A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010

Andorra

Farewell Spain

rain 10 °C

We arrive at our last parador and get unpacked and then wander bout the place to get a surprise – la Seu D’Urgell was the site of the kayak events of the Barcelona Olympics back in 1992. Just at the back of the old town there is the championship kayak course fed off the Segre river – it looks mean with low flow going through. To fill in time before dinner, we grab a very nice hot chocolate. Not much open on a Wednesday, so we have an ordinary meal.
In the morning once we are up late as usual, and have hot chocolate for breakfast. We are heading over to Andorra to add another country to the list, to do some tax free shopping and to go on a massive toboggan ride. There is no customs checks going in, that can wait for later. We find the shopping area and start to look around. Quite a few are shut for lunch, so G and I head off to naturlandia to find the big toboggan. We wind up 12 kms of steep road, getting higher and higher to reach our goal. The road is so steep that the range predictor in the car has dropped from 120kms to 50. When we get to naturlandia, we find the run is closed today due to rain. Paintball? Not today. Archery? Not in this wind. Pool? Yes. Quadbikes? Okay, just go up another 12 kms to the winter sports area. We go up another 12 kms and the range is now down to 40. When we get up the top, we see the top of the toboggan – the thing is ginormous, bloody rain. (It is 1700m of rail to go up, 3550m to get down, a vertical drop of 400m) and that’s about all we see as the topis in clouds. Anyway, G gets to do the quadbike, only the kids one unfortunately, but has a good time with it. On the drive down the mountain we are just using the gears to control our progress and the range shoots up to 250kms. Fill up still, with the cheap fuel prices.
High altitude pool

High altitude pool

Top of the mega toboggan

Top of the mega toboggan


As we drive through, get a small taste of the massive mountain valleys that Andorra is nestled in, with no space for industry except for services in shopping, winter sports and banking. Those mountains do collect a lot of water though, and there is a river thumping through the main towns that carries a fair bit of what little soil they have around. Andorra valley

Andorra valley


Back in town we head to the hobby shops and g gets some stuff, and I get a little 404. We also buy some booze, chocolate and perfume. We get stopped at the border, and they stop and inspect us and let us go after a stern talking to (well I don’t know where the bike came from). Back in La Seu D’Urgell, we look around for dinner and happen upon Ignasi, a creperie in Carrer de Capdevila. This has been taken over by a new chef, a Relais et Chateaux trained patissier and he is damned good. The wine list and advice from the front of house is good too, leading to a longer and larger dinner than planned. We also got good advice where to get a haircut in town – that is full service. Finally after a double dessert course (he’s a PATISSIER) we were guided home by G and fell into a deep sleep.

Posted by lostagain 15:07 Archived in Andorra Comments (0)

The end of Barcelona

and off into the mountains

sunny 30 °C

Next morning we had breakfast looking over Sagrada Familia before heading into town to pick up some rental bikes.Breakfast

Breakfast

A day on the bikes

A day on the bikes

We head about town doing a bit of a Modernist tour, taking in the interesting buildings in the Eixample area of Barcelona, where there was a large amount of building in the early 1900s.Modernist facade

Modernist facade

Everyone has heard about Gaudi, but he is by no mean the only architect of his time. We covered a fair bit of the town before we headed down to Barceloneta for lunch at Can Majo. I wanted to have a good paella before we left Spain, and this was it. Fortunately the food was good, unfortunately the service was poor.Gehry's Fish

Gehry's Fish

After this we raced off for a tour of Casa Milo, La Pedrera, and spent a good hour there before we realised we had to get the bikes back. We got out just in time and we cycled down Passeig de Gracia just in front of the massive crowd demonstrating against the cut in their wages and the increase in GST.Union Protests over wage cuts

