Well, we will soon be at it again.

Another great adventure will be undertaken by us in September. Can’t help but feel 4 weeks will not be long enough, however we shall make the most of every minute!

We will be meeting up with a very cool traveling companion from South Africa, WG😊

Now, how do I use this blog thing…..!😜

Homeward bound

September 29th to October 4thThursday to Tuesday
Our time in Singapore was manly to recover slowly, relax and adjust back to a similar time zone to home. We absolutely love Singapore, however there was not a lot we wanted to do or see.

We did want to visit the Gardens by the Bay, and also made a quick decision to go on the Singapore Flyer, so we did this on our first full day. The taxi from the hotel was just S$6!

The Gardens were wonderful, we chose not to go into the conservatories, but instead just wandered around the grounds for a couple of hours. It was incredibly hot, and we took every opportunity to sit in the shade and drink some water. We then got another taxi to the Flyer (only S$8).

We had a voucher and saved a bit, all up costing around S$60. I am not one for heights, but I really enjoyed this! We were lucky enough go have the air-conditioned capsule to ourselves. We got a lot of photos, and we were in awe at the view. Also impressed with the technology, the highest wheel in the world at 165m. Just as we reached the top the wind started to pick up, and we could feel a bit of movement. But I was not too phased, which surprised me a bit!

From so far up we mapped out our path to Suntec shopping towers, just a few hundred metres away. In the heat I really did not want to walk one step further than necessary! 

We had a delicious meal at McDonalds once inside Suntec! You always know what you are going to get at Maccas! We had a wander around the massive shopping centre, including a special display on the lower level for Star Wars (I think a new movie? And more adults enjoying it than kids!). We bought a water bottle for our son Chris, who is an avid Star Wars fan.

We eventually found a supermarket and bought a few items for the next few days, including chips and drinks as the AFL grand final was on the next day, and it was to be televised live, so a day in bed was in order!

We walked back to the hotel, taking the long way, which was not planned. We walked along the Nichol Highway, but could not cross as the roads were high flyovers, and the centre median strip had a fence all along to stop pedestrians crossing. So we had to walk another block down, go up and use a pedestrian flyover, then walk back the block to the hotel! A bit frustrating in the heat, however, we knew it would not happen again!

Saturday saw us enjoy the AFL grand final in bed, between Footscray Bulldogs an Sydney Swans. Garry went for the doggies, so I decided to go for the swans. Was a low scoring game and quite close for the first three quarters, but the doggies came home by 21 points. A convincing win in the end. Hawthorn (my team) had won the previous 3 years, and I was a tad disappointed they were not in the final, but pleased to see the doggies win, their first in over 60 years! You have to be happy for them. And their coach did play for Hawthorn once upon a time, just saying!!

I realised that I had misplaced my watch. Trying to remember when I last had it proved difficult, but I thought it was when we checked in and I had a shower. We asked at the pool deck, then downstairs at reception and with the concierge, but no luck. I stewed over it a bit, and was resigned to the fact that it was gone. It was the best watch I had ever owned, stainless steel, and sturdy. Oh well, would give me an opportunity to buy another when we got home I thought!

On the third night we went walking and found a great Turkish restaurant just over the road. In fact there were about 50 restaurants, and lots of textiles shops. We had a lovely meal, whilst I eyed off the surrounding shops. I got a few pieces of fabric for my quilts, and a lovely pure silk scarf for just S$4. 

We got caught up in a carpet shop, chatting to a guy, who happened to ask where we were from, when we said Tasmania he said he had a friend there and wondered if we knew him. All he said was Ricky, and I said Ponting! Yes of course we knew him, we had gone to the same school! He was so impressed! I asked if he also knew David Boon, and yes he did, and I said Garry went to his school! This was also impressive! We admired the beautiful rugs, from all the middle eastern countries. If we were to ever buy one it would be a difficult choice, as they are all so beautiful. Some taking 2 years to make! We never bothered asking the price, for fear of selling a kidney or two! We saw them being made in Turkey, absolutely stunning craft and workmanship. 

We could hear a man singing, so went looking. It was at a Mosque, just a short distance from where we were. It was beautiful, and the chanting must have gone on for an hour or so.

I had trouble sleeping in Singapore. Whilst the hotel was nice and we had a lovely room, the etiquette of the guests was not up to scratch! Doors slamming, people talking up and down the passageway all hours wears thin! So some earplugs and a sleeping pill helped me on the 3rd night to catch up a bit, but meant I woke around 11am, and checkout was 12 noon! 

Fortunately our cases were pretty well packed. We showered, and checked out, leaving our luggage. We decided to wander back to Suntec shopping centre. We were not leaving the hotel until 9pm, so had plenty of time to do nothing really! We had lunch and I decided to go catch a movie (Bridget Jones’s Baby) and Garry went back to the hotel pool to lounge and swim. 

I loved the movie, I think the best of the 3 in the series, and I was surprised to stay awake! I grabbed something for tea, and headed back to the hotel. Garry said he had been swimming a couple of times, after having a wander around while I was at the movies. I eventually had a swim, the first one while in Singapore. We had strategically packed stuff for this in our backpacks, so we could leave our luggage in storage.

I eventually and a shower, and then Garry, we packed for our final trip home. We checked fir the last time to see if my watch had turned up, but alas no, it hadn’t.

We got a taxi right at the door and were whisked away. Pleased we didn’t book the airport transfer, as the taxi was actually cheaper! It was 9-30pm Sunday night, so traffic was good!

Luckily we could check our luggage in, and make the trek to the departure lounge. We had over 2 1/2 hours to kill. I had set myself up on the floor with some hand sewing, while Garry wandered off to spend the last of our Singapore money. He did well, but still had S$3 left, so loses points for that!

We moved to other seats, and after a toilet stop Garry said he had a present for me and handed me something in some tissues. I instantly knew what it was, and almost squealed! Yes, it was my watch! It was in the bottom of his backpack, and no idea how it got there! At that moment I really didn’t care how or why, but just so,pleased to have it! Losing the watch would have been the only negative for us, so it was wonderful to have found it! 

