Category Archives: Travelling

Glendalough

The first stop I made in my trip to Ireland last week was to visit Glendalough (Gleann Dá Loch, meaning “Valley of two lakes”), in the county of Wicklow, where there is a monastic settlement dating from the Middle Ages, when it was founded by St. Kevin.

The entry to the settlement it’s free and several routes are proposed to visit the place including some walking trails (from 1 to 11 km) around the lower and upper lakes.

Some structures from the X to the XIII centuries remain today, such as the Gateway (unique in Ireland due to its two stories and double arch), the Round Tower (with over 30 m of height and an entrance at 3 m to protect it in case of attack), and the Cathedral.

Gateway

Gateway

Round Tower

Round Tower

Cathedral of St. Peter and St Paul.

Cathedral of St. Peter and St Paul.

On the way to the upper lake, it is found the Deer Stone (where St Kevin would have fed some infants with milk from wild a deer), St. Kevin’s Cell (small circular structure where he retired to pray and meditate) and Reefert Church (Righ Fearta, the “burial place of the kings”, where members of the once important O’Toole family would have been buried).

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Deer Stone.

Lower lake.

Lower lake.

St. Kevin's Cell.

St. Kevin’s Cell.

Reefert Church.

Reefert Church.

Reefert Church.

Reefert Church.

Upper lake.

Upper lake.

Leaving on my way to Kilkenny, I still had time to enjoy the views of the valley and find some other ruined churches along St. Kevin’s Way, a pilgrim path that starts at Hollywood and crosses the Wicklow Gap to arrive at Glendalough.

Wicklow Gap.

Wicklow Gap.

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The previous night I stayed at the Trooperstown Wood Lodge just a few kilometres from the monastic site and more than recommended. The lodge is run by the same people who manage a nearby restaurant, The Wicklow Heather, which not only serves great food and has a good atmosphere but it’s decorated around Irish literature, especially its “Writers Room”, where customers may discover some of Irish authors and its writings.

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In the morning I went for a short run from the lodge across the river and nearby forest, in the southern part of the Wicklow Mountains. Thus, you can imagine that the complete experience was wonderful and I can only recommend to visit the place.

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Kronborg castle and Hamlet

Kronborg castle.

Kronborg castle.

Last August I went together with my daughter Andrea on a trip to Denmark to visit my sister Beatriz, who lives there. Among the cultural visits that we made, we decided to go to the Kronborg castle, in Helsingør. This is known as well as the “Hamlet castle“, referred to in Shakespeare‘s play as Elsinore.

This year 2016 is the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, which happened on April 23rd 1616. A series of activities are organized along the year and across the globe to commemorate it. As you can imagine some of those activities take place at the Kronborg castle, therefore in this year, once in Denmark, the visit of that castle was a must.

The visit was superb:

  • There were several actors impersonating the different characters of the play. You would find them at different spots of the castle.
  • There was as well a stage put in place at the courtyard of the castle where in the evenings Hamlet is played (this year produced by Peter Holst-Beck). During the day, the actors were rehearsing the play. An extra of the visit then was to watch some passages of the play. In fact, one exhibition at the castle displayed some of the many renowned actors that have played Hamlet at Kronborg along the years.
  • Other activity included the performing of a puppet show at a room in the castle, together with the characters of the king and the queen (similar to the Act 3 scene 2 of the play).
  • And, of course, another performance consisted of an actor impersonating Hamlet, skull in hand at the ballroom of the castle, acting his lines “To be, or not to be: that is the question…”

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It was certainly a great visit which I strongly recommend, as for DKK 90 (or about 13 euros) you will spend a very entertaining couple of hours.

Hamlet, the play

hamlet_bookAt the end of the visit, my sister and I bought copies of the book Hamlet at the castle shop: an edition by Christian Ejlers which includes some pictures of the tapestries with images of different kings of Denmark that can be found in the castle.

A few days after we concluded the trip, I started to read the book, which with 135 pages and despite its difficult old English language it reads in a few hours (spread in a few days in my case).

The plot of the book is rather well-known (no spoiler here): Hamlet’s father, the previous king, has recently died and Hamlet is profoundly affected by his death. A ghost of his father appears to him and this sets Hamlet into the search of who has killed his father.

