2002 Nerja, Granada and Barcelona

Wednesday 8th May

Our flight from Luton was 2½ hours late due to fog. When we finally took off all was fine, I’d been told by the stewardess this was a new plane - only 10 days old.

We found Hertz & got our car a Fiat Stilo then made tracks for Nerja. Simon’s lovely girlfriend Lucy’s parents own a villa there, & have very kindly lent it to us for 2 weeks. We arrived to torrential rain & a thunder storm, who says it never rains in the Costa del Sol?

We found the villa, it’s got three bedrooms, a study & an open plan kitchen cum living room. The main bedroom & living room have patio doors leading out to the terrace and garden, it’s very pretty. We settled in then found a supermarket for food & wine. We ate inside as it’s still raining, listened to some music, then it was time for bed.

Thursday 9th May

Woke up late and after coffee and an excellent shower, we set off explore Nerja. We parked up & found the beach, a long leisurely stroll took us to Burriana Beach.

We walked miles around Nerja, saw the tourist train – the locals call it the Wally Trolley. Stopped for a beer at a bar on Paseo Balcon de Europa, which used to be a fort, but is now a pretty paved shopping area. Watched the horses & coaches for a while, the horses have bells on their harnesses & jingle when they trot, reminiscent of the Dr. Zhivago film.

We bought a pretty cafetiere for the villa & some Butterscotch Schnapps & Baileys for decadent shooters that Lucy introduced me to in London. We drove back to the villa for chilli, wine 7 shooters. Andrew watched TV, I headed for a long soak in the bath & a good book, and so to bed….

Friday 10th May

Up early, I made coffee, got a grunt in reply from my darling man, had a shower, did some washing, tidied up, moved the patio table & chairs back outside, weeded the garden, then settled to watch TV myself, as I had run out of stuff to do. My darling man woke at lunch time, whinging about hunger so we went out.

We decided to try the rather nice looking Panoramic Bar under the Paseo Balcon de Europa which has circular glass walls and stunning views over the sea. The food was almost edible, won’t go there again.

Onward there are plenty of good shops here to browse in. Then after some good crepes at Albi, we were off to the caves.

Cueva de Nerja is one of the main tourist attractions in Spain, and right on our doorstep, on the lower slopes of the Sierra Almjara. The cave was discovered on 11th January1959, apparently by accident by some local youngsters who were catching bats for fun, in a place used as a rubbish tip. They tried to get in an opening they had found without success, defeated apparently by a solid mass of stalagmites. The following day they tried again and succeeded, but found human remains just inside, which understandably put them off exploring further. They related their discovery, but no one paid any attention for a few days, then a doctor and a photographer decided to have a look - and the rest as they say is history.

The caves were opened to the public, and in 1961 were declared an Artistic Historical Monument. The youngsters were awarded with a stone sculpture created to commemorate their discovery, which is placed outside the entrance to the caves. The upper galleries were discovered in 1959 and sometime in the 1970’s the new galleries were found.

These caves are well worth visiting, we found them fascinating, we’ve never seen such incredible stalagmites & stalactites. They are spectacular, amazingly high, huge organic rocks with the sort of hushed atmosphere one can feel in a cathedral. We cannot believe how vast they are, so much more than we expected. Andrew took photo’s till his camera batteries ran out. The steps and paths around the caves are really well designed and don’t detract at all from the views, the lighting is subtle, everything lit to advantage, can you tell that we are impressed?

We drove back & settled on the terrace with ham, cheese, salad & crusty bread as this evening is warm enough for eating Al Fresco, then just relaxing in the garden listening to music.

Saturday 11th May

We decided to go to Malaga for the day, the drive there was uneventful, and we went to El Palo to find lunch. A lovely area with wonderful blue sea and a long promenade with little rock mini harbours built around the coves, it’s very picturesque. We found a cafe which advertised Pizza and Crepes outside food was all exceptionally good. The view of the sea and mountains from it was even better.

We walked from one end of the promenade to the other taking in Pedregalejo beach, then headed for Castello de Gibralfaro. We parked up and began the very steep climb to the top.

The Castello was last used in 1936 during the civil war but has been restored and as you walk around the battlements the views over Malaga and the port are quite breathtaking.

The unfinished cathedral is visible from the top, it is stunning, we will take a closer look when we reach ground again. The bullring is below us, as is a lovely roundabout with a fountain in the centre. The very impressive Alcazaba sits below the Castello too, a beautiful building with lovely formal gardens and a pond.

