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November 22nd 2008
Published: November 22nd 2008
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Monday 17th November

It’s been a while since my last entry, Sorry but it's been a busy few weeks.

The last two weeks have been quite hard to get my rapidly emptying head around.

As I hinted at on my last entry, arriving in Vilanova Park was a bit of a culture shock (more about this later), then for life to “flip 180” when we flew home , and flip back suddenly 5 days later.

The flight home from Gerona was preceded by a trip to Montserrat and the day before the flight by a trip on the bus and train into Barcelona.

“Dos Billetes, ida y vuelta, para Barcelona por favor”. The train journey in and out of the Barcelona suburbs was interesting if only to see the same blank bored expressions on the commuters as at home.

After a rather expensive tour of the stunning organic and reptilian structure that was Casa Batllo (one of Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces), we sat and ate our homemade sarnies ( got to recoup the tour costs !) on Placa Catalunya unable to imagine being at home at that time the next day. The bustle, colours and sunshine of Barcelona were just as uplifting on this trip as first time round several years ago. We wandered down the Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter to the harbour, stopping to have a coffee in the same cafe we had breakfasted in on the last trip.

The human statues on the Ramblas have multiplied, although the “Man sitting on a toilet” was still there. Get some Ex -Lax down you lad, that’ll get you moving!

The Boqueria market has the best displays of produce I’ve seen anywhere; artistically arranged and top quality.

We left the ‘van the next day and parked our car at an off-airport parking site that I’d booked on the ‘net a few days before. (10 euro cheaper than the on-airport parking.)

Not quite like the ones at home it transpired.

When we arrived, a woman came out of a shed looking a bit surprised and suspicious of us. She wanted a bit of paper from us. We were supposed to have printed our booking comfirmation but as we have no printer, we had thought it would be obvious who we were, from our car reg. No, she wanted our printout. Communication was failing so I followed her into the shed and I found her print-off of my booking on the desk! She told me next time I must bring the printout! ( Next time?) An old chap with an old hairy skinny mongrel dog was wandering round outside , presumably the “security “ staff.

Martin waited in the car , no doubt wondering what the hell I’d booked us into. The signs said secure parking and CCTV and there seemed to be some sort of wooded field at the back surrounded by a fence so I paid my money and handed over the keys. There didn’t seem to be any room to actually leave our car so she moved her own car and said we could leave it there! We climbed into their “shuttle bus” that had a door held together with duck tape . “They will probably move our car round the back when we’re gone “. We tried to reassure ourselves.

In a few hours we were back in dear old Chesterfield. (Thanks to the kind offer of a lift from Robin Hood Airport from Don)

This is where my mind sort of fugged up ( Martin called it something less polite but very similar sounding). It was like we had been transported by teleport and no time had elapsed since we had been away, but my brain was still in Europe thousands of miles away.
We had had over two months to slowly adapt to a totally new way of living and thinking and suddenly we had to flip back!
It was good to see Chris when we arrived but once we had parked our backpacks we thought “ What do we do now?”. For an hour or two I was in my own house but had forgotten where I kept everything.

Chris and Em has it spotless and tidy for us and I felt it rude to disturb anything.

Home, but with nothing to do, felt strange. It was bloody cold too. Chris had the heating off so I cranked it back up to Med. temperatures.

Saturday night in the Pacific bar was fun . Bramleys, Dohertys, Germanys, Tom, Chris , Em, Harry, Neil, Mandy Wood and Graham all kept us company and it was nice to hear their updates (and grumbles?).

Sunday Carvery at the "Ace of Clubs" with Mum, Cliff, Pat Gordon, Neil, Tina and kids updated us on extended family news .

We needed to catch up on everyone's news but it felt that the blanket of our previous life was very quickly beginning to settle around our shoulders again.

The highlight of the trip home was Tom’s Graduation day (after all this was why we had returned) . At long last he’d got his day and it was well deserved. We felt justifiably proud of the achievement and determination he’d showed to get his award. The meal afterwards at “ASK” was fab.

