Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Easy city

Lunch at one of our favourite Barcelona restaurants – Bestiari, just around the corner from our little flat in El Born. Tragically inflation has taken the cost of the fixed lunch from E10 to E15 in the time I have been going there – that for a wonderful, three course meal that toady included chilled melon soup or risotto, fillet steak and dessert, wine, bread and water. You couldn’t eat at Pret in London for that price.

The whole city is very easy to get along with. Cheap and reliable public transport or you can drive into town and park for £1.50 an hour. Or take a taxi to get there for £3. Compare and contrast with London where you pay a king's ransom for crap public transport or take massively expensive taxis or £4.50 to park in the centre.

Help when you need it most

More house furnishing from El Corte Ingles (Spain's answer to John Lewis) where we pick up our garden table. More acts of Catalonian kindness. We park on completely the wrong side of Placa Catalunya and when we head downstairs with heavy table, a car park attendant finds us a trolley and whisks us across the square, blocking traffic off and ensuring we find our car. He refuses to accept any tip.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Neighbours, everybody needs ...

We even meet our neighbours. Those on our floor are a young couple about to welcome twins into the world. They have already thrown Ben’s footballs back. The rather brassy lady from upstairs takes one look at Ben and says ‘me gusta! (I like!). As usual he charms his way into everyone’s hearts.

In the 'hood

Back to Barcelona and a very different city from the one we left. Everyone is back from holiday and the whole neighbourhood has woken up (and so has the traffic). The bars are back in action along with the bakery, wine shop, hardware store, cheese shop, patisserie, greengrocer and (adhering strictly to the full August closure schtick) a fish shop and butcher. All within five minutes walk of the house.

Can Jou

Off back to Barcelona via Can Jou, a stunning lodge up in the hills above Girona. Set up by Mick Peters, a Liverpudlian, and his Spanish wife Rosi, Can Jou now has around 15 rooms, a pool, walking trails and horse riding facilities surrounded by forests and hills with clear views to the Pyrenees in the north. Clean and lovely rooms, great food and stunning value – full board (great food) for around £45 a day each (half for Ben). Ben went horse riding and we all went on a long hot walk up to the proverbial cool mountain stream. If you can find a way of getting there, please do

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ne mange pas ici

Want to see the decline of cheap and decent French cooking in action? Stop at Aire du Village Catalane, a ghastly service station just before you leave France. Two plates of slop (billed as crudités), Ben’s menu enfant, two drinks and two fruit salads for E32. Better still, hold on till you cross the Spanish border.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Test Match (very) Special

And the very modern day family gathering around the Internet set to see in agonising slow-motion text action, England claw their way to victory in the fourth test. Sarah, who until recently wouldn’t know a googly from a hole in the ground, was heard saying ‘I wish I had tickets for the Oval … ’

Friday, August 26, 2005

Family Life

After four wonderful days in Cadaques, off to Marseillette, family home of brother Nick (well in summer anyway), Jancis and family. Blissful weather and the usual concoction of amazing food and wine prepared by the hosts. Marseillette has been the scene of so many happy times – Rebecca and her cousins have been there since they were babies and it is hard to beat the sheer joy of lazing in the hammock under the pine tress or eating Nick’s delicious meals al fresco.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

well blow me down ...

... if my big brother doesn´t surprise me by pitching up with my nephew to surprise us. My gob has not been more smacked. The sun is shining and we all have a wonderful day together - morning tea in a shady cafe, the beach then lunch in Es Baluard, Cadaques´s finest restaurant, home of the stunning cheese ice cream (and some of the best turbot i have tasted in a long long time). It doesnt get much better than this...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Off to Cadaques

Enough setting up home. Off to Cadaques, our favourite seaside resort by several miles, up the Costa Brava coast to near the Spanish border then down the steepest hillside to this beautiful white fishing village where Dali once lived (and once hung out with Oliver Reed and Mick Jagger which owuld have been a larf). Staying this year at the Playa Sol hotel rather than the big old villa we have rented which solves the perrenial velo noise problem.