We descended to it down the very steep steps into the gardens to find three different weddings people come to the gardens to take wedding photo’s.

We wandered for a while in the gardens then crossed the road to a lovely tree lined avenue which we walked up till we reached the Cathedral for a closer look. It was shut, so we contented ourselves with a walk around the outside, it really is very beautiful and is being restored at present.

We stopped at a cafe next to the Cathedral for tapas admiring the building whilst we ate. Strolled back to the car eating fantastic lemon ice cream then headed back to Nerja.

Sunday 12th May

We ate a cafe on the Balcon de Europa, strange paella, it was made with spaghetti instead of rice.

We ventured out again at around 8pm and drove to the lovely aqueduct we saw on the way to the caves to take some photo’s and just look at the view, an artist was down in the gulley painting it. Afterwards we headed back into Nerja for dinner at Haveli Indian restaurant, good food & some lovely opera arias to accompany it, a really enjoyable evening.

Monday 13th May

The morning was spent organizing outings, we have booked a day trip to Gibraltar by.

Also discovered that only 7000 people per day are allowed into The Alhambra so you have to book in advance, booked on the internet for Thursday 16th – sorted.

We also booked a room in Barcelona for 5 nights through a travel agency near La Ramblas, walking distance for all the places we want to visit in Barcelona.

Checked mail & discovered one from my son Grahame, he is home from Oz two days after we get home, he’s been gone for a year, I can’t wait to see him!

We wandered around the shops & bought speakers for our Walkman, so good to have our own music.

Ate at El Portico a wonderful Italian restaurant, we sat on the rooftop terrace eating bruschetta and salmon pasta, Lan rioja, best wine here so far..Watched birds flying towards the sunset, their wings turning gold and copper in the sun, ethereal…

Tuesday 14th May

We went shopping as tomorrow is the San Isidro Festival so all the shops will be shut. Back to the villa with wine to try & some of the Lan we discovered last night plus food.

San Isidro, who is the patron saint of farmers is removed from his church & carried around the streets up to the Nerja Cuevas in “An outburst of joy in the pilgrimage of horses and Spanish costume.” according to our brochure on events. It should be interesting so we are going to spectate.

Later we head out to Salabrena, stopping midway to take photos of the sea mist from the cliff top as we were above the clouds. Spectacular views of the strange mist with the sun blazing down we can hardly see the sea through it. Salabrena has a grey sand beach with a lot of sparkling pebbles, we walked for a while by the sea, stopped for a drink at a beach cafe. A pleasant place but full of high rise holiday apartments.

We drove back to Frigiliana where we explored. Some of the steep mountain roads become tiny mud tracks, I found this quite frightening, especially where I could see sheer drops on both sides. The village is lovely, lots of really pretty villas and shops, I like Frigiliana very much it is still unspoiled by tourism and the sea and snowcapped mountains are wonderful.

We ate at the Balcon de Frigiliana restaurant overlooking the mountains, steaks in viciously hot pepper sauce and a jug of Sangria.

Wednesday 15th May

We went down to the main road at 1ish to see the festival procession which was brilliant, puts stuff like this in Britain to shame. So much effort went into this by all the local people.

First came the horses, many of them doing the Lipizzaner horses walk the way Spanish Riding School trains them. Next came the Wagons - as in the old wild west wagons, {images of Rawhide} drawn by two oxen per wagon, all highly decorated and the oxen are in their finery, decorated reigns and some in head dress too. The first wagon carried the image of San Isidro, fifteen or so followed. A lot of the wagons were playing Spanish music with their passengers singing along, castanet’s clattering.

After came cars and lorries all decorated too, loads of the local shops and restaurants are a part of this, all advertising their names and the wares they sell. Between all the various vehicles were the local people all dressed in Spanish costume, lots of them flamenco dancing as the procession moved along. All eating & drinking as they headed through the town and up to the caves where the procession ends. We eventually headed back to the villa to have a barbecue with fresh strawberries for afters.

Thursday 16th May

We were at the designated waiting place for 7.30am as arranged, & continued to shiver till 8.25am when the coach appeared.

We climbed aboard we had a coffee stop 1½ hours later. We arrived at Gibraltar about 12pm And were told to be back at the coach, which will be just round the corner by 4pm sharp.

We were warned by microphone earlier in the journey that missing the coach will cost us around £100 as we are 150 miles from Nerja.

