One Fenner rambling is bad. Two Fenners rambling are potentially dangerous (see the California blog). Three Fenners rambling is a recipe for disaster (see the Spanish blog from earlier this year). Five, yes five Fenners rambling across Europe constitutes a potential international incident (but with all the leaders being at the G20, we seem to have all snook out of the country undetected). Yes, the five of us (me, Karen (wife), Nikki (sister) and mum and dad) have come for a long weekend in Barcelona to celebrate the P’s Golden Wedding Anniversary.
We set off this morning at 4:00 am (so I am writing this after 3 hours sleep. Still awake!). The journey was quite uneventful except perhaps for a ruckus over toast at the cafe in the airport. The queue was being severely held up by a woman who initially was disputing how much she had paid and how much toast she had received. This was bad enough, but when she was served her order she sent it back as it wasn’t evenly toasted on both side. She then stood there and watched the man put it through the machine again…and again. The gentleman serving suggested that she took a seat and he would bring it over to her. Anyone who has ever worked with the public will recognise this not as the height of customer care, but simply a technique to get rid of someone as you want to punch their lights out. The upside of all this was that in the confusion I ended up with 4 rounds of toast instead of just 2. Result.
When we arrived in Spain we successfully negotiated the railway and Metro to the centre of the city. We are staying in an apartment within spitting distance of La Sagrada Familia (I say spitting distance, you would need to have a really bad cold and powerful lungs to actually spit at it, but we are in that neighbourhood). We had a map and we could see that we were just 1 block away. This part of Barcelona (or BCN as they call it these days like they call London LDN. Vowels are so last yr) is designed on a grid pattern, so it’s quite hard to get lost. We could see that we needed to go one block along and one block up. We set off, trundling our 6 wheelie cases behind us (that’s one each and one extra one for shoes, toiletries and half a pharmacy of medication mum takes everywhere. It also means that we have room to bring stuff back. However it weighed 17.5 kilos going out meaning that 1 bottle of whisky and a toblerone may actually push us over the weight limit).
After walking one block along, and one block up, we knew that our apartment block would be on the right. Alas when we got there, we were greeted by the hospital of San Pau. We consulted our map and realised that we should actually have gone one block down and one block along the other way. We were about to set off when 2 friendly locals asked if they could help us. Now not being confident in Spanish….ok, not being remotely competent in Spanish I would just have shook my head and moved on. But not Nikki. Oh no, she decided to engage them in conversation. The gentleman took the map, turned it upside down and began pointing at various streets. His wife clearly didn’t agree. She took the map off him, turned it back round and began studying it. Eventually she gestured that we had to go “dos” streets down and “dos” streets across the other way. She then said “two and two” to make sure we knew exactly what she meant. We did and set off again going dos and dos.
When we eventually arrived at the apartment we were greeted by a very perky young lady who gave us our keys. She was interested to know where we came from. We told her that we lived near Liverpool. She was very excited and turned her perkiness up to 11. “Oh I was there a few years ago, the people are very friendly. I think all the people in the North are friendlier than the South”. We obviously agreed. (Apologies to any Southern readers, but there again that probably doesn’t bother you as you’re all too busy reading this on the train ignoring that poor old woman who needs a seat or the fact that someone has just passed out in front of you).
She asked us if we had been to Barcelona before and did we need any tips on what to see. We explained that we had all been before and had a good idea what we wanted to do. “Oh lovely” (she had now turned on the perkyness turbocharger) “what are you looking forward to seeing the most?” Without missing a beat, dad answered “C&A”.
Now just to explain, dad has never really recovered since C&A closed in the UK. He used to love a C&A tie. There was joke in his house that C&A stood for Celia and Albert, his parents (my grandparents. If you hadn’t worked out that family connection then just watch “Who Do you Think You Are”. They know all the family terminology; grandparents, great grandparents, cousins etc. It’s a real education. Granted it’s also dull contrived and tedious, but it is an education. But I digress). Even now when we see a C&A on our travels we pop in and pick him up a tie. The V&A are considering doing an exhibition of his C&A ties though the ages back to the 1940’s.
Anyway, this revelation knocked the young lady’s perky factor down to zero. Unsure how to come back from this revelation she hastily showed us to our apartment. It’s lovely. With its partially bare brick walls (some call it stylish, others unfinished) wooden floors and Ikea furnishings it feels like…well like Villa Wow..which felt like a branch of Ikea! Mind you the shower is a bit compact. I turned the water off when I bent down to wash my legs and I won’t go into how I accidentally turned the temperature up.
Anyway, the cava is chilling in the fridge and we are all looking forward to a lovely weekend. We are going out to a restaurant later. Apparently it’s just one block up and one block along from here. It may be a while before we eat.