Catalonia Day 9

Mucho de Nada

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Every holiday has a day like this. The one where we don’t do anything of note.

The kids spent most of this one in the pool, while Kas went for a morning run and I spent much of the day doing the washing and staying out of the sun.

We had thought about going to the beach in the afternoon but then the girls decided not to bother, so we didn’t go.

In the evening we walked into Sant Feliu and found a nice cafe gastro-bar place which did excellent food and rather nice beer too.

While we were walking back up the hill to home we stopped in a bar to watch a bit of the Barcelona vs. Real Betis game on telly, but it was a bit dull and we’d missed the only two goals. On Saturday evening we’d toyed with the idea of buying tickets to go and see the match, but by the time we got onto the website it was going to cost about €65 a ticket to go, so we decided not to bother.

Such is life.


Catalonia Day 8

Ropey

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This day was our mid-point, not that we celebrated the event in any particular way other than figuring out how to use the washing machine at the apartments.

Kas went for a run, as ever.

The daily planner said we were having a day of not travelling far. We’d checked out a few local activity places and we decided to go for Parc Aventura just on the outskirts of Sant Feliu. It’s one of those places where you have to make your way across various assault-course things like tight-ropes, rope bridges and zip wires whilst being fastened to an overhead rope. However, unlike ones we’ve been to near home, this one is in the middle of some beautiful wooded hillsides, and with fantastic views back down over the town.

Parc Aventura has three or four different courses you can go on that have varying levels of difficulty. Kas, Izzy and Ami decided they were going round while I took the photos. They did the easiest route and then stepped up to the second easiest. Ami was going so quickly that she had time to step up to the third level too, which was good because it actually challenged her enough to have a scared moment.

When we’d finished all of this it was definitely ice cream o’clock. We ended up going all the way down into the sea front at Sant Feliu to find one. Thankfully we’d chosen to go on foot, which allowed me to swap my ice cream for beer.

For dinner we had a fairly simple affair of chicken in various forms accompanied by salads (in the kids’ case, you have to allow for ketchup being classed as a salad).


Catalonia Day 7

Not the Full Gaudi

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The holiday plan said today was supposed to be “Barcelona – Gaudi”, meaning that we were going to attempt to go into Barcelona and have a look at some of Gaudi’s more obvious contributions to the city.

Kas decided to duck out of running in favour of having a rest day, so we managed to get up fairly early and head off for the big city at 9:20. Kas took the wheel and we gave Cynthia the job of finding us a car park. She failed, mainly due to an utter confusion of information on the map once you get into town.

We eventually found a car park close to where we wanted to be, and Kas very expertly managed to get into a parking space without hitting anything. Genuinely, that was a good achievement, and it became a running theme for the day.

The first place that we wanted to be was the totally whacky Sagrada Família. We were about a block away so we legged it around, expecting to have to join a queue to buy some tickets. The place is still being built, and it’s being funded by the entrance money they charge for having a look around. One wonders whether the fees for entrance have been steadily increasing as further parts of the building are completed. Anyway, from the outside it looks like a massive building site with some quite nice looking bits of stonework in fantastic design.

That proved to be all we could manage there on this day though. They limit the number of tickets per day, and when we arrived at 10:30 am on a midweek day they had already sold out until the end of the day. No more tickets, nada, sorry. I guess you have to pre-book online. Still, we snapped a few nice pictures before buying a very over-priced drink and getting back in the car.

Our second planned stop proved to be equally frustrating. Cynthia did a grand job of negotiating our way through the city up to Park Güell, which promised a plethora of Gaudi-related goodies. Parking proved to be even more of a nightmare than the Sagrada Familia. There’s a big bus park but otherwise you’re stuck with housing estates and an abandoned and unpaved void between tower blocks that has very limited access and lots of really precipitous slopes. Eventually, after much farting about, we found a small car park near some shops in the middle of a hairpin bend going up into the hills. It was probably half a mile to walk back down, but at least the park was paved and relatively easy to get into. More of that later.

