Mon 05/09/16: After our first night sleeping with the doors open (on camp site…such was the heat) we headed early back into Llieda and to the Peugeot garage where we were to get our wing mirror fixed thankfully. Arriving at the allotted time of 11 Allia informed us that the part hadn’t arrived and now was going to be day 8- what to do?. At this point and earlier in the saga I had said to myself and David (but more me) where was George when you needed him. George was a dear friend of mine who was a ‘fixer’ and under these circumstances would have gone to the local scrap dealers and got the part, and if they didn’t have it then it would be ‘acquired’ from somewhere. Most of the time the acquired part wouldn’t have been the right part or in any way have fitted and off you would have to go and get it sorted in the correct manner. But for that moment when you needed it George gave you all the reassurance you needed. We decided to stick with Allia and wait for day 8, but where to go in the meantime. The next mistake was made here, with Spain under a late Indian summer we headed further south to the lovely and recommended Delta of l’Ebre. This small peninsula north of Valencia is another rice area and also a birders paradise with flocks of flamenco’s as well as many other birds all in their bird heaven in this marsh land. As we drove south the temperature on the gauge in the van hit 40 and the air con just had to go on. We had been recommended this place by our fellow motorhomers Bez and Tez, but at the time I do also remember Bez mentioning mosquitos. We parked
up in a lovely free aire right in the midst of the delta, we had seen quite a few birds on the way in rising out of the rice fields but there was no shade to be had in the car park and so all the windows, doors etc were opened fully but any breeze coming through was like a hot air dryer.
We retreated to the bar in the restaurant which was thankfully air conditioned and just had some calamari’s having stopped and shopped in Llieda Lidl with a chicken dish in mind. Mistake number 2 (could be higher than that) not the place or temperature to cook anything. Thankfully it was David’s cook time but he decided that the chicken for fajitas had to be cooked on 2 gas rings not one so as to fry the chicken not steam it. Quite thankfully by this time we were steaming let alone the chicken so in my world who cared. Anyway, chicken fajitas were cooked, producing a first for us not only on this trip but in our time together. Ahhhhh, but the van then took even longer to cool down and then the dreaded happened… every mosquito in the world descended heading straight for me. So despite the heat we retreated indoors and battened down the hatches. A very hot and sticky night was spent by all and still the mossies got us!!
Tues 06/09/16: So despite the lovely location we had to leave and head for a camp site with shade and a pool, but we did do a lovely cycle ride of the area before we left and we saw the flamenco’s looking pretty and pink along with a few other birds along the way, plus of course many ducks. All of these birds are feeding of the rice fields and the marsh land and so it’s no surprise that one of the local specialities is rice with duck, so before we left we decided that lunch should be that and in the restaurant that hosted us and other motorhomes. We were fairly ahead of the lunchtime rush which you might think as no problem for a Tuesday but not so in this area- the restaurants around here seem to be full judging by the Monday lunchtime time takings. A lovely cold bottle of house cava was ordered whilst we waited the due time of about 25 mins for the Daffy Duck rice. I had suddenly become concerned that the rice might arrive with the ducks head on top, but thankfully not. The rice was served to us individually not paella style and duck was best described as gamey. Very very tasty but much darker and game tasting than the duck pancakes we would know from home. We both enjoyed it immensely and were glad that even though we could not hack the area at that moment that we had tasted and experimented a local dish. Plus of course local rice was brought for us to have in the van for our own rice and paella style dishes.
Wed 07/09/16: After a lovely cooler night spent on the coast not far from l’ebre in a place called Cambrils we got down the bikes and did a lovely 32k cycle ride along the coast to Salou. The ride was lovely with a breeze but temperatures still high. We had taken the cool box etc with a view to get some meat and cook outside but the draw of the sea and lunch was too much and after a quick departure from one restaurant we sat in Club Tropicana with a table looking out to the beach and sea. The temptation of the rice with lobster –dish of the day was high, but we refrained and opted for grilled sardines, mussels, salad and chips. A lovely mix with the star being the steamed mussels- small, sweet and scrummy and up there with Norfolk’s finest. After the return cycle like all big kids we spent a good hour having many go’s on the slide and for me having a cool down with the giant blue giraffe.
