Sunday 16th. May
We are thrilled to be back in Barcelona. Boat issues are going to hold up our schedule but this is a wonderful city to be delayed in.

Port Olympic

The Fish as seen from Port Olympic - built for the olympic games

We planned to have the boat lifted out of the water before we left Melbourne. She is now on the hard stand at port Olympic for her annual anti-foul treatment on the hull, propeller and seal check, and anode replacement. It rained heavily for that first week so all the exterior work was post-poned eg. the preparation and new gel coat over the damage to the hull from the storm at Elba last season.
The rigging work has been delayed until the boat is back in the water, because it is considered too dangerous to do it on the hard stand (we quite understand this!)
It has just been discovered that the rudder is full of water. Perhaps it has been knocked at some stage which could have opened up the seam. It has to be dried out by putting it a de-humidifier. Ross has quite a full day helping to build this equipment and getting the rudder to the workshop.
It is quite a common problem with rudders but it is important to check thinking of our Atlantic crossing next year. The internal steel frame is sound so we just have to wait until it dries out.
We are very pleased Impulsive has been so well cared for while we have been at home. We really appreciate the great effort by the team here.
Ross has the usual frustrations with the Custom´s agent, but in a few days has arranged to have the custom´seal to be taken off the boat. (We had this put on to exempt us from the 8 months we were not using Impulsive. You are only allowed 18 months in the Mediterranean before they charge a V.A.T. tax valued at 16% of the value of the boat. This just allows us the time we planned for before heading across to Morocco).

Barcelona has so much to offer with its culture, history, architecture , art and marvellous cuisine. We are very careful to try to avoid pick pocketing, and have only heard of a few cases of mugging.
We are told here any theft under €300- is not considered a crime, so there is not much deterrent. Apparently the instances of other crime are not high.
The city is very much updated and improved by all the preparations for the Olympic games.
We are staying in the Hotel Neri, a renovated medieval mansion, near the cathedral in the Barri-Gotic area. The hotel looks over the small and well known square, Sant Felip Neri and the church there. It is very central so we can walk to many places from here. We soon become experts on the metro. The narrow, paved streets which cars are unable to pass through add to the atmosphere of this old quarter. The famous tapas bars are scattered throughout Barcelona.
During our first week here we have a surprise visit from Scott and Jeanette. It is very brief but great fun. We certainly make the most of our time together including visits to some of the famous Gaudi architecture and experience some delicious cuisine.

At Tapioles 53 with Scott and Jeanette

Our English friends, Carol and Keith join us for a few days and we manage to do lots of exploring together, including a day riding bikes along the foreshore and a cable car ride up to Montjuic. The views are magnificent back across the city and along the coast.

Riding bikes in Barcaloneta

View across to port Olympic

Our other treat for the week is catching up with Peter and Andrea Churcher and their family, including seeing Peter´s art studio, and having the most wonderful dinner at their home.

on the hotel Terrace with the Churchers

Two Australian couples are staying in the same hotel. It is amazing how often we bump into each other and enjoy exchanging information and ideas.
Intermingled with all this are regular visits to Impulsive to check on progress there. Since we arrived here every day has been perfect with clear blue skies and a temperature of about 24 degrees. This is perfect weather for exploring Barcelona, and more importantly for us , for exterior work on the boat.

BARCELONA (cont.)-2

Summary of places visited in Barcelona:

Ports - Vell (where Impulsive was for 8 months and will return to when she is back in the water)
and Olympic (where impulsive is on the hard stand)

Districts -
Barceloneta - the old fishing district by the sea
El Born ( within la Ribua on the far side of via Laietana)
Barri Gotic - with examples of Roman and Gothic architecture
el Raval - behind the Ramblas, where many rural Spaniards moved to during the industrial boom.
lÉixample - C19 expansion outside the city walls, built on a grid of wide streets with plazas

Placa : Sans Josep - art and craft market; a very attractive placa with buskers

Sant Josep´s Placa

Placa del Pi
Placa Nova (in front of the cathedral)
Placa Sant Jaume - Town Hall is here, and this has been Barcelona´s political hub since C15.

