A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

Barcelona

Reporting from Bordeaux

sunny 30 °C
View Camping Adventure on aboo10's travel map.

After packing up our campsite, which is no small feat to clean everything up, fold and repack furniture, bed sheets, clothes, and of course the tent, and get it all into the car, taking about 3 hours all up. Fortunately the kids were able to enjoy one last day at Mini Club, and Didi has of course endeared himself to all the staff, and we were able to do the disassembling in relative peace! Mini Club was over at 12.30, and we had left nothing in our campsite plot, and the kids walked down to have a look and were suitably impressed. We then jumped in the car for a very short hop - an hour and a half to Barcelona!

We are staying in an area of Barcelona called Poblenou, which was a factory area originally, but since the 1992 Olympics has been gentrified, and very nearby is the site of the Athlete’s Village, and less than ten minutes walk from one of Barcelona’s amazing city beaches. We are staying in a converted factory in an apartment hotel, it has enormously high ceilings and rough brick walls, polished concrete floors and exposed pipes, very trendy. Pool on the roof too.

Never done this before, but with expected temperatures of around 30 degrees, we opted to join the Bus Turistic for 2 days, there are 3 routes here in Barcelona, and lucky for us we were staying just off the Green, or beach route... so we joined the tour bus, which took us around the main sites of Barcelona, with some easy changes to other lines.

Our priority for Barcelona was Gaudi. The Basilica was the high point, but the buses only went in one direction, and the time around the routes was over an hour, so we needed to plan visits accordingly. So on Monday, our first stop was La Pedreda, an apartment building commissioned by one of Barcelona’s bourgeoisie in the early 1900s. Unfortunately for us, the facade is currently swathed in scaffolding, so we didn’t get to appreciate the ‘petrified’ wave, but we did get to enjoy the tour of the museum, and were blown away with the architectural features of the house. In the attic, an exhibition showed how Gaudi incorporated elements of nature, for example plants, animal bones, shells and water erosion, into his architecture. The roof ‘garden’ was amazing, felt a bit like a labyrinth, undulating with steps up and down, and sculptures shaped like the sea, and some covered with bits of tile, and others rendered smooth.

Next stop on our Blue Route bus tour was the Basilica. Could not believe it when we jumped on the bus that we ran into a colleague and her family from school. We were only going a couple of stops to get from La Pedreda to Sagreda Familia, and had to sit downstairs, inside as the upstairs, outside was full, and there they were, the seats just in front of us! They were heading to the Guell Park, and suggested that we might have a little issue with entry because of queues... but we needed lunch. We found a little place with a terrace and had a few Tapas dishes, then went back to join the queue to buy tickets at Sagreda Familia. Hmmm... 45 mins to buy tickets, to be told that the soonest we could get in was 5pm (over 2 hours away!) so we opted to buy tickets for 6.30, and ‘squeeze’ another site in beforehand! Back on the Blue Route Bus, to Park Guell - a park designed by - you guessed it - Gaudi! It was intended to be a property development, and be a private garden, but the housing development part fell through, and eventually, Guell donated the land to be a public park. Gaudi’s own home is in the grounds. After about an hour wandering, we headed back to our trusty bus, to sit on the whole circle back to Sagreda Familia. Didi had a wee nap, we listened to the commentary and enjoyed the late afternoon sun.

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Sagreda Familia was amazing. We sat outside for a bit and examined the facade. At the moment, the entrance is through the old section, which Gaudi was actually alive and saw constructed. The kids picked out some of the things they could see, like a lady playing a bassoon, and another one playing a harp and a menagerie of animals. We looked at a bronze statue which shows the expected finished product. And then we went inside.

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I can’t describe it. You’ll have to go and visit it. My photos don’t even do it justice; in the slightest. Some possible adjectives include: high, tall, sweeping, amazing, outstanding, enormous, elaborate, inspirational, polylithic (specifically Mike’s adjective), overwhelming, awe inspiring, genius, holy, OMG... The light which filtered in, was so gentle and soft, and the colours through the stained glass just lovely. And it seemed so light and airy.

Underneath the main apse, was a museum, with models showing how Gaudi had worked out the shapes of the ceiling, amazingly he had worked it out using chains, or strings and weights and gravity, and then inverted it using a mirror. I have to admit, it took me a while to get it. But once I could see what he had done, I recognised the genius!

