègne Wagon, the train coach in which the armistice was signed. A replica of the coach is displayed today at the museum, showing the position of each delegation within the train.

Coach

The coach itself, number 2419 D, was a restaurant coach built in May 1914 and delivered to the French Marshal Foch in September 1918 and employed as an office. The coach was the sixth out of the seven of the train that brought the Allied delegation.

Coach number

Complete_trains

As part of the display, one can see pieces of the original wagon, the rails where the train once stayed, some monuments to the main actors of the event, military uniforms of the time, pictures of how the delegations arrived to Compiègne, documents with the letters exchanged in advance of the meeting, announcements made to communicate it, some videos of the time, etc.

Picture

The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days. It was followed by the Paris Peace Conference in which diplomats from several countries participated. The British economist John Maynard Keynes was a delegate at the conference, and he wrote the book “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” about it (see here a post about the book).

Delegation_Paris_conference

Months later, on June 28th 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

Peace Treaty

In September 1919 the coach was donated to the Musée de l’Armée, in Paris. It was then moved to the Cour des Invalides where it was displayed in open air for some years. Thanks to the contribution of the American businessman Arthur H Fleming, a building to house it in the forest of Compiègne was built, where it was displayed until the Second World War.

Second World War

Once France was occupied, on June 22nd 1940, Hitler ordered that the wagon was taken out of the exhibition building and be placed in the rails outside in the exact location in which it was on November 11, 1918, for the signature of another armistice. He carefully prepared the setting, by switching sides for the occasion, the German delegation occupying this time the seats that the Allies had taken in 1918, with Hitler taking the place of Foch. As the story goes, he stayed while the terms were read out by someone of his delegation and left the coach before the signature took place. He then disposed that the coach be transferred to Berlin to be displayed there, at the Cathedral. As the second world war advanced the coach was moved to different locations in Germany and destroyed before the end of the war. Thus, what it is shown today is a replica.

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Flight excursion to Menorca and Mallorca

Last weekend, with Luca and our children, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 to make a flight excursion from Toulouse (France) to the islands of Menorca and Mallorca, in Spain. The excursion was part of a “Fly out” organised by the Aviation Society of the Airbus Staff Council in which 5 aircraft would make the same trip.

The main purpose of the flight was to visit Menorca, and we flew to Mallorca to refuel before coming back. It is an excursion that in the Society we had been trying to make since 2015 but we have had to cancel it due to bad or uncertain meteorological conditions several times. The flight includes a leap over the sea of about 1 hour from the East of Bagur (in Gerona) to the North of Menorca and, as there are no safe landing spots in that area, you want to have more or less certain good weather along the route both the day of the departure and return flights.

22. a Formentor, Alcudia, Cap Farrutx

Cape Formentor, Alcudia & Cape Farrutx.

We made 4 flights.

Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) – Perpignan (LFMP)

Flight duration: 1h11’.

Flight_route_LFCL_LFMP

We included this first stop over Perpignan just to refuel the aircraft to the maximum before flying over the sea all the way through Menorca, so in case of bad weather or any other problem at the destination we could make a comeback to France or somewhere else in the Spanish coast. We selected Perpignan instead of other viable options such as Ampuriabrava for various reasons, among them lower cost of fuel and landing fees.

In the way to Perpignan the sky was overcast (OVC) at a low level around Carcassonne, and, as I did not want to fly on top for that leg, this forced us to fly just at 1000 ft above ground and to follow the highway to Narbonne rather than taking a more direct route to Perpignan over the mountains. You can see the route we followed above.

It was the first time I landed at Perpignan, but finding the field from the way points NL (in the coast) and NF was trivial. Once in the vicinity we integrated directly into the circuit for runway 31, closer to the fuel pump. There, we had a quick lunch and prepared for the following flight.

Perpignan_chart

Find the Garmin record of the flight here.

Perpignan (LFMP) – San Luis (LESL)

Flight duration: 1h56’.

Flight_route_LFMP_LESL

Just after the take-off from Perpignan we took a right turn towards the East and reached the coast South of waypoint EA. From then on we started climbing up to 5500 ft, the altitude selected for the flight over the sea (the highest, the better). In order to keep a high altitude you need to avoid the TMA from Barcelona, otherwise they may ask you to descend below 3000 ft. Thus, we went to the capes of Bear, then Creus and from then on South East heading to pass about 10 nm East of the VOR at Bagur. From then on we followed a series of IFR waypoints (NEMUM – AGENA – VERSO – TOSNU – SARGO).

