THE “A TEAM”

“Another glass?” I asked Shona.

“Would be rude not to” She laughed, passing me her empty wine glass.

We were both sitting in my burnt-out garden on a very hot and sunny afternoon in August. The heat wave we had endured since June was still thriving, and neither Shona nor I had work for the rest of the week.

” Here you go” I said passing her a full glass of wine and together we raised our glasses.

” Here is to 20 years of a truly beautiful friendship…or rather sistership”

“And I look forward to many more” Shona replied as we clinked our glasses together in celebration.

“Do you fancy a girlie weekend away for my 44th birthday?” Shona asked with a sly grin on her face.

” Where are you thinking?” I asked as I sat down on my chair.

“Barcelona” She replied

Now, I am not one to waste wine, but in shock, I did spurt out my mouthful of wine all over my brand-new glass table that was bought with my “wish list” Patio chairs.

“Barcelona! I thought you was going to say something local like Brighton!”

” Nah! I was chatting to Bindya and Rupy yesterday and they are up for it”

I have had the pleasure of knowing Shona for 20 years of my adult life and Shona is one year younger than me. However, Shona and Bindya went to school together since they were 9 years old, and they have a lot more history in their friendship. However, over the years, I have met Bindya at Shona’s family celebrations and more recently at a very impromptu Hen party. (Me, Shona and Bindya took one of Shona’s work colleagues out for her hen party as all her mates had let her down. Only Shona knew the poor girl! Bindya and I just went along for the ride and entertainment value. We did have one hell of a night – but that`s another story.)

Oh yes – and Rupy is Bindya`s slightly older sister who I have never met before.

I looked at Shona cautiously, ” What`s Rupy like? Will I get on with her? and I don`t want to be clubbing until all hours in the morning, this old body just won`t take it anymore”

” Don`t worry, we won`t. It will be more shopping and sightseeing and maybe a small boogie on my actual birthday night, and Rupy is as crazy as Bindya.”

“MMMMM” I replied dubiously, knowing what mischief me and Bindya got up to on the pre mentioned Hen Party ” Let me speak to hubby when he gets in”.

Considering that I met Shona through my husband, and now I was closer to Shona than he was, I had no doubt he would be happy for me to go away with her and her girls.

“When are you thinking off going” I asked refilling our glasses.

” Well, my birthday is on the Friday, so if we leave Thursday night after we all finish work, arrive in Barcelona, and then come back Sunday evening.”

“Sounds like a plan” I grinned. I deserved a weekend away. My husband is a car fanatic and each year goes away with the lads for a fast and furious weekend in their sports cars. I have 2 boys, 12 & 10 ( I know – weird names right – infact, each year we have to change their names by deed poll as they get older) and now was the perfect age to be able to leave them home without “mother dearest ” hen picking them.

Hubby came home and all was agreed that I would be free to go out and have a blast with my best mate and her best mates!

“Don`t you love it when a plan comes together” Shona said, and we raised our glasses for the last time that night.

The four of us needed to make plans and of course a Whatsapp group was set up and for the next couple of months, ping ping ping was the main sound coming from my phone daily. So that I got to know Bindya and Rupy a little better, I asked everyone to complete a silly profile.

Name:  Diana

Age:  44

Description:  4ft 10″ Brunette with short hair, English – through and through (apart from all the Indian inside of me!)

Likes: Wine, laughter, rising to the challenge & giving out nicknames

Dislikes: Clubbing & walking long distances

Work:  Freelance Teacher

Family Status:  Married 3 years ago after being engaged for 20 years, gave birth to 2 boys …… and the rest is history!!

Name:  Shona

Age:  43 (soon to be 44)

Description: 5ft 2″ Brunette – Indian but with one hell of a cockney accent due to being born in the East End.

 Likes: Music, dancing, changing costumes,

Dislikes: Pork

Job: Ex-Security officer at Heathrow – now Security

Family Status: Divorced mother with to 2 boys (15yrs & 18 yrs however  – they have names – Shona doesn`t change them by deed poll like Diana does)

Name:  Bindya 

Age: 

Description: Crazy curly haired Indian gal with a laugh that would make the Olympic stadium collapse

Likes: Buying fresh food and cooking with it…. especially olives

Dislikes: Bottled water!

Family Status: A brilliant step mum to 2 young girls, recently married (to their father – that helps! 🙂

Job: Something to do with whatever she wants to do at that time.

Name:  Rupy

Age: Not quite 50 

Description: A slightly older version of her sister, laugh is not quite as loud but a wicked sense of humour, almost as dry and sarcastic as Diana’s

Likes: A little amount of alcohol, looking out for her sister.

Dislikes: Smoking (so throughout this story – Rupy is not in part of the group where I say `we all smoked” etc

Family Status: to complicated! But happy now as husband free.

Job: Alcohol and Drugs Advisor at local college.

With only a month to go, we booked our flights and Shona found an amazing apartment up in the mountains of Alella.

“It`s about 30 minutes away from Barcelona, is every one alright with that?” Shona typed “Have looked at apartments in Barcelona, but all are booked out.”

She sent photos of the place and it looked perfect for what we needed. Spacious, 3 bed -room apartment including a fully furnished terrace overlooking miles of glorious landscape ending at a view of the ocean.

Before we knew it, we had seven sleeps until take off. The essential questions started to fly between us (excuse the pun!)

“Is anyone taking a swimsuit or shorts?”

“Has anyone got European adapters for our electrics?”

“Shall I take my lady shaver for everyone?”

“Do we need sun cream and who is bringing the paracetamol?”

“What can we take in our hand luggage”

“How long does it take everyone to get ready in the morning?”

Shona replied to all the questions!

“I am taking a suitcase as I won`t have room in hand luggage for all my shoes, but maybe room for a swimsuit! I have packets of paracetamol, lady shaver, definitely, I won`t need sun cream, I`m Indian don`t you know! and you can all put your liquids in my case…..BTW…..it takes me 3 hours to get ready, that includes sipping wine and dancing a lot”

I replied “The only liquid I am bringing is a bottle of wine and I can be ready in half and hour”

“How many shoes are you taking Shona?” Rupy asked

“12 pairs, can`t decide on which ones though”

“You only have one pair of feet and 3 days out there, all you need are a pair or flip flops, some heels and a pair of trainers, as there might be some walking required” Bindya reminded Shona.

“Okay, 6 pairs then – 2 pairs for each day and I have 6 adapters, one each for my hairdryer, straighteners, curling tongs, watch, phone and speaker. Sorted”

Two days to go and there was a slight panic when I typed that I had sorted out my Euros.

“Shit!” was the reply from all the girls “Forgot about Euros!”

One day to go and everyone declared they were packed and ready to go (including Euros & passports) and we would all meet at Heathrow, Terminal 3 for 6pm which would give us loads of time as the flight wasn`t until 8:45pm. We wished each other sweet dreams and looked forward to all seeing each other the next day.

Curly Hair

6pm on the dot and we were all stood outside Terminal 3 having our last nicotine hit. The fact that we were all on time gave me a good feeling about the “A Team”

Within minutes we were all laughing and joking as if we had all known each other for years…bearing in mind me and Rupy had never physically met before.

We walked into the airport and placed all our liquids into Shona’s suitcase, weighed our bags and they were all just within the maximum weight limit – phew!

We checked in with ease (all our bags ended up being checked in as the flight was full) and so bag- free, we sauntered our way through security and before we knew it we were in the duty free shops browsing through dress, coats and handbags.

We had an hour to kill before our flight was boarding so we headed off to a restaurant and was seated straightway. Of course, the selfies began! Everything was going so smoothly, too smoothly… I started to get concerned.

But before I could get really worried, our waiter appeared at our table with a humungous smile and tonnes of curly hair and looked no older than 21.

“Evening ladies, here are your menu’s for today and would you like a group selfie?”

He took Shona’s phone off her and started to snap away.

“Can I get you ladies a drink?” he asked with a cheeky grin

” Thanks for the offer but we will buy our own, SON” chortled Rupy.

He grinned back and passed us our drink menu`s

“I`ll let you look over the menu and I`ll be back”

“No, stay” Rupy demanded in her motherly manner, “We will have a bottle of white wine, which one girl’s?”

“Let`s go for the middle priced one – always works for me” I suggested.

“Done” Rupy said passing back her menu.

“Wow, that was quick!” laughed Curly Hair (as that was the nickname I had decided to give him) “I`ll be back with your wine as quick as you chose it” and he walked off towards the bar area.

“Right, what is everyone having to eat?” Bindya asked.

We silently looked at the menu for a while. There was a large choice and I usually go for a burger and chips, but I vowed to try different things this weekend, so I chose the Bangers and Mash with a jus sauce. Shona went for the curry, Bindya chose the puffed pastry tart and Rupy settled for a pasta dish.

Curly Hair arrived with our wine and poured the contents evenly between our four glasses.

“Cheers” we all said raising our glasses. “Here is to Shona and her birthday” I said.

