“I swung the door open … and was greeted by the worst thing. Communism.”

Having ladened the bus with a quantity of wine, enough to have a noticeable effect on fuel mileage. A drastic change of course was plotted. Escape from the Atlantic winds to the embrace of the Mediterranean sun. A wholly illogical detour, adding close to 1000km of roads because why not?. I am still not entirely sure why I was suddenly compelled on this pilgrimage to the Mediterranean. Perhaps a week long diet of wine and the occasional pastry had inflicted a mild psychosis or perhaps it was the superior Mediterranean black olive that I was seeking. Seriously, they are hiding all the good food. If it wouldn’t induce kidney failure I would solely live off those black beauties.

Old France Old France2

Regardless of the motive, the loaf, and so too I, were heading straight to Montpellier. Well as straight as one can go when avoiding the French motorways - these are needlessly expensive plus completely useless for a vehicle whose top economic speed is 90km/hr. Following the backroads, we weaved through townships and counties all too familiar not to be in the UK.

Bjornen in front of a 'tall' bridge
Bjornen at Lac du Salagou textures I wish I could eat

As Montpellier drew close the horizon grew more jagged. Gentle valleys escalated into great revines. Modest bridges were replaced with grand infrastructure projects. This obtuse landscape seemed an ideal spot to stop for the night before the final hour of approach to Montpellier.

Lac du Salagou at dawn
The chapel

Where I accidentally pitched, ended up being a high altitude oasis as well as a fishing mecca. An almost entirely abandoned village sits at the shore of Lac du Salagou, the only permanent inhabitants pious caretakers of the chapel.

Repairs to the remains of the village
Fishermen Fisherboys

Dawn revealed the true insanity of the lake, or rather the perverse human bureaucracy of the lake. All residents, temporary or otherwise, are isolated to a single shoreline less than a 1km long. To the North the few remaining ghosts holding on to crumbling ruins, echoes of distant devotion fallen into terminal disinterest. To the South, fishing fanatics and families alike looking for an escape from the density of civilization only to find themselves confined once more. The single, ‘legal’, campsite on the lake, which consisted of slashed paths stacked such to rival the most severe terraced rice field, resembled a block of apartments constructed of tents and caravans.

Group of fishermen at dawn

Now, to complete the human spectrum, there was another group of people. The 'renegades', those not willing to live a life of pious servitude nor to be placed in the back in the system they were looking for relief from. The other campsites - legality is a grey area.

Beetles Cicada

With the break of dawn, the loaf and I rolled into the greater Montpellier area, stopping only to stock up on the essentials - Picpoul de Pinet. Perhaps the most superior white wine, and an excellent starter for the after brunch activities. 18 hours in Montpellier consuming only white wine, water, disco biscuits, and meaty beats.

C'est le vie
Damn Reds

Awakening the next day to the sweltering midday heat, I swung the door open, to provide a much needed vent of the sweaty ill air, and was greeted by the worst thing. Communism. It was time to escape from this country.

Arches and birds
Alley way Why didn't they finish this spire

Following the sea south, the flat plains were quickly dominated by the purple spectre of the Pyrenees. An incredible climb and view, only eclipsed by spectacular sunset. Awakening to a whole new pace of life and 1.30€ petrol, the Spanish life is good. One thing perplexed me about the cathedral of Girona, with all its towering impressiveness, why have they not finished the spire? Like a birthday cake with unlit candles, I want to be impressed but the fact the last, and most simple, step has been left unfinished leaves me more disappointed than if there was no cake at all. This will not be my only criticism of Spanish churches.

Vic Sau 1
Vic Sau 2
Vic Sau 3 Vic Sau 4

Pushing further into the mountains, on a quest to only partially see a church, led to what can only be compared to El Grando Canyono. An unbelievably impressive place, and amazing quiet for how beautiful it is.

Low level dam
Dam outlet

The artificial lake, which provides moisture for an otherwise hot and dry mountain climate, is at its lowest level ever far exceeding the normal minimum. As such the quest church was more visible than advertised, and frankly I think it would have been far better to see less of it. Never have I ever felt so meh about a church (this title was short lived).

low lake level the whole church

Now, to take a brief stop from the site seeing tourism within Catalonia. A region of Spain. Or so I thought. On the main road down from France on the mountain face above a tunnel the words “THIS IS NOT FUCKING SPAIN” are painted in blood red. Bridges, roads, balconies, shops are all donned with Catalonia flags - putting even the most red blooded American to shame. No town centre is without an independent party banner flying high.

Catalonia flag on the road
Balcony flag Fuck Spain?
Independence party

In the capital of Catalonia, this sentiment is no less apparent, with even the parking meters defaulted to Catalan. Cataleave? Possibly, it seems there is more motive than just slogan bus, but I'm not the person to ask. I tell you what I will give my controversial opinion on though, the Sagrada Família. The crowning jewel of Barcelona, over 140 years in the making. And you know what, it dethroned the short lived peak meh church of Sant Romà de Sau. Sure it is incredibly imposing, perhaps to the point of impressive. But beyond its grand stature, it's a mess of ideas and styles. The coloured art nouveau shapes atop various spires clash and seem gimmicky when contrasted with the gothic foundations. The melting stone work that surrounds the ‘portal of charity’ better resembles a bad acid trip and the breaching of hell than the birth of Christ. In stark contrast the ‘passion’ facade, on the opposite side, feels too clinical and would be better suited for the church of Scientology.

Clash of colours
The walls shall consume

Anyways, this blog post has been too long already, full of meaningless detours and seemingly turned into a full frontal attack on Spanish church design.

Tills nästa gång. Hejdå.