Posts Tagged ‘horses’

Road Trip Part 3 – The Final Day


On the last day of our trip I suggested that instead of visiting Marseille  we spent it wandering around the small historic island which sits in the middle of the river in Martigues.  So my Navigator thinking  a day of gentle strolling around,  cafes, Romanesque churches, archeological digs etc., decided to go ‘girly’ put on a dress and dressy sandals then we set off.  On the way into town Driver to Navigator: “you look nice think we’ll go to Marseille for lunch”.  Now you would think this wouldn’t be a problem but she had changed into sandals that were not meant for walking round a city, they were only meant for short walks like from car to bar then back to car,little did we know she had hit an ooops moment…..   So we  arrived in Marseille to find a built up city very touristy and nothing like I had imagined it would be, why I was both surprised and disappointed I don’t know but I was.


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On arriving in Marseille we parked in the underground parking which is quite something to behold.  There are several levels, all underground,  but despite this they are well lit, clean and surprisingly airy.  Returning to the surface via a lift we found ourselves in a vast open area and facing us was one of the grand ornate churches.  On the side bordering a small basin is the museum and art gallery.  Clean and modern with various exhibitions happening both here and in the old renovated defence turret.  Even this was an experience as they have linked the two with a walkway out over the wáter.

The theatre is a modern cantilever construction which hung over a small pond lit at night by coloured spot lights.  The church is quite a focal point no matter where you are in the square, by looking under the cantilever  part of the theater in the evening you view the church through the coloured lights.

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I first viewed Marseille when Rick Stein was cooking here. The inner harbour had small fishing boats with a few yachts here and there, now it totally yachts with a small free ferry to take people from one side to the other, to me it felt like something was missing.  Each side of the yacht marina is lined with bars and restaurants, all vying for customers.  What I had wanted to do was to sample the bouillabaisse for which Marseille is famous.  But although we looked at several restaurants I didn’t fancy any of them, perhaps it was the smell, it really was a hot day.

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Anyway we took the ‘road train’ or ‘chug-a-lug’ as we call them round the old part of the town. Unfortunately there isn’t much of that left and what there is was spoilt by cars parked in streets that were basically just wide enough for passing.  The ‘Artisan’ quarter didn’t hold much either so we were rather disappointed, still the Chug-a-lug ride was interesting and saved my Navigators feet.


By this time the Navigators feet were beginning to hurt rather badly, so we found a café along the shaded side of the basin and stopped to enjoy a refreshing beer. By now it was getting on so we decided to return to the car and the hotel, so I slowly wandered back with my Navigator hobbling along beside me.  This ended in a dash to the chemist for foot plasters and her nearly being run down by ‘cops on skegways’  well at least they were having fun.  The return was simple and after a shower, rest, drink and change of shoes I decided that on our last night there  we should have a meal in town. We went to one of the water front restaurants and enjoyed a typical French fish menu.

Next morning after a good breakfast we set off for home. No detours this time, it was as if the car knew the route so by 4pm we were sitting in a bar in town enjoying a beer and tapas.  Then off to the shops for food and finally we arrived home.  There is nothing like your own bed!!!

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and have a few more in mind, but not sure if I like one or two of the Navigators ideas  the Alps are ok, but by car in mid Winter????  brrrrrrr……..

(c)   Michael Douglas Bosc




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The Road Trip Part 2

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Ok, story so far: We have arrived in Martigues tired, hungry and feeling dirty from travelling.  So after booking into the Ibis motel and taken a much-needed shower we went down to supper, enjoyed a couple of stress relieving drinks then went to bed. We were woken by the noise of the traffic, now you have to remember that we do not hear any traffic noise at home so what was normal city noise to most of you was loud to us, but it was a good thing as we were able to have breakfast and get an early start.  We headed for Port St Louis which is one of the “gateways” to the Camargue.

