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Mike’s Visit

November 15, 2009

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And then there were two….

As the week draws to a close, we can reflect on a busy week with Mike. As I said in my last post, where does the time go? That was a bit of a rhetorical question but it does hold good for the past week.

First, we’ve adopted a smart folding aluminium paserelle called Boris who was being discarded for a small sum by his previous owners further up the pontoon. For the non boaties amongst you, a paserelle is an upmarket version of a gang plank for getting on and off the boat. Previous visitors to Rampage have made hurtful remarks on the leap of faith required to get on and off, especially when we were berthed bow to the pontoon. Boris has solved this problem with a degree to style and comfort, bridging the gap between the stern and the quayside. As you can see from the photo, he makes a splendid addition to the outfit of Rampage.

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Boris the passerelle, making life easier for the mobility impaired...

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Partially completed roof of the Sagrada Familia

On Sunday evening last week my brother Mike came out to stay for a few days. As has become the norm, we met him at the airport to avoid his having to cope with the Barcelona Metro system on his own. We had a reasonably early evening before we tackled the Sagrada Familia on Monday. We had learned from Polly and Tommy’s visit not to get there mid morning, arriving about midday, when the queue was only about 5 minutes to get into the place. We had an amazing visit there; it was the first time I’d been round inside the site, although J had been there with the Ruins. The whole project is huge in its scope and the detail of Gaudi’s vision is stunning. Without getting too over the top, the outside of the place is extraordinary, especially when you bear in mind that the majority of the plan was made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the outside is simply a prelude for the interior, which will eventually be a forest of columns rising and splitting into branches to support the roof. It put me in mind of the trees of Lothlorien from the Lord of the Rings, with which it shares a timeframe, as Tolkien was writing at much the same time as Gaudi was working. It was fascinating too, to be able to watch the craftsmen and sculptors at work.

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One of the few windows to date to have been completed with stained glass

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Detail of the magnificent roof

I’ve included a couple of photos but frankly they don’t do the place justice. If you’re interested in the place, either come and visit it whilst we’re still here or go to the website at http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/index.php where you can find out all sorts of info about the place as well as pictures, which, whilst they’re better than mine, still don’t do it justice. Oh come on, surely you can find time to come and have a look round the place?

After that overdose of architectural wonder, we had lunch in a nearby Turkish café before hitting the Ramblas. Well, you can’t come to Barcelona and not visit the flesh pots can you? We avoided the ruinous prices on the Ramblas and made our way back to the boat to drink and eat at more sensible prices….

On Tuesday, we took up the offer of free tickets to the Barcelona Boat Show from the Marina and took ourselves off to the exhibition centre on the courtesy bus. Just as well, since it turned out to be about ½ an hour away on the other side of the city. It was strangely dead; we’re used to the London Boat show where you can hardly move for people all trying to grab a bargain before you spot it. There were the trade stands there, showing off their new boats, engines, electronics and the like but there were precious few stands from the retail side of the business and those that were there were still, by and large, charging silly prices. And what of Joe Public? Well, he was missing. The place was empty and most of the people that were there seemed to be staff from other stands wandering round eyeing up the opposition. Naturally we found a couple of items to buy that we couldn’t possibly live without! We didn’t get time to visit the water side bits which are here in Port Vell but we’re thinking of going tomorrow – there’s this lovely little boat that’s taken my fancy only about €1,000,000…

We abandoned Mike for a couple of hours on Tuesday evening to go to our Spanish class but he seemed happy to relax with a beer or two.

On Wednesday, we took Rampage out of the marina, just to give her a feel for the sea again. Unlike our friends Ruth and Brian, who are aiming to continue cruising throughout the winter, we’ve gone firm here in Barcelona and have resorted to day sailing on an occasional basis to keep our hands in and to let Rampage know she‘s loved and wanted. Sadly we couldn’t have picked a worse day to go for a sail, as there was absolutely no wind to be had at all, so after plugging about on the motor for a couple of hours we came back into to the marina and set off to explore some more of the old city with Mike.

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Looking down to the monastery at Montserrat from near the summit

There’s a monastery dedicated to Our Lady at a place called Montserrat, a gritstone ridge about an hour’s train ride from the city. The monastery is on a ledge about ½ way up the ridge and has been a place of pilgrimage for Catholics for centuries.  Itis reached either by cable car or rack and pinion railway. In addition, there are funicular railways to take you to the top of the ridge and down to the grotto where the statue of the Black Virgin is said to have been found in 880 A.D.   We opted for the cable car for the ascent and set off from the city for the day by train at the very early hour of 9:30am. 

