Miraculous splash

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Have you ever splashed in the waters of a mountain river in the middle of a hot summer?

I have. And the best part of it is that when you find the right spot, nobody can find you. Which translates into… nudism…

As we know nudism is a thing. And in fact its popularity began here, in France, along the hot French coastline where it found enough supporters to manage to conquere the world.

I personally have a few experiences with nude dudes in particular walking around and letting their ding-dongs hop around freely….. Of course it is better when there’s something out there to hop…. And so I saw some… in Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Poland… not that I looked… 

Nudity was never meant to be a problem in the God’s vision of human and world. We were free to run around naked as we pleased. That was in the Garden of Eden of course. But we all know what happened later. For those who don’t, Eve, the girl that shared the garden with Adam, was tempted by a snake to take a bite of a fruit from the forbiddeden tree, the only fruit neither of them was allowed to touch. She then offered it to Adam. All of a sudden, everything changed, they had sinned. The nudity they were previously not aware of, became apparent and they made clothes of fig leaves and loincloth to cover themselves.

Scientists managed to run some genetic tests on the lice. Lice may live in human hair and feed of human bodies, however to infest, they need clothing. These brought them to a conclusion that since Homo Sapiens are known to exist for about 200 000 years now, then at least for half of this time we were not wearing any clothes. Roughly 75 000 years ago we stopped being nudists and most likely started our migration into the colder places where clothing would have been essential.

Nudity, linked directly with sexuality, played huge role in the lives of people throughout the centures. And for example in ancient Egypt you will find tomb paintings where naked dancers swirl to the tunes of the musicians seated around them. You will recall the Faraohs and their orgies. Akhen-Aton (1385 – 1353 B.C.) is considered to be the one who laid the basis for the nude recreation and social nudism.

Same in any other ancient civilization we happen to be studying these days. Belly dancers in Arab countries were barely wearing anything and they were also entertaining the orgy-style parties filled with nudity. Female nudity embodied fertility and procreation. Naked female fertility deities have been found in very early prehistoric art and, in historic times, were a recurring feature of Near Eastern, Mesopotamian and Egyptian art.

Greeks took nudity to the next level. They were showing extreme interest in the naked male form in particular. In Ancient Greece male body would have been a symbol of strength, triumph, glory, morality, nobility, youth and the highest of values and ideologies. This was due to the fact that competition was a daily business there. That’s how of course they ended up creating the Olympic games, but this is how they also lived and how they dealt with keeping their armies ready – by competing anytime and anywhere in sports. As such their bodies were beautiful. Gymnos means naked. They fought naked and when they partied in their symposias, they partied disrobed too. Students in Greece also received their education in the nude. They were true tabula rasa looks like….

Greeks and Romans lived in a clothing-optional society, although the latter tried to keep it rather behind the closed doors. Robes were necessary for formal occasions only. They often enjoyed bathing in open baths crowded with people. In other words, the ancient world of the hotter climatic zones could be considered a one big nudist village. A complete flower power style.

393 A.D. was when a Christian emperor banned the Olympic Games in Greece because he believed them to be pagan. With the arrival of Christianity, nakedness would only ever be depicted in the forms of Adam and Eve, where it revealed their sin. Middle Ages were very religious times, hence Jesus, whose almost naked body revealed his wounds, naked baby Jezus and breast feeding Madonnas were also allowed. Being naked otherwise was no longer associated with male athleticism and female fertility, but rather with weakness and defenselessness.

It wasn’t until the Renaissance period, which in general can translate as Awakening Anew, that nudity was truly accepted again. In these times naked body was seen as a form of art. Humanism and the celebration of the body and the art of the ancient were back, and even the reluctant church had to accept the idea that God created man in his own image and thought the work looked good. Although anyone who read Mario Puzzo’s books such as the Borgia Family, already knows that the church was always quite aware of the looks of the human bodies….

Donatello’s naked David (1408-1409) was the first free-standing, nude statue since antiquity. And the love of ancient body types retruned. Artists, despite of having access to female models, preferred male models. As a result Michelangelo’s ladies looked like men with breasts! Today men also sport female breasts… mainly due to high doses of GMO chicken, topped with crisps and soft drinks they swollow, which happily keep their testosterone levels low. Instead they’re packed with feminity walking in high heels made of eastrogene.

We have nudity celebrated and depicted in every century because human body is a wonderful sight to behold, both clothed and unclothed. Before photography, erotic art circulated via private paintings, small sculptures or as decorative objects or ornaments shown either as spiritual beliefs or portraying cultural practices. The idea that erotic images were “pornography” was a Victorian invention when the Puritans came to light with their pure hearts and souls seeing everything as sin. Until the mid-nineteenth century, looking at erotic representations was legal and extremely commonplace.

The 18th and 19th centuries used nudity in mythological and allegorical genres, often on the border with surreal or avant-garde ideas. It is at the end of 19th century when naturism started to seef itself through the debilitating aspects of industrialization and urbanization which turned everydayness into grayness. People started seeking the light, relaxation, far from their crummed living zones where life was reduced to work and viruses multiplied with the tendency to linger.

And then came the British King, Edward VIII, who in 1936 went on an Adriatic cruise, where he obtained a special permission from the local government for himself and his mistress to enjoy the beaches and the waters surrounding the isle of Rab. Between here and 1950 people were mainly bathing either in blood or taking showers in Cyclone B. Hence only in the 50s the true naturist movement appeared. And I do believe it may have been very symbolic too; sort of manifestation of finally returned freedom to those who survived the war and who wanted to enjoy every moment of life fully, on their terms and at its best.

This trend moved over the seas quite quickly. Already in the 60s of the 20th century Americans were designating parts of beaches to nudists, who at first were considered to be mainly gay people. This however changed in no time and soon entire families were welcome to splash clotheless around many clothing-optional beaches. It is vital to mention the likes of Henry David Thoreau, who among many other individuals with similar hobbies, enjoyed his daily naked walks which he called “air baths”, whilst Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were skinny dipping in the Mississippi river already a good century earlier. Nudity in general seems to be illegal in the USA, however there is a number of clothing optional beaches which are available for those who wish to warm up all their body parts, including those usually hidden.

Source: internet

On one hand I do not mind people sun bathing and resting nude, although I do not find it very cool when it is being done in a very close proximity to children. But apart from the beachy stuff, there’s this other aspect of nudity exposure which I personally find quite odd. Namely that some people have the need, I guess, to show their bodies in public. Particularily I have the famous magazine covers of pregnant naked actresses and certain others in mind. This is being portrayed as their strength and pride, etc. We sure do not need to look but I am more interested in what’s behind their need for exhibitionism rather than what comes out of it. As much as nudism still exists in a few scattered and primitive tribes in the Amazon or remote Pacific Islands, there it is a part of a culture, nothing else is known. Our developed world expects us to dress. Perhaps those few, pregnant acresses and known others, try to show that primitive is also possible in the developed world.

With sexuality being exposed nowadays and openly promoted, as well as the growth of numbers of places such as nudist holiday resorts and nudist colonies, naturalism is a thing that raises questions of morality. And as much as the magazine covers may be considered ego-freaks stunts, nakedness is not considered as sexual among the nudists at all. They see being naked as the most basic, natural and purest of ways to be. They wish to touch the bottom of human nature – we were born naked and naked is beautiful in every shape and form. In their opinion and rightly so, it is the outside world that seems to be pervertic about the nudists instead.

But there’s a difference between nudist or nude beaches also called free beaches or clothing optional beaches and simply enjoying your own nudity hidden among bushes, lying on the blanket spread on a high grass, accross the meadow, surrounded by the flowers and listening to the swooshing of the river, birds singing or an occasional bee buzzing….