Placa Catalanya

Passeig de Gracia - A beautiful wide tree - lined street housing the upmarket shops and a gaudi paramount
The famous Ramblas, including the Boqueria market, El Theatre del Liceu and just off this very busy street , the elegant Placa Reial.

Boqueria market

Placa Reial

Santa Catarina market (modern)

Casa Llotja de mar - the Exchange building (another historic building)

Gaudi - known as the most famous architect here

Sagradi Familia

Details of tower ; the doves

la Sagradi Famillia - a temple
Palau Guell
el Park GuellPark Guell

The Gingerbread House Park guell

la casa Batllo´

Casa Battlo´

The roof of Casa Battlo´

La Casa Milas

Domeneck - Palau de la Musica Catalana.

The use of natural light, colour and steel (as opposed to the Gothic stone) are the main features of this building. This embodies Catalan patriotism with provincial and international reknown.
(we have a guided tour here and return for a concert of "Barber of Seville" which is an amazing experience)

Mosaic pillars

Inside Palau de Musica Cataluna

Hospital de la Santa Crue i Sant Pau, which was built in a setting of 360 acres.

The maritime museum - housing a magnificently restored C15 galley. The building itself is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture where the sea used to come up to this area and the large boats were taken in for maintainance.

C15 galley

The Cathedral:

Dancing in front of the Cathedral

Santa Maria del mer - with its magnificent stained glass rose window.

Santa Maria del Mar

Picasso Museum

The Picasso Museum

Joan Miro Museum - Catalan artist

Montjuic Park:

View of Museo d´Arts from Montjuic gardens

Montjuic Gardens

Housing Joan Miro´s museum
Foundacion Juan Milo

Juan Milo sculpture

Olmpic Stadium and Diving pool
Museu Nacionial dÁrts de Catalunya (MnAc)

The square outside the Museu d´Historia de la Ciutat

Day trip to Monserrat:


Dancing outside the Basilica

This is a monastery built in mountains over 1,000m high. Its church houses the Black Virgin, the patroness of Catalonia.

Inside the Basilica-view of the Black Virgin

The public transport to this destination is very well organized, involving underground trains, trains; also cable cars and rack cars if you want to go the top.

Walking up to Sant Juan´s chapel (many wildflowers there)

Chapel Sant Juan

Bars and Restaurants:
Restaurants -
Tapioles 53
Sagradi, also a separate bar (off l´c. de lÁrgentaria)
Taller of Tapas (c. de lÁrgentaria - near Santa Maria del Mar)
Neyras (with a pianist and a grand piano)
7 Ports
Restaurants near the Ramblas in Street Pintor Fortuny, using fresh produce from the market and fresh daily menus eg Pintor Fortuny 25
Cuines Santa Catarina within the modern Santa Catarina market
Els Quatre Cats - which Picasso frequented (c/Montsio, near the Cathedral). The very best profiteroles are served here!
Ra at Gardierya Square - behind the Boqueria market
Cal Pep - in the el Born area
Group of small restaurants in Ave. Gaudi, a tree-lined street where you can sit viewing Sagradi Familia at one end and Hospital St. Pau at the other ( we went to the unlikely lebanese Aladdin rest/bar)

Hospital St. Pau

View of Sagrada Familia

Arola at the Arps Hotel (at Port Olympic)Entrance to the Arps hotel

Arola restaurant

Checking the map map with Ramon and Angeles

Lunch at Santa Catarina market

Art and Schilling 01 (c/Ferran 23 (near Placa Reial)
Caelum (c/Palia 8 in Barri Gotic) for coffee and cakes: it is best to go downstairs to appreciate this beautifully renovated convent
Bar Mut
Cervesaria (c/ Mallorca)
Girac (c/ Mallorca) This is Jemma´s bar and delicatessen
Cava bar (near the Columbus statue)

Wushon bar/reataurant with Steve and Mark
in c./ Isobella

Nass Bar/restaurant in Barceloneta with Steve

BARCELONA-3 (including the Pyrenees and Costa Brava, VAlaecia and Granada (Ahlambra) areas)

Monday 24th. May
Today is a Public Holiday in Barcelona.
We have news that the boat is still not ready and unfortunately The Hotel Neri is fully booked. ( Being unsure when Impulsive will be ready we just book on a daily basis . It is lucky it is not the height of the season!)We move to Hotel Atlas (c./ Casanas Cardinal ) which is much cheaper and still very central.

