Yet another stupid o’clock morning which involved dragging luggage around Barcelona for a bit. Not a sport I would recommend, particularly I dont recommend the trying to be clever bit. Well I figured that I might be better getting the train to Salou at one of the smaller stations before it reached the larger main train stations, just to make sure I got a seat on the couple of hour train journey down. The plan worked perfectly right up until the smaller station had construction work going on so I had to get out of the metro, walk a couple of blocks, go down into the station, look for the ticket machines, realise the ticket machines were temporarily on street level 2 blocks back and then fight my way back through the people coming down the stairs with wheeled luggage.
Sitting on the metro, sweating, hugging your luggage, wearing a backpack with a pipe coming out of it is probably not a good look but at least it gets you a seat and pretty much the carriage to yourself.
I didn’t get robbed on the train down to Salou, I would of course classify the taxi fare from Salou station to the hotel as daylight robbery but when you walk up and down a deserted train platform with two bags for 20 mins wondering if the ‘map’ you have has a scale in yards or miles or centuries you really are setting yourself up for a big bill. Big bill vs blisters is a bit of a one sided argument. I went back a couple of days later and walked it without all the excess baggage and it probably would have killed me!
Id taken an early train so my room wasn’t ready so leave my main luggage in the foyer and went for a wander around the hotel complex. Wandering round the pool area of expensive family resort hotel with a couple of cameras is likely to get you lynched back home but here nobody batted an eyelid, other than the bar waiters who were on me like a shot. White with a slightly blue tinge, pasty faced, sweating, lunchtime, spanish resort, this guy obviously requires a gallon of sangria.
My hotel room was ready so I left a message for my friends and headed up. Luxury. The bathroom was so big it had two toilets.
Ive probably told the two toilets story before but what started me off in both photography and travel was going to live with a Family in Switzerland for a month when I was 11. They had two toilets in their apartment but never had any toilet roll. Bearing in mind that at the time we still had an outside toilet in the yard, having one inside the house was pure luxury. No more waiting to someone else goes first to warm the seat up for you.
After about 2 weeks the family eventually asked why I was taking the newspaper into the toilet every day and tearing bits off it…
…of course you might laugh but that was also the time I found out that beans are actually green and don’t always come in a tin smothered in tomato sauce (or ‘bean juice’ as it used to be known).
Small luxuries like actually having shower gel were also a plus and I also made the discovery that the light levels in a spanish hotel room at midday with the curtains closed are about the same as the light levels at the same time in the garden at home!
It wasn’t long before I could hear a wee voice outside my door. ‘But daddy, this is the wrong room’. It was my friends wee boy, the same friends I visited at Disney. I opened the door and he looked up and I got the ‘Joe, what are you doing here?’. I thought I was setting a dangerous precedent, meeting them on all the kids holidays!
I think I slept most of the rest of the day, well that and busting blisters on my feet and washing some of the clothes and putting them out on the clothes line on my balcony. Yes I even had a balcony. Luxury!
There were three restaurants on site as well as three bars and the waiters were confused with my asking for water all the time. Even when I asked for it in Spanish. When the Karaoke started I could understand why, obviously the pitcher of Sangria was the beverage of choice for most of the english speaking holidaymakers. I met my friends for dinner and promptly got a fish bone stuck in my throat. Trying to avoid spooking the kids I sort of excused myself and went to the general toilets and stuck my fingers down my throat to try and pull it out or at very least prompt movement upwards instead of downwards. It took a couple of goes to get it dislodged and of course wandering out of the bar toilets having spewed my guts out, eyes watering, sweat pouring off me and looking like death warmed up I walked straight into one of the bar waiters. He had that ‘water, indeed’ look on his face but I didn’t have the energy or the Spanish vocab to explain.
Desserts were nice though 😉
With my newly found zest for life I agreed to join my friends and their kids at the Port Adventura theme park the following day.
Port Adventura was quite quiet apart from groups of schoolkids. My flight home was so cheap because it was pretty much an empty plane as it was returning from delivery the first set of NI holidaymakers for the year, so the tourist season was still another week away. Most of the rides weren’t open and most of the restaurants and cafes were closed as well so we had pretty much covered most of the open sections in a couple of hours. The kids were enjoying the whole experience so I thought I’d let them get on with it and take the long walk back to the hotel via the village and soak up some of the heat and the local colour.
Salou and Cap De Salou were what I had pretty much expected, loads of apartments and hotels built on a coastline not really suited to loads of hotels and apartments. The oversupply of property was very much in evidence due to the number of for sale and rental signs. It was also interested to see that, like Cyprus, the Brits were being replaced by Russian holidaymakers although again most places were empty as it was late May and still pre-season. I took the coastal path back to Cap de Salou and back to the hotel bar for a water and plan out the next couple of days.
The two places that looked really interesting were the town of Tarragona and its Roman ruins and the old fishing port of Cambrils. When my friends returned (they were driving) we arranged to head down to the city of arts and sciences in Valencia. Sorted!
The main bus routes went right past the hotel which was one of the reasons for picking this hotel. It was easy to catch the bus to Tarragona, Cambrils and the early morning airport shuttle bus. There was even a wee kiosk selling the bus tickets with all the timetables. Waiting for the bus to Tarragona I asked about buying the airport transfer bus ticket and was told not to worry, just turn up on the morning about 15 mins beforehand.