I wanted to share some passages of the book that called my attention:

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,

Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;

Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,

Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,

And recks not his own rede.” (Ophelia to her brother Laertes)

 

“And these few precepts in thy memory

See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Not any unproportioned thought his act. […]

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;

Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement. […]

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry…” (Polonius)

 

“Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.” (Hamlet)

 

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; […]

ay, there’s the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, […]

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover’d country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make us cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sickled o’er with the pale cast of thought, […]” (Hamlet)

 

“Let me be cruel, not unnatural:

I will speak daggers to her but use none;

My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites; […]” (Hamlet)

 

“[…] May one be pardon’d and retain the offence? (King Claudius)

 

“[…] your fat king and your lean beggar is but

variable service, two dishes, but to one table; […]

A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a

king, and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm. […]

Nothing but to show you how a king may go a

progress through the guts of a beggar” (Hamlet)

 

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:

Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” (King Claudius)

A classic, a short book, at times quite entertaining and intriguing, even if it requires some effort, it is a must read, strongly recommend. May be in your own language or a version with a more modern language (I later picked up a Spanish version that I found at my parents’ which was much easier to read… and you could clearly see that translations were not literal).

Let this post be my particular homage to the figure of William Shakespeare in this 400th anniversary.

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Museu do Futebol (São Paulo)

Referring to the different waves and streaks that football teams experience, the Argentinean Jorge Valdano made popular the sentence “A team is just a mood (1).

The Football Museum (Museu do Futebol) at the Sao Paulo‘s municipal Pacaembu stadium is an invitation to go through those moods, re-live some of those past moments anchored in the collective memory, by way of recorded sounds, cheering chants, radio excerpts of goals narrations, videos and interviews about the most important goals of Brazil history.

el-maracanazoYet, in my opinion, the most impacting mood, very well caught in the museum, is the transition from euphoria to depression, from music to complete silence, the tragedy of the losing the last match of 1950 World Cup between Brazil and Uruguay. A match that Brazil just needed to draw, started winning, yet lost it. The Maracanazo. In just 90 seconds, in a dark room you get submerged into the happiness of the day that would see Brazil win the first of many World Cups at the newly built Maracanã and then how the mood at the stadium changed with the first goal of Uruguay, then the second and at the end the final whistle from the referee.

Nevertheless, no matter how impacting the Maracanazo was for Brazil and football history, and how well captured it is at the museum, it would be unfair not to mention that in the museum there are many other very positive and happy moods of Brazilian football captured very well, too. If I went to think of Brazil, I would first think of happiness, football, music, dance; and those are experiences that accompany you along the museum.

The museum itself is centered around Brazil’s national football team, the only one which has won 5 World Cups to date, the country which practically at any point in time has one of the best 2 or 3 players of the World, the country of Pelé, Garrincha , Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Zico, Romario, Tostao, Rivaldo, Rai, Djalma Santos, Didi, Pepe, Gerson, Carlos Alberto, Rivellino, Socrates, Cafu, Bebeto, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar… you name them.

DSC_0323The visit starts with a room where some players are picked as the most important to Brazil’s history; some images and biography of each one of them is offered.

The following room is dedicated to the goals, the main ingredient of the game. The 30 most celebrated goals in Brazil’s history are recorded and narrated by the authors or journalists (in Portuguese, English or Spanish). Several interactive screens are available for visitors to go through the different goals. There are also some desks where to listen to radio narrations recorded at the time of some of those goals.

See some of them in the video below (2).

The following rooms are dedicated to recordings of the chants of all the main teams competing at the Brasileirao; to Charles Miller, the man who introduced football in Brazil; and to a collection of pictures the years in which football was introduced in Brazil, showing life in Brazil at the time.

DSC_0326The largest space is dedicated to the World Cups, all of them, not only the ones won by Brazil. Some context of the society, cultural movements and events going on at the time are shown, together with images of the Brazilian team competing at the championship, the winners, some charismatic players and vivid images of the competition. That is another room where to wander with time enough to be captivated by the evolution of football, the players and events of the times.

There is another space dedicated to the couple Pele and Garrincha: with them playing together in the field, Brazil never lost a match (out of some 40 joint appearances). Some personal objects, pictures and videos of their best tricks are shown.

The last rooms are dedicated to football rules, some statistics, women in football and the chance to try a penalty kick against a featured Julio Cesar, where your shot’s speed is measured (and then compared to a Roberto Carlos’ shot).

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(1) “Un equipo es un estado de ánimo”.

(2) The video is unrelated to the museum but contains some of the goals among those 30.

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Montolieu, “village of books”

Yesterday, I was referred via a tweet from my friend Javier to an article about a village in Spain, Urueña, a village with more book shops than bars. I strongly suggest the reading of that article (here, in Spanish) as the village seems to be wonderful, a destination for a future trip to Spain.