Union Protests over wage cuts

casa Mila - La Pedrera

casa Mila - La Pedrera


With the bikes back, we went again to Belgious for more ice cream for dessert.
We have to pack up the next morning but we can keep the car in the car park until the afternoon. I head off to another Gaudi, casa Batllo, while L and g go to the shops. I really enjoy casa Batllo with the help of the audio guide as you get to see all the clever things he does for ventilation, natural light, rainwater collection and making spaces flexible and useful. And it is great to see the great decorative work he did to. The main lounge

The main lounge

casa Batllo roof

casa Batllo roof


We got back together and drove out a bit to see a jeweller, Daniel Vior. His stuff was fantastic, light and colourful. We planned to be there a few minutes, but took over an hour as we inspected just about every piece they had. In the end there were two pieces purchased to be sent on to us. Now we have to drive on to what will be our last Parador, at Seu d’Urgell up in the Spanish Pyrenees near Andorra. It is overcast and rainy, but the mountains up here are beautiful and dramatic. In this area they have not been sheer, but still rise steeply out of the valley. There is a lot of water coming down off the mountains, so we do get to see some waterfalls coming down.Left him with a friend

Left him with a friend

Posted by lostagain 14:40 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Barcelona Part 2

semi-overcast 27 °C

The next day it was time to fulfil a promise to G – Camp Nou. We are doing the stadium tour. Of course G wore his Chelsea shirt.
Camp Nou

Camp Nou

We wander about, taking photos and absorbing the atmosphere. Head through the chairman’s lounge, the press area, the grandstands – but no dressing area and the museum is half closed. Toasting the presidents

Toasting the presidents

When full, Camp Nou contains 98,000 punters, and it is impossible to get tickets to a home match. We went around and G had his photo taken with Lionel Messi (what do you mean he’s in South Africa?) and with the Champions League trophy.A small souvenir

A small souvenir

And we could not leave without a souvenir, so I bought L a FCB ice block tray (ice in the shape of their shield) and G got himself a ball. All is happy.
A proud purchase

A proud purchase


Caught the Metro down to the Museo Maritim after that, as we had heard it was good for kids. It probably would be, but 90% of it is closed for renovations. Most things have been in Spain roads, museums, palaces etc.In the Maritime museum

In the Maritime museum


We got frustrated at the cable car on Barca harbour, as the middle station was closed, and it is no short trip to the other stations (that’s probably why they put it there) So we wandered around to something else that was closed. We wandered around the harbour for a bit to see the sights, watching the ferries docking. In the end we went to some toy shops to keep G happy.Barca harbour

Barca harbour


We meet up with L who has been shopping with minimal success. We had unconvincing tapas at Sagardi, but hit the jackpot with Belgious ice cream in Carrer d’Avinyo – fantastic flavours and beautifully executed – salted butter toffee, mojito, kiwi mandarin, bourbon vanilla – all just great, and would give Jock’s a few ideas.
Cava on the balcony

Cava on the balcony

Posted by lostagain 02:06 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Barcelona Day 1

rain 22 °C

The trip up went just fine, and we were soon inspecting our apartment with Xavier, our host. When he opened the blind it was fantastic – we could see the spires of Sagrada Familia from our balcony! From our balcony

From our balcony

(nirvana I apartmentsramblas) We moved in and got the washing on first before we headed out have a look around this magnificent structure. The form of it is nothing like you have ever seen in a church before or since – although it is made of stone, it looks very organic in its form and flow, but still manages to have a traditional church floorplan. It is imposible to know what the finished building was supposed to look like because there are no proper plans, just sketches Gaudi made of what he thought it may look like.The Nativity facade

The Nativity facade

The Passion facade

The Passion facade

The next morning we had to dig out the waterproofs as it had started to rain. The plan was to do a Fat Tire bike tour as we had in Paris, but to learn about the highlights at the start of the stay, not the end. The rain had made for a small group, but that was okay as we tripped about in the rain. We got to have a tour around some of the main highlights of the place, including a beach side lunch in the rain, complete with a jug of sangria to keep us warm.
Plaza St Jaume