Park Güell also has a limit on the number of tickets they are prepared to sell for the inner sanctum. And they’d sold out for the day. This was becoming a theme. We decided to go for a walk around the free part and made a lunch break our first order of business once we got inside. The parks themselves are still really nice. It would have been nice to go into the paying area but we decided whilst walking around that we probably weren’t keen enough to come back on a different day just to do that.

After lunch beneath the walkways we walked all the way up to one of the upper levels, passing a couple of geocaches on the way, and then descended to the far end of the park before walking back along the road past the main entrance to the paying area. It was more than enough to get the general feel of the place, I think. If you were going to pay to get in, you’d probably spend all day there. We contented ourselves with about 3 hours though.

When we got back the car parked in the middle of the hairpin bend we were faced with the biggest driving challenge of the holiday so far. We’d squeezed into a space that had a line of cars in front, and it was quite easy to get in, but when we came back a couple of cars had formed another line in front of us that was somewhat closer. We spent a little while pondering and very keenly all jumped in the car assuming that the parking sensors could get us out safely before deciding that wasn’t going to work. The parking sensors go completely ape when you’re half a metre away, and the exit route was so tight that we couldn’t afford to lose a half a metre. So Kas jumped out and acted as a somewhat more human parking sensor by showing me exactly how far away I was from everything. It took about 5 attempts at going backwards and forwards on full lock before getting the car out of the space, but I did get it out, and I didn’t at any point hit anything else. I was fairly proud of our achievement. I say “our” achievement, because there is absolutely no way I’d have got out of the space without Kas’s help.

So up to this point the day had been a bit of a disappointment. However it was still only mid-afternoon, so we thought we’d have time for one more thing before going home. We read that there are quite a few things to do up on Tibidabo so we thought we’d go for a look. When we got there it appeared to be closed. It wasn’t, but it was very quiet. It was the day after the terrorist attack on La Rambla and we wondered whether people had just decided to have a day at home instead. There were quite a few armed police around, including at the top of the road leading up the mountain.

We checked out the form for the fun park and decided it was probably good enough for a whole day later in the holiday, which left us with the opportunity to go up the Torre de Collserola. At least, once we’d found the entrance……

This was also very quiet, but that gave the advantage that we had the place more or less to ourselves. I think there were no more than two other paying punters and two staff on the viewing level the whole time we were there. The view from up there really is quite spectacular. You can see pretty much the whole of the city from the viewing level (including the Camp Nou, the Sagrada Família and the Olympic Stadium all at the same time). They also have little plaques at various points indicating the distance and direction to other major cities in the world.

By the time we’d finished up the tower it was past 5 pm, so we decided to drive home (through the Friday night rush hour) and go out for dinner in Sant Feliu. The drive home was uneventful and we had a quick shower break before walking down to the same restaurant we’d been to on the night we arrived. It was the best place we’d been so far, and it was nice again.

While we were getting ready, a massive cruise liner drifted by. On the sea, obviously…….


Catalonia Day 6

Santa Cristina

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Today was a day in which the ladies of the house would be posting a blog page called “Not a Lot Happened”, or something similar to that. I had it pencilled in as a caching day, so I was far from inactive. Other things I was “far from” for periods of the day included “comfortable”, “home” and “enthusiastic”, although apart from “comfortable” none of the others lasted the whole day. I was mainly uncomfortable as a result of getting myself sunburned the previous afternoon. I’m not a clever bunny sometimes.

The day’s exploits began with Kas dropping me off on the far side of Santa Cristina, at some random junction with an old railway line that’s been converted into a biking trail and has subsequently been littered with lots of tupperware, spaced at approximately 180m intervals. Ideal. I was carrying a large quantity of beverages and some sandwiches in my bag as well as spare caches, pens and camera, so I was feeling a bit weighed down, and the bag was chafing against my hurty back, so I was a bit of a miserable bunny when I set off, but not miserable enough to stay at home and mope. The caching was quite slow going, partly because of the heat and partly because they were proving more difficult to find than the listed difficulty (in my opinion). My route took me along the old railway into Santa Cristina town (with a short diversion up a hill for three very creative caches). At one of these (just on the edge of town) I got spotted by the CO’s teenage daughter and she came outside to say hello and see if I needed any help. I didn’t, but it’s always nice to meet up with people.

