Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The @GreenpeaceUK anti-fracking campaign comes to Westminster

Do you remember the huge campaign against fracking in
Lancashire last year? The local council voted not to allow fracking companies into their county, but David Cameron's Tory government are set to ignore that decision.

Today, Greenpeace have brought the reality of fracking right to the doorsteps of those politicians. I received the following email from them this morning:

"As you read this, a team of Greenpeace volunteers are fracking Westminster. We've built a 10 metre high drill rig – and we’ve put it slap bang on the doorstep of Parliament in London. We've barricaded ourselves in. And we're planning to stay here all day.

 LIVE BLOG: We’ve fracked Westminster

Today we’re making ourselves clear: If government ministers think we'll quietly stand by while our towns and communities are put at risk from fracking, they've got another think coming. We don't need this dangerous and destructive industry. And we won't accept the sneaky tactics the government is using to force it on us. At the same time that we're bringing fracking to the heart of British politics, people on the front line are pushing back too. In Lancashire, where public opposition to fracking is overwhelming [1], it looks like government ministers could give the industry the go ahead -- even though the local council has already said no to drilling. If fracking firms get their way in Lancashire, it could fire the starting gun for a dash for gas across the UK. That's why it's vital we defend councils that block fracking -- and let government ministers know how much of a mistake they’re making if they try to force fracking on us against our will.

The fracking rig we've built today isn't real, but the threat the industry poses most certainly is. We must keep working to expose the risks -- and make sure Lancashire, Yorkshire, Sussex and everywhere else in between stays frack free. The good news is that when people learn the truth about fracking, their support for it immediately drops [2]. People power has kept fracking firms at bay in the UK for almost 5 years now, so let’s keep giving this everything we’ve got.

Thank you,

Richard, Greenpeace UK

1. https://www.foe.co.uk/news/14000-people-call-frack-free-lancashire
2. http://www.edie.net/news/10/DECC-survey-The-more-people-know-about-fracking-the-less-they-support-it/29710/

Monday, 8 February 2016

Walking Tarragona for street art and sculpture

I love walking around new-to-me towns and cities. I believe
Gaser mural near the Modern Art Museum 
it is the best way to really get a flavour of my surroundings and I get to see so much more detail than I would zooming past in a car or on the bus. Tarragona is a particularly compact city so perfect for exploring on foot and the narrow stone streets of the Old Town don't even encourage cycling. As we arrived on a Saturday afternoon and most of Tarragona's historic sites and monuments are closed on Sundays and Mondays, we have had lots of time simply wandering which is great. I am enjoying my time here immensely. The Spanish street artists are wonderfully talented and I love discovering all the different styles and subjects.

This mural of a domino playing man is near to the Modern
Gaser mural near the
Modern Art Museum 
Art Museum (which we haven't visited yet. It's not open on Mondays.) The mural is signed by Gaser who is a known local street artist. A second, partner mural is just around the corner and depicts another man listening in on his neighbours.

I don't know the artist for the below image of jelly baby style figures climbing up the side of their building, but I love the idea. The figures are painted in such a way as to make the building appear to have three-dimensional steps or terraces. I am not sure if this effect comes across so well in my photograph as it did standing in the street below and gazing upwards. In reality the painted wall is perfectly flat.

We looked inside the Cathedral yesterday. It is a beautiful
Mural inside Tarragona Cathedral 
structure, as probably should be expected, and I was surprised at the expanses of pale coloured stonework inside. Small chapels line each side, one of which had these preserved medieval paintings. It must have been amazing to have seen the works when the colours were still new and vivid.

One of the most famous painted facades in Tarragona is this building painted on the end of a building by Carles Arola. I was reminded of the similarly fantastic yellow building that we saw in Lyon. Arola has murals exhibited all over this region and was also responsible for painting the outside of the temporary Municipal Market here while the hundred-year-old Market is renovated.

Carles Arola building 
Two sculptures caught my eye yesterday. The first was this
Thales by Lluis M Saumells 
elongated gold-coloured bronze figure by Lluis M Saumells which is three and a half metres tall and was created in 1976. It is entitled Thales. Saumells has other public sculptures in Tarragona including a tall tree-like piece that I just caught sight of in a Plaza. Having looked through his website, I see there are also sculptures in Cambrils and Salou so I will have to look out for those when we return to Camping Llosa.

