Bodega Biniagual and Mondragó Natural Park

January, 2022

We choose the perfect day for a wine tasting; it is cold, windy and rainy. Finca Biniagual is just a ten minute drive from our little village and situated in the wine-producing Binissalem region. It is a hamlet of 14 houses and a chapel and besides the vineyards, there are many olive and almond trees, sheep and cattle and seasonal fruits.

Nowadays, the wine industry is booming again, after a plague of phylloxera in 1891. This virus destroyed all the vineyards of Mallorca. In the 1970’s vines have been replanted and today, there are more than 65 wine estates on the island. Since 2002, the winery has been producing wine again.

The environment in the bodega of Finca Biniagual is elegant; nice seating arrangements, impressive paintings all around and a relaxing atmosphere. Wine samples are served, together with a description and an explanation, paired with delicious cheese, ham, quiche and tortilla. During the next couple of hours we try to honour the 5 S’s of wine tasting; see, swirl, sniff, sip and savor! What a great way to spend a miserable rainy day!

One of our last outings during this fabulous house sit, is a trip with the dogs to Mondragó Natural Park. It is located at southern Mallorca, in the municipal area of Santanyi. The Park has a surface of 766 hectares, but only 95 hectares are public property. The rest of Mondragó is privately owned land.

The landscape is made up of stoney fields, scrubland, wild olive trees, orchids, Aleppo pines, the rock rose, heather, lavender, almond and fig trees. Many different animals and birds also inhabit the Park. The rocky cliff-lined coast is an ideal nesting ground for the peregrine falcon. Both the rocky landscapes and the many dry stone walls are resting spots for certain reptile species; geckos, snakes and tortoises.

The dogs are on the leash, as some sunbathers found their way to the secluded beaches. Rosie would love to mingle with them! It is just January and already a warm day! The hiking paths are narrow, but the dogs love it. There are enough different smells and views!

Tomorrow will be cleaning and packing day. The owners of Rosie and Margot are returning from their holiday and we have to say goodbye. We will miss the dogs so much, but we hope to return one day!

 

 

 

Platja de Muro and a visit to Port de Sollér

January, 2022

Our intention is to explore Parc Natural de s’Albufera de Mallorca together with the dogs, on this glorious New Years day. According to our travel guidebook, the area is an eldorado for birdwatchers, as more than 200 species of rare birds have been spotted in the wetlands. We, and a few others, are pretty disappointed that the parc is closed, as we are fully prepared for a big hike. At least the beach is on walking distance and the dogs are getting very excited; they smell the sea! Platja de Muro is just an extension of the Parc Natural and it feels like we are on a Caribbean island! Soft sand, blue skies and a turquoise sea. In the summer it will be busy here with sunbathing tourists, but today there are just a few other dogs…..

Later we drive through Can Picafort, which was once a picturesque fishing village, but is now destroyed by ugly apartment buildings. At the far end of the boulevard some sculptures, made by the artist Joán Bennàssar, are overlooking the serene bay. These pieces of cement, mainly women, are goddesses and fairies, who dialogue with nature and the sea. They are distributed in 4 groups and are all located on the beach, along the promenade; desire, ritual, treasure and wound

The next day, we are going to discover a part of the northern coast and the dogs are joining us again for the trip. The Serra de Tramuntana, an impressive limestone mountain range of almost 90 km long, is covering this part of the island. Our plan is to drive to Esporles and from there direction Banyalbufar, both very pretty places! Just before Banyalbufar is a small parking place at the side of the very curvy road and it is also the starting point of a fabulous hike to Port de Canonge. Again nothing is going according to our plans, as the parking place is already occupied by a rough 20 cars. No other possibilities to park the car. Why did we go on the weekend, instead of choosing a quiet day during the week? The dogs are getting eager to go out and we too! We turn around and drive up the hill again and find a small spot behind the bus stop. Here, in the middle of nowhere, on top of the hill, a ruin of a former hamlet is visible. It is pretty spooky, but the dogs love it!

From here we follow the road to another pretty town called Valldemossa, a popular town for weekend outings! The road now turns towards the coast and passes scenic places like Deia. We decide to go to Port de Sóller, situated on a secluded bay with plenty of restaurants and lovely terraces overlooking the beach, the harbour and the lighthouse.

We take the dogs for a walk and they seem to like the ambience! Later we feed them, before they go for a nap in the car, while we have ‘a bite’ in town.

Port de Soller is fabulous and very relaxing! Our hike will have to wait for next time and NOT in the weekend!

