Catalunya Mini-break I

RyanAir had one of their famous ticket sales a couple of weeks ago. They offered flights on any of their routes for £0.01 per person, plus taxes. We snapped up a couple of return tickets from Liverpool to Girona, near Barcelona in Spain, for a grand total of £45.26. 😎

We hadn’t used RyanAir before but had heard other peoples’ horror stories: just last week a colleague enjoyed a cheap break in Venice but found themselves stranded in Italy when RyanAir chose to completely cancel, rather than delay, the return flight due to foggy weather. Naturally they received a full refund – £0.01 each – but had to find extra accommodation and pay full fare to get back home the following day. 👿

RyanAir is very similar to EasyJet: no frills at all. You don’t even get a seat number when you check in, so it’s a case of arriving early and being at the front of the queue at the gate. Only the first 65 passengers to check in are given boarding cards, after that you see people dashing across the tarmac if they want to sit together. Sara & I arrived nice and early, checked in, queued again at the gate and boarded first, getting our usual Row 1 exit seats. 😀

On arrival in Girona we picked up our hire car, a little Fiesta diesel, that I’d pre-booked via www.carjet.com – a company we’ve used before and can recommend. I particularly like their policy of “Hey, this is Spain, people here drive badly and sometimes bump into your car; we’re not bothered about little scratches and dents when you bring it back to us”. 😉

Not wanting to travel very far on the first night – in darkness, driving on the wrong side of the road, not being able to read half of the signs, driving a manual rather than my usual automatic – we had planned to stay in nearby Girona for the first night. We somehow managed to fluke our way to our hotel, the superb Ciutat De Girona, which is tucked away in a plaza behind the main street in the Old Town. It’s a really funky, modern designer-style hotel with lots of frosted glass, steel, wood and leather – and they even offer a complimentary mini-bar on the first night! We didn’t even bother unpacking, just went straight out and hit the local bars for a few bottles of Estrella Damm. 😀

Next morning, after a hearty buffet breakfast, we headed for the seaside. We followed the N-11 south and then took the C-32 along the coast, passing through all the pleasant seaside towns – Malgrat y Pineda de Mar, Calella, Mataró, Premià de Mar – and then hit industrial Badelona, on the outskirts of Barcelona city. We hoped to take the ring road – the Ronda Litoral – and bypass most of the city, but unfortunately our out-of-date map let us down and we ended up ploughing straight through the heart of the city on a busy Friday afternoon. 😕

The journey along the Gran Via was interesting enough – if you like stop-start driving in 7-lane traffic jams with hundreds of mopeds weaving in and out on either side of you – and we passed right by several landmarks including some of the Gaudi buildings, but unfortunately it added two hours to our journey. In the end we gave up on the map and just headed in the direction of Barcelona Airport, which we knew was situated to the South West of the city. 😳

We were soon back on track and out of Barcelona, heading along the coastal highway towards Tarragona. After about 30 miles we turned off and headed for Sitges, following a twisty mountainous road that could have come straight out of the Italian Job. 😯

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