What better could you ask for than a splash in such a river….

We did find such a river, in fact even more than once!

This time it was old good same one that flows through Mirepoix, L’Hers-Vif.

Btw, check out my other post: When Mommy Says Eat Your Veggies, Eat Them! Diced

It isn’t difficult to find a secluded spot like that in the south of France where plenty of villages, like Vals, have approximately 1 human inhabiting 14 km². Not bad, eh? Although the numbers seem to be on the rise.

The Vals I’m talking about here does not look anything like the one in Switzerland. But believe me, it does have its own charm.

While some people say that Vals fell asleep a few centuries ago and all you will notice around here are the lazy cats either exposing their furry bodies to the rays of the hot southern sun or alternatively lying around under the trees where plenty of shade can be found – I, of course, have found a… donkey. In fact even two of them…. Whether this fact suggests any liveliness in the settlement, I don’t think so.

They were standing in the area shaded by the trees, waiting for someone to pay their human for a ride. Perhaps there are some nice routes one can take around the village and donkey would be a funky ride, but we did not have any such thing in mind when visiting this lovely village that enchanted us with its huge rock and a church tower that’s glued on it’s top. Well seen from the far distance.

The tower, looking quite like a typical tower in some norman sturctures, overlooks the pretty green valley. We stop the car and walk among the rows of clearly medieval houses built in yellow stone, ventrue and debonair. They crumple against each other trying to hold on yet for a while before they give in to the passing time. This village, clearly does not give a damn about tourists or the outside world. The time has stopped here and does not seem to be in any hurry to move anywhere any time soon….

Coming closer to that gianormous rock, we take a quick look up and feel like tiny ants hopig to conquere a dandelion. Stone staircase leads us to the heavy door. But that’s just a beginning of what truly awaits inside. We come through accompanied by the squeaky tunes of the rusty hinges and let in the light that falls onto the second part of the staircase which is tightly squeezed in between the rock walls. So tightly that one must actually watch out not to bang their head on a huge lump overhanging to the left. This part of the chapel was built in the 10th century and is incorrectly known as a crypt.

The sunlight coming from behind lightened up our way up the stairs. And at the top of this staircase, we reached the second door.

The silence hiding among these walls is mesmerizing. Looking up at the rays of the sun dripping through the colorful stained glass windows you think of the singing monks. Time has stopped in this sleepy place, which tourists, most likely, always discover only by accident. Some would sit in a dark corner letting the atmosphere overwhelm them, but not us. We had to touch every piece of this place, smell it and feel it with all senses to then in the end organize a pretend mass for ourselves…

A massive baptistery in its rock notch, carved into the wall of a rectangular apse is bathed in the warmth of the sun. The vaults of this part of the building reveal wonderful Romanesque frescoes depicting scenes from Christ’s childhood in the colors and styles typical to this period.

The main nave used to be situated lower up until the 19th century when Marquise de Portes ordered the changes. Just below it, a row of old, dark, wooden steps will take you up to the Chapel of St. Michael’s that dates back to the 12th century and with a little choir. That magnificent tower that’s above it comes from the 14th century. It is also until when the chapel remained divided off from the Chapel of St. Mary, the one with the frescoes. Apparently this way the locals were protecting their church from the robberies of the Hundred Years War.

Sadly, we did not have a good camera with us when travelling wild. Not from the safety perspective but simply because we did not really want to spend the time taking photos but instead experiencing and memorizing more. As such, I invite you to watch this beautiful film about Vals that tells a very pretty story in a very pretty way as well as shows you the details which I could not show in my few photographs.

Finally we came out onto the terrace. Vast and neverending panarama on the Pyrenean ridges stretched in front of us in the heat of afternoon. And we could not help ourselves but to simply stand there and marvel over this magnificent creation of Nature and human that so beautifully managed to merge the two worlds into one without causing much damage. Which, you have to admit is almost unthinkable nowadays.

Pretty, once red rooftops covered with fading tiles made out of natural stone, created a multileveled mosaic of carious shapes and sizes. And it was so hard to take the eyes off of them that once more, I commited a drawing or two.

It is worth strolling around the church rock as from behind it does not look equally magnificent. On the contrary, a typical church structure not even suggesting what’s hidden inside and on the other end. On the sides of the hill, a wide semi-cubic notch can be spotted. it origin and potential use remain undefned still as the archaeologists are still unsure of its age even. Some claim it may have been a continuation of the medieval settlement whilst others think it may have been a religious site prior to the Roman invasion.

As any other antique settlement, also Vals has its stories that were being passed through the centuries. A few years ago, local lady, Mrs Yvonne Fabre, who was a well of information on the region, was asked by the Association of Friends of Vals to gather all of the stories she herself learned during her childhood. And this is how the book of Contes da pays de Vals was created to cherish the history and remember the stories of a certain past that provide explenation to respective evolutions within the local society, traditions told by the elderly but never before put down on paper.

Mme Yvonne Fabre (1914-2008)

One of these stories is about The miracle of Vals.

This is not a legend, but a fact that happened somewhere between the years 1824 and 1830. Angelique was a servant in Teilhet, at the house of her well-off neighbours.

They had a big house and plenty of land in the village, but above all two pretty farms that yielded a lot of wheat, on the fields between Vals and Saint-Felix. In those days, that was enough to live comfortably.

In the first days of September of that year, a beautiful baby was born in this rich family. One day when Angelique arrived for work in the morning, the old lady said to her:

– Listen Angelique, today you will have to do everything in the house, we are all going to Vals for a mass, we cannot leave my daughter alone with her baby.

– Madam – ansered Angelique – you can leave in peace, everything will be fine, count on me!

And indeed, all day, the servant worked like a bee… Around 4 o’clock, the young lady called her from her room.

– Angelique, come up!

When she was up there, she said:

– You’ve been busy all day today, now it’s high time you went to rest at home and take care of your little girl, please! Poor lamb! She must be lonely. (I must tell you that this unfortunate servant had a crippled child – 7 year old and she could not walk yet).

Arriving at her house, Angelique thought to herself:

– It’s still early, I have plenty of time to go to Vals to recite my rosary.

So she took her crippled child into her arms and went towards Vals.

Halfway, at the chasm of Portes, she met the people of Teilhet. They were returning from the mass and asked:

– And why are you going Vals at this hour? There is nothing going on their now in the church anymore.

– It doesn’t matter – answered Angelique – I want to go all the same.

She finally arrived and went up towards the Cross, then took the stairs, with her precious burden on her back and came into the crypt. She sat her little girl down in a chair. While she herself recited her rosary kneeling.

After a while, the little girl who saw through the stained glass window of the Chapel of the Virgin that the day was going down, jumped from her chair saying:

– We have to go mom, can’t you see it’s getting dark?

The child ran down the stairs. crossed the square and the street. The people of Vals who at that time were much more numerous than today, cried seeing the miracle.

Angelique wept for joy and the two of them returned to Teilhet, light as two larks, thanking the Blessed Virgin all along the way.

I dare to believe in the powers hidden within the mystic silence of L’église de Vals and the story of the Miracle seems very probable.

Who knows, perhaps Angelique’s daughter had children of her own and they live somewhere in the area….

And who knows, perhaps they also bathed themselves in the waters of the River Hers. Maybe even nude.

That we shall never find out…. unless Grandma Fabre did mention it among her stories….. Or maybe… this is one yet to be written still….

