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SPAIN - August1999

In August 1999 we travelled to the Costa Brava in Spain. Apart from the beaches and sunbathing, it was a cultural visit as well taking in the cities of Barcelona and Gerona.

In addition we visited the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueras and Dali's favourite places at Cadiques.

We found Barcelona a wonderfully stimulating city and became fascinated by the surreal architecture of Antonia Gaudi.

Tuesday August 10th

Flying from Norwich Airport to Gerona helps to make the starting point of the holiday more acceptable than having a long journey to Spain. We certainly knew we were in Spain, however, as the welcoming temperature was 34 degrees.

The park on which we are staying - The Sun Eloy - looks more like a fort than a holiday village and the apartment turned out to be very basic indeed. And guess what we had for lunch on an all inclusive holiday - chips from the snack bar. Matt soon joined in with a game of football (surprise) before we had an evening buffet meal. The food was acceptable and the wine (which is also included) was dreadful.

The evening's outdoor entertainment was karaoke which really didn't surprise us at all.

Wednesday August 11th

A lumpy bed, extreme heat and traffic from the road - but hey we're on holiday so who cares. And the fitness regime started as Dad and Matt had an 8 a.m game of tennis before breakfast.

There was a total eclipse, but we watched it on television because it just didn't seem to happen in Spain, although it did go cloudy and cool for a short while.

There was a welcome party at 11 a.m and this is a misnomer. For a start they are nothing like a party and they give you no more information than you can find out yourself by moving around the camp. We complained about our room as it's completely overlooked by balconies but got nowhere as presumably there was nowhere to go.

Then we became a bunch of tossas as the courtesy bus took us into Tossa Del Mar (Tossa by the sea. Okay I know there's only so many times you can make a joke out of the place's name). It's a very picturesque but very busy seaside town with a castle, a nice cliff top walk.

Back at the Fort we had an evening meal, a few drinks and played cards until bedtime.

Thursday August 12th

Today brought torrential rain. Apparently it doesn't usually rain here in the summer! Dad and Matt managed to get in 20 minutes tennis before the heavens opened. The rain lasted for well over two hours and we were marooned in the bar (well somebody has to be).

By 3 p.m the rain had stopped and we decided to become Tossas again. We went to an interesting Salvador Dali museum which included his lesser or little known works. As we went for a long walk, the sun came out and the heat took over.

In the evening back at the camp there was bingo and line dancing. I don't quite see how the two entertainments go together. I have to say I was better at the former than the latter. Anybody knows it takes much more ability to mark off numbers than dance! Whilst Anne and Peter went to bed at 11.30 p.m Matt stayed out drinking (softly) the night away with some new found mates (dirty old stop out).

Friday August 13th

A very busy and enjoyable day. Started the day with a game of tennis. For the record books Dad beat Matt 6-2, 6-2. How long will it be before the scoreline is the other way round. We had an early lunch and then set off for a tour of Barcelona.

On the way we picked people up at Lloret which I described in my diary written at the time as  "a heaving crap hole." That's probably a little unfair as I did have a good time there when I was about 18.

It was a whistle stop tour of Barcelona but one which whetted the appetite for a quick return. We started at the Sagrada Familia - a most astonishing building, an architectural nightmare with massive spires and Gothic facade. There's no surprise that Antonio Goudi'a masterpiece is unfinished and will be for many more decades - an it isn't Barcelona's official cathedral, but is much more popular.

Then it was on to the Neu Camp - the home of Barcelona Football Club. There was an interesting museum and you could just wander onto the terraces and sit in the stands. We only had 40 minutes there, but that was 30 more than we got at the Olympic village. This was followed by 15 minutes at a scenic lookout and you get the idea of just what sort of day it was.

There was a 45 minute stop at a nondescript cafe where no doubt the coach company had an agreement with the management. Then we did have the luxury of two hours on our own in the city centre.

Best view of the city turned out to be from the top floor of a department store where we were able to sit and drink coffee. Then it was a walk along The Ramblas (better known as tourist-town). It was very cosmopolitan and colourful and well worth a stroll before being taken to the dancing fountains which are just that and not the name of a nightclub. By the time we got back to the camp it was after midnight.

