4 March Barcelona

It’s a late start for us today, only getting up and out of bed just before 10am!

We catch the bus to Casa Vicens, the first house Gaudi built when he was in his early 30s.

He took his influences from Moorish, Islamic and Oriental design.

A patio balcony on the first floor.

The loo!

A small enclosed balcony. This would be lovely to sit in on a hot summer day

The interior has an abundance of different designs and colours, on both the walls and ceilings, but is overall quite dark inside.

The rooftop

On the second floor is an exhibition about the house, it’s restoration ( it only opened this year) and the decorative influences.

Tbe original architectural drawings.

After our visit we catch another bus, hoping to head back to the Gothic Quarter.

The bus is detoured, it looks like there has been a demonstration, lots of people around with Catalan flags and placards.

Luckily it all seems to have finished by the time we stop!

We realise we are near one of the restaurants our Air Bnb host recommended, Casa Delfin.

The interior is lovely, but as it’s such a nice sunny day we choose to sit out in the square and are lucky that a table is available almost immediately.

Sue and I pick similar items from the menu so decide to share plates: small fish, scallops, and lamb. All delicious, although we are suprised that the bread we ask for comes up toasted and dry!

We don’t share pudding! I opt for a pistachio cheesecake, with Sue choosing a strawberry mille-feuille. Both delicious.

The weather has changed to rain, which luckily eases off whilst we have coffee.

We take a quick look in El Born Cultural Centre housed in a restored city market building with excavated ruins from 1700’s before heading back to the apartment.

Many of the information boards are about how the Catalunyans lost their independence during this time.

A few streets further away we come across this memorial with an everlasting flame in memory of those who lost their lives.

One can only hope that lives aren’t lost in the current political unrest.

A glittery steel artwork outside a gallery catches my eye as we walk back.

As well as some more graffiti.

Its hard to believe my long weekend is nearly over- I fly home in the morning.


3 March Barcelona

We start the day with breakfast in the apartment. Sue, being the star she is,runs down to get the bread from the shop next door, whilst the cheese and meats are from earlier shopping trips.

Today we are going to visit the Sagrada Familia. Building work started in 1882 and still continues today.

If you are planning a visit, it us worth booking your tickets online, and try to choose a sunny day- as you can see from the photos below the light through thestained glass windows are amazing.

It is difficult to explain just how stunning this Cathedral is. It is pretty impressive on the outside, but the inside is just Wow!

These photos can only give you a small idea of the light and airiness of this magnificent building, which is so modern in feel.

Just stunning!

We catch the Metro back to the centre of town.

This shop window makes me chuckle.. The place to buy your not so trendy underwear!

After enjoying a coffee in the sunshine, we walk to the food market, which is buzzing with people and lots of food stalls.

We decide to have some seafood for lunch at one of the small bar type stalls. Our timing is perfect as we get stools to sit on almost immediately ( after Sue has a little tussle with very rude Japanese guy who doesn’t want her sitting next to him!)

First beer of the holiday. .

…is followed by some lovely garlic prawns, and some not so nice soggy Calamari.

Walking down Las Ramblas, I spot Marilyn, advertising the Erotica museum…At No 69 of course!

We also see more political statements on the side of the buildings.

We walk to the Gothic Quarter, where we partake in a little retail therapy.

But unfortunately no shoes , as the sparkly ones I like are not available in my size.

There’s quite a lot of graffiti around. Here’s a selection of my favourites from today.

We end up walking down to the harbour. Sue tells me we have hit 10,000 steps and my bad knee knows it!

We pass some stalls selling the usual and not so usual crafts.

Freaky leather mask anyone?

It’s all top end restaurants along the front, but a row back we find somewhere that is happy for us to sit and just have a beer…as it turns out for a price!

As I look on Google maps to see if we can catch a bus to take us back, I spot a post about Gaudi designed lamposts, so we decide to walk and investigate.

Turns out I’d taken a photo of these when we were on our bus tour, despite the audio narration not mentioning them!

