Day 2/246: Samaritans

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After those 2 anniversary days in Montblanc and Barcelona, we badly needed a quiet day to recharge our batteries so Saturday was very slow. We got up late, ate late, lazed around and did as little as possible, although I had to nip down to Simply for a few groceries in the afternoon. While I was there, I got some diesel and also jet-washed the Audi to thank it for performing so well on Thursday. I took in a couple of Premiership games on the telly after tea then Mary and I watched another chapter of the first series of “The Bridge” on DVD which she gave me as a present at Easter. By the way, our Danish isn’t half improving and we can say “yes” (ock) and “fine” (braw!).

At lunchtime on Sunday, we met up with Andrew, my friend and fellow footie fan from Derby, and his wife Janet. Andrew drove us up into the hills to a favourite eating spot of his, Juanita’s, a wee Catalan restaurant quaintly situated behind the cement factory! Honest! Our lunch was very different from any uwe had had before as there was no menu at all and they just brought you bowls and trays of tapas with beer and wine to accompany them.

The food just kept on coming for the next 2-3 hours, olives and crisps followed by anchovies, salted baby eels, ham croquettes, pork scratching, bread with cheese and Serrano ham, gambas done in garlic or just cooked plain and stuff we barely recognized. When we’d finished eating, the waiter put 3 bottles on the table (Peach Schnapps, Whisky and Bailey’s) and walked away, expecting us to help ourselves to as much as we wanted. Quite amazing, especially as we were charged 13 Euros a head at the end! Outside as we left there was a huge, long table filled with about 20 hairy bikers all tucking into the fare on offer.

Back at the campsite we bid farewell and thank you to Andrew and Janet then returned to the caravan for a siesta to make sure we would be wide awake for our guests, Tom and Margaret, for a tea of haggis, tatties and butternut squash. This time the unusual turnip substitute did not require a hammer-drill and hacksaw to prepare, leaving me with plenty time to get things sorted before our guests arrived just before eight. It was still quite warm enough to eat happily in the awning and we had a lovely meal. Haggis was a first for our dear Dutch friends but they cleaned their plates with great enthusiasm, even leaving room for our fresh fruit flan (heart-shaped as it was the Spanish Mothers’ Day, el dia de las Madres.)

Haggis - the rich man's Edam!

Haggis – the rich man’s Edam!

Monday was relatively quiet although very, very warm and we spent almost the entire day outdoors but under the shade of the tree. Factor 30 or above has now become a “must” to protect our skin from the raging sun and I have to wear a hat constantly when outdoors. In the evening I watched Liverpool throw away their chance of winning the Premiership title, conceding 3 late goals to end up dropping 2 vital points to Crystal Palace. I felt sorry for Steven Gerrard but that was all.

The following day we spent some time in town at various shops then came home and prepared for work. Unusually, I would have to take Guillem to the eye clinic where he had an appointment to investigate a case of “red eye”. That went fine, we did our lessons and had tea together when his dad came in. Both Mary and I emerged from our respective tasks unscathed but that’s when it all got a little crazy.

At around 9.30 we drove back into the campsite and proceeded down the main road in the direction of our caravan. Just at the point where there is a crossing leading to the bar and restaurant, I caught sight of a woman sitting on the tiled ground at the top of a flight of stairs. A second closer look confirmed that her face was covered in blood and she appeared to have a serious eye injury. Did I drive on? Of course not! These Good Samaritans parked up and went to her aid. By now she was back on her feet, dazed and confused, but it was also obvious that she was blind drunk. After a bit of a struggle I found out her husband’s name and ran to the bar to fetch him. Only then did I realize the woman was our Danish neighbour from next door before we moved. Typically, her husband was pretty inebriated as well, leading to a bit of a pantomime before we got them both in the Audi and off to St. Anthony Abat Hospital.

All the way into town, Kirsten (the injured lady) kept going on about how she hated her husband and no longer had time for him after 40 years of marriage. This was in broken English with Danish thrown in but we certainly got the gist of what her loosened tongue was telling us. Once at the casualty department. I explained the situation to the receptionist as the Danish couple spoke good English but no Spanish. The next thing I know I am in the treatment room holding Kirsten’s hand while she shouts about her failing marriage and the nurse sews 3 big black stitches into her eyebrow with no anaesthetic as far as I could see, unless you count the 3 litres of white wine she had drunk (Kirsten I mean, not the nurse!). At one point the injured Dane claimed me as her new husband!

Back out in the waiting room, she started to slap away Mary’s comforting hands and try to kick her completely perplexed husband whom I was really beginning to feel sorry for. We eventually got her back into the Audi with Mary for company (poor soul, Mary that is!) while Leif and I filled in the paperwork and he paid up with his credit card – 120 Euros by the way. I said I would bring him back the next morning with his wife’s E111 to get his money back. That’s what I did, dropping him at the Ford garage to pick up his own car which had been in for a service.