The article refers to a couple of other such “Village of Books”:  Wigtown (United Kingdom), Tuedrestand (Norway) and Fontenoy-la-Joûte (France). This reminded me of another village of books in the South West of France which we visited last November, Montolieu. What best occasion than to share some lines and pictures about Montolieu than today April 23rd, the International Day of the Book.

In fact, it is interesting to know that there is an International Organisation of Book Towns (see here the article about it in the Wikipedia in English and French – more descriptive). There are about 40 such villages, a couple of them in Spain, some 7 of them in France; the first one to become such a Village du Livre in France was Bécherel, the second, Montolieu, in 1989.

Montolieu 1Montolieu is located some 20 kilometres North from Carcassonne in the Aube department (1), and it has about 800 inhabitants, 15 book shops and a museum about book making (Musée des Arts et Métiers du Livre). We visited a few book shops, made some purchases, walked around the village and had a traditional lunch over there.

However, when we visited the village it was almost winter time, freezing, and the village was nearly deserted. I imagine that Montolieu is best visited in spring or summer, in order to enjoy lunch in a terrace and longer walks between the book shops (not all were open in last late November).

Until we come there again, I leave some pictures from that first visit.

Montolieu 2

Montolieu 4

Montolieu 3

(1) It is also just 5 km South from Saissac and not far from Lastours, two other small villages in the region with nice castles. See here a post I wrote about a flight excursion we did over the Cathar castles with some pictures of them.

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Flight excursion to Rocamadour and Saint Cirq Lapopie, via Montech and Moissac

Rocamadour is a small village built in the gorges of a tributary to the Dordogne river. Several of its houses, churches and shops are partially built within the rocks. With about 500 inhabitants it receives 1.5 million of visitors per year, making it one of the most visited places in France and a major attraction for pilgrims, who among other things come to see a black Madonna in a chapel in the rock carved by Saint Amadour, hence the name of the village.

On the way to Rocamdour, flying from Toulouse there is Saint Cirq Lapopie, a small village built on a cliff over the river Lot. Both Rocamadour and Saint Cirq Lapopie are two of the most beautiful villages in the Midi-Pyrénées region and an obvious destination for an excursion, on the ground (which we did years ago) and flying.

Last Saturday, my father in-law and I booked a plane (a DR-400-120) at about 14:10 to fly over those places. In the way we would fly over Montech, to see the “Pente d’eau” from the sky (1), and Moissac, to see the Pont-Canal du Cacor, a bridge over the river Tarn made to allow the canal Lateral (an extension to the canal du Midi) to continue its course towards Bordeaux.

The flight would be over 175 nautical miles (over 320 km) and would last almost 2 hours with the integration to the aerodrome circuit, though in the end we spent 2 hours and 10 minutes with the rounds we made around the different spots. The navigation went rather well with no other help than the chart, compass, heading indicator and VOR (no GPS nor tablets). We had some doubts at a couple of points but we quickly found ourselves, once with the help of the controller.

Navigation log.

Navigation log.

This was the first flight in which we used the GoPRO video camera that I got last Christmas together with the suction pad to stick it to the windshield. With it we were able to have over 90 minutes of videos recorded that I have tried to shorten into the following 7 minutes:

At some points in the video the ground below seems to move slowly: we were flying at between 180 and 200 kilometres per hour, but at some 1,500 to 2,000 feet (500-700 m) above ground that is the way it feels. Be assured that the closer you get to the ground the faster it feels :-).

In the chart below you can see the route we followed: departure from Toulouse-Lasbordes (East of Toulouse), waypoint EN, Labastide-St. Pierre, Montech (South West of Montauban), Moissac (West of Castelsarrasin aerodrome), St.Cirq Lapopie (via Cahors) and Rocamadour (North West of Figeac).

Chart

Lastly, some pictures with the images of both villages and the flight log as used after the flight.

St Cirq Lapopie.

St Cirq Lapopie.

Rocamadour.

Rocamadour.

Rocamadour.

Rocamadour.

Navigation log as used after the flight.

Navigation log as used after the flight.

(1) See here a post I wrote about it.

(2) Actual engine running time: LFCL-LFCL: 2.17 FH (2h10′, with the aircraft registered as F-GORM, with an engine powered with 120 HP) (taking off and landing from runway 15).

