February in Barcelona.

February 22, 2010

Apologies to you all yet again, for the long delay before publishing another blog; I lay most of the blame on the TV.  Whereas before Christmas, evenings were spent mostly reading or making jewellery, thus allowing plenty of opportunity to turn our attention to the latest blog, these days, all too often, I’m afraid, we wind up surrendering  to the lure of The Box and other tasks are neglected!

The weather here since Christmas has alternated between torrential rain and glorious sunshine.  When it rains most of the marina community retreat to their boats and batten down the hatches.  As the sunshine reappears, the place becomes a hive of activity, boats festooned with washing flapping in the wind, and the keener ones enthusiastically scrubbing their decks etc.  Not to be outdone, we ourselves have scrubbed the dingy and given the cockpit a good clean but have managed, thus far, to find various excuses to avoid scrubbing the decks.

Linda, Duncan & Steve on the sea front at Sitges

Two weeks ago we were blessed with a glorious sunny Sunday.  As the museums here offer free entry on the first Sunday of each month, we had planned to revisit the local museum of the history of Catalunya.  However, that morning we were invited instead, to join our friends Steve and Linda on another trip out of Barcelona.  This time, instead of heading north for the mountains and snow, we went south to the very pretty holiday town of Sitges, about 25 miles down the coast.   The weather was beautiful, and we had our first meal out of doors this year at a sea-front restaurant.  Later we wandered along the shore & through the winding little streets, window-shopping and people-watching before succumbing to the lure of a “creperie” where we indulged in some fabulous pancakes.  En route home, we paused at Ginesta where Duncan and I spent our last couple of nights last autumn, before arriving in Barcelona.  Now largely deserted for the winter season and having approached from the land rather than the sea, it was some time before my long-suffering husband was able to convince me that it was indeed the same place – it all looked so different.  (Sadly, he’s probably right – the blonde dye is gradually addling the few brain cells I had when he married me all those years ago, though I suppose I could claim it’s all just an act in order to fulfil the cliché!)

Looking along the sea front at Sitges


J enjoying the sunshine

Linda has now returned home to UK & her beloved dog, Jessie for a few weeks, but before she disappeared the four of us had a riotous evening together on board Rampage, eating fajitas and playing “Buzz”.  Linda quickly discovered that it is very boring playing any sort of general knowledge quiz with Duncan as he becomes more and more of a walking encyclopaedia with every year that passes, so she persuaded us instead to try a quiz of pop music from the 60s and 70s.  This time D & I were able to answer a small percentage, Steve decided that “Blue” was a reasonable answer for all questions, regardless of content, and Linda romped home with the rosette for “Music Trivia Clever Clogs”!

Other friends of ours, Nicky and Paul Taylor, introduced us to a new restaurant this month called “Wushu” and we have now been there no less than three times as the food is really very good.  Paul and Nicky always suggest going out for lunch rather than dinner – a good plan as a three course Menu del Dia with wine usually comes in at approximately €10 – €12 per head which is really very reasonable.  Eating in the evening can wind up costing 3 times as much. 

As mentioned above, when it rains here there are no half measures.  This can be confirmed by an ex-colleague from my time at M&S Money, Gail Walters, who contacted me a couple of weeks ago to say she and some friends were coming to Barcelona for a long weekend and suggested that we should meet up.  Sadly the weather was fairly lousy (cold and very wet) for most of their stay but we did have a lovely evening with them at a restaurant up in the Gracia district near where they were staying. 

The facade of the Palau de Musica, Barcelona

Earlier in the week, Duncan and I were absolutely soaked to the skin when we walked up through town in search of the Palau de Musica.  I’d been told by ladies at Tuesday morning coffee that it is an amazing building and even from the façade, it was easy to see that it was well worth a visit so I decided to take my friend, Maggie, when she came out to see us again last week – see below.   Going to the website later, we discovered that there were still tickets available to see Joan Baez is in concert on 2nd March.  We saw her years ago in Düsseldorf and she was wonderful so we decided to treat ourselves.

The next day, once again it poured with rain so, to avoid going stir crazy, D & I took ourselves off to the Museu d’Histoira de Catalunya and spent a fascinating couple of hours learning more about Barcelona over the past 100 years or so, and in particular, during the Civil War.  (One thing Gail and her friends discovered when they were here was that nearly all of the museums are closed on a Monday; this is worth bearing in mind for anyone planning a trip here at any point.)

Waverney Harrier

My dear friend Maggie arrived last Monday.  This was her second visit (see Ruins on the Rampage – posted October 2009.)  On Tuesday morning she was initiated into the delights of the Tuesday Coffee Morning – albeit that we arrived after most of the others had already finished their second cup of coffee.  She and my friend Ruth got along famously so when everyone dispersed Ruth invited us back for Maggie to see their boat.  Ruth and husband Richard have been extremely busy all winter, doing lots of maintenance work on board.  “Waverney Harrier” is very special; she is about 30 years old, one of less than 100 ever built and beautiful to look at.  She does, however, require a lot more tender loving care than a relatively modern, production boat such as Rampage.  Aside from anything else she has a lot more wood, all of which has to be protected from wind, rain and salt water.

