Winter 2009 – Barcelona

1 Jul

6 OCTOBER 2009
Our arrival in Badalona felt a bit like going on a blind date. Earlier in the year we’d decided to overwinter somewhere on the east coast of Spain and there seemed to be a lack of berths. Our first choice would have been Port Vell in the centre of Barcelona. Although the cost was higher than the surrounding marinas, it apparently hosts a few liveaboards over the winter and it would be good to have some company. However, Port Vell was full and we didn’t want to find ourselves stuck without a winter berth at the last minute, given that PT wouldn’t always be around to move the boat. So we erred on the side of caution and booked and paid for 6 months at Badalona Marina on the north edge of Barcelona, without having first had a look at the place.

First impressions were of a very large and new but rather desolate marina, with an industrial estate and railway line to the west and a huge power station to the south. Some blind date…Plain, safe & definitely no party animal!

Marina Badalona

Security seemed to be pretty good with a locked gate at the end of each of the 9 quays. However, the downside to this was that the chances of meeting and getting to know any of the very few liveaboards in the marina (about half a dozen amongst the 600+ berths) were low. I have to admit for the first couple of weeks I did feel rather despondent . Could I really spend 6 months here, over half of that on my own in a berth that was in the marina entrance, open to south-easterly winds? (When I asked at the office for a different berth the staff just rolled their eyes and said “Ees eemposssssible!”) But, ho-hum, pig’s bum! Things could have been a lot worse, so it was a case of just getting on with it .

We spent the first few days exploring Badalona and finding out about local facilities. There was a huge supermarket only a mile and a half away in Sant Adria de Besos, easily accessible by bike. The transport links were impressive, with metro, rail, bus & tram all within easy reach and at very low cost – 77 cents for an hour-long journey to the airport or 20 minutes into the centre of Barcelona.

Even though the situation had its drawbacks, it was great having the city of Barcelona on our doorstep. There is loads to see & do, and we managed to cover a fair bit of sight-seeing, particularly when we had visitors around – Mike & Linda; Matthew; Arnie; and over the festive season, Sara & Berni.

Arnie does Dali......

Out on the town with the Clarkies

Sara & Berni at Casa Betullo

I was kept busy with regular Spanish lessons, which I really enjoyed, and I managed to keep up running and cycling (even going along to meet up with the Barcelona Hash House Harriers for my first hash, and taking part, with Berni, in the Cursa dels Nassos 10k on New Year’s Eve). We also had the advantage of having the town of Badalona close at hand for everyday shopping and stuff. It’s really a suburb on the edge of the city, but, unlike Barcelona where pickpocketing and theft are rife, Badalona feels very safe and the atmosphere and people were warm and friendly.

The Castellers of Badalona - don't look down!

Being so close to the border with France, I took the opportunity to jump on the Talgo train to visit my cousin, Richard and his wife, Ethel who live near Montpellier. Richard & I had never met before (except possibly when I was a very young child, so that didn’t count) but I was made extremely welcome and was fascintated to hear all about his life in France. The countryside is stunning, I can see why, having found himself there nearly 40 years ago, he’s never left.

The Talgo caboose to France - variable gauge axles, no less. IE They stop at the border to crank the wheels to fit the different size track in France: clever, eh!

Christmas came and went. It was very laid back with an unusual Catalan Christmas dinner, enhanced by the company of nearest & dearest. However, despite a steady stream of visitors, by January, I was really starting to feel quite isolated and coupled with my dread of a storm arriving when I was alone on the boat, I made the decision to head back to Scotland for the rest of the winter. (What a deluded fool! I arrived back in the UK to be met with Arctic conditions, transport at a standstill, -18 degrees C & a frozen water supply – but it was home, sweet, home!)

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