TMA_BCN

Flying above the sea is not particularly eventful. You mainly need to maintain the altitude and attitude and the heading stable, as it is very easy to loose references with the difficulty to distinguish the horizon.

As far as radio communications are concerned: we were first transferred with the Gerona traffic control and then to the one of Barcelona. The communications were held in Spanish. Easy, as long as you have a flight plan and follow the announced route. Those frequencies were mainly used by commercial flights going to/from Barcelona or Palma, mainly Vueling flights. Also good to know is that as you fly away from Barcelona at some points you may not be heard by the control; no worries, keep going and sending the messages.

About an hour later we had in sight the North of the island of Menorca, the cape of Cavalleria. But before that, approaching the way point of SARGO (about 25 nm or 14 minutes from the shore) you need to descend down to below 2500 ft, though the control will ask to go down to 1000 ft AMSL as that is the limit of the air space class A around the main airport in Menorca, Mahon.

Cavalleria

Cape of Cavalleria.

Once in sight of the shore we requested to follow the coastal line to the East down to the East Corridor for Mahon in order to reach San Luis from the East (the control had however proposed to surround the island around the West and South).

San Luis_chart

Following that route we took the opportunity to take some nice pictures of the coast, the lighthouses and the fortress of Isabel II at La Mola.

San Luis is a non-controlled aerodrome without radio. Therefore, you must stay connected to the frequency of Mahon and land at your discretion, with a circuit to the East of the runway (02/20). The aerodrome is managed by the Aero-club of Menorca. In their site you may find contacts and charts (old ones being in use). There are not official fees but a contribution is expected; 10 euros for landing, 5 for parking. These are paid at the restaurant by the apron, which serves very decent menus and where the staff will be happy to help you calling for  taxi.

We spent the remaining of Friday afternoon and all Saturday enjoying the beach and the hotel’s pools, including a beer on Saturday night with the colleagues from the Society at a bar by the beach, Es Corb Mari (in Son Bou).

Find the Garmin record of the flight here.

San Luis (LESL) – Son Bonet (LESB)

Flight duration: 1h10’.

Flight_route_LESL_LESB

As the aerodrome of San Luis doesn’t have a fuel pump we could refuel at the main airport of Mahon, but as it requires to contract handling (with expensive fees) we preferred to fly down to Son Bonet (in Mallorca island), which landing fee is less than 7 euros, no handling contracting is required and there is free parking for a stay below 2 hours.

We filed the flight plan on the phone with Menorca airport (at this time the number for flight plans being: +34971157138). On ground, we were already connected to the frequency of Menorca and right after take-off we were cleared to turn West and cross the axis of the airport in our way to the West corridor which took us to the South coast of the island up to the cape and lighthouse of Artrutx.

From Artrutx we flew over the sea towards the bay of Pollensa (making use of its VOR), in Mallorca, and then we flew within the inner side of the island following the road from Alcudia to Mallorca by way of Inca. When leaving Inca we passed with the frequency of Son Bonet (123.5) around which English is mainly spoken as there are quite a few helicopters flying in and out. Finding the aerodrome coming from the road was trivial and we easily integrated into the circuit for runway 23.

At Son Bonet we paid the landing fees (~ 7 euro) and filed the flight plan at the small office by the parking. We refuelled (~3.05 euros per litre of Avgas 100LL) and had some lunch before the long  flight to Toulouse.

Find the Garmin record of the flight here.

Son Bonet (LESB) – Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL)

Flight duration: 3h04’.

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Once we were ready at Son Bonet, we got on board and departed from runway 23 again, took a right turn to the West during the climb to fly North of Son Moix on the way to Esporles to reach the coast of Tramuntana in order to fly along it up to the cape of Formentor.

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In the past, we had visited several spots along the way of this coast on the ground. The landscapes are remarkable. This time we wanted to get a view of them from the plane, which was breath-taking.

