Friday, April 04, 2008

Mixed messages

On Tuesday we caught the train to Girona (above), which is a really lovely medieval town about 40 miles north of Barcelona. It has a cathedral with the widest nave in the world and an 11th-century tapestry of the Creation, beautifully-restored Arab baths, lots of narrow streets and steps and extensive walks around the old city walls. Best of all it's quiet (well it is on a Tuesday) and the peace was very welcome. we had a really nice lunch where we managed to get both pizza for Ben and a menu del dia for Sam and me, all for €30 altogether (including wine).

The train was good too, although at the station where we got on (the memorably-named Barcelona Clot-Arago) the only announcement made was of the end destination (Portbou, a small town on the French border) - just as well we had a sort-of map of Catalunya. On the train to Girona there were no announcements at all, but the views were lovely and it was wonderful to see spring arriving – it was a beautiful, clear, warm day.

We walked a lot in Girona and as a consequence were all rather bad-tempered and out of sorts on Wednesday, although we did get some washing done. On Wednesday evening three insect bites at the base of my left-hand ring finger swelled up and I had to remove my wedding ring for pretty much the first time ever, which made me quite unreasonably upset. I managed to fit it on to my right-hand ring finger which is better than not wearing it, but I’m a bit worried it may never come off again…

Sam was quite keen to go to the Dali museum in Figueres on Thursday but I felt it would be too much of a repeat of the trip to Girona (it’s on the same railway line, a bit further north) and also rather expensive given that pretty much the only thing to see in Figueres is the Dali museum and it’s the third most-visited museum in Spain. Also, it was our last chance to go into Barcelona, so we headed into the city. We toured El Corte Ingles (huge department store), walked over to see the modern art museum (MACBA) and then back to the market, the Bocqueria, to get some lunch.

Ben and I had an unpleasant experience where he was approached by a woman who was asking him something incomprehensible in Spanish and her male partner tried to steal my purse – fortunately he failed, but we were all rather upset. At that point we nearly went straight back to the boat, but it seemed a shame to end our time in Barcelona on such a sour note. So I dragged a reluctant son and husband to the park in Montjuïc and up the paths to the cross-harbour cable-car station. There where you might have expected to get to a dead end and a rusty fence in the UK, we instead came across a sophisticated and secluded garden, and on up the steps to a café with possibly the best view in Barcelona (below). After a beer each (and an iced tea for Ben) we all felt much better.

Petty crime in Barcelona is a real blot on an otherwise stunning city. Twice in two weeks we suffered theft or attempted theft, and I know Alan and Joan on Moonstruck were troubled by theft and vandalism in the Real Club Nautico. In spite of London’s reputation I’ve never actually had anything stolen there, nor in any of the other cities we have been on the trip. I’m glad Kalessin is out here in Badalona where things seem to be more low-key.

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