Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ma and Pa Evans visit, and new flat!

This weekend saw the visit of my Mum and Dad to stay with us in Barcelona, along with our friends John and Julia who live across the road from my folks. A good time was had by all poking around the city, and we fitted in a day trip to Montserrat as well. Shame we didn't win the pub quiz. Ah well.

The last thing they managed to squeeze in before leaving was a visit to our new flat in Poble Nou. We signed the contract yesterday and so are very pleased. Location wise it is (almost) perfect - I say almost because it could be right next to the beach, instead of four blocks away, but it is right in the middle of an area that we really like. We still haven't quite figured out how we are going to configure the rooms - if I had bought the place I would knock through a couple of the partition walls and make it a really big two bedroom flat, rather than have four rather small bedrooms (actually, three bedrooms and a glorified cupboard!). And the new place doesn't have a terrace like our current flat does, but then it is in a much much nicer area and is €400 euros a month cheaper, not to be sniffed at.

Anyway my parents and John and Julia have left now; and in fact I'm on my own for a week because Djanira jetted off for a week to Madagascar! Nice for some, eh? This summer she is going to be base-camp manager for an expedition organised by her old company, BSES, and so is flying out there now to do a recce. Sounds suspiciously like a 'holiday' to me!

Fortunately I have lots of stuff ar y gweill, plenty of work to be doing, parties and pub quizzes to go to, and this weekend I'm off to climb one of Montserrat's big walls with Ferran. Speaking of which, I shall leave you with a pic of my Mum and Dad there two days ago:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Climbat Barcelona indoor climbing wall

Last night we wanted to go climbing but work and chores delayed us til past 8pm, which is probably a little too late to head to the crags in May, so we decided to check out what indoor walls Barcelona has to offer.

The two major ones are La Fuixarda, an old road tunnel up on Montjuic that has been converted into a (very overhanging!) wall, and which is free and lit up at night; and Climbat, a 'more conventional' indoor bouldering wall not far from the city centre. We went to check out the latter (not realising it was bouldering only - fortunately the rope was hidden in a bag so I didn't look like a proper twit).

The first impression one gets is that it's small. When you're used to the super-walls of London, a single-storey bouldering room, about a quarter of the size of Mile End, seems quite claustrophobic. And expensive - €12 for a session! That's around 8 quid, exchange-rate fans. So, pricier yet smaller than Mile End; not a great start.

Spend a bit of time there though, and you begin to warm to the place. The staff are friendly and went out of their way to explain the way the problems/grading worked. Like Mile End and every other sensible wall, all problems were sensibly graded on a colour scale, but better still the colouring is consistent for all panels i.e. green problem uses only green holds, and all green problems are roughly the same grade. Very simple and no confusion. There is a very strict no-loose-chalk rule (only balls allowed) which I was worried about because I only had my super -8-euro-Decathlon-mega-chalk-refill in my bag, but it turns out that I didn't feel the need for chalk at all - not once in a 2.5 hour session. Why? Air conditioning!! It is absolute revelation to climb on plastic in cool, dry conditions, the friction was superb.

The whole place reminded me of a slighty larger, air-conditioned version of the bouldering room at Dynamic Rock in Swansea, which is no bad thing. Yet, at €12 a session, and with the long summer evenings approaching, I can't myself spending too much time there in the coming months.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Walking in Montserrat

Computer troubles today (now fixed, thanks to a borrowed Windows Repair CD from Dan) meant that Djanira and I went for a walk this afternoon. It was drizzling this morning in Barcelona, but by the time we'd got out of the house and driven the 50ish minutes to a car park half way up Montserrat, the sun was out. We went for a great little walk which lasted about 3 hours, the photo above is of the Monestary, and several of the more famous pinnacles above it. Apparently there's an Elephant and a Mummy there somewhere. The pinnacle furthest left is the one Djanira and I climbed with Ferran back in November. Anyway, today was really good, and we're looking forward to the next visit.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

First day's climbing

Last night, my old mate Dan had a bbq on his terrace, which was very nice and we made lots of new friends. However, upon arriving home at 3am we thought that our plan of doing something outdoorsy the next day might be scuppered. Not so! One the reasons that we chose to move to Barcelona was because it is close to lots of fun things that you can go and do of an afternoon or even an evening, and so around mid-afternoon we decided to head out to do a bit of climbing.

