13.07.2010 - 16.07.2010 35 °C
After a long, hot day of driving we arrived at the seaside town of Moncofa in Valençia province. We had chosen this as a halfway stop between Granada and Barcelona. We met a pleasant Irish couple parked on the campsite next to ours, and after a chat and a beer, we all headed off along the beach front in search of tapas for supper. We had a fun evening together, then set off the next day for Barcelona, as we had arranged to meet and chat with a medical doctor, who ran an integrative medical clinic in the city, at the end of the week.
It was a stressful trip, as we had to negotiate Barcelona at rush hour, then travel another 30 minutes further north to Camping Barcelona at Matarό. Being so relieved to have finally arrived, with the journey taking us several hours longer than we had calculated, David tried to turn left into the campsite without noticing that it involved crossing a solid line! Instantly, a Spanish cop on his bike was alongside, and screaming and angrily gesticulating at us! Most unnerving, to say the least, especially as we were still shell-shocked after our robbery and the horrid response of the Spanish authorities to our plight!
It was a lovely campsite, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, but also the most expensive [at €45 per day], that we have stayed at. Many extras were included in the price, such as free shuttle buses to the beach and shops, and an inexpensive bus into the city. By now it was summer holiday season, and the site and pool were bustling with visitors. We tried setting up in the pitch they allocated, but had to move with the hour, as our neighbour's drainage vent was blocked and beyond foetid. In desperation we poured Toilet Duck in and around the drain, burned incense, and breathed through tissues, but soon gave that up and moved to another, less stinky, pitch a bit further along. Stultifying heat and stench are not welcome companions!
The next day we booked a bus ride into the city, and were dropped at the Plaça de Catalunya, the heaving heart of the city.
Leading from the Plaça is the renowned la Rambla; a wide, tree-lined pedestrianised boulevard, all the way down to the harbour, full of stalls, buskers and animals for sale in cages. We had to queue for 30 minutes before we could get onto a Bus Turistic for a audio-guided full-day tour of the city sights. Subsequent hop-on-hop-off buses were more frequent - thank goodness, because standing in queues in the intense heat was no fun.
We started along the Passeig de Gràcia, where several architects had competed with each other in designing and building the most fanciful buildings in the Modernista style. The most famous of these is Antoni Gaudi, who designed and built many of Barcelona’s most extravagant buildings in the early part of the 20th century. A journey into the inner workings of his creative mind would be fascinating!
Further up, on the opposite side of the street, one finds la Pedrera [named after the quarry in Catalan, from where the stone came], also designed by Gaudi in 1910.
The church of la Sagrada Familia is awe-inspiring in being so different to any other place of worship we have ever seen. It has continually been under construction since 1882, and Gaudi spent 43 years of his life on it. The building works continue as public donations come in, and it should be complete by 2030. It will have 18 towers; one for each of the 12 Apostles, 4 Evangelists, Mary and Jesus.
We had a steep climb from the bus stop to visit Park Güell, named after Gaudi’s patron Count Güell. Initially designed as a residential garden city, it never took off commercially and later became a municipal park integrating his architectural work into nature.
Back on a bus, we passed the huge roundabout called Plaça d’Espanya with its central monumental fountain.
We rode up another hill, past the 1992 Olympic stadium on Montjuϊc, from where one has a magnificent view over the city from the Montjuϊc botanical gardens. There is an intriguing Jewish burial ground, dug into the vertical side of the hill,which we would love to explore on a future visit. Finally, we disembarked in the Barri Gòtic, and wandered through the streets of the old Roman quarter, but were too tired to visit the Cathedral.
It had been a long, very hot day, and we certainly managed to pack a lot into the day. By the time we had staggered back to the train, [luckily] caught the last campsite shuttle, and arrived back at the campsite at 11pm, we thoroughly exhausted.
The next day we had arranged to visit the doctor and her clinic at 0900, so had to make an early start. We had to walk 2km to the rail station, as it was too early for the campsite shuttle. The train ran all the way along the coast, passing miles of beautiful beaches. Then from Estaciό de Sants station, we had another 30 minute walk to Av Diagonale, where she had her offices. The whole building was in Art Deco style with a charming old elevator.
Montserrat was a charming lady, who spoke reasonable English, but unfortunately the effort expended in getting to see her did not really justify the benefit gained from our visit.
As soon as we got back to Camping Barcelona, we left for France. When we crossed the border, we both felt immediately at peace and sensed the return of equilibrium to our souls. Although we had seen some sights of great beauty, Spain had proved to be a challenging struggle.