Last time I went to Catalonia everything was in black and white apart from Agnetha Fältskog’s trousers.
That was 1973, and I was 9.
We decided to return to see what’s changed.
It looked more than interesting enough for a fortnight’s holiday and anyway we’d promised the kids an “aeroplane and swimming pool” holiday.
Sant Feliu de Guixols - The Apartment
La Sagrada Familia
- On Our Way
- Sant Pol
- Santa Cristina
- Not the Full Gaudi
- Mucho de Nada
- Splashy Splashy
- Sagrada Familia
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 (at 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 an 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 never quite 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 and 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.
Kas went out for a run (which is what she does to relax) while the girls and me generally mucked about at the apartment, by which I mean that the girls went in the swimming pool, and I joined them after an hour or so. In the morning the pool was in shade, so we could get away with not doing the full suncream experience.
We had lunch at the apartment and then decided to go for a walk down to S’Agaro to the beach called Sant Pol, via a somewhat “scenic” route that Kas had run part of the way around in the morning. Whilst doing this I was trying to sneak in a few crafty geocaches too. It was quite hard going because the weather was warm and the coastal path was very hilly (a bit of a theme for this holiday, as it happens).
We made it round to beach just before the kids had a total meltdown about having to walk outside in nice weather. Once on the beach we grabbed a quick ice cream and then I went for a walk further round the nearest headland trying to find a few more caches, again with mixed (i.e. very little) success. Eventually I think I gave up trying and just went back to join the girls on the beach. When I got there I discovered that the sand was far too lumpy for building sandcastles, and they’d therefore contented themselves with just going swimming the whole time. I went and joined them for a quick plodge in the sea to get cooled down.
In the late afternoon we walked back uphill to the apartment and got cleaned up before walking back down to the same beach to find a beach bar for dinner. We had a range of tapas again, and our considered opinion was that the patatas bravas weren’t as nice as the ones we’d had the previous night, but they were still quite good.
We went back up the hill again quite early (it was still light) but didn’t do any beer drinking or snack eating. Everyone was too tired still, so we made it an early night and just dived into bed. Anyway, we’d got plans for the following day.
I got up at 9am. It should have been 8:30, but my phone was in the lounge and Izzy didn’t think to come and tell me that the alarm was going off, despite sitting next to it for the duration. Kids, huh ?
Kas was already out running and was expecting we’d be somewhere near ready for going out when she got back. We weren’t, but we were fairly close.
The plan for the day was to drive to Girona for a look around. We weren’t really sure what that would involve other than some buildings and some ice cream. When we set off I’d got it in my mind that Girona was the setting for a William Shakespeare play, but that turned out to be Verona – completely different place. In a different country. Well, two thirds of the letters in the name are the same. It’s an easy mistake, especially if you’re not well versed in the bard.
Anyway, first of all we had to get there, which gave Kas a bit of a challenge because it was her first attempt at driving the Volvo. Because we didn’t know whereabouts in Girona we were trying to get to, we were unable to use Cynthia the SatNav to help. A recipe for potential disaster, but which thankfully didn’t come to pass until we were trying to get home again.
We parked up by some medieval walls on the east side of the city centre (it’s not a very big place) and decided to take a walk around in a clockwise direction. You can walk most of the way around the walls. Calling them “medieval” is a bit of a con, on the basis that they have had to be significantly upgraded and repaired to make them walkable, but it’s been done fairly tastefully and the overall effect is quite dramatic. In several places the walls are really rather high.
It was kind of a warm day, and we quickly found that the heat was getting the better of us all. The walls were quite exposed to the sunshine and the ambient air temperature was rather high.
After most of an hour we arrived at the heart of Girona’s medieval centre, the cathedral. The outside of it seems a little stark and plain when you’re used to the Gothic excesses of Northern Europe and the UK, and the fact that it isn’t symmetrical adds to a sense that it isn’t very cathedral-like (in my mind, anyway).
Before going inside we decided to grab a sandwich and a drink at a cafe in the square at the foot of the main steps. This is a location that you would normally describe as “Tommy Tourist Central”, but to be honest the prices weren’t too bad, and whilst there were plenty of passers by in the square they were generally, well, passing by rather than trying to get into this cafe. So it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience.
The cathedral itself offers a self-guided talkie-tour. Izzy insisted on getting one of the handsets to listen in, but then promptly handed it to someone else and didn’t pay any attention to it. The interior of the cathedral is large and church-ish. The experience was “improved” by the presence of someone playing a continuous scale of notes on the organ starting very high and gradually descending to a tone and volume that made you wish that the toilets were a little closer.