Back in Gerona the next day we phoned the parking man . His rattling mini bus appeared 5 mins later and our car was sitting in the same spot, out front, next to the dog kennel. I’m not convinced it had ever been moved but it was safe and sound and we’d saved 10 Euro! Game on.

We were back to our new life and it felt grand. Except we were going back into:

Vilanova Park . ...aka....the Dharma initiative....or possibly...home of the Stepford Pensioners...or...the retirement home for caravanners who can’t be arsed to move anymore!”

The place is weird.

Through the security, past the guards and you enter a parallel universe. It’s not really Spain. It’s not like anywhere you’d know.
I can only really compare it to the no man’s land that you enter in an airport transit or departure lounge.

At this time of year it is populated by retired people of “Northen European” nationality. Many people live here in their caravans and motorhomes for 4 or 5 months through the winter.
Nothing wrong with that you might first think.

But the place becomes a weird artificial closed community where life seems to progress in slow motion. People start to move around zombie-like from 8 am and a disturbing number do the same things at the same time every morning . The most popular “activity” in our enclave seemed to be setting up your chairs round the car park and smoking a fag or six as you watched everyone else walk to and from the wash blocks. Fly swatters in hand they sit for hours . Grinning, watching, swatting.

Many form cliques and might be found on some days playing boules or ping pong.

The arrival of a new resident causes a bit of a frisson of excitement, net twitching, outright staring and a buzz of gossip passes round like wild fire.
Some long stayers set up their pitches with disturbingly obsessive compulsive precision. One of our close neighbours had a truly enormous top of the range awning with groundsheets extending outside and in and the interior set up from something like “country homes” Strung around were rows of lanterns which the lady of the house would spend her day rearranging in pleasing ways around the periphery of the pitch . At night it was lit inside and out with candles and mood lighting. It had a choice of two separate outside sitting areas each with its own “garden furniture”. Needless to say there was no room left to park their car.

When we arrived back from our trip home They had parked their car on our pitch (“to guard your caravan”) but in doing so had run over yet another leg of our Sat dish tripod! The chap apologised but made no offer to repair it or to pay for a new one. Luckily Doctor Donna splinted the broken leg with a tent peg and Duck Tape.

Then there was the cat lady, who took it upon herself to feed all the site’s feral cats. Sleek, well fed , shiny furred and a bloody nuisance they would sneak in our awning at night and pee on the groundsheet. We had to scrub and disinfect it before leaving.

Next were the other neighbours who were a bit puzzling. A large fat man and his equally voluminous wife, who never seemed to emerge from their caravan for days. On the odd occasions they did they would do so on a mobility scooter . One scooter between them both they rarely appeared together. In fact the woman hardly ever appeared. Perhaps he kept her prisoner by hiding the scooter keys. What Puzzled us was that they had cycles on the back of their car! They never walked more than 2 yards never mind cycled! We spotted him one morning with a length of copper wire , laying it all round his caravan , manoeuvring round the pitch on his scooter. Perhaps he was setting up an electric fence to keep the cats out of his awning! (Or more sinister, to keep the wife in!)

Or the elderly French couple (were they called Rousseau?????) to our rear who bless ‘em had stubbornly refused to join the “My caravan’s smarter than yours” game but disturbingly had an obsession with tying strings in complex cobweb fashion between all the trees and bushes around their pitch presumably to hang their washing on, but in the two and a half weeks we were there never actually hung anything on them except a large tatty strip of maroon nylon velvet curtain for which I could not fathom a use.

There you go! You get sucked into the paranoia...Trust no one ....and work on an escape plan before you are lost.

We escaped yesterday with a huge sigh of relief from me. We are now in real Spain. 50 miles west of Valencia in the mountains at a very rural site at Villagordo Del Cabriel in the Parc Natural de las Hoces del Cabriel. We are the only campers here at the moment and we stepped out to walk down a fragrant path through wild rosemary, and junipers to a gorgeous viewpoint across a shimmering lake/ reservoir with wild goats, leaping up the slopes ahead of us . Now that’s more like it.

If only we could find a supermarket.

Love from M & D.

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