A Travellerspoint blog

Lleida to Valencia, on the seniors train

sunny 33 °C

Thursday 8.7.2011
Llieda to Valencia on the train

Another early start,we needed to catch the train @ 6.23am,so off we went dragging our suitcases along the cobbled streets, not pleasing the locals I'm sure!

The train station was very quiet with only a few passengers and staff roaming the track. Overestimating the time to get to the stationed posed 2 lonely figures sitting on the bench on the platform, watching daylight gradually break.

With a last puff of their cigarettes, passengers and staff got on and we were on our way. 1 1/2 hours later we arrived in Tarragona. We got off the train bought our tickets for the next leg - €34 each, had breakfast and waited for 55minutes for our train to arrive. 

The train looked very tired,but we were pleasantly surprised when we go on it was clean and the seats were comfortable. It must have been Senior's day many Nonnis on board with carry bags filled homemade goodies and bottles wrapped in plastic bags (probably homemade brew).

When we got on there was a Nonna in our seat,trying to explain to the Old Dear that she was sitting in the wrong seat was a lovely experience. Eventually we sorted it out,and for the next 5 minutes she continued to speak to me in Spanish and all I could do was smile and use lots of hand gestures. Finally she was exhausted and she fell asleep.

Arrived Valencia just on lunch time and luckily our hotel was across from the station and they let us check in early. Dropped our bags and scooted off to find tourist info, postoffice and laundry, all before they closed for siesta. Spent some time in queues but found the info we needed and went looking for the laundry which was tucked away in a little back street, in the old part of town. Lots of narrow alleys, combination of shops and apartments.

Back to the hotel and loaded up with bags of dirty laundry, hoping for no spillages or accidents on the way. The laundry was self serv laundromat and Internet cafe, so you can do email etc while the clothes are spinning. Went for a walk while they were drying and came to a large river-bed that has been turned into park land and sports fields, with a few local lads having a social game of soccer. Collected our now hot, clean clothes and deposited them at the hotel.
The centre of town is the old city with lots of old buildings and grand government buildings. Plenty of people around but not too busy, quite pleasant walking around really.
Cruised the main centre area, stopping for refreshments at one of the many cafes and having a Spanish style "hamburger" for tea.

Posted by Susan23611 13:25 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Lleida, not on the tourist route

sunny 34 °C

Wednesday 8.7.2011
Shopping and educational experience in Llieda.

Whilst an early start for Peter (6am) I enjoyed the sleep in and late breakfast. No point in getting down the street too early action doesn't start til about 9.30am. The main street is a series of alleys with lots of small boutique stores amongst chain stores and cheap Asian run gift line stores.

Shopping in Llieda during July sale time is like Boxing Day sales in Australia. The women in the clothing stores are like vultures,grabbing items,pushing in at the dressing rooms,demanding the store assistants get them another size, or a garment in another colour, or even asking why the garment doesn't fit! 

I was amazed at the number of shoe stores. Shoe stores in Llieda are like hairdressers in Griffith. They all sell similar shoes,some boutique style, others more general and all markedly reduced hence they were also very busy places.

Apart from shopping not much else to do in Llieda. Shops close for siesta between 2-4 so when in Llieda do what the locals do and have a Siesta!

Peter returned at 7pm after a successful day we went in search of a drink. Not too far away we came across a bar with cafe style tables in the nature strip. The bar lady spoke NO English but we managed a beer and a very sour tasting cold white wine. Whilst there was a cafe style menu the patrons were not eating so we took this as a sign that it was not the place to eat!

Not wanting to walk a long distance to the cafe hub of the town (which I had discovered earlier in the day) we chose to eat at the Hotel. The waiter spoke little English and so with lots of sign language and pointing to different English words on the basic menu we managed to order traditional Spanish dishes and we gave the meal and the waiter a big thumbs up! Managed to finish off a bottle of local red - merlot and tempranillo, very nice and only €14. The expresso coffee at the end was about 50mm in the bottom of a tiny cup. Had to add sugar to reduce the bitterness enough to drink it.

The Zenit Hotel is located in an area being taken over by members of the Moroccan community,with eateries, some shops and money exchange business. They have also opened a Mosque close by. 5 minute walk from the Hotel is the supermarket,similar set up to Aldi with a fresh seafood section. Prices very reasonable, not sure whether the locals think that though!

Peter visited a "dept of agriculture" training facility in Terrago in the morning, a 1 hours buddies through the villages of the region. The farming is very small scale with most parcels of land only about 1 to 2 ha. Growing trellised pear apples, peaches and nectarines. Some vegetables and maize grown on vacant land. On the upper slopes and poorer ground they grow olives and almonds. Nice visit to the facility with some good training ideas and very helpful staff.

