After a good meal with my parents and others, on Sunday 14th January, we set off from Millstream to drive the Toyota Hilux with the trailer, digger and all our tools down to the ruined Mill we have bought in southern Catalunya. We went down to Portsmouth to catch the night ferry to Caen. In the evening in Portsmouth, we visited Pondson who has just started at Portsmouth University and is studying Computer Graphics. After a meal with him and his girlfriend, we went and queued for the expected customs inspection and loading on the ferry.
Luckily we were waved straight through customs and after a couple of other queues were onboard the Brittany ferry, Mont St. Michel.
The journey went well although the going was a bit slow on the uphills. We cruised through all the border customs and found hotels to sleep at relatively easily, even though we were out of season. We were very tired on the first day and welcomed the sight of our first nights sleep in the hotel Chateau de la Tour. We got a bottle of wine, took it up to our room and took turns to lie in the bath or flick through the TV channels.
At dinner the food was great and the maitre d' gave good advice on the choice of wine. Apart from us, he had a party french utility company managers on an organised bash. For them, the maitre d' had prepared 6 wines from the region to complement the courses. He had a wine chart made up and happily told us all about the choices and left us with a copy of the chart.
Early the next morning we were on our way down and across to Perpingnan and then down to Barcelona and beyond
On the way we stopped for a break at an otherwise unassuming rest stop. Crouch and aim toilets :) except there was an amazing Roman ruin out the back. What is that all about ?
After looping down onto the Mediteranean stretch of the motorway, we had to crawl up the hill to Spanish customs to be waved through again, then it was down past Girona and into the maelstrom surrounding Barcelona. We popped out the other side and started looking for somewhere to stay. At this point, we could have driven on to the Mill but would have arrived very late and we could not safely take the trailer into Tortosa. So we decided to stop short and the get a good run to the Mill the next morning.
After a few false starts, we found a small seaside hotel in Sitges, just south of Barcelona. It was quiet enough to safely leave the van and trailer on the beachfront parking and we walked back to book a room for the night. Sitges is a lovely town. It was not very busy, so we wandered around and had some tapas in the Navarrin bar, before moving on to a restaurant on the front near the church. It was very busy, with people pouring in. The table behind me in the picture seated about 20 people. The food was very good, but so different to the previous nights'.
On Wednesday luch, we got to the Mill and got the digger off the trailer, then started putting the tools away. The next day, we built a temporary access path across some broken land at the side of the Mill.
A few tons of boulders some soil and hey presto, getting to the Mill was easy. In the future there will be other access, but for now we needed a straight run down to the front of the building.
On Friday we hacked back some of the undergrowth around the road side trees and grasses while we waited for two architechs who we hope will want to be involved in planning the restoration. After they arrived and had seen what a terrible state the Mill was in and talked to us about our ideas, they said it would cost a lot, but would be a great project. It had been a boiling hot day. If that was the norm, we were in for problems. In the event it was a recordbreaking January temperature.
We went up into Mas de Barberans on Saturday to find out if the apartment we were palnning to rent was finished. The old guy in the shop only had Catalan or Castillian, both spoken in a torrent which made you take a step back. Still, after a bit of too'ing and fro'ing, we got the message across that we wanted the apartment from 1st Feb. and left them with person to contact if there were any problems. Then we drove back up to Reus airport dumped the van in the carpark and persuaded a check-in girl to book us in as the Ryanair desk had just closed. Soon we would be back in storm wracked and soon to be frozen England.