There is a group of us (53 this time) who go away on a Fahrt (look it up) every two years. This year it was to Barcelona. Bruce organises it with the efficiency of a man who has organised a trillion school trips and takes care of our every whim. So here are my thoughts on this year’s trip…
A very early start in the cold and the rain and the wind to Prestwick. Stepped out of the plane to 32 degrees and azure blue skies with a lovely breeze. Hotel Villa Olympica (which was indeed built for the Olympics) was wonderful and modern, if in rather less salubrious surroundings. Of course my room wasn’t ready so while the others changed and skipped off to do damage to the gin economy of Spain, I sat by the pool in my travelling clothes and glowed. But the room was worth the wait – with a rather strange layout in that you walked straight into a glass bathroom, tripping over the bath if you weren’t careful, before entering the cool dark air-conditioned interior. A wander up to the supermarket before dinner down at the harbour and the most amazing seafood tapas. (Tapas feature heavily in this story, btw.) Brandy on the terrace looking out over the twinkling lights of the yachts and home to bed. A long and lovely day.
Not to self – Blackberry does not change the time automatically so when alarm goes off at 7am it is actually 8am. And you wouldn’t want to miss breakfast for it was a veritable feast. Then off to walk round the Gothic Quarter and the Cathedral of St Eulalia (usual story – young girl martyred) and found some surprising geese in the cloisters (symbol of her purity). Lots of Roman remains around and about found in surprising places – everyone lives in flats in Barcelona with lots of trees to provide greenery. Then on to Gaudi’s famous La Segrada Familia which will be lovely when its finished. It was a Wow! moment for sure. Fluid lines, nature themes, pillars as trees, stunning stained glass – all accompanied by the sound of drills and hammers and cranes. The Pope is coming in October to consecrate it so there’s a bit of a rush on, but the whole basilica will not be ready for at least another 20 years. I’ve never seen anything like it and could have stayed for months just taking it all in. Lunch (tapas) then on to the Palau de la Musica which was another stunner. A concert/opera venue in a dark back street but with the most incredible arts and crafts glass everywhere to give light. Lots of Morris and Liberty themes and a rather splendid organ. Then up Mont Juic for more Gaudi and curves and mosaic and creatures and a wonderful view of the city. At night we rambled up Las Ramblas keeping a keen lookout for pickpockets but we made it through unscathed. Yet more Tapas and some grumpy customers when we began to sing them some Scottish songs. No sense of humour.
Woke to thunder and lightning and a damp trip to Monserrat up an exceedingly windy mountain road. The Benedictine Abbey is surprisingly modern on the outside, but the interior of the abbey church was very Gothic and dark. Lots of lamps, all different, donated by different towns. Such a long queue to adore the Black Madonna up close so I bought a postcard of her instead and adored from afar. At 1pm the choir boys come and sing a long Catalonian song which was rather charming, then off to lunch (guess what) and a bit of retail therapy. (yes, a black Madonna was purchased) At night some of us went to a flamenco evening at the Spanish Village. Very earthy flamenco which stirred our souls and filled us with admiration for their poor feet and hands ( lots and lots of clapping but no castanets). Then the thunder rolled and the heavens opened and we waded our way back down the cobbled streets shrieking all the way. On the way home we saw the dancing fountains but I believe we were wetter.
Early start to Tarragona, a medieval town with Roman remains, where preparations were taking place for a festival. Their thing is human towers and large paella, I think. The cathedral was being done up so lots of scaffolding but we did get to adore the high altar and wide cloisters and the remains of poor St Tecla. Then off to lunch at a farmhouse at the foot of Montserrat. This was the best meal ever – local olives and tomatos and grapes and lamb and we learned how to do the bread thing – rub with garlic, then tomato rubbed and squeezed over it, then a pinch of salt, finished off with a rub of olive oil – delicious. Little biscotti things after soaked in marsalla wine. Then on to Colonia Guell, another Gaudi church/crypt for it was never finished. Wow again. Windows that opened to become butterflies, curves and the most amazing pews. All so tactile. Quick visit as we had to vacate the premises for a wedding but we sat on the wall and cheered her in with Scottish fervour. In the evening I did a little window shopping at La Corte Inglese and then a little libation was taken in a pavement cafe watching the beautiful people (and mice scampering around our feet – eek!)
A free day for us to do what we liked. Some of us good and faithful souls decided to visit St George’s Anglican church but finding a taxi to take us was rather more difficult for nobody seemed to have heard of it or even knew the street it was on. We arrived eventually 5 minutes late but didn’t appeared to have missed much except the singing of many, many choruses, none of which we knew. The chaplain was dressed in a rather relaxed fashion and also played the guitar (you’re getting the picture, yes?), 1 reading and a gospel and an okay sermon (15 mins) then rather longer intercessions of a most peculiar nature. The Peace was exchanged and not a welcome made to us pilgrims from any of our neighbours. Sort of “Peace be with you but we don’t really want you to disturb our little corner of Anglicanism we have here.” The Eucharistic prayer (G?) was short and the chapati and fizzy Ribena a surprise. By the time the 3rd notice was being given we realised we’d been there for an hour and a half so we beat a hasty retreat. Pity really, because I would have loved to speak to the Chaplain. Back to town for a posh tapas lunch (egg and chips) then off to La Pedrera, another Gaudi house – Wow again. This time we got to go on the roof and be stunned all over again. What was this man on when he designed these wondrous things, we pondered? Gin and tonic icecream and then home. Meal out at night was a local restaurant and we were treated to a local delicacies – snails in gravy. Yum. Tat swap and I got a Black Madonna in a snow storm which every home should have. By this point my ankles were so swollen they looked like my thighs and I beat a hasty retreat to bed.
A lazy morning nursing blisters and still swollen ankles by the pool before the long, long journey home.
All in all, a great trip worth of praise. Thanks to Bruce and Dot for organising it all so well. Pictures will follow but now I have the rather more serious job to do of packing up my little abode for the move…