Monday, February 19, 2007

Catalonia in Winter

So, this year's big trip to Catalonia has been and gone. Well, I say that but I actually typed most of this in a patisserie in Girona, but will only get it onto the internet once I find an internet connection. That's one of the good things about Catalonia, by the way. The proximity to France seems to have encouraged the development of far more tempting patisseries than the pastelerias I'm used to in Gran Canaria. (Subsequently edited in Girona airport too and at home).

The reason I'm in here typing up stuff for my blog and not outside exploring is that it's raining, and I got soaked enough yesterday to last me a lifetime. So I'm taking a quick break inside, and using the laptop (which I'm carting around with me because I didn't want to leave it in a car, either mine at the airport, or the hire care wherever I managed to dump it) as cake displacement activity to make me eat it SLOWLY. I don't want to have to go outside in a hurry, and when you're drinking espresso it's over too quickly to even justify sitting down sometimes.

The rain yesterday (Saturday) was relentless. Heavy and relentless. After a 3.30am start (and that was with the airport hotel rather than driving there from home!) I landed in Girona and it wasn't too bad at first. I drove to the hotel at Figueres and it was a bit heavier. I decided to do some inside stuff that I'd planned for Sunday in the hope that Sunday would be better, so I went to the Dali museum, which was actually better than I was expecting. I'm no real art connoisseur, but I started picking stuff up, little details and stuff. I had lunch there, before heading up to Perpignan.

Last year I did a mad dash across the border from Cadaques after slightly misjudging how fast I would be able to cover the distance on windy coastal roads. This time there was no such stress and I arrived in Perpignan a good three hours before kick off, already checked into a hotel. There was a snag though, by the time I got to Perpignan the rain was torrential. I parked near the stadium because I wanted to park while it was still possible (I had been slightly thwarted in my parking plans by the hire company's decision to upgrade me. I saw the car and my first thought was "how on earth am I going to park that". I'm used to my compact little clio at home, and didn't relish the thought of trying to navigate anything bigger down narrow Catalonian town streets and into French and Spanish syle parking places). The stadium was about 2 miles from town, but despite the torrential rain I decided to walk into town. Well, that's a bit of a lie. Having made it to France, I was developing French sweet stuff cravings. I'd had a fairly light lunch, and decided not to get dessert there, but to wait til I made it to France and have either French cakes, waffles or crepes. Not all 3 though. But there wasn't anywhere suitable near the ground, so because I knew there was in town I decided to walk in that direction, if I came across something on the way I'd stop there, if not I'd go all the way to the place I was thinking of. Plus I didn't fancy spending the next 2 hours sitting in the car near the ground, so I had to do something.

Yes, there was a bus, but why get a bus when you can walk? I'd have got soaked waiting at the bus stop anyway, so why not burn off that cake. Despite some decent sightseeing walking in Figueres, I felt like my legs needed to be stretched, so I walked. Predictably I made it to town before I found somewhere suitable, serving cakes that tasted good enough that even at 1000 calories per bite they'd have been worth it. Well, I exaggerate, but it was good. Then I walked back. All the other Wigan fans were waiting for buses, and getting soaked at the bus stop. I didn't even know whether they'd all get on it when I turned up, and I knew it was only about a half hour walk. I got there just as the second bus arrived, so I reckon that if I hadn't got on the first one it would have been no quicker on the bus, plus I appeased my cake related guilt a little more.

However, by this stage I was soaked. Not so much my top half which had benefitted from my umbrella, and the waterproof effect of my coat but the legs of my jeans were completely drenched. Three years ago I travelled to a match in Limoux and had similar weather on the Saturday when I went to look round Carcasonne. I only had one pair of jeans and spent all of Saturday night and much of Sunday in damp clothes. But did I learn my lesson? No. Once again I brought a single pair of jeans and a multitude of tops. Must remember what to do next time... (At this point I was also cursing having checked into the hotel, because I'd dumped my bag there, and was really craving a dry pair of socks, if nothing else).

Thankfully the stand at the ground was covered, and although I didn't dry out much (and worried that the water would turn to ice as it got colder), at least I didn't get wetter. And the game warmed me up quite nicely in the end, although there was a point when I was considering running for somewhere with a heater to do something about my legs. Apparently it only went ahead after a late pitch inspection, and I don't know what they'd have done if it had to be cancelled, with a couple of thousand Wiganers on short trips over there, some even on day trips. Thankfully it went ahead and was nice and tight throughout, with a fantastic match winning try for us with about 90 seconds to go. That woke me up nicely after the early start!

