The first four months of this year have been rather busy so after fulfilling Dee’s last wishes on her birthday by letting her fly free from the Ivinghoe Beacon, I thought it was time for me to fly away too for a while and catch up with me and my thoughts. Friends and family have been wonderfully supportive and made sure I didn’t sit doing a bottle of scotch every night or something equally daft and making sure that I had plenty of stimulating company, excursions and diversions. So I decided to take off for three weeks in May and where better to go than Spain which has meant so much to us both over the last twenty plus years. So here we go on a visit on my own to some of the places we had enjoyed together and see how it all stacks up.
Well the planning is all rubbish for a start:
- DataCars persuade me to leave home at 10:30 for a 14:45 flight despite my assertion that 11:30 would be good, So an early last water of the plants that kind people will keep alive while I’m away and off we go. Not even the slightest pause at the Blackwall Tunnel so we get to Stansted at 11:20 and I’m checked in and through security in double quick time with two hours before they even announce the gate! One of the perks Dee had on her bank account was an airport lounge pass which we had made good use of in the past. I decided to continue the pass from a Groupon half price deal. Was I glad of it today! In a quiet room with a view of aircraft if that’s your thing I had coffee and croissants, read the paper and started to write this. Then it was time for lunch and a glass of wine and then off to the gate feeling calm and relaxed not having had to spend my time being screamed at to buy duty free goods – to get to the lounge and the gates Stansted has copied IKEA so you have to walk past all those designer outlets, and Boots and Smiths, before you can reach your destination.
- The best car hire deal was direct with Budget who claimed their office was on Girona airport. It’s not. And they close at 18:00. My flight arrived at 17:45, slightly early, but after baggage reclaim, determining the location of Budget and walking the half a k to get there, the office was closed. However the lady in charge had not quite escaped so a young lady with a bicycle in a big black case and I were allowed to collect our pre-booked cars BUT we had to pay €60 extra for “out of hours’ collection” which the boss lady was most apologetic about and gave us detailed receipts and instructions on how to reclaim it. It’s clearly a scam she doesn’t approve of. She also “upgraded” me to a smart red Audi which is quite nippy and fun to drive.
- My first hotel Balneari Vichy Catalan was carefully selected just 20 minutes from Girona Airport and at the source of what had always been our favourite mineral water Vichy Catalan. You can really taste those minerals doing you good – just don’t put it in whisky.
I don’t know how good your Catalan is but this banner mocking my arrival says Festival the last Saturday in April. When do I arrive? The first of May. It also features the person who gives the place its name. Mala vella is an evil old woman who reportedly haunted the castle in medieval times. I checked in to the hotel and set off to find a bar with a UK TV feed so I could watch Watford v Liverpool. Everywhere was closed in fiesta recuperation mode so I came back to the hotel to find that there was a Spanish channel showing it so I could watch us just miss out on at least a point thanks to a wonder goal from Emre Can, a great save from a Capoue shot and the crossbar from Prödl. The Spanish commentators found Vicarage Road very difficult to pronounce. This led to me being by a long way the last person in the restaurant – a time honoured Lesley-Raggett tradition so I excused myself by indicating my watch still being on London time. As with the majority of Spanish staff they were gracious, attentive and had a laugh about it. They didn’t mention Brexit. I did leave a tip. An interesting fact – well I thought so – is that the Balneari Hotel and the Vichy Catalan company were established in 1881 the same year as a certain football club!
So day 1 is nearing its end and my poor planning has been rescued by the fact that the hotel is a spectacular example of modernisme architecture, the town has a lot of fine houses in similar vein and I’m doing a hydrotherapy circuit tomorrow morning just like we did together with such delight in San Sebastian last August. A comparative report will follow.