“NO… cheers to all our birthdays” Shona laughed sipping her wine.

Curly hair returned almost immediately with our meals.

“Wow that was quick” Bindya remarked. ” Bet they pre-make them and then just warm them up”

I agreed, “Knowing people are waiting for their flights and the quick turnaround they must have here, I guess that makes sense.”

We tucked into our meals, and it quickly became apparent Bindya was right.

“Mines half cold” she said,

“And mine has a film over the pasta” sighed Rupy. We all examined Shona’s rather tough naan bread and all eyes turned to me.

“Well?” they asked

“Looks like I went for the right choice as mine is simply divine.” I said almost on my last mouthful, (off food and wine).

Curly Hair returned and asked if everything was ok. Bindya shared her thoughts with him about the precooked preparation and Curly hair, being loyal to his employer, just smiled another of his cheeky grins with a glint in his blue eyes.

“Would you ladies like another bottle of wine? – that one seemed to go down quite quickly”

“We would love to; however, we should really start heading for our gate,” Shona said. “Can we have the bill please” pulling out her Airport Staff discount Card.

” Where do you work in the Airport?” Curly Hair asked. Him and Shona chatted a little bit about the airport and it turned out that this was his second shift off the day as they were understaffed.

“My good, I would be asleep on my feet if I had worked 14 hours non-stop” I said, “and yet here you are all smiles and chatter”

He once again grinned and said “Well if I can`t tempt you to any more wine I had better get you your bill”

He brought the bill to our table and we all agreed to split it four ways, and with Shonas discount card, the bill was fairly decent, so much so, that we were able to leave Curly Hair quite a decent tip too.  He deserved it after all.

After goodbyes and quick cuddles with him, we worked our way to the departure board. The flight information for our flight was showing up with “waiting more information”. We stood there for a while waiting for “more information” that didn`t arrive. Another lady and her daughter had also been there the same time as us.

” Where are you going?” Bindya asked them. It turned out that they too were off to Barcelona and they were also waiting “for more information” on the board. We chatted a little more when finally, our gate number was displayed and the six off us, plus nearly half the waiting area got up and started heading towards the gate.

It turned out that the lady and her daughter were sitting behind our seats and so we shared out our lollipops ready for take-off and the change in air pressure for our delicate ears.

Shona was sat by the window, me in the middle and Bindya to my right. Rupy sat in the sit in front of Bindya, next to a man we found out later was from the USA and meeting his brother in Barcelona. Rupy found out a lot more about him than that, but this is our story – not his.

At last, everyone was aboard, strapped in and ready to go and the plane started to slowly make its way towards the runaway. After a while, Shona said

“Something isn`t right, we have taken a very long way and time to get anywhere!” and then there was an announcement from the Captain saying that there was a bag on the plane that shouldn`t be on the plane so we would have to return back to the airport to have it removed.

Of course there was a lot of moaning, groaning, huffing and puffing and when the plane arrived back to the airport, lots of people got out of their seats to stretch their legs, after all we had been sat on the airplane for nearly an hour by now!

We decided at this point to kill some time with coming up with a profile for Curly Hair.

Name:  Curly Hair (but we would like to call him Brad Pitt)

Age:  21

Description: Curly hair, stocky, cute grin, brown smouldering eyes (Rupy had noted)

Likes: Women who drink wine and old enough to be his mum

Dislikes: Working in that restaurant because of the long shifts.

Family Status: definitely single!

Job: Over worked and underpaid

Finally, we were on the move again and back on our journey to the run way. Little did we realise that this would not be the first time we circled or retraced our steps this weekend.

Madre

All in all, the flight went very smoothly but the Prosecco from my small golden bottle that I purchased on board helped. Shona started laughing hard when I put the bottle between my legs.

“Get you and your golden knob” and she immediately summoned the air hostess to bring another bottle. “I`m jealous” She said, “I want my own golden knob too”. There was then a lot of banter about our golden knobs, but as this is not 50 Shades of Grey, I won`t go into too much detail. However, we both kept our empty bottles and brought them back to England with us as a souvenir.

As our flight was running behind the scheduled time, we were still in the air as the clock struck midnight, which meant, it was now officially Shona’s birthday. The 3 of us started to sing “Happy birthday” quietly amongst ourselves, but by the end of the verse, we were rather loud and a lot of people on board joined in. Now that is how to sing Happy Birthday to your bestie.

We all raised our almost finished bottles of Prosecco and wine and then packed the “Golden Knobs” as they are now affectionally called in our handbags.

Shona had kept the owner of the property updated of our delay and when we finally started to land, Shona confirmed with the landlady that we would see her mum in Arrivals in about 45 minutes. The landlady`s mum was a cabbie by trade and had quoted us roughly 60 euros to take us from the airport to our apartment, and as we knew our flight was going to (allegedly) arriving at 11:45 Spanish time, we took her up on the offer. Unfortunately for Madre, (as we had now nick-named her) we didn`t land until 12:30am, but there she was, patiently waiting with Shona`s name on a board.

We all started to chat to her, but quite quickly realised she didn`t speak any English. What she did understand was my sign language for “have we got time for a quick cigarette”, so she loaded up the car whilst most of us all filled our lungs and body with much need nicotine.

Rupy sat in the front and the rest of us sat in the back, taking in the views, well, the views that we could see in the dark of night.

Poor Madre! There we were all gassing away about this and that very loudly, and she didn`t seem to amused. We gradually left the motorway and started our journey up many steep hills and round numerous fast sharp bends. Madre must have been knackered as she was not frightened off putting her foot down and getting us home ASAP. One small roundabout, not to near the end of our journey, was in front of two enormous wooden gates set within an archway surrounded by two very large stone walls spreading either way. It looked amazing. It was very old and authentic, and I finally felt like I was in rural Spain.

Overall, it took 30 minutes from airport to `home` and a charge of 70 Euros (yes she had a meter, which she had started, according to Rupy, as soon as she sat in the car and we lit our cigarettes).

We were greeted by an extremely beautiful Roberta outside the apartment gate.

We tipped her mum another 10 Euros which she finally made her smile. It had just gone 1am in the morning and the four of us lugged our heavy hand luggage & Shona`s suitcase down very narrow and steep steps which were very poorly lit.  Actually, they weren`t lit at all! All we had were the stars and moonlight to guide us.

When we arrived down the bottom of the winding steps, Roberto opened the door and we were led into a very homely apartment which looked exactly like the pictures we were sent prior to our journey.

She quickly showed us around and pointed us towards a bottle of wine she had left for us and a local map that someone had written and drawn in local landmarks. She pointed out various places on the map of restaurants, bus stations etc in the town of Alella. I asked what the amazing stone wall was that we had passed earlier and she informed us it was the front of a very once beautiful but now a very old ruin building that the Russians had bought years ago and had neglected and now it was derelict, covered in graffiti and broken windows.

“When you get to that roundabout, if you go straight over, there is a small supermarket run by a n Indian man that will supply you with all you need” she added pointing to the map. ” He is open from 10am-10pm”

“Just like home” Bindya smiled.

After exchanging mobile numbers – in case of any problems – she left us to it and we quickly unpacked and opened one of the bottles of wine we had brought with us, putting the other bottles and the bottle left for us in the fridge.

Large patio doors divided the very large balcony from the front room. We opened them all the way and sat outside on the balcony that had plenty of room for 3 wicker sofas, surrounding a large glass table, and views that were to die for, even at night. The sky was clear, and the constellations were a plenty. Sipping our wine, we all sat in silence for the first time since ordering our food back in with Curly Hair, we heard a nearby hoot from an owl and then another hoot.

“That makes a change from the howling foxes we have back home” I pointed out. To say that we were all in a very relaxing and comfortable peace was an understatement.

In my head, I started to build up Madre`s & Roberta’s profile:

Name:  Madre

Age:  68

Description: Looks a bit like Robin Williams in a weird and wonderful, womanly way – maybe Miss Doubtfire

Likes: Putting her meter on early.

Dislikes: English loud girls that keep her up late at night.

Family Status: Loyal Mother to her daughter (Girl Power and all that Jazz)

Job: Cabbie!

Name:  Roberta 

Age:  43

Description: Tall, leggish, flawless suntanned complexion, brunette with dreads and amazing style in clothing (wipe the drool – if we were, we would have!!!!!!!)

Likes: Hanging out with English gals

Dislikes: Hanging out with English girls who arrive at 1am in the morning

Family Status: Still waiting for Mr Right (or Mrs right?)

Job: Trying to be the best hostess with the mostess on Airbnb!

We soon all headed off to bed agreeing to get up at 9am in the morning where we would head off into Alella for some breakfast. Shona and I were sharing a room and Bindya and Rupy were sharing the other double bedroom leaving no one using the 3rd bedroom that consisted of a bunk bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I fell fast asleep.

…..Only to be woken in the morning by a very loud thud and guffaws of laughter. I walked from the bedroom into the front room to see Shona rubbing her head but still laughing.