Maggi in Placa Catalunya

Later that afternoon, Maggie and I set off to visit the Palau de Musica but discovered that all the guided tours in English were fully subscribed for the day.  Instead we set off, planning to visit the National Art Museum of Catalunya.  However, we were side-tracked by posters advertising free entry to Contemporary Art and Photo Exhibitions sponsored by “la Caixa” bank.  We spent a long time looking at a display of photo journalism mostly relating to war and current affairs.  Later we went into the Contemporary Art display but found that less interesting.  Indeed, it’s fair to say that we decided that most of it was beyond our comprehension – but maybe we are just philistines.  I regret to say that some of it made us want to laugh out loud so eventually we took ourselves off to avoid offending the other, very earnest-looking visitors.

On Wednesday, having bought our tickets the previous day, we were finally able to join a tour of the Palau de Musica.  Our guide was excellent and extremely enthusiastic, keen that we should understand the historical context of this extraordinary building.  It was designed by Montanet, a contemporary of Gaudi’s and very much in the Art Nouveau style – highly ornate and colourful with inspiration for the designs mostly taken from nature.  Indeed the intention is to convey a beautiful garden with the stained-glass window in the ceiling of the main auditorium representing the sun.  It is not permitted to take photos inside so we had to content ourselves with buying postcards and photographing the outside.   Follow the following link for some photos of the interior: http://www.palaumusica.org/

A view of the monastery of Montserrat

To our delight, Thursday dawned bright and sunny with blue skies, as Maggie and I set off on the train to Montserrat.  Those of you who follow the blog regularly will know that D & I visited the monastery with Duncan’s brother, Mike, last November.  We were lucky enough this time to hear the boys’ choir singing in the Basilica; last time we were there the choir was away on tour.  They only sang for a few minutes but it was very atmospheric and the Basilica was packed with visitors who had gathered to listen.  It made us realise just how very busy it must become at high season.  At this time of year the funicular railways are not running.  We did not therefore manage to get up to the top of the mountain with its spectacular views away to the Pyrenees.  However, after some lunch we decided to walk downhill to the path cut into the hillside which leads to the Shrine where the Black Madonna was supposedly found.  All along the path are the Mysteries of the Rosary depicted by various architects and sculptors mostly from the early 20th century.  The path back to the main monastery buildings was pretty steep so we took it gently and then stopped for a drink before taking the cable car back down the mountain. 

The statue of the Black Madonna at Montserrat

Friday was Maggie’s last day with us so we went to lunch at Wushu (see above) and that evening I accompanied her to the airport.  Once again it was pouring with rain and her flight home was much delayed by a tremendous thunderstorm.  I was back at the marina by about 10.30pm and found Duncan aboard Steve’s boat, “Tantrum” – the pair of them putting the world to rights over a few cans of beer (!)  We heard via email the next day that poor Mags eventually made it home by 4am UK time, (5am Spanish time.)

Maggie and Julia outside the Palau de Musica, Barcelona

Saturday was spent on excitements such as laundry and servicing the forward head.  The latter did not go quite according to plan and that afternoon we cycled to a chandler’s in search of a new pump assembly.  (Some over enthusiastic  tightening while re-assembling the pump had resulted in broken parts!)  However, a new pump proved to be exorbitantly expensive in Spain so Duncan managed to do a temporary repair and ordered a new pump from the UK (at a third of the cost in Spain).  Things have not gone his way recently.  Last weekend as I returned from a trip to the launderette, I discovered Rampage in turmoil, with most of the contents of our cabin all over the saloon.  Duncan had serviced the aft head without a problem, but in the process he’d discovered lots of water in the space beneath our bed.  To our relief, investigation soon confirmed that this was not salt water but rain water which had been gradually seeping in via the chain locker.  Having established the cause and bailed out the water pro-temps, we now await a settled spell of dry weather in order to seal the leak with epoxy resin.  This will have to wait however until after our return from a flying visit back to UK later this week. 

Children in costume enjoying the Barceloneta carnival

While out shopping in Barceloneta on Saturday, we had spotted posters for a carnival parade to take place yesterday all along the Moll del Rellotage beside the marina.  Accordingly, yesterday morning we set off armed with our camera, to capture the fun, colour and excitement of the event.  Sadly we are unable to reproduce the unbelievable noise so you will just have to take our word for this! 

Dancers in wonderful, colourful costumes at the carnival

One of the many bands in the parade

Afterwards we joined Nicky and Paul for lunch aboard their boat.  They have a house on Corsica and had very kindly offered to give us lots of information on cruising between here and Calvi, as they have made the journey several times.  I made copious notes on such matters as good places to anchor, places worth visiting and those to avoid, etc in preparation for our departure at the end of April on the next leg of our adventure.  As well as being extremely useful, it was a lovely lunch and a great afternoon.

J in front of the fountains at Placa Catalunya, Barcelona



  1. The carnival looks fun and it sounds like Mags had a good week despite the delay on her return. Sent a package over but may have put the wrong berth number down – hopefully it will find you anway xxx

  2. Lovely to see further Ruinous Activity, and can easily picture you both disgracing yourselves in the Modern Art collection.
    Fed up with being cold over here. You have made such a wise lifestyle choice!
    Lots of love to you both xxx

  3. […] February in Barcelona. February 2010 2 comments […]

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