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Santos, Pelé and the Memorial das Conquistas at Vila Belmiro

Santos is a port city about an hour drive from Sao Paulo, crucial for the development of the coffee industry in Brazil and the inflow of slaves from Africa in the XIX century. But Santos is mainly known today because of the Santos football club. The Santos football club is known because it was there where Pelé played for the most of his career. And Pelé…

Pele“My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is.” Ronald Reagan (at a visit of Pelé to the White House)

In my third trip to Brazil, I wouldn’t let it pass away the opportunity to rent a car, drive from Sao Paulo to Santos and visit Vila Belmiro, the stadium of Santos FC and the museum “Memorial of the conquests” (Memorial das Conquistas).

Named the “Athlete of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee, Pelé joined Santos when he was 15 years old  (in the museum you can see his first contract as professional) and in his first complete season he finished as top scorer of the league with just 16 years. At age 17 he scored 58 goals in the league; a record that still stands today… With Pelé, Santos went to win:

Today, Santos it is neither the team with more Paulistas championships (Corinthians (27), Palmeiras (22) and Sao Paulo (21) are ahead in that ranking), it shares the lead in Brasileiraos with Palmeiras (both with 8), it is not the club with more Libertadores cups (8 teams are ahead in that ranking, led by the Argentinean Independiente (8), Boca Juniors (6), Peñarol (5)… including Brazil’s Sao Paulo with 3) nor is the American club with the most International Cup (Peñarol, Boca Juniors and Nacional de Montevideo won 3). And despite of all that, the club Santos was declared by FIFA as the best club of the XX century in the Americas (4). Because it was in Santos where Pelé played, and with him the team reached the summit in the 1960s when it lived a dream decade, the years of Os Santásticos who achieved 25 titles between 1959 and 1974. Santos, according to FIFA was the first team to reach the 10,000 goals scored and has plenty of other goal records (5). It was in that Santos that Pelé was the first attacker reaching the mark of 1,000 goals scored (6).

Those days are long gone. Nowadays the club, Santos, wanders around the 100th position of the World Best clubs (7), struggles in the Brasileirao (ending between 7th-9th in last 3 seasons) and most great players are continuously sold (8). However, Vila Belmiro still captures very well the essence of the good old times.

field

Vila Belmiro, or rather the Urbano Caldeira stadium, was built in 1916, close to the port of Santos. It is a small stadium with capacity for barely 17.000 spectators. Thus, for some important matches Santos plays in the bigger stadiums of Sao Paulo (mainly at Pacaembu (9)). Nevertheless, it’s a cozy stadium, where you have a good view of any spot of the field from anywhere. I liked especially the boxes at ground level named after the great players of the history of the club (10).

The tour of the stadium included a visit to the locker rooms (each locker in the local team room named after the club’s legends, with a special spot for Pelé), the tunnel to the field (well separated from the visitor’s tunnel, each at a different corner of the stadium), the field, the benches.

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An anecdote for Spanish football fans: in the corridors at field’s level a poster with the following sentence from the Spanish football commentator, Julio Maldonado, can be seen:

“Silencio… juega el Santos”, Julio Maldonado, “Maldini” (Silence… Santos’ is playing)

Silencio

I definitely recommend the visit to the museum and the stadium. You will be submerged into the history of football for a couple of hours (if you chose to read everything) for just 13 R$ (about 3 euros).

FIFA

(1) Arguably the most important of Brazilian states’ tournaments.

(2) Competition founded in 1959.

(3) Created in 1960, is the South American equivalent to the then Europe Cup and nowadays’ European Champion’s League.

(4) The award was based on a vote by the subscribers of the bi-monthly FIFA World Magazine (see here). For the record, with over a 42% of the vote, Real Madrid was elected as best club of the century.

(5) The goal 10,000th was scored in 1998 (the club was founded in 1912). In the museum there is a digital counter updated with each goal scored. At the time of my visit it was above the 12,200 mark. For comparison, Real Madrid had scored about 8,800 goals in official competitions only up to January 2015.

(6) Pelé holds the Guinness World Record for being the player with most goals scored, 1,279.

(7) See here the 2015 IFFHS club world ranking.

(8) Unlike Pelé, who in 1961 was declared as a national treasure in order to prevent him from being transferred to richer European clubs.

(9) At the municipal stadium of Pacaembu there is another museum, the Museo do Futebol, which I also visited and about which I may write at a later point.

(10) I only referred to Pelé in this post but in Santos played at some point in time as well: Gilmar, Coutinho, Clodoaldo, Carlos Alberto (the latter two were part of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup final roster), and most recently Robinho, Ganso and Neymar.

