Thursday, 19 September 2013

paco's retreat.

We've been at the little farm of Cathy and James (from Blackpool, near Liverpool and Manchester, so they speak English- yay!) for almost three weeks now...and we haven't even noticed the time slip by. Clearly we are feeling very at home here.

The farm...
It's a little hobby farm in a valley between two mountains- both of which we've climbed, of course- surrounded by olive trees. Also some carob trees (carob is the stuff that health food shops try to sell as 'healthy chocolate'), which we have relieved of all their fruit in order to feed it to the livestock. It's a little hobby farm; it's also a little zoo...there are six dogs (there were 5 when we arrived but another has joined the gang since), around 30 cats, 8 sheep, 4 pigs, chickens, a goat, a pony and a donkey called Paco.

A selfie with Paco
For the past (almost) 3 weeks we have been learning a little about running a tiny farm in the Spanish countryside- everything from building shelves, pruning olive trees and repairing terrace walls to how to go about fixing mechanical problems with machinery when you can't trust the local mechanics not to rip you off horrendously because you are a foreigner (this bit involves not a small amount of swearing)- and immersing ourselves in the layers of history that are everywhere. Those terrace walls we were repairing? About two hundred years old. A patch of olive trees down the valley? One thousand years old. As we walked up one of the surrounding hills today we passed trees and walls that were (speculatively) hundreds of years old and discovered fossilized sea shells from when this valley was the domain of the creatures of the deep. On top of one of the mountains we so effortlessly scaled with all our climbing know-how and general excellence, we found the remains of a village that looks as though it has been abandoned well over 100 years ago but was in fact inhabited until the 1950's, when Franco decided he didn't like the idea of people living in inaccessible communities. There is history in these here hills.

As well as beach visits, a kayaking trip down the river, an ill-fated bike ride during which one of the tyres on Will's bike popped and I spent the majority of the time sulkily walking my bike up and down hills (I love to ride a only non-negotiable condition is that the terrain be flat), a trip to a beautiful and huge lake where we jumped off a bridge and did a spot more kayaking and lots of baked goods- I have been binging on baking while I have the chance-, we have also had a lot of long discussions with James about the state of politics, capitalism, immigration, clean energy, the running of Spain and England and just the world in general, which inevitably end up with us all sitting there shaking our heads and saying "But why? WHY?". Then we usually change the subject to our favourite books or movies or stories from ill-spent youth.

In our spare time we have visited the nearby town of Tortosa, which has seen both Roman and Muslim rule and still has some Roman ruins dotted about. Unfortunately the day we visited was one of the only 2 days it has rained since we've been here so we spent most of our time sitting at a cafĂ©...but that was also nice. The other day we ventured further afield and caught the train up to Tarragona (just quickly, I know we told everyone we were at a farm in Tarragona- we aren't actually. We are an hour south by train and the nearest useful town is called Amposta) and had a lovely day wandering around more Roman ruins and Roman still-standing buildings. The city itself was founded in the 5th century BC and the ruins have been world heritage listed, so it was well worth a good wander around. We were a little disappointed that we didn't get to visit the market though- when we arrived at 9.30 (am) it wasn't open yet and when we came back at 2.30 it was already closed...I suppose you can't stay open too long otherwise how would you fit in your afternoon nap?

Snapshots of Tarragona.
Sleepy, empty Tortosa
Out of everything we've seen and done since we've been here there is still one thing that stand out as the most amazing...during our first week here Cathy and James had some friends from England over and we all went out for an all you can eat, seafood buffet for 9 euro each (it's sounding bad, isn't it?)...and as well as none of us getting food poisoning, the food was delicious! The things you see eh?
Will let me cut his hair...also amazing.

Son of a bee sting...Will got stung in the eye by a bee

 Anyway, as I said, we've been here nearly 3 weeks and are reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that soon we will have to move on. Next week some time I think we will be in Morocco- not that we have really done anything towards getting there apart from decide that's what we might like to do-, enjoying tagine and baklava and lots of glasses of mint tea. But for now there are 6 dogs to pat and a few episodes of Black Books to watch. And some dressing up to do...

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