Category Archives: Spain

Festa Major in Sitges 2012

Before the memory fades I must tell you about Sitges (with a see not an it) a small ex fishing village just south of Barcelona. A London friend recommended it and the hotel to stay at, so being in rather fast track mode I called, spoke to the Eve lady and all was booked, easy. We dumped the rentacar at the airport and took the Monbus down the coast accompanied by hoards of fellow revellers, all men. You see Sitges has a certain reputation, if you get my drift, in fact, out with it, it’s the Gay Capital of Europe. This of course is a very good thing, it keeps the worst elements of drunken Northern Europeans out, period. Hooray hooray.
The sister had a pleasant room at the front with a tiny balcony while I enjoyed a larger room at the back with a sitting room and almost a deck, oh, and the hotel’s a/c equipment. Up early the next morning, about five, I was wandering the street side restaurant when I was “good morninged” in American by two guys, I responded in like fashion and we chatted along until they saw through my charade, I was invited to join them and we had breakfast every morning for the rest of the stay. Hi Gary, hi Jack and Bill from Fort Myers Florida. Such gentlemen, we had lots of laughs, even over breakfasts.
Holiday stupor kicked in, beach, lunch, beach, siesta, beach, wine o’clock, walk the town, dinner, sleep, no complaints, yet. Leaving the beach late one afternoon we saw evidence of the impending mayhem, a stage twixt hotel and sand some twenty five feet from sister’s balcony with the most enormous speaker stack being prepared. This bodes badly thought we, and bad it got. This was the kickoff concert for Festa Major or FM12, or the town’s big annual Fiesta. Starting at about eleven thirty the sister was thrown about her room by the pounding sound waves of electronic dance music (EDM), not a tune could she discern, not a word could she understand, not a beat she could follow, not a wink of sleep could she achieve until five am. I didn’t hear a thing!
“You’ve seen nothing yet” we were advised over breakfast the next morning, sister’s crest fell a bit.
Undeterred we continued our strolls around town until one evening, the last one for us, we discerned the sound of approaching merriment, crowds gathering in the narrow streets, distant explosions, loud traditional music echoing up the alleyways and there he was, shaking and weaving his way toward us Saint Bartholomew himself. A twelve foot characature supported by one individual, hugely heavy, followed by, dunno, a female characature, they danced, span, spinned, wove, weaved, all most impressive. But then…….we were showered with fire, big fireworks, intense in the alleys, sparks on our clothes, in our hair, cowering in doorways as we were bombarded with flying flames, shooting out of passing dragons. My my, health and safety would have had a field day, but this was Spain. The alleys were packed, fifty to a hundred people deep and we were, remarkably, at the front, ducking and diving, avoiding a fiery fate. Small holes began to appear in Sister’s shirt. The noise, intense, loud bangs, kids, masked, warning us to step back, it’s dangerous, I broke my toenail, again, ouch, first busted in Laos on a rock. Just about everyone was wearing a hat, straw, to prevent their hair catching alight, yep, I left mine in the hotel, frantic pawing of head to put the sparks out. Hope you can divine the scene, it was one of those occasions which I think I can describe, without fear of hyperbole, as, “I have never seen anything like it.” I have to admire her, the sister was, I think, bemused.
So we survived that and self congratulating made our way back to the hotel for dinner. Ali, our trusty waiter, drove out a squatting drinker from our table and we avoided the ninety minute wait for dinner. Then there was more, a really really spectacular fire works display over the Church. Imagine a pristine bay with a couple of sail boats, maybe the odd pedal boat during the day. Late that night the water was alive with the lights of many many boats, craft, yachts, gin palaces, as far as the eye could see. Where did they all come from, where did they all go….We adjourned to sister’s tiny balcony to enjoy the show, one white wine one red, and excellent it was.
An aside here, anyone seen the July Fourth 2012 fireworks display in San Diego ? Half a million people gathered to watch and because of a computer malfunction the whole lot went up in thirty seconds. Oops. It’s on YouTube, of course.
Off the next morning to Barcelona with a bit of a bad head, the hi speed train to Madrid, ripped off as we transferred from station A to station B by the cab driver, typical, and another fast ride to Segovia. Before I go I I have to tell you that arriving at Madrid’s Atocha train station is somewhat like docking at an Arthur C Clarke space station, super modern, moving sidewalks, left field sculptures, most impressive.
Written at 39,000 feet over Reykjavik, Iceland.

The Fire Storm approaches

Revelers reveling

I’m sure you get the idea.

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Take the rough with the smooth

After a somewhat whirlwind tour of northern Spain we are now back in the UK.
Had hoped to be welcoming the Seattleites tonight but alas their flight out last night was cancelled so we shall see them for breakfast instead. Fly well Cap’ Hill persons.
They did arrive, only twenty hours late, very tired but enthusiastic.
Something went wrong with my blogging abilities, sorry about that. I think I posted the same blog twice, deleted the wrong thing and the Ortuella post vanished.
Here it is again !

Don’t laugh but we are in Ortuella or to be more exact in the industrial estate of Ortuella which is a small town about twenty minutes outside of Bilbao. Our GPS on the phone guided us to another hotel with the same name in the middle of a housing development (council estate) set on a very steep hillside with exceptionally narrow streets, we received some very strange looks. Undaunted we continued into Bilbao driving up and down Bilbao Avenue looking for our booked hotel, for about an hour. Finally resorted to stopping at the Novotel block for advice to be advised that the best solution would be to hire a taxi and follow it to our lodging. Poo Baa said our pilot, we are better than that, so back out of town we cruised. There had been a mention of a fuel station, we saw one, turned in and there was the hotel, the hotel Ortuella. Brand new, restaurant, bar, tables and chairs outside with charming views of……….the industrial estate. Abandoning bags and car we caught a cab to the Guggenheim, what a treat, but more of that in a little bit. We did the tour, pottered in the Old Town and got a cab back to Ortuella.
Oh look, it’s all closed up, shutters over the bar door, shutters over the restaurant, oh deleted expletive. Hmm. Ok, back into town to find the supermarket, great idea except, we had no clue where to find same. Drove about a bit, parked, walked around, found all sorts of unsuitable retailers, bead merchant, dress shops, toy shops, but no food, wine nor beer. Finally found a fruit shop where we splurged on four bottles of wine, two of water and some bananas all for the sum of five pounds (seven fifty US). Knowing we would then find the supermarket we did, fifty yards from where we parked. Sigh.
Returned to hotel where we will enjoy the bread and cheese we bought in Santander earlier.
No major sense of humour failures and we are quite content with our bananas, bread, cheese, wine and the enchanting view of the industrial estate !

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Our hotel