Our flight from Singapore to Sydney left at 12-45am, and was around 7 hours. It was pretty uneventful, except for the Indian couple to the left of me, across the aisle. Even with my earphones in and the sound up I could hear her, and so did everyone else! The gentleman in front asked them to shhh, and then had to get heavy reinforcements, by asking the flight attendants to intervene. I thought it may have got nasty, but quite civilised in the end. I opted not to sleep, well, I did try, bit only got about 15 minutes. The flight was not long enough to take a sleeping pill, and Garry had warned me not to, as last time I did it from Singapore to Melbourne a lady had to straddle my seat….I woke for a few seconds to see her ‘on top of me’. Not something we wanted to repeat! But Garry was more worried about himself having to go to the toilet, so I promised not to pop a pill.

Our few hours in Sydney was pretty much ordinary, get luggage, line up for nothing to declare customs (huh?), then line up again for bag drop (huh?), we already had tickets and our luggage was tagged in Singapore. No idea why you have go line up so long for bag drop…oh hang on, it’s because people, actually don’t know what they are doing, and have to unload stuff from cases because they are overweight! So much for bag drop! More like ‘long wait’! 

The flight from Sydney to Launceston was painful, I was so tired, and a small child either squealed or sung the ABCs all the way. About half an hour from home I realised I was not feeling 100%. I thought I was just really tired and needed a sleep, however, turns out I was getting a nasty head cold or something, maybe Singaporean Airlineas flu! Was so glad to land at home, just 10 minutes from the airport.

Was only 10C when we arrived home around 5pm, and a bit damp. I promised myself to stay awake until 8pm, not a minute earlier. We unpacked every nook and cranny, doing a bit of washing, packing away stuff, and I even cleaned the bathroom and one of the toilets, just to stay awake. I found something in the freezer, a home cooked pasta and vegetable bake I had made 2 months earlier, that Jacob had not eaten, heated with some chunky chips. Was quite delicious if I do say so myself.

At 7-20pm I just could not stay awake any longer, then realised that daylight savings had actually started that morning, so it was in fact 8-20! So I staggered off to bed after taking 2 panadol, and popping a sleeping pill! 

I slept solid until 5-30am! Wow, I needed that! The Coles delivery man was out the front by 6am, so had the groceries packed away by 6-15am. I did go back to bed, not feeling to crash hot. Actually spent most of the day in bed, trying to sleep, but more or less just relaxing, and keeping the panadol up!

Am pleased to have not been sick while traveling. Can’t complain really, as we both enjoyed pretty good health for the 6 1/2 weeks while away. No aches and pains, and no blisters even, so is a record for us!
So our adventure has ended. What a fantastic trip, once again we have enjoyed a journey together, made so many new friends, ticked off a few things from our bucket lists, and seen some incredible sights. Oh, and not to mention the most amazing foods and drinks consumed!  
Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting, I hope you have enjoyed our adventure. We now are ready for a holiday, and a few days down at the Valley house will be just what the doctor ordered. 
Cheerio x

Spain to Singas

September 28thWednesday
We woke before 6am, showered and closed the cases. We arrived for a very quick breakfast 5 minutes early to a locked door. Garry went and checked out, to save time when the taxi arrived at 7-15am. We scoffed down some cereal and toast, not the most enjoyable breakfast, but at least we had something in our bellies.

The taxi was waiting for us downstairs, and I have the feeling we actually flew to the airport! I had looked at alternatives for the transfer, however as it was a 10-10am departure we did not have the luxury of time to get the bus. The taxi proved quick, but also expensive, over E45, but he was a good driver and we were impressed with the difference in our experience in our arrival at Madrid, where the trip took 1 1/2 hours, twice the time we were told, cost E21, bit also cost us E30 for the late checkin at the hotel, as we were 35 minutes late! Oh well, joys of travel! On the other hand we have saved immensely on this trip by taking trains and buses, like locals would. So I guess it all balances out in the end. 

We went straight to the Singapore Airlines checkin desk, only about 2 people in front of us, which was a little odd, although great as we did not have to line up. 

We did however have to line up for security screening, and passport control. But all up we were at the departure gate about half an hour after being dropped off by the taxi, which must surely be a record!

Incidentally, my luggage has gone from 11kg to 18, and Garry’s 15kg to 16, so I must have bought more than Garry! Mind you we have a 30kg allowance! And just to think we have about one third of useless items in our cases, like long sleeve tees I never wore, and Garry has his good windproof jacket! We only wore a cardy/coat once, as our spray jackets were suffice.

We had a coffee and tried to spend as much Euro leftovers as possible. We thought we could spend some in Milan at our stopover too, so kept a few in reserve. I managed to find a book from an author I knew. I miss reading at night, and as we are planning to spend a lot of our time in Singapore relaxing by the pool, I thought I deserved a good book. Most of the books were in Spanish, so imagine my delight to find this book! Garry could not find a book, poor Garry! They were rather expensive, some being E20+ (which is $30+), which is rather expensive for a large paperback.

The gate opened on time, and we didn’t really have a lineup here either. Very civilised. The plane was less than half full, which made a very pleasant hour and half flight to Milan. We did think we would be able to get off, so we could at least say we visited Italy too this trip, however, the plane refueled and we stayed onboard, walking up and down for the hour until more people boarded, filling the plane. We did hope that it would stay half full for the 11 1/2 hour flight to Singapore! Oh well!

The 11 1/2 flight seemed so long, and I guess it was, because we had actually started it in Barcelona, and really it was 3 1/2 hours longer adding the boarding, flying and waiting in Milan. So come 4 hours to go I was almost over it. I drank heaps of water and juice, so my legs were pretty good. Having the aisle was great and easy to bet to the toilet. Half the plane was first/business classes, so they were not allowed to use our toilet (what a liberty if they did!!). 

