LLEIDA, NORTHERN SPAIN, A TRIP WITH ALAN BERNARD IN JULY 2012

Saturday 14 July

Alan arrived at 3pm to drive us to Luton for the 5.40pm EasyJet flight to Barcelona, using the Mid-term car park close to the terminal. In light misty rain we caught the bus instead of walking and experienced a smooth check-in and security process. As usual, a Prêt sandwich would suffice for supper on the plane. Some 10 - 15 minutes early, we located the Avis booth for the morning before catching a taxi to the NH Sant Boi hotel on an unattractive industrial estate no more than 10 minutes from the airport - but the minimum fare of €25 was a rip-off. We arrived around 10pm to find that there was no reservation - Alan had booked for 14 June - but fortunately a twin room was available, so we took it. The hotel had no bar, no mini-bar, and there were no local substitutes, so a bottle of water and soft drink from a vending machine had to suffice. By 11 o'clock we had turned in.

 

Sunday 15 July

A surprisingly good buffet breakfast was available from 8am prior to our taxi arriving 45 minutes later to take us back to the airport, this time for a modest €20 fare. A band of cloud to the east held back the sun. By 9.30 Al was driving a smart bronze Mercades hatch-back in search of the A2 north following signs for Lleida and Zaragosa, easy to spot. The motorway was pretty quiet, it being a Sunday, and after a couple of hours we stopped at a service station for a coffee. But mysteriously the turn at Tarrega to Balaguer never happened, nor did the earlier junction for Cervera appear - and yet the (old) map did not show any other road link west. In due course Lleida appeared in the mid-distance to our right whereas the map showed it to be close in on the left: we were on a new road! Some way west of Lleida, and a long way off track, we picked up signs for our intended road at Alcarras and eventually the exits corresponded to the map: a good half hour had been wasted until the C12 to Balaguer was reached. A lap of the town square was undertaken in the search for the road north which was notable mostly for its groups of Africans sitting around in small groups - we later learned that they come for the fruit picking and are generally welcomed.

 

The road north passed through Gerb from where we took the right fork around the lake with the long name making our first lepi-stop just past St Llorenc. We were immediately met by one of the White Admirals cruising down the road but we couldn't be sure which one. Spanish Gatekeeper (Pyronia batsheba) and Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia) were occupied in finding shade from the hot sun and a Bath White (Pontia daplidice) was also seen. Our journey continued up the valley northwards through gorges and alongside lakes and rivers until we spotted a restaurant at the lakeside at Cellers around 1.15 where we pulled in for lunch. It was a good one too, a Sunday buffet, fixed-price. An hour later, having consulted the map, we drove south for a mile or so in order to cross over the barrage to the other side of the lake to resume the northerly direction with Abella de la Conca our target prior to reaching Casa Guilla. A couple of ad hoc stops before Gavet de la Conca produced Spanish Brown Argus (Aricia cramera), Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Spanish Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius feisthamelii), Great-banded Grayling (GBG) (Brintesia circe), Rock or Woodland Grayling etc. The Canal de Gavet is interesting - a major irrigation channel, wide and concrete sided. Near Fontsagrada where two massive pipes carry water to the Canal we stopped again in the valley bottom following the path into a lightly wooded area. Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe) was found here along with Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus) and Common Blue (Polyommatus celina)Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Large White (Pieris brassicae) and Wood Whites (Leptidea sinapis).

 

Abella de la Conca can be seen nestling on its hillside and was on our agenda based on Peter Eales' account on the Casa Guilla website. The road ends in the village so we parked-up just below and walked through to the landscape beyond somewhat in the lee of the stiff wind that had sprung up. HollyBlue (Celastrina argiolus) and Furry Blue Polyommatus dolus) - a new species for us - turned up with Lesser Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea trivia), Spanish Swallowtail, GBG, Dusky Heath (Coenonympha dorus), Blue-spot Hairstreak (Satyrium spini) etc. My first impressions of the vegetation suggested that the season was pretty much over with a 'late' feel to things. Around 5pm we took our leave and headed west to Tremp and thence Santa Engracia stopping only for water at Vilamitjana. Casa Guilla was reached an hour later, timed well as the other guests, Roger and Carol from Kent, were in the process of opening the gates. Our host, Richard, known to Alan from his previous visits, was welcoming and gave us a quick tour ass three Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) cruised overhead - first impressions were 'great - just right'. San Miguels were needed as we completed our first list by the pool. Dinner was at 8.30 in the company of Roger and Carol, the food was excellent (4 or 5 courses + wine), as was the convivial liqueurs, tea and coffee on the balcony afterwards. To our rooms by 11.30pm. All in all, a good start!