At 8pm, when we were ‘kicked out’ we made a last minute visit to the ‘working church’ underneath, a service was about to be held, so we were super quick to get out and home for a very late dinner! Not surprisingly the kids fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow, and didn’t wake up until late the next morning!

We all felt the effects of such a big day out, and were slower on our second day. But smarter, because before we left we bought tickets for the two main things on our agenda online! And for the first, Casa Battlo, an elaborate Gaudi home, we also bought ‘Fast Pass’ - yep, just like Disneyland... so loved it, when we jumped off the Red Route bus, sauntered over to the door, had a bit of a look up, and noticed the queue snaking around the corner, to walk straight in, and just wait for the people in the door already to be given their headsets! This building is still a working home, with private people using (living or working in) the apartments on each floor, the first floor is the open apartment, with stunning stained glass, inside and out. Gaudi was particularly focussed on natural light, and so had incorporated light wells into the building, each with windows. To maximise light into each floor, the window size varied slightly, with the top floor having smaller windows where the light is brighter, and the lower floors having large ones to let in as much filtered light as possible. The light wells were also tiled in blue, and at the top it was a dark blue, to help cool it down, and at the bottom it was such a pale blue, almost white to enable additional reflection. Casa Battlo also had an outstanding roof terrace, the roof at the front looks like a big dragon is climbing over the top, and is covered with fragments of tiles.

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From Casa Battlo, we had a quick tapas lunch, and then jumped on the Red Route to take us all the way around to see something completely different... Joan Miro’s Gallery. He established a foundation to showcase contemporary artists, and also provide a home for his own extensive collection of art, plus his own work. It was an amazing gallery, and provided a terrific contrast against all the Gaudi art we have seen so far! The most amazing thing I saw was a mercury fountain, which was presented to the foundation by the artist Alexander Calder, in memory of Miro. It was in a contained glass box, so the mercury couldn’t splash around, but it was truly mesmerising. There were sculptures (by Miro) on the roof and in the gardens, and it was really lovely. We watched a movie on his history, and he was an experimental artist, and one of the first to do ‘junk’ modelling!

We then walked a little way to ride on the funicular, or cable car, Telerific de Montjuic, which took us up to Castle Montjuic overlooking the ports and all of Barcelona. The views were stunning. We watched the cruise liners, and the working port, and looked at the views to the mountains, and over the city.

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We had an amazing dinner, although we have been eating very late - after 9.30 every night... I don’t know how the kids are doing it, and staying up so late! I don’t know how we did either! We had a jug of sangria and a few tapas plates - the one which was outstanding was a very lightly seared tuna with a light sauce for dipping.

A sleep in was required the next day, and we didn’t end up leaving the hotel until nearly midday! The kids slept in until after 9, and woke up on their own. Didi had been begging to go to the aquarium, so again, we bought tickets online, and could skip the queue!! As far as aquaria go, it was ok - we have been to better, we have been to worse. We got home early to use the pool on the roof before going out for dinner again.

It ended up being another late night with our last Spanish paella and sangria, and although delicious, due to a mistake in the kitchen took forever, and so we were home after 11, and a second jug of sangria...

Today we have driven to Bordeaux. We had the most amazing drive through the Pyrenees. We went over the top of the mountain from Spain and into France, peaking at 1920m above sea level. The scenery was breathtaking, and we stopped the car at this point (signposted on the road) and had a look around, we could smell edelweiss and hear cow bells - truly alpine!

We arrived in Bordeaux, checked into our apartment and went out for dinner. What will we see and do here??

Posted by aboo10 13:01 Archived in Spain Tagged churches art buildings skylines children family_travel Comments (2)

Camping on the beaches of the Mediterranean

Reporting from Els Prats Campsite

sunny 30 °C
View Camping Adventure on aboo10's travel map.

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OK, well not quite on the sand, but 200m or so back. When it’s quiet we can hear the waves breaking. This campsite is quite different to the last one... or maybe it’s just that summer holidays have started for many countries. Here we have French neighbours on each side of us, and our plot is about 7m squared, and along the row from ours to the beach there are about 10 tents or caravans and a small road. It looks like some people are here for the whole summer, and have proper fridges and tellies (rentable from the campsite) with them. Others have put a surface down or an awning up to extend their living space and have proper outdoor settings, rather than camp tables.

