Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

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Today was the day for going home. Boo. hiss, and grumpetty-grump, and all that. Our two weeks by the seaside had been rendered down into a large collection of memories and photos, and a requirement to make one final journey in the trusty Volvo.

We didn’t quite go straight home though. We got a little side-tracked on the way to the airport.

A week and a bit previously, when we’d tried to do our “Gaudí” day (see Not the Full Gaudi/), we’d been unable to get into the Sagrada Familia as a result of us not having thought to book tickets in advance. So we decided it would be a good thing to do on the way home, as we were being chucked out of the apartment at 10 am but weren’t flying home until 5 pm.

We had an 11 am appointment at said massive, half-built church, but we were all ready to go quite early, so we loaded up the car a little after 8 am and carried the last sack of rubbish down the hill whilst stalking the carrier in the car. We’d done most of the rubbish clearance the previous night, on the way down to the restaurant.

We stopped for some breakfast at the place we’d stopped on our day of arrival (only on the other side of the road). This allowed me to disappear under a bridge to find a lurking geocache. Might as well. We were parked within 30 yards of it.

When we arrived in Barcelona it was relatively easy to find the Sagrada Familia itself, but a little more time consuming to find a car park. What we eventually found was an underground one beneath an apartment block which was available for public parking as well as residents. It was a bit tight getting in though. I got Kas to get out and confirm I wasn’t about to scrape the car on anything, and I wasn’t looking forward to having to get back out again.

We walked a block or so down to the Sagrada Familia and discovered that there was no option to get in earlier than our tickets said, so we were left with three-quarters of an hour or so to waste. We used it wisely by checking out some touristy artwork and finding a couple of caches in the park outside.

We’d booked the self-guided tour with no tower-climbing, which meant we were free to pootle around at our own speed, reading the displays and admiring the architecture as we went. It really is a stunning building, and I’m sure it will be great when it’s finished. It’s weird to look at in some areas because some bits of it have been there so long that the rocks are quite significantly weathered, and these sit right next to chunks of rock that look like they were placed yesterday. The thing is constantly growing and developing too. It was considerably bigger and more complete than the picture I had in my mind from doing basic research in tour guides and on Wikipedia. The inside is particularly spectacular. OK, so I know that Gaudi’s fairly unique style is not appreciated by a lot of more traditionalist worshippers or students of ecclesiastical architecture, but my personal view is that if you’re going to believe in paying homage to an omnipresent super-being, this would be a pretty good place to be doing it. I can’t understand why people would rave over the massively detailed decoration on cathedrals in Milan, Rouen or Cologne and then lambast this one for being a bit over the top. Maybe I’m biased on the basis that it’s also a bit of a geological sensation, and I find that interesting. I find it inspiring the way that Gaudí wanted to use differing stones, as well as glasses, woods, coloured tiles and lights to impress the eye with a cascade of colour throughout the structure. And it is certainly unique. I have never seen another church that looks even remotely like this one.

Having had our fill of Sagrada Familia, we had a brief break to buy souvenirs and make some enormous bubbles before making our way to the airport, via a refuelling stop. We were hopelessly early for our flight but once we’d left the Sagrada Familia we’d all pretty much decided that the holiday was over, and it was time to go sit somewhere peaceful whilst waiting for an aeroplane.

We had a rather busy lunch of pizzas and pastas in the “pre-passport” zone before plodding through to our gate and sitting on the relevant airport spur watching planes going in and out.

There were a couple of huge ones parked up beneath us when we got there.

We also saw the King of Spain (no, not the King of Spin) land for his walk around central Barcelona with tens of thousands of others in memory of the people who’d lost their lives in the previous week’s terrorist attack on La Rambla.

Our flight home was nicely on time, but sadly Luton Airport wasn’t. It took flippin’ ages to get through, mainly because of a massive bottleneck in passport control.

The car was where we left it, but there was a bit of early grumping when we discovered one of the brakes had seized a bit and was making nasty clunking noises until the first time I really push the pedal hard. I suppose the car had been standing there for 15 days.

