Arriving in Barcelona extremely early this morning to meet our next airbnb host to welcome us into our new apartment for the next two days, we had left Castellterçol at about 7am. we had a quick couple of coffees and no breakfast so we could get on the road. We had to drop our gear off at the apartment and have the rental car back at the airport by 9:00am.
Ryan did the honours with the rental car (much appreciated mate) and Jen and I got settled into to our accommodation. A couple of loads of washing, Jen went to the supermarket and………..Oh yeah……it was Ryan’s birthday, so Jen got some balloons and we blew a few up and she wrote stuff on them to surprise him when he returned. We put the A/C on flat-out to cool the place and then proceed to catch up on our social media updates and communications with friends back home, as we had technology again.
After a late breakfast Jen and Ryan decided to stay in and just chill for the day, so I left the house headed for a look around our little area of Barcelona. From the street I could see the very large steeples of Sagrada Familia, Antonio Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral. This is a master piece of design started in March 1882 and it is still in progress today. I have wanted to see this building for about twenty years now and I was on my way to it.
Once I was completely in awe of this grandiose building I needed to have a bit of a rest, so in good fashion I wandered around town and found a great little cafe – Snack 55. I settled in there for the afternoon until about 4pm, knocking off two coffee’s and three margarita’s.
I trundled back to the apartment to pick up Ryan and Jen so we could go out for a big wander around town for the evening. What a great idea that was. We walked to the fountains, through La Rambla, avoided a suspected pick-pocket attempt, had a pretty average meal and then walked all the way to the waterfront taking in some amazing sites along the way.
This was a wonderful day in a beautiful city that has so much to give. I would like to come back and spend a week or three just wandering around and really delving into the lifestyle, the language and the cuisine……….I want to become……….The man from Barcelona!
Ryan, Jen and I rose early to the sound of the crazy burro (donkey) eeeeeh aawwwwing up the hill from us at approx. 7am and dived for the coffee maker to solve any issues that may have presented this morning after our night of chit chat and wine drinking. Our host in Castellterçol, Anna stated very clearly with her beautiful Spanish accent the burro was indeed crazy and that if we chance upon him “do not look him in the eye or you will also go crazy”. Our intention is to avoid the mule at all costs.
I whipped up a quick scrambled eggs nosh, infusing our bodies with protein to sustain us through our morning of vertical creativity and Ryan’s coffee was definitely going to assist no matter what the eggs did. Jen got the food pack organised as the three of us worked seamlessly with a single goal of getting out the door and to the crag before the sun’s rays became to strong. People have said I was crazy for coming to Europe to climb in the summer, but so far its been really wonderful and all you have to do is get your butt out of bed early. Its 8am and we were on our way for our second day of climbing.
Driving to the crag takes us about thirty minutes including a couple of wrong turns and bad guess work from Ryan and myself…hahahah…..total classic. We arrive at the car park and as I suspected we were the only ones there. I love having the crag to myself………climb whatever you want when you want. I cant believe I get so excited about going and doing this every time.
Ryan had his sights set on a 6a warm up and on-sight attempt of a route called “Chimmi Churri”, so we got on it. Ryan got the on-sight and that was awesome, Jen went up it with one hang on the rope. I got on and sent it. There was a slight breeze and it was about 18 degrees……..just perfect. What next? Lets do the 6b next to it! I said. I put the draws on and we were off on our second route by about 9:30am. Ryan hadn’t sent a 6b clean before, but he certainly got this one first shot. He climbed it really well and Jen got it on video too.
Jen was wandering around looking for an inspiring route and about ten minutes later had found one. A 6a called “Squamish”; Jen was excited and motivated about this line. She tied in with a pensive tight-lipped grin, checking her knot and then buddy checking her belayer. As she pulled on the pensiveness disappeared and became the widest of excited smiles. A few moments of self-doubt and a little bit of heady fear and Jen was at the anchors. She had never on-sighted 6a and she ecstatic……..so stoked for her.
I was up next and had my sights set on a 7a+ called “Separate Reality”. This steep unforgiving line was really inspiring and I thought, I’ll give it a shot. I got all the moves first shot and had one hang on the rope at the crux to figure out what was going to need to occur for me to send it. I finished the route and cleaned it as the heat was starting to really bite. I thought to myself “I can send this when I am fresh and tomorrow is a rest day, so be happy with your work.”
We all agreed that it was getting hot and we were now feeling a little bit peckish, so we did one more route called “Kubotan” 6a+ to finish up and pack our gear and head for our favourite lunch place The Montaña Restaurant in Moià.
Siesta followed lunch and then we wandered up town to the supermarket to get ingredients for Jens first homemade Paella…….and a late dinner. Dinner was fabulous and cost a total of 18 Euros including all the seafood and wine………it is truly crazy how little it costs to eat well and really feast in Spain…………..very much a separate reality.