View of rear of Sant Maria del Pi from our room

Looking down to the Ramblas from our room

We spend more time with Peter and Andrea and their family, including another wonderful dinner at their home. Tonight Peter excelled with his barb-e-que skills, including the most delicious way of serving artichokes. It is just lovely enjoying the beautiful night on their terrace. Later Saul gives us a piano recital on the grand piano, which he performed at a concert the previous night. We also enjoy hearing about family life living in Barcelona.
We have quickly slipped into the way of life of needing a siesta because the evening meal here is much later than at home. We plan it into our schedule now.

On Thursday morning (27th. May) we receive the disappointing news that the rudder is expected to take another 10 days to dry out. We decide to hire a car for a week from next Sunday and go exploring along the Costa Brava coast as we planned to do on the boat.

Impulsive on the hard stand (with no rudder)

Tonight we have a lovely dinner with Jemma and Francesc and their children, Martin 8 and Ada 5, at their apartment. (we feel a little homesick for all our grandchildren). We met at Llafranc last season, and it is wonderful to have time with them again. They very generously offer that we may use their ski cabin for as long as we like next week at Masella up in the Pyrenees. What a wonderful experience to look forward to.
We had many long discussions last year with Francesc and Jemma about their lifestyle here. One of their main points tonight is that it is clear that being Catylans they are taxed discriminately and feel they often pay more to the government than they rceive back.
The next couple of days are busy. Peter comes to the Santa Maria market with us to show us his favourite stalls, where to buy certain produce I can´t find and how to organize cryovacced hams, cheeses and meats etc. This is great fun for Ross and me but I know through Heather´s experiences of translating it must be exhausting for Peter, trying to sort out what we need, and continually having to translate. It will make a great difference to how well we stow the boat.

Tasting cheeses at the market

We spend time on the boat sorting and stowing clothes, files etc so when she goes back in the water we will be ready to leave.
We also have dinner with Mark and Steve who are trying so hard to get the boat finished for us. They both have wonderful and interesting stories to tell, and are great company.
On Saturday night we have dinner with Ramon and Angeles (who we met in Cadiques last year) at port Olympic at a marvelous restaurant, Arola. We particularly enjoyed the Tapis here.
We are having dinner with Ramon and Angees at their home soon to hopefully try to finalize dates when they join us to sail in the Balearics, which will be great fun.
It is very frustrating we have to wait so long for Impulsive to be ready to set sail but we have had the most wonderful time in Barcelona, with all our special friends here.

New pot plant for Impulsive

The Pyrenees:

On Sunday at 10.30am when we leave to collect the hire car Barcelona is very quiet, even the Ramblas which is closed off to traffic for a marathon.
We are both excited to be heading up to the Pyrenees. It is only 155 Masella. We pass through many small villages on the way including Campdvanol which is celebrating a festival through the streets with a carnival and floats, and two people dressed up on the tallest stilts we have ever seen.
We have late lunch at the bar/restaurant la Tete at Puigcerda.

Lunch at La Tete - our young waitress is very helpful with ideas for walking trails

The lake at Puigcerda

We find a small cafe here with excellent wi-fi connections. This is very important when we are moving around so much and need to keep in touch about the boat. We come here several times.

We are told this is the last town we can buy provisions at before arriving at Masella, which has no shops. We find everything is closed so decide a cup of Peppermint tea by the fire at this marvellous cabin with beautiful views, will be just right for dinner! (and probably very good for us).
From Puigcerda we pass through a very green and fertile valley seeing brilliantly yellow canola fields and masses of wildflowers, predominantly the flanders poppies., and snow-capped mountains on either side.

Snow-capped mountainsA view from Masella

The drive up to Masella ( 15 ks. from the french border) is lovely as we wind up a very steep ascent to 1,500m. The mountains soar up above here to 2,200m.