Once we reached Formentor we took a heading to the North and followed another series of IFR waypoints (KENAS – SULID – AGENA – NEMUM) to reach the East of the above mentioned VOR of Bagur, cape of Creus and enter back into French air space. This time, as the weather was clearer than during the first flight of the excursion, we maintained 5500 ft altitude until we had exited the TMA of Carcassonne.

Find the Garmin record of the flight here.

Some general remarks:

All the navigation logs were again prepared using the tool Mach 7, and during the flight we used the help of the AirNav Pro on the mobile phone (no tablet, though it would be easier). For Spain we had 1/1.000.000 chart from AIR MILLION (Editerra) and the 1/500.000 from Rogers Data. Neither of them has the IFR waypoints marked on them, so you need to write them down yourself in advance.

VFR aerodrome charts in Spain are retrieved from the site of ENAIRE, which in my opinion is less user friendly than the French equivalent. The charts themselves are comprised of too many different documents to handle; it is better to have a simple single PDF of 2-8 pages s in the French case for VFR. On top of that, not all small aerodromes have the information in ENAIRE, try googling about them or contact the local club.

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Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. D-Day.

Today, June 6th, we commemorate the anniversary of the Normandy landings during World War II in 1944, what is often referred to as D-Day.

A few weeks ago, we visited “Omaha beach“, one of the beaches where Americans landed, which you may have seen as, along with many documentaries, it was staged in the film “Saving Private Ryan“. The beach is about 6 kilometres long and extends through different villages. And it is not the only beach where Allied forces landed, as there were Americans landing at Utah beach as well, together with British landing at Sword and Gold beaches, more to the East, and Canadians at Juno beach.

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The Germans had fortified the hills, built barracks, installed obstacles in the beach and planted thousands of mines.

The landings, part of the Operation Overlord, code named Neptune, started at 6:30am, and they continued for weeks. Just on D-Day Allied forces counted 10,000 casualties with over 4,000 confirmed dead, with similar figures in the German side.

After the first days, a bridge, “Mulberry” was built to offload vehicles from boats coming from the United Kingdom. Some days during the summer up to 24,000 men or 3,000 vehicles crossed that bridge. An aerodrome was built uphill to evacuate the injured. The original bridge was brought down in the following winter by strong sea tides. Today a relic has been built, with some of the original concrete blocks visible in low tide.

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Today, there are several monuments along the beach, one of them Les Braves Omaha Beach Memorial. It is a sculpture that symbolizes wings of hope, freedom, fraternity.

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In front of it there is a monument to the 1st US Infantry Division. It has the following inscription engraved in it:

No mission too difficult.

No sacrifice too great. Duty first.

Forced Omaha beach at dawn 6 June.

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By the monument visitors leave candles, flowers and some written notes. Most of them stand by in silence watching the vastness of the beach, thinking of the sheer numbers of people involved in the operation and what awaited them, praying for their lost ones. Occasionally a bus comes with veterans, relatives of soldiers who fought there, you name it, and trumpet plays Taps.

Nearby, a panel reminds the lyrics of the song “Remember Omaha” by Jean Goujon.

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Château de Chenonceau

During our last Christmas road trip, we made a stop by the Château de Chenonceau, one of those castles of the Loire valley that stands out among the rest and which we had wanted to visit it on ground since we flew over it in 2015.

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As the brochure of the visit tells, and the different panels along the rooms and corridors let you grasp, the Château de Chenonceau is a Ladies’ castle, due to the several women that left a mark in its configuration and history.

The first castle did not cross the river Cher, and was located at the small island between the gardens, where today stands alone the Marques tower (see the aerial view below), built after the castle was burnt down to punish the Marques family, the first proprietors of the castle.

The Marques family facing problems, the chamberlain of the king, Thomas Bohier and his wife Katherine Briçonnet, maneuvered to get in possession of the castle, which they started to rebuild to their taste, used if to host French nobility and to project an image of themselves.

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They adopted common initials (TBK) that they displayed around the castle.

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They created an aspirational personal motto while building the castle: “S’il vient à point, me souviendra” (i.e. if I get to the end of this construction, I will be remembered).

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Years later, in 1535, being the castle in possession of Bohier’s son, it was taken by the king Francis I (to cancel out unpaid debts). After his death, his son, king Henri II gave it as a present to his mistress Diane de Poitiers in 1547. It was Diane who built the bridge to join the castle with the opposite river bank, and it was that move that started to make it unique.

