Day 13 - La Garrotxa

Today we headed inland to the area of extinct volcanoes known as La Garrotxa. The route took us round the north of Gerona and past Besalu (which we visited some years ago, and we simply drove past slowly so that Kim could see the mediaeval bridge etc).

Largely on a new motorway we climbed into La Garrotxa over bridges and through tunnels, pausing at Castellfollit de la Roca to see the small town perched on a cliff. (Actually we drove past on the motorway and turned back through the town when we realised what we were missing). We passed the Museum of Sausages on the way.

We pushed on to Olot, the main town of the area, which actually has 5 volcanoes within the town itself. We managed to park in a narrow street behind the tourist information office which promised to stay shady due to the height of the buildings on either side. The tourist office itself was situated within an impressive building - I think it might have been an old monastery and these were the cloisters - so big there were 3 levels. Although there was a covering over the top, this was originally roofless, reminding Meld and I of the many buildings we saw in Seville which contain an open courtyard.

First stop after the Information was second breakfast from a bakery - we'd got Wi Fi, now we have a Pa Fi (Pa being Catalan for bread).

On the wall of the church opposite (Sant Esteve - or "Uncle Stevie's Church" as the girls renamed it) were some ancient bosses.

Following a route advised in the tourist office, we passed through Placa Major...

...and some interesting architecture...

...before climbing up towards Volca del Montsacopa, the volcano nearest the town centre.

The climb is accompanied by the Stations of the Cross.

Across the crater you can see the "Ermita de Sant Francesc" or "St Francis' Hermitage". Sadly neither it nor the two watchtowers (said to offer excellent views) were open, presumably on health and safety grounds).

On the rim we ate the (now well-deserved) cakes we'd bought at Pa Fi.

The views over the town were stunning.

On the wall outside Sant Francesc was this bas relief celebrating liberty.

And so the descent began, on a newly cut path with wooden steps interspersed with volcanic rubble.

Unfortunately the volcanic rubble was rather loose and Meld managed to slip and land on top of her leg, which grazed on the stones. We did our best to clean her up and get her down to the car again where we could do a proper first aid job.

On the way down we passed the Passeig d'en Blay, tree-lined with tables set out by many restaurants in their shade.

We then drove out of the town towards the village of Santa Pau, passing some interesting landscape features on the way.

Just short of Santa Pau we stopped at a parking area for some lunch, then Meld and I walked up to the nearby Volca de Santa Marguerida. The route was well marked by official and unofficial signs.

The local sheep strove to find shade - it didn't feel that hot (we must be getting used to it) but the sun was still strong.

This is the view across the crater. I descended to the chapel in the centre (locked, predictably) before returning.

Whilst the others drove on to Santa Pau, I walked the couple of miles, passing a winemaker's delight - an elder tree heavy with berries.

I also passed the Volca de Roca Negra - I think you can see where it gets its name.

And so to Santa Pau, an interesting huddle of old buildings around a castle and church.

Almost all of the houses have inscriptions above the door - seems to be a traditional Catalan thing.

We then continued on a twisting road back to Banyules before rejoining the main road back past Gerona to Pals, on which we saw this interesting variation on the Catalan protests against the M.A.T. (there were similar protests against the T.H.T in French Catalonia). We're not sure, but we think THT stands for Tres Haut Tension (and MAT for Muy Alto Tension) and the protest is about a proposed very high voltage power link through Catalonia. Anyway, we liked the idea of the Catalan donkey kicking down the pylons.

And so, via a manic supermarket to collect food for supper, we returned to Camping Neptuno, dined, and slept.