We had parked the car down in Poble Nou so it was a bit of a walk before we could get motoring. Unfortunately, as I sat down in the drivers seat and turned the ignition, disaster! An interior light had been left on and drained the baterry. Bugger. Fortunately a quick trip to the petrol station round the corner for some jump leads, and after waving down somebody who was pleasant enough to give us a jump start, we were back on the way.

The crag we went to was Penya Ginesta, which is just to the south-west of town, near Castelldefels. It is a very pleasant place to be with a beautiful view across the Med:

We arrived at about 5pm so only did a few routes. Djanira did well to get up a 6a, and I dogged a 7a which will should go clean when I am fitter - the last time I climbed routes was in Pembroke at Easter, so I'm not in best shape. Here's the classic 'from below' shot of DJ on the first route we did:

Later on, we finished off the day with a beer and some tapas on Castelldefels beach, which you can see in the photo above. Very nice too.

Oh yeah, and to all those doubters, Plebby made it to Spain no worries, and is serving us well as usual (despite us mistreating him by leaving his lights on).

Hasta la proxima....

Friday, May 18, 2007

View from our balcony #2

At the weekend Torre Agbar, one of Barcelona's latest additions to its already impressive architecture, lights up at night. We currently live about half a mile to the north-west ('up', on the map):

Thursday, May 17, 2007


We have arrived! Finally we are in Barcelona, and thanks to our holiday we have already a nice suntan so we don't stick out too much. Fortunately all the prospects are that the tans will stay with us for while - the weather, as you might expect, is sunny and in the low twenties. Very nice too.

We have moved into a flat on a temporary basis, for one month, in an area to the north-east of the city centre called Glories. Compass directions are always a little confusing in Barcelona, because every map of the city is drawn with the sea at the bottom, so you expect that way to be south. Except it's not, it's actually southeast. Muy confusing. Anyway, the flat is great for us at the moment, nice and big and with a huge roof terrace - so far all our meals have been al fresco (or, should I say, a fuera). Also we are only half an hour's walk from the area where we want to live, Poble Nou, so it's easy for us to get down there to see long-term-let flats. The photo is the view from our balcony, not spectacular but it's better than brick wall.

You might have noticed that the blog colour scheme has changed. New town, new country etc. I thought I'd make a new start with the blog too. Remember to check back to see what's going on out here! We've already had an invite to our first party - Dan's having a 'classic 80s film night', (complete with projector setup on his terrace) at his flat in Gracia on Saturday. Should be good!

Anyway I'm off to sign up for this facebook thingy. I've been putting it off for ages because I object to the facts that a) you have to sign up, and we sign up to enough things on the internet as it is, and b) people reveal so much about themselves, I find it quite embarrassing. However, I realise that all this is slightly hypocritical, as it is coming from the man who's currently writing a blog using a service you have to register with. And DJ signed up a few days ago and already appears to have half of my friends in her 'friends' list. So, why not? Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Trip to Barca: The final leg

After a fortnight's holiday, we are about to make our final section of the journey to Barcelona. And the best news is, we're going by boat!
Our holiday was always going to be of the 'winging it' variety, which is why we've ended up down in Levanto, just to the south-east of Genoa. Completely coincidentally, it is one of mainland Italy's most consistent surf spots, and the waves today (3'-4', though pretty choppy) are testament to that fact. Shame I neither have board nor wetsuit. Sigh.
We've been here about a week and been relaxing on the beach, not really doing much. It's a great place, not too touristy and plenty of 'real' people about, but still a beach town with all the trimmings. It reminds me a little bit of a bigger version of Mumbles. We did a long old walk along the coast to visit all of the Cinque Terre, five very famous picturesque villages clinging to the coastline to the east of here, and which are the most famous tourist attraction in the area. The walk was great and villages pretty enough, even if they are a little touristy (but what can you expect?).
Anyway so today is a our final day and we leave our campsite (very nice, best we've stayed in all holiday), make the short drive to Genoa to catch the 9.30pm ferry, arriving in Barcelona at 4.30pm the next day. Looking forward to it actually. Still, until then we have one more day here at Levanto, I might see if I can hire me a board somewhere...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