The cabins where we stay

We spend four wonderful, and relaxing days here. We enjoy walking, picnics and discovering the nearby areas. Each evening we have a home cooked meal at the cabin by the fire, reading and then watching a Audrey Hepburn film. Jemma and Francesc have a set of all her films on DVD. We settle in one night to watch "War and Peace" which is very moving.

"Alp" is a small, and very old town below Marselles. We have lunch at Les Lloses (the Hills) before we drive back up the mountain to do a 3 hour walk high up around the perimeter of Marselles. The scenery is beautiful, with the snow-capped mountains always in sight, through the wooded forest and seeing many wildflowers. The walk back down to Marsella under a chair lift, is very steep and difficult.

Walking above Maselles

The forest above Masella

Top section of the walk

Starting the descent

Another wonderful walk we take is from Guils de Cerdanya, a very tiny but very attractive town starting with a picnic by the river. Again we pass through a lovely forest often by a narrow river gushing with the melting waters from the snow, and across some open plains covered in many species of wildflowers.

Picnic near Guils de Cerdanya

River of melting snow

Starting the descent

Examples of wildflowers here


Guils de Cerdanya

Unfortunately the rudder news isn´t so positive today. It is not drying out as it should and could take even longer than last anticipated. The query is if it ever will! Ross decides to contact Steve from Buizen in Sydney again. Maybe we should make do with the present one and have a new one sent over to have put on in the Canary Islands. This is all very complicated especially as we are not planning to have Impulsive lifted out of the water there. Not surprisingly Ross is feeling particularly frustrated.

The drive to Andorra is very scenic.. This is a fascinating country as since 1993 it became an independent, democratic parliamentary coprincedom. It is the only country to have catalan as its official language.


There is endless development taking place here with the many new buildings, cafes/restaurants and chairlifts to cater for the huge tourism industry which has developed through duty free shopping and skiing.

Starting the ascent out of Andorra

Drive out of Andorra

The drive out of Andorra is very dramatic as we take the secondary road to Canillo and then to Ordino. The ascent is extremely steep and scenery is spectacular with the steep snow-capped mountains and two fertile valleys. We have lunch at hotel Barbot enjoying a view of this. The flowers here are gorgeous including roses, iris and lilac.

Iris in full bloom

We have more positive news about the rudder this morning. Steve, in Sydney has been continually conferring with Julian in Barcelona. Steve decides Julian can take off one side of the rudder to inspect what is happening inside. So we go ahead with our plans until we hear the result of this.
We hear a report from Julian that it all looks O.K. to repair inside ie remove the sodden foam and clear the rest of the water, but he needs an assessor´s approval to confirm this. It is all approved and work can go ahead on the rudder, so hopefully Impulsive is back in the water the following weekend.

We leave Masella and take secondary roads up the very steep and rugged ascent to the small towns of Saldes and Gosol.

Driving up to Gosol

Fertile valley near Gosol

Valley high up near Gosol

These 2 towns are 1400m. up, set in river valleys surrounded by enormous and very high mountain peaks, including very barren escarpments.
Walking around the stoned village of Gosol, dating back to C9 gives you a real sense of space and the fresh alpine air is so refreshing.

View looking back towards Gosol

Nearby Church

We then take main roads for the long drive to the Costa Brava, in the Girona region to stay at the small medieval town of Peratallada. This is a lovely town and so we stay here for 3 nights as our base to explore the Costa brava area more fully. The weather is becoming increasingly hotter so it it lovely to be back by the coast.


Picnic in the old moat

The surrounding moat surronding Peratallada is remarkable ,and the town preserves its ancient feudal aspect. It has a fortified castle, a palace and a church. It has also preserved its rural aspect adding to the atmosphere of the town.

Surrounding fertile rural land

We move from staying at Ca lÁliu, an old C18 village home because it is very noisy with church bells chiming and rubbish collections from early in the morning.

Ca l´Aliu (you can see the rut marks in the old road)

El Cau is a small hotel in the centre of the village and is attractive with its interior patio, and very quiet.