Dogs paradise around Parc Natural de la Peninsula de Llevant

December, 2021

We are not the only ones, who are having a great Christmas holiday. The dogs just love to go with us on our day trips and above all they LOVE their Christmas present from the landlord!

Parc Natural de la Peninisula de Llevant is a small hour drive to the eastern side of Mallorca. We park the car at Urbanicació Sant Pere Betlem and hike the trail along the scenic coast until the far end; Es Caló. On one side the sea and on the other side the lower mountains of Puig Todosa.

This area is not very well-known and still unspoiled. On the Punta des Caló, where the trail ends, we find a very narrow path through the bush and arrive on a small and rocky beach. Here the dogs can run and swim! It is just paradise!

Another great area to explore is just on the eastern side of the same Parc Natural and it is called Cala Estreta, Cala Matzoc and Cala Mitjana. The area is great for hiking, very quiet and just nature! A beautiful trip and possible to combine with the ancient towns of Artà and Capdepera. We choose to spend more time on the wild beach with the dogs. Here they can run freely and there are more trails over the rocks and into the back country.

After a couple of hours we drive to Cala Rajada. The dogs are fast asleep in the car and we go for an early supper into town. Along the seaside we find restaurant “Euforia”, where they serve all kinds of delicious tapas. We are sipping our wine and absorbing the view over the Mediterranean Sea. By now the weather is changing completely; suddenly thunder starts together with some heavy rain showers and a beautiful rainbow appears!

After our delicious meal, we walk back to the car and take the dogs for a last stroll. The rain has disappeared and the sky turns into a dramatic painting!!!

A house and labrador sit in central Mallorca

21st of December, 2021

It is not easy to find a convenient house sit during covid times. You need to be patient and be willing to spend a lot of hours on the internet, browsing the house sitters websites. In the end we are rewarded with a great sit of nearly three weeks on the Balearic island of Mallorca. I never visited Mallorca in the past and in my imagination it was just one of those party islands, where nature is sacrificed for huge hotels and ugly apartment buildings. Images of our future house sit showed lushy gardens and panoramic views. When seeing the pictures of the two black labradors, we didn’t think twice!

We rush to the bookstore to get information about hiking trails (Rother guides) and interesting places to visit on the island and are very surprised to discover that Mallorca has many natural parks, scenic roads and historical villages.

In December Covid is still a big issue and we, as well as the landlords, have to try staying healthy! It all works out fine and we even don’t need to get tested! The house is all decorated for Christmas, the fire place works great and the doggies are adorable, so our holiday starts (and theirs too!)

We decide to take the dogs with us in the car on most of our outings. So we can stay away a bit longer during the day, while the dogs are having party time! Our first outing will be to Parc Natural Es Trenc, in the southern part of the island. Just before entering the parc, we pass Salines de Llevant. Several lagoons are nourished by the waters of the sea and later the salt is extracted and gathered into huge piles.

In between the artificial lakes and the 6 km long beach, you will find dunes with all kinds of plants, which are adapted to the salt in the soil. Once on the beach we let the dogs run free. This time of the year only a handful of visitors are present….

Our second trip goes to Cap de Formentor, in the northern part of the island. The peninsula is protected on one side by the Tramuntana Mountains and blessed with some fabulous beaches on the southern side. To reach the east of the peninsula, you have to drive a very curvy road. Don’t forget to stop at Mirador de la Creueta for some fabulous views!

Cala Formentor is our next hiking place. The turqoise sea looks inviting for a swim. Margot, the youngest labrador is afraid of water, but Rosie just loves to jump in!

After our walk and swim, we are driving back to Puerto de Pollenca, a lively fishing harbour. Here we find a great place to eat, right at the water side; “Stay Restaurant”.

The dogs are sleeping in the car, totally exhausted. Later, after we have had our supper, we will take them again for another outing on the beach, before we drive home.

Exploring impressive Chateau de Bonaguil, Puy L’Eveque and Domme

October, 2018

You will find the fortified Château de Bonaquil in between the Périgord and the Quercy, in the municipality of Saint-Front-sur-Lémance. It is a hidden treasure and surrounded by pure nature. My second attempt to reach the castle was more successful. My advise; just go by car and not by feet!

The castle is an example of evolution in architecture. Built in the 13th century, extended and changed end 15th and beginning 16th century. It’s never attacked, thanks to its impressive defence system.

It is a great place to visit, with all different towers, cellars and even a small museum upstairs. If you walk all the way up, the views are something else!