 

Monday 16 July

Up at 7.30 an hour before breakfast having slept well, despite the small bed. With our picnic lunches, we set-off on foot in warm sunshine and under a cloudless sky at 9.30 heading west across the valley towards the strangely named Gurp on the opposite side. Lots of Southern and Spanish Gatekeepers flew up along the way through Mediterannean-style vegetation - rosemary, lavender, ilex, etc - as did Woodland Grayling (Hipparchia fagi) or Rock Grayling: the former, I expect, but there'll be no genitalia inspections to make certain. A regular Grayling (Hipparchia semele) blocked our way on the dry stony path to be followed by an unexpected butterfly - the lovely Striped Grayling (Hipparchia fidia), new to our experience. Target species #2 already! Iberian Marbled White, some mint Dusky Heaths, GBG and False Ilex Hairstreak (Satyrium esculi) also joined our walk. The track down to the stream in the valley bottom was quite slippery due to the small grade shingle that formed its surface. A solitary Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) basked on a sun-facing boulder and during a water stop in the shade of an evergreen oak on the climb up to Gurp a Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus) came into view, superbly camouflaged against the grey undersides of the oak leaves. An open grassy area produced an almost white male Spanish Chalk-hill Blue (Polyommatus albicans) and further Furry Blues. The walk into the silent hamlet of Gurp - no shop, café or bar -  offered us a Weaver's Fritillary (Boloria dia) tucking into a dog turd, and a Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) as we began to make our way back with a lunch stop in mind.

 

We found a spot near a stream where I could sit in the shade and where Alan could continue bronzing. The York Ham and tomato baguette, plus apple and water, was well-timed. Moving on, we found an 'ordinary' Chalk-hill Blue (Polyommatus coridon) in an overgrown old terraced meadow, and such was the heat, that my kepi was donned. The return trudge up the hillside in blistering heat was made more uncomfortable by the stinging sweat in my eyes, made worse by the Piz Buin sunblock I'd earlier plastered on my face. Won't do that again - had to stop and wash my eyes and forehead with water. Butterflies weren't really on the agenda in these conditions but a small clump of white thyme caused us to stop, or rather the 7 or 8 rather worn False Ilex Hairstreaks that nectared on it, did so. Nearing Santa Engracia, a tangle of bramble and clematis had attracted a Comma (Polygonia c-album) and Common Blue, and later it turned out photographically, a regular Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus).

 

The strong temptation to call it a day and have a beer was overcome as we walked a short way along the unmetalled road towards Pobla. A female Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon), coupled Furry Blues, and a Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia) made it worthwhile. Then it was back to Casa Guilla, at last, picking up beers as we passed the bar. Mine didn't touch the sides! With list duly completed, we picked up beers #2 and went to get some sun by the pool. Carol and Roger were already there. I dozed-off until waking myself with a snort, much to the amusement of the others. After a shower and unsuccessful attempt to phone Jean we went down for another convivial dinner, joined by a new guest, c30 year-old Glaswegian Primary School Teacher, Susan, chilling-out on her own. After dinner Richard's home-made moth trap was switched on despite the night sky being cloudless. Over liqueurs on the balcony, Roger took the opportunity to get our assistance to identify butterflies on his camera.

