Spain 2008

Thursday, September 23, 2010

what the four winds bring...: Denali at last!

what the four winds bring...: Denali at last!: "The scenery passed as if in slow motion on the train ride to Denali. The relaxed pace was no doubt designed to take advantage of the view an..."
WOW Cathy, I've been following your travels a bit and am so envious. The best we can do is a weekend away at Guy Fawkes NP (this weekend coming). Your obviously having a great time, enjoy. Dee

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday 27 October

Another night in the apartment and the Hell's Angels haven't reappeared – all is quiet.

Fruit in and coffee out. Same seaside cafe we've been to a couple of times before. It is empty so coffee on the Med and a shared chicken breadroll. Oh, the prices. Something has gone astray between our previous visits and this one which basically costs $36 AUS for 3 coffees and a breadroll. You can tell it's Dee typing today – I just can't get over the prices and I can't help converting to Aussie dollars. We head for a complex of Museums near the University at the far end of the metro system. Our metro pass has been great and the trains come every 5 minutes. Once there we find it is closed on Mondays, so we walk through the gardens which are quite beautiful but our standard is very high and we move on quickly. Back to the Park Guell to see the Casa Museu Gaudi where he lived for 20 years. It is full of furniture he designed and other bits and pieces – over to Pete here as I was underwhelmed after the amazing things we've seen.

It's mid afternoon now so we head back to the apartment via the supermarcado for lunch in. Refreshed we stroll on the beach enjoying the sand between our toes and the foot massage of various sized pebble sections from the top to the bottom of the beach.

Sunday 26 October

Back to the beachside cafe for breakfast. It's busy today and we only manage the coffee before giving up and heading for the Picasso Museum in the Gothic Quarter. Sunday is long queues, long waits and frustration. So we opt for a walk to the Ramblas. On the way we stumble by a small gallery of interesting and expensive works and then the Museu d'Historica de la Cuitat which is part archaeological dig from the Roman era onwards and part Art Gallery where the pick of all pieces is the Paul Cezanne study for La Baigners.

We head for the markets again but alas they are closed. There is entertaining street theatre everywhere and we are getting hungry. You'd think we'd know better by now. If there are no prices it is expensive. Even though we've picked the equivalent of a sandwich store the breadroll, slice of pizza and couple of drinks would feed a family for a week in Coffs.

At a lot of tourist stops we are accosted by beggars who are either fat, smoking, completely able bodied and generally people you don't want to give money to. There are plenty of people singing, playing instruments and doing various other forms of art for their living and you feel happy to give, but most of these beggars don't really seem to be poor but just lazy (probably a bit harsh I know). Anyway, this woman with gold fillings shining everywhere in her mouth keeps shoving a cup under our faces at lunch and wont stop until Pete says thanks and dips his hand in to take a coin – she disappears very quickly then. We had a woman In Granada who pushed a sprig of rosemary in Pete's hand and then babbled away in Spanish for 5 minutes knowing we couldn't understand. We knew money would be required for fortune telling and when she had finished Pete gave her a 2 euro coin, but that wasn't enough, she wanted paper. She kept on and on until Pete showed her the coin purse with no paper, or 5 10 or 20 euro note. She then snatched back the little sprig of rosemary, kept the 2 euro and went on to accost the next person.

More walking in the Gothic Quarter and past Gaudi's Palau Guell which is closed now – a little too late in the day and unfortunately on Monday's most things are closed also. We amble back to the Picasso Museum where the crowds have departed and the viewing is fantastic. Lots of English text to explain what is going on although some of the major works have been shipped to Paris for an exhibition there.

Night is upon us so we head home for dinner and rest.

Saturday 25 October

We breakfast in on fresh fruit, yoghurt and eggs as we still have beautiful fresh produce from the markets. Only coffee is required to complete the ritual but we decide to head for the Sagrida Familia straight up.

Church and temple, it was begun in 1882 with Gaudi working on it from 1883. We've used the word amazing, but words fail to describe this group of structures. From one angle it takes on the appearance of many other Gothic cathedrals, from another angle it is all Antoni Gaudi. Angled columns, eliptical arches, stellate vaulted ceilings, modern sculpture, birds, animals, shapes, ceramics and colour. Unlike any other “church” we have encountered. We agree that we will come back in 30 years when they expect to finish the building. Then again, maybe not in our lifetimes from what we have seen of the plans and the progress. From the very beginning, the only financing for building the scared temple came from private donations and alms, and it continues to be be so due to generous donations.

Next stop lunch at the wonderful markets we discovered yesterday. Lunch is a great mix of squid and fresh asparagus the coffee we've been hanging out for.

Now Park Guell via the Metro and up a very steep hill where they have thankfully installed some escalators. At the top of the 14 hectare park is a mound of stones adorned with 3 stone crucifixes. The panorama of Barcelona is not unusual, mostly smaller building sprinkled with high rise and the odd Sagrida Familia. It dominates the view even in it's semi complete state. The park itself has a wonderful, eclectic nature with Gaudi imprinted on every turn. Rough stone columns and arches, viaducts, the famous ceramic bench seats, the Hansel and Gretel like buildings with their sugar frosting of tiles, globes, columns and spires. This is a park that brings nursery rhymes to life. I wish Oliver and Kate could have seen this, a bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Alice in Wonderland.

It is late, legs and feet sore, throat parched, time to get “home” for a restorative libation and dinner.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday 24 October

We wake to sunshine and the bar reveals itself as the “Hells Angels Barcelona” ... oh well, you can't pick your neighbours. We walk to the beach for coffee and breakfast. The day is balmy and there are several container-like structures setup on timber platforms operating as cafes along the beach. Breakfast is great and the water inviting. A few surfers here and there enjoying the thrilling 0.5m surf, sailboats and swimmers join them in a vista that is all Mediterranean.

