Helen in Cat Alonia
By the time Helen was due to arrive (Sunday 21 October) the car and caravan were reasonably presentable, we'd rearranged the interior to accommodate her, and we drove to the airport to pick her up. She’d had an interesting flight!
On Tuesday FC Barcelona were at home to Celtic, and there were a few lively Celtic fans on the plane. So lively, in fact, that the police were called to meet them at the airport! The airport itself was quite lively too; a flight from Belfast having
arrived shortly beforehand and a flight from Manchester at the same time as Helen’s, both with a large contingent of Celtic fans. Fortunately we were well clear before the delayed Glasgow flight landed.
Back at the campsite we had a couple of little friends waiting to meet Helen. Like quite a few campsites we’ve stayed at, Vilanova Park has a population of stray cats, and two of them, Topsy and Tim, had become particularly friendly, sleeping in our awning and enjoying the occasional titbit. They were tabby kittens, about 5 months old, and obviously siblings, but whether brothers, or brother and sister, we couldn’t tell – one of them was a little bit confusing in the undercarriage area! We were also visited by a big black tom, who was very shy, and a couple of days later by a mature tabby lady who had a notch cut in one ear, usually a sign among feral cats that a vet has visited and spayed them. We called her Mrs Clippie and she made herself very much at home in the caravan, obviously enjoying our company, whereas Topsy and Tim were fickle little creatures who only loved us for the food we gave them.
It was lovely to see Helen and catch up on all the news. She was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was, so we took advantage of the good weather by making several visits to the coast. Vilanova itself, while not well-known as a holiday resort, has a large, deserted beach enhanced by a bizarre statue of Pasiphae and the Bull.
We also visited Tarragona, which has impressive Roman ruins, and more stray cats!
A little further down the coast is Salou, a large resort where summer still seemed to be in full swing – crowded beach, people swimming, busy cafes. We had a paddle and the water was so warm we regretted not bringing our swimming things. So next day we drove to Sitges, just a few kilometres from Vilanova, and enjoyed a swim and a sunbathe. Back at the campsite it was so mild we sat outside the caravan until 10 at night. Not bad for late October!
The next day was overcast so we went into Barcelona and spent an enjoyable day sightseeing. We’d all been there before, but it’s one of those cities that you can visit time and again and still see something new and interesting. We admired the Modernista architecture on the Passeig de Gracia, climbed to the roof of Gaudi’s La Pedrera, wandered round the Barrio Gotic and had a leisurely lunch of tapas under the colonnade in Placa Reial. There was a shower while we were under cover, but conveniently it cleared up when we finished eating and we walked down to the harbour area before returning to the car and then back for a quiet evening putting our feet up.
During the night there was a terrific storm – thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour. We’ve become quite used to the noise of rain hammering on the caravan roof but it was a new experience for Helen, and one she found disconcerting. It’s been aptly described by another caravan blogger as "like being inside Keith Moon’s drum kit"! John and I slept like babies, lulled by the familiar din, but Helen had a rather disturbed night. In fact it was a particularly severe storm and at one point we had a river running through the awning, and the mud and detritus left behind next morning was probably the worst we’ve yet experienced!
An interruption here from John on the science of awning pitching. When we are staying on site for a while we always put up the awning. It serves as an extra room for living, a store-room for all the junk we have to carry round in the car, a kitchen in which to cook fish to save stinking out the caravan. It also provides shelter from the rain when it comes (as it always does) and shade from the heat of the sun (on those few occasions when there is a break in the clouds). If the weather is good we often leave off one front door and/or one end door, or even all the doors, to provide lots of fresh air too. The doors are kept handy for fast erection if driving rain comes. On this occasion we had left off one end and one front. When it rained the rain was generally vertical so there was no need to put in the missing doors. There is also a “skirt” which fits along the bottom edge of the caravan and tucks under the awning groundsheet to cut out draughts. So when the storm started I popped out to check that the rain was not coming in, and all was fine. An hour later I popped out again and although the rain was not coming through the open doors the groundsheet was very wet. As I watched the water was rising. When it got over the tops of my feet I started worrying. When it got to the foot of the caravan steps I really did worry. Then I realised that the skirt was forming a nice seal under the caravan, the water was flowing down the campsite towards us in some quantity and hitting this dam and forming a reservoir in the awning. Quickly I unhooked and pulled out the awning skirt to allow a torrent to run away under the caravan. The water continued to flow freely through the awning and under the van for most of the night, bringing with it tons of vegetation picked up on its way. The groundsheet acted like a filter, retaining the mud and rubbish while letting the water through. Hence the mess next morning!
As we drove Helen to the airport next day there was still some thunder and lightning, but fortunately it caused no problems for the flight and she reached home safe and sound, although she said Oxford seemed very cold after Spain. We spent Saturday clearing up in the aftermath of the storm. John took up the muddy groundsheet and scrubbed it while I ferried buckets of water to and fro. Finally it was clean and we laid it out to dry in the sun. The next day was our last in Vilanova Park so, after a final walk on the seafront, we took the awning down ready to move on.
On our previous visits to Spain we’d completely missed the stretch of coast to the north of Valencia, so that’s where we headed next. It’s an area that’s very popular with the “snowbirds” and there are some large campsites with lots of facilities, including entertainment. These tend to fill up quickly and aren’t really our sort of thing so we opted for a smaller, quieter site with pretty scenery and not a lot else. After 11 months of constant travelling we’re ready for a rest, and are hoping to spend the next few weeks relaxing, sitting in the sun (weather permitting) and going for long walks.