Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Van break-in and Sonar Festival...

After a very relaxing day on the beach, one of my worst expectations was realised.

I didn't believe we'd been robbed straight away. I thought maybe they had been chased off, got disturbed or couldn't fit through the hole. Until I took the very large van vault lock off of the back doors and whitnessed the carnage inside.

There was stuff eveywhere. Every cupboard had been opened, every box up turned. In short, we'd been royally done over.

I gave Kerry a quick hug and then climbed inside to see what was missing. First thing that sprung to mind was the electronics. Laptop, netbooks and cameras were gone as expected, aswell as an external hard drive. Kerry checked her stuff and a make-up bag with hairstraighteners was missing.

I phoned the police who said we should drive to the nearest police station which was just a few miles away. I looked round the van but couldn't see any window. I expected a big pile of shattered glass but couldn't see anything. After a bit of investigation I spotted the 5 foot by 2 foot pane of glass sitting, intact, in a bush a few metres away, with its rubber trim coiled up next to it. We retrieved the window and put it in the back, driving cautiously with one window missing.

Our experience at the police station was not good. We were asked to fill in a form with our details which was photocopied and given back to us. We werent asked what had happened or what was taken. They said they'd call me if they found any of our stuff. I then asked how they knew what our stuff was when they hadn't asked and the ability to speak English was gone.

They didn't even come out to see our wounded van and we drove carefully to our favourite campsite, Tres Estrella to put the window in.

It's not so much the financial loss that annoys me. I can work hard and earn those things back, unlike the scum who took it from us. What feels really bad is the hard drive and the hours of snowboarding videos and photos from the winter and now the start of the summer.
Feast with Richard

It wasn't until a few days later that Kerry realised her Pandora charm bracelet had gone. She shed a little tear because she could remember who bought each charm and for what occasion. Again, the charms can be bought again, the memories not.

So now we have picked ourselves back up and are awaiting the arrival of Richard who had a huge delay to his flight thanks to French air traffic control being on strike.

After numerous text updates including 'If need be I'll drive down to Barcelona' and a good 8 hour delay kerry and I were driving aimlessly around the airport car park until Rich came ambling out of the terminal.
A quick stop at the supermarket and we were setup for the evening. Burgers, beers and best friends. We showed Rich around the Tres Estrellas campsite and before we knew it he was in the sea. We had a nice chilled evening and rolled Richard in to the tent we had erected for him at around 1am.

I woke rather late at 10am the next day to find Richard basking in the sun. We shot in to Barcelona on the bus and headed down through La Rambla to the Barri Gotic and George Orwell square for a tapas lunch and beers.

Richard had to meet his friends who were joining him for Sonar festival and we said our goodbyes and Kerry and I mooched around.

We had tickets to Sonar Night on the Friday with 1980's German electronica act, Kraftwerk headlining.
The festival was different to your usual big field and tents setup. This was in 5 big warehouses joined together with little outside stages. The sound was awesome though.

Whilst we meant to meet up with Rich we didnt catch a glimpse of each other all night! Probably due to us all throwing some mean shapes at different ends of the festival!

The music wrapped up with a set by Diplo at 7am and then came the aweful bus journey back to the campsite with all of Barcelona's commuters. All too familiar from our night at Razzmatazz...

First to arrive, last to leave ;)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A visit from the in-laws...

Mikes and Angie, Kerry's parents, were a little undecided on their summer holiday this year. They hadnt decided on a destination by the time we had left the UK but a few probing texts to Kerry's sister Amy a few weeks ago shed some light. They'd booked in for a week in Santa Suzanna on the Costa Brava coast 60 miles North of Barcelona.

After a peaceful day at Montserrat we made good time up to the resort wanting to arrive before them and host a surprise. We got in to the resort too late to find anywhere nice to hunker down and succumbed to a supermarket carpark just next to their all inclusive hotel.

To say I had the worst nights sleep would be an understatement! With cars driving over a nearby metal grate every few minutes and a full blown domestic argument by one pissed up English family at 3am right outside the van.

Mike and Ang were surprised and pleased to see us the next day after they'd settled in to their hotel. I was pleased to see them as well. Bar meeting a few felow campers on sights Kerry and I had spent nearly every minute of the past month together. It was refreshing to have new people to talk to.

On that afternoons walk to the beach we spotted a big piece of wasteland that was being used as a car park and decided that would be our new home for the week. Perfect location between the inlaws hotel and the beach.

Our days were spent lounging on the beach playing increasingly more competitive games of boule while supping cheap beers chilled in the sea.

At night we were treated to a few drinks in the local bars with the usual (but actually fairly good!) Cabaret acts. We introduced Mike and Ang to a card game called Shit-head. Ang seemed to get the hang of it pretty quick but Mike was struggling with the concept for a while! I think he will blame the beers and sangria!

