A selection of photos from our recent trip to Barcelona. I’ve spared you all the ones from the Grand Prix 😉
A selection of photos from our recent trip to Barcelona. I’ve spared you all the ones from the Grand Prix 😉
It is always difficult to fill the time before a flight but we were determined not to waste the time that we did have, especially hearing that it was raining in the UK and the sun was out in Barcelona. The hotel where we were staying was very well located close to the Gothic Quarter so we headed out that way through the back streets as Alex wanted to try and buy a football shirt.
Like most big cities Barcelona boasts more than one football team: FC Barcelona and Espanyol but you wouldn’t know that from the variety of shirts on offer. It would have been easier to find a Real Madrid shirt than one for Espanyol but Alex had his eyes on the latter so an extensive search was required to secure. In the end one was found, and I literally mean one as that was all the shop seemed to have, for the very reasonable price of €30 in Las Ramblas.
Las Ramblas runs from the Placa de Catalunya down to the sea front and has a bit of a reputation as the place where you are most likely to lose your wallet to pick pockets. However, it is an attractive street being very wide with a tree lined pedestrian bit in the middle filled with street traders. About half way up, off to one side, is a market packed with both traders and tourists. This is a fascinating place as you can buy produce such as fish, meats and vegetables as well as stopping for a tapas snack. It very much reminds me of the covered market in Oxford.
Finally with gifts secured for all those that required them we headed back to the hotel to check out and make the trip back to the airport and home. There was a final reminder of the main event at the airport too – a Williams FW40 – going about as fast as it did on track!
The whole point of this weekend away was so that we could go to the Spanish Grand Prix, everything else was really built around that. The circuit is only half an hour out of the city and so is an ideal venue to visit, although it can be a fairly pedestrian race but live sport always tops what you see on TV.
In order to get to the circuit we had pre-booked a bus which would take us directly from the city to the track. There were, however, a number of unknowns in all of that: how early would we need to be at the bus station to secure a place? How long would the coach take? How close to the circuit would it drop us? Our answer in times of transport uncertainty such as this is to leave plenty of contingency, much to the dismay of the boys. So it was that we arrived at the bus station at just before 10 and we certainly weren’t the only ones there. Fortunately it was all well organised and we were onto a bus within ten minutes and at the circuit a further 30 minutes later.
I was convinced that we had booked a covered grandstand and so when we reached the corner with our stand it came as a bit of a shock that it was in full sun and 25 degrees. By the end of the day the the boys and myself all had red knees despite slathering on the sun tan cream several times during the day. Rather than sit there and fry we went off to take a look at what was on offer around the circuit. It was interesting to see the size of the concessions selling team merchandise were proportional to the teams popularity (I assume). McLaren seemed to have been afforded a stall the same size as those of Mercedes and Ferrari which initially I couldn’t make any sense of until I remembered Fernando Alonso. The Williams concession was half the size of the big boys and minnows (in terms of merchandise sales) Force India and Haas had to share a stand half the size again. Although I was already kitted out in my Williams hat and top I was in the market for a tee shirt at least. However, the prices were eye watering, particularly when you consider that Williams are currently offering 40% off on their website so I passed.
We were back in our seats in plenty of time for the start and had a really good view of the last few corners before the start/finish straight and the pit lane entrance. There was also a big screen in the distance so we could follow what was going on in the parts of the track that we couldn’t see. For me, as a Williams supporter, my race was over before the end of the first lap when Felipe Massa came past with a puncture and sparks flying from the bottom of the car. The race looked as if it was going to be pretty dull until there was a virtual safety car (brought on by Massa) which allowed Hamilton to make a late stop and close the gap to Vettel. Track-side I’m still not sure quite how he managed to cut the deficit so I’ll probably watch the race re-run to find out exactly what happened. This did, however, make for an exciting last laps as Hamilton closed in on the Ferrari and took the lead to take the win.
Grand Prix racing isn’t as tribal as football and so it was not unusual to see someone wearing, say, a McLaren hat with a Williams tee shirt, which really messed with my head as, to my mind, McLaren are the arch enemies of the boys from Grove. Similarly while the fans in the stands did give a big cheer for local drivers Alonso and Sainz they also cheered, well, pretty much any action so when Vettel took the lead from Bottas and when Hamilton passed Vettel.
Once the race was over everyone was up and out of their seats to make a swift exit. We retraced our steps to the bus stop where there was a looooong line of people waiting to board the buses back to the city. I steeled myself for a long wait but Sagales, the bus company with whom we had booked, were incredibly efficient and with so many buses available we were on one and away within 15 minutes. I cannot praise Sagales highly enough for the service there and back – it was tremendous.
Back in Barcelona we went out for a tapas meal and then found a local bar where Mat got through what was two very large glasses of sangria. It was a great end to a fun day.
We are a family of different sleeping patterns and so today to accommodate that we had a more leisurely start to the day. While one of the boys caught up on his beauty sleep Helen and I found a local coffee shop to have some breakfast consisting of a chocolate croissant and foul tasting cup of tea. To be fair the tea wasn’t the issue, it was the hot, UHT milk served with it. We then regrouped ready to catch a hop-on, hop-off bus to take us to the sights.
Barcelona is an interesting place but the real interest lies in the architecture left behind by Gaudi and not just the famous, unfinished, church. We a number of examples of his work on the journey and made our first actual stopping point to be the Gueli Park which has a monuments section featuring Gaudi’s work. Unfortunately the first tickets available for this weren’t available for entry until 6pm. Instead we walked round the free bits of the park which are interesting in a dull sort of way. All the architecture in this part seem to have been constructed before Gaudi discovered colour.
