Monday, October 22, 2007

Madrid - Barcelona 20th September 2007

This morning we left the hotel at about 7.10am and walked up to Gran Via to catch a taxi to the airport to pick up the car for our drive to Barcelona. We picked it up without any trouble - a Peugeot 307. It did come with some dents on it and we had decided (after seeing the driving around Madrid) that it would probably be in our best interests to take out comprehensive insurance for the +3 weeks we are going to be driving around Spain. Thank goodness for Gloria - she got us on our way with only one mishap (which wasn’t actually her fault !!!) although it did takes us a while to actually get out onto the motorway and on the road to Barcelona.

We had a few laughs at the toll road - stopped a little way away from the toll booth because we couldn’t work out which booth had someone in to take our money. Drove up to one only to find that what we thought was a booth was actually just a holding place for something so reversed out and landed up pulling up way to the side of the road. Al then got out to see if he could see how much it we had to pay and where we could actually drive through and pay someone (with his luminesce vest on) and came back laughing saying it was one of those toll roads where you have to take a ticket and then pay when you leave the toll road. I don’t know how many km’s and 19.40 euros later - we were off the toll road. Kaitlin was amazed at how much we had to pay as the two people before us only paid 3.25 euros then when we got there it showed 19.40 - she thought that was very unfair until we explained to her that they had obviously not been on the toll road for the whole 12 sections.

She did a great job of finding us some accommodation in Barcelona - it was about 4pm and we hadn’t found anything so she started to phone around some of the places in the Lonely Planets guide - she did an excellent job of telling the hotels what we wanted. It take about 7 or 8 hotels before she found two nights accommodation for us - we had forgotten about the big festival which is on here this coming week and so obviously accommodation is at a premium. Anyway, the hotel we are staying at is one street back from La Rambla. I have to be honest and say that I don’t think I will like Barcelona as much as I liked Madrid - it is a lot more dirty and there is heaps more graffiti around the blocks where we were walking tonight. The buildings are a lot dirtier and not as well kept as those we saw in Madrid. I understand that we may be staying in a different area when compared to where we stayed in Madrid (having said that we saw plenty ladies selling their wares in the streets just over from our hotel) but Al has also just mentioned that he didn’t feel particularly safe while walking around just now.

Tomorrow we are going on the bus tour for the day - with the time limitations we have, we think it will be the only way we will get to see all the sights that are on the ‘must see when in Barcelona’ list. No doubt they will include a few we didn’t know about. The buses run from 9.30 in the morning and as breakfast is included in the price of our room, we will have breakfast before finding out where the closest pick up point is and hopping on the bus.

Al was a real champ today - he managed the right hand drive manual car very well although to start with kept on moving his left hand down to open the door instead of his right hand down to change gears. He was only hooted at twice - a great record given how they drive around with the hands permanently on the hooter !!!! We had some difficulty trying to get to our hotel as they are doing road works outside and Gloria wouldn’t recognise any of the road names I was typing in so I managed to use her to get us as close to the hotel as possible before using the little map in the Lonely Planets guide to get us the rest of the way. The problem was that some of the roads were marked in the book as being one way and they weren’t and then many of the roads in the book were un-named soooooooo - when we got as far as we could with the car, Kaitlin and I hopped out and ran down to the hotel to find out the easiest way to get the car there as we were in spitting distance from the hotel but couldn’t get the car there without picking it up and carrying it !!!!!!!! About 40 mins later we finally managed to get the car there, checked in, dropped our bags off and went out walking. It was still light but got dark (and chilly) rather quickly. Considered getting the three of us sketched to put in the pub but didn’t have jackets and were too cold to sit there for 30 mins while he sketched us - maybe tomorrow night we will be able to do it if we don’t stay out too late with the tour. We also want to get to see the musical fountain with the lights tomorrow night if possible.

At this stage we are looking at leaving for Toledo directly after breakfast on Saturday morning - not sure how long it will take us to get out of Barcelona although at least we will have Gloria to help us as we will know where we are going (roughly) which is more than we had when we were aiming for here today.

Unfortunately Kaitlin has a head cold and hasn’t been feeling too flash today. Last night she had a sore throat and was saying she felt like she was coming down with something - she did bark a few times last night and you could hear her nose filling up. We weren’t able to find a chemist open in Madrid before we left but did manage to stop at Zaragoza (pronounced Tharagotha - if you can keep your teeth in while saying it) and the two of us ran into a chemist where she explained to him that she had a cold and a runny nose and managed to get some tablets from him. Plus she managed to get me some more anti-histamines to take for my legs which have still not settled down but which have improved a lot.

It has been a long day - both Al and Kaitlin have been champs at what they have done and it is now time for bed. Tomorrow will be another big day for us all - thank goodness Kaitlin had a good sleep in the car today as I think it will help her over the next couple of days of racing around trying to see as much as we can. Maybe we will have to go back to work for a holiday !!!!!

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