Tag Archives: Travel

I finally made it to Barcelona!

I realise I’ve only recently bombarded you with pictures from a trip to Lyon and now I’m about to whack you over the head with another rash of snaps, this time of beautiful Barcelona. But before anyone’s staightjacketed inner globetrotter gets their knickers in a funk, I would like to assure you that your travel envy is (sadly!) misplaced: I’ve not left Toledo so far this year. Until those two trips, that is, both of which happened in the very same week. Madness! Lyon was a last-minute jaunt with a good friend who’s about to leave the country, and the reason I went to  Barcelona was to meet up with a dear friend from London. This was, in fact, my first ever visit to Catalonia.

And, if it makes you feel any better, I came back with a stonking cold and a severe case of conjunctivitis. My eyes swelled up so bad, I had to turn off Skype for two days – I was just too afraid my mum would see me in this state!

Barcelona Harbour

Barcelona flower

Barcelona Bubbles

Here are my only two OK-ish pics from inside Sagrada Familia:

Sagrada Familia Windows

Sagrada familia organ

Organ pipes, in case anyone’s wondering

La Sagrada Familia in the distance - surrounded by construction machinery. It's due for completion in 2026. or 2028.

La Sagrada Familia in the distance – surrounded by construction machinery. It’s due for completion in 2026. Or 2028. Or whenever.

A bit more Gaudi, this time from Parque Güell:

Park Güell fence

 

Barcelona harbour:

We took a ride up to Montjuïc in the cable car, an installation that can only be described as an ill-conceived disaster.

It was not a busy day. The queue of people in front of us was deceptively short. Nevertheless, we had to wait nearly an hour to be herded into the lift. There is only one single little lift that accommodates ten people. The outside waiting area is bereft of shade, and even though it wasn’t a particularly hot day, we got sweaty and uncomfortable, not to mention a tad cranky. How does this work in the summer at 30+ degrees C, 85% humidity, with lines three or four times as long?! People must be collapsing like dominoes. Is there a fleet of ambulances ready and waiting to cart them off?

Once you get to the top of the tower, there is yet more waiting before they let you get onto the cable car. You might think that the wait would be a prime opportunity to take some great pics, since the platform is encased in glass. But no. The window panes are filthy, every inch covered in greasy finger prints, toddler snot and soft drink splatters. I don’t think they’ve been cleaned, ever, on either side!

The carriage itself holds about 20-30 people, but moving around and enjoying a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the city isn’t an option. You’re packed in like pilchards. My friend and I ended up standing on the “bad side”, of course.

The ride is a short one, a mere few minutes, and once you reach the café on top of the hill, you do actually get a breathtaking view of Barcelona. A jug of sangria helps considerably to mellow the experience. Luckily, there’s no need to take the cable car on the return journey – you can walk back down into town very comfortably.

The main problem seems to be this: There are only TWO cable cars. One each way. There should be at least six of the damn things. Who thought this out?! WHO?!? I want that man, I want him tied to his harebrained creation by the balls, and, above all, I want him to re-do his fucking engineering degree in Germany. How can such a great idea turn into an epic fail? End of rant.

The tower of smudge

Dangling sardine can

…of which there are two. Those two.

Where’s the cake?! Well, there was no cake. Yes, you read that right. No Cake. I and my partner in crime went on a daily chocolate binge instead. We are a diligent pair. Barcelona is full of artisan chocolate shops. There’s no pictorial evidence of our collective sins, though, because my camera does not care for chocolate. No matter how handsome the morsel, it ends up looking like a turd in each and every photo.

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Three Countries in Five Days

After nearly three months of nothing but Toledo (except for the delightful little day trip to Cuenca) I was starting to go a bit stir crazy. The only thing that kept sane was an upcoming trip, which my friend Noelia had organised: Three nights at her friend’s place in Badajoz, Extremadura, just a handful of miles from the Portuguese border. From there, we would invade the neighbouring country and stuff ourselves silly with all the glorious Portuguese food we could cram down our gullets. Then, it was onwards, across the entire country and down to Andalucía for a couple of days, following a kind invitation from one of Noelia’s workmates, who had bequeathed us a lovely flat overlooking the beach.

All you all ready and comfortable? Let’s get started 🙂

Badajoz has some lovely public gardens

Badajoz has some picturesque public gardens…

...and glorious views.

…and glorious views. The town itself has a very southern Spanish flair, although it’s not much more south than Toledo. The Portuguese influence is keenly felt in the architecture, the colours and on restaurant menus. Salt cod and custard tarts galore!