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The ascent to the monastery by cable car

A splendid day was had by all, visiting the basilica of the monastery, the ridge top where we sat and ate our picnic lunch whilst admiring spectacular views both across to the Pyrenees and down to the coast and finally the chapel enclosing the grotto of the Virgin. The latter was reached via a path cut into the side of the cliff, along which were maybe as many as twelve or fifteen prayer stations depicting the life of Christ and Our Lady designed by various sculptors and architects including the aforementioned Gaudi. There was plenty to see and lots of walking so we were all pretty weary by the time we returned to Barcelona that evening, to collect a rental car for the next day, in order to visit the delta of the Ebro river, a couple of hours’ drive to the south of Barcelona.

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The chapel built on the cliff-side at the site of the grotto where the statue of the Black Madonna is said to have been found by shepherds

We managed to haul ourselves out of bed and set off before 9am yesterday – almost unheard of for us since arriving in Port Vell.  The delta is a famous wetland, rich in birdlife that we thought Mike would enjoy as he is a wildlife photographer.  The trip down to the delta was fine if uninspiring and we found our way via a series of unmarked little roads to the sea shore. Clearly, this was the wrong bit of the delta, as there wasn’t much life there apart from the odd fisherman trying his luck for the enormous catfish for which the river Ebro is famous. Quick pause for a bit of head scratching before we set off southwards towards the southern bit of the delta, where there were large lagoons marked on the map.

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Hundreds of flamingos on the Ebro Delta

Here we struck gold – or rather, pink! At a roadside halt, a footbridge led over a ditch to a hide and there we found a large flock of flamingos – maybe as many as a thousand, all doing that thing where they tuck their heads underneath their wings, apart from a few on ‘sentry duty’ who were keeping an eye open for trouble. We took pictures from the hide, from the road and from the bank alongside the ditch. Whilst we were doing this, a marsh harrier flew over the lagoon, causing alarm amongst the smaller birds, herons flew about the place and Mike couldn’t keep pace with it all. Eventually we tore ourselves away from the flamingos to make our way home, spotting en route lots of wild ducks, herons and, to Mike’s delight, cattle egrets in large numbers. A great gang of them were gathered nonchalantly at a fish trap leading away from one of the lagoons. Mike took any number of pictures and I think we can call that trip a success! We had supper out locally in Barceloneta last night before putting Mike on his plane home at midday today. It’s been great having him here, we’ve both enjoyed his easy company and the excuse to get out and about.

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A closer shot of the flamingos

J and I are now taking a deep breath before embarking on the neglected housework (or should that be boat work?) tomorrow. We have an accumulated pile of washing to do, the decks could do with a bit of a scrub and Mike very kindly brought out the service kits for the sea toilets, so I suppose I should get round to carrying out the service which both heads could do with…… May turn out to be a solitary occupation as I suspect the First Mate will suddenly find something urgent to do elsewhere! After that, I suppose, we shall just have to knuckle down to some Spanish homework before our next class.

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4 comments

  1. Very glad to read about Boris. Will dare to pack a skirt for next visit, now I don’t need to leap for shore (or leap for Rampage after a tour of local watering holes – always slightly more tricky…)

    Lovely to see Mike – looking startlingly like the Kipper these days. I suppose it’s to be expected. What’s the younger brother version of a Kipper called?


  2. Boris looks very handy for small children, I remember having to lift Charlie up was a bit back breaking. It lokos like you had a lovely week with Mike and the weather still looks ok. Hope you have now christened the BBQ xx


  3. Much enjoyed sharing in Mike’s visit – it was really interesting to read about your trip to Montserrat and the lagoons. Also glad to hear about Boris – I’m always nervous, when straddled between boat and quayside, about hearing a ghastly tearing sound and experiencing being split in two!


  4. Need to comment myself as had an ace visit. Not sure how to thank them for the time we spent together. It was a real plesure and treat as last time in Spain I was about 8 or 9 years old. The food was ace, the the drink was nearly as good and at last have found out how olives should taste – the ones we get in the UK are rubbish!



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