Any reason is good to go back to cool places and re-visiting Vals is on my list for sure. One day I shall find out and if there is a story, I will surely write it down. Until then….

Peace, Love and Freedom to All of You!



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St. Hippolyte

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That night we slept in a car. A name of a ville was yet unknown to us. We took a turn into a field road by a nice big house when it was getting dark. All we knew was that to the right, there was a coast with one of the most wonderful beaches because we splashed in the water there during the day.

That was after we’d passed Perpignan on our way up north towards the Cote d’Azur, which we were not quite sure we were in any need of seeing after that splash earlier in the day.

I woke up first. Nature called. The dog was barking like crazy somewhere in that house we had passed in the darkness.

Now I knew why. We were only a few metres from its jaws. The spot was an empty space between the fence and the field that was now purple from the heavy grape bunches hanging from the bushes …. and I soooo needed to peee!

Ignoring the dog and the potential onlookers, i.e. from the window, I did my best to hide well behind the car. It was time to get going before some local Monsieur called the police or something.

Since we were in wine country, we took a bunch… or two… with us. But wait wait! I have an idea on how to pay you back, Monsieur!

A very tall tower appeared in front of us and it looked like a really good day ahead. Because where there is a tower, there is either a castle or a nice big church packed with awesome architecture! What more does one need after sleepig on the field of vines?

Oh yea, well… a pastry and a cup of stroooong coffee… yes.

I could almost smell the above when we were approaching that building with a tower.

The ville was called St. Hyppolyte GPS : 42.78262222 N, 2.964302778 E, as well as Saint-Hippolyte, also known as Saint-Hippolyte-de-la-Salanque. This little place of so many names that is situated in the Region of French Catalunia, and in Catalan is known as Sant Hipòlit de la Salanca, can be found otherwise within Languedoc-Russillion, in the Pyrénées-Orientales department, in Occitania, in southern France.

And I’m telling you all this simply to distinguish this place from all other multiple St. Hyppolyte’s that were sprinkled around various areas of the country. Well, looks like he was one popular martyr. As such the etymology could not be any simpler here – Saint Hippolytus is the name of the Patron Saint of the city, to whom the church is dedicated.

…And the coffee and pastry they serve there in a small cafe on the square were perfect!

The town’s coat of arms shows St Hippolytus during his martyrdom, dragged by a galloping horse. The background of the coat of arms is the representation of the Catalan flag.

The description of the coat of arms of St Hippolyte is relatively simple… apparently…. and when translated, it goes something like this:

From gold to four pals of mouths, to Saint Hippolyte martyr dragged by a horse, all of silver, spitting on the whole.

Let us dig into some notions of heraldism then because I find this particular coat of arms to be super interesting.

*First of all, the background is not divided into several parts.

*The description of a coat of arms always begins with its color. So let’s break down that crazy sounding sentence: the first two words “from gold…” – the background starts with the yellow color.

*”…to the four pals of mouths” – these are the 4 red vertical stripes. These two points define the base of the Catalan flag.

The legend has it that in a year 897 the Count of Barcelona, Guifré el Pilós, Wilfred the Hairy, set out to help the troops of Charles II the Bald, King of the Franks fighting the Arab army of Ismail ibn Mussa. Mortally wounded during the siege of Lleida, Wilfred, as part of his last wish, asked Charles to create a sign that could be used by his successors. Charles responded by dipping 4 fingers into the wound of the dying Wilfred and drawing four stripes with them on his golden shield.

As such the yellow lines on the Catalan flag are the original color of the shield and the four stripes symbolize the blood of Giufré el Pilós.

*”…to Saint Hippolyte martyr dragged by a horse, all of silver….” – the Saint and the horse are depicted in white color hence the mention of silver.

*”…spitting on the whole” here means that the Saint is on top/ in the foreground of the rest of the coat of arms.

Source: net The pediment of the church of St Hippolyte

Saint Hippolyte is located in the plain of Salanque. It is a perfectly flat geographical area resembling a raindrop, located between Saint-Laurent and Salses and it can be reached by the road that connects Rivesaltes and Barcarès, just north of Perpignan.

If you read my article You think you can pee? You never tried me! about the Oppidum D’Enserune and L’étang de Montady, (if not, click on the below link), you will already know that this area of France was once a big fat swamp.

Same story can be applied to many other villages in the Salanque region also known as Pyrenees Orientales. The swamp was definitively drained by the Templars, who played some role in the history of the village. And this is how far back we can travel because the soil of Roussillon is too acidic to preserve the bones hence prehistory in this region is non existant.

The Indo-European peoples that inhabited the region gave way to the Celts around 500 BC. And then the Romans arrived here and built the Via Domitia which crosses the plain of Roussillon. It appears in the current department of Pyrénées-Orientales in the Corbières, along the pond of Salses, passes through Salses, St Hippolyte, near Bompas, arrives at the Celtic capital Ruscino and continues towards Elne, Le Boulou, Le Perthus where it leaves the department towards Spain via the Pass of Panissars.

And who remembers what Romans used to transport from Hispania to clean their teeth with? Yes – the urine of young Iberians! Read about it in my other article: When mommy says “eat your veggies” – eat them! Diced.

The Via Domitia was a route necessary to connect provinces of Spain with Rome during the reign of Roman Empire. It was an access road created by Dominus Ahenobarbus linking Beaucaire in the Gard to the Perthus, crossing the Languedoc, the narrow passage between the marshy ponds and the Corbières, the Roussillon, and finally the Albères. Moreover to pass the Pyrenees this road was split into two. An eastern part passed through the coast and the village of Portus Vénéris (Port-Vendres) and the other passed through the Perthus pass, via the village of Clusa.

Via was divided into stages – stations, marked by a marker named “Milliaire” – Mile Post. One Roman mile is equivalent to 1481 meters and a fraction. Some of these symbolic milestones served as travel stops. You could find a hotel there in a form of a Roman style villa with rooms that were available for rent. As traffic grew over time, some of these stations expanded and turned into villages. And among the others, like for example Saint-Laurent de la Salanque or Salses, this was also the case of Saint Hippolyte.

The Mile Posts themselves were monoliths about 2 meters high, engraved with the name of the emperor who had erected them. The one in St. Hippolyte says:

Flavio Valerio nobilissimo Caesari… To Flavius Valerio Constantine a very noble Caesar…

Traces of Via Domitia can be found in places to this day. The first terminal is 2 Kms west of Beaucaire, in the Gard. From there, you can follow the still existing path that leads you to other stations, most of which are still in good condition, all the way to Perthus. The best known place is Panissars, above the Perthus. GPS : 42.47953064 N, 2.843871666 E

The Romans reigned here until 340 AD.

811 AD marks the Christianization of the region of Roussillon after the reconquest from the Saracens. First written mention of St. Hippolyte comes from the 10th century. During Middle Ages the village depended on the county of Roussillon and therefore on the kingdom of Aragon. Alfonso of Aragon decided to fortify the settlement in the eleventh century. He built a castle with four towers, two out of which survived till our times. The village was of importance to the kings due to its location near the border that was established in 1258 and passed through Salses. In the 12th century, the castle was owned by King James 1st.

Pons de Vernet, who owned the lordship of St Hippolyte during 13th century, sold several plots of land and buildings to the Templar of Mas Deu. On his death in 1211 he also presented them with the castle and all the property he owned in the area. This is how the village came under the control of the Order of the Temple who had already resided there for some time beforehand.

In 1190 they established a hospital that functioned there until the 17th century. The village eventually became a complete possession of the Templars until Philip IV, who ordered the suppression of the order. He then passed it onto the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, that scattered part of their possessions.