Off we went & found Copacabana which served us delicious Moroccan lamb stew.

Time to head for the cable cars and the view from the top of the Rock. as it is advertised here.

They looked a bit rickety to me, oh dear, I thought, up we went, squeezed in like sardines.

We juddered upwards, stopping to sway perilously at the halfway mark, before creeping, still swaying to the landing stage. No one exited here so we trundled on up. I wobbled up the stairs to the summit after Andrew, I seem to have developed sea legs in the cable car.

The view was worth it, we saw all of Gibraltar, lots of Spain & Morocco hazily in the distance. We took lots of pictures, we intend going to see St. Michael’s Cave and the Barbary apes next, at the halfway point. An ape appeared up the steps, he glanced at us then leapt on to the railing, He sat looking nonchalant, then “walks the plank” looking at us for applause.

A silly woman went to stroke him, he retaliated, just missing her with his teeth, but managed to slap her. Another 2 apes joined us, one stole a woman’s make up bag, he opened it and fished around, holding it just out of her reach. She tried to grab it several times so he got fed up with her and threw it over the railings, the sarcastic look on his face was priceless! We were all warned that the apes will steal if they can, but it’s so funny to watch.

Went down to the halfway point, there were lots of apes down there, camera frenzy again, a mother was feeding a tiny baby, father sat proudly watching them. Mother went for a walk with the baby having a piggy back ride, people were feeding them nuts. A coach driver who obviously visits regularly fed them crisps, then shared some bottled water with them. We spent so much time ape watching that there was no time for the cave.

We did our last descent safely and thankfully exit the cable car to go shopping, bought 2 CD’s and duty free cigarettes which are £6.90 for 200 here.

Time to find he coach, but just around the corner turned into a trek through an industrial estate at high speed, we found the coach about to leave without us at 4.06pm. We got clapped on board, derisive hoots & angry mutterings followed. At our coffee stop at Dunnes on the way back a young man from the coach says that he can’t believe that they were leaving without us.

I think that these people lead very sad existences out here, if Safeway & Dunne’s once a month are the highlights of ex-pats lives here.

We were dropped off near our car at about 8pm. drove back to the villa and dropped off our shopping, then walked to Terraza la Passa, lovely food and the waiters are polite & friendly too we liked this restaurant.

We did enjoy Gibraltar very much, it’s definitely worth a day or so visit, they do half day boat trips to see the dolphins, 8 hours in a coach is surprisingly tiring, with hindsight I would probably have preferred to go by car as we only got 4 hours in Gibraltar for all the travelling we did.

Friday 17th May

Andrew went into town to collect our tickets for the Alhambra but they weren’t there so we have to collect them when we get to Granada.

We sunbathed & read in garden, had lunch at the villa. Went out for a long walk along the shore and stopped for a drink at the bar we went to on out first day here. Tried to collect our reservations for Barcelona but they are not ready either - not doing so well on the bookings.

Later on we went into Nerja for tapas then back to villa….

Saturday 18th May

We’re up, packed & ready to take in pastures new for a day or so. The road to Granada from Nerja is through the mountains, terrific scenery all the way with awesome head on views of huge rock faces in a couple of places, it looks like we are driving straight into them then suddenly we veer off round a sharp bend, no available places for photo stops unfortunately. The drive was 2 hours all curvaceous and mostly upwards. There was Sierra Nevada to the right of us for the greater part of the journey, majestic and snow capped although in blazing sun light. The light here is brighter than anywhere I’ve ever been.

We reached Granada around lunch time and headed for the Alhambra we discovered that we can’t collect the tickets till tomorrow when we go in.

We went into town & parked up, decided to find an hotel for tonight first then find some lunch. Can’t see any nice parts of Granada that we’d like to stay in, we seem to be at the arse end of nowhere, the people here all look like muggers! Eventually we found the pretty area near the cathedral & had tapas and local Alhambra beer, the best beer I’ve tasted since Chang in Thailand.

We booked into the Carmen Hotel, for no better reason than it’s the name of my favourite opera, asked for a room with a large bed please, and were given room 463. We took a very staid creaky brass lift up and thought the room very nice, marble en suite etc. I opened the patio door to discover our own private terrace, not overlooked by anyone, with a large jacuzzi in one corner – fabulous! I was out of my clothes and into the jacuzzi in a flash - this is my idea of heaven.

