Wednesday, 25 March 2015


The mountain monastery at Montserrat is about an hour away from Sitges and we thought that as we have, in Manel, our very own tame Spanish tourist guide it would be a good idea to use the hire car and venture out on Tuesday.


Our first view of the stunning mountains (Montserrat = serrated mountain) came into focus for us as the clouds lifted to reveal the peaks. 


The road to the monastery is 9 kilometres long as it climbs from the valley floor below.


The views from the monastery are wonderful and, given that the weather was not perfect, we had some far reaching scenery on offer.


Doug and Manel with Spain in the background.


It’s hard to descibe the surreal atmosphere of the monastery as it sits perilously on the mountain side.  The low cloud made things feel even stranger.


There is a cable car to transfer visitors from the valley floor to the monastery, if they don’t want to negotiate the road, and a rack and pinion railway to take you to lower and higher levels from the monastery car park.


We were lucky it wasn’t the tourist season and the weather wasn’t at it’s best – it seemed at times that we were the only ones there.



This is the inner courtyard and the entrance to the Basilica of St Mary.


It is indeed a beautiful space inside the Basilica.


The white smoke didn’t denote that they had a new Pope but it looked like it!

We had a terrific day out and much thanks to Manel, who was a God-send with his translation!


Today we stayed in the Sitges area, catching up with some friends who live in this lovely town, and then taking a good long walk along the seafront.


Again, the weather was not great but the wide beaches ……..


…….. and the stunning villas facing onto the beach all along …….


…….. the southern sea front made the walk a pleasure.


After a sit down at the end …….


……. and a look back towards Sitges, we took the same walk back – stopping for lunch half way along.  Tomorrow is our last day before a late flight back to the UK – if the weather improves it may even be a beach day (our first!).

Monday, 23 March 2015

Sitges Blast!!

It’s been such a whirl for the last four days that this blog is now well overdue.  Last Thursday, with friends Zoe and Nancy and Andy we flew into Barcelona and took the short road journey south, where we arrived at the lovely coastal town of Sitges. Steven and Ivan had arrived earlier and friend Manel journeyed down on Friday from Barcelona.  The group was complete!


The view from our room in the Medium Sitges Park Hotel over the inner courtyard was lovely (at first) but soon …………..


……….. the wind got up and the gales started and we had two days of sensational coastal battering.  The waves hit the ancient walls of the old town with such force that it shook the ground beneath our feet.


The poor palm trees have probably seen it many time before but for us, who were hoping for a little bit of beach weather, we were going to have to wait.


However, the wind didn’t stop us from enjoying the lovely old part of the town – Nancy, Zoe, Andy and Doug on the steps beneath the church.


There’s so much lovely architecture, not just in the old part of the town, you only have to look from the shopping streets to gain the occasional treat.


On Saturday Nancy and James went down to the seafront to look at the millions of pounds worth of supercars assembled there.  There was a cacophony of exhaust notes as these four wheeled ‘works of art’ set off for their day out. Aston Martin, Ferrari and Audi R8 here - just a sample of the goodies to be seen.


On Sunday it was time for the “oldies” as they entered the town at the end of their Barcelona to Sitges run. These gorgeous machines – a lot of them over a hundred years old, were in the most perfect condition and their combined value probably far outweighed that of the supercars the day before.


Just one more pic. for indulgence’ sake!


A lot of our time so far has been engaged in sustenance! James, Nancy, Ivan,Steven, Andy, Manel, Zoe and Doug indulging.


Sunday was Ivan’s birthday and we all went to a traditional Catalan restaurant (thanks to Manel for his local knowledge in finding the place) and for his guidance in the correct way to consume some of the delicacies on offer.


All of us outside the restaurant after the most amazing meal. From there we walked off some of the contents of our stomachs over the two kilometres back to town …….


……. where we all went to Parrot’s Bar for champagne. Many happy returns Ivan!


Today (Monday) Steven and Ivan flew back early which left the rest of us for a final drink together before Nancy, Zoe and Andy also made the journey home.  It’s been a blast guys – a great weekend and it now leaves just Manel and ourselves to enjoy the rather changeable weather in Sitges for the next few days.  Keep safe and see you all soon!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

A few days of delight on the Isle of Wight.

Although we were on the Isle of Wight for three days, that didn’t deter James from travelling back to the mainland for an appointment at the War Memorial Hospital at Bognor Regis. 


It probably had something to do with the fact that it entailed a ride on the hovercraft! The hover service between Southsea and Ryde has been going for some 50 years.

P1000999.  I

The comfort level on board is just above basic. The noise levels are quite high and the ride is surprisingly bumpy but, for James, it’s still one of the best of rides ever.


In 2016 the comfort, noise and ride qualities may well get very much better when two brand new craft come into service. Can’t wait!


After his appointment (which concluded that he need’s a new hip!) he arrived back on the island rather deflated (only the hovercraft that is).

We stayed with friend Jonathan for a couple of days and on Thursday we met up with Jon’s mum, Sylvia, for brunch at a cafe on Ryde beach. A walk along the lovely wide sandy beach was enjoyed by all of us but especially Jon’s dog Sasha.


Sasha and Doug are the very best of friends and for an old, and quite large dog, she gets a bit excited when he’s around (and sadly pays for it the day after!).


At Ryde there’s a beautiful old boathouse which has thankfully survived to the present day.


It was Sylvia’s suggestion that we pop the short distance to Puckpool Battery between Ryde and Seaview to have a look around. Built in the 1860’s to defend Britain from a possible French invasion, it’s still in remarkable condition.


All the main gun emplacements are still there …..


… and they make a good backdrop for a lovely photo of Jonathan and his Mum.


During the Second World War a gas decontamination facility was built – this is still in great shape but, logically, all the interesting bits inside and underground are locked off from the public for safety reasons as this is now a public park.  Thanks to Sylvia we had a fantastic few hours discovering something we didn’t know existed on the island.


On the last day, just before getting the ferry back home, we popped into the Garlic Farm to buy a few bulbs.  There’s garlic everywhere – even the old tree trunks have been carved to look like it.


You can enjoy an interesting hour or so (but we didn’t have the time) – however there’s always something that can be learnt …….


…… in the ten minutes it takes to buy a few bulbs.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

In the right place – by chance!

By chance today, we were in the right place at the right time.  Before catching the ferry from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight for a few days we travelled on to Southampton to see if we could enjoy a little bit of the excitement going on there today.


P & O’s new cruise ship “Britannia” was being named by The Queen and our first sight of her (the ship that is) was from the Red Jet terminal.


The covered terraces for all the great and the good were in place (and spoiling the lines of the ship a bit!).


Walking further round towards the Ocean terminal we got a closer view …….


……. but, at 11:50, we were in just the right place to welcome The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as they entered the cruise terminal.  After that it was back on the road – leaving behind all the excitement on board “Britannia” as she became officially named. However, we had up-to-the-minute information as to what was happening from our “spies” on board!


A quick dash back to Portsmouth saw us catching the 1 o’ clock ferry ……


….. and, of course, there has to be a few pics of the Ryde to Southsea hovercraft.  This one passed us as we crossed the Solent ……


…. and a couple of pics leaving …….


…. and arriving at Ryde.  Tomorrow James will have his opportunity to have a ride on one as he’s having to get back to the mainland for an awkwardly placed hospital appointment and the quickest way back for the day is THE HOVERCRAFT!