Tarragona was well worth the visit, the bus station was seemingly on the outskirts but a huge avenue went the whole way to the coast and the ruins. The avenue was also home to some flea markets, flower and fruit stalls. Handy to know as they still do the whole Siesta thing so worth stocking up just in case.
Tarragona is home to the ancient Roman town of Tarraco and a lot of the ruins are well preserved and worth a visit. Part of the old city walls still exist and the current and medieval cities were built around them, incorporate some of the features or are built on the ruins or foundations. In one of the old town squares the roman walls rise from the flagstones, turn a corner and disappear again. The doorways and other openings are still there and all very touchable and tactile. I cant resist touching some of the chiselled stones that someone worked on a couple of thousand years ago.
Not exactly my stereotypical view of a trip to the costas and a very pleasant surprise. Wandering round the old town was a great way to spend an afternoon and a lot more pleasant experience than the equivalent in Barcelona. I was wondering if the crime thing in Barcelona was overplayed and was that influencing my views on the place.
Similarly my early morning trip to the village of Cambrils proved surprising. I wandered past the yacht club and down to the old fishing port where the local fishermans collective was hosting an outdoor bbq of freshly caught fish. For a few euro the public could join in. I also recommend visiting one of the pastry shops in the old town and although I didn’t get to sample the chicken in the rotating rotisserie chicken shop (I’m sure there’s a proper title for that) you get the idea and the smells coming from it still made my stomach rumble.
The last place to visit on the list was the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. My friends were taking the kids to the Aquarium there so I tagged along for the day. Architecturally it was an amazing place with architecture by my old mate Santiago Calatrava. No bridges though. I always have mixed feelings about visiting zoos and aquariums and up until I saw the Beluga whale swimming round in big circles I had a really good impression of L’Oceanogràfic. The underwater restaurant is a must see and the exhibits all seemed to be well maintained and the animals well looked after. Then I went into the whale and dolphin section and I really felt like crying. This trip was long before I went to Antarctica and whilst it was interesting to see the smaller fish in a good environment, the sight of these magnificent animals locked up isn’t something I would be happy to promote. That’s probably very hypocritical of me, happy enough to see shoals of mackerel and pollack, shark and other such things swimming around in captivity but devastated at seeing the mammals and their captive repetitive behaviour. Judging by the reviews on tripadvisor, Im in a small minority. Im sure the research work on a lot of the animals is invaluable and can see the point in research into fish stocks but I cant see the point in keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. Not as disturbing as the Blackfish documentary (another must see) and whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to advise people not to go near the place (as I would with Sea World) I would advise caution as it could be upsetting.
All that was left was for me to get myself to the airport, simple enough task, up early, wait for breakfast to open, bolt that down me, grab my bags and get to the bus kiosk.
Standing at the bus kiosk there was a small queue of people doing the usual thing of answering questions in Spanish with increasingly shouty English. I eventually offered to translate but some of the conversation was untranslatable, well it was but even I didn’t feel like swearing that much that early in the morning.
Eventually with about 5 mins left to go it was my turn and I asked for a ticket for the airport shuttle. Here my Spanish left me because Id done that thing of appearing to know more than I actually did. The girl was obviously explaining a lot more than should have been required for a simple ‘here’s the money for a ticket to the airport’ type request. Eventually I worked out that it was off season, nobody had booked the bus in advance and to be honest the bus driver didn’t fancy it. I suspect the bus driver not fancying it was probably the main reason for a no show. The next bus in 2 hours was going ok though. Great, apart from that would get me in 10 mins after my flight left. The ongoing explanation was that most people are on package holidays this early in the morning and theres no call for busses or taxis to be running from here to the airport as most people get coach transfers from the tour company. Ahhh, hope! Can you get me on one of those? No. Don’t worry I’ll pay. No, sir, it left 30 minutes ago. Fuck! And I wasn’t going to swear this morning either. Time to go back to the hotel and see if they can book me a taxi.
Walking back down the hill from the bus stop I saw a taxi pull in in front of me and the driver get out, go round the back with a cup of coffee and a pastry and get in. I went up and knocked on the window, he sort of ignored me, I rapped on the window a bit harder and he started to explain that he was on his break. I showed him 50 euro and we were speeding on our way to the airport.
I made it with about 10 minutes to spare. Still Id be home soon and other than a couple of expensive taxi fares had made it through unscathed if you don’t count the blisters.
When I got home I messaged my friends to tell the kids thanks for the company. I didn’t receive a reply which was odd but then wasn’t, they were enjoying themselves and weren’t necessarily checking their phones or tablet.
A week later they were back and apologised for not replying to me. They would have except they were robbed when they were putting the kids in the car. They put their bags on the front seat, went round the back to put the two kids in the child seats and when they went back to the front seats, money, phones, tablet, camera all gone. Less than 30 seconds and they didn’t even see a thing, which was slightly scary because they then thought they had been watched from a nearby area. Unfortunately you now know of someone who was robbed in and around Barcelona.
more Salou photographs here
more Cambrils photographs here
more Tarragona photographs here
more valencia photographs here
more spain photographs here
more travel and transport stock photography here
more daily life stock pics here
more conceptual stock photographs here