Later Andrew dragged me from the jacuzzi to explore and find dinner. There are lots of shops here and we found a good Al Fresco Italian restaurant just around the corner from the cathedral. Yummy melon with “ham from black pig feeded by acorns” and pizza. We had good live music in the background, so after dinner we went to find it, a band had set up stage outside the main door to the cathedral, they had a light show and everything, brilliant, we stayed and enjoyed it…

Sunday 19th May

At last we are off to the long awaited Alhambra. We drove up the steep hill which has the lovely Sierra Nevada mountain as it’s background and parked. This time there was no problem collecting our tickets.

The Alhambra was a Palace, a Citadel, a Fortress and home to the Nasrid Sultans, high Government officials, servants of the Court and the elite soldiers, from the 13th to 15th century.

This Monument is now divided into 3 main areas the Alcazaba, the Palacios Nazaries, and the Generalife, built by the Moors.

There is an hour before we are allowed into the Palacios Nazaries, anytime between 12.30 and 1pm - later forfeits our tickets, though only for the Palace. We decided to start at the farthest away bit, the Alcazaba.

This was Andrew’s favourite part and I loved it too. It is a huge old pink stone building with lots of high buttresses, and has a brick maze and dungeons too, very atmospheric. It’s the oldest part of Alhambra and dates from the 11th century, the only part already in existence when the Nasrid’s arrived as it was built by the Ziridian rulers before hand. Alcazaba literally means “the red fort”. From any of the buttresses or towers there are wonderful views, all of Granada spread out below us. It’s the only place which gives a good view of the Cathedral, as unfortunately there are buildings surrounding it, so there is nowhere you can see it from the ground till you are literally upon it. We would have liked to spend more time up here, but our time limit means we must move on.

Next we entered the Palacios Nazaries, really fantastic buildings with some of the most beautiful ceilings that I have ever seen. Some are intricately carved wood, and some in even more intricately carved adobe or stone - truly wonderful! The rooms all have highly carved patterned walls, some the entire wall and others are carved to halfway down then tiled to the lovely tiled floors, which are mainly terracotta with inlaid smaller coloured tiles. There are lots of courtyards with carefully set out formal gardens and carved fountains. The Lions Courtyard is the most beautiful and intricate of these, and the largest, apparently this was originally the Harem. Ibn-al-Ahmar who built the Palace diverted the River Darro nearly 8km to provide the water for all his fountains, this is now considered his greatest contribution, as the water is such an integral part of the Palace. Apparently this building was designed not to last, but to be reviewed and replaced by succeeding rulers so it is rather amazing that it is still in such wonderful condition.

Isabel and Ferdinand lived here for a while and restored some rooms and converted the Mosque. Isabel was originally buried here in the Parador San Francisco, a monastery which is now part of a terrace bar of the Hotel America within the Alhambra walls.

Carlos V their grandson screwed up however, by demolishing a whole wing of rooms to build himself a Renaissance Palace. Napoleon later still, looted and damaged whole sections of the Alhambra. This was once a whole city within the walls, now only the Alcazaba and Palace exist as entire buildings. It is now a National Monument but still has sections currently being restored, hence the green netting in some of our photos.

We took a walk round the Generalife Gardens, which are very formal and pretty, again interspersed by fountains. There are lots of junipers and ivy’s trained into arched “walls”. Described as” The dark and secret walled gardens of sculpted junipers, where the Sultana Zoraya was suspected of meeting her lover Hamet.”

Nearby is the Camino de la Cascadas, a stairway with water flowing down the stone balustrades. The whole effect is very tranquil and colourful, with plenty of highly perfumed plants. As with the buildings the gardens ascend into the hills so some areas are very steep.

We walked back through the ruins of the Medina to find a late lunch and much needed drinks and loo’s. We lunched at Generalife restaurant - hilarious menu, e.g. Fried Big Hole. Andrew took a photo as there were so many funnies on it.

We bought an Alhambra 2003 calendar and a pretty Moroccan style ashtray. Afterwards we headed back to Hotel Carmen and a welcome siesta, totally wiped out from our walking up hill and climbing towers etc. in the heat.

We spent a while in the jacuzzi to refresh ourselves, then at 9pm we went out for dinner at El Aguador, near the Cathedral where we were seated next to the Donkey Hote statue for a yummy dinner of spinach,aubergines and steaks.

Lots of difficulty in choosing dinner tonight, we could have had” baked icicles” then “fried milk” or “ice pie to the whiskey.” I love these literal translations!