Interior courtyard at El Cau

There are many delightful towns nearby. Apparently the coastal areas have been popular with tourism for a long time but these inland areas have only been so for the lat 60 years.
Nearby are:
Sant Feliu de Broada

Sans Feliu de Broada
(Hay has been cut everywhere and adds to the freshness of the country air)

La Biobal dÉmporda _ a larger town and famous for its ceramics
Palau-Sator - a small medieval town

Palau- Sator

Driving through the beautiful and fertile countryside growing fruit and olive trees, grape vines and many rice fields, of Fontclara, Fontanilles and Guelta.
Pals - a wonderful little hilltop and walled town, with views across to Illes Midas (where we spent 2 nights last year on Impulsive)



View across to Illes Midas

Alguablava - a beautiful small cove


Tamariu - another small cove with beautiful waters
Llafranc - a lovely sandy and very attractive beach. We are pleased to spend time here again after our lovely few days here last seson.

The days are becoming noticeably hotter and at all these coastal towns people are swimming , sunbaking and soaking in the sun and the atmosphere.

After a pleasant lunch at Llafranc we walk

Leaving Lafranc on the walk

Capella de Palafrugell

Walk to Cap Roig

Continuing the walk

via Capella de Palafrugell, along the magnificent coastal track to Cap Roig

near Cap Roig

and to the well known Botanic gardens here.This is a 17 acre site with more than 1,000 species of plants, dating back to 1927. It also has a sculpture park, and the most wonderful views.

View from the Botanic gardens

Geranium Avenue

Woman in the garden sculpture

Sculpture in the gardens

Another interesting sculpture

The castle within the gardens

It is the most glorious day to do this with the sun sparkling off the water. There are many yachts and cruisers out enjoying it. We have mixed feelings about seeing these yachts - we are enjoying seeing inland parts of Spain without worrying about the safety of the yacht but we would love to be out on the water again, and living on Impulsive. Hopefully it´s not long now!

Food and wine festival at Peradalla

We leave Peradallada and drive along the very scenic and high coastal road south to Tossa de Mar , which is a town with medieval walls and towers. We have lunch here. We were unable to come ashore here on the dinghy last year because it was a very blustery day and it looked very touristy, so we didn´t pursue it.

Tossa de Mar

Our next garden visit is at Lloret de Mar, to the Santa Clotilde Gardens known as the "gardens between the sky and the earth", which were inspired by the Italian renaissance. These terraced gardens are set up high on the cliff top with stunning views of the sea. The use of the pencil cyprus tends to bring it all together, with the use of evergreen trees and shrubs, sculptures and water features. We were amazed how effective using simple plants can be eg. with ivy demarking the steps, lilies and agapanthas. They are spectacular.

Santa Clotilde Gardens

Santa Clotilde Gardens

Water feature

Mermaid steps

Covered walkway

With our heads swimming with ideas for the garden we venture down to the nearby beach which is so picturesque.

Beach below the gardens

This is a marvelous time to travel in Europe. It is beautiful weather and we seem to be able to be flexible with our bookings out of the main cities. Now we need to find somewhere to stay the night and are looking for something like a small B and B near the beach. There is only 1 small town between here and the next large town so we turn off and see what we can find, It is a lovely and well appointed hotel by the beach, the Santa Marta Hotel. Somehow Ross organized a special package deal including a room with a view of the sea, a session in the new spa and sauna complex and dinner including an aperitif. This is all rather idyllic.

View from our room

Surprise in our room

This is a lovely place to wake up for a birthday, with breakfast on the terrace and an early morning walk on the beach.
We venture off to view another garden just near here, the Pinya de Rosa, another botanical garden which specializes in cacti and succulents. We are not so keen on these plants but find them fascinating. They certainly look impressive in this setting on the coast. All these places have wonderful views looking over the Costa Brava.

Pinya de Rosa - Jardi Botanic

Effective use of the simple geranium

We travel further down the coast to Blanes past many long stretches of beaches. As we could see from Impulsive last year they all seem very touristy. At Blanes we visit another garden, Mar i Mutra, set up as an international centre of research. This covers an area of about 4 acres and is dominated by Mediterannean woodland. Again it is set on the cliffs overlooking the Costa Brava.

