It’s been absolutely ages since I last blogged, but I’ve done a reasonable amount of stuff in the meantime, and, being realistic, catching up fully is unlikely! That said, I do want to share with you some of the highlights of the last nine or so months. I can’t promise they’ll appear in order, but I thought it’d be nice to kick off with some civvy fare.
Way back on Sunday, 18 November 2012, Michael Hind and I flew into Barcelona’s El Prat Airport, which would be our intended venue for the next four days.
On arrival, I called the hire car place who sent someone out to pick us up. I’d ordered a ‘Focus-sized car’ for four days from one of these comparison sites for just under £70, which seemed like cracking value, and it was, however, it could have represented less good value quite easily! Fair play to the girl on the desk who pointed out that if we brought it back four hours earlier than scheduled we would get a 100 Euro ‘fuel deposit’ returned (it’s non-refundable on a four-day hire, but there’s no expectation that you return the vehicle full; for less than four days, you do return it full). Since we were staying close to the airport and the weather forecast indicated only two decent days (Mon and Tue), we decided we’d return it early on the Wednesday and thus get our (my) 100 Euros back.
All sorted, we set off for the hotel (Salles Hotel, El Prat, 4*). Check in was easy, and with more cloud than sun outside, the bar was where we took up residence for the majority of the remainder of the day. We did go for a bit of a wander, and El Prat, being well away from the city centre, struck us as being a rather confused location. There were lots of shops that never seemed to open, but those that did were quite friendly.
Monday dawned slightly cloudy but with an improving forecast. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Hind was suffering, while I, having not really drunk for the previous six months, felt absolutely fine! We went out, found a nice little cafe and ordered some pastries for breakfast, which were really nice. Over the course of the following two mornings I think we made our way through just about everything they’d got on offer!
After breakfast, there was only one thing for it: the beach! El Prat is right on the coast and is very enthusiast friendly. The airport has parallel runways that are offset. If 25 is in use, landings are on 25R, with departures (bar genuine long-haul) on 25L. The left-hand runway being located a bit further west. The whole of the southside of the airport is accessible and there are a number of man-made ‘features’ to enhance your viewing, although we completely missed these on Monday morning! We drove as far west as we could on the outer perimeter road and parked up in the beach car park before heading further west on foot. It probably took half an hour or so before the clouds started to part. The great thing about departures from 25L is that EVERYTHING has to execute a left-hand turn at 500′, meaning it’s topside-tastic – though the 737s and 767s were up later and thus not so good from our position. So there we were, at about 1100 on 19 November, jeans rolled up, stood in the Med shooting topsides against a perfect blue sky. I honestly can’t recall a more chilled shooting experience…. Aside from a few fishermen, I don’t think we saw more than about half a dozen people the whole time we were there.
By about 1400, we were getting hungry and thirsty (having not even vaguely thought it through! There is a restaurant shown on Google Maps, but we didn’t see it) so we headed into El Prat to try to get some food. Parking was a nightmare (and there are pedestrian crossings EVERYWHERE, with people appearing literally from behind parked cars with no intention of even checking to see that you’re going to stop), but we eventually managed it, and again pastries, this time savoury ones, were purchased and consumed as we wandered back to the car.
By now the sun position was less than favourable and neither of us was up for wandering back along the beach, so we parked up in the car park on the approach and waited for sunset. I perhaps should point out that also on the southside are cycle tracks and paths for people to walk on.
It took a while, but eventually the sun sank in the sky, considerably less far around than we’d expected, putting it pretty much straight down the runway, which was nice.
With the light gone and the colours fading, it was time to retreat to the hotel.
We ate at the hotel again, and I only had vague memories of what the previous night’s meal had consisted of (a cod steak on griddled red peppers is about all I could tell you, but that might have been in part because, based on later experiences, that, possibly, was all that was on the plate!). Rather than a dessert, this time we opted for a starter. I had ham and cheese risotto, which was delicious, followed by chicken, ham, madeira sauce and “grapefruits”. I’ve put that in speech marks because that’s how it was presented on the menu. The reality was that they were grapes (individually peeled, at that), which was fine, if a little overdone for me. Hind’s “hamburger” consisted of a beef patty on a bed of circular potatoes! Not quite what he was expecting either! Compared to the previous night, it was a quiet one.
Tuesday morning, and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. The location for most of the day was a viewing platform to the south of the outer-perimeter road at the end of 25R, shooting the arriving traffic. Undoubted highlights were the Avianca A330 and the Aerolineas Argentinas A340, both of which were firsts for me. Despite the seemingly endless Vuelings, there were periods where literally nothing happened for 15 or 20 minutes in the afternoon and we were essentially just there killing time till the sun went down, which was probably five minutes before the majority of traffic appeared….
Back to the hotel, wash, brush up, bar. Neither of us could resist the lure of the Sangria and now, well known to the bar staff, we were definitely getting a few ‘extras’ (extra glug of sherry, ham and cheese rolls, plate of crisps). Once again, we ate in the restaurant. I had tempura vegetables as a starter with a red pesto sauce, which was really nice, and we both had steak with anchovy butter. Don’t think they were doing themselves any favours by describing it as “Ox sirloin” when the reality was it was probably the nicest piece of filet I’ve ever tasted. The accompanying “chips”? Vegetable crisps…. Regardless, it was lovely. The bar was closed before we were done drinking….
Wednesday was forecast to be a bit rubbish, and that’s how it turned out. We didn’t even plan to head out to shoot, but in the end we did for about 90 minutes. We went and used the second platform (this one made of wood and decidedly wobbly!), located where we’d parked our car by the beach on the first day. Light wasn’t good and most of the aircraft rotated after the gap in the hedge, meaning in the main we just got shots of stuff taking off, gear down, and against a horrible white sky. Hey ho.
We filled the car up on the way back to the airport. JUST managed to squeeze 10 Euros into it, thus saving ourselves 90 by virtue of getting our fuel deposit back and got bussed back to the airport where we checked in straight away and spent the next seven hours killing time, which was painful. All in all, a really good trip; just what I needed – a nice mix of relaxation and shooting, with some half decent images to show for it.
Would I go back? Not sure I need to, TBH, and I’d be worried that the heathaze might scupper the beach shots in the summer, I think….