Today I woke up in Barcelona, yep thats right I am in Spain. Yesterday I was in the Alsace Region of France with my friends Paul and Erin hanging with the family for the weekend and now I am in Spain……HOLY SHIT!!! I so love travelling the continent and spending time with really great people. It truly enriches your life and you learn wonderful things from every single one of them.
This morning I met up with Ryan and Jen. They arrived dead on time at the Hotel Cuitat del Prat where I was staying. Thinking back on it I have know Ryan and Jen for a total of twenty minutes or so. I met them climbing with my adorable Texas climbing buddy Kathleen at a sector called Seismic in the central Austin area known as “The Greenbelt”. They were travelling through on their way home to Colorado to prepare for a European adventure.
Ryan reminded me that I suggested to them to take their climbing gear with them and we could catch up in Europe over the summer and do some climbing together. Well today was that day. We are in a little town about an hour or so outside of Barcelona called Castellterçol near Moià.
The climbing is not the best I’ve done but still good and the opportunity to hangout with these guys is just awesome. They are excited to be here and so am I and we are exploring a new area that is relatively unknown called Revolt de l’àliga 20 minutes out of Moia.
Stay posted for details once the Wi-Fi is actually working and free………possibly in Barcelona 🙂
Today was a sombre day for my host family and it was time for them to be together and spend some time relaxing. it had been a stressful time recently for them and I didn’t want them to feel obligated to do anything special for me. Prior to this weekend they had arranged to have lunch up at the local farmhouse so I could enjoy the local cuisine and culture. They are truly good humans.
Ferme Auberge du Grand Ballon is a fabulous place to spend time with good humans for a real French farmhouse experience. All the produce is grown and raised on the farm and the wine is all from local vineyards. This is a very fertile region and the food is robust and tasty.
Dominique, Paul-Matthieu’s mother introduced me to a traditional drink (name escapes me right now) that reminded me of my younger years as a child with the exception that this drink would get you so pissed if you kept drinking it. It tasted like lollies (candy) from school. Phillipe the family patriarch then suggested beer and red wine be consumed over the main meal. Who was I to argue, when in France, do what the French suggest. Lunch was lovely and the company truly great, we laughed and told stories and spoke frenglish at times and translated at other times. but we were laughing non-stop through out the meal.
The boys wanted to take me to the memorial sight of the Grand Ballon. This is where the French defended their country from German invasion in WW1. There were two strategic posts that were to be defended at all costs by the French and we were standing in between them when on the farm. The memorial was a solemn reminder of lost lives and the fight for liberty.
We walked through the trenches and the battlements, found barbed wire fence lines and underground bunkers. This was a very constant reminder of just how harsh it was there in the early 20th century. The German border was well in sight and you could see exactly where it started. It starts at the tree line of the Black Forest and heads back over the German Alps.
We had to move a little hastily as I was heading to Barcelona from Basel that evening and we had about an hour to get to the house, pick and be off to the airport. I truly loved my time with the family and their friends it was a true cultural experience and they were just wonderful. I hope to return there and visit them again one day.
With the morning light shining through my window I awoke with excitement as this was the day that Paul-Matthieu, Erin and I were heading out climbing to Paul’s local crag where he had pretty much learned to climb growing up. this was exciting as I had heard a lot about it from him over the time we have known each other and I think he was really excited to be able to take me there.
I walked downstairs to find Paul awake and the coffee already brewed. I poured myself a cup and we talked about the plan for the day. Paul had said that it should be a day of crag classics and we should just have some fun. I thought that was a great idea. We had breakfast and when Erin woke up she was feeling really tired from her massive fortnight at work and said she would just stay at home and we could go out and have a boys day.
Paul-Matthieu and I quickly sorted out gear and headed out to the crag stopping at the local stork refuge (I know it sounds strange, but not as strange as actually doing it) and the supermarket briefly for rations, then moving toward the parking area to get on rock. We hauled arse up the 20 minute approach to the cliff base striding widely as two 185cm plus tall, fit lads would do who were wanting to climb. We were privileged enough to be greeted by a small deer on the trail that we accidentally startled and it quickly scuttled off down the embankment to escape the big humans approaching.
Arriving at the base of the cliff, it was wonderful to see the look on Paul-Matthieu’s face as it looked like he had just walked into his own backyard. A wide smile on his face saying “Welcome to my place!” We got our gear on and I was quickly introduced to the children of Paul-Matthieu’s friends as they wandered around to see him. Theo is a shy and quiet boy about 9 years old and his little sister Zoe is 7 years old and the out-going one. They said bonjour to the tourist and ran off back towards mum and dad who were around at another sector.
Paul-Matthieu tied in and off he went up this lazy 5c+ dihedral crack line. It looked really nice and I was looking forward to getting on this beautiful deep orange sandstone in the Alsace region of north-eastern France. Matthieu finished the route and descended from the heavens to softly land on the forest floor twenty feet from where I was belaying. Yeah the route got a little steeper and wandered around a bit.