“What have you gone and done?” I asked

Bindya, wiping the tears from her eyes said

“Shona just walked into the patio doors – look you can still see her mouth print. ” Lipstick marked the spot!

“You donut” I laughed “Do you want some arnica cream?”

“Go on then” Shona replied opening the patio doors “Think it`s best we leave them open for now”

Bindya tried to find a kettle to make a much-needed cup of tea for everyone, only to find there was no kettle or tea bags! Luckily I had brought some of my herbal teas from home and the other girls liked coffee, which was supplied..but they had to have it black as there was no milk!

“Not much off a welcome breakfast is there!” Rupy said. “Thought that was included”

“Don`t look like it” said Shona “but I have had a text from Roberta who said she can give us a lift into town in 20 minutes as she is passing this way. 20 minutes, I won`t be ready in time”

“Ask her if she can bring some breakfast stuff” suggested Bindya, “I`m off to have a shower”

“Bagsy next in shower” I yelled after her.

Rupy appeared looking somewhat tired “I`ll bagsy 3rd”

“Oh no, that leaves Shona going in last, we will be here forever!” My stomach groaned. I was starving and then remembered my trusty Mars Bar I had packed and yet to consume. Walking off to find it I left Shona nursing her poor head.

“So, I had a reply from Roberta about breakfast” Shona informed me when I had got out of the very temperamental shower.

” She said she could send us 20 eggs and some brioche for 30 Euros”

“Bloody hell” I replied, “I hope you told her where to stuff her eggs”

” I did indeed, well, actually Bindya did in not such a roundabout way”

“Good” I said, “Now get your arse in the shower, I want to go get breakfast for 10 euros”

As I was the first to get ready, I wandered around the outside of the apartment and was delighted to see there were different areas for sitting and relaxing. To one side was a grassy area with sun loungers, which would be ideal for sunbathing during the summer months however, as sunny as it was for October, it definitely was not sunbathing weather! Neither could I see us donning our swimming costumes and sitting in the circular tub lower down in the grounds. What I did like the look off was the BBQ area the other side of the apartment which was covered by a huge wooden gazebo providing shelter over a large wooden table and 4 chairs. There was also a bar area next to the BBQ and the beautiful scent of honeysuckle coming from the plants scattered all around.

By 11:30 we were all ready. Shona grabbed the map and started to guide us down the steep hills towards the bus stop that would take us into Alella. The walk was at a slow pace with us admiring the gorgeous flower filled hedge rows and gardens brimming with over scented lime & lemon trees, as well as numerous big hairy barking dogs that scared the living daylights out of us, well, except for Rupy ….who tried to befriend them!

We found the bus stop, but of course could not make head or tail of it, as it was all in Spanish.

“Let`s just keep walking` Shona suggested taking the lead with her faithful map in front of her. We all followed behind her obediently, it was her birthday after all.

Soon we arrived at the roundabout with the Russian ruined “castle”, and believe me, when Roberta said it was now derelict, she wasn`t wrong.

The two buildings that could now be clearly seen in daylight, up on the hill, behind the large stone wall, were splattered in graffiti and the windows in their gorgeous hand-made frames were shattered to smithereens.

Shona consulted her map. She pointed to the road on the right that would lead us to Alella and then pointed straight ahead.

“So that must be where the supermarket shop is that Roberta told us about last night.

“Anyone need anything from there now?”

“Nah, let’s just head into Alella” Rupy said and we all agreed.

Ten minutes later, we arrived in what looked like the beginning of Alella. We passed a winery with beer barrels outside it that was the 3rd landmark on our map.

Of course… I said we passed it! but it wasn`t a few yards before we all turned around and went back to it as “it would be rude not too.”

Inside the winery, right up the middle of the vast area were massive barrels piled up on top of each other with a spout attached to each one. To the left were 100`s of wine bottles all carefully balanced one upon the other.

In between the barrels and wine bottles, there were upright barrels with crazy looking decanters on them half filled with white wine. From the decanter was a spout.

Now, I`m not one to judge, as I do like my wine, however, I noted a small rounded man,  expertly going up to one of the decanters and raising the spout  way above his face and pour what looked like a gallon of wine into his very open mouth. He didn`t spill a drop or even better…gag!! To say I was impressed would be an understatement. The person not impressed was the owner of the winery who was following him closely behind watching him with hawk-eyes. I have a feeling he was a frequent customer or “guzzler” as we later named him.

I called the girls away from the rows of bottles of wine that they were browsing and showed them the man, who had now moved on to the red wine barrels. Together, we all watched his performance in awe.

“Our turn” Shona said pulling me towards the barrel that was holding the white wine. We both grabbed a decanter each, pretending to be impressed with the name on the side of them and then proceeded to expertly copy the “guzzler”. With our heads titled back and our mouths wide open, we both lifted the spouts about 5 inches from our mouths and tilted the decanters waiting for the alcohol to fill our stomachs. Shona’s decanter flowed smoothly, and she received a fair amount of wine straight into her mouth. Unfortunately, I was not as professional and proceeded to tip only a small amount into my very large and opened mouths before both spluttering and coughing as the wine trickled `down the wrong hole`. 

“MMMMMMMMMMM I like that one” Shona announced swiftly placing down the decanter and quickly starting on the next one.

Rupy and Bindya were by the red wine area and as I walked over, recovering from coughing, I was just in time to see Rupy in action. Just like me and Shona, she raised her decanter up high and expertly managed to miss her mouth!! However, not one for wasting wine, she did manage to capture the liquid all down her white cotton top.

“Shit, shit, shit ” Rupy cried. 

“Do it again,” roared Bindya with laugher “but this time I will video it”

We decided enough drinking was done for the early time of now 12pm and we ventured back out on to the street, but not before finding out that you could buy 1 whole litre of wine for just 2 euros! I grabbed their business card and we promised we would be back before we left for England.

We started walking along the road continuing our journey and within 50 steps we came across small a street market selling fresh fruit and veg (Yay for Bindya and Rupy) and an area containing 7 tables covered in shoes (Not yay for me because next to me, leading me by hand was my bestie – Shona – the shoe-aholic)

20 minutes later and thankfully no shoes in a bag, Shona and I found Bindya and Rupy buying humongous olives in an enormous plastic container. Looking closer, I realised that all the fruit and veg were of the gigantic variety, which you would never witness on the shelves off any supermarket or small corner shop in England. Happy with their shopping spree we all decided it was time to eat and find the cheap working man`s pub that Roberta had pointed out on the map the night before.

PAPA BEAR

We followed the map but was led up a very derelict road so turned around and went back to the market to ask for directions. The man at the shoe section pointed completely away from the road we had just come from and with a lot of interesting gestures, we gathered that the place we wanted was in the opposite direction.  We walked pass a lot of interesting places selling food but we were on a mission to find this cheap working man`s pub. After turning left, left and left again, we were back at the street market, which was now packing away, probably getting ready for their siesta time.

“I`m starving ” I groaned, ” It`s nearly 1:30pm and we have had no food all morning, let’s go around again and this time check out the other food places”.

Once again, we walked, turning left and left again landing us in a large cobbled square where lots of people sat happily in the sun eating food, but more tempting to my eyes were the beer and wine they were guzzling. My stomach was sounding like a Boeing 747 waiting to take off and my taste buds were swelling up to the size of a watermelon from the thought of a cold white wine.

We found a small shop selling tapas, but with little translation, and with little help from Google translation, we decided that anchovies and olives were not what we wanted. We walked along and entered a small bar/ restaurant. After a long and painful conversation (still lacking translation) between Shona, Bindya and the owner, we soon exited with tonnes of apologies, once we realised all they pretty much served was every part of a pig’s body and Shona don`t do pork! 

“What about the 1874 place we have walked pass twice” I suggested, now almost to the point of starvation.

“Sounds good” Shona replied starting to try and find it on her map. I grabbed her arm and steam rolled them all to the restaurant that I now knew how to get there off by heart (well we had passed it numerous times by now!).

We quickly scanned the menu in the window, and all decided that 25 euros for the mains they offered was absolutely appropriate for our hollow and growling tummies. When we started out on our quest for lunch, I think we were all looking for an extravagant Tesco sarnie meal deal for £5…however, stepping into 1874 was one of the best decisions we made during our 3 days.

We walked through the glass door and descended the stone stairs into what one could only describe as a rustic, darkened cave like room decorated with amazing paintings and the candles that were scattered here and there provided a romantic and charming atmosphere.

We were immediately met by the owner, a charming and twinkly eyed grey-haired man who asked us in somewhat broken English how many the table was for.

After replying we wanted a table for “quattro” he led us to an intimate area of the `cave` and showed us the wine list – a man after my own heart.

“Do you speak English well?” Shona asked the owner.

” A little” he replied and then beckoned over a young blonde lady who was waiting by the kitchen.

“What would you like to drink?” he asked. After the quickest conversation the four of us had had since we met at the airport, we all decided a bottle of red wine would be fantastic.

