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Missive 4;

So we leave the Coll De Rates in Parcent leaving a spectacular sunrise. Guess someone organised that farewell for us. Very nice thanks.

Headed by train for Barcelona. Our hotel is at the Paca de Catalunya end of La Ramba.



one of the fountains in Placa de Catalunya, Barcelona.

A short “orientation walk before dark around the plaza, then turn right from hotel door and down the tourist magnet of  La Ramba. A seething mass of tourists, restaurant touts, vendors (legal and not so) periodically divided by police vehicles weaving through the hordes on the plaza you should see the fake brands peddlers lift their goods and move to where the cops have just come from. Its a game. They drop their sheet like bags with strings from each corner for quick regather when the law arrives. They sell what they can in few short minutes then are usually spooked off, by the next wave of cops, to the spot they left about 5 minutes earlier.

la-rambla-peddlers-2-of-2              la-rambla-peddlers-1-of-2


Night on La Rambla

Did I mention the parking ticket? Long story, sorry but has to be told, it really does spell Spain.

Been to Valencia, picked up the ills, heading back to Parcent, diverted to small town of Gandia for a break. Found a candidate carpark, checked there were no “prohibido aparcar” signs and that other vehicles were also parked in same area. Returned in due course to find a pink slip under rear wiper blade just below the rental car sticker. Rechecked all previous assumptions, no reason to believe we couldn’t park there especially as there was a white lined parking space. Me thinks this is a case of quota achievement and a cop who can’t believe his luck, a tourist & rental car prospect!

The ticket is helpfully in 2 languages – Spanish & Catalans. Helpful, like hell.

Decide to keep moving and get a translation in due course. Turns out there’s a 50% reduction on the 100 euro fine if [aid within 20 days. There’s a list of banks for payment, but I can’t see any direction to appeal. So, next day off to local bank, after 5 minutos on computer the teller advised, not his bank. So traveling on, next bigger city, Valencia must be able to pay here, into one of named banks, same outcome. So the days tick by, eventually try another back in another town. 10  minutos on computer and all’s looking good, takes my 50 e’s, wont’t take credit card though I thought worth a try. What a relief I hand over a hard eared 50 E note and am asked for my numero de identidad de extranjero (NIE). Whaaaaat!

Try to explain, but no, must have before she can accept my payment. Got the car number, the ticket number, my license number, God knows every number under the sun but I don’t have an NIE. Suggests I apply for a temporary one. Really, where? Gandia. By now things are looking like I’ll be watching my back as I leave Spain. But in charges a white knight in the form of Anne who’s been silently standing and observing. Using a tone and lparkind-ticket-duly-receipt-stamped-by-bank-1-of-1ook normally only reserved for me she eyeballs this poor teller and says”can’t- you -phone -someone- and -sort -it -out?” The teller, as I always do, shudders with fear, relents and picks up the phone. 10 minutos later she takes the money and gives a receipt. Hola! Gracias! Lets get out of here! The fact we shouldn’t have even had the damned fine will be a fight for another day. Can see myself winning that one too – not -especially as it turns out I need to argue my case at the Gandia Adjuntament.

The ticket duly receipt stamped by bank, thanks to Anne’s demand.

Back to Barcelona – La Rambla is not for me. Head to the side streets as soon as practical. The deeper we go the lighter the tourists, the darker the streets, the more “Spanish” the feel and the better the restaurants. These streets we’ll frequent mostly for our nights here, eating, observing and photographing, not really for enough time. Really great places for the experiences and gritty scenes.

We spend a day and half on those tourist bus things, getting an overview, then having hit some of the key points, museums, Gaudi buildings, Sagrada Familia etc we start walking.


Sagrada Familia still under construct some 130 + years on, 3 cranes working on the top and some detail shots from the mighty minor basilica.



What a city. I get a real buzz doing this. Seeing and clicking from ground level the places and things that go on in a city. Barcelona sure didn’t let me down on this count. We encounter the gothic area, a swag more churches, bascilica’s, historic buildings and some great (and not so) cafes and street scenes.

Some more from Gaudi;


One of the highlights has to be the visit to Palau de la Musica Catalonia, a UNESCO Heritage site, building that is centre for the musical arts in the city. Built in modernist style commencing 1905 this turned out to be a must see.

Architectural detail is of course everywhere;


Next day on train to Beziers, France en-route to our new home/base for 6 weeks in Corneilhan. A small village of about 1500 people, not, I don’t think, on the tourist loop at all but that’s good. Handy to many very scenic areas and Mediterranean beaches so we have a lot to look forward to.

Our new home is comfortable enough, certainly wouldn’t pass Anne’s design school test but it does have some interesting features. Like 1st thing she does (or was it 2nd?) on arrival is head to wash her hands. Well these old pipes want you to know they are in use and erupt with a booming clattering wailing sound that is less harmonious, more frightening and every bit as loud as dad’s early morning bathroom call, if you know what I mean! I’m sure that won’t be the only strange encounter we experience, rustic goes some way to describe it.

there’s been some interest in the car left by our host. It’s a little ripper. I call it the blue streak  (successor to the Blue Bird), due to; 1. its colour, 2. its mobility. Malcolm Campbell would have been proud of it!! Though yesterday, got pulled over by the cops down in Sete. Turns out the French equivalent of our WOF is required 2 yearly. Our one hadn’t been renewed since 2009!

She rattles along, a real hot little number, no aircon, each change of gear (5) I spend a moment or two finding the location, they seem to shift around in the gear box, cornering is a delight, no power steering & my shoulders ache, pretty secure though the front passenger door is permanently locked, although a swift and deliberate knock near the keyhole did help open it once, I said secure didn’t I, when getting out all doors have to be individually locked, all 5 of ’em, and then of course the walk around is required to unlock them. Citroen hadn’t heard of central locking when this little beauty was built about 25 years ago. oh, like the the Blue Bird speed isn’t an issue, no speedometer.

It’s really good though. You should see the vineyards around here. You probably have, so you’ll know what I mean.They are endless. France may run out of water one day, but never wine.

Au revoir