Barcelona at last!!

October 14, 2009

Yes, we’re finally here. We came into Port Vell, right at the heart of the city, on Monday afternoon and we are now busy casing the joint before the first of our visitors arrive.

But first we have to pick up where we left you last: Castellon de la Plana which D described, accurately if rather unkindly, as grotty. We did not linger the next day but set off for another 40 miles of motoring to our next stop, Vinaroz. The sea was so calm that we paused half-way and dropped anchor so we could go for a swim. The sea was deliciously warm though I kept a pretty sharp look out for jellyfish as I had spotted some from the boat earlier. Thankfully, there was no encounter and we were tied up in Vinaroz by just after 6pm. Again, this was just a brief stop for the night and the marina was unremarkable. The highlight of our visit was watching the fishing fleet all depart into the night, just as we were about to go to bed about 11pm. It was quite impressive to watch them all set off like a choreographed ballet, one after another. The other notable incident of our stay in Vinaroz was the fact that we made off with the access key to the shower block. It is interesting that this was about the only place where we’ve not been asked for a deposit for the key – goes to show that it’s worth doing as it jogs the memory fairly effectively to surrender the key before leaving! Key deposits have varied – anything from €5 to an outrageous €50 in Vilajoyosa where I thought the guy was joking and laughed outright. Not only was he quite serious but moreover, he wanted payment upfront for our stay too – which is fairly unusual – and when I explained that I only had €25 in cash on me he confiscated my passport. Obviously I have a more shifty appearance that I had imagined… We did, incidently post the key back to Vinaroz Marina with our apologies a couple of days later.

But I digress – by Monday 5th October we had arrived at another little marina at Puerto de Calafat. This was not an adjunct to the fishing harbour as it was in Vinaroz but a little purpose-built marina. The Marinera was delighted to welcome us and had obviously not had anyone to chat to all day. He spoke no English but we made the mistake of saying we spoke some German and he was off! After the normal preliminaries of booking in were completed, he explained how to find all the local amenities, and chatted about other English visitors who had stayed in the marina this summer, before launching into an in-depth discussion of the current state of the global economy and more particularly the Spanish economy (fairly dire just now!) It stretched our knowledge of German to its limits, it now being nearly 20 years since we last lived there and had cause to use the language.

D off to explore the marina

Off in search of a Spanish B&Q!

At first glance, the showers at Calafat appeared to rival the five-star facilities at Denia, but appearances decieve. Once again it was separate individual bathrooms with twin sinks and a magnificent-looking shower that squirted water at you from about 8 different directions. Sadly, however, nothing I could do would persuade it to produce anything more than very tepid water. I eventually gave up in disgust & went back to the boat for a shower which is perfectly ok, provided we have been running the motor & thus generated some hot water. (The imersion doesn’t seem to work – a little winter project for Duncan I feel.)

Our next stop was a place called Torredembarra where we were allocated a prime berth right beside the office and showers – very handy. We were by this time, so confident of reaching Barcelona on time that we stopped for a couple of days. The marina was pleasant and we discovered the old town while out shopping. On the second evening we set off out of town on a longish bike ride in search of the Spanish equivelent of B&Q for various small bits & pieces which Duncan needed.

We also did our biggest washathon to date – 7 loads!! Well, we hadn’t done any since leaving Almerimar some 2½ weeks earlier. I know – it’s disgusting but were boaties now. We had condemned the washing bag to one of the aft cabins as it was starting to sing quietly to itself. OK, D says it was a full f***ing orchestra. The cabin has since been fumigated.

The village churc at Torredembarra

The village church at Torredembarra

Having availed ourselves of the excellent book swap at Torredembarra marina, we set off once more last Friday (9th) and had a great sail to Vilanova i la Geltru, some 30 miles up the coast. It was a big, impersonal & expensive marina so we again stayed just one night before making our way to Port Ginesta, which was much nicer. The weather continues to be warm and sunny so on Sunday morning we pumped up the dinghy and pottered off down the coast a little way, looking for a likely cove for a swim. However there was nothing suitable as the shoreline was rocky with no little bays. We felt rather vulnerable in our little rubber inflateable because the world and his wife were out on the water enjoying the sunshine. We spent a deal of time dodging sailing boats, jet skis, fishing boats and inconsiderate idiots driving over-powered gin palaces. Still it was fun & we managed to spot the church & 12th century ruin mentioned in the pilot book. They were impossible to reach by sea however, and a long, hilly cycle from the marina so we contented ourselves with admiring them from afar. When we got back to the boat I went off to the beach next to the marina & had a swim while D had a snooze (he’s not really a fan of beaches!)

