We have had a lovely day doing not a lot! It was quite cold last night and our thermometer said 1C at 8am and there was a touch of frost on the picnic tables outside! This seems quite strange given the very exotic plants around us – lots of yukka, lots of prickly pears, palm trees etc. Definitely a porridge morning! It was still only 3.5C when we set off to walk up to the castle and church so we wrapped up well. However the steep climb soon warmed us up.

We were in for a surprise at the top as the church and castle are perched on a rock high above a gorge! You can’t see that at all from this side as it just looks like a hillside with the castle about halfway up the hill. Actually the ground drops vertically behind the castle and then rises vertically even higher the other side.

The church and castle are perched on a cliff above a gorge.
Castle courtyard

The castle dates from at least 10C but the current castle has mainly 12C – 16C bits but was heavily restored in 1960s. It is owned and run by the local authority as part museum, part events venue. We rolled up at 11am to find a notice saying it was open 10 -2 and 4 – 7 but the reception was locked. We could hear things going on across the courtyard so decided to hang around having found in France that sometimes these places have a single member of staff who closes reception when doing a tour and indeed this was the case and the custodian appeared after a little while. Oh dear – he only spoke Catalan and Spanish. However he managed to explain to us that we could come in and see the church and castle for 1.7 euros each (crumbly rate) and he gave us a leaflet in French and English which had some info in it. He waved us out of the recepetion and took us over to the church. While we had been waiting in the castle a coach had arrived with a group of Spaniards on a trip. We were invited to tag along on the guided tour (in Catalan!). It did mean that we could see the church which is not usually open and we got see a few rooms in the castle too even though we had little idea what he was telling us! Anyway it was a very enjoyable hour.

Really old church with, they claim, the best apse in Catalunia

After our tour we were keen to explore the gorge and I found a path that lead us right through the gorge behind the castle and we could look up at the huge cliffs either side. Everything here is very dry and the river that should have flowed through the gorge was dry. Interestingly the various little footbridges that were provided where ever the track crossed a ford were secured by chains to nearby trees. I guess they are preparing for the occasions when the dry watercourse becomes a torrent!

Some of the rocks below the church viewed from the gorge

After a late lunch on Bertie we were off to explore the modern town which is down on the flat below the castle. It seems Wednesday is halfday closing and most shops had been open this morning but were not open this afternoon. We tried to get some cash from two ATMs but both wanted to charge a fee for this so we declined. We will need to investigate this further as this was our first attempt to get cash in Spain. In practice we spend very little in cash as almost everything is paid on our Halifax Clarity card, from road tolls to parking charges to supermarket shopping.

View from the castle terrace – can you find Bertie?

We will move on again tomorrow heading a bit further south. We should be somewhere around Valencia in a few days time but then again we might find another place like this where we want to spend some time. There is no rush as long as the weather holds.

Sant Marti Sarroca