The reason for the 15km hike was to research where the Sants train station in Barcelona was and what was the best course for us to get our luggage there for our next leg of the holiday.
Of course – It couldn’t be the Franco station just across the road – NOOOOOO!!
(I have just been told by Brett that the Market under deconstruction/reconstruction beside our apartments was being refurbished and when they were digging they found Archeologically significant items – so now they are fixing only the roof....)
After the better half of the day was lost to trekking on cold but busy streets, we wove our way through the back streets from Via Parallel towards where – according to the hop on hop off red bus tour map with the serrated joins – we should run into Las Ramblas.
Well, i am pretty sure we found the Muslim quarter tucked in there because i hadn’t seen that many ‘Bollywood’ style posters of women in grungy dusty shop windows where all you can see behind the posters is men smoking and talking or smoking, talking and having coffee. A distinct male presence in the streets giving us the feeling they were lurking and telegraphing to their compatriots that there were two white females walking the streets of their precinct. There was at least two kebab shops among the coffee caves and i was sure i saw a few of those corner shops you find in the Middle East that are in the middle of the shopfronts and they have crates of water, Halal cooking equipment, Eastern sweets and a few Arabic scrits across the Lintel.
We managed to find the Ramblas where we made our way through the Market for a few dinner items to eat at the apartment while our feet deflated and Keita could make her last pass of the Chocolate Truffle stand where her and the guy with the plastic bags had a good thing going on..
We parted company as the sun was making its way under the building line and i made a beeline for the Mercat St Catarina – the market with the shot silk coloured fluid metal roof where i knew there was an olive seller. A couple of handfuls of various olives with different names – don’t try and confuse them with asking if they were Sicilian olives, trust me... I raced back to the apartment to drop of the bounty before heading off to catch up with Xenia.
She was to meet me at the corner of the Plaza Catalunya, a massive square roundabout with a fountain in the middle and at least a scooter per square inch lining every side of it!
I sent her a text to tell her i was wearing a red puffy jacket and standing at the Banca Espana corner.. out of the thousand or so people around me in Black or Charcoal i figured it would be a giveaway with me in a Red one. I got a call back to say she couldn’t see me - what is pooph?
With some clarification and a few squeals later, Xenia arrived and now nearly two weeks later i am still dizzy. Boy has she got some energy! We went to a bar somewhere in a side street that if told there was a million bucks in it if i could locate it again – i would be a pauper!! We slid in through a half sized door (about Xenia sized) and I was told that we were drinking Voll-Damm, her favourite. I am pretty sure i have never blinked that hard or that often to keep up, but she does amazingly well speaking English and we had a riot over the two and a half beers in a back room where the walls were covered with LP covers from the 80’s. I was looking for breadcrumbs too hard and missed our course back to the Ramblas but she left me at her Metro stop and i speed walked back to the apartment to finally raise and rest my feet, drink wine, eat Rocket and cherry tomato salad and cheese (Manchego, Rosemary crusted and molten Brie) and suck on the hard won olives.
The next morning we dragged our luggage downstairs and i walked up to try and flag down a taxi. When we were walking back from Breakfast they were a dime a dozen and all empty and trawling. Not now – ohhhh no – now if one came past it was going so fast i couldn’t focus before it was past me or it was already in use. So, i figured i would call the people at the apartment rental place to see if they could call for one for us – easy??
Not here...the fellow came from the office to see what the problem was – then we walked the block both ways to flag one down anyway, all the while he was trailing us saying it wasn’t a problem – no not for him, he wasn’t the one still needing to buy his ticket on a train leaving in less than an hour....
But in his defence he did say to the driver ‘Rapido’ as we left.
All good in the end and we had our ticket to Nimes where we were to change trains and buy a new ticket for Arles.
We did the European thing and decided that the seats we had been given were not suitable and found a larger area with a table and reversed seats so we could watch the scenery pass by and eat our lunch of left over salad, cheese and olives. The man who checked the tickets came by to say it was past lunchtime in France but Bon Appetit and Bon Voyage.
We did the power switch from the train to the platform and did the hurry up and wait for the afternoon commuter train from Nimes to Arles.
Our Hotel was comfortable but with at least a half an hour before restaurants shut down for the night we headed out in search of the square which has the cafe that was made famous in the Van Gogh painting of ‘Starry night’. I have not been to see this Cafe on my many visits to the area around Arles for the boat as i had been waiting but it seemed that it wouldn’t live up to its picture anyway. We had both forgotten our cameras in the rush to leave the hotel on the search and i must confess i lost the ones i took on my phone somewhere in the ether between synching to the computer, so i have borrowed this one from a website on the walking tours called in the steps of Van Gogh. We did a quick pass of the Roman Amphitheatre which looked hauntingly Gothic in the shadows and light caused by the intermittent spot lights and promised ourselves to return in the morning.
The town was closed tighter than a clam and so the place was unlit and empty and the only way to differentiate it from a number of others was the sign on the street pointing it out with a copy of the painting. Most Disappointing!
The highlight of the night was reading all the menus around the place and deciding that we would eat in the Hotel restaurant. We had read the menu in the lift on the way down to go out – Roasted Fig on hot goat cheese for my starter, Keita had the Veloute Cepes (which was like caramelised roasted mushroom flavoured velvet) sensational and it had a garnish of praline walnut vanilla bean ice cream which you stirred through – to die for.
My Main was Breast of Duck cooked in a honey and vanilla glaze..... Keita had the Chocolate dessert – the one with the crisp chocolate muffin that oozes molten chocolate when you cut into it....
Welcome to France. The chairs of the restaurant were very comfortable and were alternating cyclamen pink and silver grey in large swirls of fleur delise, so we felt that we had arrived in style.