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Flight excursion to Najac

I discovered Najac literally by flying over on the way to Villefranche des Rouergues (LFCV) during a flight lesson with my instructor back on July 17th, 2014. That day, when I came back home, I immediately told Luca: “we have to go on an excursion to Najac“.

We did.

Back in April 2015 we made a weekend excursion doing a night stop over in Najac and visiting other nice villages (mainly) around the Tarn river. Luca wrote two nice posts about them with plenty of bright pictures: Najac and Route verte (including Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Puycelci, Bruniquel and Saint Antonin Noble Val).

Time passed, and I got my private pilot licence last November (1) and for the first flight with passengers (Luca and Andrea) we decided to go again to Najac.

On the way to Najac we would fly by Cordes-sur-Ciel and on the way back we would partially follow that route verte by St. Antonin de Nobleval, Bruniquel, Puycelci… basically the same trip but up above in the air.

The flight would be short, as estimated when preparing the navigation. It would take about 57 minutes of flight time plus around 10% to take into account the wind, some more minutes for the integration back in Lasbordes… about 1 hour and 10 minutes (2).

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Find below a view of the chart to have an idea of the circuit:

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Let me share some pictures of the villages and a video taken by Luca:

Family picture at Lasbordes.

Family picture at Lasbordes.

Puycelci.

Puycelci.

Cordes-sur-Ciel.

Cordes-sur-Ciel.

(1) As described here “My path to the private pilot licence (PPL)“.

(2) In the end it took 1.37 engine hours (or 1h22′), a bit more than estimated… due to  departing Southbound and not having found Cordes-sur-Ciel straight away plust some time spent in circling villages.

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El Bait Shop, the best bar in America (Des Moines, Iowa)

Today’s Iowa caucuses made me remember some anecdotes of a trip we made five years ago which took us through Iowa. I already wrote a post about the visit we made to the Iowa Aviation Museum, but I had not yet written about El Bait Shop, arguably the best bar in America.

After driving all the way from Chicago, we stopped for the night of Thursday 28th April 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa. While changing clothes in our room at the Rodeway Inn motel, by the interstate 80, I went through some flyers and recommendations for tourists. One caught my attention: “the best bar in America” (1).

Some minutes later we left for Des Moines downtown and after some driving and walking around we looked for the bar, which wasn’t easy to find. Once inside the first thing that catches your attention is the amount of beer taps, 180!

El Bait Shop 180 beer taps.

Some of El Bait Shop’s 180 beer taps.

The bar itself is comfortable, with a very good service, quite cheap and with nice music. After receiving some tips from one of the waiters we decided to pick a couple of “beer flights” to taste some 12 different beers (accompanied with some food) (2). See below the flights.

Beer "flights".

Beer “flights”.

El Bait Shop offers many more beer options than the 180 that are in the taps. They change the beers on the menu on a monthly basis, continuously incorporating new brands. You can check the menu today, and you can see below the menu in April 2011.

I want to call the attention on the fact that most of the beers on offer, almost all, are brewed in America, by small breweries producing all kinds of varieties. When you read in the menu “German Hefeweizen” you do not see Paulaner… you see brands from Oregon, Texas or California. When you see “Belgian Ales & Belgian Style Ales” only 3 out of 22 on offer come from Belgium.

The experience was great. A nice surprise in the middle of a road trip. That’s serendipity.

(1) When reading the tip I also thought that the claim might be overrated. Not so after visiting the bar. I invite you to Google “best beer bar in America” or something similar, I bet you’ll find El Bait Shop among any top bar list.

(2) No need to mention that the beer flight I took was “Flyin’ High”.

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Corrida Camarguaise (bullfighting / toros)

Hace unos meses viajamos a La Camargue, y en particular al pueblo Saintes Maries de la Mer. En esa visita tuvimos la oportunidad de asistir a una corrida de toros, pero a una “corrida Camarguaise“, que es diferente a una corrida de toros “andaluza” (como dicen en Francia).

Durante la corrida hice una serie de fotos y videos que se pueden ver más abajo para entender mejor el breve resumen de las cosas que percibimos, aunque estoy seguro de que no llegué a entender todas sus particularidades.

En una corrida camarguesa, no hay un matador, ni banderillas ni picador. El toro no muere. De hecho se parece más a lo que en España llamamos concurso de recortes; aunque tampoco es igual, es mucho menos vistoso y espectacular (al menos la que tuvimos la oportunidad de presenciar).

