Barcelona to the border

We arrived at Badalona on the 9th August it seemed to be a very nice marina but we had heard a bit of news from our friends Graeme and Jayne on ‘Scarlett’ that had unsettled us a bit. They had lost their tender whilst staying here. I say lost because it was in the water tied to the front of their boat as they went in stern to then it disappeared overnight and the only conclusion they could come up with was that it had been stolen!! The marina was very good, they sent marinaros to look everywhere for it but it was gone. This had tainted our view of the marina so everything was put away and locked up whenever we left the boat, this wasn’t such a chore for us as Claire always locked the boat up anyway, even if we’re just going to the toilet!! The other concern was that we planned to leave the boat here for a week whilst we went back to England and we needed to feel that it was ok to leave her here. 

 

August 10th has a special meaning for Claire and me as it’s our wedding anniversary. 3 years this time around. We have been lucky enough to celebrate it in a different city every year so far. Harlingen, Holland for the first, Lisbon, Portugal with the lovely Johan and first mate Mille for the second and now Barcelona, Spain. How good is that!! 


We caught the train into town, strolled the length of the La Rambla down to Port Vells marina. We then enjoyed a very nice meal in a restaurant called ‘Ultramarinos’ before strolling through the Gothic area back towards the train station. It was quite late by now and we were very tired, I suspect we were still suffering due to the lack of sleep from the crossing so we got a cab back to the boat. A bit extravagant I know but she’s worth it. We had a great evening and I consider myself very lucky to have Claire as my friend and wife.


We have had a couple of trips now into Barcelona. It's a wonderful city with so much to see and do. It seems full of young people for some reason. We are holding off seeing the main sights as we want to do that with my sister Karen and her husband Peter when they come to sail with us for a couple of weeks at the end of August. 

 

During one of our visits to the city this time with Alan and Bijuca we were given a challenge by Claire Wood, one of Claire’s oldest friends to find a tapas bar she frequented when she had stayed in Barceloneta a district of Barcelona with her partner Al. They used to walk to this brilliant tapas bar with a red awning. She couldn’t remember the name of the bar just that it had a red awning!!! Well we found the area and a tapas bar with a red awning which was very good so we took photos and sent them to her over the internet, she thought we had found the right one but when Al saw the pictures but he wasn’t so sure!!


Later that evening we caught the train back home just after 23.00 it was packed. There was a family standing close to us, grandad, grandma, mum and two boys aged about 9 and 11. The mum lifted the youngest up so he could do ‘chin ups’ on the hand rail. He couldn’t do any so I reached across and ‘helped’ him do three or four. The Mum smiled and said something but I explained that we were English and didn’t understand. The train stopped at the next station and about 5-6 youffs got on, bottles of drink in their hands, loud and boisterous but OK. One of these lads grabbed hold of the hand rail and did four chin ups. I looked at the young lad and smiled then nodded towards the hand rail. He nodded back so I picked him up and helped him do 6 chin ups. The youffs started clapping and cheering. It was a great moment. I love things like that. When we got off the Grandad shook my hand and we waved our goodbyes. We stopped at a beach bar on the way back for a nightcap. Another good day.    


The following morning ‘PALA’ came into a berth next to us. We had met Ken and Elizabeth in Cala Bassa when we had first sailed to Ibiza. It was great to see them again and we spent a nice few hours with them on board RR. They intended to leave their boat here for a month and had only heard good things about this marina so that made us feel better. We had also been receiving and sending messages to our friends Ian and Lynne on ‘infinity’ and it looks like they will also be stopping in Badalona for a while and could keep an eye on RR for us. Claire and I both felt that the marina was safe and all of these things helped with our decision to leave RR here unattended.

The next few days were spent cleaning and undertaking maintenance. I, for the first time since we bought RR changed the oil and filters using parts that were NOT Volvo Penta. I had been considering doing this for some time mainly due to the cost of genuine Volvo Penta oil and filters. Also their availability had been a problem. I had read a lot about it on tinternet before deciding to do it. The one single thing I read that swayed me was someone stating that Volvo Penta did not make or produce oil or the filters. They bought them from another manufacturer and rebadged them, obviously adding a huge mark up during the process. So a bit nervously I drained and refilled using a good, similar specification Repsol oil and filters that was less than half the price. Oh well time will tell.


Claire, meanwhile was cleaning and preparing the front cabin ready for Karen and Peter’s arrival. It was hot work and a drink as the sun set was most welcome.


August 16th saw Infinity arrive at Badalona with Ian and Lynne smiling and waving as they came in. It was really good to see these two again. The last time we were together was at Las Illetas in Majorca back in June! It was also Lynne’s Birthday so we all went out that evening to celebrate. Needless to say we had a great time.


