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Crossing the border, heading for Barcelona

It’s Saturday 24th and we’re still wondering about Barcelona as there’s lots more to see along the French coast road. After wandering among the somewhat derelict remains of the beach resort and saltpans at Sapins de la Palmas, we set off along the ‘Route des vins’ passing Leucate and St Nazaire. The excellent D914 dual carriageway south of Perpignan took us through the foothills of the Pyrenees and we spent a couple of hours in the delightful Catalan seaside village of Collioure. It’s clear to see why it was an inspiration for artists cush as Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Dufy, Chagall, Marquet and many others who have immortalized the small port.

After enjoying an excellent tapas on the harbourside, we stopped at a local wine merchant for some ‘degustation’ and bought ourselves three bottles of red to take home. It was too late to cross the border before dark and we found a lay-by at Cap Cerbère, clearly a popular place to stop overnight for camper vans. We’d noticed huge railway sidings and a fine tunnel entrance and found that 1864 France and Spain signed an agreement to connect their railway lines through the Belitres mountain pass between Cerbère and the Spanish town of Portbou. A railway station was built in each town connected through an international tunnel opened in 1876.

On Sunday morning, 25th February we departed the lay-by at 0900, heading for Barcelona and hoping to arrive in time to secure a pitch at a site we’d discovered just north of the city near a railway station. We crossed into Spain at the border where the buildings are all derelict, as is usually the case now across the EU and Schengen areas. However, we learned of a more chilling crossing of this border in 1939 when 500,000 exiles and refugees tried to escape from Spain into France, ‘la Retirada’ (the Retreat), after Franco’s army occupied Barcelona. We took the scenic Spanish coast route to Cadaqués and decide to make another break in our drive south. As it’s Sunday, there’s a flea market and we wander around the old town, stopping for coffee and Catalan pastries.

It’s getting late and we take the free motorway south hoping there’s still space on the campsite at Cabrera de Mar. We arrive just in time at 1615: there’s only three places left! Steve cooked the frozen chicken, brought from home and we managed to book tickets online for the Sagrada Familia tomorrow, after much hassle with apps. and Internet connections! Bev went to try the hot showers and it seems to be an excellent site at just €20 per 24 hours with the train station to Barcelona a ten minute walk away. We meet with friendly German neighbours on both sides of our van and look forward to a couple of ‘city days’.