The house was pretty much where we’d left it, and Izzy and me made haste with the unloading while Kas and Ami very kindly went out to fetch curry and wine. It had been a long but very rewarding holiday, with many things achieved, including a bit of family bonding.


Packetty-Pack

Packetty-Pack

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Today was a day of preparing ourselves for the inevitable end of the holiday and the looming reality that we’d have to leave the warm weather and the seaside behind.

The strain of it was all so much that we ended up doing nothing of any note. We offered the girls he option of a trip down to the beach, but neither of them could raise the energy and they were perfectly happy to stay at the apartment and play with their two new friends, both of whom were called Victoria.

I spent most of the day finishing off the book I’d started reading before mustering the energy to walk to the top of the hill to fetch a cache that had been winking at me all holiday. The view from the top was impressive, but possibly not good enough to offset the pain incurred when I brushed against a cactus and got covered in cactus barbs. I spent a chunk of the afternoon sitting very still while Kas pulled bits of cactus out of me with some tweezers, and I decided not to bother with attempting to recover either the shirt or the trousers. Both were riddled with barbs and I couldn’t be bothered to try to get them out.

In between all this, the four of us spent bits of time packing things away into our suitcases, as we had a fairly early start planned for the morning and we couldn’t afford much time for packing then.

By late afternoon we’d had enough, so we got cleaned up and took one final walk down to the seafront in Sant Feliu and revisited our favourite restaurant so far – called Meraki. It was excellent again.

The walk back up the hill would be our final time, and there was a lot of slightly miserable joking about everything being the “final” time. I certainly won’t miss that hill though.

We got tucked up in bed fairly early, as we’d got a long day in front of us.


Tibidabo

Tibidabo

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We had a fairly slow morning before taking a leisurely drive towards Barcelona for our planned day out at Tibidabo.

We got there at around 11 am and then bought some tickets and went for a drink before attempting anything else.

After drinks, we went for a wander around the big church up there ( the Sagrat Cor ). The view from the top was quite impressive. Once down again we spent a frustrating few minutes searching for a fake padlock on a proverbial fence covered in padlocks. There was one that supposedly was a geocache. That’s a few minutes of our lives we’ll never get back.

After the church, we wandered around the upper levels of the park for a while before grabbing a seat and eating our lunch. We’d taken sandwiches with us, but the kids didn’t want to be limited just by that, so we found a restaurant where you were allowed to eat your own stuff too, and then we supplemented our apparently inadequate rations with some cold drinks and chips. Chips fix most things.

The lower levels at Tibidabo, below the church, are where all the rides are. The rides at Tibidabo were a bit variable, to be honest. None of them was very long and all bar a couple were a bit boring. I guess the park is designed for somewhat younger children. The Red Mountain rollercoaster and the log flume were OK but the rest of it was a bit dull, in my opinion, and because there were also some long queues for some of the rides it felt a bit like a waste of money. We did our best to eek it out for a while and had several goes on both the rollercoaster and the log flume before giving up and getting ice cream.

After this, we spent a little time taking in the view of the city from the top of the hill.

We drove back home at about 5 pm, which put us into the evening rush hour again.

Once at home we got changed quickly and walked halfway down the hill to the Guixols Cafe to have some beer and burgers. It was really rather good.


Splashy Splashy

Splashy Splashy

We’d written on the holiday plan for this week that we’d do a waterpark or similar during this week. The closest was Aquadiver in Platja D-Aro. It turned out to be cheaper to pre-book online to get one of their advance-purchase family deals, so we booked tickets the previous day and went there on this day.

The place was easy to find except for us missing the motorway junction on the first pass and having to drive a few miles in the wrong direction and then coming back again.

When we did get there the parking was a bit dodgy, but this seems to be endemic in Catalonia so there was nothing particularly surprising about it.

Entry via pre-paid tickets downloaded to the phone was easier than Easy Jack McEasy, so we avoided some quite long queues and decided to make a base camp under the trees and chuck our valuables into one of the lockers.

I have to say I wasn’t personally looking forward to this day as it’s something I didn’t think I’d really enjoy, but once we got into it a little bit it turned out to be one of my favourite days of the holiday.

