Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Barcelona and Gava

Monday 27th May

For the past week we've been staying in a town called Gava, Spain which is just outside of Barcelona. When we were in Le Boulou an older Belgian couple in a motorhome parked next to us and the woman started walking her very expensive cat on a lead around the van. It sparked up a conversation and they ended up recommending a great campsite to us when we said we were headed to Barcelona. It's in Gava right on the beach and a cheap bus goes from outside which takes about 20 minutes to get to Barcelona. We stayed here last Monday and today and inbetween we've been staying on the road right next to it and popping in to use the showers occasionally! Pretty cheeky but the campsite opens up right onto the beach and you can just stroll in. It's quite expensive as it's got loads of good facilities.

Last wednesday we took the bus into Barcelona and planned to spend the day there. We wondered round a bit before finding a bar where Adam knew there was a meeting point for a free walking tour. A blonde Finnish lady called Hanna introduced herself as the tour leader saying she first came on holiday to Barcelona 6 years ago, moved here 2 years ago and she now walks around telling people interesting things about the city and how much she loves it. The tour was around the Gothic Quarter of the city and about 3 hours long. I now know where Picasso supposedly lost his virginity, why and who the patron saint of Barcelona is and that the only cathedral in Barcelona (not the Segrada Familia, apparently that's not a cathedral), used to just be a big, blank rectangular brick wall with a door in the middle on the front but then about 100 years ago decided it needed to look more impressive like a proper cathedral and built a big sort of gothic front on the blank wall. She also told us that the people of Barcelona and Catalunia have a favourite sport other than football which is called Human Towers. Where they literally build a tower out of people by having a big base of muscley men and then a little 8 year old kid in a helmet about 9 people high swaying on the top. I'm not sure if the game is to have two teams competing to build the highest tower or if they just see how long they can stand in a tower form before toppling over. Catalunian people also don't believe in Santa Claus. Instead they believe in a little wooden log that they buy and give it a little hat and put a blanket over its 'bum', then feed it cookies and yummy things until Christmas where they hit the log with sticks and sing songs until it poops out their presents! Straaange. I also thought it was cool that every other couple or group on the tour was from a different country. Apart from two separate couples from Israel there were people from the Philippines, Iran, America, Ireland, Germany and Switzerland.

After the tour we booked for next Thursday to go on a Spanish cooking experience which is also hosted at the bar where you go to the really old famous market the Boqueria and buy some food with the chef, go learn how to cook paella and get fed some tapas and sangria.

The rest of the week we've been chilling on the beach in Gava and this weekend spent recovering from a night out in Barcelona where we went to a few bars and then a big club called Razzmatazz on Friday. Adam had been there before when he went on a lads piss up holiday and wanted to show me what it was like. We were there from about 2 til 6 in the morning and it was aaamazing. We had an hours walk back to the bus stop through the city when we left and we went past the 'Arc de Triomf' which was built in 1888 as a main access gate for a Universal Exhibition of Barcelona.

We'll probably stay in Gava for the rest of the week as we'll be going back into Barcelona on Thursday for the cooking and on the first Sunday of the month all the museums are free and we may take a look at some Gaudí buildings.

Arc de Triomf, Barcelona
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, Barcelona
Tió de Nadal - Christmas Log or Caga Tió - Shitting log
Sandy beach in Gava near Barcelona

Girona, Spain

Sunday 19th May

For the past couple of days we've been staying in a French town called Le Boulou which is just a few miles away from the Spanish border. We've walked around the town and found that it's so close to Spain that they even have some Calalonian flags hanging from windows and a lot of the residents speak Spanish and Catalonian. Catalunya is a region of Spain, which includes Barcelona, and wants to be its own independent nation from Spain. We had lunch in the town, which meant just picking a cafe and ordering the 'Plat de Jour' without being able to read the menu or anyone being able to translate so it was a bit of a surprise  The waitress tried to get another local to translate for us but all he said was 'stop string'. It turned out to be calamari with some kind of meat stuffed inside and rice in a tomato and olive oil sauce. Yum. We also found a river quite near where we were parked and had a BBQ in part of the dried up river bed.

The next day we crossed the border into Spain and whilst trying to find a place to stay saw signs for some Roman ruins which was on the coast so went to have a look. We got there at 5pm so only had an hour to look round but it was free that day and pretty cool. You could see a mosaic which would have been on the floor of someones house and parts of pillars from public buildings and a really deep well.

Today we drove a little further and stopped in a city called Girona. It seems that where there is a river in France or Spain there is usually parking alongside it so we stopped there and went for a walk finding it was the last day of a week long flower festival all over the city. There were flower displays all through the old streets, giant ladybirds made out of flowers on the steps up to a church, flowers in hanging shoes in the alleyways in the streets and all the balcony's of people's houses had flowers. Down the older streets there were alcoves behind doors that flowers and potted plant displays had been installed, I'm not sure what the space would be used for when the festival was over, they were just empty public rooms throughout the streets. It's known as quite an arty city and you could tell just from how everything was put out for the festival with even most of the shops getting involved, changing their window displays to include flowers or having things made from flowers.

It rained quite a bit most of the afternoon we were walking around but it was still really busy and brightly coloured. We had a look round the History of Girona museum and the Jewish museum and had a look in the cathedral which has the biggest vaulted Gothic ceiling in the world. It was maaaassive. We went and chilled in the van for a bit late in the afternoon until it stopped raining then went back out to walk on the wall that goes around the city. It's a really old, high wall that you can walk between at the top to have a view over the city and the views were pretty awesome. It ended just behind the cathedral where there were a few little walled gardens.
I think Girona has been my favourite place that we've been to so far. Tomorrow we're heading for Barcelona!