Every day the kids are off to Mini-Club, where they do crafts or treasure hunts and a range of physical activities. While they are there, I go and join in the Aqua Aerobics session in the pool. Afterwards we have a light lunch and then go together first for a swim in the Mediterranean which is gorgeous and calm. Jie Jie has built up her confidence and is swimming and diving into the waves, but Didi tends to stay chasing the breaking waves in and out on the beach. After a swim there, we go up and lie by the pool for a few hours. The kids both love the pool and typically let their hands and feet wrinkle up like prunes before they will even agree to getting out!

For the longest time, Didi has described his own swimming as ‘like a brick’, and has fought going in the water and putting his head under. He hated swimming lessons when he was 1, 2 and 3 years old, and was never much of a fan of having his face washed. He seemed to love going in the water, but was always insistent on having a floating ring or a bubble on his back and would never venture into deep water, or would cling on to us begging not to go under. It came as a little surprise when this week he asked for a snorkel. We bought both kids one, just cheap ones from the camp store. They came with a mask that blocks their noses. In the space of one short afternoon, he can now float and put his entire head underwater and use his arms and legs to propel himself through the water without touching the bottom. Now I’m not pretending he has suddenly turned into Grant Hackett, but he has announced now ‘I can swim and I can float at the same time, really!’. With a couple of days of practice he is now also happy to put his face under without the snorkel and mask!! And he doesn’t panic when using the snorkel if it fills up with water!! Amazing!!

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Yesterday we ventured from the norm and went to visit an old medieval town called Montblanc (not the home of the fancy pens in France). It was a walled city and surrounded by mountains. I loved it as it was still lived in, and the houses and alleys were quaint, but current. The town square was gorgeous, and we enjoyed a break in the early afternoon and had the most amazing Apple Carpaccio with Jambon and Raspberry Sauce tapas dish, with a fruity white wine. In the centre of Montblanc was St Maria’s, a gothic church, built on the site of a previous church, first consecrated in 1333. We were out in the heat of the day, and quickly learned from the dry heat, why many businesses close for siestas for 3-4 hours in the middle of the day!
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We have had a range of dinner options, enjoying Paella in the restaurant, salad and roast chicken, cooking on our camping stove and of course take away pizza... what holiday is complete without pizza?!?

Oh, and did I mention continuous blue sky.........

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Posted by aboo10 08:34 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Mallorca

Reporting from Düsseldorf


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Given that I 'accidentally' got a job 3 days before term started, our settling in time to our new home has taken a bit longer than planned, and been a bit more tiring than planned. When I was not supposed to be working, the plan was that I would be doing all the unpacking and setting up the house, and grocery shopping, leaving our weekends free to explore Düsseldorf and get to know where we now live. The kids had their settling in moments, missing their old school and friends, and wanting to 'go home', but we've explained and explained that this is now our home, and trying to make things comfortable and familiar. In Germany, everything closes on Sundays. Everything. So Saturdays are crazy with shopping and planning for the week.

So after 10 weeks of school, we had a mid term break coming up... and we debated about staying home and exploring Düsseldorf, or going away and relaxing. Feet up relaxing. Really we knew that if we stayed home, we would spend more time unpacking those last few boxes and doing more school work, and what we needed was some down time... so we found a last minute holiday package in Mallorca... we booked it, a bit blind, not knowing very much about where we were going, and when we got on that plane, we were on our way to 5 days of relaxation!

Being further south, the days were longer, and we cherished the last of the summer, Mallorca was about 10 degrees warmer. We stayed in an all-inclusive resort, which was a new experience for us... not necessarily one we would rush back to, but lying by the pool overlooking the Mediterranean was not too hard to take. The kids were in the pool for hours on end and we were lucky as well to have a kids club on site.

We went for a 5 day break, and didn't take very long to settle in. We went into town one day and visited the stunning cathedral and wandered around the old town, and enjoyed a tapas lunch and a sangria. We got caught in a deluge on the way home, and were lucky to quickly hail a taxi to get us back to the hotel quickly.

On another day we hired a car and drove around the island, and visited some caves on the far side and Bellver Castle on the hill in Palma overlooking the harbour and across to the cathedral. It was remarkable because it is round.

The rest of the time we let the kids go to kids club, swim and play, while we relaxed and read trashy novels!!

Posted by aboo10 12:04 Archived in Spain Tagged beaches churches children family_travel Comments (0)

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