The 16th century is marked by the Franco-Spanish War, which had heavy consequences on the villages of Roussillon. In 1542 the French, attacking the Salanque, destroyed a large part of the village. The fort, the walls and the church were also widely affected.

In the 17th century, the castle became a property of the powerful Oms family. In 1565 the Marquise d’Oms stayed there regularly, and in 1633, it was inhabited by Jeanne de Vilaplane, wife of the Marquis of Oms, Foix and Béarn.

From the 19th century, it is sold in small pieces, then we find it in 1863 when it was acquired by André Guiter, carpenter and cabinetmaker, who buys at the same time the oil mill. Finally at the end of the nineteenth century, the rest of the castle is sold to the Sisqueille family.

Nowadays, the castle is a communal property, and it operates as a museum.

French Catalunia is yet another term which can be used to describe this region. And so if you ask the Catalan which animal best represents his region, he will most likely answer either a donkey or a snail.

Snails are nutritional and always existed in French diet. There are proves that even prehistoric men consumed them and loved them grilled – the remains of charred shells were found in caves.

The breeding of snails appeared with the Romans. They were the ones who created the first helicicultures that they called “snails”. The Celts, on the other hand, consumed them as desserts. Later, in the Middle Ages, the population ate them fried, boiled or even on skewers!

The sailors’ trick quickly raised the interest and made the French understand the importance of this produce. Sailors knew to bring barrels filled with snails on board their boats. These provided fresh meat at times when they no longer had any left.

In France, two types of snails are eaten: the small gray (Helix aspersa) and the Burgundy snail (Helix pomatia). In Catalonia, the little gray ones would be more popular. They are 26 to 30 mm in size and live locally in Languedoc but also Provence, Brittany and Charente. The best are obviously those that you will find yourself in the grass, after a rainy day. This activity is becoming less popular since the urbanization of the region. There is no shortage of snails in France though as they are being farmed nowadays. It takes only 6 months for a snail to grow on the farm whereas it would take 18 months for it to fully grow in nature.

Back in 2013 90% of snails consumed in France came from Poland. Burgundy snails (Helix pomatia) which in Poland are called winniczek, are now protected in France by a ban which prevents them from being harvested during the reproductive season between 1st of April and 30th of June.

The issue of Polish snails being served around France, especially during the Annual French Snail Festivals became such a big deal that it was raised by the Senator Yves Détraigne who stated that:

‘If we do not distinguish the ‘made in France’ from the ‘made in Poland’, we are shooting ourselves in the foot’.

British snail farmer Helen Howard also said that her buisness is booming. She sells Helix aspersa muller (petits gris) or maxima (gros gris) as well as the Helix pomatia known as Roman snails. 

Snails in tins can be expensive costing Eur25 for an 800g tin of the Helix pomatia. I tried them once, pickled. Tasted a bit like mushrooms really, only when I saw the little flakey pieces of them fallen to the bottom of the jar I somehow lost the apetite….

In Roussillon region where St. Hyppolyte is located, the “Brotherhood of the Snail of Roussillon” promotes the petit-gris snails, offers workshops and tasting as well as provides information on protection of the species in their natural environment.

These days snails are often pre-cooked and then removed from the shells only to then be mixed with paste made out of herbs that would then fill the shells, sprinkled with some cheese and baked. Just like mules or mussels.

Source: internet

Let me share this recipe with you then for the Polish Baked Snails French Style 🙂


  • snails – garden ones, in the desired amount
  • sage, rosemary  – dry, 1 tablespoon of each
  • garlic – 3 cloves
  • parsley – 3 tablespoons, chopped
  • butter – 150 g
  • salt and pepper – to taste

Wash the snails well and then drop them into the boiling water for approximately 2 minutes. After this time, they can be taken out and drained.

Remove the meat from the shell making sure that you remove the intestine too.

Using either a pressure cooker or a regular pot filled with water, cook the snail meat with sage and rosemary for another 2 hours. You can use this time to clean the shells either by boiling them or by pouring hot water over them. You can also prepare your paste now by mixing the butter with parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.

Rinse and cool the snail meat. You can also sprinkle them now with some salt. You will notice that the meat has shrank of course, as such you will now need 2 or 3 pieces of snail to fill the shell. Cover them with the pre-made paste, place on the tray with the opening facing up so that the butter would not spill out of the shell, cover with tin foil and bake for about 10 minutes.

Serve with whatever you want and what pleases your guests but they generally reccommend white wine.


We did not eat Les Escargots in St. Hippolyte but after having our lovely coffee and pastry we headed onto the market square where the farmers had all their producs displayed from early morning hours.

Many years later when working at Ryanair I emailed Perpignan airport looking for some documents and the person I spoke to happened to be very friendly and chatty. So we took up the subject of fruits and veggies sold at the St. Hippolyte market and we found a common language right away.

Then I thought of all the years I used to bring muffins to the office on my birthday. And I mean thousands of muffins, boxes of muffins! For everyone. Just, to celebrate being alive. And a great thought occured to me then that since fruit and veg in Ireland are so tasteless why not make a deal with the local farmers there, in the south of France and have them deliver crates to the airport. These could then be sold in the office or spread among the office staff as a treat and a “thank you”. You know, peace, love and harmony, packed with vitamines sort of stuff…

That could also potentially buy me out in case the Monsieur from the field we slept on wanted to chase us for the stolen grapes…

In the meantime, the guy from the airport promised to send me a crate of peaches… but must have forgotten….

So I’m still waiting….



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Kto trafi do dziurki a kto spudłuje?….

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Jest takie miejsce we Francji, dobrze ukryte wśród bujnych łąk, spalonych słońcem pól, cudownie dojrzałych winorośli i ładnych starych drzew. Dostaniecie się tam, nie próbując.

Jechaliśmy drogą. Jakąś drogą. Letnią drogą. Drogą, która topniała w upale południowo-francuskiego słońca. Drogą, która była relaksująca i uspokajająca. Drogą dosłownie donikąd, a jednak do niesamowitego miejsca. Drogą na bezdrożu. Drogą, która w pewnym momencie przykleiła się do brzegu krętej wstęgi Canal du Midi i zaprowadziła nas prosto do małej wioski Colombiers.

Przejechaliśmy przez most ponad kanałem, który płynie tutaj od końca XVII wieku. Mnóstwo ładnych barek i łodzi kołysało się leniwie na wodzie. Ludzie cieszyli się brunch’em na kołyszących się pokładach. Późny poranek powoli zamieniał się w bardzo gorące popołudnie. Byliśmy przeszczęśliwi, mogąc chłonąć takie widoki, w nadziei na więcej.

Drogowskazy i owszem tam były. Jeden z nich ogłaszał coś, co wyglądało na warte sprawdzenia. I tak, powoli, ciesząc się widokiem leniwego życia na kanale, przetoczyliśmy się zaciszną alejką zacienioną setkami wiekowych drzew. I to byłoby na tyle tego Colombiers.

Nasza droga stawała się teraz coraz bardziej stroma. Byliśmy już poza wioską, otoczeni winoroślą. Można było poczuć różnicę w powietrzu między środkową częścią kraju a wybrzeżem. Byliśmy bowiem tylko rzut kamieniem od Morza Śródziemnego i granicy z Hiszpanią.

W końcu na szczycie wzgórza pojawiło się coś niezwykłego i od razu wiedzieliśmy, że to musi być to.

Oppidum D’Enserune to stanowisko archeologiczne zawierające pozostałości wioski, która zamieszkana była między epoką żelaza a pierwszym wiekiem naszej ery. Znajduje się na wzgórzu w gminie Nissan-lez-Enserune.