Mar i Mutra Gardens - Blanes

Mar I Mutra - Botanic Gardens at Blanes

Use of soft grasses

View of Costa Brava from these gardens

View over to Monserrat from the freeway driving back into Barcelona

I distinguish myself during this drive. We have an unusually large map to manage so I ask Ross to pull over so I can fold it to show the section of our route. All is fine until we come to the next toll, sometime later, and can´t find our local mobile phone. It must have been on my lap and fallen out when I sorted the map. It is now many ks. back so we cut our losses and keep going. Of course this is very inconvenient and we need to replace it.

We have some very tricky navigating to do to find our way to Port Forum to inspect the rudder. The marina here seems full booked like most of the marinas we have seen. Boating is very popular here.
It seems impossible that such a relatively small part of the boat has caused such a problem. I guess all these issues have to be worked through but it seems to have taken such a long time to find the solution that seems will solve the problem.
We decide to do more travel by car. We change our hotel bookings and our guided tour bookings to the Ahlumbra so that we still have our allotted time in the Balearic Islands. We are enjoying our inland touring very much.
With another testing time of navigating we drive mainly in underground tunnels to get through to the north of Barcelona and on our way to the well known Sitges, which is about 55ks. north of Barceona, again on the coast. It is a place full of atmosphere and is very popular for its beaches. The hotel Romantic, de la Renaixenca, where we stay is a delightful 19th. century villa with art works and many nooks and crannies filled with different artifacts, and a courtyard garden dining area.

Hotel de la Renaixenca


Narrow street in Sitges

The drive from Sitges to Valencia on the freeway takes about 3 hours. Not as pleasant as sailing!
Arriving in Valencia to find our hotel, Ad Hoc, is another interesting , and frustrating exercise.
The streets are being renamed from spanish language to the valencio/catalan dialect.
We stay in the old Quarter which is the area once surrounded by the city wall. There are still two of the high stone towers with ancient wooden gates. This is known to be one of the finest examples of Gothic military architecture. One of the towers has evidence of Napoleon´s C19 invasion.

Towers at the city gate

After a self guided one and a half walking tour and a three and a half hour guided bike tour we feel orientated in this lively city, which displays historic evidence of Roman, Muslim and Christian architecture . The associated history is fascinating. This includes that of the Water Tribunal:
The farmers of Valencia, on the river Turia on Spain’s east coast, take their rights to water very seriously. For over a thousand years, they have relied on their city’s Water Tribunal to guarantee that water drawn from the Turia is distributed fairly. Although they are not lawyers and do not keep a written record of the verdicts they reach, and although there is no prison for offenders, eight Síndicos or magistrates meet under the Porch of the Apostles of the Cathedral of Valencia and settle verbally the disputes arising between farmers over the right to use water from the channels irrigating the 17,000 hectares of what is known as the “Orchard of Valencia”.
This scene, which has been re-enacted every Thursday at midday since the middle of the tenth century, when Abd-ar-Rahman III was the caliph of Córdoba, makes the “Tribunal de las Aguas de la Vega de Valencia” the oldest law court in Europe.
The eight magistrates, who are dressed in black and are accompanied by a bailiff bearing the tribunal’s emblem, represent each of the “mother channels” which are used for irrigation and for distribution of the water from the Turia. The roughly 1,500 farmers from each of these channel systems elect their own magistrate, who is required to be someone who actually farms the land and is not simply a landowner. The task of these “people’s judges” is to ensure that all the farmers of Valencia are supplied with the water they need through application of the provisions of a decree promulgated by King James I of Aragon in 1238, which is still in force and provides that “Everybody shall be entitled to a share of the water in proportion to the amount of land owned”.
The most common complaints with which the Court has to deal are concerned with the squandering or theft of water at times of drought, the disruption of channels, damage to crops as a result of water overflowing onto adjoining land, and failure to comply with irrigation schedules and to keep the channels clean so that the water can flow along them freely.
Places visited:
We spend time walking, cycling and relaxing in the beautiful and very large Turia riverbed Park.
Turia riverbed Park

Resting in the Park

It is wonderful to see how so many people enjoy using this facility from young children through to the elderly, whether walking, jogging, roller-blading, kicking a soccer ball, doing exercises or just relaxing.There are many attractive orange trees here which brings to mind the famous Valencia oranges, The lilacs are now in full bloom.

