Cycling B&B in the foothills of the Pyrenees

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Back in the Autumn I had the use of the company pickup for a week while our car was in the garage for some repairs and I took the opportunity to hunt for stones/rocks suitable for wall building.

Almost everything built here - houses/barns/boundary walls are built from rocks just laying around in the crountryside.... you just have to make sure they have at least one good "face" on them. Thanks to the local geology, the way rocks are formed here makes that pretty easy.

Picking up rocks . . . . . it's not work - it's cross-training!

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They said I was doing a good job!
 
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The spanish people love Christmas and we have lots of Christmas Trees here in Spain, but out on my ride yesterday I came across this "Christmas Ladder" in the nearby village of Margudged, decorated with baubles, flowers and cuddly toys..... :-)

Andrea & I wish everyone on CycleChat a Merry Christmas.
Best wishes to everyone.

Tony.

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Temps dropped here over the last week - and then last night around midnight it started snowing!

I took these outside our rented flat at 1am last night. It was amazingly quiet and still, with just a light falling of snow coming down . . . . . the tyre tracks were from a patrolling police car.

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It's slowly melting away now, but the day it snowed we took a drive and some photos.

It's beautiful, but you have to be careful where you try and drive. We have a 4WD SUV for this very reason - rural and snowy winters - but even so we didn't go "off Piste!"!

This is Latorrecilla . . . .

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Guaso, where our project is, with the Pena Montenesa in the distance.

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Ainsa Old Town
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Stick to the middle of the road . . . .

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We took a drive up out of the back of Boltana on the gravel road to Morillo de San Pietro (Sampietro) yesterday but we had to stop a couple of km short of the village when the snow got too deep.

It's a route I often cycle - so I knew what was coming up - and although we have a 4WD SUV, we weren't taking any chances!

It was a nice drive regardless.....

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"Mrs Bonus" checking for cell phone signal and muttering something about "mountain rescue . . ." :-)

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So we had some snow, which we enjoyed. Most of that melted and life returned to normal - then along came Storm Filomena!

Spain was hit pretty bad, some places (mostly down in the south) with rain resulting in localised flooding and some places (Madrid for example) with a lot of snow, which closed major airports & freeways etc.

We got off lightly, maybe 15cm of snow over 36 hrs - which is what we generally get when it snows here the once or twice over a normal winter. The council snow ploughs have been out in force and the pavements have been salted.....

We did one of our local footpath walks yesterday and it really was beautiful. Not too cold as long as you were wrapped up (no wind helps) and everyone we bumped into was very sociable & in good spirits.

Happy days . . . .

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After the latest snowfall last week some of our local "property developers" (kids) went into business.

A lovely little property to live in during the winter and turns itself into a swimming pool come summer!

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Living in the foothills of the Pyrenees means that the weather here can be very localised.

We can have nice weather here in Boltaña, which is protected bacause it nestles behind hills, while Ainsa, which is 6km east of us, can have wetter colder weather - because it sits at the bottom of the Bielsa valley that brings the colder weather straight down from the Alto Pyrenees. The campsite where I often work sits in the Bielsa valley and the temperatures there in wnter are some of the coldest locally.

The village of Guaso, where our Project is, sits about 4km south of both Boltaña & Ainsa and is on the sunny south-facing side of another protective hill. This gives us warmth from the south and protection from the north - giving Guaso its own little micro-climate.

Of course sometimes the weather is the same everywhere. At the height of Summer we can top out at more than 40 degrees on occasion (thankfully not often) and in Winter in can be minus 5 in the middle of the night. The coldest its ever been at the campsite, some years ago now, was apparently -24 degrees....

These are photos I took throughout last year that show a little bit of our local geography :-)

Boltaña nestling in the hills ....

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Ainsa, with the Bielsa valley on the right leading north towards France:

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From the viewpoint behind Ainsa Old Town you can see how the heavy weather comes down the Bielsa valley:

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Guaso, tucked behind a protective hill but still able to see Monte Perdido and the Pyrenees.
We love this village!

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There are loads of little walks around here. One of our favs takes us along the Rio Ara to this little bridge next to a picnic spot just outside Boltaña. Today I read that the local council are going to refurbish the bridge and improve the picnic area for the summer.

I enjoy the walks, but invariably I see bike tracks...... and I wish we were riding!

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We did a "Drive 'n' Hike" today up to the semi-abandonded village of Morillo de San Pietro.

The village sits at an altitude of 970m (we live at 600m) and is about 4km north of us in a straight line (9.5km by "mountain gravel road"). The climb from Boltaña up to the turn off to the village is part of route ZE-09 which I've ridden several times. It's a nice steady workout :-)

There's one couple who still live up in the village and two other "holiday" houses that are visited during the year. The remaining dozen or so properties are in varying states of repair - from "passable" to "only the external walls still standing". The local council refurbished the gravel road and installed solar electricity to all the properties a few years ago in an effort to encourage people to move back there.

The views are spectacular, but it's pretty rural. The 9km drive takes a good 25 mins to complete and the village becomes isolated when it snows heavily - so not entirely practicle for most people . . . .

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I've been meaning to write a little update on how things have generally been going here lately and finally I have 5 minutes . . . .

This time last year we were halfway through a strict six week lockdown. We didn't know it was going to be six weeks when it started - like so many people, we were told "15 days"! After those first 6 weeks, the owner of one of the local campsites that I often work at got me a letter saying that I was "essential to the pre-season preparation work necessary to open the campsite" and I was able to go to work. That was possible partly thanks to the fact that I had worked there "officially" under contract the two previous summers and partly due to the age of the owner - he is past retirement age and so (in theory anyway) can't do the work himself.

Apart from the initial 6 "weeks off" (which kicked in a couple of weeks after we "started work" for the year!) I ended up with consistent work at the campsite from the beginning of May right through to the end of October and then, thanks the the owner having an accident and smashing his left shoulder, had part time work there during November and December. It takes a while to make up 6 weeks of "zero income", but by the end of the year we'd done ok. Guiding work was way down compared to normal, but campsite work was up. Compared to a lot of people we'd done very well indeed and we're grateful for that.

This year I'm happy to say that we've had the best "first quarter" since I started working here. Bearing in mind that our intention was never to have to find jobs here - we knew that would be virtually impossible because we moved to an area where there is very little non-tourist based work locally and we're not fully fluent in Spanish - but rather that we'd be running our own B&B and taking care of ourselves, that's quite an achievement and one that I'm proud of. I've had Winter maintenance work at the campsite (thanks to the owner having to go in for another operation just after Christmas) and several local British ex-pat's had me working for them in their houses during Jan & Feb. I seem to have built up a good reputation for turning up on time, working hard and doing a good job :-)

In my next post I'll talk about what it's like working in Spain, compared to other places I've worked . . .

Onwards and upwards!
 
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