Termin “oppidum” wywodzi się z łaciny i oznacza miasto lub ufortyfikowaną aglomerację. Termin ten był używany przez historyków do nazywania rodzaju rzymskich ufortyfikowanych osad rozproszonych w całej Europie.

Pierwsze wykopaliska na tym terenie zostały podjęte w latach 1843-1860 przez księdza z miejscowej parafii Montady. Był to ojciec Ginieis i to właśnie on odkrył tu groby. W tym czasie, w 1850 roku na miejscu znaleziono również monety iberyjskie.

Prawie sto lat później lokalny właściciel ziemski, Félix Mouret, który był zapalonym archeologiem, podjął bardziej szczegółowe wykopaliska na wzgórzu. Pracował na tym stanowisku od 1915 do 1928 roku. W tym czasie opublikował również swoje odkrycia i zbudował tam willę. Dziesięć lat później budynek ten został wykorzystany do przechowywania eksponatów, które można w nim podziwiać po dzień dzisiejszy. Kolekcja ceramiki zabierze Was w podróż przez wieki ewolucji kulturowej tego miejsca.

Prace wykopaliskowe trwały przez kolejne dwadzieścia lat i w końcu powstało tu muzeum, które obecnie jest Pomnikiem Narodowym. Później jeszcze przeprowadzono szeroko zakrojone prace nad grobowcami, a także na całym szczycie wzgórza, a te doprowadziły do odkrycia nekropolii.

Osada w Ensérune słynie ze znacznej ilości modułów magazynowych, takich jak silosy. Na wzgórzu i jego okolicach znajduje się około 300 dołów. Bardzo miękka skała, utworzona z osadów mioceńskich, składająca się z przybrzeżnych piasków morskich, umożliwiła ich wykopanie. Te, na ogół jajowate w kształtach struktury, mają pojemność od 10 000 do 85 000 litrów.

Początkowo uważano, że silosy były używane pięć wieków przed Chrystusem do przechowywania ziarna, ale teraz wiadomo, że duża ich liczba była przeznaczona do przechowywania wody, szczególnie w ciągu ostatnich dwóch stuleci przed naszą erą.

Wzgórze Ensérune dominuje nad okolicznymi równinami o sto metrów, a tym samym oferuje doskonały panoramiczny widok na sąsiedni obszar, aż po Pireneje.

Zobaczycie tu również najdziwniejsze z miejsc na Ziemi, tuż u podnóża Ensérune, otoczony wachlarzem pól i łąk, dzięki czemu wygląda jak świecąca gwiazda w kształcie serca – L’étang de Montady – staw o powierzchni 400 ha, który wysechł w średniowieczu.

Kiedyś była to naturalna niecka, utworzona przez wiatry i erozję. Później pod wpływem wzrostu poziomu morza, wypełniła się ona wodą, tworząc tymczasowy staw. W połowie XII wieku miejscowi postanowili osuszyć ten bagnisty obszar, tworząc sieć 80 km kanałów, połączonych w centralnym punkcie, co wyjaśnia układ pól w kształcie gwiazdy. Przez kanały odwadniające, woda jest doprowadzana do centralnego kolektora, a następnie odprowadzana przez rów w kierunku stawu Capestang, przez galerię pod wzgórzem Ensérune i pod tunelem Malpas, stworzonym podczas budowy Canal du Midi.

Niestety ulewne deszcze wciąż podtapiają ten kawałek ziemi, na którym obecnie uprawiane są zboża, winorośl lub pszenica durum. Część z nich to również pastwiska.

Mieliśmy szczęście, że znaleźliśmy oppidum, ponieważ w okolicy są tylko dwa miejsca, z których widoczny jest ów staw i oppidum jest jednym z nich. Drugie to Wieża Montady – pozostałość po starym zamku z XII wieku, stojąca w najwyższym punkcie skalistego cypla, naprzeciwko Stawu Montady i Oppidum d’Ensérune.

Spacer w temperaturze 35°C i picie hektolitrów wody sprawiło, że zapragnęliśmy się wysikać. Całkiem naturalne, nie?…

… Kibelek wyglądał bardzo podobnie do tego z poniższego zdjęcia, chociaż to jest akurat zapożyczone z Internetu. Być może byłam zbyt zszokowana, aby sfotografować ten rzeczywisty. Tak, kucająca toaleta jest tym, o czym mówię. To wtedy odkryłam tą rzecz, znaną i używaną na świecie od ponad dwóch tysięcy lat, i nigdy nie zapomnę Oppidum, chociażby tylko z tego powodu.

Źródło: internet

Toaleta kucająca, zwana również toaletą narciarską, turecką lub arabską, jest rodzajem urządzenia sanitarnego używanego do wypróżniania się w pozycji kucającej. Główna część wykonana jest z owalnej lub kwadratowej miski zamontowanej na poziomie podłogi, z odpływem w dolnej części, o średnicy od 75 do 100 mm. Po obu stronach miski, kilka centymetrów wyżej od odpływu, znajdują się podstawy do postawienia stóp. Niektóre modele mają nawet możliwość spłukiwania. Zazwyczaj są one wykonane z ceramiki lub stali nierdzewnej.

Widziałam w moim życiu wiele obrzydliwych toalet, ale ta znacznie przekroczyła moje najgorsze koszmary. Było brudno, wszystko wokół posikane. Nie jestem pewna co było błotem a co nie-błotem. Już tylko to samo w sobie wystarczająco mnie zestresowało, ale próba usytuowania się ponad tym czymś a potem koncentracji, aby trafić do dziurki z odpływem, była wyczynem olimpijskim. Wyobraźcie sobie, że próbujecie trafić w dziesiątkę z bardziej konkretnymi rzeczami! Wyszłam z tego miejsca zalana potem, modląc się, by to był mój pierwszy i ostatni raz, kiedy będę zmuszona użyć czegoś takiego.

Ale nie… te klopy są tam wszędzie. A wydawałoby się że jesteście w Europie…

Za takimi instalacjami stoją oczywiście plusy i minusy i domyślam się, że ich obecność w miejscach publicznych ma w zamyśle cele higieniczne. Ale do diabła – nie. W tym miejscu nie było absolutnie nic higienicznego. Mam tylko szczerą nadzieję, że nie używają jednego mopa do mycia zarówno wnętrza tej pięknej misy, jak również otaczającej ją podłogi.

Oczywiście lokalny osioł stał na straży, tuż obok tego nieszczęsnego przybytku zgrozy.

Będąc jeszcze na szczycie wzgórza, sprawdziliśmy naszą pozycję na Via Domitia, pierwszej rzymskiej drodze między Włochami a Hispanią przez Francję, która przechodziła tutaj. To wyjaśniałoby monety iberyjskie, ha? Nadszedł czas, aby ruszać dalej i nie chcieliśmy przegapić następnego miejsca. Miejsca, na którego odwiedzenie wpadliśmy właśnie w tym miejscu. 🙂

Zabiorę Was tam następnym razem. Chyba, że zabiorę Was gdzie indziej… kto wie… Świat jest naszą ostrygą, jak to mówią Anglosasi…. tylko nie mylcie jej z tymi ostrygami z Gór Skalistych.



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Wioska Wróżek – Baltray

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Większość irlandzkich wiosek przypomina mi tunel; macie jedną, raczej wąską drogę, której obie strony są ciasno zabudowane. Znalezienie miejsca parkingowego przy takiej drodze może stanowić prawdziwe wyzwanie, a przejazd przez taką wioskę, w której samochody są zaparkowane po obu stronach głównej ulicy, może często stanowić jeszcze większe wyzwanie.