At the death of Henri II, her widow, Catherine de Medici, forced Diane to exchange Chenonceau for another castle, the Château Chaumont, and made Chenonceau her favourite residence and a place full of intrigues for the years to come. She closed the bridge into a gallery (multi-storied), she added several rooms and bedrooms, made gardens more magnificent, gathered art collections and hosted parties.

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Ever since, the castle was to be linked to French royal family and later French nobility. There is a telling name of the power of the running family, that of the “Five Queens’ Bedroom“, named after Catherine de Medici’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law:

  • Daughters: Queen Margot (wife of Henri IV), Elizabeth of France (wife of Philippe II of Spain),
  • Daughters-in-law: Mary Stuart (wife of Francois II), Elisabeth of Austria (wife of Charles IX) and Louise of Lorraine (wife of Henri III).

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Once a widow, after her husband was assassinated, Louise of Lorraine, would retire herself to pray at the castle. A room would be decorated in black, being that another of the landmarks of the castle, under restoration at the time of our visit, though.

Further women would contribute to the enlightenment of the castle in the following centuries, renovating it, bringing in artists and writers such as Montesquieu, Voltaire or Rousseau. It even played the role of hospital where over 2,000 injured were attended during Second World War.

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Belén Monumental de San Lorenzo del Escorial

La semana pasada aprovechamos nuestra estancia en Madrid para acercarnos a San Lorenzo del Escorial para pasear con los niños.

En fechas navideñas el Escorial cuenta no sólo con el impresionante monasterio y su lonja como atractivos para dar un paseo, sino con el tradicional Belén Monumental realizado por los voluntarios de Mariano Pardo, “Pardito”, que llevan 21 años realizando dicho Belén, y que forma ya parte del folclore cultural de la Sierra en estas fechas.

En esta entrada quería dejar una serie de fotos de la visita.

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Fachada oeste del monasterio.

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Nacimiento.

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¿Herodes?

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Soldados romanos.

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Gladiadores.

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Biga.

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Río, molino, patos…

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Poblado.

 

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Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau

A few days ago, we visited the villages of Baarle-Hertog (Belgium) and Baarle-Nassau (The Netherlands). I tweeted a short thread about it that you can see below:

Briefly:

  • The village is divided between Belgian and Dutch exclaves in a very intricate border, including several exclaves which are no more than a few houses or a farm. The Belgian part of the village itself is an exclave in The Netherlands, a few kilometres from the border (such as Llivia from Spain within France, or Treviño of Castile within the Basque country in Spain).
  • The borders were defined in the Maastricht Treaty in 1843. In 1995 a commission clarified the borders.
  • There are marks in the ground that show where the border goes, indicating which side belongs to which country. The panels of the streets or the numbering of the houses also help you to locate where you are.
  • There is a bike route which takes you through the different border lines.

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Once I tweeted that thread, the beauty of Twitter made it that a friend, Miguel, referred me to a series of posts about that village written by the blogger Diego González who hosts a blog about borders.

On top of that, I had taken the idea to visit that village from yet another retweet from another friend, Pablo.

You can see in that tweet below the different posts (in Spanish).

 

 

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Kilkenny

Kilkenny is a small town of about 24,000 inhabitants by the river Nore in the province of Leinster. The city is best known by its Castle, built by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (Wales), at the turn of the XII to XIII centuries on the location of a previous fortification built by his father-in-law Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (of the 1st earldom creation), better known as Strongbow, one of the leaders of the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170.

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The castle was later purchased by James Butler (3rd Earl of Ormond) in 1391 and would be the Butler’s family main residence for the following 6 centuries, until they left it in 1935 and in 1967 was sold to the municipality for 50 pounds.

The castle went under a strong restoration which sought to re-build most of the rooms to what they would have looked like at some points in their history. Today, the castle is open for visits. At the basement, the foundations from the XIII are still visible; other than that, the castle resembles more a XIX century palace, with dining rooms, halls, a library, a “Chinese” room and the large picture gallery with its wooden ceiling, fire place with marble from Carrara, etc.

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Picture gallery.

From the visit, I took the following takeaways more or less linked to Spain:

  • The “Moorish” staircase, created by the architects Deane and Woodward, which resembles very much to the style seen at constructions in Cordoba, Sevilla or Granada.