I watched a couple of movies, and spent a considerable amount of time catching up on this diary. I had about 5-6 days to recollect, and I’m sure I have missed out some vital details, like what food and drink we enjoyed, or funny things that occurred. All in all the memories come back to me, as I spend the hours typing. Wonderful memories, and the odd frustration, which we take in our stride. Not much will ever phase us when we travel, as long as we remain safe, and always have a very open mind, and a passion to explore. We are not completely adventurous. Sometimes I just want to get away from it all, and I guess that is what I do at the Valley house every weekend. I enjoy company, but also enjoy my solitude. The peace and quiet of home is always there, I know that, but I also want to see the world. 

We have so many opportunities, and we are ever so grateful to be fortunate enough to have the good sense to be careful with almost every penny we earn. And that makes it all so much more easy. We have moderate incomes, and our philosophy is ‘it is not how much you earn, but it is what you do with it’. So, in saying that, we have come to the decision that we will hopefully make a 4 week trip every year, as opposed to the longer ones further apart. Life is precious and sometimes short, you never know what is around the corner. We love traveling together (and to think I almost had a panic attack over 6 years ago wondering if I could cope spending 24/7 with Garry for 6 weeks!!). 

As we travel we meet wonderful people, and many have become lifetime friends. We communicate in various ways and times, and we know deep down people all around the world are the same. Stereotypes abound, but they are not real. We don’t believe in them. You can’t say that any one people are ignorant, or arrogant. It is simply not true. Believe me, we have met some pretty grubby Aussies on our travels, and they do not make me proud! 

So we are happy to call all these people friends and they are always in my thoughts. 

And even some we still see, like the UK reunion group from our Trafalgar tour in 2014, every April we plan to re-unite somewhere (2015 was Melbourne, 2016, Adelaide, and 2017 will be in Tasmania, yay!). Enough of all that!

We arrived in beautiful Singapore in their early morning, around 7am, and hoped that we could get to the hotel pool to relax until our room was ready (I was too tight to pay for that night!). For us it was around midnight (Spain time). We had very little sleep, but need to adjust quickly anyway. We were gong to take the city Transfer bus, as only S$9 each, and we were in no hurry. However, there was a 45 minute wait as the current one was full. So we caught a taxi, and it was only S$22 (and I had just cashed in the E15 we had and got S$22 in exchange!).

We arrived at the Parkroyal on Beach Road around 7-40am, way too early fir our room. We could checkin and were able to go to the pool area, and shower, and as it turned out, loll on the lounges.

The heat was oppressive and we were exhausted, and almost delirious! We both showered and gelt so much better. We caught 40 winks as best we could, and I went to get our key just before midday.

Our room was lovely, the whole hotel was really nice. Many services, of which we really only used the pool. The bed was massive, almost rented some of the space out, it was so big! We pulled the curtains and slept solidly for a few hours.

When we woke we felt so much better, showered and went looking for grub and a supermarket. We ate in a little restaurant called Richmond Station, just a few minutes opposite our hotel. There were heaps of small eateries, but as it was warm and we were a tad tired, we just basically found the closest place that was airconditioned. I had poached eggs on home made crumpets with crab meat. Interesting combination and tasty too! We also had iced coffees, which may not have been a good idea, as I did struggle to sleep later that night!

We fond a small convenience store around the corner, where we were able to buy something for breakfast the next morning, and some drinks.

We had a quiet night in, and were very pleased to find a lot of Australian tv shows! We were craving a bit if Aussie tv by this stage!

Montjuic trekking

September 27thTuesday
We packed some snacks and headed out to climd a mountain! Montjuic was almost in the backyard of our hotel. Well, it was around 500m away and then up and up about 200 steps! When we got to the top it was so quiet, after the hustle and bustle of the city. So we rang Jacob and Garry’s parents. I had put some credit on a European sim card for my phone and had hardly used it. We had free wifi almost everywhere so there was little need for the phone. I mainly used it as a camera. 

It took awhile to get through as I was ringing all sorts of combinations, 00 to exit Spain, 61 to enter Australia, but the. It got tricky, I had googled and it said the next number should be 4, however that is just for mobiles, instead of 04, call 4 then the next 8 numbers! Took awhile, but I worked it out! We also tried calling Chris, but could not connect. All was good at home, as we had assumed anyway. As I tried making calls it was using credit, even though I didn’t even get connected! Lesson learnt, don’t waste money on the sim cards!

We had no real plan for the day, but decided to just walk. We had visited the top of this mountain when we first came into Barcelona on the bus, so we had already seen the port and ocean, amazing views towards the many cruise ships. 

We ended up at the Juan Antonio Samaranch Olympic Games Museum. We decided to go in, costing only just over E5. It was an unusual museum, all sports were included, not just Olympic sports. Some history and artifacts were on display. Some interactive displays, like tv touch screens with all manner of sport and Olympics information. 

We had a coffee and made our lunch out the front of the museum, shaded enough and relatively quiet enough (except for the 60 French teenagers). We walked further along the road and next door was the Olympic stadium used for the 1992 games. We could not believe that this was open and we could just walk in! Along with many others, including a group of Newcastle soccer teenage boys on a Spain and UK tour. You could only walk a little way around the upper part of the stadium, but we were stoked with this anyway! There was a gift shop (of course!) and a small cafe too. 

We then wandered down the steps to a massive courtyard and the view up to the stadium was amazing! As was the waterfall like feature (was in about 4 tiers, as along as a 50m pool). There was another large building here too, which we thought was maybe an aquatic centre, although no signs. This was a massive paved area, with some rather unusual stainless steel art work, looked a little like wire whisks! There was also a massive telecommunications tower, which was rather artistic. The view towards southern Barcelona from here was pretty impressive too. We thought it was a very impressive place to build the main Olympic stadium. And all still in great condition and obviously used still to this day. The stadium is used for many sporting events and concerts. We assumed that under the mass of paving there may have been car-parking, but not 100% sure.