Saturday August 14th

A very hot day indeed. This time we got one and a half sets of tennis in before having breakfast and stayed at the camp until 3 p.m when we got the bus into Tossa. Stayed in the resort for about four hours before returning for the evening meal.

Afterwards it was the usual round of bingo followed by a music quiz. Matt seems to have divorced himself from the family to take part in competitions with his new friends.

Sunday August 15th

No tennis booked today, so it was a lay-in of sorts. Anne sunbathed whilst I hid in the shade as I always have to do. Eventually myself and Matt went down to a nearby go-kart park. The place was rather rough and the heat made wearing a helmet unpleasant and the machine I had didn't seem to go all that fast (that's my excuse anyway). 

After lunch we got the 3 p.m bus into Tossa and stayed there for about three hours. The evening entertainment was Flamenco dancing. It really doesn't interest me but the guitarist was excellent.

Monday August 16th

A car was delivered today which will give us much more mobility. It's a Nissen Micra. The roads turned out to be quite busy, although driving seemed quite comfortable. We drove through some quite rough places, but eventually got on a  13 km drive along increasingly twisty coastal roads.

Our first stop was at St Fillieu de Guixoles (some name) which was a pleasant seaside town. Had a wander round the town, the beach, the harbour and had a light lunch and spent two hours there. Have to say that on the next part of the journey we went through some hideously built up areas before getting to Timouii which was much more pleasant although car parking was difficult.

Had a read on the beach and then began the journey back taking in the sights (or lack of them). The evening was a super mums contest which seemed to be more about undressing than anything else! Enjoyed a couple of beers before going to bed.

Tuesday August 17th

Out on the road again and getting though Lloret and Blanes was very difficult. Traffic jams and nowhere to park led to the usual anger. Just outside Blanes the views were good so we stopped to take some photographs.

So we had a general drive back and returned to the apartments mainly to change our room. This in itself was a disappointment because we ended up in a very similar set of rooms just a little further along the terrace.

During the afternoon myself and Matt took part in a doubles tennis competition. We got a bye in the first round and comfortably won the semi-final (just illustrating how few pairs took part). There wasn't time to play the final which will now be held on Thursday.

We drove to Tossa in the car and had to park some way out and make a long walk in. It was 11 p.m before we drove back to the camp.

Wednesday August 18th

Our first destination today was to visit the Salvador Dali exhibition at Fueguras. We had company for the journey. On our first day in camp I was at the reception behind an English couple who were asking how to get to Fueguras by public transport which seemed a pretty impossible task. So I offered to take them. They came from Scarborough and were very pleasant so we had a good day.

It was quite a long journey around Gerona and onto the motorway and well on the way to the French border. Only took a couple of small wrong turns and eventually parked on the edge of the town. That was a good move as there was absolutely nowhere to park in the town itself.

After a long walk to the museum we had to stand in a large queue. The museum was as weird as you might expect and it was too hot to really appreciate it fully. Spent over an hour looking round and then had drinks in the town square.

We returned to the car and spent the rest of the day chasing time. Went up into the mountains and ate a late and light lunch in a lay-by overlooking some superb scenery.

We then wound our way down to Cadaquez - a very pleasant fishing town. Parking problems necessitated another long walk. Had a look round and a drink before returning to the car to start on the journey back - taking a slightly different route. We had a problem getting through the Spanish motor tolls as they seemed to think that we would understand them if they shouted louder (it's usually the other way round with English people shouting at foreigners). There were some dreadful drivers on the roads ( and I don't mean me).

After the evening meal we endured the evening entertainment which was a pretty dreadful singing duo.

Thursday August 19th

Had a very relaxing day. Matt and myself played a pair from Holland in the tennis finals and we won 6-4. Matt then won the teenagers' competition. In the afternoon I played in the adult event and was losing 3-1 when I decided not to try too hard as Anne wanted to go out which would have prevented me playing in the next round (well that's my story anyway).

Quite late afternoon we drove to a beach between Tossa and Lloret and cloud cover made that very comfortable.

Again the evening entertainment at camp left much to be desired. It was a Spanish Elvis Presley impersonator!!! He was so bad (I mean really bad) that he got heckled throughout which was certainly more entertaining than the singing.