We returned to the hotel and lazed in our jacuzzi again with a brandy before bed.

Monday 20th May

Another lazy morning spent mostly in the jacuzzi we thought we’d bypass breakfast as it was so average yesterday, and we’ve seen a nice little cafe to try. We showered and dressed, it’s time to check out of hotel Carmen, so we reloaded the car, then with a map kindly supplied by the hotel we set off to explore. We want to see if the Cathedral is open today as it has been shut whenever we’ve been nearby. Then we will drive back to Nerja for our last couple of days before Simon and Lucy arrive.

Andrew has found Little Morocco on the local map so we have decided to lunch there. We browsed around the markets and bought a lovely pair of stork scissors.

We ate at the Samarkand who served us a 3 course taste of Morocco plus beer - all very good, we particularly enjoyed the creamy aubergine dip.

We made our way up to San Nicholas Square, one of the highest places in Granada. We stopped part way at a pretty little square with a white church, for some refreshment. This area is the oldest part of Granada, mostly built by the Moors, with the city wall ruins much in evidence It’s one of the steepest climbs I’ve ever done, but well worth it when we reached the top. As with the Alcazaba all of Granada was below us, our advantage is that the Alhambra is now opposite us and the Sierra Nevada mountains are lying behind it - an absolutely stunning view! We sat for a while and just soaked up the atmosphere.

Back in Granada Centro we found the Cathedral open, we paid our 5 euros and entered.

This is a striking building, full of light and decorated in white and gold, not to be missed if you come here. The stained glass windows are beautiful, the pulpit is very ornately carved, made entirely in silver. Huge vases of red and white gladioli decorate the whole pulpit area. There are amazing oil paintings covering large sections of the walls. All the huge organs are in highly polished gold. The wooden confession boxes are also very ornate, a magnificent building.

A safe journey back to Nerja was accomplished, over the many huge viaducts.

Tuesday 21st May

We didn’t wake till 10.30 this morning then had a picnic style brunch al fresco. Andrew then surprised me with an afternoon and evening trip out, he had planned it whilst I had been typing up this diary.

The tour began at Velez Malaga where we found a lovely old fort, up in the hills. From below it looks as if its set between two pretty churches, they are actually a bit farther down. Parts of it are ruins, the tower was not accessible, and seemed to be home to some turtle doves. We entered it through some steeply sloping steps with a ravine alongside. A long path led out to the cliff edge and a considerable drop, we thought it must have been a part of the original fortress wall. We stayed a while there wandering and taking photo’s, it’s a tranquil place to spend some time. The town was built in Victorian times some very pretty houses, but the roads are all very steep and incredibly narrow, thankfully we didn’t meet another car on them, as reversing would have been a nightmare.

Andrew drove on through Trapiche, following the older road. We drove through the mountains with spectacular scenery all around us till we reach a large turquoise coloured lake at Vinuela. It is nestled at the foot of the mountains and is quite lovely, there was a tower and a pier type bridge reaching out about quarter of the way across the lake. This seemed to be the latest place to build houses, so it won’t stay remote and beautiful for much longer unfortunately. We travelled on enjoying the lovely scenery, I asked Andrew to stop and take a picture of a really craggy group of hills that I particularly liked.

Our next destination in Andrew’s tour was Camares, a village way up on a mountain top, a drive which is not for people without a head for heights, like me. Andrew had taken a photo from the other side, before we started the ascent properly, so we could see where we were heading.

We parked the car as far up as it could go, then climbed up the hill through the village and continued beyond it to the top by the ruins of the Castello. At this point our GPS registered 2400 feet above sea level. Camares is extremely pretty, lovely detached villas, the Castello and the spectacular scenery of course. The roads are made from pretty stones set in cement. It was fairly misty when we reached the top, we thought that you could see a lot farther on a clear day. There is a strange little cemetery here, quite unlike any we have seen before and is well looked after as there are flowers everywhere.

We found a bar for a cold drink it is 29C here today, most of the customers were British, which I found peculiar in such a remote place.

We headed off down the mountain and back into Nerja where we went to Cielito Lindo a Mexican restaurant for dinner, it’s a pretty place with large Mexican hats for lampshades, the waiters are really friendly and helpful. They do great lemon margaritas and a cocktail called a Caipirinha, it is made with Brazilian sugar beet rum, brown sugar and lots of fresh lemon.

