Things we learnt from our holidays…

Now that we’ve got back into the hectic lifestyle here at home, I thought it might be nice to write a few reflective lines about the three weeks we spent away…

  • Driving in Spain is just as hairy as in France, especially if a car decides to overtake you and the bus in front on a blind cliffside hairpin..
  • Girona Airport is easy to park at and easy to catch a coach from.
  • Barcelona is probably one of the great cities of the world…unless you live there of course, in which case, you’ll possibly hate it.
  • When ordering a burger (even if the menu says it’s ‘gourmet’) be aware it’s supposed to be cooked all the way through.
  • Because of my reckless disregard of the above, I became intimately familiar with the inner workings of Barcelona’s sewage system.
  • There are still hidden gems to discover in Barcelona.
  • It’s not always warm and sunny in Spain.
  • It sometimes rains there….heavily.
  • If you can pack an umbrella and a waterproof, you should.
  • Girona’s population doubles during the Flower Festival.
  • They all set their morning alarm for the same time.
  • You can get pancakes, with cream, bananas and maple syrup for breakfast.
  • Your sat nav can be annoying…..really, really annoying.
  • Restaurants catering to tourists are similarly poor in Spain and France.
  • Bass notes from modern dance music can defeat the best ear plugs and rattle heavy wooden shutters.
  • We can model Kimono and not fall over.
  • 950km is really too far to drive in one day.

Would we do it again? Of course…

The even longer but slightly less boring road…

Our debut as catwalk fashion models was moderately successful. Well, at least we didn’t trip up or fall into the laps of the not inconsiderable audience. I’m certain that kimonos in Gruissan have never been modeled so well. Equally I’m also fairly certain that kimonos haven’t been modeled in Gruissan at all. However, all who attended had a great time and we enjoyed a communal meal together after the show.

A highlight of our stay in Gruissan were two meals at Aux Deux Oliviers Well constructed, cooked and presented food, with outstanding service.

We left Gruissan a little dissapointed. It’s a pleasant place but seems to be used by the beach visitors as a ‘watering hole’. Our view was also tainted by the fete that went on at length, well into the next morning. On our last night, I had to resort to wax ear plugs, which the chemist insisted I didn’t push too in far, in case the wax couldn’t be removed. Luckily I found it tended to fall out of my ear, so no worry about the need for A&E, but the loud bass beats just near to our window got through. In fact they rattled the shutters…

Sunday morning, we set off for home, a not inconsiderable drive of 950km, which I insisted I could do without Susie’s help. We took the route which allowed us to cross the Millau Viaduct, a stunning sight, no matter how many times you do it. We stopped for lunch at a Courtpaille just south of Clermont Ferrand and rolled up at the house just after 9pm. I wouldn’t recommend undertaking such a long drive, especially as it becomes quite boring after you crest the Massif Central. Next time…yes, of course there’s a next time…we’re breaking the journey home.

So, that’s the end of our Spanish, French, kimono modelling adventure. I wonder if they sell kimono in Gdansk?…Guess we’ll find out later on this year…

Gracias or Merci?..I’m so confused…

The last couple of days have been a bit blurred, not through excess alcohol consumption but transferring from one country to another…

On Thursday morning we visited the Dali museum in Figueres. It’s every bit as offbeat as Dali was. It contains a lot of his works, though does show what a fine draughtsman he was and how he experimented with differing painting methods and styles. I enjoyed it, but as ever it was somewhat spoilt by guided groups who filled rooms and blocked exhibits.

We drove up the costal road on our way out of Spain, stopping in Portbou for what can only be described as the biggest plate of stodge we ate in Spain, before driving up and over the top, back into France. This really is a beautiful part of the world and each cove and cliff top view is more enchanting.

So we arrived at Gruissan, on the coast south of Narbonne. We are in a small B&B, in itself really nice, though with portaloos just outside our window. It’s fete weekend in Gruissan and as luck would have it we seem to be at the end of town with all the temporary bars. Our intention was to meet up with Susie’s friends, Maggie and Martin. Maggie is an expert in Kimono and is staging a exhibition of Kimono at a contemporary arts centre in the town. We went out for a lovely meal and chat last night, then this morning we went along for a preview. Maggie and Martin have worked very hard to display the kimono beautifully as you can see from these photos.

Tomorrow evening we’re going to the exhibition and with a lot of arm twisting, I’ll be wearing a kimono. Susie, being a born performer, needs no such persuasion…..

El Grumpo (2), Casa Dali and the singing waiter…

Some of my long standing readers may remember El Grumpo, the bad tempered waiter we met in Seville. Today we met his northern brother….

Hotel breakfasts are not as a rule taxing work for either guests or staff. This hotel doesn’t break that rule. It provides a buffet of hot and cold drinks and food. It’s not particularly nourishing or gastronomically spectacular, it is what it is. We needed a fairly early start this morning and trotted along the corridor just after 7:30am and called the lift. It arrived complete with a waiter, a trolley and some dirty plates. He wished us a surly ‘hola’, let the doors close and dissappeared. No apology or offer to vacate the lift and let us use it. We called the lift again and took the now empty one to the 1st floor and the buffet.

