Saturday, September 23rd, Barcelona, Spain
One of the
we have developed since starting our travels on Zia is
flexibility. Plans don't often come together much
more than a week or two in advance. While I sense
that this is a bit frustrating for friends and family,
it is surprisingly liberating for me. Somewhere in
our wake I have cast off the fear of the unknown.
We embrace new circumstances knowing that we are totally free to
if we find ourselves in an undesirable situation.
Perhaps this is why it is difficult to commit to
specific plans, since changing course is much harder
once expectations are set. Often weather causes us
to revisit our agenda, but sometimes it's something as
simple as a funky vibe. I think that is what
happened with Valencia.
We were thrilled to
approach the city after our harrowing passage and were
a short half an hour away when Joe spotted a flare.
Someone was in distress. He quickly found the
source of the flare with the binoculars. It was a
small boat of some sort. Although we couldn't tell
exactly what had happened, and despite being so close to
a much needed rest, we altered course to go see what we
could do to help. Joe was afraid it was an
overturned boat with people in the water, so we got
lifejackets out to throw and started calling the
authorities on the radio. As we closed the
distance between us, we soon realized that it was an
inflatable dinghy that appeared to have run out of gas.
In fact, Ruben had engine trouble. It was 7:15 and
would be dark soon. The wind was blowing his boat
out to sea. Luckily, Ruben speaks perfect English
and caught our tow line with gratitude. With his
local knowledge, he navigated us around all the new
marina construction and safely into the Club Nautico.
Unfortunately, the Real
Club Nautico de Valencia is several miles from the city
center, right next to the commercial harbor. We
don't have a cruising guide for the region (don't ask me
why) so we were a little lacking in information.
Luckily, we were able to connect to a wireless network
and get what we needed from the internet. After a
good night's sleep, we vowed to begin our evaluation of
the city with an eye towards staying here for the winter,
from November 1st to March 31st.
After a 15 Euro cab
ride, we started out at the new Port America's Cup.
The huge complex is only about half finished, but quite
impressive nonetheless. The new marina is
virtually empty, but despite this fact they still wanted
to charge us for two berths because we are so wide.
This didn't bode well for our winter budget! We
figured they might be negotiable, and tried to keep a
positive attitude. We checked out the high end
facilities with fancy shops and bars, and got a look at
some of the areas where the teams work on their boats,
and then went in search of dinner.
Of course, it was only
8pm and nothing was open yet. Seriously. We
walked by two dozen restaurants, all closed, before we
stumbled into a Chinese joint.
Still, we were hopeful.
Ruben had promised to act as our tour guide around the
city and we made plans to meet him and his wife at the
yacht club at 6pm on Sunday. Laura proved to be
equally as lovely as Ruben and we spent an enjoyable few
hours wandering the city center with them.
Despite our fabulous
tour guides, we wound up back at the boat feeling like
Valencia was missing something. Although it is
steeped in tradition and history like so many cities in
Europe, we just didn't get a good sense of its
character. Perhaps it is all the construction and
hoopla surrounding the upcoming America's Cup that
detracts from the historical charm of the city. It
isn't something we could really put our finger on, but
Joe and I both knew that we didn't want to spend five
months there. So much for the plans for the
Back to square one, we
decided to check out Barcelona. So many people
have told us what a fabulous city it is, we wanted to
see for ourselves. We had previously disregarded
it as an option because of the whole language issue with
the schools teaching in Catalan. Well, we might
just have to be a little flexible on that one! We
figure it is more important to be happy with where we are and
are willing to look into other options on the
school issue. There are lots of possibilities
including private schools that teach in Spanish, or a
tutor, or a separate Spanish course on top of the home
We had rented a car for
four days and hopped in it on Tuesday for the three hour
drive. Thanks to Mary Ann, a good friend of my
mother's who has been a faithful Zia Later reader, we had booked a room at the
Citidines "Apart'hotel", right on Las Ramblas.
You couldn't be more in
the heart of Barcelona if you tried. As much as we
wanted to explore the sights, our goal there, once we
determined that we liked the city, was to find a place
for the boat. It took us about thirty seconds to
decide we loved Barcelona, so our task was obvious.
Las Ramblas is a street
that runs south from Placa Catalunya to the harbor Port
Vell. There is a big marina right there. We
had already emailed them half a dozen times trying to
book a place for the winter, only to be met with flat
out rejection. The reason was immediately
apparent. It is obviously a highly desirable
place, in the heart of the city, surrounded by a huge
variety of restaurants, a walk from the amazing market,
the metro, and a dozen other Barcelona hot spots.
It figures. No worries, it would probably be too
noisy for us anyway, right?
We have been in touch
with the current owners of Simpatica, Bruce and Alison
Cunard's old boat, and they just happen to be in
Wences and Belle are in
the last six or seven months of a three year
circumnavigation. They took off from Florida with
a one year old, and had another baby in New Zealand
along the way.
They are totally
charming and we enjoyed a few hours of their company
while we picked their brains about their travels.
They are staying at a new marina a little north of the
city center, so we also had the chance to check out the
facility. Turns out they do have room for us for
the winter, so at least we know we have one option for
the boat in Barcelona.
Through our fabulous
friend, web site host and sail maker, Scott, we have
hooked up with a local in the boat industry who has
volunteered to help us find other options for Zia in
Barcelona. We drove back to Valencia after two
short days of marina touring and are under way to the
city in Zia now. We managed to reserve a few
nights at Port Vell. We are getting excited about
the prospect of having so much time to really get to
know this city. It is truly a fantastic place full
of wonderful art and architecture, history and culture,
modern conveniences coupled with Old World tradition,
sights, sounds and fragrances that get the imagination
running wild. It sure does pay to be flexible!
Many thanks to our
friend Craig Homenko for his assistance in setting up
We also would like
to thank our buddy Scott Brunner who has been kind
enough to host the website on his server.