Friday, 23 October 2009

Week 4

Another Sunday and another visit to the charming coastal town of Sitges. This time, we took the toll-free coast road: highly recommended as you’ll save €11.60 and it’s great fun pretending to be Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief as you cruise along winding, cliff-edge roads. That is, it’s great fun if you’re not a big bag of nerves like me. I should point out that my jumpiness in the car has nothing to do with Will’s driving, but while he pretends to be Jeremy Clarkson (“Hammond, the Astra’s purring like a canary”), I am grey-faced, crunching up my toes and clutching onto the suit-hanger thing on the passenger door. I’m the same with fairground rides which is just as well as we’re planning a visit Barcelona’s mountain-top Tibidabo Amusement Park. I just hope they have teacups or something similarly soothing.     

Continuing on the theme of transport, there’s an excellent cycling scheme in Barcelona whereby you pay around €30 a year to use public bicycles, which you pick up and drop off at one of many designated spots around the city. I intend to sign up, if only to experience the joy of being allowed to cycle on the pavement.

Cyclists back home will know that it’s illegal to ride on the pavements in Britain. I know it’s illegal because I was once arrested for it. That’s right, arrested. Alright, I wasn’t handcuffed and thrown in the slammer but I was stopped by three Metropolitan Police officers, told to dismount, given a lecture about pedestrians being mown down by cyclists and ordered to pay a £30 fine. Given the speed at which I was travelling – no more than 5mph – pedestrians would have been at greater risk from a particularly keen jogger or a low-flying pigeon. It’s a different story over here: pedestrians are definitely the inferior pavement-pounder, while cyclists of all ages ring their bells urgently and tear about the place like teenage boys. 

Gargoyle of the week

 The first time Christina and I walked to the Sagrada Familia, it took us well over an hour. It should have taken about ten minutes, but I chose to stop every few minutes to be noisily sick.
I say chose, but it was the ripe-smelling steak tartare I’d eaten the day before that made the decision for me. This was in March of last year, on a crisp, sunny morning, and I had formed an itinerary of places to visit before we returned to London; I wasn’t going to let a little stomach bug get in the way. So, our walk was punctuated by six or seven bouts of loud retching into the plastic bags that Christina had, with admirable foresight, brought with her. By the time we arrived, I had time for a quick look at Gaudí’s famous cathedral before collapsing, unconscious, in front of it. Yesterday, we went again, and I was sure it was going to be different. It was pissing with rain, for a start.

Last week, the first time it's rained properly, I was in El Raval: a trendy area with a big art college, and lots of people with improbably thin legs and skateboards. I was not there for anything trendy. I was on my way to Cash Converters. As soon as it started to tip down, the street-hawkers could be seen racing away from Las Ramblas in droves, then returning, from wherever they keep their wares, with armloads of umbrellas. I reckon it took three minutes from the heavens opening before fifty umbrella salesmen were out on the main tourist thoroughfare.

The Sagrada Familia is probably the best-known building in the city, and there were at least ten different people from whom I could have bought an umbrella before we went in. Gaudí’s final work is still being built, but I’m pleased to report that the roof is on, and watertight.

On our way back, we took the Metro, and I discovered why Spanish people aren’t all horrendously fat, like British people and Americans are. It’s because a Kit Kat will cost you a week’s wages, and you need to talk to your bank manager before buying a Kinder Bueno. See the pictures below, your eyes are not deceiving you – that Kinder Bueno costs ONE POUND FORTY. In England, you would never pay that much for a Kinder Bueno! Not if you were the King of the Moon.

Note to the inexperienced: A Kinder Bueno is a series of farts, emitted by a tiny, magical hippo, and encased in chocolate by Swiss gnomes.

The cost of machine-vended snacks on Barcelona's public transport system is an absolute bloody disgrace.

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