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Now this is the place we were originally heading for. It’s a nice little port with a wide promenade and yacht basin and two hotels one at each end of the promenade.  As you can see from the pictures Michael is still fond of his boats, and headed along the pathway by the marina looking at the boats.  We also found the small market where local fishing boats sell their catches, very modern and run by the fishermen’s cooperative.  The boats, yachts and fishing boats were all intermingled including the lifeboat, with the visitors pontoon along the main edge of the promenade, as we sat in the shade of a bar drinking a fanta this one turned up.

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After our walk round Port St Louis we headed for the ferry to cross the Rhone. This is one hell of a wide river and the ferry is obviously  a very popular crossing. There was quite a queue and very busy even taking the odd lorry.  It cost us 5 euros to cross but the experience was well worth it as you can see from the pictures the Rhone is wide enough for large shipping.

Once on the other side we turned right as the map (yes we had one the tourist office was very kind) and headed out in to the Camargue.  Now I have always had this image of the Camargue as being marshy with lagoons filled with wild Black Bulls, White Horses and Flamingos.  In actuality we could not see much of anything in places as the canes and rushes were so high they blocked your vision.

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So our first sight of the Flamingos came suddenly when we came out into a clear part which gave us views of the lagoons. Off to the right was a large lagoon filled with Flamingos but a bit too far for our camera to get a good shot. This made the Navigator a little bit miffed so off she went along this little path that led to a fenced off standing space nearer the lagoon and got her picture. Not as clear or near as she would have liked but a little further on we had better luck. Here there were pull in’s for cars and coaches and as you can see the Flamingos were used to tourists as they carried on feeding despite the oos and ahhs from a coach load of Japanese tourists. Off went my Navigator  to take her pictures returning a happy soul. But although we had travelled quite a way we had seen neither Horses or Bulls then our luck changed……

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As I was driving along a tree-lined avenue I spotted some dark animals moving in the fields, we had found the famous Black Bulls.  Obviously we could not get closer but sat and watched as they munched away moving towards the cover of a small clump of trees.  Now all we had to do was find my horses!

First Glimpse

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First Contact

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Kiss Goodbye

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We were driving along when my Navigator said “Horses! Stop!”  so being a well-trained Driver I did as I was told. (really??)  What can I say, it was wonderful seeing them in their natural habitat. I spent a long time just talking to and stroking this wonderful animal, and watching the others enjoying the shade and their meal. One happy chappy had a wonderful day.  But it was not over yet nor had the weather finished with us.

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By now we were hungry so I headed for the coast and the small town of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It’s a pretty little place very popular with tourists and locals alike so we had a job finding a parking space but eventually we found a spot opposite a fish restaurant.  We wandered across and ordered up mussels with a side of chips plus a salad. Boy what a mistakea to makea, oh nothing was wrong with the food it was the amount that floored us.  I was really enjoying the meal when I heard a rumble and looking up I saw the sky was darkening and it began to rain ooops….  you can tell from these photos that my Navigator was trying to ignore all that.

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But we didn’t let it spoil our day we finished our meal and enjoyed our coffees as it poured down. Then we made a mad dash for the car oh these Flamingos? they were outside the restaurant plus this is a close as we got to Flamingos.

On the way back we went through several squalls and managed to get lost in Arles AGAIN….  After taking yet more detours round the area we eventually ended up on the right road and two tired but happy chappies headed for the hotel and bed.


(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc



















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The South Field

I thought  you might like to see one of the terraces we call the south field – for obvious reasons – just to give you an idea of how close the forest is.  We have olive trees over there and old almond trees dotted here and there but also here hidden in the banks of the terraces are nests of Sand Martins, and plants such as wild Gladioli and Orchids.  So as we have enough olives from the trees on our side of the Finca we leave this to nature, the best idea ever. We can sit out on our small terrace under the gazebo on summer evenings and watch the birds and bats diving for the insects ‘ believe me its a darn site safer there than up on the terrace roof, there we get dive-bombed and a swift in full flight goes at quite a speed.  As we have basically left the south field to nature we often see some of the larger birds they like to sit in the old almond trees watching for dinner so we don’t cut them down. Yep you have guessed it we love our birds, pigs, goats and puddytats even if some of them dig the garden up from time to time.


