Anne and Neil's trip to Barcelona was uneventful. On the 07:20 Easyjet flight to Barcelona, there was a school party heading for Salou where we stayed a few weeks ago. The children were from the Rosemary Musker High School and it looked like a football event. Children in numbers can be quite a problem but this party was not bad at all. Only one of them looked as though he would benefit from a course of ritalin and he was a teacher!
In Barcelona, we caught the Line 2 RENFE train to Barcelona Passeig de Gràcia. From here it was about 1.5km to our flat at 13 Plaça de Sant Agustí Vell.
We were met and shown round the small but very nice flat. We had to pay big city prices. It was EUR 1050! This is still cheap by hotel standards and our airport transfer was under EUR 6 for both of us. Also our transport costs will be lower because we are centrally placed.
The journey was uneventful. On the plane and embarking at the last minute was a sports team from from Rosemary Musker High School going to a sports event in Salou. Neil is familiar with this school. It is located in Thetford (west Norfolk) and ex-students go to the FE College in King's Lynn where he used to work. One of the teachers was hyper and failed to sit down when the plane started to taxi. Small wonder then that the two boys sitting with me undid their seat belts when taxiing on arrival. They were likewise reluctant to put their bags under seat in front of them and when the rubbish was being cleared I asked them if they intended taking their wrapping papers with them and if not to put them in the rubbish bag as the steward passed through. They would cheerfully have left them in the seat pocket. Shall I email the head teacher saying that the boys' behaviour was more or less acceptable, but add that the conduct of one of the teachers left something to be desired? On arrival he started singing Viva España at the top of his voice. As a pupil, I would have been mortified if a teacher had done this. On reflection, there is no need. How much more satisfactory was the comment I overheard from one boy: I should stop that sir, if I were you. You're only letting yourself down. Brilliant!
Once at the railway station at El Prat airport, we phoned Jessica. Her English is excellent but she is not English. Why didn't Joy tell me she was Spanish. I am mortified that I sent all those emails in English. Also what I would have said to an English person is not at all the same as I would say to a Spanish person. There is always a cultural as well as a linguistic shift when you change languages. Jessica had thought we were arriving at the flat at 10.30 but I had definitely said at the airport, but if she's not a native speaker, all is made plain. It also explains some odd words in her emails but I put these down to misspellings. Luckily when we met up outside the flat, she spoke Spanish to us from the start and we were able to redeem ourselves a bit. Of course there are countries where we don't speak the language but then I like to apologise and find a language that is mutually comprehensible. What did once annoy me was a Flemish speaking Belgian who insisted on speaking atrocious English to me although he knew French well but refused to use it for political reasons. I'm afraid I stuck with French. It's time they got over any resentments they may have had in the past.
Our flat is small, just one size bigger than Santiago but no telly and no microwave. We use the telly only for weather forecasts but that is useful if often misleading and a wonderful way to pick up a bit of Catalan. A microwave is useful for quick cooking and heating up when you are nearly dead after a walk.
After a rest, we walked to the Sagrada Familia (the Gaudi cathedral). On the way, we say capoeira dancers on our Rambla. There were players too. Back home, we looked for some entertainments. Most books in the house are about yoga and head lice but there is also a Hercule Poirot in Italian which I might try.
April 2009. We reached France. Northern Spain is very nice to walk in. There is a huge diversity of terrain from the coast to the Pyrenees. Placid flat farmland lies alongside 1000 foot forested hills. There are rivers and streams. Deciduous trees thrive here but not further south. There is a huge diversity of wild flowers and there are still wild boar. The Pyrenees rise to 11000 feet and have snow covered peaks for most of the year. Girona would make a good base for anyone wanting to walk in the area.