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We're on our way to Spain

Written on: Friday May 7th, 2010

A journal entry from: Europe 2010

Valencia photos here

 http://picasaweb.google.com/pathandley47/Valencia?feat=directlink

Barcelona photos here

http://picasaweb.google.com/pathandley47/Barcelona?feat=directlink

On the road to France pictures here

http://picasaweb.google.com/pathandley47/DrivingToFrance?feat=directlink

 

May 7th, 2010

Well after a two week delay because of the volcanic ash cloud, we finally left Penticton and drove to Vancouver to leave our car at Daryl's place. Daryl drove us to Vancouver Airport and Chloe met us there where we had a meal and then we at last boarded our flight to London.  Flight was smooth and I took extra pills to keep me calm and slept a lot on the plane so the journey passed quickly. John Collinson picked us up from airport and told us the sad news that Anne had that week been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Marilyn Wright had come down to London to give Anne some moral support, John cooked a great meal and we had a super night reminiscing. 

 May 8th

Next morning John took us to the train station to get the train to Gatwick all went well and a short flight of two hours got us to Valencia for 1:30 pm local time.  We heard afterwards that flights to Barcelona had been cancelled that day so we considered that our luck had changed, especially when we picked up our rental car and bonus, no drop off charge as we're driving an Italian car and taking it back for them, saving of $1,200!!! 

 

We found our hotel Express Holiday Inn reasonably easily thanks to our GPS "Tom" and got settled in the room and then walked downtown to the look at the old part of Valencia, beautiful city centre, lots of narrow streets with outside cafes and in the main square they were setting up for some entertainment.  On our second day we decided to go and pick up some beach towels and go to the beach for an hour but it was Sunday and the shops were closed. We found we were in a newer area of Valencia where there's a museum, a performing arts centre, an aquarium and a big open park, obviously a lot of planning had gone into the area but it had allowed to get a little run down.  In the park they were holding a horse jumping competition and all surrounding the park, stables were set up to hold the horses, we walked around and looked at them being groomed.  Then went to the beach and lazed around for a couple of hours catching up on some jet lag.  Went to a beach restaurant for lunch and waited ages for something that wasn't really worth waiting for.  It was fish and prawns cooked in wine and tomatoes but not very good, we thought it was 12 euros for the two of us but was 12 each, so along with the beers it was an expensive lunch and late too so we ended up having cheese and crackers for dinner in our hotel room.

 

May 10th

Barcelona

A good drive to Barcelona dropped into a town that had a lovely old walled town on the hill and beaches on the ocean.  We managed to find a parking arcade so that we could have a wander around the old town and then afterwards headed to the beach and sat to finish off our cheese and crackers.  We found our hotel reasonably easily but parking outside was difficult so we opted for the hotel parking which was a massive 25E per night and a very tight squeeze in the underground parking area. Hotel room was bizarre, the bathroom had glass all around bathtub so when you're in the shower anyone in the bedroom can watch you.  Toilet was in separate room thank goodness.  The glass surrounding the bath had blinds within the double glass that you can close but it took us a day to find the switch for them.  After we'd settled into our strange room we went for a walk downtown and got into La Rambla area, what a crazy place, people everywhere.  There were stands selling birds, chickens, guinea pigs, flowers and lots of restaurants.  Buskers playing music, doing acrobats and some dressed up in weird costumes and holding a pose until you give them money and then they break the pose to thank you. Wandered around all the old streets and then had dinner at one of the restaurants on La Rambla and sat and people watched.

 

Second day walked to Sagrada Familia, passing by La Predrara a beautiful building. Both of these are works by the architect Gaudi who died 80 years ago, the Sagrada which is a cathedral is a work in progress and has been for a 100 years, still isn't complete but hoped to be finished by 2020, it's hard to see that it will be finished.  We went inside but it was a mess of construction, although the walls that were completed were impressive.  The architecture is very different from the rest of Barcelona with lots of curves instead of straight lines.  Did quite a bit of reading about how Gaudi worked out how to build different structures based on nature i.e. the roots of trees holding the tree trunk and how a leaf holds its shape with the veins, made us feel really dense as he had little formal schooling as he was a "sickly child".  Got the metro to a park on the south east side of Barcelona intending to walk thru the park but as usual took a wrong turn and ended up near the harbour, which was a good thing as we probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.  Again lots of cafes with people sitting outside, beautiful boats in the harbor.  Walked back to the park and then on to the Arc De Triomphe and back to the old part of town to see the Barrio Gothic which according to the map was a big open area.  We walked around and around trying to find this big open area and then Roger said that maybe we were actually in the Barrio all the time and we then realized that this was the original part of Barcelona with very narrow streets, very much like the Shambles in York.  We then walked to the Munjuic Park, it looked at if it was a flat area on the map but we actually walked up a lot of stairs to get to it but worth it as it had a great view overlooking the city, then found out there's a cable car up to the park.  Maybe we should do more research but we mostly get to where we need to be and have a lot of fun on the way.  Going the traditional route could be boring.  This put us on the same end of town as our hotel and it was getting close to 6 pm so we decided to pick up a beer and head to the roof top of our hotel where there is a bar and swimming pool with great views.  Later took the metro to see two other Gaudi works and then had dinner at a Japanese restaurant near our hotel.  

 

May 12th

Drove out of town on the toll road which was very expensive and then we decided to take the coastal route to see if we could find the spot we'd camped out in 1979 which was just north of Playa D' Aro.  Unfortunately our map didn't show Playa D' Aro nor San Antoni so we were doing all of this by guesswork.  We thought we should go through Lloret de Mar so took that road and on the way down to the coast kept passing people at the side of the road who were either standing or sitting on chairs.  Roger said that the buses must run irregularly if they have to bring chairs but then we realized that these people were always women and their clothes were very scanty. We then decided that they must be hookers and that was confirmed when I tried to take a photo of one of them and she lifted up her skirt and grabbed her crotch.  We did find the area where we had stayed and are fairly convinced we found the campsite but the guard said we had to register to go in and we weren't sure if we were in the right spot so didn't bother. Wish we'd gone in now as there was only one other campsite in the area which looked nothing like the one we stayed at we now think we found the right one.

 

We still had a long drive ahead of us so we didn't hang around and headed for the Spanish/French border, we spotted lightening in the distance and a short while later there was a thick layer of hail at the side of the road and the road had been gritted.  We had our passports ready but no need, there's no passport control in much of the EEC but strangely enough at the border there's a town much like Algodones (Mexican border town near Blythe), the traffic was horrendous and there were stores everywhere selling pretty much junk as far as we could see.  We were aiming for a hotel in Sete south of Montpellier but it had been a long day so when we saw a sign for a hotel we decided to give it a try.  This was much like the Eagles song as it was a bit like the Hotel California (Hotel Richmont in Marseillian), no soap, no glasses but we did have a great balcony overlooking the harbour.  We walked down to the "town centre" and there were quite a few restaurants there.  We chose one and had a delicious meal of  mussels and snails to start, steak and prawns followed by crème de brullee all for 12.80E.  As we were leaving we asked if they had plastic glasses that we could take back to our hotel as our reception was closed and they gave us some stemmed real glasses.