Riverside parkland, city streets, Montju
We got our usual train and started walking another 10 minutes earlier, being even less far down the railway line. At El Prat de Llobregat station, the machine would not let us out. It turned out that our return tickets were day returns where our previous ones had been 14 day returns. In fact we had been traveling illegally on day returns for the last few days but we never realised because none of our destinations had electronic barriers. A security man let us out and we were not charged extra which was a pleasant surprise. It would be nice if day returns lasted 24 hours and did not turn back into pumpkins at midnight.
Outside the station it was barely light and there was low black cloud and spots of rain. We passed the church of St Peter and St Paul. This was unusual because its tower was separate from the main church building. We wanted to reach the river Llobregat but there were major roads in the way. We found a pedestrian overpass and crossed the first ten lanes of traffic. There we could see our proposed route under a foot of water. It had rained very heavily in the night. We found a route,avoiding the floods, past the Mercadona supermarket. After crossing another major road we reached the river path. This was a disused railway with other parallel paths set up as park land. It was very pleasant but on a wet weekday, it was deserted.
After a couple of kilometres heading away from home, we were able to cross the river, the railway and eight more lanes of traffic using another pedestrian bridge. This got us into the outskirts of Barcelona without having to walk along any arterial roads. We now had a couple of hours zigzagging through back streets with light industry and aircraft hanger style shops. Later we reached flats and shops where we got some nice almond biscuits.
We crossed the Montjuïc hill area with parkland, fountains and stately buildings. We had a picnic here with a view of the container port. This made a pleasant break from the urban noise. We walked through a small tunnel converted into climbing walls. Later we walked past cliffs also set up for climbing. Many other sporting facilities were nearby and all in delightful leafy parkland. Will Essex look like this after 2012?
Later back in the built-up area, we found Ali Ahmed's emporium. This was quite a cultural experience. Neil was trying to get a solution to his camera battery charging problem (forgot to pack the charger!). In the shop, about 20 chargers were brought out until one was found that might do the job. The battery didn't fit but this was not seen as a problem. A grinding wheel was brought out and an RJ45 Jack was ground down to make it thinner and remove the tab. This was superglued in place and the gaps filled with gunk from a glue gun. After this the battery fitted snugly. When plugged in, it appeared to be charging too. Time will tell. This was third world ingenuity applied to a high tech' problem. We had to remind Ali that we had not paid yet. The people in the shop could not have been more helpful. We left with admonitions about peace and love ringing in our ears. Pakistan has had some bad publicity in the media but this was a nice demonstration of its good side.
Having avoided the traffic on the arterial roads we now hit the tourist shopping area. It was heaving. We put our heads down and did tripper slalom. The crowds reached an almost unbearable peak at the "Rambla". After this it was calmer and we were soon home. With the flood diversion and zigzagging down shopping streets for a camera charger, our route was 4.5km longer than planned.
Today we caught our usual train and after half an hour arrived a El Prat de Llobregat. At most stations, you can just walk out or there is a gate which opens automatically when you approach. Today, our tickets failed to operate. I had a good look at it mainly to check it was the right one. By then, an official had come over and he said your tickets are dated 7th and it's the 8th. I said I know but with other tickets you can come back another day. He is kind and waves us through. It must be media distancia trains where you can use the ticket for up to a fortnight. We are not en règle. As we shall soon be using a combination of cercanía and media distancia trains it will be easier just to get singles. Luckily at the times we travel there are no queues at the machines. It also means that on Monday and Tuesday our journeys were similarly illegal but we didn't know. We don't mind much as we had paid so the error was purely technical.
In order to get a relatively green route into Barcelona, we set off in the wrong direction from El Prat. This took us past a Carrefour but it did not open until 10.00 so we couldn't look for a camera or charger. Our chosen route to the river was flooded after last night's rain so we used the road to get down to it. From there we were able to go along the bank until we got to a footbridge. There we had a short break. The river was in spate as it has rained a lot lately but now it was broadly dry. Neil has plotted a route that avoids motorways and thoroughfares but does go past shops so we can get a new charger or camera.
He also made it short because I find walks through towns killing. I'm not quite sure why but contributory factors are: the walking surface is almost always uniformly hard; there is no oxygen in the air; there is little of interest to look at and you can't lie down and relax properly in the breaks. He did well because, in spite of being an urban walk, considerable stretches at least at the beginning were on unmade up tracks.
Once we got into a shopping area, we looked out for a camera shop and found quite a nice one but they couldn't help us. They indicated two other shops. One was Euronics and they couldn't help us either although they did have a replacement camera at 87 euros which was far too much. We tried to find the other shop but were unsuccessful.
We had lunch on a hill which from a distance looked like one huge park but which close up was several open green spaces including part of the Olympic Village. The entrance was through a tunnel and stones had been inlaid so you could walk from one end of the tunnel to the other using hand and footholds. We didn't try it. Mont Juic is the name of the mountain. There were people learning to rock climb up the cliff beyond. Few showed much success if the height at which names were inscribed on the rock is an accurate indication of how high they got. Our lunch place was in one of these green areas.
Neil's GPS already read 16km which was supposed to be the length of the entire walk. He now admitted he had got in a muddle when he altered the route to build in camera shops. It was quite windy and a bit cold. A lovely labrador played with a stick and entertained us while we ate. Once he had gone with his man, we profited from the quiet spell to find suitable toilets. We found one overlooking the port area and we could watch planes taking off from the airport – still in the bad weather direction.
We now passed through what must be one of Barcelona's tourist attractions. There was a big mansion like Ali Pally on the top of the hill with numerous steps and water features leading up to it as at Chatsworth where Scruffs after climbing three or four sets of steps looked unbelievingly when there was yet another flight ahead of him. If a dog could say "bugger me", he was saying it. I will find out what this building is plus tard.
Back down near sea level, we carried on towards our flat. We were now entering a much more cosmopolitan area and suddenly, there was another informatic shop. It was quite unlike a normal shop It was tiny and stocked vast quantities of every machine you could think of. The owners could not have been more helpful and emptied every camera charger they had in the shop until they found one that would accommodate Neil's pile. By now we were talking English as an easier lingua franca. Normally I am not keen on being asked where I am from as I don't think it's relevant in most brief and casual encounters. It also means people have spotted that my Spanish is not up to scratch – utter humiliation. This time it gave me a cue to ask him the same question. I would have guessed he was speaking Punjabi but actually it was Urdu. I told him how I had taught children from Pakistan in Bedford. Meanwhile he had identified a charger which would work if you held the battery in with your fingers. Alim checked that we didn't want to charge different batteries in the same charger and then said he would fix it for us permanently. He found a little plastic RJ45 jack, filed it down to fit while his glue gun heated up and then stuck it in. He told us to come back if we wanted anything else and I said we would. He said friendship was important. You only live once and you should live in peace. How right he was. We took some photos of his shop – now we have a charger we don't need to be so careful. I will email him when we get back, thank him once again and refer him to our Walk across Europe and School for peace websites.
By now, we were only a couple kilometres from home. I was all cheerful because we had had an interesting encounter. We now found ourselves on the famous Rambla – not the quiet one near ours. It was heaving and just the sort of place where Anna, I think it was Anna, got her bag nicked. Joy who recommended this flat said to be careful I didn't get mine pinched as well and I said it doesn't matter if I do. I'd lose a loaf of bread and a few bits and pieces – nothing critical. All that kind of thing is secreted about our persons. Any potential thief would need to strip us to get at it.
Things to include in the Barcelona section
21km as usual