The cathedral also offers some cloisters, which are worth a walk around. No, not a Belgian tennis player. That’s Clijsters, you numpty. It’s an enclosed walkway forming a quadrangle and often attached to the warmer south side of a cathedral, and indicating a former use as a monastery. The cloisters allowed the monks to walk about outside without being disturbed by the riff-raff outside of the monastic life. Medieval monks took their monking pretty seriously.
Within a hundred metres or so of the cathedral stands the Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu, which is another large and entirely unsymmetrical church. It is also quite nice inside, although that might just have been because of the lack of bladder-bursting organ music.
Just down from here is a bridge over the River Onyar, from where one can take artistic photos of the pretty coloured buildings along the east bank.
From here we grabbed an ice cream and walked through the old town to find the far end of the medieval walls.
The route back to the car from there was all uphill, and therefore quite unwelcome. What was also unwelcome was my total inability to locate any of the caches I attempted on the walk. I eventually threw a hissy fit and gave up.
We left Girona at about 3:30pm and drove home, via the supermarket. When we arrived home the kids were in the pool before anyone could say Jack Robinson. Kas and I politely declined.
We made it “sausage and salad” night for tea and then sat down with Izzy to make a day-by-day plan for the rest of the holiday. We nearly stuck to it.
For our fourth day we decided to go and see what was on offer in the big city. Well, we sort of knew what was on offer, so on this day we decided to go and buy a bit of it.
We left home at around 10:15 after Kas had been for her run. The drive into Barcelona was pretty uneventful and Cynthia did a grand job of taking us along the main coastal road rather than through the middle of town. We parked up in a massive car park on the side of Montjuïc. I then decided I didn’t like where I’d parked, so I did another lap of the car park and parked somewhere I thought more acceptable. The problem was caused by the fact that it wasn’t obvious whether you were supposed to pay to park or not.
Anyway, back at the plot, on the top of Montjuïc there’s a castle which has been kept in pretty good order and which was surprisingly cheap to get into. We had a good old walk around the inside, taking lots of photos of both the castle and the views over the city. Of the three things I expected to be able to see from a high vantage point in Barcelona ( the Camp Nou, the Sagrada Familia and the Olympic Stadium) we only managed to spot one from up here. The Camp Nou was hidden in buildings and we didn’t know which direction it was in, and the Olympic Stadium is at the foot of the mountain hidden behind a load of tees. The Sagrada Familia stands out a mile from its surroundings. I think the surrounding buildings are being deliberately kept at a low height so that the cathedral stands out more.
After a while we found ourselves in an inner courtyard with what looked like a load of tea towels hanging out to dry. Turns out they are full of profound questions. The only question we had at this point was “is there a cafe in here?” and we found a member of staff to answer it for us. “No”, she said. “But there’s some vending machines in room 10 that contain cold drinks.” Well that’ll do us, because we had sandwiches and crisps in the backpack anyway.
Back outside after lunch we went for a walk around the path on the outside of the walls, partly for more views and partly to do a few geocaches dotted along the way. Some of these ones were actually there.
After walking all the way round we took the cable car down to the bottom (lazy, I know, but we’d have to come back up again at some point, and it’s part of the experience, innit ?
From the bottom of the cable car it’s about a third of a mile walk along flat ground to get to the Olympic Stadium. They very nicely keep this open at one end so you can enter on the mezzanine level and get some good photos around the stadium. There’s also a souvenir shop and a cafe inside. Excellent. Time for an ice cream then.
From the stadium we dropped down a level onto the big open spaces they built for the Olympics. There were a few more caches down there as well as a load of extra Olympic venues that were closed.
By the time we’d done all this it was getting a bit late, so we headed off home, via a drinks stop at the same service station we’d used on Saturday.
When we got home we decided to go out for dinner again and walked down into Sant Feliu, where we found a rather average pizza place after having wandered most of the town centre looking for something other than the rather samey tapas bars that the town centre is filled with.
The walk back up the hill was quite slow after a long day, and once we got home Kas and Izzy went straight to bed while Ami and me sat up for a while reading.
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.
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.
