Friday, February 28, 2014

Walking: Vilabertran

The day that I ran into the man with a dog from the local animal shelter (called a protectora although the one in Figueres seems to abuse and kill rather than protect the animals) I was actually headed for the nearby village of Vilabertran.  I've walked there several times before but never managed to get there on a weekday when their intriguing city hall was open.  The building is set far back from the street and surrounded by a garden, pond, and wall with a gate that locks outside of business hours -- hence the problem of taking photos.  Built in the early 20th century, an example of the modernista (Catalan art nouveau) style, the Torre de'n Reig was built as a private mansion.  Salvador Dali, who was born in nearby Figueres, used to visit there.

Where asphalt turns to dirt track


Salvador Dali's painting "Vilabertran"
painted in 1913 when he was about 9

Torre d'en Reig, the Vilabertran
glorious city hall

Friday, February 21, 2014

No Animal Protection in Spain

Walking out in the fields the other day I came upon a young man walking a dog and asked if I could take a photo of the pooch.  He man said sure, but that the dog wasn’t his.  The pooch was from the local animal shelter and he was just taking it for a walk.

It turns out that Marc, the young man, lives in Olot, a town about 40 minutes away.  Marc comes into Figueres two or three times a week expressly to walk dogs that live in the shelter.  He does this because the staff at the shelter doesn’t.

I told Marc I had heard some bad things about the shelter.  Marc said that whatever I’ve heard, it’s even worse.  But in fact, I’ve never heard anything specific.  People just say the shelter is bad and I was warned that if I wanted to make a donation that would actually help the animals, better to bring in food or equipment than to give money.

Marc said the conditions for the dogs at the shelter are deplorable.  The cages are small, they aren’t clean, the dogs get no exercise, they stay there a short while and then, if they are not one of the popular breeds, they are killed.    It is hard to adopt even one of the popular breeds because the dogs become unsociable.  It’s possible they are abused.  He said the situation for the cats is even worse.  Only a few of the popular dog breeds get adopted, as that is the mindset of the Spaniards who do want a dog.  Less fashionable breeds and mutts don’t find homes.

Spain has no animal protection laws.  Catalunya passed its own protection law just recently, in 2006.  But as with most laws, if no one complains about an infraction, the law isn’t enforced. 

I suppose it is good news that some people have finally filed a formal complaint about the Figueres animal shelter.  Marc says that with the figures showing how many dogs were taken in, compared with how many were placed in homes and how many remain at the shelter, it shouldn’t be hard to prove that they have been killing a lot of dogs.  If the shelter can be closed down, it would leave the way open for another group to open a real shelter.  I wish this initiative a lot of luck, and have written to the organizer of the complaint to see how I can help.

Friday, February 14, 2014

On The Road: Avinyonet de Puigventós

It's been over a year and a half since my car got washed, so finally this week I had it cleaned, inside and out.  To celebrate, the next day I took my nice clean car for an outing.  We went to Avinyonet de Puigventós (Little Avingnon of the Windy Peak), only a ten-minute drive.

This little village has a castle that dates from the 11th century, a pretty old center full of stone buildings, views of snow-covered mountains, and is encircled by several kilometers of walking paths.  We will be back.


Friday, February 7, 2014

On The Road: Banyoles

A walk around a pretty lake – all level -- what could be nicer?  The lake at Banyoles has always been there, but it’s taken me over a year and a half to get to it and it’s only about 40 minutes away.  Not that I didn’t want to go.  I’d always intended to…

I’ve seen lots of photos and they’ve always been inspiring.  The lake is pretty when the sun shines and it’s pretty when it's foggy.  The organizer of the walk said that if it rained, the walk would be cancelled, and that was also fine with me.

This was a walk of English-speaking people from a group based in Girona that usually meets once a week for coffee and a chat in a café near the Girona train station.  I’ve been to a few of their meetings, but small talk is not my forte.  A walk seemed a much better idea.


There are 9.13 kilometers of shoreline and they are dotted with 20 pesqueres (little fishermen huts).  These are, in fact, what make the images of the lake so uniquely picturesque.  These little huts were first built in the mid-19th century with the last one being constructed in 1931.  After that, new construction was banned.


Besides the pretty lake with its picturesque pesqueres, on a clear winter day you can enjoy a backdrop of snow-covered Pyrenees and Mount Canigó.  Once in Catalunya and now in France, this 2784-meter peak has historical significance for the Catalans and is the subject of many legends, poems, and songs.  It is also the source of most of the Catalan summer solstice bonfires.  Every 23 June, on the Eve of Sant Joan (Saint John) Catalans from thousands of towns and villages cross the border to France to light a torch at the peak and bring it back to light their town’s bonfire that night.  On Sunday, Canigó was blanketed with snow and clouds.