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Barcelona - The Easter Roadtrip

SPAIN | Saturday, 29 March 2008 | Views [1931]

Catherine, Corinne and the Sagrada Familia

Catherine, Corinne and the Sagrada Familia

"What are you doing this weekend?... want to go to Barcelona?!" At home in NZ such a proposal wouldn't even register on the feasibility meter, but here in the south of France it was an offer that we couldn't refuse. For the trip we were joined by Tali the American educated Swedish Journo and fellow assistant and, Corinne the Benin-born, French film student. We certainly were a rather multicultural crew in Tali's rather sorry looking Opel Astra.

Nimes was our first stop en route. There we checked out the well preserved Roman Maison Carre, unfortunately undergoing preservation work and covered in scaffold, and the surprisingly intact Roman Amphitheatre, Les Arenes. Unlike its big brother in Rome, Les Arenes still hosts spectacles as it has done for almost two thousand years. Christians are generally safe from sacrifice these days mind you.

Pressing southwards we managed to sneak across the border without being stopped, a good thing too as our passports were at the Syrian Embassy in Paris. Seeking a cup of coffee in a cute Spanish village, Lloret del Mare sounded like just the ticket. How wrong we were. The last thing that this kitchy seaside town was was Spanish. Choked with tacky souvenir and booze shops run by immigrants from the sub-continent, and loaded with British tourists, it was a surreal place to end up sipping pina coladas.

As night fell we continued on to our destination. It was pitch black by the time we reached central Barcelona, and trying to find our way through the city with a few hastly printed out maps from the internet was proving rather difficult. Needless to say we got just a wee bit lost a couple of times. All's well that ends well though, and only two hours later we were parked, checked in and tucking into some well earnt seafood paella with a glass of sangria on the side.

Our hostel was situated right in the middle of town in the Gothic quarter beside La Rambla. So the next day, the girls explored the nearby shops and markets while Tali and I shifted the car to some less extortionate parking. Walking back we checked in on Gaudi's rather funky looking 'La Pedrera' and 'Casa Batello' before meeting the girls for a tapas lunch. What a lunch it was too! So many little plates of goodness were put in front of us. Each better than the last. It was bliss. Time for a siesta.

The Spanish girls that we were sharing a room with said that we couldn't miss the fountain display in the evening. They weren't wrong. We arrived just in time for all the huge fountains to start dancing and changing colour in time to classical then popular music (including the Barcelona song sung by Freddie Mercury - I knew you'd like that one Mum).

The next day we headed to Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. That man must have gotten into some pretty strong cheese before bed to come up with a concept for a building like this. It is very cool and I hope that they finish it in my lifetime (unlikely looking at the progress since I saw it almost a decade ago), so that we can appreciate it without the family of cranes lurking overhead. Continuing the Gaudi appreciation tour, we headed to Park Guell to check out the quirky gingerbread style houses and extensive mosaics. We rounded off the day with a great Mexican meal and some live jazz, before another night of broken sleep courteousy of our insomniac Spanish roommates.

As Monday dawned and we packed our stuff to go, so dawned the realisation that we had lost out camera the previous day. Several friends had warned us about the pickpockets in Barcelona and it looks like they were right on the money. Bugger. Fortunately Corinne had been luckier and we still had all the photos on her camera.

We headed out of Barcelona, over the border to the medieval French town of Carcassonne. Here the skyline of the town is dominated by the 52 witches hat towers of La Cite. Even under a surly sky it really does look like the stuff in fairytales. Complete with draw bridges, gargoyles, narrow cobbled streets, a huge gothic church with stained glass windows to rival Notre Dame in Paris, and restaurants serving up some excellent Cassoulet and French onion soup, it was well worth the 40 Km detour.

On leaving Carcassonne we were well fed and watered and perfectly on time to make our train in Aix-en-Provence to take us back to Cannes. That was until we reached the A9 near Montpellier and got stuck for three hours playing leapfrog with a Ferrari 550 in the lane beside us, while they scraped the 7 occupants of a minivan off the tarmac a few miles up the road.

End result, we missed the train (the last for the night) and ended up driving all the way back to Cannes, making for a 13 hour day in the saddle (on the wrong side of the road for us Kiwis too!) We were stuffed, and were out like a light as soon as we got home.

Still it was an awesome weekend and like any road trip it's not the same without a bit of drama.

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