On Wednesday afternoon, they came down to say “Thank you” with a bottle of wine for Mary and a bottle of real Scotch Whisky for me. I felt a slight irony there! Kirsten’s face was a terrible mess with her eyebrow hugely swollen and touching the skin below her eye keeping it firmly shut. She had what we would call “a right keeker” and it looked like she was going to be displaying the results of her folly for some time to come, even back in Denmark as they left the following day. That Tuesday night, Mary and I sat in the caravan thinking yet again “Why does it always happen to us?”

You’ll be pleased to know that the last couple of days have been very quiet in comparison with Tuesday’s episode and that we have found time to go about our normal business of getting to know our new caravan and how it works. We are still very excited about living in it and thankfully we both appear to be sleeping well in the new bed.

I shared my other haggis with Scots Bob on Thursday night, a warm beautiful evening which we spent outside at the white table and stayed until long after Mary had returned from work and joined us. Another friend, Jem, sat with us for a drink but didn’t fancy the haggis! The new seat and back cushions were given an outing and they were very comfortable indeed, adding to the pleasure of the event. As always, the world was put to right by our philosophical meanderings.

At some point we were joined by an English girl who just wanted to share our conversation so she said. Her step-father came around soon afterwards to ask if she was being a nuisance but we all said she was fine and enjoying herself. That was a big mistake. She quickly became a nuisance trying to be the angst-ridden centre of attention so we packed up and sent her home.

Mary and I spent yesterday shopping in town, buying wee things for the caravan and awning. She then went to the hairdressing academy and got her hair done again, emerging as she did the first time like a Hollywood star! We went down to the beach café for a coffee and just sat and watched the people down on the sands under a perfectly clear blue sky and a temperature of 26 degrees. At night there was a live blues band on up at the pool and we caught the second-half of their excellent gig.

Mary en route to the beach

Mary en route to the beach with new bag

Tomorrow we have lunch with Guillem’s family to celebrate his Dad Ramon’s birthday. We’ll be meeting Ramon’s parents who will be coming to live with us in Dundee for a couple of weeks in July with Guillem and his 10-year old cousin who is a Chinese girl adopted by their family.

Fancy joining us over here? We’ve recently checked prices for 2 and 3 roomed chalets with Lifestyle in October and November of this year and they are quoting £20 a night. That’s a bit of a no-brainer, isn’t it? So, if your own life style offers you the possibility to come and give this place a try, get on with making the arrangements and we’ll help out in any way we can. You won’t regret it, we assure you.

We have now paid up to 15 June on site here, meaning that shortly afterwards we’ll put the big caravan into storage, hitch up the Magic Caravan and slowly head back to Dundee for the summer. We’re both looking forward to that actually, but we will have the pleasure of Scott out here shortly and that will be a big thrill as it always is when one or more of the family comes out.

As I sit here in the awning typing away, the sun has just set behind the hill. The temperature is slowly dropping down to “warm and comfortable” and the light has at last lost its dazzle allowing me to see more clearly what I’ve written on the laptop screen. I’ve written quite a lot because I’m in that kind of a mood. Mary is reading in the caravan now and we’re both content doing our own thing today. Life is good. Very good. We’re about to watch the Eurovision Song Contest …… in German! I’ll leave you with Mary and her new hair.

"Never seen you looking so lovely...."

“Never seen you looking so lovely….”

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Day 2/245: Let’s do something different!

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The next thing on the agenda following our return to Vilanova was how to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. With the day before being Mayday and therefore a public holiday, we had the opportunity to spend 2 days, Thursday and Friday, doing something different. The weather was already in “guaranteed sunshine” mode so we were absolutely free to go where we wanted indoors or outdoors.

Where's the dragon?

Where’s the dragon?

Lots of our friends had visited a small town up in the mountains called Montblanc, the legendary place where Sant Jordi slew the dragon, so we decided that we would drive up there and get a taste of the medieval life. It was a bit like George and the Dragon driving up to see George and the Dragon! Sorry Mary! The trip up into the mountains was quite exciting in itself as we took the recommended back roads (did I call these paths “roads”?) instead of belting up the motorway. However there was no harm done and we reached Montblanc around midday safe and sound.

The legend

The legend

Parking proved a bit of a nightmare, what with it being a popular tourist attraction and also Mayday, but we eventually found a spot only a couple of hundred metres from the town walls. Upon reaching them, we were delighted to see that we had arrived at the main gate, the Portal Sant Jordi, and we were able to read all about the legend and discover why Montblanc brought in thousands and thousands of tourists every year.