Moving on to Portugal…

Évora's party piece: A Roman temple from the 1st century

Évora’s party piece: A Roman temple from the 1st century

Roman Temple and moi

Hidden gems

Lots of crumbling gems to discover…

...as well as some modern art. Noelia (left), and our hosts Gracia (right) and Lua (centre).

…as well as some modern art.
Noelia (left), and our hosts Gracia (right) and Lua (centre).

One of Évora's stunning residents turning his back on me

One of Évora’s most glamorous residents turning his back on me

The Almendres Cromlech, a few miles from Évora. A megalithic complex erected 8,000 years ago, and pretty well preserved. We just made it in time for sundown.

The Almendres Cromlech, a few miles from Évora city. A megalithic complex erected 8,000 years ago, and pretty well preserved. We just made it in time for sundown.

We're in Elvas now, another historic town settled since the year dot. Just don't ask me what that thing in the middle is...

We’re in Elvas now, another historic town settled since the year dot.
Just don’t ask me what that thing in the middle is supposed to signify…

Like any Portuguese town worth its salt, Elvas has a castle...

Like any Portuguese town worth its salt, Elvas has a castle…

...impossibly steep, cobbled streets...

…impossibly steep, cobbled streets…

...and plenty of tiles. Everywhere.

…and plenty of tiles. Everywhere.

 

And, of course, FOOD! Here we are, waiting for ours. The desserts at that place were to die for.

And, of course, FOOD! Here we are, waiting for ours. The desserts at that place were to die for.

For one last look at Portugal, how about this cork oak? The souvenir shops are full of cork products. You can even send postcards made of cork.

For one last look at Portugal, how about this majestic cork oak? The souvenir shops are full of cork products. You can even send postcards made of cork.

Cádiz Province, Andalucía, here we come!

Andalucía billboard

BEACH BEACH BEACH

BEACH BEACH BEACH!!!

I was very taken with that umbrella ;.)

I was rather taken with that cheery parasol 🙂

Andalucia Castellar

Did I mention the beach...?

Did I mention the beach…?

Noelia and our generous host and indefatigable tour guide, Paco

Noelia with our generous host and indefatigable tour guide, Paco

A cute frog fountain in Tarifa

A cute frog fountain in Tarifa

Soto Grande Boat

 

Gibraltar... that was the third "country" on our trip. We spent the morning there, I made a beeline to M&S, bought as many packs of hot cross buns as I could carry and several boxes of walnut whip. None of which survives.

Gibraltar, the third “country” visited on our trip. We spent a morning there, during which I made a beeline to M&S, heaping as many packs of hot cross buns as I could carry into my basket, as well as several boxes of walnut whip. None of which survives.

Now there’s just one thing missing, one VERY IMPORTANT thing:

Badajoz Cake

 

Weighty Matters

All good things come to an end. After nearly a month in glorious Key West being pampered by my friends, I’ve crashed back down onto the cold hard Earth that is wintry central Spain. The 20 degrees temperature difference sure feels a tad harsh to my overtired, travel weary body right now 😦

As much as the return journey sucked by virtue of being, well, a return journey, approaching London, we were greeted by this stunning sunrise, served on a bed of whipped cream clouds:

London Sunrise c;

It’s always a huge relief when, after two plane changes, your bleary eyes catch sight of your luggage jittering towards you on the conveyor belt. Mine had an interesting tag on it:

I'm wasn't the only one who'd gained weight on this trip, evidently!

My long-suffering suitcase has officially been declared a health hazard. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who’d been piling on the pounds on this sojourn!

When I arrived in Key West on January 8th, my bag was about two thirds full, weighing 36lbs. This included a contraband 4-pound Manchego cheese, which my friends managed to gobble up with gusto in two weeks flat.

I was sooo determined not to overdo it with the shopping this time. All I actually needed was some sensible underwear (very cheap in the US!), which weighs just about as much as a bag of cotton balls, right?! It dawned on me that I’d failed in my mission when I was trying to cram all the accumulated junk into my straining suitcase an hour before my departure.

When I plonked the lumpy bloater down at the check-in counter,  the scales groaned under a succulent 53lbs. How did this happen?!? Luckily, Key West is one of the most laid-back places on Earth, and the nice man didn’t charge me for the excess. Phew!

I’ve a feeling that unpacking this monster – an onerous task that I’m saving for tomorrow – will be much less toil than shifting the excess blubber on my midriff…

In fact, I feel like this right now:

No, it's not a giant floating haggis, but a 9ft manatee feeding by my friends' houseboat a couple of days ago.

No, it’s not a giant floating haggis, but a 9ft manatee feeding by my friends’ neighbours’ houseboat a couple of days ago.

I really need to go to bed…