On the 17th we were back in Barcelona to meet up with Helen, Gareth, Dylan and Emily. Claire had really been looking forward to this day as the two of them, Claire and Helen had been planning it for weeks. They were in Spain for their holiday staying an hour or so away from the City. When Claire realized that we would be there around the same time the plan to meet slowly took shape. We had a lovely day with them. It was good to be able to spend some time together especially as it was Dylan´s 9th birthday.


When we got back we packed the last few items into our ‘carry on’ bags ready for an early start on the morning of the 18th to catch the flight from Barcelona to Stanstead. 


One of the problems when returning to England when you have rented your house out is ’where to stay’? We consider ourselves to be very lucky as we have a small handful of friends that we feel we could call on to help out with a bed for the night. We contacted Conor and Bridget and not only did they offer us a bed for the night Bridget came to collect us from the airport!! Thanks once again. We had a lovely time with them as Jane, Bridget’s sister brought baby Kate around with Bridget’s mum who was visiting from New Zealand. Big John, Bridget’s dad had decided to stay in New Zealand which was a shame as it would have been nice to meet up with him again. Take care of yourself Big John.


In the morning Jan one of Claire’s good friends from school popped over for a coffee and a chat. It was really nice to see her again. The time flew and before long Joy my daughter and her boyfriend Ed was knocking at the door ready to take us to Norwich for Stuart’s wedding. 

We had a nice trip up to Dunstan hall, it was great to be able to chat to Joy and Ed. We stopped at an old pub for a bit of lunch on the way. When we arrived my parents and my sisters Karen and Lauri and their husbands Peter and David were already there. It really was good to see them all. 

 

On the day of the wedding I had to borrow Joy’s car to pick Grace and George up from Norwich station. They had travelled up from Hatfield Peverel by train. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see them. George was unsure whether he could make it and had flown in from Palma for the weekend at the last minute. Grace had had a very busy couple of weeks leaving it late to organize the trip to Norwich. When we got back it was a bit of a rush to get ready as we were all in one room. The hotel didn’t know this but George and Grace were going to ‘share’ ours. By the time we got downstairs Julie, my other sister (I have three) and her husband Steve along with their two girls Maddie and Gemma were waiting for us in reception. It has been a long time since the Williams clan had all been together under one roof. In fact the last time was at my own wedding.


Anyway we were soon all on the coach to the venue with the driver giving my sister Lauri (the mother of the groom) palpitations by driving the long way round, it took ages. The place, Langley Abbey was perfect. The bride looked beautiful, the ceremony was short and sweet, the speeches were funny and the food and drink plentiful. What a great day. I was also pleased to find that I still had ‘it’ on the dance floor with me and young Rio having a dance off. I felt I was doing ok until Rio did the ‘worm’ I of course performed my version I call it ‘just been tazered’ but I nearly dislocated my knee in the process!! I think my mum and dad won the best photo booth outfit competition. Thanks Joy for dressing them, they looked great!


Sunday morning at breakfast wasn’t so wonderful, the wedding reception had taken its toll with most of us just about making it for last orders.

 

Grace, Joy, George and Ed were heading back to Essex in Joy’s car. I gave them all a hug and was feeling quite sad as they drove out of the car park. The girls had to go back to work on Monday and George had to catch a flight back to Palma that evening.


Claire and I, my mum and dad, my three sisters and their husbands, were staying Sunday night also. Some took the opportunity to visit Norwich, Claire and I had a walk around the grounds of the hotel but we all met up that evening in Lauri’s room for drinks and nibbles. We had a good chat before heading off to bed.


The following morning after breakfast we said our goodbyes to Julie, Steve and the girls before setting off back to Essex. I got a lift with Lauri and David, Claire squeezed in with my Mum and Dad, Karen and Peter.  


The highlights of the weekend for me was looking across at my son and Dad chatting as well as seeing all of the cousins hugging in a circle. I am very lucky to have a really good family. We all like a laugh and get on very well. Thanks Stuart and Danielle for a wonderful day.

We stopped off at the Witherspoons in Witham to break the journey up and that’s where Claire and I left them as Alan, Claire’s Dad was picking us up from there to take us back to Stone for a couple of days before we flew back to Barcelona. As usual I was sad to say goodbye to everyone especially my Mum and Dad but they understand what we are doing and are happy to let us get on and do it. 


One of the things I miss is a good roast dinner. Claire was happy to cook a roast for us all at her parents’ house so we paid a visit to Tesco’s before heading to Stone. It was good to be able to spend some time with Alan and Wendy. The roast was delicious and that evening we went to bed tired and contented.


The next day, Tuesday 23rd I did a few jobs around the house for Alan then went into town with Claire as she had to visit the doctors for a routine checkup. When she came out she was a bit fed up as the receptionist was going to take her off of the list as she was no longer residing in their catchment area as we had given Claire’s Mums address for any correspondence. It seems that this is another issue with long term traveling. 