From here it was back to the bus and onward to the next stop, which turned out to be lunch. I make no excuses for this but lunch turned out to be a KFC, something that we’d normally only do in our hour of need but it was convenient, cheap-ish and filling.
After lunch we took the bus to the palace. We should have been able to walk from the grand square at the bottom right up to the entrance but there was a motor show taking up the walkway so we had to arrive via the backstreets which wasn’t quite the grand entrance we’d hoped for. It was an impressive place nevertheless. The final stint on the bus took us down to the seafront from where we walked back to the hotel.
In the evening we went out to see the Sagrada Familia (that unfinished church) at night. Only the front was lit and it didn’t look that impressive as it had during the day which was disappointing. What wasn’t disappointing was the meal – it was great to find a traditional pizzeria in the middle of Barcelona 😉
Tomorrow the unknown that is the Spanish Grand Prix.
Since the boys left home a couple of years ago our holidays have been strictly child free (not that they are children now of course). Today, however, we set off for a weekend away with all four of us in attendance for the first time in a while. Destination Barcelona. This meant a 5am start to catch the early plane from Heathrow. On arrival at Barcelona we dumped our bags and headed for the obligatory tapas lunch. No matter how hard we try we always seem to order too much and it’s impossible to stem the flow of plates arriving at the table Fortunately having the boys with us helps with this issue as they suck up everything in sight.
This weekend has a very sporty feel to it with the main event (for me at least) being the Grand Prix on Sunday. However, Alex may feel differently as he likes some game called “football” so this afternoon we we to Nou Camp, the home of FC Barcelona. I have to be honest and say that it wasn’t really something that I was greatly looking forward to, not being a football fan but I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn’t all that interested in the museum at the beginning, although the number of trophies was initially impressive until I noticed that they had sneaked in those from their winning roller hockey team too!
Once released from the museum you were allowed to go through the stadium itself. It wasn’t quite a free for all but I was impressed with both the areas you were allowed to go to and the fact that you weren’t unduly supervised or herded. So we were able to go out into the stands and see the impressive stadium. As with most modern stadiums the view for most seats seemed pretty good although given how high up some seats are you might need oxygen. Next it was down to the touch line and the technical area where Alex had great fun recreating yet another Man U loss!
We were then able to go to the press room and the “pens” where manager and players are interviewed post match and up to the view from the media area.
Finally, like all good tours, it was exit via the gift shop where we all managed to avoid picking up a Messi shirt. My money is staying firmly in my pocket until I get to the circuit on Sunday and pick up a pair of these…
For logistical reasons we decided to go to Barcelona today rather than wait for the weekend rush. So we went off to the train station in search of, well , a train. Arriving at the first counter I explained to the woman behind the glass in my best English that I wish to purchase to return tickets to Barcelona. She looked at me and waved to her right. So we moved along to the next window to our left and repeated my request where we were met by a similar response. Being nothing is not creatures of habit we joined the final queue to the left and took stock of our position. It then became clear that we were actually in the bus station rather than the train station and the hand gesticulations had actually been to tell us that we needed the BUILDING to the left and not the next counter as we had assumed. Doh! So ticket purchased we got the very sleek and comfortable next train bound for Barcelona.
On arrival we wandered and did some of the things that tourists are expected to do ending up on La Rambla where we knew that there was a covered market that did great tapa, amongst other things. We found a slot at a very busy booth and set about ordering a number of tapas items followed by a couple of main dishes. As soon as the tapas arrived it became clear that the main dishes wouldn’t be required and it took some doing to eat enough of all we had ordered to not embarrass ourselves! The food was great, however.
We finished off the day with an obligatory trip to the Sagrada Familia where progress is as slow as ever. We have been once before (actually twice in Helen’s case) and have vowed not to come back until it is complete – that might mean not coming back again!
The train back was a bit of a shocker compared with the luxury of the mornings offering. This train was the slow train to Girona, stopping everywhere and was packed. Fortunately we were able to get a seat although there are beds in Siberian prisons that are softer! It was good to get off and stretch.
We went off on our summer holidays today as groupies for BYGO with whom our son plays. Actually it’s not as bad as it sounds as we are staying in a different town and will only see him once, briefly, for a concert on Friday night, which will be the last ever opportunity we get to see him play with BYGO.
Today though was all about getting there and having to endure some of the worst cabin pressure I’ve had for a very long time. The last twenty minutes coming in to land were pretty painful and I was glad to step off the plane even if my ears are now screwed up as a consequence.
It is a source of constant fascination to me that we always seem to have booked for the only car rental operator to have a queue waiting to be serviced. Hire car operatives are similar to flight check-in desks in that they always seem to have to re-type the whole agreement into their computer in triplicate. Then and only once that is done can the hard sell begin as they try to get you to upgrade first your car and then your insurance. Finally with all that done we were on our way.
This is one area where technology has made such a positive difference to driving abroad. We got into the car, I plugged in my iPhone, started up coPilot GPS app and punched in the address of the hotel. Within an hour and a half we were there with no fuss or stress of trying to find the right roads with a paper map.
Another positive of modern life is car air conditioning. I can remember long, hot, journeys with my parents years ago with the windows wound right down as you uncomfortably tried to remove yourself from the vinyl seats. No longer as you travel in chilly comfort. However, the downside to this is that when you throw open the door at your journeys end and discover that it is 37 degrees outside it comes as a real shock to the system – particularly haven flown in from the UK where the temperature has been down at 17.
We were relieved to discover that Google Street View was very out of date and that our hotel was complete and not like that shown below. Check out the hotel before flying came as a bit of a shock!
And so into Girona which turned out to be a pretty little town with lovely Medieval winding streets. But the best attraction has to be the painted houses and flats overlooking the river as shown in the picture above.