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Homage to Catalonia

Clive Nicholls takes to 2 wheels to explore the many hidden treasures of southern Catalonia

SITTING HIGH above the mighty Ebro River, the village of Miravet clings to the rock face like a barnacle to a boat hull. Swallows swoop low over the water as they feed in flight while a heron looks to have fallen asleep as he waits for the river to deliver his lunch. The grand Templar Castle looks down on this sleepy yet hauntingly beautiful village in this largely undiscovered region in southern Catalonia.

I reflect on my cycling holiday that started at the Ebro Delta and followed the river upstream to magical Miravet.

In just a few days I’ve seen the terrain change from the delta swamps to the surrounding mountains here at Miravet. I’ve eaten wonderful seafood, drunk some excellent Spanish wine, toured historic cities and, with the cycling, stayed reasonably fit in the process.

The Ebro delta is just two hours drive (or a faster train journey) from the airport at Barcelona. Yet the transformation from big city hustle and bustle to being at one with nature is dramatic.

Flamingos wade the shallows, flooded rice fields and saltpans draw on the goodness of the Ebro and in the warm waters of the estuary mussels and oysters are grown and harvested.

The tourist attraction Mon Natura Delta de L’Ebre gives a good insight to life in the Delta.

There’s a full-scale recreation of the saltpans, demonstrations of fishing techniques and a viewing platform to take in the birdlife of this special area.

I’m staying overnight in the Delta at the Hotel I’Algadir and the chef, Joan Capilla, invites me into the kitchen as he rustles up local dishes for tonight’s dinner.

It’s a family hotel and Joan is proud of his cuisine and I tasted samples as he cooked. I wasn’t too keen on the eels but the paella was something special – highly recommended!

Time to pick up my bike in L’Ampolla...

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