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 Walk Across Europe

2008-12-20 - Trip 13

Spain, Catalunya and Barcelona

Beccles to Barcelona

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1739.1 km from start.
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 Travel: Car, Air, Car.

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Anne and Neil's trip to Barcelona was uneventful. We should have flown to Valencia but Ryanair cancelled the flights, presumably due to the credit crunch and lower demand. Margaret should have come too but, in October, she had a stroke. Although now much recovered, she was still not well enough to travel or get insurance. We booked a hire car through Centauro and drove to our accommodation near Vinarós.

Our journey to Stansted in the small hours was uneventful. There was a Pink Elephant bus waiting to take us to the airport building so we didn't need to wait in a queue in the freezing cold. In fact it was relatively mild. Our flight was more or less on time and we were soon on the bus to take us to the terminal building in Barcelona. Neil told me later that he was assaulted during this ride by a small child who alternately sneezed and coughed right into his face. Cover your mouth darling when you cough, said mum but to little effect. Neil was convinced he was going to succumb to this virus in three days time. I hadn't noticed the child so I was relaxed. Eventually we found our car hire desk right at the far end of the arrivals hall. Once we had the car, we telephoned Mark and Louise to let them know we were on our way. Mark arranged to meet us outside the apartment which Neil had located on his GPS. It took us 2 hours 30 minutes.

We went inside and unpacked, had a sandwich and a little sleep. Then we went for a short walk to get our bearings, had some soup and another sandwich and went to sleep for the night. We think Mini would have been cold in this apartment as the heaters are relatively small apart from the one in Neil’s room. I suppose she could have had that one on all the time to keep the chill off.

We had to cancel our October trip because our mother Margaret became quite seriously ill with a stroke and complications including pneumonia and deep vein thrombosis. She may have had a heart attack too. At 87 years old we were worried. Fortunately by Christmas she was much better so we have resumed our walk. One side effect is that our base is about 100 km too far east so we have had some very long car drives to get the walk done. We decided that this was cheaper and easier than canceling our Christmas accommodation and finding a new base further west. We prefer to use public transport but for this trip we had a hire car. We hope that the insurance claim for the missed October trip will offset this extra cost. The hire car with short train rides has worked well. Each day, we walked from the train's destination back to our car.

This part of Spain seems to be the major orange growing district. We have spent hours passing orchards with no outside view because of the trees. Fortunately these orchards are pleasant so the walking has been nice. We have mostly avoided the built-up coastal strip. Mile after mile of high rise building and concrete and tile sea front gets quite dull. Also in December the coast can be windy and decidedly cool. Inland there is shelter and the sun has a chance to warm things up. The mainline railway the A7/AP7 autovia and the main N340 coast road have been both a blessing and a curse. Frequently agricultural roads often run parallel with these major arteries. These "cami rural" roads provided useful routes. Mainly we tried to avoid the AP7. The railway was much nicer to walk beside. We had to be careful not to get trapped on the wrong side of these arteries. Google Earth has been a wonderful planning tool but we only got about half the routes properly planned before hospital visiting took up most of our free time. Also Spain has a major infrastructure update going on so the Google Earth images are not always up-to-date.

We made very good progress on this trip. Our routes were both pleasant and direct. We were able to avoid most of the towns and industrial areas and find efficient routes. This was mainly because of the open and flat countryside. When the mountains come close to the sea, the choice of path is much more limited. In the worst case the choice is between the beach and the main road. When the shore line consists of high cliffs, the main road is the only option.

Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger. What had to happen eventually has happened. My little Psion 5 which has faithfully recorded all these walks so far and, indeed, recorded this holiday’s walks too has decided to go bananas. This happened when I connected it to my PC at home. There was an unholy screech and nothing I tried would stop it. With any more up-to-date appliance you can remove the batteries and the machine will reboot. This also applies to the Psion but, although the systems are maintained, any documents are lost. I always keep my notes until everything is safely transferred and these are what I shall be using to recreate our Xeraco Sant Carles leg.

The original document was in excess of 10,000 words and it will be interesting to see how doing it from memory rather than at the time affects the length.