George at his gate

George at his gate

We opted firstly for a walk up on the walls of the town with excellent 360 degree views, affording us the chance to read the various information boards (Catalan, Castellan, and English) which detailed the history of the town and the surrounding area which had suffered some difficult times after the British reneged on a treaty and left the Catalans to the fate of the invading French. That was nice of us! Bottled water was taken on board every few steps as the thermometer climbed past 25 degrees and kept going

The town walls

The town walls

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They have dragon's blood on the menu!

They have dragon’s blood on the menu!

Does she look happy?

Does she look happy?

 A stroll through the town, still decorated for their annual medieval week, took us to a wee square where we enjoyed a bit of shade and a sandwich or two, then it was up to the top of the hill for a view over the countryside before returning to the car which we could not immediately enter, so hot had it become inside. Once we could sit inside with the a/c at full blast, we consulted Victoria for the first time in ages and asked her to take us to the monastery of Poblet further up in the high hills. The lovely girl did as she was asked and 50 S-bends later we parked in the huge car park necessary to cope with the visitor numbers for this famous attraction.

Poblet

Poblet

However I’m afraid it didn’t quite hit the spot with us and we just had a quick stroll around the grounds and a peek inside the church before heading for the café and that’s where I received a text message saying that old Auntie Cissie’s agitated state had necessitated a transfer to Murray Royal Hospital in Perth. We were somewhat saddened by this turn of events and slightly lost the appetite for further adventures, but as fate would have it I suddenly remembered overhearing two French folk talking about a fantastic place they had gone to in this area where you could drive to the top of a cliff and see miles and miles all around. I recalled they had said the road up was “interesting”.

Siurana

Siurana

So, to get us back to enjoying our day away, we checked out a physical map we had brought with us and managed to spot a name I recognized as being the place on the cliff top. Its name was Siurana. With a great deal of help from the lovely Victoria, we tracked down this village after driving up the bendiest road ever which included an uphill right-hand hairpin that even with the Audi I had to take in first gear. Now that was steep!

Did we really drive up here?

Did we really drive up here?

The reward for our adventurous spirit was one of the best viewpoints we have ever been to, perched as it was on top of a sheer cliff plateau of red sandstone. Brilliant! We took in the sights for an hour or so, had a coffee at a wee café in the village, got the mandatory photos then negotiated our way back down the cliff and through the mountains south to Reus and a final motorway sprint back up to Vilanova.

Not surprisingly, it was an early night for us both and even Mary only read about five pages before the book fell from her hands!

The following day. Friday, was indeed our anniversary and we had chosen to spend it in Barcelona, seeing a bit more of the big city. Yesterday’s efforts however had left us with cotton wool heads and it was nearly 11 o’clock when our Dutch friend Tom drove us down to the station where we caught a train to Franca station in north Barcelona. This allowed us, after a spot of lunch, to stock up on water and stroll around Ciutadella Park, one of our favourite spots in the city and the home of the beautiful Cascadas, featured in an earlier post. Our master plan was to go and see the famous Dancing Fountains of Montjuic that evening, so that left us with several hours to move around as we wished.

Now that's what I call a flagpole!

Now that’s what I call a flagpole!

We plumped for the healthy thing to do and walked for miles around two famous districts of Barcelona, Born and Gotica, older areas with warrens of vennels, old buildings and quirky shops. We almost made it into Santa Maria de la Mar basilica but our timing was out and they shut the doors literally in our faces. Was it something I said? We also tried to find a restaurant belonging to Guillem’s aunt where his Dad had promised us a free meal, but again because of timing I’d had to cancel before we left as it would have restricted our freedom to be where we wanted when we wanted. Another evening maybe!

Before the show, at the Venetian towers

Before the show, at the Venetian towers

After much ado in the city and tea in a restaurant in the Bullring on the wonderful Placa Espanya, we made our way uphill to join the crowds on Montjuic waiting for the nine o’clock start to the Dancing Fountains. We were not to be disappointed and enjoyed a fairy tale half-hour of water, lights, colour and music as the dozens of fountains on the slope bounced up and down to the rhythm of some lovely music.

Take it as.... Red!

Take it as…. Red!

Affy bonnie!

Affy bonnie!

Our favourite

Our favourite

As the spectacle faded we entered the Metro system, got our way back to Sants railway station and caught the ten o’clock train back to Vilanova. As we emerged from the station, the last bus to the campsite came round the corner with perfect timing (we were 5 minutes too late, but this is Spain!) so we were back at the caravan by eleven o’clock and asleep by 11.02!

We still have loads to tell you about this week so I’ll stop there and try to post some more tomorrow or the day after. I’m going for a shower now as I’ve been typing this in the awning and the mercury reads 42 degrees with all the vents, windows and doors open. It’s a cooker, as Gavin would say!

A final look at Siurana

A final look at Siurana