Friday, 6 May 2016

To Barcelona via Victoria

Well, after my usual winter hiatus to write my ski bog over at, we're back with our annual May getaway, this year to Barcelona.

As has seem to become the case, we had "another" trip we had to do first. We quit skiing April 17th, then had to run to Victoria for a weekend for a 75th birthday celebration of a dear friend of Karen's that she has known for 40 years. 

We left Saturday, April 30th, driving 11.5 hrs to Vancouver, and overnighting with my little sister (whom I have not seen in about 8 years). While it was kinda ugly, raining and almost snowing when we left home, it was basically blue sky once we hit Golden, and stayed that way for the next 4 days. Aside from a wild goose chase caused by someone mucking with GasBuddy's gas prices, the drive was uneventful -- until we hit Vancouver, when our GPS took us to a bridge that had closed the previous day for repairs, leaving us very confused for a short while.

After overnighting with my sis, we had a very early start on Sunday to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island. When I lived on the island, I always liked the ferry ride itself, but the process or catching the ferry was never fun.
The Deltaport Coal Terminal from the ferry 
An osprey flew by 
A dramatic shot of the funnel 
Another ferry sails by 
Ships passing in the Active Passage 
A whale watching boat, out watching... 
The classic view of the islands 
The south tip of Saltspring Island. I used to tidepool there 
A sailboat motors with Mt. Baker in the background. Do sailboats ever sail?
W had almost 2 hrs to kill before the party, so went to Island View Beach, home of a lot of people walking dogs on a Sunday afternoon -- and the odd bird.

The beach 
A great blue heron 
A solo kayaker 
My heron in flight 
A crab. It was dead, but still cute 
My heron alights
It was then time to hit the party itself.
Karen on the left in red, the guest of honour behind her in green
It was a great, if short, party, and we were glad we went to help Val celebrate.

The next morning, it was time to reverse the process and drive home. We caught the 11 AM ferry back to the mainland again.
The little ferry heads to Saltspring 
More islands 
Two ferries in the Active Passage 
Chasing each other down 
Two sailboats motor out of the chop in the Active Passage and into the straight 
Racing another ferry in to the terminal
I drove from Victoria to Calgary in one day a long time ago; I don't recommend it. It's 12 hrs of driving plus a 90 min ferry ride plus the ferry queue. So we opted to stop over at a friends place in Kelowna, splitting the drive into 2 days. We took an "interesting" route to avoid the terrible traffic in the Fraser Valley, driving direct through farmland from White Rock to Abbotsford paralleling the US Border about 5 miles north of it. Slow, but pretty, and only ~5 min longer than had we taken the highway.
Mt. Baker, even closer
We once again blasted over the Coquihalla at the blistering speed limit of 120 km/hr, where everything happens very fast.
Approaching the summit. Cool rock slabs.
We found it interesting that the Coquihalla Connector from Merritt to Peachland was the "high" point of the trip, topping out at over 1,700 m ASL (higher than the Roger's Pass's 1,330 m, or the Kicking Horse Pass's 1,627 m). At one point, we could make out Big White some 80 km distant.
I've been there...
We intercepted a friend in Kelowna for a beer, then crashed at "home" with take out Chinese food.

Tuesday, we did the 8 hr drive from Kelowna home. Aside from 3 people trying to kill me with their cars, it wasn't eventful.

We saw LOTS of wildlife on Day 1 of our 4 days on the road, including multiple deer, sheep, eagles and other critters, and sadly, a dead black bear that had been hit by a vehicle in Mt. Revelstoke National Park. The rest -- not so much.

So we arrived home Tuesday late  and tired after 4 days on the road, our house sitters arrived on Wednesday, and we left for Barcelona early Thursday morning. It was a pretty uneventful flight over, though due to loud chatty people sitting in front of us on the Toronto-Barcelona run, got little sleep.

On arrival in BCN, I picked up a sim card for my phone, buying 20 min of calling, unlimited texts and 1 Gb of data for €10  You can't get that deal at home. We bought a T10 card for €10, then took the train from the airport to the Sants station, then the metro to our apartment (2 rides off the 10 ride card). We dumped our bags, but could not stay because the apartment had not yet been cleaned from the last folks who stayed here. We went out and grabbed a fantastic lunch...
The restaurant, just opened for lunch at 1 PM

Just one of 3 courses
...then sauntered the neighbourhood a bit...
Around the corner 
About a block away
...bought a few groceries, wine and beer, and finally was able to come home and unpack, then to sit looking out our window at this, the view for the next 34 days.
Looking up the street

Looking down the street
Tomorrow, the plan is to go to one of the main markets here and get additional groceries. We have 2 small grocery stores and 4 small vegetable markets within 5 min of our apartment, but we want to stock up at the larger market.
Oh, and we're going to nap, too, having been awake about 28 straight hours so far.

FYI: Wine & beer is mind-bogglingly cheap here. Beer is €0.35 - €0.55 per can in a grocery story. Wine can be had for €0.85 a bottle, with lots and lots and lots of wine available for around €2.50, and the REALLY good stuff I buy at home for $17 available at €4.50. My liquor bill just dropped dramatically.

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