The day was perfect for photos, beautiful blues sky, not too hot, although we did hug the shade as best we could.

We made our way down towards the National Museum. What a massive and impressive building, lovely views and gardens. These areas were busy, however, they were quiet and not packed. 

We made our way down the outdoor escalators to the ‘bottom of the mountain’ to the Magic Fountain. This is very impressive. We took our time all day, and took many opportunities to sit and people watch, even had a packet of icypoles, was rather funny as there were 6 little different flavoured icypoles in the packet, shaped like space rockets, and a bonus of a surprise toy inside (which Garry put in his bag and I forgot to open!).

We made our way back to the hotel, which as the crow flies, turned out to not be far at all. We chose to walk up the back streets, where there were many kids and parents. It was almost 5pm, and we wondered if they had just got out of school? We came to a square where many people were sitting, and many kids playing. All concrete with a few trees. Was hard to believe we were in a big city. The vibe was that this was a very happy, healthy community. Everyone here lives in apartments, and the streets are narrow, but this was something else! We stayed and watched the community talking and eating, the kids running happy (not on grass, but at least outside!). There was a trailer parked in the middle with a kitchen setup, so,looked like a show of some sort was going to take place. 

This area had many small supermarkets, cafes, and odd shops. We even saw mechanics, and fiberglassing going on! We even came across a secondhand shop with all manner of junk, I mean, stock. We did go in, however, nothing took my fancy really. 

As we were walking up an alley near our hotel I spied a shop with what I imagined to be a blue and white quilt hanging on a back wall. I quickly called to Garry ‘quilt shop’ and I think he rolled his eyes! I went in, and yep, a small amount of quilting fabrics, and wool as well as other craft items. The shops was quite lovely, although basic. I managed to buy a metre of a nice neutral fabric with pops of colours, and a couple of fat quarters. The lady said she had more downstairs, and showed me, but was only a few bolts of homespun, then she said she would be getting some more in before Christmas, but I said alas we were leaving tomorrow! So a happy little camper scores again!

We had an hour or so rest in our hotel and had decided to eat in a restaurant opposite our hotel. We really had no idea there we so many little restaurants so close, just 20m away! We went to a hamburger and cocktail place. We checked out the menu and thought yep looks good, and was almost empty (the locals don’t stir til after 7pm). Inside was a little different to what we expected, the music was a little loud, although in English! He did switch it down a notch or two. The whole place was quite small, with bar stools like the old fashioned milkbar ones, but recovered, the lights above the bar were bowlers hats, and one area near the toilets was covered in old retro alarm clocks. I love the moveable bar too, and tried to convince Garry that we should have one, or rather he should make me one for Fingal! He didn’t see the point, but I did! 

I had a pulled pork burger, and Garry had a beefburger. I had a sangria, made right there fresh. Garry tried the house beer, made by the bartender and his business partner, called Howling Cats. He said it was really nice, so had a second. The burgers were delicious and healthy. The potatoes were so yummy, and he sauce delectable! They even made their own bread rolls! All in all a good feed, and not too heavy.

We finished packing our cases, I made more room by taking out the shoe box and packing the few breakable items in it and padding around it and putting it into Garry’s backpack. I still have not used my backpack yet. It has been used a few times for days trips as it is a little smaller than Garry’s. It has just been in Garry’s case most of the time. So I can afford to buy a few things in Singapore. Our Samsonites are rather small, and do not expand, so I think next trip we may take just one, and take a larger case with more capacity. These are great, but not so good if you go back with more than you left with. We pack very lightly, although this trip we had to take warm weather along with cold weather clothing. We never really needed to wear warm weather clothing as Scandinavia was relatively mild, with the coolest day being around 15-17. So I left an old scarf and gloves in Stockholm, as planned, not worn at all. 

Huge lunch!

September 26thMonday

After our breakfast at the hotel we wandered down towards the old part of the city, La Rambla. The weather was just right, very sunny, and maybe a few degrees over our comfort zone, but lovely in the shade. 

We wandered up and down these narrow alleyways, checking out various shops, and having a coffee in a cafe. We came across a church like building with what looked like homeless people out the side. And who should be there, but the famous guy, who we say at KFC the night before. And later we saw a guy who gave him some left over chicken pieces, so we saw 2 people we ‘knew’ that day!

We ended down near where the markets were by the water. A few cruise ships in. Along the walkway were so many ‘illegal’ traders. Not sure where they are from, Nigeria, Somalia, or similar. They lay out there wares on sheets, like shoes, handbags, sunglasses, trinkets, and tablecloths (which I really liked). We had seen these elsewhere, but much smaller amount of stock, with a rope around the cloth laid out, so they can quickly gather it up and run from authorities. There are plenty of Port Police around, as well as Civil Police, and regular Police. We thought perhaps it was tolerated differently here, than in, say, Paris, where we had recently seen them ( and 6 years earlier).

We thought it odd that some stalls were legit, with shade tents and tables etc. and yet these other ones could get away with it. They call out ‘hello my friend, would you like to buy, or look’. 

We liked the craft stalls, but nothing caught my eye really, so once at the end we started making our way back. As we got near the other end we saw a lot of Police cars, and a line of police officers with face shields start to walk along the promenade. We watched from a distance, just in case things got out of hand, however, it was all rather calm. We noticed that all the ‘illegal’ traders had vanished from that area! So, it appears that it is not really tolerated. Honestly, these guys are like meerkats, standing looking all the time. These guys were not as ‘meerkat-like’ as the ones in Paris, but still. A very hard way earn a dollar. No idea how much the Versace handbags were!

We had a set menu lunch. For just E15 each we had a plate of tapas each (crumbed calamari and cheese croquettes), a main (we chose paella negro, which is black die to squid ink, and the seafood fideu, I think it is spelt different, but it is similar to paella, but short 2cm noodles are used instead of rice), and a drink, of which Garry had of course a beer, and I of course the sangria! It was all really tasty. 

