From Valencia we made our way to Barcelona, stopping just for one night at a gorgeous campsite in Peniscola. The place was called L’Orangeraie, set a few kilometres from the coast in amongst orange and olive groves, the site was small beautifully landscaped and boasted the cleanest pool I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen many, having worked in the health club industry for 15 years!). Beautiful! In the few hours we were there we made full use of the pool and all the Jacuzzi bubble functions!
With regret we left L’Orangeraie the next morning but looking forward to our campsite in Barcelona, as we travelled along the N340, I was surprised to see many ‘professional ladies’ sitting on chairs along the roadside but glad to note that they were all taking sensible precautions: sitting under the shade of large umbrellas! We arrived at our next site to find that they were in the throes of preparing to celebrate Dia de Sant Joan, the midsummer solstice festival. The staff at the reception desk were informing new arrivals that they would ‘have no sleep, all night’ as the party went on until 7am, with revellers making bonfires and letting off fireworks on the
beach the other side of the campsite fence. We accepted the ‘warning’ and paid our money, found a pitch and decided that we would start as they meant to go on: cracked open a beer or two whilst we waited until dusk to visit the beach. Our campsite had arranged a set dinner menu in the restaurant and a DJ until 7am and was full of people by 11ish but on the beach I thought events were a bit of an anti-climax, I don’t really know what I was expecting but from the receptionists warnings I guess I was ready for a large scale, organised firework display, whereas in reality there was a few groups of kids letting off the odd firework and throwing bangers about.
In one respect the outcome was as expected however: we had very little sleep! The music from various parties was going until at least 5.30am and the planes from Barcelona airport rumbled inches (or so it felt) from Petits roof during take off, beginning at around 6am, and at the rate of about one take off every couple of minutes! We caught the bus to Barcelona the next afternoon and, congratulating ourselves on
Steve’s foresight of booking us a nice hotel room in the city for the next evening, we just about mustered up the energy to walk the length of La Rambla and back (checking the location of the Eurostar Grand Marina hotel for the following night).
The next couple of days we managed to put a little more effort in and see more of the city. We did a tour of the city the first morning, taking in the port areas and the statue of Columbus, pointing out to sea (the two pieces of info I have managed to retain regarding the statue is that 1, his pointing finger is half a meter long and 2, he’s pointing in the wrong direction, as it is supposed to be towards ‘the new world’), the waterfront is all quite shiny and new-looking, with huge shopping malls and expensive looking yachts. The Olympic stadium and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya sit in amongst some beautiful park lands, high above the port, the stadium originally built in 1929 but restored for the games in ’92.
We checked in to our hotel in the afternoon and were given vouchers for a few welcome
glasses of bubbly, our suite was fantastic: you could have fitted our van living area in to the space about 20 times; the bed itself was bigger than the whole living area of Petit! After making sure we’d used the bathroom and all the complimentary toiletries to their fullest we set out for a walk of Barri Gotic and to find some dinner. Barri Gotic is Barcelona’s Medieval Gothic quarter, some of the buildings date back to the 15th
century, walking amongst them is fantastic, either side of the narrow streets the buildings are tall, with iron shutters and balcony’s above your head, some of the streets are adjoined by a building that spans across from one side to the other, creating an arch to walk beneath. There are loads of tiny bars, cafes and restaurants hidden within the streets, we found one called La Vinateria dell Call, dark and candlelit, with mismatched wooden tables, chairs and benches, serving plates of tapas large enough to share! Yum!
The following day we had planned to visit La Sagrada Familia, the ‘work in progress’ cathedral who’s architecture was taken over by Antoni Gaudi in 1883, but unfortunately, due to an unaccustomed
The Smiling Lobster
Sculpture on the Port, I loved this!
amount of comfort, we didn’t wake until gone 10am, then had to spend more time in the lovely bathroom, so by the time we actually reached it the queue of people to visit straggled around the whole circumference of the cathedral! Deciding not to stand in a queue for the rest of the day and we changed tack and headed up to the Park Guell instead. The park I loved! It’s huge; you could get completely lost trying to cover the full grounds. There are some amazing examples of Gaudi’s architecture in the park, from the fairy-tale gatehouses and dragon fountain at the entrance, to the covered plaza with mosaic circles in the ceiling, to the long mosaic bench that curves around an open space above the plaza. Everywhere you look there is coloured tiles, stonework, trees and flowers… the park was originally begun in 1900 and meant as a mini city (or posh housing complex) for wealthy people to live, but the project was never completed as people didn’t want to live so far from the city, it’s only a few kilometres away but early in the century with very few cars and little public transport on the roads
it would have seemed much further from the centre than it does today. The one thing that jarred was the infinite number of fellas selling cheap sunglasses, hats, mosaic dragon souvenirs etc. from squares of blanket laid out all across the pathways and open spaces, in some areas you couldn't take a step without having to dodge half a dozen of the blankets, they're selling rubbish, it's illegal and it's irritating. Aside from that the park is beautiful.
Hot and thirsty from the heat of the park we worked our way back towards the Gothic quarter and visited the Picasso museum, the museum houses around 3500 pieces of his work, some of which he painted from the age of 13 or 14! The portraits and life studies he produced in his early life were astoundingly lifelike and technically accurate, completely different from the work he later became so famous for. As you wander through the museum you can see how his work evolves.
We only spent a few days in Barcelona but I reckon that even if you spent a few weeks, you’d still only scratch the surface!
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