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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Travel Dates 8th - 10th May 2006
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The flight from Istanbul to Barcelona was uneventful, with one odd glitch. We changed my seat allocation at the Iberian desk so that we could be together, nothing unusual. Months later when I was claiming the Frequent Flyer miles from Qantas and I needed the boarding pass stub, I found that mine had all the right seat details - but for a totally different flight. Made me wonder how I was allowed on board, security being so tight these days. But I was, so we got there unscathed.

We had been worrying about the hotel because I had an incredible price of €56 per night at the Hotel Ciutat De Barcelona via http://www.channels.nl/ ,which is really via bookings.org, but the web-site showed the hotel to be under construction and communications had been unsatisfactory. We needn't have worried. The room was brand new, although a little spartan, everything worked and the bed was comfortable. Even the restaurant was good and the location was great. A major plus was free internet using their computer; I had to leave a deposit for the keyboard, but got it back on return. Apparently we got lucky, the price was good because of that uncertainty. You couldn't get it now.

Next morning, still a bit jetlagged I wandered around the streets at 5 am (back in Oz it was afternoon)and found a fruit, veges and meat market which surprisingly didn't open until 7; so I went back then to get olives, cheeses and ham for a couple of breakfasts. The "Full English" in the nearby cafe didn't open until even later. The Spanish are not early risers, probably because they stay up so late in the evenings.

We went for a walk, and wandered around the harbour, and las Ramblas, and spent some time in the gardens and wandering down back alleys. It was a pleasant city, without being dramatic, so we just strolled around and soaked up the atmosphere. I have a knack of finding back-street bars and taverns (to be honest, not that hard to do in Barcelona) and did my bit to compare Spanish red-by-the-glass with Oz pub vin plastique. Seems to be a tie, so I'll continue to test. It was also a way to meet strangers and chat in mutually indecipherable languages.

That afternoon we took the train and bus to Sagrada Familia. That has to be the wildest architectural construction on the planet. Every time you take ten paces and take another photo - you see a totally different facade. Maybe it was never intended to be completed, just provide work for Barcelona's builders in the same way that some ancient cathedrals took centuries to build and kept masons employed.

We didn't go inside - outside was fascinating and it looked like far too many stairs for me to climb. Later I took a couple of shots of the stained glass windows in the more traditional Barcelona cathedral.

We found a noisy crowded restaurant for dinner and ended up sharing a table with a young English and German couple who were able to help with some translations of the Menu. It turned out to be a pleasant evening, one of those where you end up as old friends, exchange names and email addresses, hug as you leave - and never hear from them again:-)

Next morning, with some trepidation we set off to pick up the Clio from Eurodrive at Barcelona Airport. Despite my previous trip I wasn't sure that I'd remember to stay on the wrong side of the road, or even find my way out of Barcelona. En-route we passed this odd-looking building - not in the architectural class of Sagrada Familia but certainly different. Looked like Star-Fleet Headquarters.

Then we got to the car. This was to be our chariot for the next 8500 km and ten countries. Somehow, I not only got out of the parking lot without hitting anything, but I also found the Northern route out of Barcelona towards Mas Pinell. Of course, I found North by going South first and eventually doing a U-turn. Doesn't everybody? As the trip went on we found that the Clio, a diesel turbo, was a brilliant little car. My only complaint was the red "I'm a tourist" Parisian number plate.

After I got used to the car we decided to get off the motorway and followed the side roads and country lanes, mainly hugging the Costa Brava but ducking inland occasionally. I enjoyed the scenery, particularly when it got a little rugged further North. I saw lots of scenery - we got lost twice.

We bought maps at Girona and then went to Mas Pinell. It's a tiny post-war holiday village, three shops and deserted in May. The uninteresting beach was half a mile away across weedy sand.

The apartment at Mas Pinell was our first less-than-great accommodation booking via the net. Old, slightly run-down, terrible beds, couldn't plug our DVD into the TV, no big problems, but all of those little things that aren't quite right. It was cheap as dirt, so we didn't complain. However I did get annoyed when there was no-one to give us change in the morning when we went to pay. So we rounded down to the nearest ten euros and paid the odd-job man. And learnt a lesson. Don't just get keys - get them to come with you and inspect before they close the office, and pay in advance if it's acceptable. That saved us grief a few times later in the trip.

Cheers, Alan

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