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  • The tapestries. Several tapestries, located at the tapestry room and at the picture gallery, show the story of Decius Mus, a Roman consul in 340 BC who sacrificed himself through the ritual of devotio to allow for the victory of his army at the battle of Vesuvius. After 300 years in display, the tapestries needed to go through some conservation work, which was entrusted to the Real Fabrica de Tapices in Madrid.dsc02336
  • The Butler gallery at the basement of the castle offers space to contemporary art. In it there is a collection of the posters of some prominent artists for whom an exhibition was organized, one of them the Spanish Antoni Tapies, in 1992.

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Other than the castle, another highlight of Kilkenny is St. Canice’s Cathedral, the second largest in Ireland, after St. Patrick’s in Dublin. It was built in the XIII century at the location where St. Canice had built a small monastery back in the VI century. The cathedral has a typically Irish round tower, with the uniqueness that this is one of the only two in the country that can be climbed to the top.

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Some of the main attractions that can be found inside the cathedral are several tombs of the Butler family, an archive with the names of all the Irish who lost their lives in the World War I, or the stone throne of St. Kieran.

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Kilkenny was as well for a decade, 1642-1652, the seat of the Irish Catholic Confederation, or the “Confederation of Kilkenny”, which following the Rebellion of 1641, established itself as a self-government, until the conquest of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell (1649-1653).

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Stone marking the place were the Confederation Hall stood.

During the visit, after having walked through the lively High, Parliament and St. Kieran streets, I went to look for Tynan’s Bridge House, a pub established in 1703 where I wanted to have taken a beer. I found the pub, but closed.

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… and talking about beer, it is in Kilkenny that the beer Smithwick’s is brewed and the brewery can be visited, though I didn’t. Smithwick’s was acquired by Guinness in 1965. We visited Guinness brewery in Dublin some days later (I may write about it one day), which is a giant museum but lacks the artisanal touch that I experienced when visiting Bowmore whisky distillery in Sctoland. I wonder whether at Smithwick’s that would have also been the case.

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Nore river.

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Black Gate.

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Rock of Cashel

Cashel is a small town of about 4,000 inhabitants, in the county of Tipperary, on the way from Kilkenny to Limerick, which is dominated by the Rock of Cashel, a eclesiastical site on the top of a hill which was once the seat of the over kings of Munster, ever since the Eóganacht, the descendants of Eógan Mor came to prominence around the 4-5th centuries AD.

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Conall Corc, a descendant of Eógan Mor, is said to be the founder of the Cashel kingship and according to the tradition St. Patrick baptised the grandsons of Conall Corc at Cashel in the 5th century AD.

Replica of St. Patrick's Cross.

Replica of St. Patrick’s Cross.

Today, the Rock of Cashel is a historical site that can be visited in about an hour. The entrance is 7 euros (free if your B&B happens to have a voucher, ask for it).

The main historical constructions remaining are the round tower (from c. 1100), Cormac’s chapel (consecrated in 1134, though at the time of my visit it was under restoration and not open for visit), the Cathedral (from 1270), St. Patrick’s Cross (from 12th century) and a replica of it in the garden, and the Hall of the Vicars Choral (from the 15th century).

Original St. Patrick's Cross.

Original St. Patrick’s Cross.

Round Tower.

Round Tower.

Cathedral.

Cathedral.

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The views of the surroundings from the Rock are impressive, as impressive is the view of the Rock as one approaches it from the bottom of the village, especially from the “Path of the Dead” connecting the Rock with the R505 road at the south-west of the hill. I discovered this path during my early morning run before sunrise, this allowed me to enjoy the view of the Rock with the first rays of light of the morning sun. A nice experience.

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Finally, another highlight that I wanted to have visited in Cashel was the Bolton Library collected by the archbishop Theophilus Bolton from 1730 to 1744. The library was recommended in the guide and according to a local brochure was the finest outside of Dublin, including works by Swift,  Dante, Calvin, Erasmus, or Machiavelli. The pity is that since a couple of years ago the library is not anymore housed in Cashel, as the building didn’t meet the best conditions for the preservation of the books. Today the books are conserved at the University of Limerick.

Bolton Library.

Bolton Library.

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