Tuesday 17 July

Awoke at 7.40 and got ready to inspect the moth trap. There was a good catch of several species of Yellow Underwing but the star was a single Spurge Hawk (Hyles euphorbiae). Having shaken the moth into the undergrowth, we went to breakfast around 9am. Today we'd visit the Noguera Gorge, me driving, setting off around 10am taking the first right south out of Tremp, past the municipal tip (mostly obscured), and through mostly agricultural land. Our first stop was at the Pass and apart from the usual Iberian Marbled Whites and a Berger's Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis) not much else was happening. So we pushed on without stopping until the car park for the Gorge was reached around 11.30. It was already like a furnace as we left the car and entered the wonderful meadows stretching down to the river. In these conditions the butterflies were incredibly active, almost a waste of time trying to get close enough for photos, and in the heat I found myself incredibly inactive! On Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) were Spanish Chalk-hill Blues, Clouded Yellows (Colias crocea), Gatekeepers, and Common Blues but little else. The heat was too much so we decided to walk to the Gorge where trees provided some respite, crossed the suspension bridge, and around 1.15 found a side track where we stopped to eat our baguettes. As is often the case, butterflies began to appear - another White Admiral (still unclear which one), Silver-washed Fritillaries (Argynnis paphia), Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia), Brimstone and Holly Blue. Inadvertently we found ourselves on the lower path through the gorge, blasted through the rock, and could see the higher path similarly constructed. Although quite safe, I was nevertheless pleased to get to the other side and reach the upper path for the return, a wider path with more steel cable supports and stunning landscapes.

 

Upon returning to the meadow activity had almost ceased, presumably due to the heat, although this didn't prevent Al from going through the motions with another pyrgus. The temperature gauge in the car read 34.5° at 3.30pm as we drove off to find a stream/pools near Castissent. Alan caught a Cinquefoil Skipper (Pyrgus cirsii), one of a few species not seeking the shade (Iberian Marbled Whites, Spanish Chalk-hill Blues, Graylings and other whites). On arriving back in Tremp we pulled up at a pavement café for coffee and orange juice before continuing the journey taking the third left through Salas towards Rivert. On the unmade road, just before Rivert, we took a left turn signposted to Santa Engracia and stopped to examine an expanse of the green eryngium which had nothing new on it though Al caught a False Ilex Hairstreak. Stopping finally by the bridge over the small Barranc de Fontfreda not far from Sta Engracia we picked-up Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), Spanish Swallowtail and Blue-spot Hairstreak: the temperature was still reading 30°+!

 

Casa Guilla was reached by 6.45 - beer and lists in the lounge area between our rooms, and then Al ventured to the pool for an hour: I stayed in my room to escape the heat, review photos (very few today), write this blog, shower etc. Dinner followed its usual pleasant format and Alan and I stayed on the balcony chatting to Richard until midnight.

 

Wednesday 18 July

Up at 8am with a puffy right eye - excess heat and sun glare yesterday. Packed before breakfast at 9'ish, settled-up, said our farewells and got away by 10.15 down the dusty road in the direction of La Pobla de Segur, then north on the main road to Sort where we stopped for coffee just after 11am.  On the bends up out of Sort we made our first quick field stop of this transit day and found a mating pair of Knapweed Fritillaries (Melitaea phoebe) and Iberian Marbled Whites. We took the old road (unintentionally, poor navigating again, missing the 'Olympic straight') to the Port del Canto at 1,730m and pulled into the car park. The vegetation here was very flowery, unlike the parched herbage we'd left behind. Chestnut Heaths (Coenonympha glycerion) nectared on knapweed, and Piedmont Ringlets (Erebia meolans) appeared along with Small Skippers (Thymelicus sylvestris), a solitary Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and a lovely Queen of Spain.

 

Just before the road joined with the C14 near Adrall around 1.40pm we pulled into a lay-by (shit stop as Alan correctly called it) to eat the final baguette from Richard and managed to find a tatty Sloe or Ilex Hairstreak in 34° temperatures. Pushing on through La Seu d'Urgell we took the left turn northwards to Bescaran continuing until the village came into view. Where a roadside trough overflowed there were several puddling Wood Whites, a visiting Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Safflower Skipper (Pyrgus carthami), Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia comma), Escher's Blue (Polyommatus escheri) and Provençal Short-tailed Blues (Cupido alcetas), and a Heath Fritillary - not bad for a 2msq area! Our plan to follow the road was abandoned as it became too rough so we turned back to the main road, turning left just before Martinet to Lles de Cerdanya. This prosperous-looking town, with many fine new stone buildings, has the Hotel Mirador situated at the northern end with fine views over the stunning Serra de Cadi. We checked-in around 5pm and straight away dumped our bags and set off for a local reccy. The hay meadows hemmed-in by a strand of electic fencing were in the process of being cut, many already bare, but butterflies were still plentiful - Gatekeepers, Espers Marbled White (Melanargia russiae) and Iberian Marbled Whites, a single (Mountain) Alcon Blue Phengaris alcon), female Purple-shot Copper (Lycaena alciphron), GBG and Spotted Fritilaries (Melitaea didyma).

