Estanys de L Ubago and Gran Collado de Anglos, Aragon

…planning the rest of his Atlantic – Mediterranean Pyrenean walk by the Spanish GR-11 long distance footpath – la senda.  It’s a long-held ambition.  I’ve had years of being preached at by HR colleagues about work-life balance so why not a bit of balance on this blog? 

Proceeding west – east, I hit Catalonia on the last leg.  Just over half-way.  Not quite downhill all the way now but a feeling of the end in sight. 

The cliché “up hill and down dale” doesn’t do it justice.  Last year the highest pass we toiled over was 8,700 ft.  Magnificent scenery.  Days with no clouds and half a day hailing at full pelt.  Fantastic food at amazing prices. 

Work was far from my mind.  Yet as always the similarities and differences struck home. 

Similarities? – immigrants in the smallest places doing the work Spaniards won’t, even with 15+% unemployment – Ecuadorian builders, Romanian shepherds.  EU-funded courses for those sin trabajo in the town hall.  Political sparring between left and right over a councillor in Benidorm who changed sides and tipped the balance of power between socialists and conservatives (now there’s a surprise).  Tensions between different levels of government including the two regions – Catalonia and the Basque country – that would much prefer (maybe) to be independent thank you.

Differences? – four levels of government from local council upwards with up to four police forces.  A weirdly flexible No Smoking policy that means if a restaurant or bar sets aside a smoking area the noxious habit is banned elsewhere in the premises but if they don’t it’s allowed anywhere.  A used battery being snatched by the check-out operator in a supermarket because that’s how they make sure they’re recycled.  The mobile matadero who’ll come and slaughter the pig on your smallholding (what happened to the EU regs there, then?)

It’s all good stuff and leaves me hugely refreshed for the other side of the work-life balance.

  • la senda­ – affectionate name for the GR-11 footpath
  • sin trabajo – without work, unemployed
  • matadero­ – slaughterman