Had a great morning tea with them in their staff cafeteria - fresh bread, spread with crushed tomato, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper and cheese and ham slices. All washed down with red wine, drunk direct from a pouring flask. Finished off with a coffee. Way to go !!
On my return bus trip, the driver gets on his radio back to base, maybe a problem with the bus?? About 3 mins later the bus pulls up in the middle of the road and an old chap comes out of a cafe with a coffee to go and gives it to the driver through the window, all good, now off we go!

Met some researchers at the Lleida uni in the afternoon. And got some more ideas on how their are doing some training.

Posted by Susan23611 13:19 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Train ride to Lleida

sunny 33 °C

Tuesday 5th July 2011
Off to Llieda
Packed our bags, finally made phone contact with Dr Girona from Llieda and we caught a taxi to the train station. We had a cunning taxi driver ad there were 2 fares from the Hotel and he was called for the lesser fare but figured we were worth more and hurried us to his cab. It was all good till his mate caught up with him at the traffic lights and a passionate conversation began for a number of traffic light stops, lucky for us they remained in their cabs. I think the driver also took advantage of us, and chose the long way! At least the taxis are clean and in very good condition.

Barcelona train station very busy,there are Information booths to assist you with planning your journey however, I think we got a Learner. On his recommendation we took the CAT Exp to Llieda, so we thought! It was all stations to Llieda bar a few. On the train there was nowhere go put your luggage if it was bigger than overnight bag. Having 2 large suitcases we sat the 3 hour journey on 'fold down dicky seats!' Consequently we had a sore bum by the time we arrived. The first part of the journey was along the coast, beautiful resorts and lots of activity on the water. As the route moved away from the coast the area became more peasant style. Lots of farmland plenty to interest Peter and for him to make comment
It was interesting to note no homes located amongst the farmland, farmers must live in the villages. During the whole journey we saw only 1 farmer working, it was obviously Siesta time!

Arriving in Lleida mid afternoon and the 1st stop is the tourist info and yep it was closed till 4pm. Had a coffee in a nearby cafe until 4 then got some info from the freshly rested Information person. 
Booked into a nearby hotel which was better than Barcelona and 1/2 the price, then off to see the sights of Lleida.
Llieda is the largest city in the Catalunya region, with about 135,000 residents and agriculture and a university are the main employers. The area is home to apple, pear, stone fruit, winegrapes, almonds, pistachios, olives, vegetables, maize and cereals. It is a semi arid area with freezing winters and hot dry summers. The native vegetation is a scrubby, saltbush type bushes and some areas of pine. Almost all the land is used, even the hillsides are terraced and planted to olives. As with most farming areas, the returns to farmers is very poor and no rural mansions were seen.
Being in Catalunya, the people speak Catalonian, which is more French than Spanish, quite distinct from true Spanish.

On a massive hill overlooking the city is an old cathedral, built around the 12th century. Apparently on Tuesdays, there is no entry fee, so we climbed the hill and had a good look around. While not a grand place compared to cathedral in Barcelona, it was certainly impressive, even having a lawn/garden area right in the middle. Due to it's ideal location it was taken over by the military many years ago and remained as a barracks until 1948. Now it is open to tourists and hired out for functions. 
2 good things - free entry and almost no other tourists. Have a cafe near the top so we had a cool beverage overlooking the city, very nice.

Back down to the main town and the place was packed, everyone has come out after their siesta and hit the shops. July is SALE month and I guess everyone had been saving up for just that event.

Plenty of Cafes in the shopping area but no restaurants, these are on the other side of the city, too far to walk easily so we had a cafe meal near the train station. During our meal we were entertained by the local police,parked out the front were 3 police cars and 6 Officers to arrest what seemed to be 1 offender. Whilst 2 Officers performed their duty the other 4 stood by observed and chatted amongst themselves. After such commotion we were surprised to see the offender released and has he walked down the street he proceeded to yell abuse at the police as they drove off.

Police presence is quite high in the town,it is not unusual to see Police walking the streets and also empty Police cars/motorcycles parked along the streets ( I guess the police are somewhere nearby). 

Posted by Susan23611 06:06 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Bye Paris, Hello Barcelona

rain 24 °C

Mon 4th July 2011
Paris to Spain
As if Sue hadn't had enough of crowds, we had to catch the Paris trains again, during peak hour. After a quick breakfast in the hotel cellar, we packed up and headed off to CDG airport, luckily the train went all the way and the crowds thinned out pretty well. Once we got to the airport we had another 15 min walk just to get to our terminal and the Easyjet checkin. More security checks, with Sue having to surrender some hair products as it was over the 100ml limit.