Baltray, jest inne. Baltray przypomina mi Polskę lub Holandię, gdzie wioski są nieco rozciągnięte i tworzą siatkę bocznych dróg.

Baltray to prawdziwy ukryty klejnot okolicy. Otoczona wodami Morza Irlandzkiego u ujścia rzeki Boyne, była kiedyś wioską rybacką w czasach, gdy łosoś tak gęsto zamieszkiwał ową Boyne – Królową Krów, że rzekomo można go było łapać rękami.

“Samuel Lewis

Topograficzny słownik Irlandii, 1837

Baltray, wieś w parafii Thermonfeckan, baronowstwie Ferrard, hrabstwie Louth i prowincji Leinster, 2,5 mili od Droghedy; 428 mieszkańców. Wioska jest położona nad zalewem rzeki Boyne, na wschodnim wybrzeżu, a w 1831 roku posiadała 81 domostw, z których większość to chaty kryte strzechą.”

Źródło: libraryireland.com

Czasy się jednak zmieniły i teraz jest to “sypialnia” dla osób pracujących w pobliskim mieście portowym Drogheda lub nawet dalej w Dundalk czy Dublinie.

Mieszkając na przeciwległym brzegu rzeki, często wkurzałam się na brak małej łódki lub promu, który mógłby zabrać ludzi na drugą stronę. Zajęłoby to nie więcej niż 5 minut. Ponieważ jednak port Drogheda jest aktywnym biznesem, przyjmującym i wysyłającym łodzie towarowe każdego dnia, nie ma tu możliwości zbudowania mostu, który połączyłby plaże Mornington i Baltray.

W związku z tym, po tygodniach wpatrywania się w drugą stronę, Chloe i ja pewnego dnia postanowiliśmy w końcu zobaczyć, co tam jest.

Podróż, zamiast 5, zajęła nam 30 minut jazdy samochodem. Wzdłuż południowego brzegu rzeki, aż do pierwszego mostu w centrum Droghedy, tylko po to, aby następnie pokonać identyczną odległość wzdłuż północnego pobrzeża rzeki, aby w końcu, po zobaczeniu ładnej chatki krytej strzechą, a następnie starego kamiennego mostu, skręcić w prawo, zgodnie z drogowskazami.

Po lewej, rząd starych, ale zadbanych domów, po prawej, odrobina zieleni zakończona długim, ponad metrowym, kamiennym murem zbudowanym wzdłuż brzegu zalewu. Kilka ławek, absurdalnie ustawionych w taki sposób, że wszystko, co zobaczysz siedząc na nich, to kamienna ściana oddalona o 10 cm od Twojej twarzy. Nic dziwnego, że zawsze są puste.

Trochę dalej pojawia się pub. W każdej irlandzkiej wiosce znajduje się kościół i pub. I co zabawne, zwykle znajdują się naprzeciwko siebie. Ułatwia to życie Irlandczykom, którzy, jak powiedział duński filozof Soren Kirkegaard, “chrzczą swoje dzieci, ale na wszelki wypadek nigdy nie zanurzają jednej pięty w wodzie święconej”. Myślę, że pięta jest tym, co zabiera ich do pubu po niedzielnej mszy. Jest to taki sekretny proces zaspokajania zarówno bogów religijnych, jak i pogańskich.

Ale tutaj, w Baltray, nie ma kościoła 🙂 Mówiłam Wam, że ta wioska jest wyjątkowa!

Zaparkowałyśmy w samym centrum osady, tuż przy pubie, gdzie zwykle dostępnych jest kilka miejsc.

Dwa psy, jeden stary, biało-czarny łaciatek, a drugi praktycznie cały czarny, przyłączyły się do nas tak, jakbyśmy byli przyjaciółmi od czasów przedszkola i po prostu towarzyszyły nam wszędzie, dokądkolwiek byśmy się nie udały.

Parę ładnych domów po prawej, kryta strzechą chałupka po lewej, kilka kolejnych domów wokół pubu i droga prowadząca do tylnych uliczek.

Przed nami, tuż przy drodze, kawałek zieleni z dużym drzewem. W zeszłe Święta Bożego Narodzenia ozdobiono je ogromnymi, bajecznymi czerwonymi lampami.

A pod koniec tego zielonego skrawka kilka stołów piknikowych z ławkami i coś hipnotyzującego…

Chloe jak szalona pobiegła w jego kierunku tego czegoś. Psy popędziły za nią jak na złamanie karku.

Pomiędzy drzewami, starannie zbudowany i zarządzany przez miejscowych był mały Ogród Wróżek.

Ogród ten bardzo się zmienił od czasu, gdy zobaczyłyśmy go po raz pierwszy i teraz jest prawdopodobnie 5 razy większy w stosunku do ówczesnego rozmiaru.

Miejscowi zebrali zabawki, których ich dzieci już nie używały i dodając mnóstwo wyobraźni i wykorzystując to, co dała im Matka Natura, stworzyli arcydzieło wśród drzew.

Znaleźć tam można małe bajkowe domki i domeczki, wszystkie ręcznie malowane i ułożone przez dzieci. Mini trampolina wbudowana w ziemię. Mini stoły i krzesła, malowane pniaki, mini sztućce i naczynia dla lalek i Małych Skrzacików, domki dla lalek, sekretne kryjówki, zjeżdżalnia i huśtawka.

W zeszłym roku zawitało tam nawet “pudełko uczciwości” z jajami od kur z wolnego wybiegu, sprzedawanymi tutaj przez lokalną rodzinę. Bierzesz jaja, wrzucasz kasę do skrzyneczki i przy następnej okazji oddajesz kartonik 🙂

Piłek i kijów jest tu bez liku a lokalne psy wyszkoliły już wszystkie odwiedzające dzieci w kwestii ich zabawiania. Chloe również otrzymała prywatną lekcję i po kilku minutach nie wiedziała w co ma ręce włożyć bo tyle tu zabawy, że głowę urywa!

Był słoneczny dzień, dość nietypowe zjawisko i w dodatku nie padało od kilku dni. Trawa była sucha… powiedzmy (nigdy nie siedziałam na suchej trawie przez 16 lat życia w Irlandii!).

Tuż przy Fairy Garden – Ogródku Wróżek znajduje się słynne na całym świecie pole golfowe prowadzone przez Radę Hrabstwa Louth. Ten wielokrotnie nagradzany klub golfowy był gospodarzem dwóch Irish Open.

Przechodzimy przez drogę prowadzącą do Klubu i siadamy na trawie. Jak zawsze, papier, kredki i markery zasypują cały świat. …. W taki też sposób tworzymy naszą kolejną książkę wraz z ilustracjami wykonanymi na miejscu. Opowiada ona o naszych nowych psich przyjaciołach, którym z taką łatwością udało się nas oswoić.

Ale pieski, nie zapominajcie o tym, co powiedział Mały Książę: “stajecie się odpowiedzialni za to, co oswoiliście”!

Wróciłyśmy do samochodu i przejechaliśmy obok pola golfowego na sam koniec drogi podziurawionej jak szwajcarski ser. Teraz jest ona zamknięta dla samochodów. Dzięki Bogu, ponieważ jazda po niej oznaczała potencjalnie ostatni dzień życia dla waszego samochodu, a tak czy inaczej obszar ten i tak jest rezerwatem przyrody i musi być chroniony.