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Happy Retirement to Ramon & Eleanor

 Last week we had lunch at Ramon’s Bar Turu and he told us that he and Eleanor were finally retiring. About time too, they have worked hard in their bar for years and I told him that although I was sorry he would not always be there when we had lunch, I was pleased that they were finally going to enjoy themselves.  We will be sad to see them retire as ever since we came to Cataluña  they have made us welcome. Encouraged us when we went to Petanca competitions happy when we won commiserating when we lost.  The bar is not closing though their two daughters are taking it over so I am sure we will see them from time to time.  Happy days you two go and enjoy yourselves you deserve it.

Then there was that tree….

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I think I told you about clearing a fire break and the pine tree that would not fall down, then finally did.  Well here are the photos to prove it  and yes that is me pickaxe in hand making sure it wouldn’t stand up again…..

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Finally last Wednesday it rained and as is our want we decided to pay a visit to the nature reserve at Flix.  I know you are wondering why do something like that when its raining but hey why not..  Anyway when we got there my wife suggested we drove further on to where the storks were nesting  as we might just see the white horses from the Camargue.   We saw the storks some were nesting and one or two walking around as we were the only people there, but what really pleased me was that right next to the road were the white horses. I have always wanted to go to see them in their natural habitat and after this encounter that is my aim for this year. They are used to keep the marsh land under control and just looking at them I think they are not only doing so but enjoying it as well they certainly looked healthy and well fed.

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They did like the odd handful of grass and I could have stayed there for hours just stroking and talking to them.

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©  Michael Douglas Bosc

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It’s almost the end of October the time when I gird up my loins and visit the local Agricultural Fair. It’s strange really because I have not liked fairs since I was in the RAF and visited Marlborough Mop. Here I walked in at one end with a wallet and out the other without it. But these fairs are different. They are a mix of fun fair, stalls, bars and farming equipment spread out around the streets of Mora La’Nova, and who knows we might just have a go on some of the rides….

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We wandered in and came to this little ride.  We stood and watched it being loaded  “do you want to go on it?” I asked my wife “yes but I want to see what it does first” she said.  Am I glad she did!  As you can see it looks lovely and calm with the arms down, but once it got going it not only went up and round IT BOUNCED!!!! ohhhh I could see us both throwing up.  It was fun for the youngsters they squealed and laughed then a big sigh came as the machine stopped and the lights went out, next minuet it started going again BACKWARDS.. bouncing, spinning in the dark, well we may not have been on there but just watching was fun.

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We went to have a look at the horse shed and this little chap caught our eye.  Although they are all together there is plenty of room and lots of hay in the racks.  None of these horses were undernourished, the one thing the people here are fond of are their horses. In fact I would say they were a little over weight. It’s just that with the wire fence – to stop people being kicked – and a horses bum nudging him he did look fed up.

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There were quite a few makes of tractor on display but I noticed that John Deer did not seem to be represented. Now this is strange as last year they had quite a display.  But then I noticed tucked at the end of the line two Lamborghini’s, the sports tractors of the tractor world? Where are Top Gear when they are needed….

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Just opposite the tractors were the various bits of equipment needed to farm here. Compressors, sprayers, rotivators generators, tree shakers and much more.   I am not sure what the large machine is but as you can see it is rather like and octopus with its 8 arms.

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We walked on and came to some rides we thought we could go on. This was a particular favourite unfortunately we were to big but there was no lack of fun for the youngsters.  One of the rides was mechanical bulls.  Three abreast and could seat around 6 people, it started up moving back and forwards then it gave a lurch and the riders all fell off onto the cushioned floor.  The laughter never stopped. So being two big for the rides we wandered off to the other side and the wine section.