During our visit we also could admire the work of a local artist. The modern statues against the ruins of the castle were an eye catcher……

From the castle to Puy LÉvêque is a nice drive, partly along the river and passing the famous vineyards of this area. The town is situated right on the river Lot and has pretty steep roads going down to the river. If you follow the bridge, you get a nice overview of the old town from the other side.

Frayssinet-le-Gélat is a great gateway for visiting many historic towns and other cultural attractions. To the North, in the Dordogne, you will find another ‘must see’; Domme. It is a famous bastide town, perched high above the river Dordogne on a cliff. Although it is very touristic, it kept its charme and as soon as you start walking along the promenade around the town, you forget the busy centre. While walking you will pass the remains of the fortified walls and the gateways into town, like the Port del Bos and the Porte de la Combe. There is a variety of honey-coloured houses and cottages and amazing views over the river and valley from every corner of the town. For those who are interested, Domme gives the opportunity to visit the caves, which are situated underneath the town.

During my stay in Frassinet-le Gélat, I tried to visit as many places as possible. Too many to mention in this blog. I fell in love with the area, as it has not only beautiful nature and wonderful hiking paths, but also so much culture. Every village or town is a museum and always there is river lingering through the countryside. A place to go back!

 

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and Cahors, other gems along the river Lot

October, 2018

The Lot’s character is formed by its ‘causses’ (limestone plateaux), through which the Lot, Dordogne and Célé valleys have carved their way. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is known as one of the most beautiful villages of France. Tucked away on a cliff, a 100 meters above the river Lot, this medieval village is a must see!

From Frayssinet-le-Gélat, you have to drive first to Cahors and from there it is around a rough 30 kilometer drive along the river; a lovely scenic drive and fairly quiet around this time a year.

Watch your speeding limit when driving in between Espère and Cahors! I got 4 times a fine, as it turned out I was driving 57 km an hour instead of 50! Probably, I was too much focusing on the directions that I didn’t see the 50 km sign! As I drove this road on various occasions, I received different fines for the same stretch…………too bad.

Saint-Cirque-Lapopie is more or less one big museum. Spend your day admiring the medieval houses, visiting the impressive inside of the Gothic church and taking pictures from the upper lookout point! The views over the Lot valley and the village itself are lovely.

There is definitely no shortage of tiny restaurants, cozy terraces and craft stores. In the winter, a handful of artists are the only inhabitants of the village. It must be pretty lonely, as it is quite isolated.

We had a great and very affordable lunch, on a secluded patio at ‘La Terrasse’. Don’t forget to walk to the other side of the village, from where you get a view over the old graveyard.

Best is to combine a visit with a trip to Cahors, but then you need at least two days. I got a taste of Cahors during my second week in France and visited all different corners of this typical French town, which is like a puzzle put together on a peninsula, in a loop of the river Lot.

Cahors is a city of art and history and best known for the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne and the famous Valentré Bridge. The city was founded in Roman times and became an important centre of trade and finances in the Middle Ages. The centre is still intact. The Valentré Bridge was built in the 14th Century and is found on the list of UNESCO World Heritage.

A lovely town to stroll around, feel the French atmosphere and visit Les Jardins Secrets, which are scattered throughout the town.

 

 

Rocamadour, on the route to Santiago de Compostela

October, 2018

One of the neighbours in Frayssinet-le Gelat tells me Rocamadour is not worth visiting. Too many other more interesting places. I am pleased I ignored her advise and drove my car over the incredible small but fabulous road, in between Le Vigan and the place, where 170 miracles happened. I suppose you better avoid this very popular destination in high season, when several buses are unloading tourists and pilgrims on a daily basis. This time of the year is perfect for a visit, with barely any traffic on the road and the sky crispy clear. The best and only way to discover Rocamadour is by foot. Just park the car opposite the tourist information office and start walking on the road, from where you get an unforgettable view over the canyon and the old medieval village, with its churches, chapels and the Château.

We start our tour high up on the cliff, in the gardens of the Château. The interior is not open for the public, but you can walk via the steel bridge, bordering the garden and overlooking the Alzou Canyon. The entrance is 2 euros and you need coins for the machine to open the gate. You better start walking through the gate immediately, as there will NO ticket coming out of the machine (although it says so) and the gate closes right behind your back. A lot of people lost their money! If you are tiny, you can squeeze with two people through the gate in one go! Obviously, we didn’t try…..

Again, I had to push myself up the stairs, although I felt nearly sick of my fear of heights. The panorama is just something you should have witnessed.