The beach at Ginesta

The beach at Ginesta

On Monday we completed the final short leg of our journey to Barcelona. There were lots of seriously large ships loafing around outside the main harbour and obviously being summoned in, one at a time, in an orderly manner by the harbour master. Some brave souls were sailing between these monsters in a devil-may-care fashion but we preferred to keep the motor running so we could dodge quickly if one suddenly decided to move in our direction. The harbour & marina complex here are vast and it took some 15 or 20 minutes to reach our berth. A couple of guys kindly helped us in and disappeared to some party that was about to begin, promising that although the Capitana’s office was shut for the rest of the day, someone would come down to book us in. This duly happened and we were solemnly presented with a swipe pass and electric cable fitting and relieved of €70. We were just about to relax when Duncan spotted important looking documents floating around the boat. With Duncan using the boathook to swoosh them towards me & me lying face down on the pontoon dangling dangerously over the edge, we were able to retrieve them and at the same time enliven and enrich the lives of all the various on-lookers who probably went home to their loved-ones finally convinced that the English are utterly mad. (NB it was subsequently discovered that my sailing qualifications – such as they are – had been rescued but D’s are still missing so if anyone demands to see our papers, I shall be claiming the title of Skipper until such time as his are replaced. D now reckons that my successful berthing of Rampage at Vilanova has completely gone to my head.) After the inevitable recriminations and chunnering, we decided to forget about drowned documents and set off to explore Barcelona, which as everyone had told us, is a fantastic place.

We were immediately struck by the magnificence of the buildings, the lively ambience and the terrifying Russian roulette of cycling in this city where you are given no quarter either by motorists or pedestrians, or even fellow cyclists of whom there are vast numbers. After tracking down the tourist office in Placa Catalunya, (something like Barcelona’s equivelent of Trafalgar Square, ) we eventually found our way as far as the magnificent Sagrada Familia, designed by Gaudi & still under construction. Indeed D felt it had not progressed much since he was last here as a teenager, some 40 years ago! We made our way back across town via the beautiful Arc de Triomf and the Parc de la Ciutadell , found a tiny Spar near the marina where the only thing they could provide for supper was pizza.

The Arc de Triomf, Barcelona

The Arc de Triomf, Barcelona

Yesterday however, I managed to interrogated two unsuspecting English women in the ladies loos & learned how to find the local market so last night we had delicious fresh fish for supper. After brunch yesterday we abandoned our bicycles and set off on foot to the Arc de Triomf main line station where we took a train north to visit the marina at Premia de Mar. We have provisionally booked in there for the winter as they were the only marina in the Barcelona area who bothered to respond to our emailed enquiries. However, having seen it, we understand why they are desperate for business and it has been relegated to “last possible resort.” Apart from being about 1+ mile from the train station, both the town & the marina at Premia de Mar were uninspiring to say the least. The marina seemed dead, with no shops or bars around, no laundry, no wifi service and worst of all, no other liveaboard folk in evidence. We headed back to the city, alighting from the train at El Mansou to look at another marina. This looked a lot more promising but we reached the Capitana’s office at about 2.30ish shortly after everyone had disappeared for the 2 hour siesta so we were unable to ask any searching questions or inspect the loos etc as we’d hoped.

Today we have been giving Rampage a good clean after all her adventures and we may go to visit Puerto Olimpico on bikes which is just a bit out from the city centre. However, we are sort of hoping maybe Port Vell will decide they have a vacancy for us. Failing that we may make our way back to Valencia next month, particularly if our erstwhile sailing companion, David, comes to join us for a few days as he has threatened. We will, of course, keep you informed and let you know when we make a decision and finally stop wandering for the year.

J working on the blog!

J working on the blog!



  1. Dear Julia & Duncan,

    I finally figured out how to follow your adventures (I’m a little slow, you know!). It’s been such a joy to read your travel log. I’m looking forward to sharing it with David. As we toil away in the city, our hearts are with you in the warm sunshine of Spain. We do miss you and would love to plan a visit for Summer of 2011, where-ever you may be! Love to you both, Ruth

  2. Very glad you made it in time for the stunning ruins lot to arrive. I’ll be interested to hear what you make of Barcelona, I only had a weekend and wasn’t very impressed but most people I meet love it! Have a lovely time with your guests and talk soon xxx

    • Didn’t know you’d been here at all but have to say we love it!!! Will post more to the blog shortly about our adventures during the Ruins’ visit. xxx

  3. Giddled Kipper is a little-known Spanish delicacy that can be included in tapas, taken with beer or wine and enjoyed at any time of day. It is surprisingly peppery in the mornings. As an aperitif, it improves the quality of meals and as a night-cap it can ensure sweet dreams.

    Giddled Kipper is a dish for connoisseurs. It is generally suitable for diners of mature taste. With a little attention it will keep for many years and yet remain in tip-top condition.

    May be taken with ice-cream, but caution is advised.

    Not to be confused with Salty Sea Dog, its oft-compared British equivalent, which has a briney aftertaste and is less at home in a kitchen. Griddled Kipper is the ideal complement to a meal served Stunningly Ruined.

  4. Have enjoyed catching up on all your recent escapades and indulging in nostalgia, having spent 3 v. enjoyable months in Valencia and Costa Blanca, as a student! Some of the places in the general area don’t seem to have changed much, especially the ill-named Vilajoyosa! Thank you for the birfday text which arrived on the day – spent in work and meetings till nearly 10pm (how you must miss such goings on!) -but made up for that next day. More nostalgia – seeing Joan Baez in concert with lovely grub beforehand.
    Will try to dig out for you the name of a restaurant in Barcelona where you pay your money and eat as much as you like! Reasonable price & good food at the last report…..
    Enjoy time with your visitors; look forward to next episode.

  5. […] Barcelona at last!! October 2009 5 comments 5 […]

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