A Travellerspoint blog

Agartha, Fabled Inner Earth? Dec 2010

Was my hair blown back here in St Ferriol!! James, my most knowledgeable and interesting host, tells me of the mystical, magical Bugarach - a hot-spot for anyone interested in things spiritual, from New Agers to mystics, weird hippies (which could describe moi) and a whole lot more in between.

Bugarach is a village of about 200 here in the Aude region of Languedoc-Roussillon, in south west France. The mayor has expressed concern over an influx of New Age believers to his village who are convinced they will escape the end of the world in 2012. Jean-Pierre Delord says rumours are circulating that the village offers shelter from an impending Armageddon. They believe the world will end on 21 December 2012, the close of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the ancient Mayan calendar. Many of the visitors believe that a group of aliens is hiding in a cavern in the Magic Mountain, or Pech de Bugarach, the highest summit in the Corbières mountains, who will leave when the world ends and take the locals with them, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Bugarach supposedly has a secret entrance to a world of the Inner Earth, known as Agartha. Now this might all just be science fiction, or the musings of a demented mind. It may also be the truth...only you can decide, so read more, take a look at some videos and either pack your bags for Bugarach, or pack up laughing!!

Why the Mayor of Bugarach is concerned

Sadly, I didn't get there this time round, but I am sure I will still....before 2012 at least!!!

Posted by Gypsy Lee 10:39 Archived in France Comments (0)

Saint Ferriol, France ~ 22 to 27 Dec 2010

snow -3 °C

What an adventure! I have to take off early in the morning, with all my bags (who knows where I go from here!!) to take a taxi to the airport...or maybe catch the Metro, but that seems like just too much PT right now. Within minutes I hail a cab for a relatively cheap ride to the airport and an early check in with another low-cost airline. I did something really stupid last night :( ...very out of character!! I was given some delicious extra virgin, cold-pressed, home-grown olive oil by Steve on Quinta da Vinha, and decided to give some of it to my hosts. I wrapped it every so carefully, in lots of socks and plastic bags, safely in my hand-luggage so that I could take good care of it. WRONG!! I encountered a rather unfriendly, stern female Customs officer, who would have played the perfect role in a Nazi movie...she asked me about the bottle of water in my bag...of course, I cannot lie....so there my precious olive oil was confiscated...no doubt enjoyed by madam that evening!

My flight is great...comfortable, pleasant, quick and I arrive in a blustery Toulouse with 2 hours to spare to embark by train to Carcassonne. The French train system is really good...fast, efficient, on time, comfortable.
Carcassonne 1st train stop

Carcassonne 1st train stop


There were THE most amazing cloud formations along the way and at some point there were rays spreading out across the sky as if it were the setting sun.....but on the eastern horizon...I was fascinated and couldn't explain the phenomena. I kept looking at the sight, taking photos and recording my musings into my mobile....the passenger across the way, clearly thought I was a lunatic!! Here's a pic...alien craft hidden in the clouds??? Maybe...

After a journey of about 90 mins I arrive in Carcassonne where I have to change coaches to Esperaza. It is a freezing wait on the platform...don't want to repeat a mistake of 16 years earlier and miss the train to my next destination! Sophie, my host will meet me at the station. One hour later we depart for the 60 minute journey, in only 1 coach with about 6 passengers. Love it!
Carcassonne now this is real winter

Carcassonne now this is real winter

Sophie arrives in her van, with a cheery "hello" and a big smile... off we trundle home to Saint Ferriol and the chateau they are restoring.

How lovely to see the little villages along the way...I really am in France...quite an unexpected surprise.

Posted by Gypsy Lee 13:05 Archived in France Comments (4)

Home-Base Again ~ 14 to 21 Dec 2010

rain 12 °C

Home Sweet Home in Avenida EUA, Lisboa. My precious friends fetch me from Sete Rios bus station, thank goodness, as I have a lot of baggage and my hands are falling off from the cold!!

So much for me to do....sort out appointments for visa extensions, visit friends I haven't seen for a while, do some "girlie" shopping...need extra socks for this European winter!! I always think of Zani when it's really cold and grey....I can hear her saying "Leepee, you crazy woman...how can you love winter!!" I guess this is the big test for me!

And I am excited...have this compulsion to visit Carcassonne for its history...Templar and Cathar country. I have found a Workaway opportunity there, which would have been for January, but you know me, I have a bit of a cheek, so I kind of invited myself to the host family's Christmas celebrations...after discussing their options, it seems that would work well for them as well!! So I am off yet again on 20 Dec to the French countryside...yippeee!! And hopefully my long-awaited, much desired white Christmas. Perfect!

Whilst I don't know everything there is to know about the Cathars, and do not necessarily agree with all their religious beliefs, I am touched in a place deep in my spirit that, in the name of Christendom, millions of peace-loving people could have been mercilessly slaughtered, on the instruction of one (in my mind crazy) religious leader, with the misnomer of Pope Innocent III. If you would like to know more about the Cathars, here is some good info and great photos of the more well-known Cathar places.

The Cathar Story

During this time, my friends and I went to Fatima yet again...it's a good place to be, to get close to God...be in the Spirit. The town has been made up for Christmas...quite lovely...and some stunning twilight skies.