The city of the Arts and Sciences

The "City of Arts and Sciences" designed by Santiago Calatrava. This displays the most exciting architecture, and a wonderful use of mosaics. The only issue with this complex is that it cost an enormous amount of money to build but apparently the debts are overwhelming and the payments seem impossible. The Spanish economics are suffering from the global economic problems and they suffering a 20% unemployment rate. The evening we arrived we witnessed a large protest in the Plaza de la Reina. This wasn´t aggressive but you could feel the tension amongst these government employees. The government is cutting their wages by 5% and freezing the pensions.

The protest

The Cathedral with its layers of historic architecture i. e. Romanesque,Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance. In the Chapel the "Holy Grail" chalice is on view, which Christ is supposed to have used for his last supper. (we find the audio guides in Spain are excellent)

Statue of Neptune in front of the Cathedral

Bike tour-outside Roman door

The Holy Grail Chalice

Little girl dressed in local costume

The post office with its beautiful led-lighted glass dome.

Interior of the Post Office

The Commodity Exchange, or Longa

The Longa

C15 century palacio del Marques at the " joining of the two rivers" .
The Music Hall, which is along the riverbed parkland.Classical music is played outside here every Friday and Saturday evening between 8 and 10 p.m. It is a lovely experience on a balmy night with the soft lighting and water features.

The Music Hall

There are areas where shops sell middle eastern jewelry and clothes, And tea houses with Hookahs to enjoy

Examples of the local architecture

The marketMansion House with ceramics exhibtion

Bars and Restaurants:
Finnegan´s, a lively Irish pub on Plaza dela Reina
El Rall (between Longa-Exchange Building and Pz. Negrito) Our young guide from the bike tour recommended this and it certainly was a marvelous example of the famous night life here. It was easy to dine and wine and soak in the atmosphere for several hours until we leave to catch our train to Granada.
Restaurant/bar - Lobitas & Sibaritas - Caballeros 10, near Plaza la Virgen. A delicious seafood rice lunch. This is one of our favourite meals in Spain. Paella was first cooked in Valencia.
The restaurant at our hotel, Ad Hoc. They use all fresh and organic produce. the manager says this idea of cooking is very slow to take off in Spain. They cooked a lovely dinner.

Some cooking tips the manager gave us:
Base for Paella: rice
saffron (this is very expensive and most use a sustitute
Gaspacho: use vegetables or fruit in season:
e.g. peas
watermelon and tomatoes
With pea gaspacho:-
Place a small sardine on a thinly sliced piece of toast, surround with the soup and place garnish on the sardine.

A local cod fish (sometimes salted ) is a popular dish here.
Another favourite is the famous tomato bread. You rub fresh garlic and tomato into the bread or toast

We discover the drive from Valencia to Granada is 550 ks. so decide to travel there and back by train. We board the train at 1am. so then we can sleep most of the way. We book a day trip back so we can take in the scenery.

Valencia Station - another famous architectural building here

Arriving at 8.30am we go directly to our hotel and then have a full day ahead of us exploring. The Parador hotel at the Alhambra is a real treat especially as we are upgraded (the same as we were at the Neri in Barcelona).We don´t usually experience this luck!

Ross guiding!

We set off on a self guided walking tour in Granada and later did the same of our hotel and its surrounds. This used to be the Monastery de Granada on top of Sabika Hill. The Ahlambra was built on top of earlier Arab and Roman structures. It was built by a Nasrid monarch during C14 as an independent palace city. Subsequently it was used as a monastery, barracks for Napoleon´s army, an artillery warehouse, housing for the extreme poor, a hospital during the Civil War and later as a painter´s residence. In 1945 it became the hotel it is today, and the area is now a World Heritage site.