Our last trip was over Easter 2008 and we had intended to go again in May as we are really getting into the swing of it now. I was due to have a hysteroscopy in April and provided that didn’t throw up anything untoward, we were all set to go. That went smoothly. There was an endometrial polyp and once this was removed I was right as rain within a week. It was benign so there was no follow-up treatment.

Then Peter Sabberton who is building us a house said he would not be able to complete it by the end of April and that our new moving date was 15th May. This was too soon to our proposed departure date and we decided not to go ahead but to go in October instead.

With this in view, we booked accommodation at Borriol near Castellon. We had tried to get an apartment in Valencia as this was a hub for all our transportation links. However, as the Valencia Grand Prix was on that week, there was nowhere affordable available. Most owners had inflated their prices for the four days of the event and the apartments of those who had not were all fully booked. We found this apartment at Borriol sufficiently far away not to be affected by the Grand Prix and with good transportation links into Castellon from where we could commute to our various starting points.

We had flights to Valencia with Ryanair and were all set to go. Then in September, I found a lump on my pectoral muscle. On investigation, this proved to be cancerous and our October trip was now in question. Luckily, the hospital team decided to try medication to reduce the tumour as surgery would adversely affect my left arm. This was excellent news and the trip was once again on although my insurance company refused to cover anything linked to the tumour. I was prepared to take the risk as it is most unlikely that anything could occur at short notice which would prevent you completing your week and seeking treatment on your return. The trip was on.

Then just a week before we were due to depart Mini was taken into hospital with an irregular heart beat. We were not too concerned as this had happened before and she was OK again once her heartbeat had been regularised. We were so confident that we checked in on the Monday. Then on the Tuesday when we went to visit, we noted a marked deterioration. It seemed to us that Mini had had a stroke. She had difficulty finding the right words and most of what she said was gibberish. The hospital staff said they had done a scan and there was no sign of a stroke. They attributed the gibberish to an infection as she now also has pneumonia. We were unconvinced because while you may rave with a temperature, you can still say proper words even if they make no sense. Still we deferred to the staff’s knowledge and accepted it. Once her temperature was down, she should revert to normal. Then a second scan was carried out and she had indeed had a stroke. We decided to defer our decision on whether to travel or not until the last possible minute. If she was so confused as not to know who we were, we could go on the basis of maintaining frequent contact so we could be back quickly if necessary. If she had recovered sufficiently for us to be able to remind her about our trip we would also be able to go. But she remained confused and the one thing that seemed to bring her some comfort was to have us all there and to be able to count us. We decided to cancel and to hope that our insurance companies would reimburse flight and accommodation costs.

The owner of the Borriol property refused to charge us anything for her house even though we said we could reclaim the money and we are indebted to her for her forbearance and generosity. We are due to enter France in June and I would like to be able to thank her in person if possible. We know she lives in the south but for the moment no more than that.

By Christmas, Mini was a lot better. She is back home and still has a problem finding the right words. At one point she went through a German phase which surprised us as she did not learn German until she was an adult but she has got over that and is coping reasonably well.

Our December trip was therefore now on but with an apartment in Vinaros well north of Xeraco and not especially convenient for transport links. We had chosen it because it was in a nice location for Mini ad fairly central assuming we had done the October leg.

I had spent the evening prior to departure singing carols round the pubs in Beccles with the Beccles Singers. Ian is our director and he was not pleased with our performance. I think the singers did not give it the concentration they would for a concert and also several had had a minimal amount of lubrication before setting off. Having once done the same one evening when I was due to play string quartets with friends and one of the players was late, we filled in the time with a glass or two of wine. Our playing when he eventually arrived was atrocious. Since then I have tried never to drink anything before driving because I know what even one drink can do.

I was already in my journey clothes and planned to have a little lie down on my return prior to our 2.30am departure for Stansted. Ryanair had cancelled our original flights to Valencia and had offered us flights on the previous Friday instead. As Neil is a teacher we couldn’t use the alternative offered and asked for our money back. This was a blessing in disguise because it meant we also got Mini’s money back which would not otherwise have been the case as she had not yet taken out holiday insurance. We then rebooked with Easyjet but had to come back on Saturday 2nd January rather than Sunday 3rd as we had been able to do with Ryanair. The Easyjet flight on Sunday got in late and as Neil had to starto work the next day that was not ideal.

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