10. Heading South instead of North! Tarragona to the Ebro Delta then to San Esteban de Litera in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

After our great night’s sleep, we started the day on the beach paddling in the Mediterranean Sea… Chris with mug of tea in hand!

Breakfast in the Med!
Breakfast in the Med!

Then,  we took advantage of the very posh showers, and headed on our way, south to the city of  Tarragona.

We had been told that parking with a campervan was nearly impossible in Tarragona, and so it seemed to be, but then we found the new promenade stretching nearly a mile and with free parking all along it! Perfect. A rare pic of me, on the prom in Tarragona! 20150906_111927

Although the city has been rather spoilt by having a large commercial port, and lots of development, our reason for visiting was to see the Roman heritage there. This was an exceptionally important roman port called Tarraco, and amongst the many antiquities here, there is a really well preserved amphitheatre, right by the sea.

Tarragona roman amphitheatre
Tarragona roman amphitheatre

They are also in the process of excavating a recently discovered Chariot race course! The old town is fascinating, and that too contains vestiges of the Roman city. This wall is in a town square…

Tarragona wall of Roman forum
Tarragona wall of Roman forum

Also in the old town is the Cathedral of Aragon (yes it is the place Henry VIII’s first wife Katherine came from!) dating from the 12th century and with some beautiful Mediaeval wall paintings.

Tarragona. Cathedral of Aragon.
Tarragona. Cathedral of Aragon.

Then, back into Boris and another 80 kms south to the Ebro Delta. This is a large area of flat land built up where Spain’s longest river, the Ebro, meets the Mediterranean, and deposits silt.

The area is a nature paradise, especially for birds. The town of Ampollo is at the start of the delta, and we just happened to arrive here at 1.30 on Sunday. hmmmm…lunchtime, and I just happened to have the name of a seafood restaurant that was very reasonable but great. La Barraca. Would they have a table left?  NO! Disaster.

But they took pity on us, and said that if we didn’t mind sitting in the sun, they would get a table and chairs. We donned sunhats and sunglasses and said “yes please!”  It was right by the beach, and the food was great. We were adventurous and tried local dishes as starters. I had cuttlefish in garlic butter, and Chris had raw cod with a tomato and onion salad. Both were delicious. For the main course, we couldn’t resist the local paella!

20150906_150213As a celebration (I’m not sure what of!), I decided to have a Sangria. It was very reasonably priced and tasted lovely, but quite inocuous. Well, I don’t know what was in it, but I was quite giggly for a few hours…a very rare occurrence for me! Chris did stop me singing in the bird reserve!

Then we drove onto the delta. Miles and miles of flat fields with little thatched farmer’s and fisherman’s cottages dotted around. The main crop here is rice! There  are paddy fields everywhere. The rice was nearly ready for harvesting.

There were lots of tracks you could follow, and lagoons with hides, but we had hardly been driving for more than a few minutes when the birdlife erupted around us. A flock of glossy Ibis took off, there were egrets everywhere, and a Squacco Heron let us drive right up next to him!

Ebro Delta
Ebro Delta
Ebro Delta
Ebro Delta

We spent the rest of the day mooching around this beautiful place, then found a free aire on the outskirts of a village. We had settled down to eat supper as the sun was setting over the paddy fields, when Boris was surrounded by bats. At least 3 different varieties and they entertained us for nearly an hour with their aerial gymnastics. We slept brilliantly, and set off early the next morning to see the other side of the Delta.

Monday September 7th

We spent the morning driving to different lagoons and marvelling at the sheer numbers of birds here… and this is the quiet time of year. It reminded us a lot of birdwatching in the Vendee in France, or even lovely Norfolk… except it was 25 degrees C and we were wearing shorts! We also took Boris off~roading and drove along a 7km sandbar to the salt pans at the end. Highlights of the morning were flamingoes and lots of waders everywhere. After a quick lunch in the car park at Poble Nou we sadly left the Delta, and at the same time said goodbye to the Mediterranean Sea, as we started to head north for our return to England.

We decided to press on and drove about 200 kms across the plains where fruit trees = peaches, olives, nectarines, figs, greengages and almonds were growing prolifically. Then the road started to climb and we were in the hills  which are the foothills of the Pyrenees. We stopped at an aire in the lovely village of San Esteban de Litera.

The aire at San Esteban de Litera
The aire at San Esteban de Litera

It was beautifully set out, with all the amenities and a stunning view. We were right under a main migration route for birds flying from Northern Europe to Africa, and there was a steady stream of birds, mainly swallows, heading south. we wondered if any of them had come from the UK! Best of all, we sat and watched about 50 Bee eaters fly down to roost in a tree next to the aire. Another magical moment.

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