I tied in and like every first route of the day, was a little heady and took my time getting the feel of the rock and making sure the friction was to my liking. Most days I have to remember not to over-grip the rock and to relax and breathe normally; it’s a challenge to get settled in as I am still aware this is a dangerous past-time. I completed the route and was amazed at how good the rock was. The last 5-7 metres of the 20 metre routes change from sandstone to this conglomerate, pebble infested sedimentary layer that changes the way you hold the holds. I really enjoyed the climbing and just hanging out with Matthieu was great.
The phone rang and it was Erin, Matthieu need to leave urgently and attend to some more important things than climbing. He ran around to his friends and asked if I could hangout with them for the rest of the day and they were happy to accommodate the tourist at the crag. So off he went to meet Erin.
Pierre-Matthieu and his lovely wife Ewa were the most divine hosts for the rest of the day at the crag. We climbed another 5 routes varying in style and grade from 6a to 6c+. Ewa said the grades in this area were very “Old Skool” and bold. I was pleased with what I had climbed and the routes were really really good.
The rain was playing with us a little and we climbed until we couldn’t stay dry any longer. Ewa said “Come back to our place for dinner and drinks!”……..How could I refuse; French country style food and homemade liqueur were the order of the evening and the kids were teaching me French at any chance. We had to rush outside and rescue a chicken from a buzzard (looks like one of our Aussie Hawks).
This was an amazing experience and it is what happens when you live in the country. I really feel city folk miss out on a lot of life not going into the countryside and living there a little. I am so pleased I grew up going to my uncles’ farms in Gloucester and Wauchope in north eastern New South Wales. A true gift to any young human.
I arrived in Mulhouse to meet Paul-Matthieu’s mother Dominique. a lovely French lady who was excited to see me and meet one of her son’s international friends, well that’s what she told me I think…..in broken english…hehehe. We had a lovely ride home at breakneck speed, dodging and weaving through the French countryside and the into the mountains of the Alzbach region in central eastern France.
This is where Paul grew up and I was so excited that we were headed there for a weekend with his family. I was really excited to be meeting mum and dad Fritsch. Erin and Paul weren’t arriving until late and it was now about 6:30pm and Phillipe, father Fritsch was now home and we had decided to go up the hill to a local farm for dinner. Looking forward to this I got ready rather quickly and was in the car before mum and dad knew it.
Dominique was dragging the chain here and Phillipe hurried her along as he and I had figured out that it was time for a beer and we needed to move with some haste. Dinner was awesome!! Pigs head terrine for entree and smoked pork with stewed potatoes, onion and creme for main and then this amazing creme yoghurt with milk and a shot of schnapps with whipped local cream……..holy shit!!!! Spectacular indeed. We also drank a couple of bottles of local beer and the house red by the jug…….we were all a bit pissy and it made the Frenglish conversation so much more fun.
Paul and Erin arrive about ten thirty and we sat and talked for about two hours just catching up on what we hadn’t known about each others adventures over the past five or so days and three weeks with mum and dad. Then off to bed as we were going climbing the next day. The local cuisine was wonderful and a true mountain farmhouse experience that you don’t get bumming around in the major cities of countries you visit, this is the cultural experience you need………and want!
I have just left Paris for Mulhouse to meet up with Paul and Erin for a weekend at Paul’s mum and dads place in the Alsatian Region in France. But more on that later.
I have been sitting in a cafe in Paris for three hours updating this blog site with my Las Vegas adventures that happened a little over 6 weeks ago now, but feel a little like a distance memory.
Booking my ticket to Mulhouse last minute, I failed to acquire a seat reservation and have taken a seat that I hope I will not be removed from by one of the travellers hopping on at one of the stops along the way. Apparently one of the things that happens regularly is that trains are completely booked out and they will still sell tickets, standing room only. Interesting given we are travelling at over 300 kmh.
The cafe was called the Montreaux Jazz Cafe. It was adorned with memorabilia from yesteryear tracing the history of the festival and a guy named Claude Nobs and his notoriety with the music scene there. Until this morning I was unaware that Claude Nobs was in fact apart of rock ’n’ roll history. I found out today that he was one of the people responsible for getting the fans out of a Frank Zappa concert in the Montreaux casino in 1971, when someone stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground. This is the casino, the fire and the story told in one of rock history’s greatest songs.
I absolutely love that travelling can drop you into a situation or place where you will see small things that trigger memories long forgotten and drag them instantly to the forefront of our minds. I was thinking how cool it would be to go to Lake Geneva in Switzerland and see the statue of Freddie Mercury…….YES!!! I am a massive Queen fan and I also want to see where the Montreaux Jazz Festival takes place. I was watching a bit of it on the screen in the cafe and got to surfing for info about the story of the song “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple and after reading for about five minutes it all clicked.
It is now an “absolute must”……..that I go to Lake Geneva, see the statue, see the casino site, see the bloody lake and most importantly listen to “Smoke on the Water” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” while I am there. This is Wayne’s World level awesomeness!!!!! 🙂