Ale tamtego dnia podjęłyśmy ryzyko i pojechałyśmy na brzeg rzeki, gdzie przywitały nas słynne Fairy Mounds czyli Kopce Wróżek, które rosną z prędkością światła zarówno wielkościowo jak i ilościowo.

Spacer wzdłuż rzeki jest dość długi, szczególnie dla małego dziecka, ale warto. Możecie zrobić pętlę i wrócić w to samo miejsce, tylko spacerując wśród krów i krowich kupek ścieżką zapewnioną przez właściciela ziemi, albo możecie również zajrzeć na sam brzeg morza.

Każdego roku, od maja do sierpnia, Louth Nature Trust prowadzi tutaj projekt ochrony gniazd rzadkich ptaków, które lubią ten obszar – urocze małe rybitwy i małe czaple.

Chodzenie po tej plaży to zarówno ból, jak i zabawa. Jest ona tak rozległa i ciągnie się aż do Clogherhead. Czujecie się wręcz przytłoczeni jej rozmiarem. Co więcej, jest tak rzadko odwiedzana przez ludzi, że naprawdę jest oazą natury.

Wydma ma tu kilometr szerokości, a drobny żółty piasek jest tak miękki, że chodzenie jest walką z żywiołami. Wasze stopy nieustannie toną nawet do 10 cm w piasku, a zatem pokonanie tej samej odległości, zajmuje co najmniej dwa razy więcej czasu niż w normalnych warunkach plażowych.

Z drugiej strony, gdy woda jest ciepła i przechadzacie się tam na bosaka, Wasze stopy tonące w piachu wypychają pęcherzyki powietrza na powierzchnię wody. To nie tylko brzmi i wygląda zabawnie, ale przede wszystkim łaskocze 😀To jedyne miejsce na Ziemi, w którym doświadczyłam takiego zjawiska.

I wreszcie, gdy przejdziecie około kilometra w kierunku Thermonfeckin, nie ważne czy po piasku czy po wydmie, staniecie twarzą w twarz z wrakiem statku “Irish Trader”, który osiadł tu na mieliźnie w 1974 roku, przewożąc ładunek nawozów pod uprawy do portu w Droghedzie. W czasie odpływu można wokół niego połazić i zrobić ładne zdjęcia. Chloe uwielbia to miejsce.

Baltray to wioska wymieniona na Scenic Seafood Trail czyli Malowniczym Szlaku Owoców Morza, inicjatywie Hrabstwa Lauth, która ma na celu przyciągnięcie turystów do nadmorskich miejsc, a także promowanie ich w zabawny sposób. Istnieje lista punktów, w których można uzyskać paszport, a następnie zbierać do niego specjalne pamiątkowe znaczki z każdej z odwiedzonych miejscowości. Zobaczcie tutaj jak to działa. 🙂

Jest jeszcze festiwal, który można podziwiać lokalnie a zwie on się Vantastival. Co roku w czerwcowe święto kamperzy i fani muzyki gromadzą się w pobliskim pięknym Beaulieu House, położonym nad brzegiem rzeki Boyne, w połowie drogi między Baltray i miastem Drogheda, aby spędzić czas w przyjaznej atmosferze. To taki festiwal, który jest bardziej imprezą ogrodową z sąsiadami.

Zabawy dla dzieci, sztuka i rzemiosło, stragany z jedzeniem i muzyką. A wszystko to w otoczeniu tego wspaniałego dzieła architektury, który jest teraz całkowicie zamknięty dla publiczności, z wyjątkiem takich wydarzeń.

I kiedyś warto go było odwiedzić ze względu na holenderską architekturę i jeden z trzech kadawerów w Irlandii, który znajduje się tu na przyzamkowym cmentarzu.

Jeśli chodzi o Baltray, jest jeszcze jedna rzecz warta wspomnienia. Zaledwie 23 lata temu, w 1999 roku, miejscowi mężczyźni zauważyli, że podczas przesilenia zimowego Słońce ustawia się w specyficzny sposób między dwoma kamieniami, które do tej pory uważano za zupełnie nieistotne.

Kogo interesują menhiry i starożytni, może się zagłębić w tę interesującą historię o kamieniach z Baltray tutaj, podczas gdy my wrócimy do obecnych czasów, w których to Baltray desperacko potrzebuje środków przeciwpowodziowych, szczególnie teraz, gdy rośnie ryzyko podniesienia się poziomu wody.

Zasadę Archimedesa stwierdzającą, że:

na każde ciało całkowicie lub częściowo zanurzone w płynie (gazie lub cieczy) w spoczynku działa siła wznosząca się lub wyporna, której wielkość jest równa masie płynu przemieszczonego przez ciało.

można tu niestety zaobserwować za każdym razem, gdy statek załadowany kontenerami wpływa do portu w Droghedzie. Na szczęście nie każda łódź dostaje pozwolenie na wkroczenie do portu nie tylko z przyczyn związanych z ich załadunkiem i ciężarem, ale również w związku z wysokością fali.

To niesamowite miejsce to naprawdę wyjątkowa wioska, tak maleńka, a jednocześnie tak czarująca i z mnóstwem do zaoferowania. Nie muszę chyba wspomnieć o ludziach!? Są gościnni i przyjaźni. I nawet im nie przeszkadza, że w okolicy nie ma sklepu. Kochają też swój spokój, więc uszanujmy to.

Nie pozwólmy jednak, by Baltray zamieniło się w bajeczną… Atlantydę.


Muzyka: “Atlantyda”, słowa Wisława Szymborska, muzyka i wykonanie Grzegorz Turnau


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Capela dos Ossos – Chapel of the Bones

Listen here to the podcast: Capela dos Ossos – Chapel of the Bones

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Algarve welcomed us with rain. Heavy rain. It is believed that the end of March marks end of the winter season here. Well, cool, but we never expected it to look quite like through the window in Ireland.

Ah  sure, what can you do, after all weather thankfully still cannot be fully controlled by our human selves and let’s hope it will stay so yet for a long time. I mean, less the Russians who sprinkle rainy clouds with gold dust to ensure sunny days for their national festivals…. and those who can make rainbows….

One afternoon we were sitting out on the terrace of our rented house and above the beach, few metres away, a guy who used a paraglider powered by a funny looking fan engine, literally dropped something into the air and made a rainbow :O I swear! No messing!

Arrival in Faro was super easy, no queues like at Dublin’s security, which is so out of control now as if it was a surprise to everyone that since the country was opening gradually, it would be necessary to rehire staff… but sure, rain always comes so unexpectedly in Ireland too that when it does the country goes to a halt.

Our flight was at 7am so overflying Iberic Coast starting from La Coruña, the sister city of Drogheda, through Porto and then Lisbon to Faro was a true pleasure. Meandering rivers ending their journeys in the Atlantic Ocean, huge foamy waves battering the cliffs. Yay. And just by Matagorda airport area, a neverending Lota – a super long beach – empty but for 3 people.

We rented our car from Centauro after a few in depth searches among other providers. With Centauro it is all clear, you book what you book and there’s no need for a credit card if you buy insurance.

One thing I found annoying at Faro airport was the Parking lot no 4. It is the most remote one of them all and is the one designated for the collections of rental cars and the shuttle buses to the rental car offices. For a child who spent a good while in a journey to the airport, through controls, on the flight through arrival checks, etc. it is an excruciating task to walk that bit of a distance from the arrivals terminal.

Our shuttle arrived. A couple, I guess from Ireland, joined us in the mini van. Upon arrival at the office the woman missed a step and fell onto the ground. Luckily seemed fine but not a fun beginning to her holidays.