Then back to Figueres, stopping for a pizza on the way back (and an impromptu run when, having eaten, I realised that I'd taken my wallet out of the bag to pay some tolls on the motorway on the way back into Spain, and forgotten to put it back in. I made my apologies to the waiting staff - in Spanish - and legged it to the car and back before they realised I couldn't actually pay them...). I also had a bit of a chat with my mum, taking advantage of actually being in the same country as each other, with my Spanish phone on its home network.

This morning (Sunday) I got up and it wasn't raining. Or not properly anyway. It's grey, and there's lightish drizzle occasionally, but nothing compared to yesterday. I'm being a bit of a wimp hiding in here really, but I thought I deserved a sit down. After breakfast at the hotel (adequate, but a little disappointing considering the hotel restaurant is michelin starred), I headed up to Besalu for a while, before heading to Girona. Both are really lovely, but there's something strange about sightseeing on a Sunday morning in February, when it's drizzling. There's not much open (Spain as a whole still clinging to the idea of not shopping on Sunday), not many people around, and my camera complained about the lack of light every time I tried to take a picture. I'd love to come back in summer, hopefully next year they won't give us a February game again!

Eating wise I've not done badly. When I'm on holiday I tend to just relax and enjoy it, as long as I get my 5 a day in. I modify it to 3 plus juice and dried fruit, I try not to count those normally but when I'm on the road I give myself more leeway. So yesterday I had a pret breakfast pot thing and an orange juice at the airport (berries and juice, for two down), some dried apricots as a snack, a slice of leek tart with a side salad for lunch, and a pizza which had plenty of veg on in the evening. And the cake. Today I had some grapes at breakfast, more orange juice and dried apricots, a huge salad with apples for lunch (incidentally - what is it with the Spanish and undisclosed meat - since when does a salad with apple, pine nuts and goats cheese come with three slices of undisclosed bacon on top?), and even my cake had some raspberries on top. OK, I'm struggling to call that fruit, but at least it wasn't chocolate cake. Small victories. And even though my evening meal tonight is a cheese sandwich, I've had a fair bit of bread, and I'm not running I'm still doing plenty of exercise walking round sightseeing, and carrying this bloody laptop to burn it all off. For those who haven't been, Girona old town is most definitely built on a hill. And anyway, I need to keep my energy up for the drive home tonight. On the plus side, the car and the drive home tonight mean that barely a drop of alcohol has passed my lips. Less than a single cana last night when I got back to Figueres.

So this afternoon I did a bit more wandering, and possibly get something more to eat before heading to the airport for my 9pm flight, then the horror drive back home from Stansted. Get home at about 2.30am (edit - that prediction was bang on!), all being well, before getting up bright and early for work, then running club. (Incidentally, I felt a brief pang of guilt for not turning out for cross country this morning, but it didn't last long). Whether I go to the gym on the way to work depends what time I get up. I might just go there for a shower on the basis that it's quicker if I drive in then shower, than if I shower then drive in, because of the traffic. (Edited to say that I made it to the gym for a 45 minute swim on the basis that a 3 hour sleep plus some exercise tends to refresh me more than 4 hours asleep, but I then started to crash at about 3.30 pm, plus my legs are inexplicably sore, so I decided to give the run a miss and have an early night).

After last year's stress when Ryanair cancelled my flight with two weeks to go (which partly led to the arriving in Perpignan late stress) I've had a really good time this year, doing exactly what I'd planned to do last time round and enjoying it. I'm glad that I decided to concentrate on Spain this year rather than staying in my normal hotel in Perpignan like last year and 2002. I spend so much time in Spain that I'm starting to find the language a lot easier than french, despite French A level. I understand french OK, but I open my mouth to reply and Spanish comes out. In some ways this is still quite unfortunate, given that they speak Catalan here rather than Spanish, but never mind...

Plus I've been to Perpignan twice already, and while it's perfectly nice, I'd never been to Figueres, Girona or Besalu, and as my flight had to be via Girona, I thought they were worth exploring. Also, and this is the snob tendencies coming out again, the thought of spending the weekend in the company of beered up Wigan youngsters wasn't overly appealing, hence the limited amount of time in Perpignan. I wasn't up for that sort of weekend (I never am), so decided to do something completely different rather than letting them wind me up with their interesting approach to Anglo-French relations.

It still makes me realise how amazingly lucky I am that I can just head off to a random corner of Europe on my own, and not be daunted or phased by the prospect. I have the money, I make the time, and I just do it rather than wishing I had someone to do it with. Not everyone can say that. There's something unbelievably smugness inducing about rocking up at work on a Monday morning, having someone ask what you did at the weekend, and being able to reply "oh, just a relaxing weekend in Catalonia..."


Blogger K said...

It still makes me realise how amazingly lucky I am that I can just head off to a random corner of Europe on my own, and not be daunted or phased by the prospect.

Amen to that.

Sounds like a great trip despite the rain!

5:30 PM  

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