Palacio da Bolsa

In tourist guide books for Porto, no matter which one you use, of the top 10 sites recommended, 8 or 9 are churches. We don’t mind visiting churches, even the baroque heavily over-decorated ones in Porto, but if you want a break from the church run, try the Palacio da Bolsa. Built in the 19th…

Village on the edge

Siurana was the last Muslim fiefdom in Catalonia. It fell to Christian conquerors around 1150. It sits at about 730 m altitude on a rocky ledge overlooking a deep valley and the Sierra de Montsant to the west. A legend says that when the Christian invaders were closing in, the last Muslim princess rode her…

Solar de Mateus

The Solar de Mateus, near Vila Real in northern Portugal : Famous for the baroque palace and the manicured gardens. Famous for what else ? Rosé wine, of course. Le Solar de Mateus, près de Vila Real au nord du Portugal. Célèbre pour le palais baroque, et les jardins soignés. Mais aussi pour autre chose…

Quinta do Boa Vista

Funchal : Seems like there are a lot of these Boa Vistas around the planet. There is one in Rio de Janeiro for example. But this one is an orchid collection in Funchal, Madeira. A little difficult to find and somewhat run down, the location was the victim of bad winds and rain storms a…

Wet days on the island

Sunny Madeira does not always live up to it’s reputation. When it gets wet, it is very wet. L’île ensoleillée de Madère : sa réputation est faite. Mais ce n’est pas toujours le soleil qui domine.

Ribeira do Pico

Serra de Agua, Madeira : In the Ribeira do Pico valley, farming on hillside terraces is the only way to go. Beacuse : little or no naturally flat land. Serra de Agua, Madère : Si on veut cultiver ses légumes ici dans la vallée de la Ribeira do Pico, il n’y a pas d’autre choix…

Rockpools

On the north coast of Madeira, Porto Moniz : it might be fun to wander through these intertidal rockpools on a nice day when the tide is out, or even go for a swim. But when the ocean is a little agitated, best to stick to the boardwalk or, better still, a nice fish restaurant….

Grédone

The ancient site of Grédone, thought to have been a military strongpoint of the ancient Gabale peoples, is now the peaceful village of Grèzes. Located between Mende and Marvejols in Lozère region, it overlooks the Jourdane river valley below and shares the skyline with the Truc de Grèzes. In most of the Languedoc, a hill…

Tarraco

The Spanish city of Tarragona, south of Barcelona, offers many interesting sights. Ruins and remnants of the Roman city of Tarraco, cloisters, religious art and a few (urban) tractors. La cité de Tarragone, au sud de Barcelone, offre plusieurs coups d’œil sympas. Des vestiges de la cité romaine de Tarraco, des cloîtres, et quelques tracteurs.

A Cistercian barn

Chabrolieres : at the low end of a valley near the Vivarais Corniche, and just before the river flows into a ravine. With a little effort and some navigation, you can end up staring up at an imposing but ruined Cistercian barn. No signposts, no information panels, no real road to get here and no…

Under the Tanargue

The Tanargue : a summit, and a ridgeline in the southern Ardèche, not that high (c 1500 m), but rugged all the same. The landscape of ridgeways, summits, river ravines and sweeping panoramas along with remote villages and bell-gabled churches is a hiker’s dream. Le Tanargue : un massif dans le sud de l’Ardèche, pas…

A stairway to heaven

Escaladei – lost in the Sierra de Montsant, some 150 km southeast of Barcelona – once a magnificent Charterhouse monastery, is now a silent and melancholy ruin. Founded in the 12 century by monks arriving from France, this was the first Charterhouse monastery in the Iberian Peninsula. The monastery played a fundamental role in developping…

Cau Ferrat

Cau Ferrat, the home and workshop of painter, collector and part time archeologist, Santiago Rusiñol, is now a museum. Located in the Spanish seaside town of Sitges on the coast just south of Barcelona, the house was a showcase for Rusiñol’s paintings as well as his collections. The museum, renovated between 2010 and 2014, is…

Poblet

The Royal Abbey of Poblet in the Spanish province of Catalonia was founded around 1150 by Cistercian monks arriving from France. The abbey was founded to rechristianize and resettle lands recently conquered from the Saracens. The abbey is famous today as the burial place of the Aragonese kings. Fantastic stoneworks, gothic ribbed barrel vaults, a…

Avignon 1551

The Basilica of Saint Pierre in Avignon was built in the 1400’s and certain parts were finished as late as 1551. In particular one of the wood-sculpted scenes on the Basilica door was completed that year and depicts various exotic elements in recognition of the discovery of the Americas about 60 years before. La basilique…

Down from the Larzac

In former times, villagers took their livestock to higher ground for summer pastures. Significant work went into building and maintaining the winding trails from the lower valleys to high ground. Not much livestock moves on these trails these days, but they are still used by hikers. In this picture : the trail down from the…

Remote villages and mule trains

Thines, a remote village in the southern Ardeche, clings to an oval space on a rocky out crop dominating the valley below. Until the 20th century there was no road access to this village. All commerce and exchange depended on mule trains. The mule trails are still usable for hikers and this is the only…

Bell gables

In Romanesque architecture the bell gable is quite common. In regions of France such as the northern Gard and the southern Ardèche, romanesque churches are common and hence the accompanying bell gable. Some have 4 eyes, some 3, and often there are fewer bells than eyes. Le clocher à peigne est assez courant dans les…