Wednesday 22nd May

A bad night’s sleep due to Andrew not being very well. Lazed about all morning, I have felt yucky for a couple of days now, we think that maybe our bodies are having problems adjusting to finishing the malaria pills after over 2 months of taking them.

We went into Nerja around lunchtime and successfully collected our booking for the hotel in Barcelona.

We had pizza for lunch then went a supermarket to buy some alcohol that we can’t buy in England. We packed then relaxed in the garden for the rest of today. An early night is in order as we have around 350 to 400 miles to drive tomorrow to get halfway to Barcelona. Hopefully we will spend some time with Simon and Lucy before we leave.

Thursday 23rd May

Did see Simon and Lucy as Simon woke us up to say that they were here and weren’t burglars at 2am. I went to say hello and chatted for a while. We all retired at 3am.

Woke at 10ish and sat chatting and drinking coffee, so good to see them both.

We all went into Nerja for lunch at a really good tapas bar that Lucy knew.

Dropped Simon & Lucy back at the villa and headed off as we have a long drive. Hopefully we should reach the Valencia area, roughly halfway to Barcelona. It is a lovely drive all through the mountains, mainly using the coast road, which is extremely pretty.

Andrew drove till 9pm with one coffee stop till we reached Gandia, where we booked into Hotel Cibeles Playa for the night, a nice looking place with terraces in terracotta tiling with blue glass railings. We dumped our stuff then went to find food, a local Italian restaurant serving traditional wood smoked pizza and peppered steak & a good rioja called La Mancha.

Definitely time for bed, it’s surprisingly tiring sitting in a car all day, even if you are not doing the driving.

Friday 24th May

Drove to Barcelona with one coffee stop to arrive at about 4.30pm. Our room at Hesperia hotel is too small to swing a sparrow never mind a cat - they will change it tomorrow.

Went to explore immediately as I have always wanted to come to Barcelona to see Gaudi’s work particularly, and Gothic architecture in general - and am not disappointed.

The buildings are all so different and so beautiful, I love this place. We walked for hours, visited the Cathedral which is breathtaking , the inside is wonderful too it’s Gothic at it’s best.

We walked through La Ramblas, this is a major tourist attraction composed of 5 streets which all follow on from each other, where there are lots of shops and bars set in large tree lined avenues with a walk way through the middle. In the evenings there are buskers, jugglers, artists etc. rather like Covent Gardens in London. We stopped for a beer at Moka cafe, then walked some more. Placa de Catalunya is lovely and is where Millet’s Palau de Musica Catalan is situated - a must see as far as I am concerned.

By 9pm we were shattered, so found Restaurant Chino the food was dreadful but the Vichy Catalan water was excellent….

Saturday 25th May

Went to find Sagrada Familla, the most wonderful Cathedral in world, and my main reason for wanting to visit Barcelona.

This was Gaudi’s dream, to which he devoted a huge part of his life.

Although Gaudi died in 1926 it is still incomplete and is the only Cathedral in the world still under construction. I am saddened that I will never see it’s completion either as this is planned for 2030. All the photos of this gorgeous building taken over the years have cranes and scaffolding inside it.

My first sight of Sagrada Familla was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

We ate at a cafe with it in view, as Andrew was hungry and I was itching to get there.

At last we ascended the escalator to the tree of doves, and stood out on the suspension bridge just 25 metres below the peak of the highest tower, this was quite frightening as there is a drop to the ground with no visible means of support. We walked down all the stairs that look like a snail’s shell, it’s a long way down and you can see all the way to the bottom through the centre of the spiral.

Gaudi designed this exquisite structure based on a forest, so it is all open plan and organic, amazing to see the sky from every angle of the roof. We spent a lot of time here, Andrew prefers the more modern looking rear of the Cathedral with all the square headed sculptures. I am absolutely overawed by all of Sagrada Familla and find it extremely difficult to leave.

Next we went up the 8 escalators and many steps and hills to Park Guell - originally owned by Count Eusebi Guell, who was Antoni Gaudi’s friend and benefactor, and commissioned a great deal of Gaudi’s work. We started at the top of the park with lots of views of Barcelona below us. We explored the pink house where Gaudi lived and worked on his many creations for the last 20 years of his life, it’s now a museum. His bedroom and bathroom are both still the originals, although this house was not designed by him.

Andrew took photos of the incredible undulating tiled benches in the huge sitting area of the park called the Hipostila room. There are lovely curved rock walls surrounding the whole area.

We ordered a jug of Sangria and just sat relaxing and looking at the park for a while.