The photo doesn’t show it well, but there are three beautiful blue salamander Dragons on the top

This turns out to be an expensive detour, for Sue anyway, as we take a look in a jewellery shop The Fusio Collection.

How lovely is this? But I resist, as it doesn’t quite fit right and at 165 euros it needs to be perfect.

Sue manages to find a ring and a bracelet that are perfect for her though and treats herself.

We spend a couple of quiet hours back at the apartment before dinner back at L’antic Forn where we had lunch on Thursday.

We are here to try the Calcots, which we had unexpectedly come across- a local delicacy of grilled giant Spring onion type vegetables.

And yes, everyone gets given a bib, as it’s a messy affair, dipping the Calcots into the Romesca sauce and then eating by dangling into your mouth.

The evening spawns a new phrase for Sue and I of ” at least the spring onions were good” as the rest of the meal disappoints us by not living up to our expectations. Shame as lunch was so good, but I would still recommend a visit.

But it still has been a great day, with  amazing architecture and being able to wander around in shirt sleeves in March being an added bonus.

2 March Barcelona

We start the day with a coffee and a ham and cheese croissant in a local cafe.

Then it’s down to the Metro where we buy a T10 ticket- which appears to be the cheapest way to get round, as its valid for multi persons and 10 journeys.

Our first stop is Sagrada Familia, but the next timed ticket isn’t valid until another 1.5 hours, so we decide to book online and come back tomorrow. Top Tip: Do what the guidebooks suggest and book online. You don’t need to print the tickets out and can show them in your phone.

So we hop back on the Metro and head out to Park Guell.

Our route brings us inform the North if the park, which turns out to be a bit if a result as only one small hill, with the rest if the route downhill.

We also have amazing views across the city. The building in the middle is the Sagrada Familia.

Much of the park is free entry, but if you want to see the famous buildings and mosaic you have to pay.

The queue is quite long, as we get nearer to the front we realise it is cheaper to book online which we do…but The tickets do not come through on my phone.. Grr.

Luckily I screen printed my order and the man on the ticket desk is really helpful and print of our tickets, which are valid from 2pm.

He also recommends somewhere close to eat Bar Terra Mia, where we sit outside in the terrace and enjoy this platter of meat and cheese washed down with a jug of red wine.

After lunch it’s our timed entry to the Park and the Centre Monumental.

What can I say…Mosaics, Curves and lits of Japanese tourists

One of the “gingerbread” houses.

Ceiling mosaic.

The undulating curved seating areas are fab.

The famous dragon- much smaller than I imagined.

Blue ceiling

View from one of the gingerbread houses

We leave the park and catch a very busy no 24 bus back into the city. It’s not until some locals get on the bus afterwards us that I realise that wr should have validated the tickets…oops next time.

I realise that the bus stops near one of the Gaudi’s houses that I’d like to visit Cassa Batllo so we jump off the bus.

Once again we buy the tickets online, as its 4.50 euros cheaper.

Wow! What a wonderful house. Like Renée Mackintosh, Gaudi’ designed everything in the house- door handles, ballastrades, even a font for the floor numbers as well as the building itself.

The tickets are quite expensive at 24.50 euros but include an audio visual guide which is very detailed in the information given, with the mobile phone type handset showing you what the house looked like in its day as well as some rather silly references to battle like these turtles.

The house interior:

The rooftop is stunning.

I loved this place, my favourite visit so far.

We walk back to Place Catatalunya, where I spot another one of those yellow ribbons high up on a statue!

Then it’s time for a sit down and a coffee and donut, before heading back to the apartment.

1 March 2018 Barcelona

I am ticking a Bucket List item this week by visiting Barcelona.

I’m not on my motorbike, but I am here with Sue Wade, one of my “silver lining” motorbike friends from California.

I flew out with Vueling, a budget Spanish airline.

We were held up on boarding the plane when they had to remove 6 people who had been checked in on a row of seats that didn’t exist on this plane- quite bizarre!

The flight is about two hours, and with the hour difference I arrived at about 11.20pm.