The 'building' of castles out of human bodies is a traditional skill around here although we haven't actually spotted it happening yet. There are photographs in all the tourist offices though and we saw this bronze representation yesterday. It looks ridiculously dangerous! The sculpture is entitled Als Castellers. It was created by Francesc Angles in 1999.

Als Castellers by Francesc Angles 
We saw more Castellers painted on a bollard today as well.
Castellers bollard 
It was one of a whole street of differently painted posts and I think was the work of a number of artists because the styles changed as we walked along.

There is a section of the Old Town which has a suddenly strong artist vibe. Several of the houses looked like they might actually be artists' studios, however, because it was Monday today, all the doors were closed up so we couldn't see what was going on inside. The doors themselves were interesting though because they are predominantly heavy dark wood which has been intricately carved with natural or geometric designs. Maybe we will get to go back around tomorrow when we explore some of the historical monuments and the artists will be out in force as well.

Painted bollard street 
The last fun mural I saw today was this fun example of children playing. It was created by Marius Arts.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

We LOVE Tarragona Carnaval!

It's been a fabulous day today! We spent most of the day
Tarragona Carnaval 2016 
walking the city and I will blog about its wonderful street art and sculpture tomorrow. However tonight has been all about the Carnival parade. Sunday evening has the Best of the Best parade which consisted of tractor-drawn decorated floats blasting out deafeningly loud Spanish and Cuban music, with a few amazingly costumed dancers on each float. Then following each float were dozens more dancers performing choreographed routines as they slowly progressed through the streets. The rhythms were infectious and I was soon wishing I was dressed up and dancing along with them.

My phone wasn't really up to the job, but here's a selection of its photographs to give you a flavour of the celebrations.

I found someone has already uploaded videos of tonight's parade to YouTube. There's several, each showing a different group, so I will just include this one and you can click through to watch more if you want!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

We've got a superb @Airbnb apartment in Tarragona

Half of our party - ie Dave and I - have arrived in the
View from our Tarragona terrace 
beautiful Tarragona attic apartment that will be our home from home until Wednesday. Dave's daughters' flight should be leaving Gatwick any minute now. Our train from Cambrils was almost punctual and its journey time was only about fifteen minutes. Five minutes walk at this end, which included a very welcome outdoor escalator alternative to a steep flight of steps, brought us to the Pani Pizza place that occupies the ground floor of this building. We are five floors up so have extensive views across the city - to the Cathedral in one direction and out to the sea in the other - from the spacious terrace. Hopefully a couple of sunny afternoons or evenings over the next few days will allow us to sit out enjoying the ambience over a glass or two!

Our host, Elena, met us in the apartment to show us
Love this apartment! 
around. She is lovely and speaks excellent English. We chatted a little about travelling and her visit to the Edinburgh Festival. Elena's apartment doesn't feel like a rental. There are tasteful curios everywhere, lots of books and CDs, and it feels wonderfully spacious after the caravan (sorry Bailey!). Two bedrooms and a comfortable foldout sofa bed mean no one should feel like they're roughing it. Plus Elena has kindly left us lots of supplies for teas and coffees, soft drinks and a locally produced Vermouth, and enough breakfast food for a couple of days! There's even oat milk in the fridge which is perfect as Carrie doesn't do dairy.

Now we just need to convince ourselves to leave the attic and get out into the city. It's Carnaval weekend so there will be processions and fireworks, fabulous costumes and lots of noise. Dave can't wait!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Joan Miro in Montroig and the Ermita Mare de Deu de la Roca

Chris and Marta drove us all the short distance from
Cambrils to Montroig del Camp yesterday so we could all take a look at the Joan Miro museum, enjoy a very well priced lunch, and head out on a walk to a most precarious Ermita.