The staircase down to the columns contain the famous dragon fountain, we eventually went down and walked under the tiled benches to the graceful leaning columns and their highly decorated tiled roof which is the ceiling of the Hipostila room, it’s a totally stunning design.

The gingerbread house style porters cottage is now a gift shop, and the lovely house which was originally built for the administration of the park has become a bookshop, they flank the main gate to Park Guell.

Again we left reluctantly and walked down the steep hill looking for refreshment, we found the Cubaniche cafe for a beer serve by a lovely Caribbean man with a great sense of humour.

We decided to go back down to the Sagrada Familla at 9.30pm to see it illuminated by night. It is all in gold at the bottom and green at the top, a dramatic mixture as it looks warm, cosy and inviting below with a really eerie and magical feel to all the towers wrapped in green.

Took the Metro back to La Ramblas where we went to Alex restaurant for dinner, wine and “coffee inside a tequila,” as the waiter put it.

This has been such an exciting and wonderful day, can’t wait to see more Gaudi architecture tomorrow….

Sunday 26th May

We decided to take the open air Bus Turistic, to see which areas we have missed on our wanderings so far. It’s a fun way to see the area, and as in London you can hop on and off as you please.

We commenced at Port Vell, meaning old port, part of Barcelona’s harbour which has been revamped into a shopping centre, imax cinema, aquarium and restaurants.

The blue route took us next to Port Olimpic, this is the new marina built in deference of the 1992 Olympic games, it has 4 k of beach & the Gran Casino.

Our next stop was outside the zoo where you can visit the worlds only albino gorilla - now there’s a thing!

We next saw the Pla de Palau in the Ribera district, this is where the Santa Maria de Mar church and the Picasso museum are situated, the queue for the museum was a mile long, so we didn’t wait.

The bus drove on through the Barri Gotic area, again we have walked through this, taking many photo’s as we went.

Placa de Catalunya is the huge square we visited on our first evening was next, where the wonderful Millet’s Palau de Musica Catalan is.

Onwards to Passeig de Gracia where Gaudi’s Casa Mila or La Pedrera is. This was the last private building that Gaudi created as from 1914 he dedicated himself solely to Sagrada Familla. It is a wonderful piece of architecture, the walls, railings roof etc. are in the undulating curves typical of Gaudi. It is like a rectangular polo mint with an outside on the inside too. There are lots of amazing chimneys on the roof terrace, where we spent a good deal of time, some in terracotta and some in tile mosaic, a group of three are made with smashed up green glass bottles which look from a distance like army camouflage. The whole house is incredible, I think Gaudi will always be my favourite architect, I love all his work, from the wondrous Sagrada Familla to the little balconies, gates and door frames.

The next stop was the Sagrada Familla followed by the Park Guell, so we stayed on the bus a bit longer.

Casa Vicens was next, Gaudi’s first commission, a beautiful house in brick and the blue & white tiles that he used so much.

We travelled on to the Diagonal which is full of designer shops we alighted here for a zumo naranja and a caffe solo each.

The end of the blue trail brings us back to the Port where we decided since it’s 10pm that we should eat, La Gavina’s menu sounded good so we settled there & were not disappointed, we are replete happy bunnies.

Then the heavens well and truly opened, we were outside under the parasols as most customers were, we gave up waiting for it to stop and made a run for our dry hotel where we discovered that we could move to a larger room….

Monday 27th May

We rose & after showering I opened the curtains with just my towel wrapped around me to Ola’s, laughs & waves from the opposite balcony - where a class of teenage boys were standing.

I hadn’t thought that anyone could see me as we’d got used to a window with no view, and didn’t know there was a music school opposite us!

We are off to Montserrat - I had heard so much about this place over the years and was really looking forward to going there. We’d seen the mountain in the distance as we drove to Barcelona, it looked wonderful, all ragged edged, craggy & moody. It was an hour by train from Barcelona, a lot of which was underground, so pretty boring.

We arrived, and had lunch at a little cafe by the station, which we shared with 2 stray cats, {amazingly thick cats I may add, they made our Indica seem highly intelligent, he is now promoted & has a degree in sociology!}

We zoomed up in the cable car, in no time at all we reached the summit. Both of us were under whelmed by Montserrat, Virgin Mary & the monastery were very nice, the mountain is just a mountain, at the top there’s a rubbish tourist shop & a bar selling horrid drinks.