I wanted to see Grace and Joy one more time before we flew back so we arranged to have a meal with them in Prezzo’s, Maldon. The idea was for all of us to go but Wendy wasn’t feeling too good and Ron was out so that left Grace, Joy, Claire, Denise, Alan and myself. I had a nice meal and a really good chat with my girls. My iphone had been playing up and Grace said she had a spare and would leave it out for me under ‘Ruby’ the vw camper. The evening went very quickly and it was time for me to say goodbye to my daughters again. I didn’t like it one little bit but they are happy and living their own lives.


When we got back to Stone we said our goodbye’s to Wendy as Alan had agreed to drop us off at Stanstead early the following morning, we had to be up at 04.30 and everyone in the Robinson household knows that Wendy doesn’t do early mornings. We went to bed and had a surprisingly good night before Alan drove us to Stanstead via ‘Ruby’. Thanks once again Alan.


The flight was on time and uneventful. I must admit to not looking forward to flying anymore as I find the experience ever so slightly degrading. It’s the going through the search bit that does it, or rather doesn’t do it for me, shuffling along like the great unwashed before being told to take off your belt, watch and shoes, emptying your belongings out of your bag into a tray. Then you’re told that you can’t take that much shower gel with you, even though the online guide said it was OK but no, it has to be confiscated. ‘sorry’. After that you have to walk through the metal detector, when I do, it always goes off. I don’t know why but it does! You now have to wait to have your body searched and a wand waved over your hands to see if you have any explosive residue left under your finger nails. I know it sounds a bit ungrateful because it’s all being done for better in flight security but that’s how I feel. 


Anyway this time was slightly different in that when we landed at Barcelona we had to wait around for an hour or so in arrivals for my sister Karen and her husband Peter’s flight to land from Gatwick. I liked looking at the faces of the people coming through the sliding doors into the arrivals lounge, most try to look nonchalant, scanning the faces just in case someone is there for them while the others pretend to be on their phone sending an urgent message. The lucky ones do have someone waiting for them, to give them a big smile and a hug. Well that’s what Karen and Peter got when we saw each other. It reminds me of that film ‘Love actually.’ We jumped into a taxi that took us straight to RR which was bobbing about in Badalona marina.


Claire, I think it’s safe to say was a bit nervous about having my sister Karen and Peter stay with us. Don’t get me wrong she really wanted them to stay but she also wanted everything to be just right. She had worked very hard getting the boat and their cabin ready before we left for England and all of her hard work had now paid off as when we opened RR up after a week she looked perfect. Everything was clean, in its place and to cap it off Karen and Peter normally slept in the front cabin in their own boat so was more than happy with what Claire had sorted out for them.


Ian and Lynne wandered down the pontoon to say hello and I was happy to be able to introduce them to Karen and Peter. We suggested going out for Tapas later that evening as we didn’t have any food on the boat and I was pleased that Ian and Lynne wanted to come along too. We all got on very well and we had a very good night as I knew we would.


The following morning we were off to see the Basílica De La Sagrada Família. Claire had booked a tour over the tinternet for us all before leaving England. It wasn’t cheap at about £40 each but everyone said it’s a ‘must see’ and that’s all we could get for the dates we would be in Barcelona. We had to get up around 0700 as I had booked a taxi to take us to meet the tour guide at 0850. The first stone of this amazing building was laid in 1882. Gaudi got involved in 1884 the outside of the building looked fantastic and I had to keep reminding myself that it was a cathedral. Gaudi had a deep dislike for straight lines ‘there were none in nature’ he said. Our tour guide was very good and she took the time to explain what all the different carvings meant on the outside of the building. 

The huge doors we went through to the inside were magnificent, sculpted aluminum depicting different flower and fauna with insects of all kinds hidden in the design. If I thought the doors were magnificent then what could I possibly say about the sight that met my eyes as we passed through them into the vast Nave. The colour of light that streamed through the huge stain glass windows onto the large, tree like columns that stretched high above our heads to support the vaulted ceiling was breathtaking and almost impossible to describe, let alone get a decent picture of.


The tour guide explained that ‘Gaudi’ one of the main architectural driving forces behind all facets of the design of the cathedral hated the buttresses that were used to externally strengthen the walls of most existing large churches. This method of construction kept the need for internal supporting columns for the roof to a minimum but completely ruined the look of the building from the outside. Gaudi looked to nature to provide the answer and designed his internal columns to look like huge trees spreading out at the top to support the roof thus making the outside look as stunning as the inside. It was by far the best building I had ever visited. 

 

As we walked away to try to find some lunch we all agreed that to have a tour guide was money well spent. By chance we passed a covered market, after walking around it for a bit we decided to by some rolls from the bakers for lunch, we got some ham and cheese from another stall holder with the kind man behind the counter offering to make up our rolls even wrapping them in foil for us. We also bought some beautiful small plumb tomatoes. We walked on until we found a bench in the shade to eat them. It seemed a very British thing to do in the center of Barcelona.