From the top of the cliff, we descended over the winding road with the various stations of the Cross. At a certain point we found a small cave, where you could buy nails, and hammer them in a cross, as for protection of the pilgrimage journey. I refused to do such a thing.

 

The curvy and shady road ends where the 8 churches and chapels are draped around a little square. Here you find the Chapelle Notre-Dame with the Black Virgin and also the Romanesque-Gothic Basilica of Saint Sauveur. The beauty of these medieval buildings is stunning.

 

From here the famous 216 steps of ‘The Grand Escalier’ go down to the picturesque main street, where many boutiques and cozy restaurants are overlooking the canyon. Imagine the pilgrims were climbing all those stairs on their knees. Some of them still do these days…….

We leave the beauty of Rocamadour, while walking through one of the four gates. From time to time we stop and look back on the impressive three successive levels of this village above the canyon.P1040870

There is an old local saying;

‘Houses on the river, churches on the houses, rocks on the churches, castle on the rock’…….

In between castles, cathedrals and the french country life.

September, 2018

Nearly two weeks I am staying now in Frayssinet-le-Gelat and just loving it! I am running from one cathedral to the other, discover empty, spooky houses, drive along the river Lot and explore all the hiking trails around the village (where I even spot a deer walking in between the houses).

 

In between I work. On my blog, following courses and loads of other administration. I have to get used to shop twice a week, as there are no supermarkets in the neighbourhood. Constantly, I am out of supplies, so sometimes my meal consists of tomatoes and tuna or cheese and olives. The bakery is closed on Monday and the only eatery in town, called café Le Bourian, closes Tuesday night and Wednesday. If I am touring around and I see a big store, I immediately stop the car and go shopping.

 

While being in France, you should at least once visit a Brocante. It reminded me of the time we lived in Greece, when once a month whole families got in their car at 6.00 in the  morning, on their way to the carbootsale. Most of the time it was held at a big parking spot in front of the supermarket. It was a great way to get rid of old clothes, toys, books and all kinds of rubbish. At the same time it taught the children how to sell their own stuff for the highest price possible and it had a social function; afterwards we spent the earnings in the taverna with other ‘carbootsale friends’. Here in Prayssac it looks exactly the same, but the socializing and money spending starts already at lunchtime!

 

Frayssinet-le Gelat is surrounded by hiking trails, just like all other villages in the Lot department. Only the signs tend to disappear after a few kilometers. At least I noticed, that you are safe following the yellow sign and NOT the yellow cross! The best map these days is my phone; at least it tells me where I am (very important as I get lost everywhere!). One day I discover, that just five minutes walking up the road behind ‘my’ house, there is this ‘château’, totally abandoned. I heard that it belongs to two sisters, one passed away and the other one left. The garden is overgrown and it looks, even on this sunny day, a bit spooky. I try to take some pictures from the other side and would have loved to get through the gates and see it from the inside!

 

I continue my hike into the woods and feel pretty uncomfortable. No other souls walking here, only plenty of mosquitoes flying around and I even more spooky houses present….

 

My speed is increasing and I force myself to keep on walking. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel; I arrive at a road, which leads me back to town. On my return in the village, I have a relaxing moment with a glass of wine at Le Bourian.20180924_175603.jpg

On another occasion, I get in the car to drive to this very impressive castle, just thirty minutes from where I am staying. It is called Château de Bonaguil and according to the map I can reach it via the small village of Saint-Front-sur-Lémance. While driving along the scenic road, I just can avoid a dead deer. Not a nice start, but nothing can spoil my day. The weather is superb again and I can’t wait to see the castle. Just today they broke up the road in the tiny village. In my best french I ask the roadworkers if I can walk to the castle. Oh yes, not a problem at all! So I park the car somewhere in the shade and start climbing the road. I have my water and my biscuits, as always. I follow the signs and the road has a lot of curves and is awfully quiet.

 

The only car which passes, is the car with the same roadworkers coming from the other side!!! Ehhhh? Why didn’t they tell me that there is another way to the castle? Ah well, it is a nice walk, although again I am the only person hiking. The road becomes smaller and now goes through the woods. I see a sign; castle one kilometer. Yes, I made it! Suddenly, there is an open space and wow, the castle is right in front of me, situated high on a cliff. I look at the castle and at the road in front of me; it is going down and down and the curves are going the wrong way. It means that I have to walk up and up again later. This is too much. No clue where I will end up. I decide to go back and will try to reach the castle via another way, but not today! After an hour (going down goes faster), I reach the village again. The roadworkers are still there and I decide to give them a big smile and just rush to my car. At least I did see the castle!!!P1040359