How Mr and Mrs Country Mouse had been enjoying their Spanish holiday! But they’d spent nearly all of it in towns. Their systems demanded a recharge of the kind that could only be provided by a spell in the country. They drove through rural Cantabria, enjoying the hairpin bends and rugged sights of the Collados del Asón and the Puerto de Alisas. And trees! So many, in forests, clinging to rock faces, or clambering across the slopes….
A couple of hours driving from Zaragoza took us to our lunch stop, Tudela. Sunday lunchtime is not a good time for diligent sightseeing. But it is an excellent time for strolling round a city which has interest on every street. It’s not on a main tourist itinerary, but we’ll definitely be back to explore yet another town where Romans, Moors, Jews and Christians have all made their mark. And storks. Who could fail to be seduced by a town whose every church houses yet another stork family?
Our storks provide today’s tree images. Not a whole tree today, but many hundreds of twigs: without which no self-respecting stork could build a large ungainly nest and raise a family.
And then of course there’s nothing for it but to sit in a pleasant square with a cold beer, mulling over a menu and wondering what to have for lunch.
Zigzagging my way into Zaragoza’s old city centre, I came across, ahead of me, a glass canopy. A market perhaps? But no. It covered Caesar Augustus’ Roman Amphitheatre. I could inspect it quite well from the street, but on a whim, decided to pay the entrance fee and go in. ‘I’ve decided to take your word for it that you’re over 65’, the chivalrous man at the desk said. ‘It’s free for you’.
I was so glad I went. I discovered that this theatre was only relatively recently excavated. It was designed during the 1st century CE for an audience of 6,000 people (in a city of 18,000) and remained in use for some 200 years. When the Romans left, firstly the Moors covered over the site to provide extra housing space in the crowded city centre. Later, it became a Jewish quarter, and when the Jews were expelled in the 14th century, Christians moved in. And so it was until the late twentieth century. I didn’t quite understand why it had become possible to uncover and excavate this site in the 1970s. But I enjoyed exploring, and took pleasure in the unusual distorted views of it provided by the glass windows of the museum which explained the amphitheatre’s history.
Trees and the amphitheatredistorted in the museum windows.
After our stay with the family, the plan was to wander back across Spain to the ferry in Santander, taking in Zaragoza on the way. Then we found out that Zaragoza was quietly sizzling away in temperatures of 37 degrees daily. Sightseeing temperatures? Perhaps not. So we cut our stay down to a single night- long enough to convince us that we must return to this city packed with ecclesiastical architecture, a Moorish past, a Roman heritage, and the works of Goya too.
I’ll show you just one of the city’s must-see sights, the Basílica del Pilar. It’s not even Zaragoza’s cathedral. It’s views like this, conveniently framed by trees, that tell us we must return.
For today’s tree though, let’s look upward. We were enjoying the multitude of swifts which zipped and ricocheted across the sky, just as they had in Premià. And look what’s included itself in the shot. A tree. A small tree – offering some apartment dweller a morsel of shade from that ever-present sun.
My featured photo shows a cooling city centre public garden where Malcolm had a rest as I went off on a small investigative tour, and came across a special site which I’ll share with you tomorrow.
The next town along from Premià is Vilassar de Mar. Emily says it has a hippie, arty vibe, and it’s certainly a pretty little town. Look what took our eye though. Alongside a tree trunk was this: part of a Town Trail for Tinies? We don’t know. We found no others.
When we visited, it had just finished its week long Festa Major, for which the symbol was – a tree.
Still, I suggest you join us for a vermouth in the oldest vermuteria in town, Espinaler, before going for a quiet stroll.
Our first foray from Premià was to Argentona. Nope, we’d never heard of it either. But we found out that Gaudi’s contemporary Josep Puig i Cadafalch had built a house here, and that seemed reason enough to visit. Reader, it was closed for renovations, and this is about all we could see:
Were we dismayed? only a bit. An International Ceramics Fair was in town, and we had fun tagging along, watching the potter in the featured photo, visiting the museum, taking in the sights in this ancient town, and finally, having lunch at an Uruguayan restaurant. Here’s a small gallery, which even features an ancient gnarled tree that really didn’t appreciate attempts to square it off.
We’re going to end our trip to Premià de Mar where we began, in a bar. But this isn’t just any bar. This is Bar del Mig, in the main town square, and the venue of choice for many in the town for a morning coffee, a lunchtime meal or a convivial evening of tapas and a drink.
Bar del Mig? That’s a funny name isn’t it? Well, it refers to the fact that the Cami del Mig runs through all the coastal towns hereabouts, as it has since Roman times, south of the Via Augusta, as a -er- miggle way between that and the sea.
We might be leaving Premià , but there are lots of places, lots of trees to visit yet. We’ll call in at other local towns in the area before heading off back to the ferry from Santander via Aragon, the Basque country, and Cantabria. Gosh, if the thought’s making you thirsty, and we haven’t time to go back to the bar, best have a quick swig from a tree-shaded water fountain before we set off.
Today we have two trees that are pushing the boundaries. The first isn’t a tree at all: but this huge cactus near Emily and Miquel’s house clearly thinks it’s a tree.
And this little palm tree sapling, down near the beach at Premià de Mar surely won’t make it though to maturity, as it’s relying on the goodwill of a host tree that’s unlikely to want to have it around for long.
I told you about the railway line in Premià de Mar the other day. Nowadays, a number of underpasses beneath the road and railway link the town to its beaches. And quite a few of them are painted with scenes of the town, and with life above and below the surface of the ocean.
Palm trees march along portions of the shoreline, so let’s begin with an image of one from an underpass:
And here’s the main square, with the parish church of Sant Cristofol.
There’s more street art, some of it more interesting, in the streets above. I’ll save those for later.
The barri antic – old town centre – of Premià de Mar is terraced by rows of what were once fishermen’s cottages, mainly dating from the 18th century, and known as lescases decós. Their inhabitants divided their time between two occupations – fishing – and market gardening in their long narrow back gardens. The featured image shows a typical street, with awnings stretched across to shelter passers-by from the summer heat.
There aren’t many trees, so these days the town council has placed some in tubs along the pedestrianised streets.
With not many trees about, some residents cram their windows with cooling plants:
Although one careful resident has thoughtfully left a cat-sized gap at the bottom of his plant-friendly window.