Friday August 20th

As it as our last day with the car, we probably tried to fit too much in. That meant nine hours on the road. Drove to Gerona which most people only know as an airport arrival or departure. It s much more than this. We drove round and round trying to find somewhere to park. How I hate trying to find parking places, it makes driving a misery.

Once we managed to find an underground parking lot, the day improved. Gerona is very interesting and very historic. There's a pleasant old quarter encased within the city walls. Had a look round the cathedral and found a cafe for refreshments.

After three hours, getting out of the city was easier than getting in. Next stop was Banjoles - an instantly forgettable town and we forgot where we parked the car. After finding it we drove to the lake where they held the rowing competition in the Bracelona 1992 Olympics. Next stop was Bessalu - an historic and picturesque old walled town.

Our final destination was Olot and for once parked without trouble, mainly because the place seemed to be shut. And trying to get out was difficult. I followed the signs and ended up driving back into the middle. Eventually wound our way back to Tossa and the camp. Matt had stayed there all day and had a really good time with his friends.

Saturday August 21st

Felt that we got much more to the heart of Barcelona today, thanks to getting around by public transport.

We caught the 9 a.m bus into Tossa and got tickets for the 9.40 a.m service bus to Barcelona. We were at Barcelona bus station by 11 a.m and walked to the Sagrada. On the way I think we went close to being mugged. We had chocolate milk thrown at us from a window. Surprisingly there was a man on hand with a cloth and water bottle to clean us up. The longer he hung around us the more suspicious I became. So I hurried Anne away towards a group of people. She thought I was being ungrateful. I think I was being safe!

This time we went inside the Sagrada and had a look round the crypt and then climbed the 400 or so steps to the top of one of the towers which made me very hot, but it was well worth the visit.

A 10 journey metro ticket was purchased and we went to the harbour area and Olympic village. It was outstandingly beautiful. The Olympic villages has changed, however with part of it fast food outlets and we had lunch at MacDonalds. We then got a bus part way back to the Ramblas and we walked the part we had previously missed and then took a right turn into the Gothic Quarter which included the official cathedral which was shut.

We reached the department store and climbed to the top floor for a coffee and rest and I bought a couple of cheap CDs by The Grateful Dead and Buffalo Springfield. We then went in search of Goudi architecture. Within apartments and office blocks are set these ridiculous but very stimulating structures.

We returned to Catalanya Square to have a look at the fountains and then reluctantly only had time to get the metro to the bus terminal for the 7 p.m bus back to Tossa which took 90 minutes. Had a quick look round Tossa before getting the 9 p.m courtesy bus back to camp. Had to settle for a snack as we had missed the evening buffet.

Sunday August 22nd

Another game of tennis between Dad and Matt which Dad won 6-4 (how long will these victories continue?)

After lunch we climbed the mountains at the back of the camp (okay they were hills) and then spent the afternoon playing table tennis and reading.

After the evening meal got the bus into Tossa and got the final courtesy bus of the day back to the apartment where the entertainment was Flamenco (again).

Monday August 23rd

The last day of the holiday and it  was very hot indeed. This time Dad beat Matt at tennis 6-2, 6-0. Then it was table tennis between mum and dad (score not recorded). After lunch got the bus into Tossa. Walked to various stretches of beaches, trying desperately to keep cool. I remember reading John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (either the second or third read).

Matt came in to join us at 4 p.m and bought a Barcelona shirt (pictured above). We bought a large bottle of brandy, a large bottle of schnaps and two bottles of sparkling wine for 10. Took the 5 p.m bus back to the camp for a shower and the 7 p.m bus back to Tossa. We had a long look round for the right restaurant for our final holiday meal and found a very pleasant one. We had a two course meal with wine and water and bread and including service charge it came to the equivalent of 12.50. Did some final shopping and then returned to camp for a final drink.

Tuesday August 24th

After breakfast completed the packing and were picked up by coach and at the airport by 12.20 and on the flight home within an hour. We were back home by 3.30 p.m. - that's pretty good going.

Follow these links to get some of the atmosphere of our visits.

The architecture of Gaudi

Gaudi's masterpiece the Sagrada Familia

More of the Sagrada

Barcelona street scenes



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