We were first in and had to work out how to use the coffee machine. The Catalan El Grumpo appeared and asked for our room number so he could ensure we were charged for breakfast. Susie asked for water and he did his best ‘Basil Fawlty’ exasperated sigh and pointed towards the orange juice. Susie was still perplexed and he had to show her where they had hidden bottles of water behind the juice. He cleared tables after diners but never smiled. I’m sure he is poorly paid and works unsocial hours, however he could take lessons from a fellow service worker we met later…

Much of our day was taken up with a drive to Port Lligat and a tour of Salvador Dali’s home. The house was enlarged by knocking together several fishermens cottages. It probably goes without saying that it’s a bit wacky. Although really interesting and providing an insight into Dali’s home life, I felt as though I was intruding. The exterior is beautiful and the swimming pool stunning in it’s quirkiness.

Leaving Port Lligat, we decided to pass on a visit to Cadaques because of the parking problems and came back to the hotel. Thanks to the sat nav we also had an extensive tour of the network of one way streets that makes up Figueres but we made it in the end.

Needing a quick lunch, we returned to the lovely place where we had the patatas bravas and squid rings. Our waiter was the same as yesterday and he also sang. He sang when he laid out the cutlery, he sang serving our food and always with a smile on his face. Oh how we could do with him at the hotel…..

 

 

We’re in Figueres and didn’t dilly Dali on the way….

After another lovely breakfast at Federal we took our time and vacated the apartment just before noon. We paused to say goodbye to the girls in Federal, walked across the bridge, along to the taxi rank and in half an hour we were at our car.

I must admit it was a bit unnerving getting back into the car and driving back onto the autoroute. However, from Girona airport to Figueres isn’t a long or tiresome drive and I was soon back in the swing of things, pulling out in front of a Mossos D’Esquadra police car, like any native Spaniard. We soon reached Figueres town centre, though actually the sat nav sent me down some back roads and through an industrial estate. It’s what constitutes a ‘fast’ route apparently. We parked up outside the Hotel Duran, unloaded the luggage and drove round the one way system to the parking garage, which doesn’t seem to hold many cars, considering the number of rooms the hotel has.

After settling in, we went off for a brief explore, stopping for a lunch of patatas bravas, battered calamari and padron peppers. Look, there’s nothing wrong with lowering your standards once in a while and what we had was delicious. Susie called into the tourist office to ask where to buy more olive oil and we were directed to a lovely shop, where once the oil was purchased we were thanked by the owner with a hug and kisses. I swear we don’t know her, it’s just the warmth of Spanish people I guess.

Our room here on the third floor is clean and modern, though lacks tea and coffee making facilities. The shower is hot, the broadband quick and the bed is comfortable. We’d booked a table in the restaurant attached to the hotel, lets just say dinner was adequate but uninspiring, especially as we were only two of five diners this evening. It’s a huge dining room, very ornate, with glass chandeliers and marble floors. Sort of old world but without the charm. I’m going to look for somewhere else to eat tomorrow..

So, we are off to Cadaques and Port Lligat tomorrow, an hours drive to see Dali’s home. We have a timed ticket and have to be there at 10:30. The alarm is set for 7:20 so we can have breakfast in the hotel before setting off….oh dear, I thought early mornings were not part of holidays…

The rain in Spain falls mainly on Girona..

So here we are, our last evening in Girona, lucky not to be suffering with hypothermia or washed away down the river. Actually we’re nowhere near to those events, however it’s felt like it. Not only has it been wet but unseasonably cold too. That hasn’t dampened the ardour of the flower fans though. We did notice a slight fall in numbers yesterday but today there was a steady flow of people up and down the street outside.

To escape the throngs yesterday, we headed over to the cinema museum. We’d been last year and enjoyed it’s interactive exhibits so much, we decided to return. Nothing to do with the cold wet weather….well maybe a little. (Anyone detecting a meteorological related theme here?)

Today, we got round a lot of the floral exhibits. It involved much walking up and down steps but we did feel a sense of achievment. The displays in the ‘call’ or Jewish quarter were particularly good…

We stopped for ice cream again (even queueing for 20 minutes in the rain), just so I could have a candy floss topping. We went to La Poma last night and it was just as good as last year, plus I got to try a liquorice liqueur. Hmm…very sweet and potent and not something I’d drink every night. Tonight we dined again at Nu, met a lovely young couple from Colorado (see, you got a mention) and Susie had a delicious deconstructed cheescake and ate it all herself. Two of the waitresses asked if we were coming again next year, to which we said yes, of course. I’m not sure if they noted down my reservation for a table for two at 20:30 in 2019 but I’m sure we have plenty of time to confirm…

So tomorrow, two portly figures will be wheeling their suitcases along the cobbles, over the bridge and heading for the taxi rank. Onwards (but not upwards) to the airport, collect the car and a short drive to Figueres…….

And today was deja vu Prague…

The Festival Del Flores began this morning. Just before 10am the street outside our apartment began filling up, then overflowed. Tourists are the lifeblood of many towns like this, it’s true but I felt like this was a bit overwhelming. Not quite up to the can’t move stage but near the cathedral, where the street narrows, there was a definite bottleneck, filled with walking tours and selfie sticks. It reminded me of the horror that is the Charles Bridge…

There were queues to get into the exhibits….long queues…of Disney proportions. We managed to see some of the displays, albeit from further away and decided after a lot of pushing and shoving we’d leave most of our flower sightseeing till Monday. We crawled our way back to the apartment and lay recovering on the sofa, to the sounds of muttered Spanish curses from the street below.

We had a reservation in the evening at Divinum, where we’d dined last year. It was every bit as good as we remembered and the service friendly and talkative which we like. When we left, the heavens had opened and trying to unsuccessfully share an umbrella we got home as quickly as a 10 course tasting menu would allow….