The highlight of the month of February was undoubtedly the arrival on the tenth of my brother Joe and his wife Morag for a week’s holiday with us, which would include my birthday as well. Mary and I were really excited by this visit and we looked forward to it impatiently. When we’d picked them up at the airport we immediately launched into 3 or 4 hectic days’ running around seeing things, eating out, having the odd glass of wine, going for walks and generally bonding with each other again. What a great time we had! As they arrived on a Wednesday, I took them to the weekly communal meal up at the restaurant and then through to the bar where they met some of our new friends before Mary joined us off the bus from her work in town. Unfortunately, Mo was a little off-colour and flagged before eleven so we settled for an early night but with the promise of a walk up to the Watchtower at nine the following morning.

As arranged, we set off on schedule the next day and did the longer version of the walk up to the North then back across the crests to the Tower where we sat and had a bite to eat. The weather was kind to us and they enjoyed the views out over the Med I had been writing about for so long.

Breakfast al fresco

Breakfast al fresco

Thursday was spent in Vilanova, showing them the town we live near, and we took in the Rambla Principal and the beach where we had an extended photo-stop at the “cow”, a shoreline depiction of the story of the cursed Pasiphae hiding in a mock cow to couple with a bull. Back at the campsite Mo cooked dinner for us in their chalet before we all went up to the bar for the live jazz music they have every Thursday. Again it was not a late night like the kind we used to have in Dumfries but we planned to be off early next day.

Cow with girl inside

Cow with girl inside

Friday was a trip back to Montserrat, this time not only to see the Monastery but to walk some of the mountain paths. Once again we were blessed with brilliant weather, making the whole thing even more enjoyable. Luckily we were in time at the monastery to hear the famous boys’ choir sing their one o’clock prayers and the four of us sat entranced listening to what sounded like angels’ voices.

Entranced!

Entranced!

Back outside we set off up the mountain on foot, having come to Montserrat one day before the funicular railway opened for the season. How’s that for planning?! This was however entirely to our great advantage as the walk up to the Santa Creu (Cross) looking east towards Barcelona was excellent and we were rewarded with the most beautiful of panoramas all the way round to the snow-capped Pyrenees barring the route North into France. An hour later saw us at our target destination Sant Joan and the hermit’s cave where Joe and I left the girls behind as we explored the narrow ledge of the access path before chancing on a flight of stone steps hewn from the rocks which led us back down on a dizzy descent. Halfway down, dear brother launched into a fantastic rendering of “Nessun Dorma” which resonated around the crags and drew applause from a young woman standing a hundred feet above us. Not knowing the words I joined in for the final “vincero” and that’s probably why she clapped!

Santa Creu

Santa Creu

Mean mean girls!

Mean mean girls!

Can't last the pace, eh bro?

Can’t last the pace, eh bro?

While I drove the 50 miles back to the campsite, our visitors had a snooze but I had to keep Mary awake to look out for me as the sun was  coming from due west, the direction in which we were travelling, and at times it was almost impossible to see the road. I made the tea that night then Joe lectured me on why I absolutely had to vote “Yes” next September. He’s quite convincing when he gets going, you know! Saturday lunch turned into a feast when we chose a cute little Catalan restaurant for the “menu del dia” and ended up with some wonderful and quite surprising food, including Joe and Mo sharing a “Fideua Negra” which was a seafood platter on a bed of delicate, tiny, black pasta, the black coming from being cooked in squid ink! Fifteen minutes after we started our meal in the near-empty restaurant, they were queuing three deep at the door so we knew we were onto a winner.

Once you've tried black....

Once you’ve tried black….

On Sunday after mass, we surprised our visitors with a trip to the Biker Bar which they enjoyed despite the sudden cold which had descended on the area. We then took them to Calafel for a snack before returning for a short nap prior to the event of the day which was to be a birthday celebration dinner in town. We had picked a restaurant of reasonable local and internet repute and indeed were by no means disappointed in the fare on offer. The opening shared starter was as good as anything I have ever tasted… despite containing baby octopus, squid and other stuff from the depths of the ocean! The follow-up courses were all a delight and Joe’s pudding almost defeated him.

I said "almost!"

I said “almost!”

Digestifs of varying types were consumed, Joe and Mo insisted on paying the bill and then we jumped in a taxi back to the campsite where we finished the evening off in the bar. Great day! Thank you bro and sis-in-law.

Dos Hermanos

Dos Hermanos

 

Mo and Joe

Mo and Joe

Monday saw me turn 61 (I know, I can’t possibly be that age!) and I was regaled with all sorts of goodies from both friends and family. Birthday wishes came via Facebook and Twitter from the boys and if I remember correctly I actually managed to speak with all four of them at some point on that day. I was also able to see the grandchildren briefly which cheered me immensely. But no time to rest as Mary’s sister Claire and her eldest son Andrew flew in in the afternoon for a quick 2-nighter with us. I took Andrew up to play table-tennis with Mike and I while Mary started to catch up on what had been happening in Newcastle over the past 2 months. They then went swimming at the indoor pool while I took Mary to and from work, leaving us all to gather up at the bar after tea to raise a glass to this old codger! I slept that night in the spare room in the chalet to let Claire and Andrew sleep in the caravan with Mary. Poor boy!

Joe and Mo had a day away in Barcelona on Tuesday, allowing me to take Andrew to the Camp Nou for the tour of the stadium while the two sisters went round the town.

A happy boy I think!

A happy boy I think!

Something to aspire to!

Something to aspire to!

I made tea for Claire and Andrew then Mary and I went off to work. When we returned at nine o’clock we shared a bottle of wine and I once again stayed at the chalet.

In a flash it was time to take them all back to El Prat for a flight back to Newcastle. Thanks for coming, guys. We enjoyed your visit immensely. Please do come back! (And thanks to Claire and a nice Customs Officer, look what we had for tea!)

"..Great chieftain o' the puddin' race!"

“..Great chieftain o’ the pudding race!”

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