En la corrida camarguesa que presenciamos, un pequeño grupo se enfrenta al toro por turnos. En este caso eran como tres recortadores (raseteurs), vestidos de ropa deportiva (no un traje de luces), que por turnos partían en carrera para pasar por delante del toro, y si tenían la oportunidad hacerse con uno de los trofeos que lleva el toro en la sien, entre los cuernos. Estos trofeos son pequeñas cintas de papel, que el raseteur debe coger en carrera con la ayuda de un garfio.

Corrida camarguesa en Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Corrida camarguesa en Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Por cada trofeo que cojan, el raseteur obtiene una puntuación y un premio en metálico. Ese premio depende de las aportaciones de los negocios locales y asistentes a la corrida, que financian la fiesta. De hecho, durante la corrida, hay un locutor que va anunciando los nombres de distintas empresas y la cantidad dineraria que aportan. Al cabo de unos segundos el locutor indica en cuanto está la suma en ese instante. Conforme la suma aumenta mayor es el incentivo de ser el primero en coger los trofeos.

Además de los 3 raseteurs (pueden ser más), estos estaban acompañados de un equipo de ayudantes (peones) que tenían como misión el llamar al toro, orientarlo y posicionarlo en el ruedo. También el ganadero tenía su labor. Puede ser porque la barrera en esa plaza fuese de menor altura de la que tienen las plazas en España; el hecho es que el toro saltó varias veces la barrera y corrió por el pasillo entre la barrera y la grada. Entonces, era el ganadero, el que, con la ayuda de una vara, reconducía al toro a una de las puertas de acceso a la plaza.

En resumen, un espectáculo curioso, con un cierto parecido a un concurso de recortes.

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Running in the Incles’ valley (Andorra)

Last weekend, we took the opportunity of July 14th being a national holiday in France to make a short 4-day trip to Andorra. We selected Andorra, in the middle of the Pyrenees Mountains, in order to escape from the hot weather of Toulouse.

On Saturday and Sunday we did some activities including trekking, but with Andrea being just below 2 years it was difficult to cover any meaningful distance.

As I always do, I took my running gear in the suitcase just in case. And on Sunday evening I decided to go out for a run on Monday early morning…

Beginning of the run / trail, at 6h40am.

Beginning of the run / trail, at 6h40am.

… I woke up at 6am, quickly dressed, ate a toast, some orange juice and took the car to go from our rented apartment in El Tarter to the beginning of the Incles river valley. From there a short 3-km route (“easy”) departs to the end of the road CS-270 where the “bar d’Antoine” is located. The previous day we had done that stretch by a touristic electric bus, and it was that hop that triggered the idea. I parked the car and just equipped with the running gear, a baseball cap (Oakland Athletics), a 400mL plastic bottle of water in one hand and a photo camera in the other, I went to complete that Incles’ valley route followed by another one “Lakes of Siscaro” (“medium”) and back.

In all it was just over 13.3km, with about 800m of positive climb (an average slope of +18% in the last 3.8 kilometres to the summit), reaching up to 2560m, leaving the Siscaro lakes (at an altitude of 2325m) behind to complete the climb up to the mountain ridge to see what was at the other side. It took me about 1h20’ to climb (the 2 routes estimated at 45’ + 1h45’) and 1h10’ to come back, in all 2h27’. I made several short stops to take pictures, videos, talk to a Frenchman who was enjoying a morning sandwich at the top of the climb and to take a refreshing bath at one of the lakes in the way back.

Climb elevation of the run.

Climb elevation of the run.

Map of the Incles valley.

Map of the Incles valley.

On the way up, I only saw a man waking up at the Siscaro refuge (~2140m) and the above-mentioned Frenchman at the very top. Other than that the experience was running and climbing for almost 7km alone in the mountains just listening to the water, birds and some other animal, while watching to the changing colours and lights of the dawn. It felt a little bit like the character of the movie “Into the wild.

At some point climbing at ~7h30am.

At some point climbing at ~7h30am.

On the way down, apart from falling twice, it was much lighter if not easier. I crossed paths with several fully-equipped mountaineers who at about 9am still had ahead of them some 3 to 6 hours of trek (if wanted to complete the same route than I did).

View at the other side of the ridge.

View at the other side of the ridge.

When I got back to the parking lot at the bottom of the valley, I changed t’shirts, drank from a bottle of water I had left in the car and felt like “when is the next such solitary mountain climb?”

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P.S.: Finally, I just wanted to share this video I made for a friend, Maicol, just before taking a bath at the lake.

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