“EXCELLENT” he yelled and sent the blonde lady away to fetch our wine.

” and food?” he continued passing out 4 menus.

“What would you recommend?” Bindya asked, browsing the menu that was all in Spanish. Once again, our ignorance of the language of the country we were staying in was letting us all down.

The owner started to go through the menu attempting to give us a break down on what was on offer, using his little knowledge of English.

Now, I`m a teacher and a mother, so I have witnessed numerous teachers and parents speaking patiently and repeatedly to their children and students….. however….. this amazing and adorable man standing in front of us deserved an OBE. After 4 times of going through the menu, we all finally understood what was on offer and then agreed that the fish he had originally suggested  (selling it as being `wonderful, homemade and freshly caught` ) was the winning choice, along with the steak (medium to rare) and a small bowl of rice. It was at this point I decided his name was to be Papa Bear.

The lady brought over the bottle of Red and we all raised our glasses to a toast to ” Papa Bear and his choice of food”. She also brought along a bowl of olives and freshly made, (and still warm), bread buns. We were all starving and devoured everything within minutes. I went for a quick cigarette outside and when I returned the olive bowl was replenished.

“Wow this is really good service” I said pointing to the bowl of olives. The girls started laughing and I asked them what was so funny.

“Bindya topped them up from the olives she brought earlier” Shona explained.

“Oh my god you can`t do that” I exclaimed. ” Papa Bear might be outraged and kick us out and I am so looking forward to our food”.

” It will be alright” Bindya replied moving the bowl very subtly off the table as Papa Bear appeared with our dishes.

He placed them all in the middle of the table somehow knowing that we were all going to share the food.

“Enjoy” he said with a welcoming smile.

” We will” said Rupy ” It looks delicious”

We all took a quarter of each dish and our plates were full of delightful food that not only smelt great but also looked very pleasing.

Silence took over the table as we started to eat our way through the dishes. The only sounds heard was mmmmmmmmmm and ahhhhhhhh.

The steak, we all agreed, was the best steak we had ever had, and despite not ever having heard of the fish that we were eating, that too also got an extremely high score.

Once our plates were empty, and I mean empty….there was not morsel of food left, I ventured to find the toilets. The signs on the door quickly told me I was in the right place. The girls sign was a cartoon type picture of a girl crossing her legs and lets just say the men’s picture was quite phallic!

Whilst relieving myself, I passed the time with making up a profile for Papa Bear (would be rude to leave him out of the game)

Name:  Papa Bear

Age:  70 (should be retiring but he loves his job)

Description:  5ft 10, soft short grey hair, sparkling grey eyes with a gentle and patient demeanour.

Likes: English customers who listen to his FIRST recommendations

Dislikes: His bowl of olives being filled up without his consent.

Family Status: Caring husband and grandad to many grandchildren.

Job: CEO of his restaurant business! I would like to think that he has many restaurants and we were just lucky that day that he was working in this one.

On returning to the table, (that was now cleared, apart from the return of the newly filled olive bowl…..Bindya!!!!!), I sat and topped up our glasses.

” Papa Bear is bringing us the dessert menu” Shona informed me.

I groaned “I hope some of it looks familiar so that we don`t have to go through it a gazillion times”

Right on cue, Papa Bear appeared with 4 new menus. His recommendation was the Foam Topped Coconut dish along with the apple pie. We all agreed immediately putting all our trust in him and within minutes, the table was full of puddings (minus the olive bowl – good work again Bindya!)

The coconut pudding was out of this world and nothing like this could be found in England ( I have been trying, but not to any luck). It was literally a light, airyated foam of cream covering slices of coconut and white chocolate in a white chocolate sauce and the apple pie was self-explanatory.

Completely stuffed and satisfied, we happily paid the bill, leaving a large tip, and gathered our belongings, thanking Papa Bear over and over again.

We left the restaurant and decided it was time to head back home and get ready for our night in Barcelona.

We walked back through the square which led us out to the main road and outside the pre mentioned winery, that lucky for us was just closing as it was the beginning of Siesta time.

“No” wailed Bindya,

“It`s alright” Rupy said, “We can stop at the corner shop and get wine there”

” That`s not why I am wailing” said Bindya, “I`ve left the rest of the olives at the restaurant”.

” It`s alright, leave them” Rupy said, but Bindya had already turned around and was heading her way back to the restaurant.

” I better go with her” Rupy sighed and jogged after Bindya.

Shona and I sat down and I had a cigarette, laughing about Bindya and her olives.

After 5 minutes, the girls returned, with a very happy Bindya and we started to make our way back to `home` via the corner shop.

” Look out for a bus” I said to the girls, ” Mind you, we still haven`t seen one bus all day!”

FUDASA AND THE PACMAN`S SHOP

After walking for about 20 minutes, and turning left where the map directed us, we walked up a smallish hill and then I said

“Yes, we found it” pointing to a blue sign arching over a sloping driveway ” The corner shop is right down there”. It was so not on a corner but in between 2 houses, however, to us, it was the “corner shop” as it was the nearest shop to our apartment.

We walked down the tiled driveway to the entrance of the shop admiring all the fresh fruit and vegetables under the over lean.

Inside, behind the small counter, was a young Indian lad looking very bored. Bindya started speaking in a mixture of Hindu and Punjabi and the lad soon brightened up. Another Indian man came along and joined in the conversation.

When they stopped conversing, I asked

” What did you say?”

” I asked him if he could organise a cab for us if we bought half the contents in the shop and he said not a problem, and if anything, he would drive us home”

” Excellent,” I said walking to the small aisles, “Let`s start shopping.”

Name:  PACMAN

Age:  25

Description:  Despite his age, balding and a rather round face with a huge silly grin (thus his nickname PACMAN)

Likes: Impressing English girls that he can drive! 

Dislikes: Giving away plastic bags for free

Family Status: Soooo single

Job: Pushing buttons into his till and not having much customer service!

After walking around the shop a few times, or baskets were laden with everything we would need to fill our stomachs before a night out on the town.

 I chose 2 bottles of white wine (which I didn`t have a clue what type it was as it was all in Spanish) and some Rose for Shona, as well as some cold Fanta and full fat Coke (no diet coke here). Bindya grabbed bread, cheese, butter and long life milk. Shona tried to sort out some coffee and tea (no tea here) and a couple of cartons of juice and Rupy found a lovely looking chocolate cake and 2 no.4 candles to celebrate Shonas 44th birthday.

She also found a pack of 6 eggs for only 2 euros!

” We need some water” Bindya said and went back outside to the array of water bottles piled up on the side. She came back with an 8 litre bottle and declared that this size of bottle should be plenty for us all over the weekend.

” Do you sell cigarettes?” I gestured with my fingers to my mouth. The shop keeper shook his head ” No ” I gasped ” Girls, how many cigarettes do you all have?” Between us, it worked out we had enough to last us until the next day, so that was a relief.

” What type of supermarket / corner shop is this?” I asked Bindya as she piled her goods onto the small counter ” No cigarettes and no teabags, he would go bust in England”.

Rupy had 2 “bags in a bag” which obviously came in handy as a “bag in a bag” usually does, and we asked for one more carrier bag (which he gave to us begrudgingly…mind you it was free of charge, I hasten to add)  and we filled the bags up.

“Ok, can you get us home now” Shona asked in Punjabi. The lad responded and Shona’s faced looked very confused.

” What did he say?” I asked again.

” He said he can`t drive us back as he doesn`t have a licence”

” What the hell!? He said he could drop us back home” I replied, “Well, can he order us a cab then?”

After some more chatting amongst themselves, Shona told us that he had ordered a cab, so we all sat down in the driveway of the shop and started to swig from the bottle of Fanta.

The house next door had a very load parrot inside which was doing a very impressive wolf whistle. At first it was rather cute, but after the umpteenth time, it became rather annoying, so to shut it up I did a rather loud “MEOW”.

There was a pleasant moment where all was quiet, then the parrot started to retort with Meowing!

“Enough of that damn parrot” Rupy said getting up of the small brick wall she was perched on, ” I`m going to see if there is a cab on the road waiting for us” and she disappeared up the driveway. Due to boredom, and to get away from that damn parrot, I followed her and stood at the top of the drive.

” There`s a cab number here” Rupy yelled over to me standing at a nearby bus stop.

I yelled to the other girls ” Rupy has found a cab number”, but I received no response. I walked back down to them,

“What about our cab?” I asked

Shona went back inside and soon came out looking slightly annoyed.

” He said that there is no cab, and the reason we haven`t seen one bus during the whole day is because it`s the bloody National Catalonia holiday and everything stops for the day!”

“Great” we all groaned. Rupy joined us suggesting to Shona to Whatsapp Roberta to see if Madre was free to pick us up.

“No answer” said Shona, ” I`ll text her”.

Two cigarettes & half a bottle of Fanta later, we were still sitting there chatting about the fact that if we had actually walked back to the villa, we would have been there by now and as it was now pushing onto 4 o`clock and we had a busy night ahead of us….we all made the somewhat crazy decision that that is what we all should do….walk back home.

