Saturday 17th September
We spend the morning relaxing in Joan’s house. We pack our stuff and read our books for a while. I take an extended swim in the pool.
Again, we find ourselves indebted to Joan and Sandra. They both have busy lives but have welcomed us into their fantastic home with warmth. They have given us the run of their place and taken us out on impromptu tours to boot. They have promised to come to Jersey next year; I hope they can make it. If we can make them feel half as welcome as they have made us, I will be happy.
As a result of having a relaxing morning we arrive at the ferry as laid back as we can be. The terminal has got WiFi so I can catch the commentary of Man City’s 4-0 demolition of Bournemouth; they really are playing well at the moment.
For some reason the ferry people open the gate to allow vehicles on the quayside and then proceed to make us wait for an hour in the gathering rain clouds before we get on. We leave much later than the published 5:00pm.
When we get to our cabin the stoker Is unhappy; she had thought she had got us a bigger cabin when we checked in, but this is just the standard rabbit hutch we had on the way over. We go to reception to try and change, but they are having none of it.
We spend the evening watching the film ‘Eye in the Sky’ on the iPad; we had rented this a while ago and had to watch it on the boat otherwise we would have run out of time. We finished watching this entertaining film with an hour to spare. We like to live on the edge.
There is something quite hilarious about the Trasmediterrania ferry company. I realise the ferry is not very busy, but the crew appear to be fairly clueless and the boat is quite frankly a dog’s breakfast.
The really funny thing is the approach to arrival times. Our paperwork had two arrival times in Barcelona: 07:00 and 09:30. We sought to clarify this when first on board and were told ‘between 09:00 and 10:00’. When I get up in the morning a sign on reception tells us we will arrive at 10:15am. The ‘Ferry de Comedie’ for sure.
Apart from making sure this works with train times, we are not too bothered when we arrive, but I should imagine that a level of certainty about arrival time is important to some passengers. I think if the much-maligned Condor service in Jersey adopted this approach there would be a riot.
We can see Barcelona looming and we start to gird ourselves for what it expected to be a horrendous journey. Cycle to Barcelona Clot station, battle our way down five flights of stairs and then fight for a place on the train to Figueres. We had decided to get the faster train to here and cycle the c 15k to the campsite at Garriguella.
What transpired was an almost perfect journey which I think shows how far we have come as travellers since we began May.
To start, we had prepared well; we knew the train times and we planned to stop and grab some decent food before we got on the train. It sounds odd but we also prepared ourselves mentally for the journey. We discussed that it could be a bit of a nightmare and we resolved to remain calm and, above all, not rush.
It all went like clockwork. We cycled across Barcelona to the station, a trip that was all on a dedicated cycle lane. Outside the station we purchased some hot chicken baguettes from a bar and made sure we were stocked up with water.
As we knew the times of the trains we were able to tackle the flights of stairs carefully and methodically before getting our tickets and depositing ourselves on the platform with 10 minutes to spare.
The wait for the train is always the most anxious time; if the train is full we may well have a problem getting Claud on. As it happened we managed to haul the bike on and get it strapped in quickly without too much hassle. Although the train was quite full we were able to sit closeby and enjoy the hour and a half ride to Figueres.
The 15k cycle passed uneventfully; there was a bit of a climb in the middle but the route we selected to Garriguella was all on quiet roads.
We arrive at the campsite and get our little chalet which will be our home for the next four days.
As expected, the campsite is pretty deserted and is being manned by a skeleton staff. The ‘Supermarcedo’ (i.e. small half empty shop) appears closed but a sign in the door tells you to go to the bar if you want anything. This is how the system works; there are so few people on the site that the barman opens the shop on request. We pick up a few bits and then have a beer by the massive pool with the four other people staying at the site.
It is amazing how quickly we get into domestic bliss; sitting outside having prepared a meal, which we have not done since Normandy in May. We even have a cat, having been adopted by a small kitten who takes over the place and won’t leave.
Monday 19th September
We are beginning to call the campsite the ‘Camping de Calamity’; it shuts next Monday and I thing the family that runs it have gone into shut down mode.
We wake up and have no running water which is a bit of a problem as we both really need a shower after a couple of days travelling. I go to reception and in less than pigeon Spanish manage to get over that the ‘agua’ is ‘kaput’. The water gets magically restored, but the boiler has gone out which means another trip to reception. I am trying to work out what Spanish for boiler is, but am saved when a new receptionist appears who speaks English. Shortly after, we are showered.
We take the bike into the small town of Garriguella to pick up some provisions. The town appears to have two small identical shops opposite each other. We just about get what we need, but need to pick up a few bits from the camp shop.
We arrive at the camp bar to find it open, but deserted. One of the Dutch party of four tells us that the barman has had to go somewhere and if we want a drink or anything we have to go to reception. I trudge over and it is clear the receptionist has no clue that she is the emergency bar person. She obliges, however and opens the shop for us, despite not knowing any of the prices and not being able to find the beer in the bar.
In truth, we like the quietness and are amused by the Fawlty Towers approach to the running of the camp. This is the perfect way to finish our stint in Spain. The only downside is that the WiFi is comically poor, despite having paid extra for access in the chalet.
We finish the evening with Barbecue; something we have not done for a very long time.
The cat has now completely moved in, particularly as Louise has now fed it. It has made itself a bed in the spare room and is clearly here for the duration.
Tuesday 20th September
We awake to thick cloud and cooler temperatures. It has been much cooler here since we arrived with quite a strong wind for the first couple of days. We even have a blanket on our bed, which is amazing considering 10 days ago it was so hot in this area we couldn’t contemplate riding.
We elect to take a ride to Figueres where there is a market.
It is a bit of a sharp climb out, but we are rewarded with a long descent into Figueres. We mooch around the market and pick up a few bits of food for the evening’s Barbecue. The ride back involves a longer climb, but we have done it once fully loaded, so it is a doddle.
We stop at the top and take a few photos. It is here I notice there is a complex of military bunkers, very similar to those WWII German bunkers in Jersey. You can see why the bunkers are located here, with great views to the coast, but I must admit I don’t understand the history as to why they are there. I know Spain was (barely) neutral in WWII and wonder whether these bunkers were more to do with the Spanish civil war. Some googling required methinks.
We don’t do much else today. Louise rests up and I sit by the pool drinking beer and chatting to the guy that runs the bar. Nice chap and we are even joined later by a couple from Wales and a group of four from the Netherlands. Christ, you can’t move in this place.
Later we Barbecue (perhaps better described as incinerate) our food and decide to retire early.
We hope to visit a wine making place tomorrow in the next village, see how that goes. One more day here then it is off to the coast followed by the long journey to the UK.
The end of our journey is closing in.