As previously, we aimed for the cheapest, hence Fiat 500 or similar. Got a Tipo. Slightly bigger. I didn’t mind really but it felt nice so we sticked with it. At that stage we were yet to find out what a weak piece of junk this car was.

Offence goes to Fiat of course, not the broker.

A 30 degree hill is a killer for this thing, no matter how hard you push it up with your very own will power and chants, it will equally give up on you whenever it feels like doing so.

So this way we sadly experienced many o’embarrassing moments having to reignite it in the middle of steeper ascents. Shame on you Fiat, especially that Italian villages are quite comparable to those here in Portugal.

Driving on the right came to me like something I was born with. Not an issue really. And I was quite nervous about it.

The cost of renting a car in an almost-post-covid Portugal was dreadful though. Not to mention the cost of fuel….

We made it onto the road though and after an hour or so and some hundred roundabouts, we arrived in the nearby Aldi. The prices shocked me a bit. I recall pretty local Mercados in the Tavira region with local veggies and fruits at very reasonable prices. Here, on this side of Faro it is not just about terribly looking aglomerations but also International chain stores such as Aldi, Lidl, InterMarche, etc.

All commercialised, overpriced and with no local feel to them.

One of the 4 pools in our apartment complex was covered and we had a plan to use it that evening. But before doing that, we went on a mission. The sun was shining but not quite strong enough to make us go to the beach and splash in the ocean waves. We went in search of the bones.

Not in an archaeological expedition, no. These have already been found and like in most of the other similar places, here too they were apparently dag out during the works in the central part of the village. Skulls and bones of 1500 people line the walls and ceiling of this little room creating a pretty mosaic covering every centimetre of this mini Chapel. It is accessible from a small square to the right of the main entrance to the church, not from the inside of the church.

Alcantarilha is yet another town on the hill along the main Algarve route. The Chapel was built into a nave of the church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, situated on top of this hill, a typical church of the Algarve region. Its Neoclassical facade and bell tower were completed in 1858. Similar features can be found on the nearby church of Santa Maria de Tavira, and the parish church of São Brás de Alportel. Inside is a gold vaulted interior which is typical to Manueline style. The Rococo altar dates back to 1769.

On the way up, we were in quite a disbelief that we managed to fit two cars into a steep, crammed streetlet. But locals who were enjoying a Sunday morning coffee sip in the corner micro bar did everything to encourage us to fear not and keep going. Just before we reached the church, a very assertive granny, clearly a local feminist, noticed a car driven by a man approaching from the opposite side and without thinking twice abruptly stopped and ordered the man to reverse to where he came from. Instead showed us to proceed. The guy behind another wheel obliged without a blink of an eye 🙂 I like that town. 

Looking at the skulls lining the chapel walls will likely make you aware of your own mortality so maybe this attraction is not for everyone. After a moment of memento moris reflections, we look away.

On the bench, right next to it, sits a dude sipping beer from a bottle. It’s Sunday and people are slowly gathering for the morning mass. In front of the guy, opposite from the Chapel of the Bones, a tiny building. You get in with one door and exit with another. Inside, a few shelves with some basic products. Not much. Just two or 3 items of every kind sold. By the end of the room, two steps higher, sits an old lady on a tiny stool and husks beans, accompanied by an older gent.

They pretty much ignore us and our Bon dia, chatting away in Portuguese, busy with their work. So we walk over to the freezer that is positioned behind the woman’s back and fish ourselves an ice cream. A simple vanilla flavored lolly.

Card payments are not accepted. €20 note is all we have. I ask how much for the lolly, the lady throws €1 in response. But she shakes her head when I show her my 20 saying she has no change.

Hmmm… I turn around and spot a bottle of water. Walk back to grab it. The woman in the meantime decides to do some business after all and walks behind the counter and starts digging through the pockets and a little coin purse.

I take the time to observe the elderly man, completely not interested in what we are up to, sitting over a basket of long bean pods – some of them looking black and strange – and slowly hulking bean after bean and letting them fall into the pot.

In the meantime, business gets almost completed. I look at the counter where I see a €10 note, a €5 note and 4x €1 coins. That would be a deal if not for the bottle of water we now added to our purchase.

So in Spanish I ask how much for the water. The lady says €1. I silently smile thinking that probably everything is €1 here no matter the size or shape and move 1 coin back in the woman’s direction pointing to the lolly and to the water.

The lady starts adding it all up again and after a short while comes up with agreement…

We smile and thank each other after which, without further hassle she turns around and goes back to her basket of beans starting off her conversation as if it was never disturbed and we are left to make our own decisions. We decide then to go out.

A little stroll through the town’s hilltop make us quickly discover that there is not much more to see there. Some restaurants, some quite nice buildings, a few rather neglected ones too with one pink one, just opposite the entrance to the church. At least a hundred of swallow nests hanging under its roof’s edge. Looks like we were the first to ever see something special about them.

I ask how to get to the church’s bell tower. One guy says we should ask the priest for the key. But 2 others say it’s not gonna happen.

So I ask for the best way to get out of this mess of the streets we got ourselves tangled in. They kindly point the same way we arrived, to which I say “are you sure these streets are going in two ways?” And they just could not see the reason why not.

We went in search of McDonald’s. So much for local food! But it was not our foult that the Irish weather chased us all the way down to the end of Europe.

Albufeira is an old town. One we will visit yet. Because this time we did not. Why? It’s simple. Every time we wanted to go, it rained. This time it did too and on top of that it was getting real cold too. Our two small bagpacks arrived filled with swimsuits and tank tops so the shopping centre was all we really needed. The fact that it served chicken nuggets was only a positive addition on a miserable afternoon.

At least fast food chains have cheaper food here in comparison with Ireland. So we were quite contented shoving up the nuggets and drinking local juices while playing cool snap cards we have just aquired.

H&M had all we needed – black, cheap leggings and plenty of discounted stuff. We needed only 2 tops and 2 bottoms so the transaction was only pre-longed by a chat with a very kind shop assistanct who shared his story from a recent visit to Dublin.

A quick peek at the cork products! mindblowing – how do they make all that stuff out of a tree bark! – and off we went out into the rain. Not a drizzle, no. A proper freaking Irish rain. With wind. Lashing and soaking you through within seconds. Yay to sunny holidays!

But then we noticed a bird! One that you can climb onto… via its asshole…. and then slide down under its beak. The coolest playground on Earth.

Having no chances to slide down the heron’s leg without getting our bums super wet, we decided to head back to our temporary home. It’s funny how we always call these places “home”.

Hating to navigate through the neverending roundabouts, I decided to take us yet on a brief adventure ride through the local villages. And guess what! It was awesome!

Narrow winding road led us between the citrus orchards. Pretty green trees were sprinkled with oranges and these with the raindrops. At first we thought that stopping by and stealing one would be a bad idea but then we noticed hundreds of ftuits lying and rotting under these trees. Our hearts could not take such a waste and so we decided to help at least two or three fruits to not get wasted. I stopped at the roadside and we let all that rain to fall on our heads when the oranges we pulled finally let go of their motherly branches.

These were the freshest and tastiest oranges in the world. My heart still sinks a bit each time I think of those wasted ones that nobody cared to collect. Why? Orange juice can be preserved!

That evening was perfect for a barbeque. We got a few sausages and shrips and set the fire on the balcony. The beach was hiding behind the cliff on top of which we were actually sitting but the ocean waves kept reminding us that it was there.

And since we always bring rainbows everywhere we go, guess what? This time we did too 🙂

And the shrimps and sausages were delicious!

Anna and Chloe