We left the Pac Man`s shop grunting our goodbyes and walked towards the ruined castle.

“If we go this way, behind the ruin, then it will be a bit of a short cut” suggested Shona looking at our faithful map. “It`s slightly more uphill to begin with but then it looks like we will come down on a more gentler slope” We all agreed and carrying all the bags between us and Shona holding the 8 litres of water, we set off.

We walked slowly up the hill that ran behind the old ruins which were once again splattered with graffiti and in the grounds, one of the lion’s statues was actually beheaded with the head laying abandoned a few metres away from its body. Nice!

 A short way up the steep hill, we all stopped to take a breather and Bindya swapped her bags with Shona for the bottle of water Shona had been carrying

 “We will take turns carrying the water ” Bindya said.

The four of us continued at a snail’s pace walking passed the occasional house (without any barking dogs) and admiring the architecture, or the beautiful flowers in the gardens but after a while there were no more houses, just bushes either side of us. Finally, we were confronted by a T junction.

“Which way now?” I asked.

Shona looked at her map but at this point it proved quite useless as the map did not show a T junction, but just the road turning to the left.

“I`ll try the map on my phone” said Rupy and typed in the address of the villa. “It`s says we need to go right”

“That`s confusing,” I said, ” That can`t be right going right. The ruins were on our right walking down, so we are on the other side of it so surely, we should go left then the ruins will be on our right again, Right? ” All the girls looked at me rather bewildered and laughing Bindya said ” You are confusing, right girls?”.

“Which way then” I asked again “left or right?”

” The map on my phone isn`t always that reliable off road” replied Rupy “Let`s go left like our faithful paper map says”

“Left it is then” said Shona and so we set off down the road with Rupy telling us stories off all the different times her phone map had let her down. After a while, Rupy turned around and saw that Bindya was trailing behind her lugging the 8 litre bottle of water.

“I`ll go back and help her” Rupy said and turned back up the dusty track to help her sister.

Shona and I carried on, now with a quicker pace as the road, or shall I say pathway (as that was what it had now turned in to) was sloping quite quickly. After passing a few abandoned cars, an empty “sports centre” and not much else, we finally arrived at another junction that brought us onto a main road.

” So, which way now?” Shona asked me.

I shrugged my shoulders “I still have a feeling we need to go up towards that way” pointing to a road ahead of us.

“But that is not a main road and this is a main road. Let me try the map on my phone.”

 A moment later, the map was saying that once again we needed to go right. “Right it is then” we both agreed, and as there was no path on the corner that we had stopped at, we climbed over the silver metal barrier and started to walk along the roadside that was bending sharply to the right. Rupy and Bindya were catching up with us laughing their heads off. We both stopped and turned around.

” What`s so funny?”  Shona asked

 “Meet Fudasa” Rupy replied pointing to Bindya who was sweating, huffing and puffing, still carrying the 8 litres of water.

 “Fudasa carries clean water for miles every day. She brings clean water to her family as she loves her family and she will do anything for her family as she is a good girl” Bindya was standing there nodding her head in agreement with a ridiculous grin on her face

“You two are crazy” I said “Now let’s cross the road, away from this corner before we all get killed which means no water for Fudasa`s family.”

We crossed the road, which made more sense, because being good British girls who have trekked numerous country lanes, we know that if you have to walk on the road, you should do it facing the oncoming traffic. However, this was no country lane, this was turning out to being a very busy main road with traffic coming from both ways.

“Keep to the left Bindya” Rupy yelled at her “you`re going to get run over”

“Fudasa can`t die.” replied Bindya “Must get water home!!”

We tried to flag a few cars down when the road became a little quieter, but no cars stopped. If anything, they gave us a wide berth, looking at us like we were crazy foreign lunatics. A cyclist approached up ahead and was pedalling extremely hard as it was uphill for him.

“Fudasa needs directions, Stop! Stop!” Bindya shouted as the man got nearer. She stepped out further into the road, into his cycleway, and received a flurry of hot and angry Spanish words.

“Fudasa doesn`t speak Spanish” she yelled back.

 “What are you doing you nutter?” Rupy said, “Couldn`t you tell he was on a mission cycling uphill. He had probably got a rhythm going and there you are trying to knock him off his bike!”

“Fudasa needs to get this water back to her family” Bindya pouted,

I turned around to them both ” We are going to have the police after us soon. I can see the headlines FOUR BARMY BRITS CAUSE MAYHEM ON SPANISH HIGHWAY.”

“At least we will get a lift home” Rupy yelled back

“Yeah, after a night in the police cells” I responded. ” Let`s get off this road quickly”

“Good idea. Shona, is there a road we can turn off on to?”

“Yeah the next one on the right” she yelled back at us as she was at the front of the line.

“Let`s take that one and get off the road and into hiding before the police arrive.”

When we had all crossed to the other side I once again started laughing because behind the metal railing that run the length of the long road we had just walked down, and behind the bushes that were behind the metal railing, there was a rather large pathway.

 “Bloody hell,” Rupy said ” We almost killed ourselves on that stupid road and there was a path there all the time”.

“I`m really thirsty, I need a drink soon” Shona said,

” Not until we get home, Shona, Fudasa must carry this water all the way for her family.”

” I could do with a drink of wine” I replied and as we turned the bend on the road we were escaping down, there was a derelict bus stop with a wooden bench against a yellow cast stone wall.

” I agree” said Rupy plonking herself on the bench, ” Get the wine out”

” It would be rude not too” I replied and without hesitation I pulled the bottle out of one of the bags and then groaned very loudly.

” What`s the matter” Shona asked as she joined us on the bench.

“It`s a bloody CORK bottle, not a screw top!” I cried. “We are screwed” We all groaned in unison even more.

“That`s it then, time for the water ” Rupy said leaning over to Bindya who was still holding the water bottle for dear life.

” Get your hands off my water” Bindya yelled “Fudasa will not let you drink from this bottle as you will spill it everywhere and I`m not having my water wasted, plus I`ve seen your attempts trying to drink that Wine at the winery! Just look at the stains on your top! How would you manage to drink from this 8 litre bottle.”

Whilst the 2 sisters carried on winding each other up, I lit a cigarette and wandered a few yards away. Walking back to the group, I said ” Oh my god girls, you will never guess what that building is next to us?”

 The all got off the bench and walked a few yards.

“Oh my god” gasped Rupy, “It`s a police station!”

” Can you believe that we have actually brought ourselves to the police, guess it will save them time trying to find the four crazy girls jay walking on a dual carriageway.”

“I`m going to knock and try to get directions” said Shona striding off towards the station. Whilst she was away, the 3 of us resorted to drinking the rest of the very flat and very warm bottle of Fanta.

” At least we are one bottle down” grinned Rupy dumping it in the nearby bin.” Who knows how much further we have to walk”.

On Shona’s return she announce that there was no answer at the cop shop.

 “They are probably having a siesta” Rupy pointed out.

“Let’s get going then before they wake up” I laughed

” Good idea” Rupy agreed “but which way now?”

“How about we look at this big map that has been here all this time” laughed Shona walking to a massive map in a glass frame on the lamp post not far ahead of us.

I joined Shona and after a few moments of heated discussion of where we actually were (as our faith in maps was quickly dwindling) we both agreed whole heartedly that if we just followed the road we were on, it would lead us to another main road which would surely lead us home.

We gathered up all our shopping bags and the bottle of water and started to walk up the road.

I was walking slightly further ahead with Shona.

” Do you know what Diana, I don`t really fancy going out tonight”

“But it`s your birthday – remember”

” Yeah but after all this walking I`m knackered and if there are no buses on today then it`s going to be hard to get into Barcelona and I don`t fancy paying for a cab”

” With you on that one ” I replied. ” What do you want to do?”

“Well, we could stay in, pump some tunes, make our own club? We have some food and drink that should see us through”

” Well If you`re sure, it`s your day. Let`s ask the girls what they think”

Then all off a sudden I spotted what was at the end of the road. My hand flew up to my mouth in disbelief ” NO!” I cried, ” I don`t believe it”

” What`s the matter” Shona asked looking at me concerned.

“LOOK” I yelled pointing up to the end of the road. Brass as punch, staring at us was the big blue sign above the Pac Mans shop driveway.

” Oh my god” cried Shona.

By now I was in complete fits of very loud laughter.

” Be quiet, shush” she said dragging me back down the road towards Rupy and Bindya. ” They will see us”

That set me off even more.

” What`s wrong with her?” they both asked in unison.

“We`ve only done a full circle” cried Shona over my laughter.

” What?” asked Rupy looking at me

” Pac Mans shop is at the end of the road” I spluttered.

“Your joking” said Bindya. “Fudusa has carried this all the way back to where she got it from! I don`t believe it”

By now both myself and Rupy were in hysterics of laughter both collapsing to the floor with tears and mascara streaming down our faces. Bindya was doubled over laughing hard leaning on her bottle of water and all Shona kept doing was telling us to be quiet which didn`t help the situation.

