Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Barcelona and home

From Bonaire we had an astonishingly smooth and fairly quick 110-mile crossing to Barcelona - and we even managed to sail for about five hours out of the 20. After that the wind dropped as forecast and it was motoring all the way, but warm and clear with a marvellous full moon. Guy and Beth stood part of a night watch with Sam, and Ben did one with me - I sent him to bed about 4am when his yawns became continuous. The only downside was the dew, which dripped off the mainsail so hard I thought it was raining!

Sitting on the foredeck at sunset - the sea seemed to merge with the land


Marina Badalona was a bit of a disappointment when we got in at 7.30am. It's about four miles north of Barcelona, absolutely brand new with construction still going on. The neighbourhood used to be very industrial and still has a whopping great power station, but most of the warehouses are being replaced with enormous residential blocks. All in all a bit grim and very concretey. Sam phoned Port Vell, the central Barcelona marina, but they couldn't even do us a single night (and in case we were thinking of overwintering there have had a waiting list since April). Port Olimpico is said to be surrounded by discos and noisy at night, Port Forum is for superyachts and hadn't responded to any of our calls or emails, so we were stuck with Badalona.

As ever, a day's rest cheered us up a bit. The marina is secure and well protected (in fact you can't see the sea because of the enormous concrete walls - a bit like Brighton marina). There is an immense sandy beach five minutes' walk away, with lots of nudists and some gay people at our end to make it more interesting. (Nudists all seem to be over 60, or do they just look mature because of all that exposure to the sun?) It's about 10 minutes' walk to the Metro and then another 20 minutes or so to get into the city - and if you get bored with the Metro there are two RENFE rail stations and a tram terminus also each within 10 minutes' walk, and a bus which runs right through the marina. And we did eventually find a big supermarket close to the Metro station, which cheered me up - Guy thinks we're obsessed with supermarkets, but possibly he doesn't appreciate the challenge of carrying all food by arm from several miles away...

Anyway Barcelona is a great city. Sam knows it a bit, but this was my first visit since losing my luggage in Barcelona airport en route to Alicante when I was 16. We spent Wednesday in Las Ramblas and in the Barri Gotic, the old town with the cathedral and medieval buildings, then strolled down to see Port Vell (which does look very full) and the Parc Ciutadella. On the Thursday Sam, Ben and I did the proper tourist thing and went to see the Sagrada Familia - the world's most astonishing building site. I see they are now talking about completion in 2026 (by which time I will be 70!)

Sadly Sam had to head home on a late flight on the 30th to sort out some work, so I was alone with three teenagers. On Friday I succeeded in dragging them out of bed before 9am for a trip to Montserrat, on the recommendation of my friend Emma. Thanks Em, a brilliant choice - train journey, then cable car up to the astonishing monastery site 1000m above sea level. We had a picnic and a gentle walk, and some of the party queued to touch the feet of the Virgin before we headed home again. (OK, Guy and Beth joined the queue by mistake...)

Saturday was a rest and beach day (also a day for taking down and cleaning the foresail) and on Sunday we went to Montjuic, the hill to the south of the city, for a trip to the Joan Miro museum and the castle. Sadly the teenagers were more impressed by the cable car and the castle's military museum than the works of Miro, although I'm sure a bit of culture was very good for them. We spent the afternoon in one of Barcelona's extremely beautiful parks, and then the youngsters went straight home while I strolled up to the Olympic stadium and admired the Catalunya art gallery from the outside. With Kalessin likely to be in Barcelona for the winter I hope to spend a few days on a cultural visit to see all the museums I missed!

Monday was a day for packing up and cleaning the boat - it feels very strange to be leaving it for the winter when August is only just over. And on Tuesday easyJet whisked us back to Stansted where Sam met us. The good side of his going ahead is that he cleaned the house, shopped for food, and met us at the airport which has made the whole return very painless. The sun shone too, which I gather is unusual for the UK...

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