I have to admit that I we really don’t get the tapas thing. Everyone raves about it, but we do it just as good! I mean seriously, what is with a plate of french fries, a poached egg on top and a small rasher of bacon? It really is just finger food, a concoction of anything you want! We do the same at home, but it is more like little party pies, sausage rolls, garlic bread, other toasty breads with pesto for example, or cocktail franks! And sometimes we have walked past a tapas bar and all the food is prepared and on show, but not refrigerated! So I doubt I could come at that, a pice of ham or small sausage that has been sitting like that would surely not be very safe on my tender tummy! Anyway, each to their own! I will be developing my own tapas recipes, so keep a lookout! Oh, and I will surely be making a lot of that sangria, so if you visit, be sure to ask for some! Made fresh of course, especially available in the valley this coming summer!

We made our way back to the hotel once again, wandering aimlessly here and there, enjoying the scenery around us (not really scenery, just building really, and a but grubby and starting to be busy).

We decided on a very light tea, of bread rolls and cheese, ham and tomato. I tell you something, these Spaniards make the best bread in the world!

A night in watching SBS on Demand, catching up on about 4 episodes of the wonderful series Versailles, enjoyed with my elcheapo E1-50 1 litre white wine cask! Talk about cheap! (I was somewhat unnerved when I saw a couple of men sitting in park drinking it…was this what I was to become?!). I promised myself to start the drying out before heading home!

Farewell tour 2

September 25thSunday

We had a leisurely morning, after finally completely our second tour for this holiday, I mean adventure! We woke, showered, packed a little, then headed to have breakfast around 9-30am.

Some of our fellow travelers were still at the hotel, staying on for another day or two. We were moving to another hotel and intended on walking the 2.5km with our you-beaut Samsonites! 

We said farewell to our ‘new’ friends, one of which was celebrating her 75th birthday (Shirley, originally from South Africa, but now living in British Columbia, Canada). She said that at 7-30am that morning there was a knock at her door and it was her daughter! She was visiting from Innsbruck for 2 days, and to surprise her mum! What a lovely thing to do. Shirley said she had cried ever since her daughter arrived. They were flying home the following day, but going to Innsbruck in 6 or so, as their daughter was soon to have a baby.

We also said farewell to Anne, Irene and Carmel, 3 lovely Aussie ladies who we chatted with lots. They either sat in front or behind us. They were a lot of fun, and hopefully one day we will see them again!

We checked out around midday, most European hotels have a midday checkout, which is 2 hours later than our Australian checkout times. Also, checkin varies in Europe, but mostly 2-3pm is standard. We arrived at our new hotel, which was much closer to the city centre and areas we wanted to visit, around 1-15pm. It was a straightforward walk, flat and little traffic, both cars and people. The streets seem to get more active after 2pm, then again after 7pm. 

We left our luggage and walked to find a supermarket, and then found a cafe to have a coffee. By the time we had done this our room was ready. We seem to have been quite lucky with some of our rooms, this one was on the end of the building, so no visitors would be lurking around or going past our door, we hoped! 

This was a rather small hotel with no major services, but we didn’t mind. There were plenty of supermarkets and eateries everywhere, and we did hope to try some out!

We had an afternoon nap, still rather exhausted after so many early mornings and late nights (I rarely got to sleep before midnight). 

We then went and wandered further around our neighbourhood. We walked down towards the waterfront, where we had seen the views of the port 2 days before on the bus. It was a very pleasant night wandering around. As it started to get onto dusk more and more people started filling the streets. A religious festival had been under way in the city for a couple of days, so I guess people were out enjoying this as well. 

Can you believe that we decided on having KFC for tea?! We never have it at home, well, I maybe eat it once a year, and Garry never, so it was a little treat. We both had chicken burgers, of course. I watched intently a guy who stood across the room from time to time. He had a think mop of black hair, and a think black beard, looked around 40ish? He had on a black T-shirt that said in bold white letter F**K I AM FAMOUS. I must say that it was the T-shirt that intrigued me. I saw someone give him a small icecream. He smiled and laughed and clapped his hands, and did a little skipping dance! This intrigued me more! Especially since he had that T-shirt on! I watched further someone give him some left over fries, then a drink. I then realised he was most likely homeless. I gelt both sad for his circumstance, but also elated knowing that these kind people cared for him. Each time he did a happy dance by skipping and spinning around a little. What joy he had! He must have been famous, because everyone knew to feed him! I was going to buy him something, but after seeing what he was handed decided he probably did not need anything more. I would have paid for a meal the next day for him, however, communicating this to the staff may have been tricky! I hope he did not end up on diabetic coma with the sugars he must have consumed!

While in KFC it poured with rain, however was not raining when we walked the short distance back to our hotel. 

Full as a goog now, we rested for yet another adventurous day!

Montserrat beauty

September 24thSaturday
We left earlier than the original planned time this morning, as there was a transport strike and the roads get really busy (this is a regular occurrence). So on the bus at 8am to head up to Montserrat. Our final optional excursion. About 2/3 of the group opted for this final bus trip.

Montserrat is one of those names that I have always heard of, but never really knew what it was, or where it was. A friend had told us a few weeks before we left that this was a place we must visit. And it did not disappoint.

Incidentally, Mont means mount or mountain, and Serrat means serrated, hence Montserrat looks like a serrated knife.

Within half an hour we were climbing up the mountain. The day was a little cloudy, with showers forecast. While there we had no rain, but apparently there was a little shower in Barcelona.

As we climbed higher we went to the back of the mountain and were above the low clouds. It was magical. The clouds looked so fluffy and white. We saw the tops of a mountain range and the views were spectacular, even though we could not see down below the clouds. The morning for us was sunny and blue.