On the road part 2: Italia

There are three things that I have noticed thus far about Italy:

1) There are no fat people. I reckon the combination of a healthy diet (lots of fresh veg and olive oil) and good weather is a good one, as the only excess fat you see around is a bit of late/middle-aged spread. Much better than all the fatties in the States.

2) It is obviously against the local Trade Description Act to sell sunglasses that have lenses smaller than small dinnerplates. A further law stipulates that for any gathering of three or more people, at least one of them must be wearing such a pair of glasses, and smoking.

3) All the stories about Italian drivers are true. They are all crazy, as our hellish two hours getting lost in Genoa will testify.

The best thing about Italy, of course, is the sunshine. We are in a small town called Chiavari, on the mediterranian coast, to the east of Genoa. Our small campsite is right next to the sea (breakfast was taken on the beach this morning) and a 15 minute walk away from the town centre, which is a nice size and would probably be quite lively in tourist season. Currently though it is a little bit dead, but hey, such is the price of travelling in May.

The difference in the weather on the southern side of the alps is striking. We drove up from Geneva to a cloudy and damp Chamonix, where I completely failed to find the famous Bar Nacional (does it still exist even?!), and practically as soon as we came out of the southern side of the Mont Blanc tunnel, we were in the sun. After a three hour drive we were by the sea and changing into shorts. What a treat.

Our plan now is to go a little bit further east to the Cinco Terre, five very famous towns perching on clifftops, each about a mile away from each other. After a couple of days there we'll see, maybe drive back along the Med, or maybe head to Tuscany for a while, before catching a ferry to Barcelona?? Nice idea but we need to look into it. Ciao for now!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Road to Barcelona: London - Fontainebleau - Geneva

After weeks, months, if not years of talking about it, Djanira and I are finally moving to Barcelona! We have trusty old Pleb (the VW Passat) back to ferry us there, so we thought instead of driving there direct, we'd take our time and wander down leisurely.

First stop was Fontainebleau to do some bouldering, a familiar place as we've been there several times in the past. The difference this time was that we decided to stay in a different campsite; usually we stay in La Musadiere near Milly la Foret, but we'd heard that a different site may be nicer, so we'd thought we'd check it out. The new place is called Camping Les Pres, and it's to the south of the forest. Our official verdict is that the advantages of being able to have an open fire do not outweigh the disadvantage of location - it's an extra 20 mins drive to most of the bouldering, and we do really like Milly la Foret. Also, in this day and age there's no excuse for having sqaut toilets - yuck!

Anyway, we spent a couple of very pleasant days milling around the forest. My climbing highlight was a return to Franchard Isatis and the famous problem Le Statique, which I had battled with greatly three years ago (and failed), but this time ticked on my second try. Chuffed. Unfortunately I had no such luck with another classic problem, this time at 91.1, called Le Flipper. Hopefully I'll do it next time.

We left Font and drove down to the old Volcanoes near Clermont Ferrand, with the intention of climbing the Dent du Rancune (google it, it's quite impressive) but we left the area after only one night. The fine weather finally broke and the towns up there are a dive, they remind me a bit of Matlock Bath, all geared up for tacky summer tourists. Not recommended.

So we bailed after a wet night and drove East to Geneva, where we are staying with some of Djanira's Brazilian family who emigrated here many years ago. We had a roof over our head and comfy bed for the first night in a while, and have just eaten a huge raclet, yum! Our current plans are to stay one more night here and then head for the Med. The weather is closing in for prolonged rain in mainland France so there's no point staying inland. Maybe we'll take the Mont Blanc tunnel through Italy, hit the Med, then drive along the coast to Barca. We'll see. Hasta luego!