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Week 2: Carcassonne to Barcelona

October 10, 2021

There are worse places in which I could be suffering a mild case of food poisoning, I reflect, as I pray to the porcelain god at two in the morning. For example, I could be at home. There are numerous establishments back in Ely that could have served up a questionable mussel and I wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun eating it as we had in La Boqueria food market in Barcelona yesterday.

I blame the pizzeria. Six years ago, Ben got some work on a super yacht in Barcelona and rented an apartment in Barceloneta, near Port Vell, where the boat was moored. He soon found an excellent restaurant right on the harbour front, which did lovely pizzas and a great vermouth. We were keen to reminisce, so after a light brunch (not light at all – see pic) at the Milk Bar in el Born, another favourite, we hired a couple of electric bikes and set off to find it.

Six years later and the pizzeria has gone, in its place yet another tired paella and tapas joint, and with it our hopes of walking down memory lane. Never mind, we thought – we’ll go up to Las Ramblas, buy some tat (our fridge magnet collection is growing magnificently) and go to Barcelona’s premier indoor food market.

We had a fantastic meal – a tray piled high with squid, mussels, prawns, crayfish, scallops and razor clams – washed down with ice cold cava and served under the mournful eyes of the elastic-banded lobsters primed for that evening’s dinner.

It was absolutely delicious, and reasonably priced, and at no point during the 45 minutes in which we managed to consume the lot did I think we’d have reason to question our life choices. Six hours later, back at the campsite, the lobsters got their revenge.

When your chemical loo is full and you have to run the mosquito gauntlet to the shower block to expel more foreign bodies than Priti Patel has in her entire term of office, you find yourself thinking ‘I really wish I’d just had a pizza’.

Never mind. This week has been a lot of fun. Giving up on ever trying to get into Aigues-Mortes, we travelled inland for a couple of hours and ended up at Carcassonne, parking up in a motorhome park right outside the ramparts. The skies cleared and we had a glorious evening wandering around the ruins (NB: really not all that ruined, feels more like Disneyland, and was apparently extensively restored in 1853, but looks more like a hundred years later) and a taste of cassoulet and gizzards (NB: we’ve got to stop eating weird things). The next day held more rain so we remained in place and I did some work, attempting to position myself on camera at an angle that didn’t invite too many questions. The sun finally reappeared and we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves charged a comparatively tiny amount for the two nights we had spent at this major tourist attraction (the equivalent of six hours in a carpark in Cambridge).

This country is amazing. Nevertheless, it was time to leave, and so we headed south into Spain and Barcelona. A glorious drive on the edge of the Pyrenees took us to a campsite 30kms north of the city. Not our usual choice but it’s out of season and boasts a pool and surprisingly few children so we’ve spent a lovely few relaxing days, catching up on laundry and work (using the free and remarkably good wifi) before heading into Barcelona itself for a whistle-stop tour and the aforementioned mussel attack.

Barcelona is a fantastic place, fizzing with life and energy and it was great to return, feeling the sun beat down on our backs as we cycled up to the Forum and enjoying a kicky vermouth at the beach bar in Barceloneta. Ben even found time to get his hair done.

Assuming the effects of the food poisoning wear off tomorrow we will be heading over into central Spain where the mercury continues to rise, as my tan lines need better definition and I can surely provide some more Spanish mosquitoes with sustenance. Hasta ahora!

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