Our local guide had given us great commentary all the way up (although I did catch 40 winks not long after we got on the bus!). She said we were very lucky to get there so early as normally the place was packed. She also advised that if any if us wanted to go see and touch the black Madonna that we should go do it first as there is often a line up. She had also explained that the Madonna was wooden and over the year the timber darkened with wood smoke, and was eventually painted black. We lined up and only waited 5 minutes before entering the right hand side door of the monastery, walking along, then upstairs. The Madonna is way up above the altar, in a glass dome, with a small cut out for her hand, which you can touch. She is rather unusual looking, rather naive, but beautiful all the same. Only approximately 60cm high. I touched her hand, but Garry just looked.

We then made our way back down and into the monastery. All the signs say silence, in about 8 languages, however some people were illiterate or ignorant. Some poor lady meditating and taking notes had to ask a group of people numerous times to shhhh! It was extremely dark in the church, so was difficult to take good photos. We could see the Madonna, and a line of people, way up high, where we had been minutes before. It was still rather quiet, as not many people around.

We then back outside to start the walk back down to the bus. Taking time to enjoy the spectacular scenery, take many photos, look in the gift shop, buy a gift of chocolate and a couple of coffees. We sat looking down the valley while drinking our coffees, enjoying the warm sun and the breathtaking views.

By this time the clouds had started to disappear, and we could see more of the valley, and sometimes the valley floor. Mostly farmland, and a lots of terraced parts, as it was rather mountainous and steep. 

I took way to many photos, if that is possible! We then boarded the bus after almost 2 hours there. Many many buses and cars were now flooding up the mountain, and our bus driver manouvered our bus beautifully out of the bus parking area, which one would have trouble with a normal family car! Many people were parked way down the hill, walking up. Many cyclists were there, as were people with rock-climbing gear. 

It is interesting to also note that there is a funicular from the monastery that goes up the mountain to the top, as well as a train (I think from Barcelona).

It is also an interesting fact that there are apartments to rent, and a hotel, along with many eating places. Like a real community. It is a magical setting, and we could well understand why people would want to visit and/or stay.

We returned to the hotel after midday, and decided to just go get some lunch, sit on our balcony with a cuppa, then have a sleep, as we had a late night before! I put my phone alarm on for 5pm, and Garry suggested it was note needed. So by 2pm we were both snoozing, solidly, until,the 5pm alarm went off. Glad I set it, as we had to go out for our final dinner.

Most other travelers from our group had got the bus into the city for last minute shopping, however we were having another 3 days, and sleep was needed!

Garry had been told by the tour director that we needed to be downstairs at 6pm, but I thought she had said 6-30 another time. So we went downstairs, and yes was supposed o be 6-30. Our td was a very confused lady, who said one thing and meant another, obviously, so we were used to her cock ups! We eventually went to a room that was stifling stuffy, filled out our questionnaires (which I was not very kind about a few things, eg the Flamenco show fiasco, and the poor communication of our td – not once in 9 days did she speak to us on a personal level, never asked how we were, or if everything was ok, but we never let it worry us, we are not the monopolizing type, and we are very self-contained and experienced enough by now!).

Frequent travelers were given gifts, once again a dogs breakfast and fiasco, Garry was offered a rather odd selection of eclectic stuff (he chose a liquor, which I thought was odd to give people traveling, and I had a choice of a Picasso shawl or fan, I chose the shawl as I had bought a fan earlier.

And everyone received a small ceramic dish, all the same, for olives or oil or similar. Another odd gift for people traveling, as would be easy to break in our luggage, and she only gave bubble wrap to the sucky mother and daughter! Fortunately I had my own packaging, and hope the 2 we got would survive the trekking we still have to do. We also got our group photos, which was also a dogs dindin, so unco! If you know what I mean! Btw, Garry didn’t even get a evaluation questionnaire, but he was not surprised or bothered! Some others missed out on their evaluations as well, so she certainly lived up to what we thought! A lot were complaining about her and the unorganised chaos, but we all enjoyed what we saw. Some said they would never go on a bus trip again, or with Trafalgar. Now everyone is entitled to their opinions, but as this is our 7th tour with Trafalgar (including Insight and Costsaver) we can honestly say that we love Trafalgar and would most definitely travel again with them and recommend them. Just because this one td is not up to scratch does not mean the company is bad. All on all it has given us a great insight into Spain, its people, food and culture, and it is everything I thought it would be. We were fully aware that it was a short trip covering great distances, so we had not been duped or conned. Our local guides were exceptional, and knowledgeable, and that is so important on these trips. It is also great to meet individuals who have a passion like we do for travel, and enjoy the awe inspiring moments that are so profound in one’s life. As we travel, we make more and more friends, opening up all possibilities of further travel and lifelong friendships far and wide. Those experiences cannot be bought with any amount of money. We remember all the interactions fondly. 

We boarded the bus for the very last outing to a restaurant called Citrus.we had ordered our main meal the day before. Tapas was bought to the table at a fast rate. The strangest was a bowl of french fries with a poached egg in the middle with a piece of ham on top. Not exactly sure what to make of it, looked like a Sunday night dinner! There were 3 other couples at our, 2 couples we had not really communicated with the whole trip. They spoke a kind of Spanish to one another, so us other 2 couples spoke a kind of English to one another!

Anyway, the company or Frank and Kathy was wonderful once again, and we decided to have a drink at the hotel bar when we returned. We had a couple of drinks, many laughs and made a sad farewell. They were taking the airport transfer to fly hime to California early the next morning. Sad to say goodbye to new friends once again, but we have promised one another that we visit, them to us, and we to them. Along with their friends, and our new friends too, Tom and Brenda (who also live in Sacramento).

So about 1 am we went off to sleep like, happily knowing we had no wakeup call (we did disconnect the 2 phones!).

Dry Martini

September 23rdFriday
This morning we were driven north along the coast of the Levant region and stopped in at Peniscola (yes, a bit of a weird name). We had time to walk along the beachfront and have a coffee. The day was a little cloudy, but still quite warm. Many people were at the beach, and many enjoying the cafes along the waterfront. We had driven past a few places we had heard about, like Alicante and Benidorm. These are massive haunts of the English, well that’s what we assumed, as we had seen many tv shows where they want to buy property there, and a comedy show! When we flew from Amsterdam to Copenhagen there were many Brits flying to Alicante, so I looked it up at the time. 