 

Returning to the hotel around 7pm Alan headed for the pool, and I didn't, preferring the room instead where I nodded off on the sofa. Lists were done at 8 in my room pre-beer in the bar ahead of dinner in the hotel restaurant at 9pm. Interestingly, the menu was written in Catalan but the hotel manager translated it for us using Google. My rabbit casserole and shared bottle of red wine was good in any language. A nightcap of the local 40° proof grappa completed the meal as we watched the closing minutes of the Spanish Olympic soccer team beat Mexico 1-0 in the company of the Manager's elderly parents. 

 

Thursday 19 July

Slept well in my double bed, a welcome change from my 2'6" single at Casa Guilla, although woken by the jangle of cow bells at 7am, and were first down to breakfast at 8.30. With our picnic bags we headed north an hour later, me driving, past meadows in the process of being cut. But our first stop came quickly just outside the village at a flowery spot where bee hives had also been set and to our surprise an Apollo (Parnassius apollo) passed through pausing to nectar on knapweed. Also present was a Small Tortoiseshell, Silver-studded Blues (Plebejus argus) and we think a male Amanda's Blue (Polyommatus amanda). We pressed on reaching the end of the tarmac at Lles and continued up the track stopping soon afterwards amongst pines to investigate a large Fritillary seen on thistles. It was a Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja), accompanied by Piedmont Ringlet and  (Erebia euryale), but the star of the show was a magnificent Apollo that dropped in for the thistles and was in no great hurry to leave. We carried on, stopping often, picking up species as we went, never in any great numbers, but steadily.

 

The temperature was a pleasant 22° at this relatively higher altitude around 2,200m as we located a lunch spot by a stream and munched our baguettes in the shade of pines. Al caught a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), our first of the trip. Pushing on, we stopped at an unlikely-looking very dry crumbly bank mainly because it was in full sun and dotted in thyme so it was a great surprise to find a Nettle-tree (Libythea celtis) busily nectaring away. As the path began to descend across the stream so the road became increasingly difficult requiring careful and slow manoeuvring of our little Merc. Just before a small pond and popular picnic spot we found Common Brassy Ringlets (Erebia cassioides), again attracted to thyme. Further on, near where the map says 'Turo Punco' a Lesser Marbled Fritillary (Brenthis ino) was pill-boxed expertly by yours truly but a subsequent photo wasn't possible. Arriving at the tarmac was a big relief and with Aransa appearing below us in the valley a landscape shot of the Cadi 'wall' couldn't be missed. Our final stop was through Aransa at a hairpin where Al caught a Meadow Fritillary (Melitaea parthenoides) and where several male Scarce Coppers (Lycaena virgaureae) favoured white achillea.

 

Got back to the hotel around 6pm and visited the Damm Estrella bar in the village for a change of scenery, and then it was back to the hotel to complete our day list. Although we'd driven a long and bumpy road our frequent stops had made it a good day, and not too hot! Showered and down for dinner at 8.30.

 

Friday 20 July

There would be less driving today as our destination was Martinet and the immediate south, nice and close. Away at 9.30 in bright sunshine Al parked in Martinet so we could buy some water and take a stroll along the far side of the river El Segre. Within the first few minutes we'd seen Hermit (Chazara briseis), Spanish Purple Hairstreak (Laeosopis roboris), and Black Satyr (Satyrus actaea) and felt quite excited! GBG and the ubiquitous Iberian Marbled Whites completed the scene. I thought I'd also seen a  (Arethusana arethusa) but later concluded it was probably a female Black Satyr

 

