June 18th, 2005

Day One

The Wallace Arnold Coaches are named after great British heroes. We travelled down to Dover on Boadicea, then transferred to Captain Cook. Here's Ailz with Captain Cook at the Dover Interchange.

I left a cardigan in an overhead locker on Boadicea. Two weeks later, when we transferred back to her for the journey home, it was still there and I was able to reclaim it.

We were meant to cross on the ferry, but the French dockers have a grievance and were "working to rule", so  we switched to the Tunnel. I'd not been through the Tunnel before. The coach drives onto the train and is shut away with you inside it. Grim. I buried my head in  Bleak House. As we zipped along under the Channel we crossed paths with Lady Dedlock who, "bored to death" with Parisian highlife, was  sailing over it in the opposite direction.

The train runs so smoothly that you think you're creeping when  you're actually zipping along.

We drove through Northern France in the evening light. We passed lots of battlefields- Dunkirk, Armentieres. Ypres. Its a flat country with lots of sticky-up spires.

We arrived very late at our stopover in Lille and ate our "evening" meal at midnight.

To be continued...

Day Two

Advantages of Coach Travel

1. You don't damage the ozone layer (much)

2. It doesn't hurt your ears

3. You don't get jet-lag.

Disadvantages

1. It takes forever.

My, but the Champagne region is vast. No-one seems to live there. There's nothing but prairie and the huge, windowless factories (like wall-eyed cathedrals) where they process whatever it is they grow.

Then Burgundy. We skirted the ridge of hills called Cote d'Or where the best vinyards are.

And so to our ovenight stop outside Lyon. The hotel was still a-building and our corridor lacked carpets and a ceiling (though the room was fine.) the nearest thing to a vegetarian option on the menu was a salmon steak that had been cooked in bacon fat. Heigh-ho. but I was prepared for that. In Southern Europe they don't think it's a proper meal unless it's been soused in pig.

to be continued.....

Day Three

This was the day I gave up wearing socks in honour of the sun.

We stopped at services in Montelimar and bought nougat.

I love it how the new Europe is so casual about borders. The only time we were asked for our passports was by  British officials at Calais on the way home. It made me a little ashamed of my country.

Crossing into Spain was a non-event.

Actually, we never crossed into Spain- we crossed into Catalonia. Catalonia is a proud nation that straddles the present Franco-Spanish border. It has a culture and language all of its own, closer to French than Spanish, but distinct from both. I learned a phrase or two.

Bon Dia= Good day.

In the evening we arrived at our base in Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava.

To be continued.

Day 4

This is where the holiday proper starts. Up early and off to Figueres- Salvador Dali's home town.

The little theatre at Figueres got smashed in the Civil War. Dali rebuilt it and turned it into a shrine to himself which is part art gallery, part House of Fun and part mausoleum (he's buried in the cellar.)

I took pictures, but they're not very good. For a virtual tour click here

Dali was a very shy and inhibited man who disappeared into his performance of himself. I don't think he's a great artist, but he was always interesting and entertaining.

Most of his work looks better in reproduction.

Figueres itself is very attractive and very smart.

We had lunch in a cafe next to the church of Sant Pere.

When we got back to the hotel Ailz went for a swim while I explored the hotel grounds and- looking over the garden wall found we had a Roman villa next door.

To be continued...

Day 5

Barcelona!

And, yes, we did a drive-by of some of the famous buildings by Antonio Gaudi. He's interesting, but I'm not a fan.I think he's only one step away from Disneyland.

And I don't like his religiosity.

We spent the afternoon at the Picasso Museum. I love Picasso. The museum contains a unique collection of his juvenilia- scratchy landscapes painted on the lids of cigar boxes, that sort of thing- and some stunning examples of his later work, including an overwhelming sequence of paintings from 1957 in which he measures himself against Velasquez's masterpiece, Las Meninas.



To be continued...