It took about thirty hours to do the passage from Tarragona to Cartagena, the wind was behind us most of the way and the seas relatively calm, although it was pretty cold most of the time. We arrived about nine pm last night and moored up at the marina just before the sun went down, then slept very soundly indeed.
Cartagena is a bit of a mixed bag really. The port area and the Calle Mayor is very pretty but the rest of the city looks pretty beaten up. Some of the buildings are just facades held up by joists and look as if they are being totally reconstructed with the original front remaining intact. The cathedral was destroyed in the civil war and to me it feels like a lot of the city is only just being rebuilt.
After a very boozy weekend at Emma and Helen’s wedding where I didn’t take too many photos, and those I did were all blurry, we have now headed down the coast a little bit to Tarragona. I knew there was a Roman amphitheatre on the coast just up from the marina from looking at the maps so I took the Phantom out for the first time in three months for a flight this morning.
I had a restless night thinking about dropping it in the ocean, as my cousin Andy did recently, and even trying to remember what controls made it go up and forward, but I got up with the sunrise and went out to shoot anyway. The amphitheatre was about seven hundred meters away from the marina wall and everything went according to plan. Two batteries and a few panoramas later I am safely back in the boat having coffee.
We plan to walk around the town today and then head down the coast towards Cartagena after dinner. That will take about eighteen hours or so and it’s best to get the miles under the belt while the weather is in our favour.
The sun has disappeared to be replaced with a grey moody sky and a cold breeze.
Danielle and Guido are staying with us for a couple of days so we decided to visit Barcelona’s top tourist attractions. A few years ago Ildi and I visited Parc Guell on a weekday and were the only ones there. Today when we turned up the timed visit availability started at 6:30pm! The park was completely full until then. We wandered around the gardens for a while and then strolled down the hill to tourist spot number two. The timed visit queue at La Sagrada Familia reopened at 5:30pm! It would appear that tourist attractions have to be booked online a couple of days in advance nowadays, so take note all my friends that seem to be coming to Barcelona as soon as I leave.
Having been in Barcelona for a few days now and after spending many hours wandering the streets, I can safely say that this city has gone high up on my favourite places list. We have seen no petty crime so far, and that was always a major drawback to this place, the weather has been great and the food wonderful. We are really looking forward to the wedding on the weekend and catching up with a lot of old friends that we haven’t seen in far too long.
Another clear blue sky day and people are out and about, strolling in the bright sunshine. This morning we took a long walk around the Port Vell marina and then down the promenade that runs along the beach. I never really think of Barcelona as a beach city but in fact it has a great beach about five minutes walk from our mooring. Beach in one direction and the old part of the city five minutes in the other direction, this is a fabulous spot to explore the city from.
Later in the afternoon we ventured out again and avoided La Rambla and the other very touristy areas and instead wandered around El Born and La Ribera with their narrow winding streets. Most of the shops were closed but it was lovely to walk around and check out places to go back to later this week when the shops are open and hopefully there will be fewer people around.
They must have passed a law making it illegal to stay in your house today as the streets of the city were jammed with more people than Tokyo on a holiday. Walking down Passeig de Gracia was like trying to exit a rock concert. It got so bad at Placa de Catalunya that we took a detour through the department store, El Cortes Ingles, just to walk half a block.
This is such a great city for walking. We set off after lunch for a three or four hour stroll though El Born and its beautiful food market and onto El Gotic with its artisanal shops in tiny winding streets. The city feels safer than it used to; I can’t be sure but I haven’t seen any of the pickpockets and petty thievery that was always the bane of this amazing place.
It has been a long time since we were here in Barcelona; at one point when I was working I came here four or five times a year. I had forgotten what a beautiful city it is, with its wide, tree lined streets. Just perfect for strolling. The Port Vell Marina has been completely overhauled and looks really lovely now. It’s great to be able to walk off the back of the boat and be straight in the heart of a bustling city.
Fransisco, our boat driver, has been going out with the whales for twenty three years and only once has a male come over to his boat. That didn’t stop him from trying today though and when we saw a lone male lazing at the surface this morning, Fransisco drove up slowly to him. Sure enough he came over to see us, and rolled over to rub his chin on the bottom of the hull, pushing us gently through the water. He came up to get patted and stroked on the face, his eye staring at us above the surface. After a couple of passes he breached twice right next to us, the second one missed the boat by only a couple of meters, soaking all of us. Then he swam off leaving Fransisco with a massive grin on his face.
The other strange behaviour we saw today was a group of maybe seven or eight people standing in a circle on their small fishing boat holding hands and chanting as they passed us. Fransisco said that he had seen this behaviour a few times before, sometimes they throw flowers or small stones into the water. Each to their own I guess…who am I to judge?
Today started much the same as yesterday although the sea fog was quite a bit thicker when we set out from the port. We spotted a pair of coyotes scavenging along the sea shore, and even a lone sea lion out in the lagoon.
It took a while to find some whales that wanted to interact, but when they finally did we had about forty five minutes with a mother and calf to ourselves. This pair weren’t so keen on coming in to be patted, but stayed with the boat, rolling around on their backs and scratching themselves on the hull, which caused a couple of wobbly moments for us on board. The baby was rolling across the mother’s head and back, totally relaxed.
After a while we found another calf, this one was going between three boats back and forth grabbing attention as much as it could. The mother was very chilled, staying about ten or fifteen meters away while the calf was off with the humans. Finally she came in to the boats and craved some attention herself before finally swimming off. The rambunctious baby tried to head straight to another boat but the mother swiftly and firmly cut between it and the boat and forced the calf off into the lagoon. Definite whale discipline in action.