Parador Granada

Typical mosaics in the paving of the area using white pebbles and slate

The inner courtyard

Parador Gardens

Water feature in the courtyard

View across to the Generalife

The three and a half hour tour with Manuel through the Ahlambra and its gardens, is a wonderful experience. His knowledge is incredible and he exudes his passion for his subject. We are fortunate gardens are one of his specialities and loves. We so delight in the whole experience.
The Parador

Generalife Gardens

Generalife Gardens

Generalife gardens

Generalife- Friezeof the Courtyard of the Myrtles

Details of the facade of the Comares Quarter Generalife

Example of the CupolaCourtyard in the Nazaries Palace

The gardens of the Generalife where the four wives and the concubines lived have fountains and tranquil pools, and are lush green.
Seeing over the fortress and palace is a wonderful monument of Moorish architecture and gives an understanding of the lifestyles then. One great feature is the original irrigation system the Moors installed all those years ago and is still in use. They use the abundant water supply from the snow capped Siena Nevada mountains nearby.
Reading Washington Irving´s Tales of Ahlambra gives us further insight into "a dash of that Arabian spice which pervades everything in Spain" as he writes about the life and tales founded on popular traditions.
Manuel explains he is not happy to have to pay two taxes, one to the province and one to the Madrid government. He claims there are five government employees for every job where one would do! He is also very disappointed to have his salary reduced by 5%. He is obviously very dissatisfied with the politics here at present.

Places visited:
Albaysin is on the hill opposite the Alhambra, across the Darro valley. From the Alhambra you see across to its many white mansions and smaller houses. When there, you walk over cobbled and narrow streets which are usually too narrow for a car to pass through.

Shops selling middle-eastern wares

The view back across to the Alhambra from here is stunning, both during the day and in the evening when all the lights come on.

View across to the Ahlambra

View in the evening

Snow capped mountains in the background

This area has been the old Muslim quarter and later it housed the Jewish quarter.
The Gothic royal chapel here holds the marble monuments to the Catholic monarchs, Isabel and Fernando. There is a small Flemish art collection and Boticelli´s "Prayer in the garden ofOlives", which are part of Isabel´s personal collection.

The Chapel where Isobel and Ferdinand are buried

There are areas where shops sell middle eastern jewelry and clothes, and tea houses with Hookahs to enjoy
We didn´t see the gypsies or see them dancing in their caves which would be an experience.

Restaurants/ bars visited:
Estrellas de San Nicolas - Mirador de San Nichlas - It is positioned high up in the Albaysin area with magnificent views over the Alhambra

Delicious scallop dish


View from Estralles de Sans Nicolas

The Parador - A drink on the terrace first is very pleasant with views over the Generalife.

View across to Albaysin area

Unfortunately it is a cool evening and we have to eat inside the restaurant which isn´t so atmospheric. It is lovely walking around this area in the cool of the evening and when there is no one about.
Falafel for lunch in the centre of Granada. It is fun people watching here.

Via Colon bar/restaurant

Via Colon at Gran Via e Colon 13. A very atmospheric small Bar/restaurant. Just near here is an excellent bookstore where Ross bought a copy of Washington Irving´s "Tales of the Alhambra".

Washington Irving´s statue on the path leading up to the Ahlambra

Mirador de Morayma. This was suggested by Manuel and is a wonderful old mansion turned into a restaurant high in the Albaysin area , and with a lovely view over the Ahlambra.

In Granada you are still served a free tapas with your drink, which is typical of thee very friendly and welcoming people.

Typical views from the train
Many farmlands growing olives, fruit trees and vines

We return to Valencia just for the night We take this opportunity to hire bikes again to ride through the Turia parklands again, and continue on to see Port America´s Cup where we would have been if we sailed here on Impulsive. It is a very large modern area but we saw it with no atmosphere. There are very few boats here and we would have felt isolated from the action. We did see a large party boarding a boat to celebrate a wedding . Weddings are always happy occasions to watch.
After another bike ride we head off in the car the following lunch time for Barcelona. The rudder is due for its final assessor inspection and we feel we should be closer at hand. Thank goodness for excellent email and phone connections where we have been traveling as it means we can be away and do some of the traveling we planned to do from the boat.
A favourite meal in Barcelona is at Cafe Mut. The tapis is so well presented.

A tuna tapis dish at Bar Mut