We started off in the big wave pool (but didn’t stay long) and then headed to the big rubber-dinghy-slidey-thingy (name unknown). We went on doublers, which was a laugh except that Izzy came with me, so we weren’t exactly level in the water. It was a big slide though, so I’m not sure imbalance in the water was a big issue.

After this we moved up to the “business” end of the park, where there were some rather larger looking slides and rides. The queues were a bit variable all day, and after making the initial mistake of joining a long queue for something we fancied, we then started just going for the relatively short queues. This proved to be a much better option, although it did mean we went on the “kamikaze” quite a lot.

We took a lunch break at one point and then an afternoon ice cream break too, and ended up staying until all the rides had shut at about 6.45pm.

It was such a good day that I can’t remember what we did for dinner. Probably not very much.


Pedralta

Pedralta

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Over the previous couple of days it had become more obvious that I was going to have to deal with a cracked tooth I’d picked up somewhere in the previous couple of weeks. I think a bit more had come off it, and it was pretty much at the point where it was grating really badly against my tongue. Something had to be done. Anyway, it wouldn’t be a proper holiday for us without at least one of us needing to see a doctor, dentist, or other medical practitioner. Normally that’s me, but occasionally it’s someone else.

So I googled for dentists nearby and phoned one first thing in the morning to find out the sketch. The sketch was that they could see me at 10:30. The dentist’s surgery was down on the harbour at Sant Feliu and it was very nice inside, albeit well hidden behind a very non-medical looking door to what I think was a block of apartments. The dentist decided she needed to hack out a bit of tooth and then fill it. The whole thing was done in half an hour and it cost me less than it would to have the same procedure done at home. In fact, it was so little that it was below the excess on the insurance policy, so I just paid it and wandered off without waiting for much in the way of documentary evidence. Because the plan for today said “Waterpark” I’d also scouted their website first thing. The Waterpark did good discounts on entry for people well organised enough to book online a day in advance, so I duly did that and then swapped “Waterpark” and “dad’s going caching” around on the day planner. Caching day then!

On the radar for this day was a long walk through woodlands up to a local viewpoint called Pedralta (“High Rock”) and then an equally long walk back down into Sant Feliu. Kas dropped me off at the end of a new and quite plush looking housing estate on the west side of town, through the back of the golf course I’d crossed on my previous caching trip ( see Santa Cristina ). In fact, it probably dumbs the place down rather to refer to it as a housing estate. I’m going to change my mind and go for “collection of substantial residential properties” – seriously, I don’t think they have a lot of poverty in the area. What they did have though was a lot of biting insects. Little scumbags. I got bitten twice while I was still switching the GPS on and finding a pen.

My walk took me through forested land in a downwards and then very steeply upwards direction, heading vaguely south and east. The caches were fairly close together for most of the way but they lacked hints and a few were well buried, so progress was a little slow. It was also very warm and the trees took away what little breeze there might have been. You get the picture. I was getting hot. Just as well I had an earth-shattering quantity of cold drinks in my bag then. The objective of all this uphill walking was the Pedralta, which, according to wikipedia, used to be the largest rocking stone in Europe. What there is up there is a little chapel, a big rock balancing precariously on a somewhat smaller one, and a big plateau with a viewpoint, from which you can see most of the surrounding area. It was a pretty decent view from up there.

Where the walk up had been all through forests and on rough paths, the route down followed a tarmac road, which meant that the walking became somewhat easier. The caches were a little easier to find too. I made pretty good progress back down the hill and soon found myself by the side of the new dual carriageway running round the western side of Sant Feliu. From here I followed cycle paths and wide footpaths around to the harbour (collecting more caches as I went). I eventually found myself at the old monastery in town (couldn’t find the cache there) and then found my way to the beach, where I found another cache and a place to buy ice cream.

There were two more caches at “our” end of the harbour that I grabbed on the way past and then walked back up the hill to rejoin the girls. The kids had decided they were having another “can’t be bothered” day, so the three of them had been at the apartment the whole time.

Tea for the evening consisted of a very welcome combination of pastas, sauces and beers. By the end of the day I’d found 43 caches. They were :