The aerobus into town was easy to find, with a return ticket costing only €10.20, which I purchased from the vending machine.

Despite quite a long queue it didn’t take long to board and it’s only a 30 minute before we reach Place Catatalunya, where Sue is waiting for me.

It is a short walk to our airbnb.

Luckily, the listing prewarns that it’s up 3 flights of stairs!

Sue and I sit and catch up over a couple of glasses of red wine, before going to bed at 2am.

We wake up at 9am, and having got ourselves together grab some breakfast at a nearby cafe.

We have decided to give the Touristic Hop On Hop Off Bus à go.

They run two routes at this time of year, Red and Blue.

We start with the red route.

Obviously we sit up top so we can take photos, but it doesn’t a little chilly in places.

One of our fellow passengers has gone fir the full “drag Queen” make up, with turquoise shiny eye shadow and the longest false eyelashes!

We feel quite underdressed!

Here are a few highlights from the trip:

Case Battlo

La Pedrera

There are flags hanging from many of the apartment buildings. I think these are in support of Barcelona’s bid for indépendance from Spain.

This former bullring is now a shopping centre.

National Art museum of Catalunya

Olympic stadium

There is a lot of graffiti around the city- most of it just name tags, but sine more colourful.

Love this giant lobster Gambrinus on the sea front.

Slightly further along the road is this funky Lichtenstein Head Statue

Columbus monument

Our round trip finishes at 1.30- the perfect Spanish time for lunch.

We walk to l’antic forn one of a few restaurants recommended by our air bnb host.

We have the very reasonably price set menu consisting of salad buffet, two savoury dishes- I chose a delicious Aubergine bake followed by pork knuckle; a pudding- Crème Catalunya.

Our meal also includes bread and wine and all for €14.50.

We only noticed thus sign on our exit- a seasonal speciality if giant Spring onions, which we spotted a diner on an adjoining table eating. We may have to go back anothet time to try it. Watch this space!

In the afternoon we take the buses Blue route, which as we guessed from the map is a less interesting route, except for the first stop at Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Famlia, which us famously still being built.

In addition to the flags, there are many yellow ribbons around the city.

These Yellow loops have appeared all over Catalunya and are worn by separatist politicians and residents as a show of support for the high-ranking public figureheads currently in prison or under arrest warrants for their role in the ‘banned’ secession referendum on October 1, and for the regional government which was sacked en masse by the State.

They have been deemed illegal although the ban does not appear to be working!

Sue and I are not big football fans, so we found it quite amusing that the Barcelona FC stadium is deemed an attraction.

Loved this statue.

Two surfer dudes and two surfboards on one moped winding their way through rush hour traffic.

We are chilled through by the end of the ride, so stop for a Cappuccino at Café Zurich.

Having stocked up on a few essentials at Carrefour -more wine and some nibbles, we walk back through the back streets to our apartment.

It is quite a suprise coming out of the dark alleyways to this beautiful, white modern building, which unsurprisingly is the Museum of Modern Art.

The graffiti Street Art is of a better quality in this area.

At about 8.30 we head out for some Tapas. It is raining, so instead of going for a wander we head to the place Sue ate last night El Jardin Eden for some Tapas.

The decor is quite funky.

We decide to forego puddings and instead enjoy a couple of Expresso Martinis- decaff for Sue of course!

Its been a great first day in Barcelona, and with the weather forecast improving I’m really looking forward to the rest if the trip.

Saturday 2 Sept

The sun is shining, its my last full day, so I decide to make the most of it and head to the beach.

Im going to try somewhere new Plage de le Mine d’Or which is near Penestin.

I take the curvy route down, sharing it part of the way with a cycling event.

I arrive at Pensestin at lunch time, the restaurants in the centre are very busy but I spot one on the edge of town which had free tables.

I park up, a little too close to the pot plants for the owners liking!

The Moules Frites are delicious.

After lunch I ride to the beach.

The carpark is quite small for what is meant to be a popular beach.

As I walk down the concrete slope to the sea it looks like it is high tide and that there will be no beach to sit on, but how wrong am I?

