The Night Before…

So our washer broke this week and was finally repaired today. That means this evening, on one of the hottest nights of the year, just as we are trying to unwind, it’s laundry and packing madness.

And I have it on good authority that Carmen is also sitting in her easy-bake, rabbit hole doing… guess what: laundry and packing! So it bodes well for the camaraderie if we are already so in synch.

Well we are 11 hrs from leaving the house, the arrangements are finished and the only thing left undone is the hotel in Narbonne. I might even wing it on that one.

Day One: Version 2

Like a few other things, the original blog post got lost.

Speaking of lost, that’s where our luggage is. The flight from YEG was delayed almost 2 hours for maintenance so we arrived in Montreal believing we might have missed our connection. Luckily for a handful of train tickets worth $1000, we didn’t. Our luggage, however, did.

All in all, except for the race across Dorval, it was a good trip. Everyone even caught some sleep except for Zak.

Day Two: Paris

@ Well we arrived. Our luggage didn’t. After form filling out and information gathering, we board the Air France bus for Gare de Lyon. Hopefully our luggage will meet us in Spain.

@ we’ve picked up our tickets to Spain (and our Marmande to Bordeaux tickets) at the Gare de Austerlitz, and now it’s just wandering around time. We got some crepes at Carm’s favorite place on Isle St Louis and walked down to Notre Dame: damn crowded that place is. Lots of rest breaks to help our tired bodies. All this ends with a nap on the grass of the Left Bank.

@ After a leisurely walk back to the train station we had quick drink and discovered that the bathrooms were all for pay. 40 cents. Leslie’s patience started to wear thin.

But soon we boarded and discovered our first class goodies. There was an awesome shaving/bathroom kit with all sorts of nice smelling stuff. I recommend this trip on Eliposos Trenhotel to anyone. I will be adding images from the camera after we get home. First they show you to your cabin and you unpack (not much if you have no luggage). They took one of our passports to show at the border crossing (at 5 in the morning). We had two rooms with showers and bunk beds. Then you head to the dining car where you’d are suddenly speaking Spanish, even though you haven’t left Paris Austerlitz Station. As Zak and I waited we were served a glass of cava and some bread. After L & C arrived we had a great 3 course meal with a bottle of Spanish red and brandy and coffee to finish, all included in the ticket price.

The food wasn’t exactly gourmet but beat the hell out of plane food.

By this time, Zak isn’t able to remain upright and we call it a night. Our beds are made up by the time we get back and it’s a quick shower and off to bed. I mentioned the goodies: this included the shower of course, free bath kit with shampoo, toothbrushes, etc and even bath slippers.

Simply awesome.

Day Three: Barcelona

This morning we awoke, after a not unreasonably fitful night, just outside of Girona. A quick shower and it was off for breakfast. Eggs, cafe au lait, pain de chocolat, fruit and juice got us started. C elected to stay in bed until the last minute (literally we were pulling into the station). She’d showered and changed earlier, so I guess it’s forgivable.

At 8:30 we were in a cab and dropping off what few bags we had at the Hotel Regina. The concierge recommended the tour buses so we splurged and were touring by 9. First stop was a view of the harbour and Mediterranean and then off to Sagrada Familia.

I haven’t taken many pics with the phone so you’ll have to wait but: oh my. Given that we’re not much into touristy things we thought a bit at the sight of the line but eventually decides to go in. Line was actually pretty fast.

I’ve stood in awe of finished cathedrals, but the sight of an unfinished one was simply stunning. To be able to be part of such a project…

We found a 2nd elevator at the back of the building (the first had a 45 minute line) and the line was empty so we rode up one of the towers. A simply awesome way to connect more intimately with Gaudi’s design.

Then it was back to the bus and off to Parc Guell. I’d seen the tiled seats many times but I had no idea about their context. It was simply stunning to see Gaudi’s principles in that setting.

Back on the bus again and we were off to Casa Batilo. Again 16 euros was kind of disenchanting, but it was on Zak’s list so we went on in. Again stunning is too small a word. I would love to have a house that had such principles. I’ll probably write more as I add pictures.

Then it was a walk back to our hotel, which is very very nice, and sadly informed we still had no luggage. The website says it’s in transit so …

A shower and a nap brings us to now and it’s likely time for a late dinner on the Ramblas.


Dinner was tapas and sangria. Not bad. We arrived back at the hotel to find a note saying our luggage was in Barcelona but they don’t deliver. It’s frustrating enough without being able to phone someone up and get the damn stuff delivered. Looks like an early A.M. taxi ride so we can get going soon enough to make it to Monserrat.


Day Four: Montserrat

Ok so we were tired. Still it’s unusual that the only day we are likely to sleep late this vacation is on the day we should’ve got up early.

Leslie and I: Off to the airport.