BBQ in the river, Le Boulou
Roman mosaic, Spain
Giant ladybird flowers, Girona
Tried to get a Panoramic shot of the cathedral walls, Girona
The wall around Girona
Colourful view of Girona from a bridge
Flowers hanging in white shoes, Girona

Monday, 13 May 2013

Pyrenees & the Mediterranean

Sunday 12th May

We are currently in Montpellier, a city on the south coast of France. On thursday we did a bit of driving and whilst trying to find an Aire to stop for the night that we had found in our French Aire book we accidentally found a better one right next to a river which was really pretty, even though it was raining. We used the drizzly weather as an opportunity to try out the hob inside our van as we didn't fancy cooking outside. We cooked some pasta and all went well!

On Friday we reached a tiny medieval town called Martel. We parked up at a campsite and had a walk round the town and inside a veery old church that had bright patterns all over the stone walls and pillars inside. I'm not really one for religion and I don't know anything about architecture but I love old buildings! It was a very cute town. It was also soo nice to have showers and toilets on the campsite!

Whilst leaving Martel yesterday we saw signs for a place called Rocamadour and decided to have a visit and it was a town with a big church and castle built into a cliff face. The whole town was just sort of leaning off the edge a rock. We walked up hundreds of stone steps that apparently a lot of famous dead religious people had climbed on their knees as a pilgrimage and looked around the buildings. Very cool place.

We spent the rest of the day driving quite far as we wanted to reach the coast before the evening. The roads through the Pyrenees had amazing scenery. Through gorges and around mountains. We passed through Milau which has the biggest bridge I've ever seen. It was cloudy all day and sometimes raining but as soon as we left the Pyrenees and we were nearing the Mediterranean sea it got a lot warmer and sunnier. We drove through Montpellier until we were at the beach and we stayed along a road sheltered from the sea by sand dunes where a few other camper vans were staying over night.

Today was mostly spent chilling on the beach reading and walking in the sea. Adam got his mermaid on and collected loads of sea shells. He wants to make necklaces out of them. This evening as we were driving round looking for some free parking we stopped in an empty supermarket carpark to watch a group of 4 or 5 guys doing stunts on their motorbikes, like wheelies whilst standing on the seats or standing on the seat driving backwards. Then when we'd parked up just outside the center of the city we heard the echo of a guy on a microphone and a massive crowd cheering, went to have a look and caught the end of a big televised sports competition. They were just doing the mens BMX finals but we passed them doing wake boarding yesterday.

We'll probably have another look round here tomorrow before driving a bit further down the coast.
Giant bridge over a mile long in Milau
Fise Worldwide BMX winners
Driving through the Pyrenees
Sandy beach south of Montpellier
Medieval city of Martel 
Church built into the cliff in Rocamadour

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Big skies

Wednesday 8th May

Woke up to rain today. The van stays really warm and I think the carpety type insulation that's on the walls and ceiling blot out most of the rain noise which is good.

We were gonna look around the town and get some milk for my crunchy nut but decided to have a banana, get ready and go. The (hopefully) sunnier south of France calling!

The rain didn't really last long, there were clouds all day but really cool clouds not just a flat grey sky. I'm a little obsessed with clouds! We didn't do much today other than drive. We're not taking the toll roads to save money so we get taken all through the countryside which is beauuutiful. When I was bursting for a wee we stopped at a café and had a drink and made sandwiches in the van.

We drove around 230 miles to La Mans today. Didn't see any races though! Then stopped just outside La Mans to find a place to park. We did find a place and we planned to go out and buy dinner but every single place was closed and all had signs on the door saying they re open in a few days. Couldn't figure out why though.

So we've ended up at a picnic place next to a quiet road and near some fields. We cooked some rice and a can of curry on Adams little stove and it worked really well! This always surprises me for some reason! Now just chilling in the van and tomorrow we'll probably reach the coast and see what there is around!

Viva la France!

Today (Tuesday 7th May, not sure when I'll get wifi to post this) we left our home town of Horsham in our big blue van to start our road trip. We had booked ourselves onto a ferry from Dover to Calais and that was the only thing we had planned in advance. We got to Dover a little early but when checking in we were asked if we wanted to get on the earlier ferry and we accepted, giving us more time to drive south when we get to the other side (that was one other thing we planned, drive south!)

We got to France about 6pm and set the sat nav on Adams phone to navigate us to Abbeville as it was south and a few hours away and then we'd start looking around for somewhere to park up for the night. We figured we'd make use of the french Aires which are mostly free places to park especially for motorhomes. You can't camp there and you have to be able to cook and sleep in your vehicle, so no tents or BBQs, and they usually have drinking water and places to empty toilets! Then when we need a shower we'll pay to stay on a campsite where we can hopefully do some clothes washing as well.

We drove through massive grassy sand dunes, big green fields with wind turbines in them, big yellow fields, through little villages with really nice brick buildings and houses with shutters and really neat gardens and ducks chilling by the side of the road. Lots of cows too!

Tonight we've ended up at a quiet little seaside town called Ault. We got here as the sun was setting and it was pink and pretty over the sea :) We're parked in an Aire that's a 2 minute walk from the sea and with a view of a red and white lighthouse. There are about 12 other motorhomes parked nearby,  all massive and white, we're the only bright blue van!

Tomorrow we're gonna have a lie in and look around this town then keep driving south. We have to be back in England near the end of July as we're going to my dads 50th birthday (also my two aunties birthdays because they're tripets! Big partaay!) We're also going to Global Gathering the weekend after that. So we have two months and we're gonna blast our way south then make our way slowly back up. We want to go along the south west coastline and hopefully get some good sunny weather and see what we can do on the way. After we've had our little England visit we'll be making our way over to a place just outside of Amsterdam for another festival (this time not a music one, a making things one!) and we'll be away til Christmas this time!

A good start so far :)