Posted by Gypsy Lee 12:34 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

If This Is Tuesday, It Must be Oleiros - 14 Dec 2010

Back to Lisboa, with Mixed Feelings

Spent the morning tidying up my little goatshed room, home for the past 3 weeks. I can't believe I managed to pack all my things without my suitcases bulging like Billy Bunter! But I am bulging!! Feel like a Russian sausage in a Vienna skin!! It's all the wine and 3 good meals a day. No worries! A week or 2 in Lisboa and back to my fruit and one big meal routine should drop the extra 2 kgs.

Rhys and Lucy are still here for another week, keeping Steve company. Then everyone heads off for Christmas. What??!! Christmas??!!! I cannot believe that this year has flown even faster than the last.

Steve is such a darling! He has offered to take me to view a property which is for sale. One of the locals has moved back into the village and his quinta, in the valley close to Eiro di Miguel, is begging for a new owner. Such a good price, it's almost a steal - c'mon tribe!! Who's in with me??!! Quality of life is great here! Who knows!!
View from my quinta...how can I not be in love with this place??

Is this Avalon or what

Is this Avalon or what

How solid are these walls

How solid are these walls

So it's our trip to Oleiros to hit the internet café, do some last minute shopping and of course the market for barbeque chicken. My bus leaves at 3pm....I have such mixed emotions - the end is always a new beginning and I am excited for the next phase of my journey, but really sad to say goodbye to my friends here....who knows if I ever see them again?
Photo-0042.jpgI'm leaving town

I'm leaving town

Hey!! Sending big smooches to all!

Hey!! Sending big smooches to all!


Posted by Gypsy Lee 00:17 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

QdV - Olive Oil Tasting ~ 9 Dec 2010

The way the professionals do it!!

37 litres of delicious, home-grown, flavoursome olive oil! A great harvest and up on last year's yield. Well done!! The Galega varietal is most often grown in this area. A small, round, black or brownish-black toned olive, it has a somewhat pointed shape and distinctively flavored meat. Of course the locals will tell you it's the best varietal for olive oil!!

And so Steve, Richard and I embark on an official tasting. I present here, a short lesson in exploring the flavours and qualities of olive oil.

Flavors in olive oil are determined by a wide range of factors including the type of olive (varietal), ripeness at harvest, growing conditions (climate, soil type), crop maintenance (irrigation, pest control), handling of fruit from tree to mill, and the milling process itself. For example, oil made from predominantly unripe (green) olives contain flavors described as grassy, artichoke, or tomato leaf, whereas riper olives tend to yield softer flavors often described as buttery, floral, or tropical.

The first step in learning how to taste olive oil is to understand how our senses work. Perception of flavor relies on both our senses of taste and smell. The ability to taste is quite limited; receptors on our tongue can only discern sweet, salt, sour, bitter, and umami (the flavor of protein). All other information that we think of as flavor is actually perceived by smelling food through the back of our nostrils (retro-nasally) while it is in our mouths. To illustrate this fact, think about how little flavor we perceive when we have a cold – this is because one cannot smell food retro-nasally when one’s nose is stuffed up.

When tasting olive oil, much of the oil’s characteristics are perceived through the sense of smell. Though most people enjoy olive oil with other foods, the following steps allow us to focus on the olive oil’s flavor without distraction:

Pour a small amount of oil (about 1 tablespoon) into a small tapered (wine) glass.Hold the glass in one hand and use your other hand to cover the glass while swirling the oil to release its aroma.Uncover the glass and inhale deeply from the top of the glass. Think about whether the aroma is mild or strong. You may want to write down descriptions of the aromas that you detect at this point.Next you slurp the oil; this is done by sipping a small amount of oil into your mouth while “sipping” some air as well. (When done correctly, you will make that impolite noise that would cause you to be scolded when you were a child!) Slurping emulsifies the oil with air that helps to spread it throughout your mouth - giving you the chance to savor every nuance of flavor with just a small sip of oil.Finish by swallowing the oil and noticing if it leaves a stinging sensation in your throat.

Each of the above actions focuses our attention on a specific positive attribute in the oil. First we evaluate the olive fruit aroma (fruitiness) by inhaling from the glass. When the oil is in our mouths we further evaluate the aroma retro-nasally as well as determine amount of bitterness on our tongues. Lastly we determine the intensity of the oil’s pungency in our throats as we swallow it.

Perhaps you noticed that the oil’s color is not addressed during sensory assessment. The reason is that contrary to the common belief that golden oil is mild and dark green oil is robust, color is NOT an indicator of either the oil’s flavor or quality. In fact, in scientific assessments, we sample from specially designed blue glasses that obscure the color of the oil. Tasting from a dark glass prevents us from having preconceptions about the flavor of the oil before we actually smell or taste it.

Worldwide over 1,000 varieties of olives are grown, which should give consumers a wide range of flavor possibilities. Taste is personal, so not everyone will agree on which varietals, and other factors, produce the best oil. However, tasting oils in a methodical fashion will help to educate your palate, and you will be able to select oils with flavor characteristics that you enjoy and enhance your meals.

Thanks to Nancy Ash, Strictly Olive Oil, for this information.

Well I learnt a thing or 2 here which I am happy to share!! The colour of last year's oil and the new batch differ slightly. It seems we picked a little earlier, so there is a more green hue. Steve was a bit concerned but in the tasting I actually preferred the newer, "greener" oil. Its flavour was fresh and very olivey!!! And in true Steve fashion, when it came to my turn to taste the oils, he added piri piri to a 3rd glass!! Cheeky!! But I handled that one with aplomb - "too salty" was my comment!!

Posted by Gypsy Lee 23:35 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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