Joan Miro first went to Montroig in 1911, recuperating from illness brought on by harsh working conditions as an apprentice. His family owned an estate near the village and Miro soon came to love the rural lifestyle, returning there every summer for sixty-five years. A museum in his honour, the Centre Miro, was opened in the disused church of St Michael in 2004. It displays a number of reproductions of his locally painted works along with relevant artefacts and a video interview with the artist himself. As the building itself dates from 1194, it is also interesting in its own right and has a beautiful ceiling and rose window.

Centre Miro costs €3 for adults (€2 for pensioners) and is
Miro painting model 
certainly worth this much! It doesn't just have Miro. At the moment there is also a fascinating section dedicated to photographs of the barraques which are five restored stone-built traditional huts. The craftsmanship needed to build a barraque is amazing. My favourite displays were the wonderfully detailed models. There are half a dozen three dimensional recreations of Miro paintings lined up in the foyer. One is pictured here and I liked it because it includes a row of intertwined tomato plant canes which, we learned, were Miro's inspiration for his often used star motifs. Another large model actually inside the museum showed the whole village, complete with details such as vegetables growing in little allotments and washing hung out to dry on roof terraces. One street surface was even covered with a replica of a Miro design - we also learned that his famous bold abstracts are reproduced in coloured wood shavings along Montroig's streets during their annual Miro festival.

Montroig village model 

The tallest building in the above model is the new church
Mural inside St Miquel 
dedicated to St Miquel Arcangel de Mont-roig del Camp. We were lucky to be passing the real version at a time when its doors were open so took the opportunity to look inside. It's fabulously decorated yet remarkably restrained by Spanish Catholic standards. There was hardly any gilt and the altar statue of St Miquel was made from natural wood. Most of the walls are covered with murals all showing religious scenes, but with the people painted in a very modern style. A cross-shaped stained glass window had large panes in solid colours - pinks and blues, which produced a stunning effect on the inside walls and the overall atmosphere was tranquil and serene.

After a €9.50 all in Menu Del Dia lunch, we were almost too
Ermita Mare de Deu de la Roca 
stuffed to attempt walking to the Ermita Mare de Deu de la Roca. In the photo to the right you can see it as the white square perched at the very edge of its rocky outcrop! It didn't feel a lot safer once we were up there! The walk from Montroig only took about an hour and was mostly a reasonably gradual incline along the New Road. The rocks are a stunning red colour, the colour from which the town takes its name, and I was intrigued by their curved erosion patterns where water has flowed through in the past. The effect is almost like that of a sponge and is said to be a possible inspiration for some of Gaudi's architectural creations.

Montroig red rock 

Once up at the Ermita and its sanctuary, the views out across the Costa Dourada and out to sea are spectacular. Our luck also brought us a remarkably clear non-hazy day. I am pleased with this photo of Dave taken from the Ermita entrance patio. There is a flight of stone steps in front of him, but it appears that the cliff just falls away!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Seeing a giant sickle and learning to change an MR11 lightbulb

I bet you have never seen a sickle as big as this one which
Estela Falc by Enric Pladevall 
is situated just outside the old walls of Cambrils? It's actually a prize-winning sculpture, created by Enric Pladevall and entitled Estela Falc. Estela Falc won first prize for Sculpture In Public Places in 2005. The work harks back to Cambrils agricultural heritage and commemorates the siege of the town by Philip IV in 1640 - the lower part of the blade is planted in the ground and its almost closed circle symbolises the encircling troops. In my photo here you can just see the edge of a stone archway behind Estela Falc. This is important evidence of the wall which surrounded Cambrils since at least the fourteenth century. The wall was built with stones from the nearby river bed, bound with lime mortar, and this gateway is now the only one still preserved.

Cambrils historic wall and gateway 
We had walked from Camping La Llosa past the railway
Window in Cambrils old town 
station from which we shall travel to Tarragona on Saturday, and through the weekly market - lots of clothing and a few local produce stalls - to reach the old town. It only covers a small area and is an atmospheric mix of narrow streets, huge wooden doors and occasional peeps into beautiful cool courtyards. The local authority has installed information plaques outside particularly significant buildings including one town house used annually for the storage of the festival giants. Cambrils festival is this weekend so we might catch some of it on Friday and Saturday morning - Tarragon festival is this weekend too! I loved street details such as the coloured glass bottles in one window display and a series of tile images depicting local work and industry which surrounded a water tap.