V windy on arrival but nothing has changed - same restaurants, shops and people who run them. Celebrate with mind-numbing sangria in Casino bar

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Barcelona Sunday

... is very Sundayish indeed especially in August. Our local bakery was open but that was about it. Every shop was closed, even El Corte Ingles, the big central department store. It was too hot to shop in any case and we went off to Parc Guell, the remarkable Gaudi-designed park full of his wierd and wonderful terraces and gingerbread man houses to the north of the centre. Extraordinary place with great views of the city and the sea. We lunched in the cafe, read the Sunday Telegraph and played football.

Another great find for dinner - Limbo, just off Via Laeitana near the port. Ben demolished the slow-cooked lamb which he said ´was the best ever´(apart from mine, he ever so politely added)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

bit more relaxed

After ikea, the car and the bank we took things a bit easier today. first stop today was the marvellous just reopened market of santa cantalina in the centre of town with sweeping wooden roofs designed by the same firm that did the Scottish parliameant. we bought very little except from delicious teruel ham, cheese and (sigh) white peaches which we took home and scoffed for lunch round our dining table.

then we went up to the olympic swimming pool above the city in montjuich park and swam there - something i have always wanted to do. as we did the storm clouds gathered and a huge shower burst over the pool with the torrential rain crashing like stones on the azure water.

And to round things off, a trip up to the hills above Barcelona for dinner at Can Carbonell, a rustic Catalan restaurant on a dirt track in the heart of the national park above the city. great food from the fire and stunning views on the way back including the Camp Nou abalaze with light as Barca played Betis in the Spanish cup.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Sarah's Pumas

Sarah has bought a very smart pair of Puma trainers for walking the city. It's around 2.5 miles downhill from the flat to Plaza Catalunya in the heart of the centre

we're here

Sorry for the delay. we arrived around 55 hours ago and it's been non stop since then. First and foremost we love the flat which remains as spacious, cool and elegant as when we first set eyes on it. So, most importantly do the children.

Becca, with obvious nerves over leaving her friends behind, has created her own world in her bedroom. Ben says he wants to stay here for ever and has already deposited one football over into the neighbour's yard. Like 95% of the area and 80% of the city, the neighbour is away so who knows when he will get it back. Almost every shop, bar and grocery is 'tancat' - closed - until the end of the month. Most flats are shuttered. Supermarkets open shorter hours and the buses run to different timetables in August. Even around El Born in the heart of the city things are quiet. Only La Ramblas seem as heaving as ever and even there our favourite cafe (L'Opera) was church-quiet at 11.45pm last night.

Achievements so far? Equipped the flat with crockery, cutlery, sheets, towels etc in one mind-blowing morning in Ikea, rented a car (a cute BMW) from Avis (for some reason a branch in a suburban industrial estate) and filled in endless forms in Barclays to create a joint account. And tried the local restaurant (Mexican but half decent food and not a bad caiparhinia). And met the porteira, Meribel, who looks after the block, delivers the mail and takes your rubbish out.

Oh yes we have a kettle so we can have a nice cup of tea ...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Hey it's Bex from the Lander family (the cool & gorgeous one)
Just wanted to say hello and I'm missing you guys already!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The power of ebay

We sold the children's old beds on eBay as part of the house emptying process. One went to Ali, a cheerful muslim from Ilford who came round with son and sister-in-law to pick up the bed.

Not only did our sons immediately head for the garden to play cricket but Ali picked up his electric drill and fixed our wonky kitchen cabinet door. He then refused to take any type of payment.

A fine man and a testament to the social power of eBay.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Here's Copernico 11 where we will live - ground floor left hand flat in the building on the left. Photos inside to follow when we get there...

5 days ...

There's enough packing cases in the house to fill a small container which is exactly what they will do when take them off on Monday. A rather smaller amount are (hopefully) on their way to Barcelona via DHL.

And that's apart from all the out of date homeopathic medicines and other lotions and potions that are being binned, and the clothes and toys hat are off to the charity shop.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Our details

Plancha Baja

Calle Copernico 11

Tel: Our Vonage VOIP phone is 020 7078 7659
Our Spanish landline is 0034 93 209 66 37

Mobiles to follow.

emails (just change 'at' to the @ sign)
richard at
sarah.barclay at
rebeccalander at
funkylovesmanu at

Eight days and counting

We're off on 17 August from glamorous Luton Airport by Easyjet.

More to follow