||And suddenly it was Christmas.
(And yes we understand that strictly this belongs in 2005, but it works
better here - trust us.)
This started off on the dock at 1200 with drinks and nibbles and was
followed by dinner on Godspeed, an American boat owned by Bob &
Cindy. We were also joined by Oreon, Anne, Samantha & Mike
from Scott Free. Everyone contributed to the dinner which was quite
impressive - different courses were brought when needed and seamlessly
taken away - and there was enough for leftovers on Boxing Day when we were
feeling a little 'jaded'.
We had already arranged to meet up with some Spanish people in the New
Year so we could practice Spanish and they can practice English - another
description that comes to mind is voluntary torture....we try and
construct intelligent sentences and the listener endeavours to understand
what we are trying to say. Our first victim was Cristina, from
Columbia, who speaks English, Swedish, a little French and her native
South American Spanish. She is a beautiful, warm, intelligent lady
who helped us in many ways and she is now our friend. Carlos &
Cristina also helped us - they own an ice-cream parlour/business south of
Barcelona and spend the winter months travelling and improving their
language skills. We spent many many hours with them over lunches and
We also signed up for additional Spanish
Lessons. This time with Barcelona Metropol, only 1Ż hours a day for
4 days a weeks (boat jobs were looming large on the horizon!)
and much, much cheaper - though we discovered pretty quickly that
"you get what you pay for". Not that BCN-M was bad, but
absolutely everything had been pared down to the absolute minimum in order
to keep the price down. And that includes the heating!
major event was a trip to Madrid to meet up with Rob & Kate our
friends from Rota. We'd been trying to find a way of getting
together for the last two years without success - you know how diaries
are. They would actually be in Barcelona, a week later, which would
have been perfect except we were flying to the UK that week for Lindy's
mum's 80th birthday (more on that below), so we met up in Madrid instead.
has a very different feel to Barcelona. It's hard to define, but
almost the moment you step down from the train, you know you are in a
We were booked into a hostel just off Puerta del Sol (which
is where all the roads in Spain number from), it had been turned up
by one of Rob's friends and was fantastically cheap given its
location. Well "you get what you pay for" - The carpet in
our room had clearly once been part of a biological warfare experiment and
had now been stuck to the floor to stop it going out for walks on its own
at night, the hot water system only belched out about a cupful of scalding
water before becoming one of those machines that they use to spray the ski
slopes when it doesn't snow, and best of all it was directly above the bar
where the Arsenal fans had chosen to have all their fights after their
match against Madrid. Well we're sailors, this was our sort of place, so
we immediately booked in for an additional 4 nights!
It was a great week
in Madrid and a great weekend with Rob & Kate. We just seemed
to pick up where we'd left off as if we'd seen them a couple of weeks ago
rather than a couple of years. A side benefit is that Rob has
natural tour guide ability and given fluent Spanish together with having
lived in Madrid, we could just relax and let somebody else make the
decisions - excellent.
Then the long weekend was over and we had to
start looking after ourselves again. The problem was what to do with
the early evenings. Our feet ached from sight seeing and our livers
from overindulgence with Rob and Kate. We just wanted to sit
down. Obviously the hotel wasn't an option and we didn't want to end
up in another bar quite yet, so we headed for the cinema. The only
place we could think of where we could sit in comfort and not drink!
Actually we became regulars.
Nearly didn't make it the first time we
went though. Our eyes had been caught by a very
"interesting" underwear shop (of the leather harnesses and spiky
collar variety). As we were trying to work out how to get into, or out of,
some of the outfits we were joined window shopping by a Madrile˝o couple
and struck up a sort of underwear conversation (actually Lindy struck up
the conversation, I was completely innocent) and that was it, we were off
with them to the nearest bar. Actually, after a very loud compulsory
Spanish lesson from our hosts, to the fascination of the other drinkers,
our hosts were off, having presumably decided that we weren't quite as
"interesting" as we had at first seemed.
Whilst in Madrid we
also took the opportunity to visit the old city of Toledo. Lovely,
but bloody cold and when it started to rain we dashed back to the station
to try and get an early train back to Madrid. We might even be in time for
another visit to the cinema - hurrah! Unfortunately we were not the
only people to decide that Toledo's charms are better experienced in
sunshine and the early train was now full - all of the high speed Spanish
train seats (AVE) are pre-booked and you can't even get on the train
without a reservation. Eventually, the train manager took pity on us
and the handful of other cold and sodden tourists and allowed us onto the
train to stand at the bar in the buffet car. So fate conspired again
to increase our alcohol intake.
On the day that we were to return to
Barcelona, by one of those happy coincidences we were able to meet up with
Sue Deeks, an old friend from Tunbridge Wells, now living in Madrid, who
had returned from a trip to the UK the previous day. The last time
we met was in 2004 in Ronda, near the famous bridge where the fascists met
their maker. We managed lunch before she took us to the airport in
an unexpected blizzard of snow.!
So back to Barša and then the following day off to Leeds. As we
mentioned above, Audrey, Lindy's mum would be celebrating her eightieth
birthday and then we would be bringing her back to stay with us on
Samarang. First time on a boat at the age of eighty!
hosts and tour guides was a great opportunity for us to a.) stop working for
a while and b.) visit some of
those places in Barcelona that we'd been meaning to see but had always
been just too busy.
Pedralbes, Guell Park, and of course
the Fountains at Plaša D'Espa˝a (lit and synchronised to music).
But finally we were on our own again and it
really was time to start on the long list of jobs that we needed to finish
before we left for the summer.
We did though manage to
intersperse the jobs with dock parties, socialising, a little (but not
enough) Spanish practice, and Flamenco - Tomatito, Jose Merce, Vicente
Amigo, Enrique Morente - all at the remarkable Palau de Musica, another beautiful
It's probably because of all the enjoying ourselves
that we ended up having to stay for an extra month to (nearly)
complete the job list. Ending up with what is, if you are living on
board, the somewhat logistically exacting task of varnishing the
cabin sole. This involves varnishing backwards towards the aft
cabin, climbing out of the hatch and going out for the day. Then coming
back to the boat, climbing in through the hatch onto and into the bed,
sleeping in a haze of thinners and then getting up in the morning (without
breakfast of course) and repeating the whole procedure.
finally it was time to go sailing again...........