 

On then for a stroll down La Rambala we stopped at a bar called ‘Hogans’ very Spanish and enjoyed cocktails while I used felt tip pen to write ‘Red Rooster’ on the mirrored glass wall. We carried on turning off about halfway down into the Gothic area to lose ourselves in the maze of small streets and alleyways. We sat for a while to listen to some very good street musicians before revisiting a musical instrument shop. Claire has a full size Yamaha key board on the boat which she has played twice and we have decided to try and sell it as it takes up a lot of space. The shop wasn’t really interested and we may have to bring it back to England with us next time to sell on Ebay.


We sat in the shade next to Port Vells marina watching the boats and people in equal measure. We all like Barcelona. We flagged down a taxi to drop us back to RR at Badalona. With four of us it was nearly as cheap as buying rail tickets. When we got back we invited Ian and Lynne to join us for a tapas type meal onboard RR. The perfect end to another great day.


Friday 26th was a work day as we planned to leave on Saturday. We had clothes washing to sort out as well as washing down the boat, filling her up with fuel and water. We all went to the Mercadona to help carry back the shopping, Lynne lent us her old ladies trolley which helped with all the beer and wine we bought. The 6 of us walked into Badalona for food later that evening enjoying very good Tapas, 3 bottles of wine and a few beers all for about €10 each. Ian and Lynne promised to get up early, we were leaving around 0900!! To wave goodbye.


We did leave but there was a bit of a delay at reception as the girls didn’t really know how to book us out or how to refund our deposit back onto our credit card but after about an hour we were on our way. We had a wonderful sail all the way to Cala Futadera 5 -6 hours under main and asymmetric kite. It was wonderful to be able to sail like this especially as Karen and Peter were onboard.


The cala was very busy when we got there but previous experience told us that most of the boats at anchor would leave before dark so we dropped our anchor at the back and waited. Sure enough, after an hour or so boats started to leave to head back into their marinas and we moved up into a very nice spot with three or four other yachts. We had a great meal and sat as the sun went down drinking and talking about the days sail and the planed sailed to Port de Roses in the morning.


We motor sailed as far as the gap between Meda Gran and Puerto de Estartit passing ‘sharks tooth rock’ when we came out the other side the wind started to fill in and we had a great sail across the Golf of Roses to the marina at Port de Roses. It was a lovely place with a lovely name. We stayed for three days enjoying walks around the town and eating out in the many restaurants. Peter found a fantastic ‘cave’ it’s not your normal cave, oh no this one had about 40 or 50 barrels of wine, port, and Muscatel that you could ‘sample’ to help you try and decide which one you would like to buy. Well Peter and I sampled most if not all available before opting for a beautiful Muscatel Flor De L’emporda. We bought 2 liters of it for €8.50. We were a bit ‘squiffy’ by the time we got back to the girls waiting to serve dinner aboard RR but we were very happy.


Now I had been worrying about crossing the Golf of Lion from Porto Roses to Marseille for weeks. This piece of the Mediterranean Sea has a very bad reputation for strong winds, the Mistral and the Tramontana blow across here very regularly and if you’re caught out in one of them, I am told you don’t forget it easily. We had a taste of what they could do when we were anchored in Fornells, Menorca when a Tramontana hit us a few weeks ago and that was a few hundred miles away from where they start in the Golf of Lion. I had spoken to Karen and Peter about it a few times as we had the option to go round the edge of the Golf stopping at Narbonne, Sete, The Camargue and finally Marseille but they seemed happy to have ago at the 24 hour crossing.

 

Fortunately the stronger winds were forecastable and we seemed to be enjoying a settled patch of weather so we decided to go across. It would be the first time that Karen had spent 24 hours at sea and her first night passage so I was very aware that we needed to try to get it right. We left Porto Roses at 10.45 heading around Cap de Norfeu and out into the Golf. The wind filled in and we put the sails up and turned off the engine. Bliss. We had started our 120 Nm trip and I was quite nervous as the reputation was for the winds to build very quickly and without warning. But we virtually spent the whole trip motoring as the wind disappeared after a few hours leaving us in a flat calm sea, very reminiscent of our crossing of the Bay of Biscay. We did see lots of tuna jumping clear of the water feeding on bait fish and a few pods of dolphins but that was about it. I was happy we crossed without incident but a bit more sailing would have been nice.


Well we had left Spain, I was going to say ’at last’ but that makes it sound like we couldn’t wait to leave which is certainly not the case. We have really enjoyed Spain and the Spanish people, their spirit of community and respect for their open spaces which were always clean and without litter should be an example for all of us to follow.