We took the road towards Villec and stopped where the right fork leads to Estana. This area is lush deciduous woodland, almost English, and Piedmont Ringlet and Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta) were there (although id of the latter wasn't certain). Stops along this road were frequent, picking up species all the time, including Spanish Chalk-hill Blue and a male Amanda's Blue and Knapweed Fritillary near a posh restaurant standing on its own. At one spot, a small quarry-like place, we had several Spanish Chalk-hill Blues and across the road, accessed over a wooden bridge, Al came across an abandoned camp site where there were Peacock (Aglais io), Marbled Fritillary (Brenthis daphne), Silver-washed and False Heath Fritillaries, a Comma, plus the usual Heaths etc. Lunch was taken at the end of the road, at the Catholic church/school of Marie de Deu de Bastanist nestling at the foot of the Cadi massif. Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) and Holly Blue were engaged on a patch of dwarf elder and we ate our lunch in the shade opposite a shrine of some sort. Afterwards, we strolled along the footpath in the direction of Estana but probably only went about 300m: in this time we picked up Large Wall Brown (Lasiommata maera) and Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) before returning to the car to retrace our route.

 

A roadside trough in semi-shade on the way back to Villec had to be investigated but nothing was there. I wandered down the lane and Al stayed nearer the car when a sudden distant call from him caused me to dash back just in time to see him make a sweep of the net at road-level. He had made the catch of the day, nay, of the entire trip! A pristine, exquisite female Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia, form clytie) had been caught, all four wings flashing purple iridescence. In all my travels, this ranks as just about the most beautiful butterfly I've ever seen. Tempted with a damp patch of ground for a hopeful photo was insufficient to tempt her to hang around on release, and she sped off high into the trees. Wow! We were both euphoric!!

 

The sharp left turn took us in the direction of Estana, the road climbing steadily away from the wooded valley. At one stop on another hairpin we found Damon Blue (Polyommatus damon) and Short-tailed Blues (Cupido argiades), and GBG, all taking minerals from a patch of damp earth in a clearing running down beneath power lines. Alan caught what we initially identified as a Provencal Fritillary but we'd overlooked the basal underside spots and later concluded it had been a Knapweed. Our first definite ID of a Southern White Admiral occurred here. On a patch of dwarf elder I pill-boxed a White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album). Approaching Estana we stopped to inspect a large field full of knapweed that turned out to be quieter than anticipated but Esper's Marbled Whites were in good number along with Spanish Swallowtail, Dark Green Fritillaries, and Queen of Spain. Upon reaching the town we strolled through to view the Cadi wall that was the closest we got to it, and took some photos. The knapweed field attracted us again on the return leg but we couldn't find any Espers (Al particularly wanted to see one, having failed to do so thus far) although a Damon Blue was seen.

 

Around 6pm we parked up again in Martinet and with the sun behind clouds and nothing doing along the riverside walk we found a Damm at a roadside bar. By the time we arrived at our hotel at 7pm it was sunny again, down for dinner at 8.30.

 

Saturday 21 July

A band of mist shrouded the north face of Cadi and a few blue patches could be seen through the clouds: the weather today had changed. My turn to drive again, and the first stop was in Martinet, habitual now, for water and some fruit. The riverside stroll was abandoned again as there was nothing much doing. We drove east to Bellver de Cerdanya taking the road south towards Cadi and the town of Santa Magdalena. South of Bellver we stopped on the hill beside the scrambling site and were rewarded with our first Swallowtail (Papilio machaon gorganus) of the trip, more Espers Marbled Whites, Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes baton), Dusky Meadow Brown (Hyponephele lycaon), and a definite Lesser Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea trivia). Good spot! The road ends at St Magdalena so we got out and had a short wander - not much doing, other than an egg-laying Berger's Clouded Yellow and another Spanish Purple Hairstreak. The general area was nowhere as good as yesterday so we cut our losses and made for the main road with the intention of finding a road that we could see snaking up the south-facing hillside.

 