Just as we started to get our breath back and calm down a little, a police car drove passed slowly looking at us, which off course set us all off again until our sides were completely aching.

Our laughter was contagious and now Shona had joined in and through her tears she said

” Well at least we can get that taxi number”

” And more food and drink for tonight”

By now we were delirious with laughter and I begged them to stop as I couldn`t take much more painful laughter.

Finally, we all sobered up from our laughing and slowly composed ourselves, walking towards a bench opposite the shop. The girls sat down and I stood next to them and lit a cigarette which was accompanied with a very loud “MEOW”.

 “And you can shut the hell up as well” I yelled to the damn Parrot,

“So, what now?” Shona asked

” I`ll go and get the taxi number Rupy saw earlier” I said marching off towards the bus stop trying to stifle the giggles I was starting to get again.

” Good idea” yelled Rupy after me, ” take a picture of it.”

When I returned, they were all sat on another bench once again laughing hysterically

” You will never guess what?” said Shona

“Please don`t tell me the shop is closed!” I asked.

” Nope, Roberta has just rung and asked if we were still here and whether we needed Madre to give us a lift home, so I said yes and he will be here ASAP”

“You are joking! Hope you told her we have been sat here all this time waiting and NOT walking for miles in one big circle. Well, I`m gonna do more shopping before she gets here” and I set off across the road, back to the Pac man shop.

 ” What are you doing?” Shona cried in disbelieve ” You can`t go back in there!”

” Of course I can” I said. ” I don`t care what they think of us, plus, I need a corkscrew to open this bloody bottle of wine, I think we definitely deserve it now.”

BIRTHDAY CAKE

Not long after my return from the shop, Madre arrived saying her one word motto “hola”

” Hola” We all cheerfully replied.

We filled her boot up with all our bags (which now also consisted off more wine, various pizza`s and the trusty corkscrew – just in case there wasn`t one at the villa  – now that would be gutting!) and literally 5 minutes later we arrived at our home sweet home.

 Walking down the steep steps to the apartment, I said to the girls

“Do you know what? We all got lost together, carrying tonnes of stuff, and yet we didn`t have one argument or one cross word between us. Why is it that friends can do that, yet if that was me and my husband, it would have ended up in a full scale row?”

Rupy laughed ” It would have ended up in divorce if it was me and my husband!”

After unpacking all the bags of goodies, Shona and Bindya went to their bedrooms to get changed, I rang my husband and relayed the adventure we had just endured and Rupy sat down on the large balcony with her feet up and a warm cup of coffee.

I took the only cold bottle of wine (left over from the night before) out of the fridge and took the bottle and glasses out to balcony and joined Rupy.

“Well that was one hell of a walk” Rupy said, ” I guess I better go and get ready to go out tonight.”

” Wait” I said, ” Shona said she was happy to stay in” Just as I said that, Shona walked through the door (this time not into it) with a tray of olives and bread. Behind her walked Bindya carrying cubed cheese and crisps.

” Let`s stay in tonight girls, I`m too tired to go out and it will be really late by the time we get back blah blah blah”

After lots of ” are you sure?”, “we don`t mind going out” we were all quietly relieved to know we could stay in the apartment and just relax with wine and nibbles.

” I want to work out where we actually walked today” I said the girls.

“Well according to my phone, we walked 15113 steps” Shona announced.

“So much for a leisurely stroll into town” Rupy replied.

I got my I pad out and 30 minutes later I had highlighted our route.

We had basically gone around in a full circle.

“But the question is, how the hell did four bright, mature and clever ladies go so wrong?” Bindya asked. We all looked at Shona

“Oi, it weren`t me,” she laughed, “the map was wrong!”

“Don`t blame your tools” Rupy chided.

“Wait, she might be right” I said picking up my I pad and our oh so not faithful paper map and laid them on the dining table and started to compare the two.

A little while later I had worked it all out.

“Well you will never guess what! Whoever drew the ruined castle on this paper map, put it in the completely wrong place…look! “

The girls walked over and stared in disbelief.

” And if you look, “I continued “Shona was right with where she thought we were…the only way on that map was to go left!”

“See” Shona grinned happily, ” It wasn`t me…..time to celebrate to that one” she said and went to the kitchen to open the next bottle of wine.

We all retired back out on the balcony and chatted away about this and that.

“Time for Pizza” Bindya said rising from her chair and walking into the apartment. Shona followed her.

“They can cook” Rupy said “and we can wash up, what do you reckon?”

“Sounds like a plan stan” I agreed and refilled our glasses.

“Hey, why don`t we use the facilities and eat on the table by the BBQ? Let`s do it snidely and surprise Shona for her birthday…It can be like we are taking her out to dinner” I suggested.

” Great idea” Rupy said and we got up and subtly grabbed some cutlery and napkins from the sideboard and worked our way to the BBQ area. On the bar, I found some candles in a jar and lit them and placed them on the large wooden table. I also tried my best to make the napkins into some funky fancy design.

Not before too long, Bindya announce that the pizzas were ready and Rupy helped her carry them outside. Shona was over the moon with us `taking her out for a birthday dinner` and we all tucked in not realising how hungry we were.

“Aren`t we one pizza short?” Rupy asked.

” Well, unless you like garlic pizza then yes we are” Bindya and Shona laughed.

Rupy and I looked confused. Shona explained,

“One of the pizzas you bought thinking it was a margarita was infact….. garlic bread! We really should have learnt some Spanish before this trip”.

“We thought we would keep that one for breakfast” Bindya informed us

Great! Garlic bread for breakfast I thought. However, beggars can`t be choosers and this was a holiday!

“What`s the plan for tomorrow” I asked finishing off my last slice of pepperoni pizza (well at least I hope that was what I was eating!)

“Let`s get up early and head on into Barcelona.” suggested Shona ” We can walk into Allela and catch the bus from there. I so want to visit La Rambles and go to the food market.”

“Then we can have a look at the famous landmarks and then eat dinner in Barcelona” Bindya continued

” And then go partying” Shona finished.

We all nodded in agreement.

The time was now heading for eleven o`clock and we still hadn`t done Shona`s birthday cake, so Rupy and I cleared up the plates and took them up into the kitchen where we proceeded to place her 2 candles into the dodgy looking chocolate cake and then called Shona and Bindya in.

After an extremely out of tune rendition of Happy Birthday followed by `She`s a Jolly Good Fellow`, Shona blew out her candles and I said, “Make a wish.”

“We all have to make a wish as it`s all our birthdays” Shona reminded us.

” Here`s to that” We raised our glasses, and each made a silent wish.

In true Indian style, we all fed Shona a piece of the cake, and as it was “all our birthday`s” she then fed us a piece of the cake.

” That tastes gingery” Bindya said through a mouth of cake.

” You said it was chocolate” replied Shona, she ate another slice and said ” That ain`t no chocolate cake, you said it was chocolate! You bought me a bloody ginger birthday cake”

That was enough for me, I was once again laughing in hysterics!

We all decided it was time to head to bed as tomorrow was going to be a full on day of shopping and partying hard in Barcelona….finally!

Garlic egg (Garlic with egg???)

We woke up to the sound off the alarm beeping away at 8:30.

” Rise and shine” Shona said spamming me gently on the forehead.

“Mmmmmmm whatever” I groaned and rolled over to face the wall and away from her spamming.

“I`ll jump in the shower then it`s your turn” She leapt of the bed and grabbed her towel and the next thing I remember she was back in the bedroom jumping on the bed spraying me with water from her wet hair

“OK, OK, I`m getting up” I said getting out of the warm bed in my PJ`s ” Do I have to jump in the shower as well or can I just stand there and wash myself?”

“Very funny” she replied dryly “Just get your arse in there and get ready because breakfast will be served shortly”

The image of garlic bread pizza flooded into my mind.

“I might take a miss on breakfast!”

As I walked into the hallway, I was greeted by Rupy, wrapped in a towel.

“Good Morning” She greeted me warmly. “Oh, are you about to shower too?”

“No, you go first” I replied ” I can go for a quick ciggie and by then you will be out?”

“I`m on it” She said walking into the bathroom.

As I reached the kitchen, I heard another

“Good Morning”

“Morning Bindya, did you sleep well?”

“Like a log” She grinned, opening the plastic wrapper of the garlic pizza.

” Breakfast?” She asked

“Maybe” I looked at the garlic pizza

“Does that have cheese on it?”

“Yes, but I`m also going to add some of this cheese”

She pulled out a packet of sliced cheese from the fridge that we bought from the shop yesterday.

“Urgh” She yelled as she opened the sill “It`s mouldy”

I grimaced!

Shona walked into the kitchen at that point and took one look at the cheese and started to gag!

“Urgh, that is so gross”

“I know” agreed Bindya “I`m taking it back today to get a refund! After all we spent in that shop, they couldn`t even give us decent sealed cheese.”