Cambrils suffered during the Spanish Civil War and
reminders of this time are still displayed in the town. Right-wingers were persecuted during the early months of the war, then opposing forces were victimised in later years when Franco's forces gained the upper hand. Carrer Mn Isidre Fabregas is named for Father Isidre Fabregas, the rector at Santa Maria, who was detained on a prispn ship moored off Tarragona along with many of the La Salle brothers. Many of these detainees, including Father Isidre, were killed purely for their religious beliefs.

On a lighter note (pun intended), how about a variation on the changing a lightbulb joke? How many Bailey caravan owners does it take to change the bulb in the MR11 spotlights? It turns out to need quite a few of us! My bulb blew yesterday (yeah, yeah) and we could not figure out how to remove the bulb so have been googling today. We certainly aren't the first to have needed advice! Successful advice was to slide two dinner knife blade tips in through the horizontal slots, one from each side, and press downwards. The bulb then easily pops out. Obviously make sure the light is switched OFF before attempting this manoeuvre.

And finally, I have been guest blogging again! Today my
Top Ten Books of 2015 post has been published on the A J Bookreview Club website. If you missed it here, please do click through and take a look. I can almost certainly guarantee book choices that you won't find on any other blogs!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A new campsite and superb cycling from Cambrils to Salou

So we made it to Spain and our new campsite is Camping
In El Pla De Les Serenes 
La Llosa at Cambrils. It's a good site by Spanish standards although I admit to being disappointed on arrival because of the close-packed gravel pitches and leafless trees. A bit bleak after Camping Casteillets, but the sun was shining, the skies were very blue and we were able to sit outside soaking up the warmth until well past 6pm - so I soon cheered up! Pitches here are actually pretty generously sized and marked by hedges which helps create an impression of privacy. Narrow lanes make manoeuvring interesting though and significant kerbs meant we almost couldn't get onto a pitch at all. For some as-yet-unknown reason, our leisure battery had completely flattened itself en route from France so we had had no motor movers. Plus our good friends next-door had surreptitiously buggered off. We managed to use the car to get Bailey out of the lane and basically just parked up - at a nice jaunty angle - until said friends returned and helped push! Fortunately we had no trouble with the mains electric and the kettle worked just fine while we waited!

Our new pitch 
Pricewise, Camping Llosa is €17 a night, but if we stay 15 nights we only need pay for 12. There's a remarkably new sanitary block with huge shower cubicles and very hot water. Wifi is €10 for 15 days with a good signal. And we have a keycard on a lanyard which gives us quick pedestrian access to the beach. We can just about see the sea from our pitch!

We haven't walked there yet. Instead we dusted off our bikes this afternoon and took advantage of the fantastic cycle path which runs along the beachfront promenade from Cambrils to nearby Salou and beyond. It's only about 7km each way, practically flat and almost entirely traffic free. The Spanish do wide promenades so well and I wish we had similar facilities in British seafront towns! Most of the route has cafes and restaurants on the land side. They were mostly closed today, but Chris said they had all been open and packed at the weekend. It is February here after all!

We both loved the massive In El Pla De Les Serenes which
In El Pla De Les Serenes 
was created by David Callau Gene and unveiled in 2011. The colours show better in the first photo at the top of this post and that is how we initially saw the sculpture. It's actually the back view. Commemorating the centenary of 'a year of misfortune' in 1911, the figural group comprises of two giant mermaids at the back with three fishermen in front of them. At the very front, and facing back to the others, is a child seated on a pedestal. The mermaids symbolise goodness and storm, sweetness and tranquillity, and the Sun and the Moon. The child represents the present and the future. We also spotted Torre de Port, a tall seventeenth tower which used to be a lookout post. I hope we might get to see it closer up at a later date.

Torre de l'Esquirol 
Another tower we passed was this Torre de l'Esquirol. Nothing to do with squirrels(!), it is a nineteenth communications tower constructed for the optical telegraph. Apparently it is one of the best conserved towers in the Spanish State and comes under the care of the Cambrils History Museum. We plan to walk into the old part of town tomorrow to look around more of the historical sights and maybe even visit the weekly market.