Woo hoo ! Family holiday time.
We’d booked some flights to Barcelona quite early in the year (“Book early to avoid disappointment”) and had subsequently conducted an extensive search across multiple accommodation sites before plumping for a two bedroom apartment in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, just over an hour away from Barcelona.
Our flight was quite an early one leaving from Luton Airport with Vueling. I’d never heard of the airline before, but they are apparently the biggest airline in Spain. We picked them partly for that, and partly because, as is always the case, when you add the cost of carrying bags ad sitting next to each other onto the base price of flying with the orange-coloured low-cost airline then it ends up being more expensive (by about £35 per person).
We woke up at some ridiculous time (4:30am) having had virtually no sleep, and left home 45 minutes later. The drive to Luton was painless. The parking was slightly tedious to find but we ended up in the terminal building not long after 6am, and a good half hour before Vueling were supposedly going to open their one check-in desk. It took us a while to find the Vueling check-in desk, but when we did, there was someone at it, so I walked up and asked, and was told that yes, I could indeed check in half an hour before they were supposed to open. Result. So we got the bags checked in by about 6;15 and decided it was time to go for breakfast on the other side of the security controls.
We found an extremely busy cafe inside where we sat and had some coffee and pastries to pass the time. When we’d finished that, Kas decided she wanted a new camera, so she went and bought one.
We still had a while before departure, but by this time the terminal had quietened down a lot. I think EasyJet and Wizz ship all their planes out of Luton on a Saturday between 6am and 8am, so by the time they got round to boarding us (a 9am) the terminal was like a ghost town. Anyway, that made it less painful to get to our gate, and we were able to walk out to the plane in fairly nice weather on time.
We seemed to sit on the tarmac for quite a while before getting airborne, but because it’s downhill going to Spain they managed to catch up the time and we landed when we were supposed to.
Barcelona’s airport is definitely a big, proper airport rather than a small, regional one. It’s big, shiny, and contains a lot of glass and polished stone.
It also has a lot of car rental desks. Ours (booked online with Enterprise) was fairly easy to find and after quite a while queuing we got to the front. I was ready with all my excuses as to why I didn’t want all of their extra insurances, but as it turned out they didn’t bother offering them to me anyway – they just took the money for the rental and the damage deposit and sent us on our way. I turned down the opportunity of paying €55 for the privilege of being able to take the car into France.
The car itself (and the key for it) was away in one of the car parks. The nice gentleman there presented us with the key to a spangly dark blue Volvo S60. I’d upgraded a couple of levels from our normal because I wanted something quite comfortable and a little larger. I was expecting we’d be doing a fair amount of driving and wanted a car that was nice to sit in. The only two potential issues were the fact that it was a saloon, so it might be fun getting the luggage in, and it was an automatic, so it might be tricky to drive for the first half hour or so.
We got the luggage in eventually. It was a bit of a Krypton Factor test, involving more than one attempt and having to push down a little too hard on the boot lid. It was what you’d describe as a tight fit, although no actual jungles, lions or sleeping were involved. We were ready to whim away though.
I took the first shift of driving, which gave me the challenge of getting the car out of the fairly narrow parking space, around the narrow lanes between kerbs and large-looking metal barriers, and out into the open air. We made this more entertaining by missing the exit lane the first time, which resulted in us having to do a second lap of the car park. I really wasn’t driving very confidently.
Once outside though, Kas started fiddling with the onboard SatNav system and managed to programme it to take us to the place where we had to fetch our apartment keys. The SatNav was set in German though, so as we drove through central Barcelona we had a peculiarly European experience of being and English family in Spain, driving a Swedish car that was talking to us in German. It was also quite uncomfortable for me driving, because I hadn’t got the steering wheel position right, so I felt all squeezed up, but I never had time to adjust it as we passed through Barcelona’s extensive urban motorway system.
All of this, plus the fact that it had been a while since we’d eaten or drunk anything, encouraged us to stop at some motorway services on the edge of Barcelona for a chill-break. Whilst still in the car park Kas figured out how to change the SatNav to speak to us in English while I fiddled about with the steering wheel and seat adjustments. The SatNav spoke quite posh English, and we decided to name her Cynthia. She sounded like a Cynthia.
We had to fetch our apartment keys from the town of Llafranc, which is (rather annoyingly) a half hour drive further on from our resort. Being a Saturday afternoon in summer, it was also busy to the extent that we couldn’t find anywhere to park. We ended up wasting about half an hour driving in circles and experimenting with how small a space I thought I could park the Volvo into. If you’re not familiar with a car’s size or gearbox, then attempting to reverse up a steep hill, around a bend, on a gravel surface and surrounded by trees probably isn’t a great idea. I thought better of it and drove off for another lap of the town.
Eventually we got parked up and descended through the town to the accommodation office (Llafranc Villas). Izzy needed the toilet by this time and the office didn’t have one we could use, so Kas took her for a walk down to the sea front while Ami and me queued up to check in. The checking in consisted mainly of paying and being told that everything else we needed was actually at the apartment already. OK, fair enough.
The drive back to Sant Feliu seemed quicker than the drive out, and Cynthia found the apartment easily enough. There was an onsite geezer who looked after keys, maintenance, bedding and any other general things that needed looking after. The apartment itself was small but adequate, given that we’d be out for much of the time anyway. The view is quite good though.
The next essential was to find a supermarket and do all the normal business of buying food for the morning and cleaning products. There was one down the bottom of the hill from the apartment and it proved to be big enough to see us through the holiday without wanting to find anywhere better.
When we got back to the apartment it was getting late and we couldn’t be bothered to cook, so we got dressed up and legged it down to the sea front in Sant Feliu to see what was what. What was what was a nice restaurant on the plaza back from the sea wall, with outdoor seating, cold beer, and a varied menu of local cuisine. That’ll do us for now then.
Our final action for the day was then to walk back up the hill to the apartment. Walking up that hill became a bit of a theme for the holiday. It was steep. We sneaked in a quick geocache on the way back up.
It had been a long day and we were all kippered, so we went straight to bed anticipating that a good night’s sleep would fix most things.