What a gorgeous beach.

With the added interest of paragliders flying above.

I sit myself down for a bit of sunbathing. An old lady coming back from a swim is very interested in my blow up wedge

The beach is huge, and fairly empty so why does this family have to set up just 6ft from me?

The sea is lovely. A few odd stones on the seaedge but otherwise sandy.

I stay on the beach for a good few hours listening to downloaded Radio 4 dramas on my headphones.

Time to head back, as I still need to pack as its an early start tomorrow.

I take a more direct route back via Questermbert- still an enjoyable ride. I have to keep an eye on my speed as its so easy to end up riding much too fast.

I am feeling super chilled after my afternoon on the beach – a fab way to end my holiday.

Friday 1st Sept

Paul and Tracey start their journey home today. They are staying in Caen tonight before catching the tunnel tomorrow.

The statutory photo outside my #littlefrenchhouse.

After a quick stop at SuperU to change some clothes that Tracey bought yesterday but which don’t fit, we ride to Ploermel for lunch.

Tilty head melon smiles.

Tracey tries the Breton speciality pancake – a Gallette for main.

Once again the heavens open halfway through lunch, but this time we are ushered indoors to a basement room, as the canopy is broken and doesn’t extend properly.

For pudding I introduce Tracey to the joy that is Cafe Gourmand.

An expresso coffee and 3 little puddings – in this case pink blamange, fruit salad and creme brulee.

Its then time sadly to say Au Revoir, as they head off.

I ride to the Lac du Duc to walk round the Hortensias, but it starts to rain, so decide against it.

Once I’m back on the bike the rain stops, so I ride over to Mototaranis, as I may not have time tomorrow and they needed me to countersign some bank documentation.

Whilst chatting over a cuppa it starts to rain heavily again, so when it stops I quickly ride home to avoid getting drenched.

I had washed the sheets this morning, but because of the downpours they hadn’t totally dried, so it’s on with the large heated towel rail in the bathroom to try and air them properly.

Thursday 31 August

Because of the rain yesterday I have to rethink my plans on where I was going to take Paul and Tracey- so difficult as there are so many good places to go and so little time as they head home tomorrow. They will just have to make a return visit.

Decision made. First stop Josselin. It takes a lot to beat that first view of the château as you come down the hill.

Heres one taken at the bottom.

We park at the top of town- for a moment I thought I’d lost them but Paul had dropped a glove.

Another pretty town with lots of half timbered houses.

The restaurant ( above) I’d planned to go to is closed, but we manage to get a table at another.

Top tip if you are ever in France, don’t just plonk yourself down at a table to eat, you should always stand and wait to ask the waiting staff- apparently its considered very rude just to sit down.

The menu

The tartine for starter. I thought it was a quiche…wrong!

Tracey looking pensive.

Paul with a happy french frie

Halfway through lunch the heavens open. Luckily our table is under a large umbrella and the staff quickly put up another round one at the side to catch the overlap.

This gargoyle on the church does his work splashing the rain onto the stones below.

The rain eventually stops and after finishing lunch we walk it off.

Paul climbs the church tower…

Tracey and I sit and watch!

The view- photos by Paul, obviously!

We then take a look round the church- it is deceptively large.

Tomb of Olivier d’ Cuison and Margarete de Rohan from the 1400s.

The mourning monks on the side were destroyed in the French Revolution.

This creature, allegedly a greyhound, keeps guard at the feet of Margaret.

After Josselin we ride to Porcaro to visit the Oratory/ Bikers Chapel.

We also wander round the exhibition showing the history of the Biker Blessing which is still in the church. Its amazing to see hoe its grown from 38 bikers to 20,000.

Below are photos from when the Pope sent a crown for the Madone statue.

Then it’s back to the house as Martin and Jennifer are coming round for an aperitif.

They leave around 8 and I cook merguez sausages for supper.

It ends up being a long night ad Paul and I sit up chatting till gone 1am, with the help of a couple of bottles of wine!