There are, as every lovely monument we’ve seen in Spain so far, three cranes utterly ruining the views. The best view of Montserrat was from outside Barcelona, so we caught the train back.

We headed for the Placa Espanya and the Parc de Montjuic. These were laid out for the1929 International Exhibition located near the railway station. There are 8 or 9 escalators to take you most of the way to the top. The bronze sculpture in the forefront represents trade, industry and shipping. There are 2 lovely Venetian towers here, then a procession of lovely fountains leading all the way up the tree lined avenue to a staircase, the fountains continue with flower gardens along the middle. Eventually at the top you reach the majestic Palau Nacional building, home to the Nacional Art Museum. Four days a week they display the fountains with dancing waters which Andrew had photographed from the bus, today wasn’t one of those unfortunately.

We carried on up, looked around the Miramar Gardens, full of cacti, there are lovely views over Barcelona from near the summit of Montjuic.

Poble Espanyol, our next stop is an authentic model of an old Spanish “town” again built for the 1929 exhibition it is pretty, a bit like any other Andalusian town containing bars, restaurants & craft workshops within it’s large circular walls. We walked back down through the switched off water fountains and caught the Metro to Port Vell where we found Emporium restaurant for dinner, after a breezy walk along the marina.

Tuesday 28th May

We were kept awake most of night by happy people singing on their way home, followed by the bin men who arrived at 3.45 this morning to clear the empties as well as the rubbish. Maybe we shouldn’t have moved to a front bedroom?

We were determined that our last day will be perfect so walked first to the Santa Maria del Mar, this time we were able to go in. This is another wonderful church in Gothic style and is in the top ten not to be missed guide. It has lovely Gothic arches and stained glass windows, with the exception of one window which is thoroughly modern and gorgeous too.

Our next meanderings took us back to the Port Vell area for the best tapas we have eaten here on a boat restaurant called Luz de Gas. Whilst walking there we found a lovely pair of sunglasses, apparently they suit me so Andrew bought them for me. Went next to Palau de Musicale to book tickets for 3pm tour. Then ambled around La Ribera area eating meringue and drinking caffe solo, waiting for 3 o’clock.

We took the tour which was absolutely brilliant, the man in charge of showing us all around was informative and also has a really good sense of humour, mainly directed at daft questions from Americans. The Palau is really worth visiting, I would love to see an orchestra perform here, the whole place is designed around acoustics, originally for choirs and orchestra’s as that was the music of the time. The chairs have been designed to resemble the curves of a body so that when there is a vacant seat it doesn’t interfere with the sound. The stained glass windows are very Mackintosh Glasgow rose style. The roof is an inverted sun and is absolutely gorgeous, you can see it best from the top circle, from below it looks quite flat. Both windows and roof being in glass gives a lovely feeling of openness and light. The Riders of the Valkyrie are sculpted into the walls at ceiling level. The ceiling is highly decorated with plaster roses, which hide the air con recently installed very effectively. The columns are all in Gaudi style tiled mosaic. Unfortunately no photos are allowed we highly recommend it as it’s Andrew’s favourite building in Barcelona.

Went on to the Picasso museum, where we spent an hour, not many of his most interesting works are here unfortunately a few funny portraits of pigeons etc.

We went on boat trip around the harbour next which was good, but not very picturesque as it’s a working harbour, you can see the tiny cable car in the air on one of the photos. Back ashore for a last wander around La Ramblas where we watched a man doing wonderful spray paintings, we both loved them so bought two, one for each house.

We found the wonderful food market here this time, we’d never seen such beautifully displayed and colourful produce anywhere, it made us feel hungry just looking. Found caffe solo and zumo naranja and beer at Cafe Opera a place Simon had recommended to us. It’s a really quaint old fashioned place with a huge range of beers & enticing snacks.

Walked back to hotel to pack, and found our curtains had fallen down in the bedroom. We reported this to a confused receptionist, who said nothing could be done till morning.

Returned to Luz de Gas boat for wonderful dinner & wine, tried all the dishes we’d missed at lunch. Back to hotel to finish packing and sleep. another wonderful day, I love Barcelona - even if it is too noisy to sleep all night.

Wednesday 29th May

Successfully dropped the car off and checked in. Barcelona has quite a small airport with pretty garden areas around it so we bought some snacks, wine & caf fe solo to have a picnic on the grass. We found a market shop back inside and bought lots of olives and Serrano ham to bring home. Another amazing holiday, a whole month together with no arguments - bliss….