As I passed through the town the first time I stopped to buy spare batteries. I think the rechargeable in the Garmin is starting to lose its oomph, especially when being used in bright light. There was a local newsagent that stocked the requisite. From here I headed around the south of the town (and the other side of the motorway) through a golf course and some new housing before ending up on the south side of Santa Cristina again. There was another series running along the southern edge of town, which proved to be good fun, before I walked back to the northern side to join the old railway line again. By this time I’d been out for 6 hours or so and had drunk plenty but not eaten much. I tend not to get hungry in hot weather. I’d found time for an ice cream though. Eventually I got back to the north-east corner of town, from where the railway line cut a sharp southwards turn towards Sant Feliu.

Ami had mentioned she might like to walk the final couple of miles into town with me, so I called Kas and they arranged to meet me at a little parking spot at 4pm, from where Ami and me would have about an hour’s walk to get home. She bought more drinks, which were very welcome.

The walk in was slower than expected, with a few more tricky ones and a couple of missing ones. We also overshot in an effort to get to the very end of the series, and then had over half a mile (mainly uphill) to get back to the apartment again.

By the time I got home it was well past 6pm and I was thoroughly exhausted. I’d found 75 caches in total, which is not a bad haul, but in UK conditions I might have expected to that many in two hours fewer. Nevertheless, it was a new overseas personal best for me, and I was (eventually) happy about it, especially once the multiple pastas and multiple beers we had for tea had settled in properly. The beer-based “rehydration” continued for some time, although I was alternating with non-beer too, just to make sure I got some benefit from all the drinking. The sunset was rather nice too.

I logged 75 geocache finds on the day. They were :


Catalonia Day 5

Kayaking

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Today was one of the “don’t go anywhere” days, except that only really meant not going anywhere in the car. We were still allowed to go out so long as we walked there.

We had a lazy morning, with Kas going for her normal run and the kids mucking about in the pool.

On the day-planner we’d made on Monday night (see Girona) we’d put down “kayaking” for today, so we had a bit of exploring to do.

It was easy enough to find the phone number of the kayaking place on Sant Pol beach and they confirmed we could just walk up and take a couple of kayaks out. They had a formal trip leaving at 2pm but they thought that might be a bit much with the kids as the formal trips follow a set route and go at a certain pace.

OK, we thought, so we’ll just walk down for about 1:30 and see what’s what.

The kayaks were great big plastic things with seating for two. We split the weight approximately halfway by getting Kas and Ami to take one kayak and me and Izzy to take the other. This meant my boat was somewhat lower in the water at the back than at the front, but otherwise it was quite a pleasant sensation. Izzy was a very keen paddler but not particularly effective, so I was basically driving our boat on my own. Kas and Ami were a little more balanced.

The water on the sea was a bit choppy and was worse the further away from the cliffs, in fact the centre of the bay was quite bumpy, so we hugged the coastline quite closely for most of the time. First of all we paddled around the south side of the bay where all the interesting little bays were, and had great time paddling in and out of quite small but calm inlets. After this we paddled all the way across the bay to the north shore, which was somewhat less interesting. By this time we’d been out for 80 minutes of our 120 minute rental, but decided our arms were aching enough to stop, so we had a final paddle across the bay into the middle and tried to get up to “ramming speed” so we could get the kayaks up onto the beach quite well before trying to get out. Thankfully there was an attendant to help drag us up anyway.

It was still quite early in the afternoon so we decided to stay on the beach for a while, and this is where I made my biggest error of the holiday. I assumed the late afternoon sun wouldn’t be strong enough to burn me, so while the kids were playing in the water I took my shirt off and lay on the beach for a bit. When I got home I was bright red and itching all over. The itching stayed with me for the rest of the holiday. Oh, when will I learn ? Sunshine and me don’t mix well.

It was sausage and salad night again for tea, but sadly the accompanying beer did nothing to take away the itchiness.