“So, what now” I asked as my stomach was beginning to rumble.

“Leave it with us” Shona smiled and shooed me out onto the balcony for my cigarette.

Out on the balcony, I could her Rupy singing away in the shower as she had managed to work out how to open the stuck window.

I walked up beside the window and started to join in with her rendition of “Tonight’s gonna be a good night”

“OMG ” screamed Rupy “You scared the living crap out of me”

“Not in the shower” I laughed ” The toilet is for crapping in!”

A small piece of soap came flying out of the open window just missing me.

Laughing, I picked it up from the floor and flung it back through the window.

“You almost finished because if you are, leave the shower running”

“All yours” she replied, so I finished my cigarette and headed for the bathroom.

Once dried and dressed I entered the kitchen to find a pizza slice with a fried egg on it.

“OK” I looked at it curiously ” and whose idea was this?”

“Mine of course” Shona said proudly.

“OK, here goes” I said tucking in.

And do you know what! It tasted good. I mean REALLY GOOD! I will definitely 

be trying that back in England.

“Well that is us all set for the morning” grinned Rupy, patting her stomach. “So, are we all ready?”

We all nodded and started to clear away and clean up the plates.

Ten minutes later we were all outside with a spring in our step ready for the downhill walk towards Allella.

“Have you got the map?” Rupy asked Shona

“No” she guffawed ” I know the way, follow me” And so we did. And about half an hour later we found ourselves back outside the winery!

Questionable raised eyebrows at each other said it all and within seconds we were all inside, trying more wine from the glass thangs.

“Time to go” said Bindya after her 4th mouthful, “We have all day in Barcelona”

We left the winery and pretty much sprinted off to where the bus stop was.

And lucky for us, there was the bus, pretty much empty and just ready to leave.

“Perfect timing” grinned Rupy, stepping on to the bus

“Barcelona?” She asked the driver in a very dodgy Spanish accent

“Three Euro`s” he replied in perfect English.

“Sorry?” asked Rupy

“Three Euro`s” he said again

“All the way to Barcelona is 3 Euros? ” She questioned the driver.

“Yes” He replied so Rupy gave him enough for all our journeys.

We boarded the bus and enjoyed a steady ride into Barcelona. From a distance we could see the famous church Les Familiar and from afar it looked spectacular. Unbeknown to us then, that was all we were going to see off it.

We had no idea where to alight so Rupy and Bindya started a conversation with a couple sitting opposite them, who were thankfully English and were able to tell us where to get off and what how to get to Las Rambles.

Thanking them, we left the bus and headed for Las Rambles which thankfully we found with ease.

Time to shop

My first shopping mission was to buy some cigarettes and immediately I found a shop that sold ONLY CIGARETTES. This is when it dawned on me that in Barcelona (and probably throughout Spain) you didn`t have the convenience of buying cigarettes in a corner shop (like Pacmans!) but you had to go to a specific cigarette shop!!! Needless to say, I stocked up.

My next mission was to buy a Barcelona football shirt for my eldest boy `12 year old` and something to do with Rubiks Cube for `10 year old`.

All the tourist shops were displaying the football shirt`s so I headed into one shop that had the most on display. Inside was an Indian man who straight away struck up conversation with Shona, in Punjabi.

“He says 40 euros for the football shirt”

“No way” I said “Come on, use your Southall bargaining skills and get him down to a decent price”

“He says they are the real thing and not fake ones like a lot of the other ones that are sold in the market stalls and on the streets”

“I`m still not paying that price” I said walking out of the shop.

The owner shouted after us, this time in English

“You come back and I will do it for 25 Euros”

“MMMM” I said ” We will shop a little bit more first!!”

“Thank you Uncle” Shona said shrugging and we set off along the street.

We soon found signs for the food market and it had just started to bucket it down with rain, we ducked into the sheltered and extremely packed market.

We walked up and down the first three aisles and soon realised that the same kind of thing was being sold throughout but all slightly different in price and packaging.

Finally, the girls found a stall selling crazy looking cooking oils, Saffron and other spices that were a very decent price and began spending their money.

I found a stall selling some delicious looking pitta bread filled with an assortment of meats and salad as well as freshly made donuts and bottles of coke. That was me sorted.

After 45 minutes of more walking up and down aisles, and passing stalls that now displayed brains and other peculiar parts of weird and wonderful animals that us Brits wouldn`t dream of eating, and other stalls selling 30 eggs for 4 Euros, (must send that photo to Roberta one day and let her know how cheap eggs really are) we decided to call it a day and go find somewhere for us all to sit down and have a proper meal and a large alcoholic drink.

The rain had stopped, thankfully, so we ventured back onto the main street and started to look for somewhere to eat. We walked along, pointing out different restaurants saying things like “what do you fancy” or that `place over there looks good`.

After walking most of the main street, we turned around and retraced our footsteps back to one of the restaurants that was pointed out at the beginning –  because it was the one with the best looking pictures of Paella in the window as well as looking quite large and seats available.

“Welcome” a very tall man said quite abruptly as we entered “Table for 4?”

“Yes please ” we said and followed him up a narrow flight of stairs into a large seating area that was almost empty.

He pointed to a table in the corner and we all sat down not sure if we had chosen a good place in the end.

He came back quickly with 4 menus that were laminated, quite ear torn and the pictures on them reminded me of the pictures that were displayed on Wimpy menus, except these were Spanish dishes, not your regular burger, chips and milkshake.

One of the missions my sister had sent me was a picture of us eating paella, so we obviously had to choose one of those, along with lamb kebabs, chips and salad. We also ordered the obligatory bottle of house wine.

When the food arrived, we took pictures of them and sent them to my sister. However, what I didn`t tell my sister was that I wasn`t touching the paella with a very long barge pole. It looked and smelt disgusting, but that was because the girls had ordered a prawn paella and I don`t eat prawns (unless they are smeared with prawn cocktail sauce). The girls tucked into the paella and I tucked into the kebabs.

After food, we decided to join other people in the shisha adjoining room. Ruby ordered some tea for everyone, and I ordered myself another glass of wine.

There was a lot of choking from the shisha amidst laughing at everyone and taking some photos but after a while we commenced with our shopping trip. We continued looking for cheaper Barcelona T shirts, but nothing was cheaper than the 25 euros deal we struck with the first man, so in good style, we all trooped back to the first shop where I bought the shirt, and 2 shops up found a Fortnight T shirt for my younger son. We did see Rubiks cubes, but he already had all the ones they were selling.

After some jewellery shopping, we decided it was time to head for the beach and we were told it was at the end of Las Rambles “Pass the large fountain and to the right” another Indian shop owner told us.

We walked pass the large fountain and found ourselves by not quite a beach, but water regardless! There were a lot of expensive looking boats moored up and a lovely place to sit and have cocktails. However, before cocktails, I was dragged into one more shop – a make up shop. Shona and Bindya were in their element and started trying this and that on. A male shop assistant had amazing glittery eyeshadow on! I asked him to show me the pallet and it was amazing. If you can`t beat them then join them! I bought the pallet filled with golds, purples and silvers and added a mascara to my basket.

Finally, everyone had paid for their items and we headed outside and found us a table overlooking the water. The girls ordered cocktails – of course I ordered a glass of wine.

“So, what’s the plan after this?” I asked everyone.

“Well….” said Shona, “I was speaking to the over the top made up male sales assistant and he told me that the clubs don`t open until 12am!”

“OMG” cried Ruby, “It`s only 6:30pm”

“We could go back to the apartment, get changed and come out again” suggested Bindya

We all looked at each other. 

“That will take forever” I gingerly said.

“So, let`s stay in at the apartment and have our own club” Shona replied.

“You sure?” Ruby said quizzically “We thought you wanted to go clubbing”

“Not at 12am until god knows when” replied Shona, “I am more than happy having a house party. We could stop in Alella on the way back for some tacos and then head open.”

We all happily agreed and started to make our way to the first bus stop that would take us to the next bus stop where that bus would take us back home.

Party in the house

The first bus stop was easy to find… however, more could be said for the second one. After 15 minutes of walking pretty much in circles, we finally found the right stop and luckily the last bus for that night was due in 2 minutes. We also realised it was the bus stop that we had got off when we arrived in Barcelona that morning. The `off licence ` was right there, so Ruby and I ran inside to grab some wine. Grab we did and when the man rang up the price, it came to a totally of 24 Euros! GULP!

We were about to change the bottles for cheaper ones when Shona yelled through the door that the bus was arriving. With great regret, I handed over my debit card and quickly paid for the `over the top` priced wine and ran on to the awaiting bus.

We arrived back in Allella for around 9pm and headed straight for the “wine parlour” with the crates out the front.

Tapas, antipasti and of course olives were ordered along with a bottle of wine and we all sat on very high stalls around beer barrels that served as tables and tucked in.

“I didn`t realise how hungry I was” said Bindya wiping her mouth with a napkin.