Our first attempt took us to some kind of service station and a dry hot hillside, notable only for another Baton Blue. Ultimately we missed the turning we'd been looking for and took another wrong turn into a steep cul-de-sac before eventually finding the road to Prullans and thence to Ardovol. Through Prullans, and ready for lunch, we pulled in at the Font Subirana, a gushing spring and clearly a popular spot for the locals. In (i) the meadow below, (ii) on the roadside bank, and (iii) over the electric fence across the road where cattle had churned-up the mud we had a good time finding (i) GBG, Mallow Skipper (Carcharodus alceae), Spotted Fritillary and Red Admiral (ii) Ripart's Anomalous Blue (Polyommatus ripartii), Amanda's Blue, White Admiral (still a ?), Rock Grayling (?), and (iii) Spanish Swallowtails, two beauties, Baton Blue, etc. A further stop under blackening skies for some scenic shots. Somewhere towards or near Coburriu de la Llosa at a bend we saw another Southern White Admiral, well posed for photos. But even better, I thought, was a male Black Satyr flashing open its wings and revealing the purple sheen and even though the flashing was fast I managed to get a couple of good photos. Yes! As the wind got up, and clouds filled the sky, we made our penultimate stop by a bridge over a stream just before Viliella and managed, at last, to find Esper's Marbled White uppersides. On roadside thistles were a Small Tortoiseshell and a Small Copper, just like home.

 

With rain threatening we parked at Viliella and found San Miguels in the Restaurant Cal Lia with views up the Vall de la Llosa. One final stop on the road to Lles de Cerdanya at a sand quarry face produced hunkered down Wood White, Spanish Brown Argus, lots of Silver-studded Blues, all facing head down, Chestnut Heath and Chalk-hill Blue. Through a few drops of rain the hotel arrived just shy of 6pm followed by the standard routines, and after another pleasant dinner we reached our rooms by 10.30.

 

Sunday 22 July

Check-out day, and homeward bound. The low clouds of last night had gone and the day looked promising, once high cloud got burned off. Away at 9.40 in increasing sunshine to stop in Martinet to buy some lunch: this necessitated three separate shops - one for water, another for ham and cheese, and the third for bread. Having passed through Das, we stopped at the junction with the Masella road to take a look. Alan found a Swallowtail larva and I busied myself pursuing two lovely bi-colour forms of female Spotted Fritillary, and Silver-studded Blues. Immediately before reaching Masella we took a right turn into one of the ski resort's car/coach parks and walked up a heavily cow grazed track dotted with thistles and thyme. Silver-spotted Skippers (Hesperia comma) were common and we also picked-up a single High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe), in addition to Silver-washed and Dark Greens, a lovely female Purple-shot Copper, and as the track opened out into a wide eryngium filled meadow we added Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and a Mazarine Blue (Cyaniris semiargus).

Next stop was the vast car park at Molina by the Telecabina terminal for our ascent to the Tossa d'Alp. At €10 return it was a no-brainer! The journey took around 10 minutes and transported us to another world above the tree line at over 2,300m. our first task was to find a lunch spot and a relatively sheltered valley across from the top terminal met the bill. Almost at once a Mountain Clouded Yellow (Colias phicomone) visited a yellow daisy nearby and new erebias were apparent. Combing the steep hillsides produced Large Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus alveus), Spanish Brassy Ringlet (Erebia hispania) and Mountain Ringlets (Erebia epiphron), as well as more Piedmont Ringlets, Mountain Clouded Yellow, a Small Tortoiseshell passing through, and finally Al managed to catch a Shepherd's Fritillary (Boloria pales) to be certain of its ID (we knew it was one but had to be 100% sure). Around 4.15pm we caught the downward car and at the exit to the car park stopped briefly at a patch of elder - it's just not possible to pass this plant without stopping!

 

With the airport journey now our main objective we stopped for coffee at the services immediately before entering the 5km long Tunel de Cadi and headed for Barcelona on excellent roads. Making good time, but not picking up airport signs as we approached Barcelona I advised Alan to leave the motorway to find a road to the west. Big mistake. We pratted about losing probably 30 minutes following a road over a mountain to Molins de Rei eventually to pick up another motorway and, thankfully, airport signs. The Avis car rental depot was reached by 7.30 and we went into the Terminal 2 gents to change trousers etc. We then discovered that the easyJet check-in desks were in sub-terminal 'C' necessitating a long walk adding to the anxiety and eroding the 2-hour check-in window. Once airside we bought a crap sandwich and coffee near the gate. The flight was excellent - i.e. delivered on our low expectations - arriving on time at Luton at 11pm. We set off to walk to the car park but found the presence of road barriers too challenging and anyway the shuttle bus appeared so we went back for it. Alan dropped me at home at 00.20 on the Monday morning and carried on his way, I poured myself a Glenmorangie and duly hit the sack.