Thurs 08/09/16: Having this time taking the trouble to ring Allia at the garage we had been informed that the wing mirror was in and that we should be there again for 11am latest. The drive was slightly quicker and we made it in good time to the garage. Allia was obviously quite pleased with herself and the fact we were all getting this sorted, so after sitting us down with coffee she got her best man on the repair job. Within less than an hour we had hit disaster- they couldn’t work out what one wire did, but no problem just leave that we said as long as the rest works. Moments later No, the one wire wasn’t the problem the whole wiring system was. This was a left hand drive part and we are a UK right hand drive van- the part was not for want of any other way of putting it not compatible. Allia along with the mechanic were as disappointed as us.. Time, effort and good will had been put in by them but the problem was not to be resolved- the wing mirror had to come from the UK. Swear words were said by us but there was nothing to be done and so we left the very helpful garage and headed to Decathlon to make some decisions with no charge at all made by the garage. We actually needed a new bike cover as ours has not stood the 8 month challenge at all and is in shreds dangerously and as there was a Decathlon very close it seemed like a place to go and park up. But not even Decathlon could lift our spirits on this one and so for once no ‘must have but don’t need’ purchases were made including the bike cover which they don’t stock. With close friends arriving in Barcelona tomorrow nothing more could be done other than to head there. On route we did some shopping and brought a lovely piece of steak which we had on the barbie that night along with ‘use up’ potatoes and courgettes. Plans were put in place and sort of underway for how to deal with the new wing mirror saga.
Fri 09/09/16: Up and on the bus to Las Ramblas (famous in Barcelona as Oxford Street is in London) and there we meet Catherine,
Martin and their 2 sons- Mathew and Jonathon. Here for the weekend and also to catch a Barcelona football game before the boys head back to uni. As ever for us great to see friends from home and we sat and caught up over a not too inspiring but fulfilling lunch in the port area. We parted with arrangements to meet tomorrow made David and I headed to the market and brought some empanada’s etc for later that evening and headed back to camp. Unfortunately we have been spoilt as of late with where we have stayed and this campsite some 40 mins by bus from the city centre is a little bit lacking in some ways. The main one, which if you are a plane spotter is a huge plus is that it is literally under the take off flight path of the busy Barcelona airport so the noise level is very very high. But no worries there are often downsides to wanting to be close to star attractions and
Barcelona certainly is that.
Sat 10/09/16: A slow meander into town and plans in place for the ‘menfolk’ to watch the northern football derby between the two Manchester’s and for Catherine and I to do some serious research on cava bars and their place in society, culture etc. We headed to El Xampanyet, a very well-known cava bar just by the Picasso Museum where there were such long queues- really why would you bother when there was a lovely bottle of house cava to be had just opposite, served in the very retro babycham style glasses. The research was undertaken very seriously and of course a light bite was taken as well, I think both Catherine and I would say that the bar passed on all measures. A lovely promenade was done by us all when we had reconvened after the football and we had a quick skirt in knickers paddle. Dinner had been forward planned by myself for some night so David and I headed back for chilli and to listen to a few more plane roaring engines
Sun 11/09/16: Time for some culture for both parties but the clever weekend visitors had planned ahead booking their tickets for the top Barcelona attraction of Sagrada Familia with a 4pm time slot. We trundled off to it expecting to have to queue for hours. Oddly for Spain there was a fairly efficient system in place where you were told before queuing what time slot was next available. For us there was one at 2.30 so about an hour half wait. We got our tickets and wandered around for a bit in the back streets before having a couple of drinks in a cheap back street bar. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is not a cheap date with standard tickets for the 2 of us costing €44 but we would both agree it is up there as a world top ten must see. After we meandered through the busy streets now full with ‘independence for catalonia’ marchers it being a local bank holiday tomorrow. Judging by the crowds and slogans Catalonia aren’t actually far from that independence. David and I said our goodbyes to Cath, Martin and boys (men actually) over again a not too inspiring chain Tapa dinner. I have to say having been to this amazing city before you do need to do more research than we did on restaurants. Like London there are a lot of only average eateries out there, but as ever it was about the company and time spent. So big thanks for letting us share your break –hopefully see you soon.
Monday we head out of Barcelona where pride comes before the fall.