Walking along the beach it is evident that this part of town is popular for walking, cycling, jogging and old saggy tit & suntanned bum naturist type activities. Closer into town the beaches turn into marinas with quirky architectural structures/buildings and very large sculptures. The Cataluynans are not afraid to allow creativity to flourish at every opportunity. I can only dream of a Coffs Harbour that might one day drag itself into the 21st century. At home we have so much open space, harbour, foreshores and parklands devoid of any “art” nor creative touch. Regressive, self interested, aging baby boomers and associated cronies conspire to keep Coffs in the 70's (aka The Jetty Action Group aka Just Against Good ...change, development...just against anything in their front yards). I'll get off my soap box.

Through the marinas to Port Vell, luxury craft and expensive eateries. The Cap de Barcelona stands before us, the Ramblas and Gothic Quarter to our right - sculptures and architecture – history and creativity. The walk has been long and we are in need of a pee break. There are no public toilets in Spain (I think we've seen 2 in seven weeks), so we decide to have a beer, toilet break and continue on. I order two large cervazas – our usual order and generally only a small bottle or midi size glass – two 1 litre jugs arrive at our table. So, another 15 euros (or $30) we have our pee, walk 5 paces and find we need to go again ... can't imagine why. We definitely can't face more beer so we opt for MacDonalds where we know at least some of the rules.

The Ramblas is a corridor of stalls, historic buildings and human statues. Heading for the tourist information we stumble upon the produce markets in a side street ... WOW. We need to find another word for amazing – how about astonishing. Fruit, seafood, meats, deli's, coffee, tapas, confectionery, pastries and breads. Just walking around makes you gain weight. Fresh produce on board we head back to Salva de Mar and a home cooked dinner of Spaghetti Marinara with fresh nibbles and plentiful wine.

Thursday 23 October

Arrive on time for the train only to find there is no train. A throng of confused Spaniards in animated conversation surround a bus. Gesticulations, salutations, and luggage loading precede the chess like game to board the bus. It is 20 minutes before departure and everywhere you look there are sideways glances, half steps and maneuvers to be first on the bus. It is an Olympic event that the Spanish are trying to perfect. They practice it again getting on the train and getting off in Barcelona. Lets hope in 2012 they win the gold medal.

Boarding the bus we set off through the backstreets of Granada, the bus going where no smart car should. Finally we make the highway but we haven't got a clue where we are going or when we are going to get there. Eventually we pass through Jaen and take a right to Ubeda where we negotiate the tiny streets to the train station to find an hour wait before the train leaves for Barcelona. Just before midday the train departs Ubeda. As the stations pass we find ourselves going closer and closer to Madrid and wonder whether we're on the right train. We continue north to Villarrobleda and take a sharp right southeast to Albacete.

Several stops later we arrive northeast in Valencia and wonder whether we'll get to Barcelona in the next 24 hours. As darkness sets in and 3 movies later the train continues up the coast and arrives in Barcelona on time at 9pm.

We run around the station for provisions which obviously includes wine, chippies and chocolate and taxi to our apartment to meet Nuria who has the keys. The apartment is great – a one bedroom modern development in what was previously an industrial section of town but only 3 blocks from the beach. Looking out the front window we see a bar across the road with some tough guys hanging outside. We wonder if is the local hang ... next day all is revealed.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wednesday 22 October

A short drive further west along the coast to La Herradura for breakfast and to plan the days activities – the choices being beach or mountains. It's hard to be really inspired by these seaside places after Australia. The ones here have gravel for sand, are completely overdeveloped, cater almost exclusively for tourists loosing their quirkiness or uniqueness or whatever you want to call it.

We decide on the mountains with a drive to an area called Alhama de Granada. Pete picks the driving road – a white one on the map – which is everything we've come to expect. A freshly sealed serpentine surface which squeaks its way several thousand meter above sea level. Every turn affords oohs and arhs and a general appreciation of all of the wonderful natural resources that Spain has to offer. Spain is a country of contrasts grossly ugly and breathtakingly beautiful within 30 minutes driving. We are aware that taking a car, while involving more difficult logistics, often affords an experience of the greater treasures that Spain has to offer. We go from the English breakfast to the bocadillo and cerveza of the high sierra, and while we are over the food, the surroundings are fantastic.

Having made a decision to get close to Granada to meet the next days train we drive onto Alhama de Granada which affords Peter his last chance at negotiating roads that look like footpaaths and driveways. Our final 'menu of the day' which is filling and plentiful for 16.50 and a decision to finally bypass the Iglesia, the Roman monument and any historic events that may have happened here.

We set out for Granada having made the decision to stay in town before the next days train trip. Driving in the pelting rain at a 120m per hour with trucks and luxury cars going in all directions is a little unnerving. We reach Granada and miss out turn. Again. Nothing that a slow about face wont cure and at least we're here the night before. After going around and around and around in Granada's peak hour traffic in the rain Pete becomes very Spanish and takes turns for Buses and Taxis only to get us to our destination ... a park close to the train station to find a Hotel with WiFi and bed.

The 2 star hotel didn't have WiFi, was expensive and unfriendly, We wander pass the 4 star and decide to check - it is cheaper, friendly, has WiFi and all services.

Settled into our comfy room I do some internet logistics on getting back a bit earlier, whilst Pete shops for supplies for our train trip to Barcelona tomorrow. We consult in a bath with red wine and decide to head home earlier.