Plaza St Jaume

Gehry's fish under water

Gehry's fish under water

Barceloneta beach

Barceloneta beach

After that a bit of exertion warmed us up and we said goodbye to John (after G had bought a tshirt) and went to the Thyssen-Bornheim Pre-Colombian museum which had a great collection, but also quite small, which pleased G no end. P1030819In the great Pre Colombian Museum

P1030819In the great Pre Colombian Museum

We skipped Picasso as we had already done some in Malaga, and instead headed up to Park Guell to see some more of Gaudi’s work whilst the rain was scaring everyone else away. Unfortunately by the time we got there, the rain had cleared and the crowds had returned.In Park Guell

In Park Guell


Parc Guell was a wonderful example of some of Gaudi’s thinking on how a livable community should be able to exist. Although it was conceived as an exclusive gated community, there was provision for recycling rainwater, space for a weekly community market, sites where houses could only take up 20% of the land so it would always be a green area. Fortunately for us it fell through and with only a small amount built it was sold to and preserved by the city. The thought that went into it is equalled by the decorative touches and the design of the houses that were built and still remain. There is a huge use of mosaic panels on many of the completed surfaces, even the ceiling of the market place – just brilliant.Over the collonade

Over the collonade

The obligatory dragon shot

The obligatory dragon shot


Our last stop of the night was the Magic fountain – a fountain which is a sight, light and sound show as water dances around to the sound of music whilst being lit by banks of coloured lights from below. A bit of schmaltz, but good fun too.The magic fountain

The magic fountain

From PLaza De Espana

From PLaza De Espana

Posted by lostagain 16:22 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Valencia

sunny 31 °C

The order of the next day was a long drive, so we thought it would be good to get some food into us to start with. So we had a Parador breakfast to see us through most of the day. A near 500km drive took us over 5 hours with a couple of stops on the way to refuel and get cold drinks. Then with 5 km to go, G said with urgency ‘gottachuck’ and we pulled in quickly as the projectile started. Cleaned him up and then into the impressive El Saler Parador, where we put him to bed. He recovered enough for a quick play in the pool, but headed downhill after that and it was into bed for 16 hours sleep.
There are also modern Paradors...

There are also modern Paradors...


The next morning G and I headed out to have a day at the Oceanografic, the Science Museum and at the Hemispheric. Along with the Reine Sophia Arts centre, these make up a city of Arts and science at the southern side of Valencia. They are all modern designs, with the Arts centre looking like it has just landed in a sci fi movie.George Lucas designed the Opera House

George Lucas designed the Opera House


At the oceanographic we saw the dolphin show, which was impressive but led G to wonder if the dolphins were really happy doing this.
Dolphin show

Dolphin show

In the Oceanografic

In the Oceanografic

There is also a lot of underground tunnels to wander through and have fish, sharks and rays float over you. At the science museum we played with comic heroes and ate lollies (scientific experiment I swear) and avoided the space school when we found G would get thrown about – not a good idea after yesterday’s car trip, we thought. We also looked a bit at chromosomes and what they do before we had to get to the Hemisferic for a program on Egypt, good effects but light on a story line – and we still don’t know what was used for preserving mummies.Ready for Imax lobotomy

Ready for Imax lobotomy

Hemispheric

Hemispheric


Back at the Parador, we found out that L had wandered the sand dunes behind the Parador (this one is on the beach with a Golf Course) and got lost, taken a bus ride and then got back just in time for a body scrub and treatment. By the time we found her she was exhausted. Dragged her off for dinner which was uneventful apart from some delicious tomato smothered in olive oil and salt.
One for Fab

One for Fab


The next day we eventually headed up to Tortosa to a parador where we gainfully employed ourselves having lunch on the balcony and a swim in the pool for a few hours. Lunch in Tortosa

Lunch in Tortosa

That night we had a good chat with a couple of local ladies as we were eating our tapas, and finding out more about the area and getting the low down which we couldn’t use because we were heading straight to Barcelona the next day.
At the Parador

At the Parador

At the river

At the river

Posted by lostagain 16:13 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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