The past few days were taking there toll as we spent so long on the bus. It was starting to become a formula of travel around 1 1/2 to 2 hours, morning tea, then the same for lunch, then same until the hotel. So we were all getting a bit sick of the bus, and the stops at the roadside restaurants – where you had to line up with a tray and wait for those in front to be served. Quite painful really and a bloody waste of time, especially after lining up for the toilets at first instance, life was becoming line after line, the joys of travel! But we really were given no choice, and at first chance Garry and I would dart off to do something or look at something different. 

Tania was explaining the social security and medical system in Spain, she said plastical stuff, instead of plastic surgery. She did have a way with words, and tended to give us her opinion, so one does need to be very open minded when traveling like this! We did a little eye rolling from time to time, and had a little chuckle when we realised some things were lost in translation! Like when she said Spanish people like chitting! Huh? I had images that I won’t explain here, but it did take me some time to work out that she meant cheating (in reference to the high unemployment rate of 20% – she insisted this is not accurate, as a lot work but do not declare it).

When we arrived at our hotel we decided to let all the others go on ahead as a lot were going out to dinner for the optional, and we weren’t. Tom and Brenda were still sitting downstairs and invited us to join them for dinner, along with Kathy and Frank. They are all good friends back in Sacramento, California. They had enjoyed a week together in Portugal. We had enjoyed many interactions with them, including sitting with them on the very first night for the reception dinner. Tom said that as it was a Friday night it was their martini night! (They had already informed us that they were wine snobs, and we informed them that we were just wine apprentices!). One of the guys taking the cases to the rooms said he knew of a great martini bar called Dry Martini several blocks away. So that was the plan!

We met the 4 at 6-30pm, then headed to Dry Martini. It took a while to find as it was further than the guy explained, and then I decided to check my map app, and got confused, but needless to say Tom sniffed it out like a true pro! And anyway, he said he had not walked enough, so the extra backtracking was ok!

We settled in, and I so enjoyed the 3rd martini I had ever had. And as I recall, it was the best! Tome also ordered steak tartare (not sure exactly what it was called in Spanish, probably steak tartare!). He wanted us to try it, and I thought well, one in, all in! We had a little on a cracker and oh my, it was delicious! Now the thought of raw mince does not excite me, however this was so good! I had visions of the Mr Bean skit where he goes to a restaurant, has a certain amount of money, and can only order the steak tartare. When it arrives he realises it is raw, and decides to hide it and pretend he has eaten it! It is most amusing, and he becomes rather inventive! 

Whilst seated a guy leaving came near me and said ‘bingo’ and then left! Huh? Thought for a moment I may have won something…. Then not long before we left a couple of gentlemen, and I use the term rather loosely, came in. I happen to see one open the door, and turned to Garry to ask if it was a man or a woman. He didn’t see, so I turned around and the ‘gent’ came up to me and tapped my shoulder with something (like a piece of paper, or a cd, no idea what). I was rather stunned as it happened so quickly. We just burst out laughing. Surely I was in the lucky chair tonight!! Garry said the ‘gents’ were setting up something behind me, so we figured it was maybe a transvestite show?? Anyway, we took it all as a good sign to make our way to a restaurant for dinner. 

Incidentally, Dry Martini has a counter for the number of martinis served, I think for the last 45 years (do need to check this date). The number was up to over 1 062 000. That’s a lot of martinis!

It had been raining lightly while we were enjoying the Dry Martini experience, so we had to make a wet march to a restaurant, we chose one closer to our hotel as a storm was brewing and we didn’t want to be far from our digs. 

We enjoyed a 3 course meal for just E15 each. Garry and I chose the cannelloni for entree, then the flounder for main. We also had dessert, but by this time I was full, and at this moment cannot recall what it was, I think a kind of custard like a creme brûlée, without the crusty top. Garry enjoyed a few beers, and I enjoyed some sangria, starting our apprenticeship in fine colours!

It was sadly Tom and Brenda’s final night as they were leaving the tour a day early and heading to their beach house in South Carolina, after a night in Paris. We said fond farewells, and invited them to Tasmania! We hope we see them again, and can visit them too! Frank kept offering Tom and Brenda’s home when we visit California! He said he had the code to get into the house, however, Tom said he did not have the security code for the alarm (now that may be a problem, lol).

With some slight intoxication we found sleep easy this night, and Garry found snoring very easy! 

Troglodyte living

September 22ndThursday

This morning we drove to the small village of Gaudix via the Mora Passage. The terrain was beginning to change slightly from the wide open barren rocky plains to green farmland. Lots of olive groves abounded, many on terraced plots.

In Gaudix we had the privilege of visiting a young family’s cave house. It was 3 stories high! We first climbed many steps on the face of a hill. The size of their home was most deceptive, as all you really saw were doors and windows at the front. First of all we entered into a museum area, then onto the family’s home. Parco (not sure of correct spelling) owned this house with his wife and 2 young children aged 3 and 6 (they were at school). When Parco was about 7 years old he started collecting items, usually old bits of junk. His father was quite worried as it was such an unusual thing for a small boy to do. But he need not have worried. As the collection has now become a wonderful eclectic array if the weird and wonderful!

The collection included mostly household items, furnishings, kitchen items, pottery, pictures, toys, bikes, tools, and so on. Like a living museum of earlier life. Everything was so lovely, although hardly a spare space for anything! Their actual living quarters were rather small compared to the rest of the home. They had no internal windows or doors, only curtains pulled back across doorways. Airflow is imperative. 

We all sat in the dining area on an array of chairs, and Parco answered our questions. He said they could just add rooms as they wished, although they did pay more taxes for more space. I asked if they ever dug under someone else’s house, and was told no, they are very careful about that and can only dig on their property. It was a bit hard to get your had around the concept of knowing how, why and where. Parco also said the length of room was not really a problem, however they could only dig a room a certain width, otherwise it could cave-in. He said parts of his home were 200 years old.

