Our journey began with my head down the toilet. We were due to be up at 4:30am and our flight was at 7 but by 3am I was throwing up and questioning every motive that had brought me to this seemingly rash decision of buggering off around the world. Not the best start to the adventure to say the least! However we did end up leaving the house on time thankfully and made it through check in without any problem. I would just like to say at this point though that the previous few days had been insane. Nobody tells you this in travel stories. They just say they upped and left their lives behind to began their adventure and maybe some of them truly did (the lucky sods) but packing up everything, organising everything, ensuring you had everything etc was very stressful. Half a year ago when we started considering this plan we didn’t think of the enormous amount of effort that the actual undertaking would involve. At that point you happily just dream of escape and foreign lands and exploring. You forget about the realities of banking in foreign countries, global SIM cards in phones that seemingly do not exist, packing only essentials for a year, organising an itinerary, connecting flights with seemingly impossible transfer times etc etc.
But the time had come to put all that hard work into practice and set off for the first stage of our trip. We were travelling to Catalonia in Spain. Not too distant a land some may say but for someone who has barely left the UK in her 27 years on this earth it still seemed a million miles from home. Saying goodbye to my wonderful parents at the entrance to security (and praying I wouldn’t vomit all over a security guard) we trudged through the queues until we were at last on the other side. The sun was finally rising over the Yorkshire countryside, something I would miss wherever I went in the world and we boarded, took our seats and grinned sheepishly at each other knowing this was it and there really was no turning back.
Within two hours we were treated to the most spectacular view of the Pyreneeian mountains whenever the plane banked to the left and knowing this is where we would be exploring in a few days was exihilarating. Underneath the seemingly endless cobalt skies the mountains undulated below us, rooted in their own assurity that they belonged here in a way we never could. We flew over the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, the waves already beckoning us in and finally touched down in Spain.
Once we’d collected our bags we met up with our workaway hosts, left the airport and were hit by the most extreme wall of heat you could imagine. This Yorkshire lass had come acclimatisation to do! We were headed for Barcelona centre as our hosts had a meeting there so we stopped for a meal where it suddenly dawned on me that I genuinely do not speak a word of Spanish. Even ordering food seemed daunting but thankfully our hosts were very helpful and talked us through it all (in both languages). Pete and I then went for an explore of the city. We only had a very vague idea of where we were going (which is actually my favourite way to discover a new place) and followed the desire to visit the beach. We hadn’t come prepared at all (sadly my well travelled spade was in the boot of our hosts car) but no matter, we would enjoy it nonetheless.
Walking through the impeccably clean streets which were shimmering in the heat and encountering tree species I had never seen before (and could not identify whether they would be decent feed for my zoo animals or not) was a very alienating experience but Barcelona itself was a lovely place and when we finally made it to the sea Peter took no time at all in diving in. I followed pretty much fully clothed and we both marvelled at how warm this foreign ocean was! English seas are NEVER this warm so it was a delightful surprise.
After enjoying the refreshing Mediterranean for a wee while we decided to go off in search of the old town if we had time. Sandy, sun drenched and still rather moist we set off and dried off in no time, such was the heat. Unable to find the old town we stumbled across what we would later find out was called “The Ramblers” and apparently most Spanish towns or cities have them. It’s a seemingly everlasting street filled with beautiful trees, flanked on either side with endless cafes and shops that speak English. We meandered slowly through enjoying the shade and the atmosphere until I suddenly squeaked and ran over to a shop which was displaying the most ginormous jar of Nutella I had ever seen! They did serve pancakes but we opted for an ice cream each and I have to say that it was quite possibly the most beautifully delicious thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. It was also very refreshing to not have to pay more for all the added extras that an ice cream should come with, please take note Great Britain!
The time had come to meet up with our hosts again and head back to their house which was to be our base for the next month. And when we finally reached it I realised that the photos we had seen didn’t even do it justice. It was truly its own slice of paradise. Imagine a huge ivy covered French chataeu but older, surrounded by its own small forest of trees on the outside. Inside it becomes lovely and cool surrounded with thick stone walls, hugely high ceilings and massive rooms. The kitchen leads out to a beautifully tiled terrace which is actually the same height of two of the oldest and largest oaks I have seen outside of Sherwood Forest and therefore nicely shaded. It also affords a stunning view of the acres of garden complete with its own olive orchard (although sadly the trees do not seem to want to grow them) and beautiful turquoise swimming pool. On one side the house also teams up with an enormous palm tree and cactus combination. Exhausted but incredulous I turned to Pete and muttered in the most unbelieving of tones “We live here now!”