Well about 5 minutes after we left for the airport the hotel left a note for us in Carmen’s room about the whereabouts of our luggage. Most people at the airport unfortunately did not know where it was. Luckily after 3 info booths and a bunch of helpful baggage handlers later, we were reunited with our bags. A quick cab ride home and we were greeted happily by Carmen.

A quick shower and breakfast and we hopped the Metro for the train station. Actually it wasn’t so quick as Carmen took the time to roll around in her luggage in glee while we ate.

The metro dropped us off at the train station and we muddled around until we found R5. The train took about an hour to arrive at the base of the cable car. Zak and I disembarked while Leslie and Carmen went one stop further to catch the rack train (a kind of funicular). A quick 5 minute vertical climb and we arrived at the monastery on the side of the mountain.

The basilica was stunning and the museum stuffed with art including a few Renoirs, Picassos and of course a stunning Caravagio. Oh ya and a Dali…

Next it was a ride up the funicular to the top, followed by a pleasant hike. Zak spotted some bolts so we decided to try some bouldering along the way. We caught the last funicular down to the monastery proper only to discovery we’d missed the last tram. So we all have to ride the rack train down; we bought a couple of extra tickets and now await descent.

The train ride home was slow and leisurely. Dinner was pizza, pasta and paella: the 3-P dinner of tired tourists at ten pm. Tomorrow we awake and decide if the Picasso museum is in the cards before we move on to Figueres.

Day Five: Barcelona and Figueres

The morning started with breakfast and zumo, the best damn zumo I’ve ever had. The we hopped the L3 to Estacio Sants to check out train tickets ahead of time (sorry Carol, I had to do it). After acquiring our ride it was back on the metro to exit a La Ramblas and the entrance to the Gothic quarter.

As we wandered down the narrow streets looking for the Picasso museum, Zak stumbled on his sword store. After scoping out the purchase we grabbed a card and headed on.

The Picasso museum is in an old palace and an amazing place. There was a Kees Van Dongen guest exhibit to warms us up and then 60 decades of pure Picasso. There weren’t too many famous works but an amazing variety of paintings, sketches and clay.

After we exited it was narrow streets, roman towers and gothic cathedrals filling our senses. Zak stopped in to buy his sword and they helpfully packed it so we could take it on the plane. After a walk through the chaos of la Ramblas, we quickly stopped for pizza and cava before returning to the hotel for our bags and a taxi.

Estacio Sants was a chaotic sight after the two older and more sedate train stations we had experienced so far. The alarming running red text in indecipherable Spanish made for a few curious moments before the Catalunya Express arrived at gate 14. It’s crowded getting on the train and we have a lot of bags, we dump them asap and go looking for seats.

So here we sit watching the Spanish countryside roll by and wondering if we should’ve hauled all the luggage closer to our seats at the very front of the train.


After the train:
The train keeps telling us it’s 38 degrees and we are getting nervous. Luckily as we disembark we discover it’s only a mild 30, so we are good to go. This taxi ride is one of the shortest and most expensive but as our luggage multiplies, even a five minute walk uphill is too much. We take a short break in our room at the Hotel Duran, a favorite of Dali’s with an absolutely stunning dining room; later we find clippings on the wall of Dali eating there with his friends.

After a brief break I check my email and discover enjoygardening is down and my booked boat has broken down. Unfortunately I can’t fix the website and fortunately it means we get an upgrade on the boat. Ying and yang.

Dinner is an absolutely stunning seafood brochette and beer for me. Followed by more beer and a pleasant walk around Figueres. Tomorrow will be museums or a bus ride to the coast. We’ll see.

Day Six: Roses

This morning started as things start to after a few days of holidays. I wake up early and Leslie lies about sleeping in. In fact she was last up.

Breakfast was juice and coffee and Danishes and toast and definitely not some disgusting white cheese on raisin toast! Cheese on raisin toast? Blech. A quick visit to the desk ID’d the bus station and we were off. We decided on Roses because it was only half an hour and devoid of twisty, turny mountain roads. Roses is more of a resort town and less of a quiet seaside village

As we arrived we were faced with the Mediterranean which was everything I expected: deep blue, warm, long sandy beaches and topless women. And of course the first thing I did was go looking for a boat, preferably a sailing yacht! While yachts weren’t in the budget, for 80 euros we got a small 35 hp for 2 hours so I count myself satisfied. I piloted us past the breakwater and into the bay and headed out into the wind before turning the helm over to Zak.

I should mention that we arrived in Roses well prepared for a day at the beach: Leslie in red hat and a seaside look, me in short sleeves and capris, Carmen in Carmen-pants and a holiday top and Zak in black jeans and a black hoodie…perfect for a day on the water…

Anyway, within about 2 minutes all aboard were soaked from the spray. As we headed upwind across the bay the water wooshed over the bow until only Zak had any semblance of dryness. The girls heroically decided on a wet-editors-gone-wild theme and sheltered Zak and I from the worst of the spray. After about 40 minutes we rounded the point complete with lighthouse and fort and floated in the sea for a time. Coming back along the coastline was more sedate and allowed me to doff my shirt and dry out. Leslie and Moosh however declined to air their laundry and dried more slowly and crustily… Ahhh salt water.

