|The view we were hoping for!!|
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Across the Pyrenees
I wrote this blog about 5 days ago, but since then our internet access has been very scratchy and we have both been sick as dogs with gastro. Today we are finally in Barcelona, will report back in a day or 2 on our eating binges.
We finally left France on our journey south to find the sun. We had intended to spend our first night near Chateau de Queribus that we had loved and do some walking. Sadly, the weather defeated us so we carried on towards the border, thinking we’d find a ‘free camping’ spot somewhere along the way. I was picturing a pretty spot in the Pyrenees, however our naivety in this endeavour hit us in the face loud and clear when we reached Le Perthus on the France/Spain border. This town was once a duty free haven in its previous life before the European union, and is now a sad, cheap shopping mecca for people with nothing better to do than to take a bus trip with a shopping trolley to buy cheap booze and fake watches.
However, as they say “when life hands you a lemon, make margaritas”, so we bought very cheap good quality gin and calvados and kept going across the border.
We had both been looking forward to Spain, as neither of us had spent a lot of time there, and all the books etc extoll its virtues, NON-STOP. We crossed into a town called La Jonquerra, and the first person I saw was a hooker. These poor sad street-walkers stand on street corners and in truck laybys waiting for passing trade. This is a trucker’s city - I’ve never seen so many trucks in one place. The whole area is an industrial wasteland, one of the most hideous, drab places I’ve seen.
Moving right along (and way past my limit of 3 hours in the truck), we set our sights for Figueres, which has the second most visited gallery in Spain after the Prado – Museu Dali. One look from the highway and I said “keep driving”. This whole area is so ghastly it’s hard to believe.
We decided to head for the motorway, thinking that a service layover would be our best bet for overnight given the paucity of cute towns – in France these are really quite acceptable and often you get a decent view over the hills etc. Not so in this part of the world. We finally stopped at the third one and spent the night sleeping with truckers by the side of the motorway.
Fortunately, we are completely self–contained and could pull up the drawbridge and batten down the hatches, and pretend we were elsewhere (apart from the floodlight beaming in through our skylight). The police cruised by in the morning, and caught my eye as I was making toast ( I thought we were going to get arrested for vagrancy) “Nice truck” they said. You think??” I said. “Where you going?” I resisted saying Malaysia, “Morocco”, Atlas? “Yes”. So there is my entre to Spain. First person I see is a hooker, first night spent with truckies, and first people I speak to are the police.
I must say here that I am in awe of Lawrence’s ability to manoeuvre the yellow beast around these towns and endless roundabouts. I’m not sure how he does it– sheer determination I expect. I also need to say that as chief navigator, I am completely hopeless. The GPS is helpful, but with new roads and endless roadworks, James (the GPS) and I just end up arguing and getting lost, and poor Lawrence has an extra 50 roundabouts to negotiate. It’s a wonder we actually get anywhere.
We had thought to spend a day in Andorra whilst we had the hire car, but read the guidebook the night before setting off and decided against it. The Rough Guide says “Today, the town is a seething mass of bad restaurants, tacky bars and garish shops crammed with everything from cheap booze, perfumes, and watches to cars and appliances. (minus the hookers)” Having seen Le Perthus, we could now imagine it too clearly. I’d wanted to go there since I was 19 – what a shame I was 30+ years too late.
We are now ensconced in what seems like the world’s biggest caravan park. It’s about the size of Perth. It’s just fine right now as it is off-season, but I cannot imagine it in August, it would be a seething mass of humanity and its dog. We are just south of Barcelona and quite close to the Mediterranean – we can see it from the bar.
Tomorrow we tackle Barcelona. We might spend a couple of nights in hotel in the city if we can find a cheap one, just so we can eat with the Spanish at midnight – maybe.
Adios (that’s about the limit of my Spanish)