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 :
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #01
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #02
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #05
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #06
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #07
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #08
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #09
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #10
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #11
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #12
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #13
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #15
- Carrilet by Geodaro: SFG-Castell d’Aro #16
- Carrilet by Geodaro: Sta Cristina-Llagostera 15
- Carrilet by Geodaro: Sta Cristina-Llagostera 16
- Carrilet by Geodaro: Sta Cristina-Llagostera 17
- Carrilet by Geodaro: Sta Cristina-Llagostera 18
- Carrilet by Geodaro: Sta Cristina-Llagostera 19
- Carrilet by Geodaro: Sta Cristina-Llagostera 20
- Carrilet by Geodaro: Sta Cristina-Llagostera 21
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #01
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #03
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #04
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #05
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #06
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #07
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #08
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #09
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #10
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #11
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #12
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #13
- Carrilet by Geodaro:Castell d’Aro-Sta Cristina #14
- Descarrilat 1
- Descarrilat 2
- Descarrilat 3
- Descarrilat 4
- Descarrilat 5
- Descarrilat 6
- Descarrilat 7
- Descarrilat 9
- Descarrilat 10
- Descarrilat 11
- Descarrilat 12
- Descarrilat 13
- Descarrilat 14
- Encarrilat 1
- Encarrilat 2
- Encarrilat 3
- Encarrilat 4 (versio 2)
- Encarrilat 5
- Encarrilat 6
- Encarrilat 7
- Encarrilat 8
- Encarrilat 9
- Encarrilat 10
- Encarrilat 11
- Encarrilat 12
- Encarrilat 13
- Encarrilat 14
- Encarrilat 15 (versio 2)
- Espai Ridaura de Santa Cristina d’Aro
- IG 1 – La flauta magica
- IG 2 – Agafa aire (versio 2)
- IG 3 – No ve d’un pam
- LA BASSA DEL DOFI
- Placa dels Paisos Catalans
- Placa Mn. Baldiri Reixach
- Riera de Malvet (El rierol)
- Ruta Carrilet I Bell-lloch 6/9
- SALENYS #1: INICI
- Sta. Cristina d’Aro s’apunta a l’evento Maria
- Zona Esportiva Sta. Cristina d’Aro
- Zona Recreativa – Santa Cristina d’Aro
- Carril Bici – Santa Cristina d’Aro
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…….
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).
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.
Today was the planned day for a bit of monk-on-a-mountain action.
We attended to the lack of breakfast situation by stopping at a random motorway service station. This also allowed us to fill up the trusty Volvo with some motion lotion.
Our target for the day was the monastery at Montserrat. We got there just before midday (we’d spent at least an hour having breakfast) and managed to find a parking spot quite easily, although at some distance away from the actual monastery. Meh! Walking is good for you.
Our first activity was to wander around some of the buildings trying to find a few caches and soak a few rays.
We gave up for a late lunch break at about 2 pm and had lunch in the onsite cafe. The food was actually quite good, which surprised me.
After lunch we adventured our way up the Funicular de Sant Joan for a walk around the top of the mountain. It was a warm day, so we’d already concluded we weren’t going to attempt any long stretches of walking, but up the top here we were able to trudge our way along a relatively flat path to visit a couple of little chapels. At one point, I had the direction arrow pointing to a cache but couldn’t see any way of getting there. At another point, we walked along a bit of path cut into an overhanging cliff and of a sufficiently small size that at least one of us couldn’t walk straight. And finally, there was one further cache at the top of what could be described as a rock staircase going upwards, if you were being generous. If not, then it would be better described as a bit rough. It was rough enough that Izzy didn’t fancy it, so Ami and I went over while Kas stayed with Izzy. There were some pretty spectacular views from up there though.
When we came back down to the bottom it was definitely time for an ice cream, which was consumed whilst sitting outside in the shade. After this Kas escorted the girls for the obligatory trip around the shop while I dashed off to find another cache that was some way below the incoming rack railway line.
By this time it was getting on a bit, so we did one final cache and photo stop at a rock outcrop near where we’d arrived in the morning, and then made our way down the road to the rather distant car park.
The drive back to Sant Feliu was duller than a dull thing. When we got there we made a quick stop to buy snacks and some things for breakfast before going back home to consume most of those snacks with some cold beer, whilst typing up the handful of caching logs that were due. It had been quite a long day.
While I had the PC out, I decided to pre-book some tickets to go around the Sagrada Familia. We decided we had time to go there in between leaving the apartment and needing to be at the airport on the day we were going home.
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 :
- 1 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 2 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 3 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 4 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 5 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 6 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 7 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 8 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 9 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 10 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 11 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 12 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 13 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 14 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 15 – Verd fosc – Mega 2014
- 5 – Verd – Mega 2014
- 4 – Verd – Mega 2014
- 3 – Verd – Mega 2014
- 1 – Verd – Mega 2014
- RdP_SFG#1: SANT FELIU ALS PEUS
- RdP_SFG#2: VISTES A L’ARDENYA
- RdP_SFG#3: ELS ULTIMS HORTS
- RdP_SFG#4: RIERA DE SANT AMANC
- RdP_SFG#5: VISTES AL NORD
- RdP_SFG#6: RIERA DE LES COMES
- RdP_SFG#7: CAMI DELS ENAMORATS
- SANT FELIU DE GUIXOLS TORREFARRERA
- Palm Beach Sant Feliu
- PANORAMIC GUIXOLS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.