Catalan Secession

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September 11th 2017
Published: September 12th 2017
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We‘re tired after a day of travelling so we sleep in. Issy's cold‘s still not great. We eventually manage to rouse ourselves and set off for the Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de L'Emporda, which is a large national park just to the south of town. It comprises a series of wetlands extending down to the coast, and is apparently a haven for bird watchers.

We set off along one of the walking trails around the park, which we’re told is a round trip of around eight kilometres. Bird watchers seem to be well catered for - lots of bird hides, in the form of small wooden buildings with slits in the sides so that you can do your observing without disturbing your prey (which in this case probably isn’t the right term given we’re in a national park). Everyone except us seems to have either a pair of binoculars, or cameras with zoom lenses that look like they’ve been designed to take close ups of rocks on the moon. The number of "silencio" signs scattered around the place would seem to suggest that we’re probably not supposed to be talking to each other, but there seem to be more people here chatting away than not. Most of the wetlands seem to be watered from irrigation channels and we get a nasty fright as a noisy pump suddenly decides to switch itself on as we stroll peacefully past. It seems that the "silencio" signs don't apply to the pumps. We like birds as much as the next person, but I'm not sure you could describe us as bird watching enthusiasts. I generally associate bird hides with men wearing funny hats, and blowing duck whistles as they try to lure their prey close enough to blow them out of the sky, but again, maybe not in a national park.

We climb a large tower for panoramic views out over the park and the surrounding countryside and coastline. The whole area is pancake flat. Everything‘s very green, but it's the end of summer so there's not too much water in any of the wetlands.

We plough on towards the coast and then on through a large caravan park to a long wide sandy beach. The park seems to be quite full, and there‘s no shortage of people playing volleyball, throwing frisbees, and lying on the beach.

We have lunch at a beachside cafe, and, as usual, I order patatas bravas. Issy asks me if I'm going to have this for every meal while we're in Spain. I don't think I had it for breakfast this morning, but I then remember that we didn't have breakfast, so maybe that doesn't count.

We start the long trek back through the park to the car. There were supposed to be deer here, but we didn’t manage to see any of those. We didn't see too many birds either, not that we were looking all that hard. Any birds that we did see looked quite small and common, although I'm not too sure either of us would recognise a rare bird if we tripped over one. We did however see some tadpoles, a few small lizards, some cows, a few horses and some seagulls. I'm not sure we needed to come to Spain to see any of that lot, but we did nevertheless enjoy a very pleasant walk.

We head back towards Roses in search of a supermarket, and whilst there are lots of them here they all seem to be closed. I then vaguely remember reading last night that today‘s a public holiday here for The National Day of Catalonia. Catalonia‘s part of Spain, but I get the feeling that a lot of locals would prefer that it wasn't. Most of the road and other signs here are in Catalan, which seems to be a bit like Spanish, but is certainly not the same. That said Issy thinks this is just a convenient excuse I use when I can't translate a simple road sign after trying to learn Spanish for nearly two years. We read that the holiday commemorates the fall of Barcelona on this day in 1714 during the War of the Spanish Succession, which effectively spelt the end of a separate Catalan constitution. Apparently there have been lots of passionate protests by Catalan secessionists on this day in recent years. I haven't noticed any protesting going on in Roses, but I hope that no one asks us which side we’re on. I wouldn’t want to give the wrong answer and get garrotted.

We stroll into town for dinner where I enjoy some excellent lobster paella.

We watch some local children play tiggy on the footpath outside the restaurant. It seems that the person who‘s “it" has to pretend to be a bull; they hold their hands up against their forehead and use their fingers as horns. This seems to put “it” at quite a disadvantage; it looks like it’s pretty hard to run whIle you’re set up like this. Not that I think this would apply to games of tiggy, but I thought that bullfighting had been banned in Catalonia. I now read that this ban was overturned last year by the Spanish federal court, on the grounds that Catalonia had a responsibility to "preserve common cultural heritage". The Catalan government responded by saying that they didn't really care about the Spanish court ruling; there still wouldn't be any bull fights held in Catalonia; they said they wanted "a country where it is not possible to make a public spectacle of death and suffering to an animal". I think I just became a secessionist.

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