We hung out in the bay and then toured the inlet where all the fancy homes and rich people yachts hung out together, before Zak headed us back to the dock.

Having successfully negotiated the sea, now it was time to let the rising winds dry us out. The wind really came up much to the delight of kite boarders, wind surfers and a few hobie cats. They were just screaming across the bay. Between the salt, the wet and the blowing sand, the word chafing was soon verbotten. After a long walk down the promenade we stopped for beer and bites. Next up was a walk down la Ramblas where Zak finally picked up some Spanish playing cards and we eventually ended up at the bus station. A hot ride home and a walk up the hill had everyone dying for a shower. I discovered my lovely sunburn, but when last seen Carmen was still displaying her alabaster perfection. I’m not sure that she’s capable of a tan because unless she’s injecting uv40, she should be crispy.

Up next is dinner in the Hotel Duran restaurant, an elegant space that was a regular hangout of Dali’s and is decorated with many of his sketches. It doesn’t even open until 8:30. Later will likely be a walk, maybe some sangria and an early night.

This just in Carmen has pink skin! Woot!

Day Seven: a day with Dali

Salvador Dali lived here. He had his first exhibition here. He is buried here. And he built his own museum here. You know there is a lot of Dali going on when the artist gets to build his own surreal museum. Built in the old, burned out ruins of the community theatre that staged his first exhibit, the museum itself is the largest surreal structure anywhere. From sculpture to sketches, from furniture to ceilings, it is an opulent extravaganza from start to finish. Many of the 3d object d’arts are coin operated to raise funds, but all are worth it.

The crowding is a little disconcerting. It takes a lot of work to try and absorb art when surround by every kind of tourist and art lover you can imagine but it is way better than the Picasso museum was.

Next door is the Joie Dali exhibit: a series of jewels designed by Dali. They were exquisite. The beating ruby heart was absolutely surreal, which I guess is the point. I’ll add some links when I get Internet or at home. The line for the museum when we exited was triple what we had waited in so good thing we got an early start. We stopped upon exiting for some sangria and a light lunch.

Afterwords we walked down to the market for olive oil and vino. The wine is incredibly cheap: .95 Euro for a bottle of rosé. The real good stuff we bought was only 8.50 euro. If we are lucky it will last the trip home undrunk.

The temp is currently 35 and the hot sun on our burns is pretty intense. Time for some agua and ice cream as we wait for our train to Narbonne. Temp peaks at 38… Woot!

Our train is full so it’s a good thing we booked ahead. Train travel is mildly confusing with so many different types of trains and tickets and stations. But we made it on the train and are on our way. I look forward to a drink in the bar car, just to say I did.

Figueres, Portbou, Cerbere (France), Perpignan, Narbonne.

Upon arrival in Narbonne we book tomorrows ticket to Montaubon and head into the parking lot. After we identify the taxi stand we espy the sole taxi start up and head off into the sunset. 40 minutes later there are still no cabs. There are also no signs and no phonebooks. And when we decide to phone our hotel we discover all the payphones use calling cards. And everyone we ask says that the cabs are always out front. Eventually a stranger in a nice VW asks me if I want a ride. I reply indeterminately. Later Leslie and Carmen head across the street to try the bar and emerge minutes later with my friend who will take us for 20 euro.

We didn’t die. But the hotel is in an industrial area which only I knew and made others nervous as we left the main roads.

Our hotel is nice enough and we are out of here at 8:30 tomorrow.

Day Eight: Definitely not Toulouse

Morning was early again. I had a quick breakfast whilst waiting for the slugabeds. The taxi delivered us to gate C, car 4, seats 25 through 28 and we were off to Toulouse and on to Montaubon.

Montaubon also had no taxis so we decided to hoof it to the capitanerie. We made it without getting lost, but it was hot. The lovely lady at LeBoat offered us a ride to the grocers. After shopping up a storm she even came and picked them up. We stopped for a drink and some interesting salads (cheese, duck, prosciutto, etc,) before walking down to the 12 century bridge and back to the harbour.

While researching this part of the trip the temperatures were consistently mid-20s. Looks like while we are here they are going to be high 20s and low 30s.

I had gotten notice there was problem with our Asteria so we had been upgraded to a Marengo All this really means is Zak gets his own bedroom.

After being checked out on our boat we rode to the first of nine automatic locks, operated by remote controls. Everyone took a turn at driving, while Carmen negotiated a couple of the locks. A couple of hours brought us to Montech, docking and dinner by Carmen. The fridge isn’t working so well and we don’t have enough cold drinks but we’ll manage, after all it’s France!

Dinner was good although there was an issue with a certain girl and the inability to boil water… Just sayin’… Now it’s sitting on the deck time with some warm Malbec rose, the cooling evening air and some Fluxx.