11/2 hour flight to Barcelona and then a 1/2 hour bus ride into the city. After getting our bearings we walked to our hotel, just as it started to rain. Get to our hotel for them to tell us there was a problem with water so they had reserved a room in a sister hotel about 500m away. So back into the rain to our new place, was OK but no Internet. 
Had to resort to a coffee at Starbucks so I could use their free WiFi.
Spent a frustrating couple of hours trying to ring my contact at the university with no luck. Walked back to the to tourist info (loose term at best!), no help at all. Went down the Rambola, the famous "entertainment" street, but apart from a few artists plying their trade, there were only people standing still, in costume, only moving when you put money in their tray.
Unfortunately wandered into the main shopping area which was absolutely jammed packed with people taking advantage of the July sales. Made Paris look like a country town.
Kept walking till we made it to some of the famous Guadii buildings, with weird designs and covered in shiny tiled mosaics. Wandered around a few more of the landmark sights, ending up in a restaurant near the harbour where we enjoyed a monster beer (1 litre) and Long cocktail before tucking into a couple of paellas for dinner.

With our hunger and thirst truly satisfied we wandered around the wharf area admiring the toys of the rich and some famous Spanish and guests. Enough fantasying about what it would be like to own just one of the smaller boats, we made our way back to the hotel.

Posted by Susan23611 05:59 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Paris, stuck in traffic

sunny 24 °C

Sun 3 July
Skipped breakfast in order to get to Notre Dame Cathedral before the rest of the mob turned up. Sort of worked, not too many people except about 3 busloads of tourists who showed no consideration for the service being held, determined to get their photos no matter what. The church officials had to push them out of the way. We caught the end of a service & Sue took Holy Communion. We were there long enough for the next service to start and the singing / organ in that place was simply astounding.

Took breakfast in a small cafe, croissants & coffee, just great.

Jumped back on the tour bus and took a very ordinary tour of the "new" area of Paris, I think they were just filling in time, nothing good to see on the "blue" tour.
Got sick of that and got off at what looked to be a street market, what a beauty! About 200 stalls all crammed into 1 street, hardly enough room to walk through but a fantastic range of fruit, veg, meat, fish, produce, wine, cheese, flowers, clothes, nick nacks and the odd beggar. The fruit & veg came from all over the world (except Aust.) and was generally cheaper than anything in our shops. Bananas for €1/kg. They sell chicken & ducks with the head still attached, while the body was nicely plucked. Pigs - could buy every part including the ears, tongue, head, trotters, whatever.
Most of the stall owners were multi skilled, yelling encouragement at passing people,  serving customers, stocking their stalls, all with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth. Even the fish mongers! Some of the more considerate ones would put the smoke  down whilst serving someone (not putting it out) and then resuming smoking as soon as possible.
Negotiated our way to purchase a bread stick, some French cheese and some fruit (total about €6) and had ourselves a little French picnic on the banks on the Seine River on a tiny patch of grass we found. Spared no expense on this trip!

Got optimistic again and got on the 4th and final tour by walking about 2km to the next stop. Was supposed to do the "show" area and whilst it did go past Moulin Rouge,the trip was doomed to mediocrity at best, with the bus breaking down at 1 stop and it was up to the passengers to let everyone else know as the bus people were too busy yelling at each other. I reckon the driver had enough and pulled the pin! The tour seemed to consist of showing us all the major railway stations and spending a huge amount of time at traffic lights, even when they were green, the bus stayed put.

On the bus we met a lady from Gundagai who with a group of other ladies been to South Africa where they fund education and health programs. It costs $4.50/year to send a child to Primary School and $7.50 to send a child to High School.  She was good friends with Adrian Cruikshank and also a friend of Lance Gilbert.

End of the day we were in search of an alcoholic drink,found a cosy bar and were seated with no room to spread our wings. Pity we could not speak French as we would have understood the private conversation near to us. Peter finished his beer and I finished my Rose and we were off to sample the hospitality of another bar. Found a bar which appeared to have many happy patrons so again we squeezed in and found a seat. Unfortunately we got the Barman from the "school of no customer service!" Grunted at us and when I asked if he could explain the different cocktails he responded 'It is what we have on the board!' Well you can imagine my body language and response to that! Anyhow we got our drinks, whilst mine was supposed to be a cocktail I think it was soft drink with a couple of drops of Rum! 

Whilst the service was poor we met 2 lovely ladies from England and the other from a village 70km from Paris. It was an enjoyable way to spend the evening. I had finished my drink and Peter was still going with his when our rude Barman returned and demanded we pay. Not the custom and Peter stood his ground and said 'I haven't finished yet and will pay when I do!' The Barman stood a little longer, but the Aussie won!

On our way back to the Hotel we stopped off at lolly van - €2.90 /100gram where you serve yourself, no good food handling practices here!

Dinner was another budget affair with another bread stick and the remaining cheese and fruit from lunch. Fine dining in Paris indeed !!

Posted by Susan23611 12:38 Archived in France Comments (0)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 40) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 »