The week my parents were here

Yesterday we waved goodbye to our second set of Aussie visitors, my dear parentals. It’s a bit strange when you grow up, and you are supposed to be an adult, and you realise that your Mum and Dad don’t know everything, like how to order a coffee in Spanish, or the direction of the train station.

But on the other hand, it’s great fun when you grow up and realise that your parents can travel with the best of them, and that they enjoy cava (Spanish bubbles) just as much as you do.

This post could easily be a sob story about how seeing my parents made me feel more homesick than I have done so far on this adventure. Skype is one thing, but it’s sad not knowing when I will catch up with them again in person.

And I could easily write this post as a love letter to Spain in the spring: travelling with the family gave us a chance to experience warm Madrid nights, floral Valencian days and the delightful green countryside of Castile-La Mancha.

But to keep it local, here is the second edition of Things To Do in Tortosa When You Have Guests! If you remember, the first issue was full of suggestions for activities that are cheap, cheerful, and close to town.  For this round you will need a car, which you can hire here, or much more cheaply in Tarragona or Reus, if you are coming that way.

Visit the Delta

About 25 minutes out of Tortosa is the flat expanse of Delta del Ebro. Beaches, bike paths, towers, and nearly more than 7,500 hectares of ever-changing rice paddies are key features of this unique landscape. At this time of year, the rice fields are flooded and rice is being sown, making it a glorious place to spend the afternoon (the “afternoon” here being from 4pm until 8:30pm at the moment).

The real stars of the Delta, however, are the flamingos. The pink croquet mallets have even made into the Lonely Planet as a Top Site in Catalonia! Last Friday we criss-crossed the area in search of the lanky fellows, and were not disappointed.

We spied some in Llaguna de la Tancada, El Clot, and luckiest of all, a fly-over at the end of Playa del Trabucador, a small strip of beach that gives the Delta its bottom “fin” (map here). So lucky! I’m sure there are plenty of other good places for spotting as well, but we had a pretty fun time.

Flying flamingos! Look at how pink they are!
Flamingos dining in the foreground with Serra de Montsià in the background. I recommend zooming in on this picture for maximum flamingo-age.

Hike Els Ports

This book and this website are slowly opening up the Els Ports Nature Park for us, helping us to explore the dramatic mountain range that frames my walk to work every day. We did a couple of short walks with Mum and Dad: one through Els Estrets, an incredible gorge that is home to nesting vultures (!!) and crystal blue water, and one to La Barcina, a peak near Mont Caro, the highest point of Els Ports. We even spotted an ibex, Catalonia’s horned mountain goat!

Ibex, Catalonia's endangered mountain goat, spotted in Els Ports.
Ibex, Catalonia’s endangered mountain goat, spotted in Els Ports.
Looking up at almost too impressive Els Ports.

Follow the Ebro

Further up the Ebro River from Tortosa, picturesque towns dot the green paddocks, including Miravet which is on the banks of the river and sports a very impressive castle. One of Spain’s most important defensive structures, the Miravet Castle contains both Moorish and Christian elements, and has been occupied by many different forces, including the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

The castle closes at 5:30pm on weekends during spring, so after a hike in the mountains and a long lunch in town, we just had enough time to appreciate the glory of the old fort. There is even a (very narrow) spiral staircase that takes you right to the top.

The view from the top of the Miravet Castle.

I’m know there are at least 10,000 other things to see and do in this region, and that this is just a taste. If you are a mad cyclist you could possibly explore these suggestions on your own steam, but if you are a mere mortal you most definitely need a car to get to these places. This is especially the case on the weekend when most of the public buses do not run, although perhaps that will change in summer. Thanks for the adventures mis padres!

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