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We visited the hall where dried meats, stalls for household stuff were on display and in the middle of these I found ‘Celler Maset Del Lleo’ and yes I hope to visit.  Then out into the balmy night and the entrance to the wine section.  People were crossing the bridge to this area to buy their tickets – which includes a glass – so they could taste the various wines of the exhibiting Cellers.

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I went to visit Pascona’s stand but unfortunately could not get near enough to talk or take a picture as they were busy selling their reds.

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We could see Batea was in the same situation and were reminded that Gandessa Wine Fair is on this week, so more visits. Such a wide range of wines here.

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Now with the harvest just finishing – due to the cool weather at the beginning of the year – I had visited El’Masroig and learnt they have two new wines for export being launched soon.  So when we arrived at their stand we had to wait as people were busy tasting and buying wines.  It is so nice to see old friends and even better when you find they have won awards. The nuclear plant in Asco had given them 4 awards for their wines, wonderful.  There is another visit on the cards so I am looking forward to that.

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To reach the wine area you can either cross the bridge or, as we did, walk round past the church. Here we found some craft stalls and a few more tractors.  Also spread out along the street were traditional wood burning fires, plus new ones especially for burning the new pellet type of fuel which is made from the husks of almonds and the residue of the olives. Here you also find a small bar with it’s tables and chairs set out in front and across the road next to a stall selling Iberian Ham and cheeses. It was to here we came after walking round and decided to have a couple of glasses of wine whilst trying some of the ham and cheese.

It was fun sitting there watching as people came and went moving the tables and chairs to make bigger seating areas. Once or twice friends would turn up invite others join them at their table. So without hesitation table, chairs and drinks would up sticks and march to join the party, I do love this country.

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After this we decided to head home so took a leisurely stroll back to the car park.  I noticed how few people were around although this large eatery was doing very well. When we reached the car the reason was made clear, when I turned the engine on the clock said it was just past midnight.  So although the Agricola section was shut the fun fair, bars and eateries were going strong.   Here’s to next year.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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As you will be aware I have been waffling on about the fact that it has finally rained, well ok, not waffling more like ecstatic boasting.  Well this weekend was the Agricultural Fira in Mora la’Nova.  We like this fira (yep that’s how its spelt here) it has lots to offer and plenty of rides and side shows for kids both young and old.  So whats this got to do with the weather? I’ll tell you.

On Wednesday it rained, not just any old rain but heavy English on and off showers through the night. I know that because I had some buckets outside and I measured the depth, 4inches a lot of water.  All through Thursday it was grey, dismal and wet, the cloud cover making it dark and feeling like evening.  It continued like this through the day and this was supposed to be the first day of the fira.  It was so damp and cold that we lit our first fire of the year.  If this is an indication of things to come we will be wooding for the next two weeks.  Anyway, Friday was, according to the weather people, supposed to be the last cloudy day till the middle of next week.  WRONG……

I had said to my wife that we would go and have a mooch round late afternoon on Friday, then go again Saturday night as we normally do.  We both looked at the sky and thought if we don’t go now we may not get there at all. So around 5pm we set off for the fira, arriving in time to get a parking spot.   Now this fira is spread around the upper streets of Mora la’Nova with everything a farmer needs to look at on display. Tractors, farm implements, plus cars, the latest in fires, plus the newest thing for burning in them. Not forgetting the cheeses, breads, and of course the wine section.  However, the first place we make for is the shed that containes the horses at one end and ducks, chickens, quail and ornimental birds at the other.  This year there in one of the pens was a foal with its mother, which looked as if it had not long arrived.  The horses looked well and would stick their heads out for a scratch or just to be stroked, I like horses.  Next we had a look at the birds but I am not a lover of chickens and such, mind you there were some really weird looking ones there and expensive.

When we came out of the shed we were opposite the  first rides which were for the youngsters. One was a line of bulls which you sat on then they were moved side to side in the hope you could not stay on, lots of squeals and laughter from those on board. Next to this was a very gentle ride called Formula 1 which took a gentle course up, down and around a small scenic track. We spent a few minutes just watching these two rides no we did not go on any too much pernill and cheese.