Kerry and I promised to treat ourselves to a full English breakfast one morning after a good drink the night before. 3.50 euro for the works and coffee. Not bad at all!

On the final evening of Mike and Angies stay we played some more shithead and Mike even managed to win one! Whether by skill or fluke is a debated matter! They bought us a nice pair of raving sunglasses each that we had been eyeing up in the tourist shops and we squeezed in one last game of boule by moonlight.

The next day we said our goodbyes and were treated to a great big downpour and thunder storm that kept us in the van for a few hours. I could only imagine Mikes smiling face as he'd escaped the whole week with glorious sunshine.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Monestry of Montserrat...

Whilst perusing the various TripAdvisor posts and 'Best Picks' of Barcelona the usual attractions kept popping up. Segrada Familia, Badelona Beaches, Barri Gotic and of course the numerous museums dedicated to Gaudi, Picasso and Miro. But in between all the usual was this unusual sounding place, Montserrat.

Turns out Montserrat isn't in Barcelona, but an hours drive away inland. The various tours headed out that way were a bit pricey, but with the freedom of our van we couldn't resist going to have a look.

The word Montserrat became instantly clear as we drove along the auto-via headed West from Barcelona. Saw Mountain is a peculiar looking mountain with a silhouette of sharp teeth like a saw. It was strange because I'm accustomed to mountains being in a range. But this one, nope. Just smack bang in the middle of nowhere.
Montserrat in all its glory

After a few wrong turns and some VERY steep climbs that the Smurf Mobile struggled with, we finally reached the town of Monsterrat. A relatively small town dominated by the Basilica and clutched in between tall, column like rock formations. Millions of years ago this area was under a very large river bed. The mixed sedimentary rock that formed because of the river deposits was then eroded away over time leaving the harder rocks behind, giving the mountain its distinct serrated silhouette and weird, tubular rocks separated by tall thin channels.

The Basilica at Montserrat is basically a great big church that holds the image of the Virgin Mary. Legend has it that in the year 888 AD a group of children saw a bright light in the sky plunge in to the mountain. A week later the same event happened but this time the children's parents witnessed the spectacle. A search party was launched to find out what the light was/had done. An image of the Virgin Mary was found at the top of the mountain but all efforts to bring the relic down from the mountain was thwarted. Divine intervention. So it was decided that pilgrims would have to travel up the mountain to worship her.

Now I am in no way religious. I do, however, have a weird and encompassing fascination on all religions methods and especially their wealth.

Arriving at the Monestry shortly before 1pm we ran up to the basilica to catch a glimpse of the oldest Boy's Choir in the world. The place was heaving with people pushing and bustling to get in to the building. Big signs clearly stated that the use of flash photography was forbidden yet thousands of white pulses shot off every second as the boys started singing. There were too many people and Kerry and I had to leave for fear of being suffocated. The singing was nice but the fresh air when we got out was even nicer.

Whilst wandering around the fairly small town we noticed little paths leading off from the main square and up through a sculpted garden. Turns out there's a variety of walks ranging from a 20 minute stroll to an hour and a half hike to the top where the lady was found.

Not feeling very strenuous we opted for the shortest walk which took in 13 different Christ associated monument things. A nice walk.

We passed some time looking around but the town was just a few hotels and shops to accommodate the pilgrims. We were waiting for 6pm when there was due to be another rendition by the boys choir. We got in to the Basilica just before 6 and had to sit through an hour of Spanish preaching by one of the 100 Benedictine monks that live at the Monestry. Then out stroll the other 99 monks and start singing. It was't the boys choir but the senior choir! Well we didn't stay long. A bunch of old blokes singing. I want to hear cherub like boys.

So we made a hasty exit, only to notice that the 3 hour queue for the Virgin Mary had been reduced to nothing. We went through the side of he basilica and through some old corridors until we were upfront with the image herself.

Apparently you must touch the globe she is holding in her right hand whilst also holding out your right hand to receive her blessing. I didn't do that.

Being in Montserat was weird for me. In the middle of no-where there's a huge, weird shaped mountain with a small town and people praying to an image of the Virgin Mary. Which was really just a statue that someone made, not found. The whole thing sounds bizarre yet its happening, right now. I find it hard to understand religion, yet up here theres a whole industry about it and this statue.

By the time we walked back down the hill we were some of the last people remaining. Most of the tour busses and coaches had gone and it was nice and peaceful. What was going to be a 10 minute drive down to the bottom of the mountain soon turned in to an hour an a half trek to our next destination... Santa Suzanna, Costa Brava!