The walls are clay, then white washed. They had all the mod-cons, so all in all a nice home, just no windows, or views!

The bathroom and laundry were outside, doubling as the 2 public toilets. The front courtyard area was gravel with a pen for a noisy goose and a pigeon and most likely something else.

They also had a gift shop, where I bought a couple of items including 2 little hand-painted ceramic bowls, ideal for olive oil.

Upon arrival into Valencia we driven around the city and certain buildings and areas were pointed out. Including the following: Bull ring, medieval cathedral (yes, another one!), the Serrano and the Quart Towers.

We had a stop off for around 45 minutes at a wonderful area known as the City of Arts and Sciences. This is a large scale urban recreation centre, designed by Santiago Calatrava. This was an amazing wet white place!

Many of the buildings reminded us of the Sydney Opera House, or white Wood slaters! The water areas were massive, not very deep, and we wondered if people could swim there! Although no-one was on this day, and it was probably warm enough to! They did have canoes, small plastic dinghies, and those large round see through plastic orbs. A few kids were inside them playing, and we wondered how hot it must have been inside those things!

We sat and watched all the photographers taking the many pics to last a lifetime, the hair shaking tourist wanting to look their best, families taking selfies and all the other stuff going on. A couple of small electric trains were making trips around the complex. This whole place seemed so different to anything we had seem in the week we had so far spent in Spain. Everything was positively ‘old’ and this looked so futuristic! Still, we really enjoyed the stop and having a look, really beautiful!

We had dinner at the hotel and slept like kings…or babies!

Alhambra

September 21stWednesday
On the bus this morning at 8am for our optional extra tour to the olive oil farm, a family business about half an hour from Seville.

Surprisingly it is still dark her at 8am, and this particular morning it was also very foggy, with a few drops of rain. Wasn’t really cold though. 

We were met by the farmer, who described the process if olive oil distraction, from growing the olives, through to the end product. We found this fascinating, and everything he said was new to us. Even down to the fact that Spain no longer sells olive oil in clear glass, as any light can damage the oil. 

We got to taste a couple of varieties. The 2 oils were in small blue glasses with a plastic lid. We held a glass in the palm of our left hand swishing gently and moving it around with the other hand, to warm it slightly. Then we sniffed it, wow, like grassy olives! Then a taste, leaving on the top of the tongue and swishing and sucking in air. We all acted like professionals from then on. Wow, the peppery flavor hit the back of the throat, but was pleasant. 

The next oil was orange flavoured. Still with the original undertones of the grassiness, but a tender crisp orangey flavour. Now this is where it got very interesting….we tried it with chocolate icecream! Yes, you read correctly, chocolate icecream! It was amazingly delicious! 

Then it was shopping time. They had all manner of goodies, from foodstuffs to cosmetics. We decided on some small jars of black and green pastes,and a small can, as it was safer than a bottle. A great visit!

We then made our way by bus to the small township of Camona with a population of 30 000. We wandered the winding narrow streets, enjoying the views and hearing about the history of the 12th century walls. We went inside the town hall building, once a private residence with a beautiful internal courtyard (now with a roof overhead), with a few balconies looking down. Currently a small art exhibition was on view, including a painting of pink rubber gloves, which had our guide flummoxed! As we were also!!

We hit the road again for about an hour and half and ended up having lunch at a large restaurant complex. We were last off the bus, as we we in the back seat, and I decided not to line up for the toilet again, and order lunch and enjoy that. We went straight up to the counter, ordered a lunch special of a ham roll, with fresh orange juice and a coffee for under E6 each. We thought it odd that we were the only people in this cafe, no other from our group either. We enjoyed the serenity! I had time to even shop in a gift shop too! Then I went to find the toilet and saw a really large restaurant, with quite a few from our group, so that’s where they all went! It was hot there, and I know they had to line up, so was pleased we did what we did! And the toilets consisted of about 20 or so loos! What a luxury not having to line up!!

When we were leaving Kathryn was looking at jewelry, and her husband Frank said you have only 2 minutes. A lady from another tour group was walking past and said ‘oh no, 2 minutes’. We had a good laugh about that as she raced off somewhere!

Another couple of hours to Granada, where we arrived a little early and were given the option, if we promised, to have a quick break and be back on the bus n 15 minutes. Do you know how long it takes 48 people to get off a bus? Garry got the key to our room and dumped his backpack, and I just found a toilet, had a ‘technical’ break and walked to keep my legs moving. The heat has knocked me around a bit, and I have a bit of fluid forming, making it somewhat painful being seated way to long on the bus. The pain is bearable, but a fluid pill later when we finish for the day should see my right. The weather should become a little cooler now as we head north, but who knows?

Alhambra, all I can say is WOW! Am going to have to buy a book or download something to eventually describe/explain this place! It was awesome. We had to split into 2 groups of 24 for this tour. We spent over 2 hours here, constantly walking, listening, looking, taking photos, and generally being in awe at the workmanship, size, views and history. We climbed up all the way to the summer palace and the Generalite Gardens, and we were not disappointed, it was truly amazing. This was to be one of the highlights for this trip for us, and it did not disappoint!

Words could never really describe Alhambra, it is a feeling of awe, a sensory overload, an amazing experience, one to add to all the profound moments in one’ life, like standing on the Acropolis, or walking the streets of Ephesus, looking at Paris from the Eiffel Tower, circling Stonehenge, walking the Giant’s Causeway and so on. 

We didn’t get back to the hotel until around 7-30pm, Garry went and got some very tasty lasagne. We checked out the vies from the terrace, which has a small pool and a restaurant. The city lights were excellent, I took a few photos, hoping to get some of Alhambra, but no idea where it might be. 

Wifi was not good in our amazing corner room, so I popped along to the lift foyer for 20 minutes and caught up on emails and FB.

Early night…