“You know that,” I said, “Mind you we haven`t eaten since about 2pm, but we have drunk quite a bit!”

“Let`s order a cab and get the party started” Shona said, leaving the table heading for the bar.

On her return she had another bottle of wine to add to the two I had expensively bought earlier, announcing that it only cost her £3 euros and that a cab would be outside in 5 minutes. And true to her word, a cab arrived driven by a young lad.

I climbed in the front and the others got in the back. I gave him the address and he started to head off towards our apartment.

I tried to chat with him, but he said he spoke little English, and he also didn`t seem very happy! As the girls started chatting away about the days event, and getting louder and louder, his frown turned harder and harder. We went passed the ruins and started up the winding hills to the apartment.

The girls’ conversation then took a change (for the worst?) and they started laughing about what they could do to the driver to make him smile! They suggested to me that maybe we should invite him back as he seemed very miserable and a party might be just what he needs.

We came to a fork in the road and the driver looked a little confused.

“It`s this road “I said confidently, “We are there on the right” pointing in that direction.

He looked dubious but went down the said road, and we drove and drove, but there was no apartment on the right.

“Opps” laughed Shona “maybe this isn`t our road “

“I think it`s the next one” Ruby said through more laughter.

He turned around and commenced to the next road, and then the next road, and then back to the roads we had just been down.

By now we were all laughing with hysterics, swearing and singing loudly about “show me the way to go home” and it must have been infectious as he even cracked a smile.

We finally recognised the gate to our apartment and told him to stop there. We fell out of the cab and I used my best gestures to tell him we were having a party and did he want to join us.

He laughed and in excellent English said “It`s ok girls, you go have a good night…without me!”

“OMG you speak English” I asked

“I understood every word you said” he smiled cheekily

“Well for that I will let Shona give you a tip, Shona he needs a tip” I yelled

“Don`t pass up a night with 4 gorgeous ladies” and with that she grabbed my arm and led us all to the apartment.

As we all stepped foot in the apartment, Bindya announced we all had 5 minutes to get changed and ready to party. I have never seen Shona move so quickly, let alone get changed, refresh her make up and be back in the front room in less than 5 minutes.

“Bloody hell” I laughed, “Why can`t you be that quick in the morning?”

Bindya and Ruby joined us and we all raised a cold glass of wine each and made a cheers.

“To clubbing” yelled Ruby “To clubbing “we all yelled back as by now we had Michael Jackson blaring from Shona’s speaker (we so now how to party).

For the next 20 minutes we boogied our butts off and the Bindya decided we should have a fashion shoot on the chaise lounge that was in the front room. So after quite a few photos, we decided a costume change was needed – and within 5 minutes  – once again, we were all back in a different outfit (well you know how girls like to over pack!)

This time the pictures became a bit more…..girly and outlandish shall I say! But I will leave that to your wicked imagination.

Finally, the night slowed down as tomorrow we had to leave this amazing apartment and commence back into Barcelona but this time, with a flight to catch around 9pm.

Good bye Barcelona

Once again, we woke up and took ages to get ready but we were all out of the apartment by 10:30am as agreed with Roberta. She was there along with her mum who was ready to take us into Alella Square to get our bus into Barcelona.

We gave her the key and thanked her for the loan of her gorgeous apartment and set off with Madre to Allela.

She stopped outside our favourite winery and we took all our luggage out of the cab and bib her farewell. Obviously, it would be rude not to visit the winery for the last time so after a few quick freebie swigs (or two) we worked our way to the bus stop.

The bus arrived quickly and once again we arrived in Barcelona. It was now 12pm and as I mentioned before our flight wasn`t until 9pm that night which meant we would have to lug all our luggage around with us until at least 6pm.

“We could leave the luggage in one of those storage places “Bindya suggested.

“Great idea” agreed Ruby…” But where are they?”

Shona and Bindya sat down and within minutes had found a `supermarket` shop that offered luggage storage. Once again out came google maps and they soon found it on their phone. Except we were about 10 minutes away from it. We started walking the streets and thoughts we had found it. But low and behold – we had gone to far! We were now by a massive fountain and had to retrace our steps back.

We finally found the `supermarket`, only to realise that it was the ` supermarket` from the night before that sold the expensive wine I had bought. Regardless, we were relieved to be rid of our luggage and handed it over to the shop keeper (even though we didn`t have padlocks on the cases! What a trusting bunch we were.

Hunger was setting in, so we walked a few short steps to Mcdonalds! It was extremely clean and tidy which made us pleasantly surprised. Our orders were placed and Ruby and Bindya went upstairs to save us some seats. After waiting for over 15 minutes (you know that right!!!) and after some polite but stern words from Shona and myself, our food was served…and trust me…… Mcdonalds food in Barcelona is ….exactly the same as the Mcdonalds food in England! Oh well, at least we were fed for our last shopping spree! We had all agreed that the tour bus prices to see all the amazing and historical places in Barcelona was not left in our shopping fund and time was the essence so we spent the next 2 hours slowly (hungover?) walking around shops that you can shop in back in England (like NEXT etc ) but there was also a C&A!!!!!!

Now for all of you growing up in the 70 / 80`s , you will remember C & A so of course we had to go there. And I must say I bought a ring from there that I love and still wear today.

Opposite C&A was apparently “an amazing make up shop” according to Shona, so we followed Shona across the road.

Interestingly enough, you could either walk down the stairs to the shop or go down the curly wurly slide!!! 3 guesses who went down it.

Myself and Ruby went down the stairs and met Binya and Shona at the bottom of the slide pissing themselves with laughter.

The shop was massive and Shona`s face lit up and then we didn`t see her for dust. I had a browse around then found a sofa with a USB socket and lead next to it…how cool was that! So, I sat myself down, charged my phone and witnessed Shona having a make-over so that she could get the right foundation for her skin tone. Ruby and Bindya soon joined me and finally Shona was happy with her “blend”, filled her basket up, paid for the goods and we were finally out of there.

Time for food again… so we went down a large street that looked oddly familiar to me. We found another Halal restaurant and ordered 4 large fat kebabs and….you guessed it….a bottle of wine.

“What is the name of this street?” I asked the lady who served us

“Las Rambles” she replied looking at me as if I was mad.

“OMG now I know why it looks so familiar.” I said with my head in my hands

“Why” the girls asked in unison

“Because this the bloody street we spent all day on yesterday, and the fountain we have been walking around all day shopping is the fountain we crossed yesterday to find “the beach” I groaned.

“And?” Bindya asked confused,

“Do you realise that all we have seen off Barcelona is Las Rambles and the fountain.” I replied

“Well lets raise a glass to that” laughed Ruby, and so we did.

The A team return

It was now time to leave Barcelona and catch our flight back home to Blighty. We returned to the shop that held our suitcases. I suggested that we inspect them (due to no padlocks) and we were pleased to find that nothing was added into them (10 yrs in prison is not our style) and nothing was stolen from them. Happily, we signed our receipts and bought a few items as souvenirs…I brought a Barcelona ashtray and magnets, and the girls also bought magnets.

As we were purchasing the goods, Bindya struck up a conversation with (once again) the Indian man in the shop only to find out that he used to live two streets down from where she grew up in England! Small world – and six degrees of separation springs to mind!

Luckily for us, the bus stop we needed for the airport wasn`t too far away and before we knew it we were on the bus heading for the airport.

When we got off the bus, we headed inside and Ruby said

“It`s this way to check in” and we all marched halfway up the airport.

Unfortunately, she was wrong and we had to walk back to the doors we had entered through and low and behold, this was where we had to check in.

Once that was done, (and this time we did have to take our hand luggage with us) we went through security and found that our flight was delayed so we had time for a quick duty free shop and some snacks, food and drink.

Some off us were also delighted to know that you could smoke this side of the airport in an outside area….and so we did.

Before we knew it the board was saying that our flight was boarding so we quickly went back to the main area of the airport and found our way to our boarding area.

I was so worried that we would miss the flight that I speeded up ahead, only to find a massive long queue awaiting to board. The girls finally joined me and we waited, and waited and waited some more.

Finally we all boarded the plane. Shona sat on the aisle seat and myself, Ruby and Bindya sat adjacent to her.

“Hello “ said a voice from behind Shona, “How was your trip?”

We all turned to look and it was the lady and her daughter who we had travelled out with us on Thursday.

“OMG” we yelled out and all exchanged “How are you doing?” etc

“Sorry” I said, “but we don`t have any lollies to offer out this time”

The lady laughed and said that she did and passed us all one each.

The plane finally took off and already I could see Shona starting to fall asleep with a smile on her face.

Throughout the flight home I contemplated our holiday….What was the essence of the 3 days away I thought to myself?

We sure had fun, and so there had been so much laughter. We all gelled together (better than I could have wished for) and it was a free and flowing time together.

But then it hit me!

Right from the start, when we left Heathrow airport on Thursday night, right up until now getting on this flight, all we had been doing was going around in circles, and circles and circles!