We strolled round the streets towards the top of the town where the bars and eating places are. Mind you there were plenty of places to sit and snack or have a coffee.  I say coffee as the place was crawling with Mossoss (state police) NO drinking and driving here.   At the top end there were plenty of smaller versions of the large rides for the children, most of the youngsters seemed to be after the bungy jumping ride. Here they were strapped into a harness then the elastic pulled taut, told jump! and they were away, well they liked it and some were quite acrobatic.

We continued to wander up and down the streets, saying hello to our Spanish friends when we met them, it was a nice evening a little breezy but not cold, and the rain stayed away.  We then bumped into an old Catalan school friend Thomas. Very nice to see him and catch up on things, he looked well and insisted that we sampled  wine, ham and cheese.  I was driving and tried to explain to Thomas that I could not drink – just as some policemen walked past – but he was insistant so I had a small glass whilst Tom and my wife finished the bottle – I was definately driving……

After leaving Tom we wandered over to look at the stalls by the large hall, we did not go in as it was full of building stalls and I have done all that.  But what I did notice was a stand with fires on burning away, but they were burning alternative fuel.   It seems the Co-operativas have found a good use for the husks, shells and olive residue – they have recycled it as fuel for the fires.  Good thinking you might say but they mixed the bits with diesel then press it into small pellets so I am not so sure.  What they were actually selling was a machine to make the fuel. So trying to go green and disposing of unwanted bits and pieces like this is the way to go but using diesel?ummm.  My wife picked up a sample of what was on offer it contained bits if almond and cob nut shells and grape stalks, mind you the fires threw out a lot of heat.  We are going to try something similar out on our existing fire and will keep you informed how we got on.  Isn´t science a wonderful thig.

We then made our way towards the wine area. Just before we got there we passed a bread oven where different types of bread were being baked so we bought a cheese and herb loaf, very tasty. Then we were in the little square were the local Cellers showing their wines. It was nice to see old friends, Masroig was there, as were Pascona, and one or two of the others.  I was able to catch up on things and arrange a couple of visits, the Pascona Celler under Vinter Toni Ripoll is one of my next visits they make purely Tinto vino, I really have to visit that..

On our way back to the car we stopped to watch two very large rides that took you high up then dropped you back down, all lit up with happy screaming young ladies on board, however I doubt if they will be working today.  This morning – Saturday –  dawned grey and dark. Where was the sunshine that was promised? I was beginning to think I would have to put the generator on to help charge the batteries but around midday the sun came out.  However, it is the wind that is so fierce.  It has been roaring down the barank, gusting round the house and generally sounding unpleasant. We did notice when we went out last night that a tree had fallen from the railway embankment so in the back of our car is a saw plus some chain and rope just incase we meet a tree across the track.

I really hope that the wind is not strong enough to spoil peoples fun this evening, this is quite a good fira.  I enjoy looking at the tractors and farm implements whilst my wife likes the artisans stalls plus seeing friends.  As I am writing the wind is whipping past the front door and rattling the shed roof, it’s good here!

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I was writing a blog, enjoying having the house to myself (my wife had gone to a carboot sale) when the phone rang.  The horse blessing is on I’ll come and get you.  So one scrabbled change of clothes,  ok I got dressed,  the car arrived and we set off. 

Now this horse blessing takes place every year in one of the local towns and we never miss it.   We arrived after it had been going for around 15mins so missed the first few carts and carriages, but got them on the next run round the town.  There are carts with huge wine barrels hung on them pulled by three or four horses all decked out in brass and pom poms. They parade round the streets finally ending up by the church where the priest blesses the horses. 

Having seen this before we wandered off from the square looking for the chance to get some static pictures. These are the results and the Ambulance? well they follow the parade just in case and I think they deserve to be in here after all they are horsepowered…. 

Hope you enjoy these.

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