Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Missed connections - the Adventure begins

The morning started early with another yummy breakfast at Hotel Regis, Barcelona.
I like their muesli and fresh fruit the best, but Cath and Gill enjoy the range of smoked meats, cheeses and pastries, especially the chocolate ones. The taxi picked us up at 7.30am as arranged. The streets were only just gaining light and office workers were making their way to work, coffee and papers in hand as we circuited the one way streets to get out onto the main road to the airport. This looked more like a working city, rather than the image we had gained over Thursday, Friday and the weekend. I think a lot of people must have been extending their summer vacation, taking advantage of the National holiday, last Wednesday. Barcelona airport is huge and the electronic billboards notifying the flights, times and gates, tantalise the imagination. Bucharest, Miami, Buenos Ares, Istanbul, Rome, Paris, Chicago. It seems as if every city in the world is listed there. There was a huge queue at every desk. We waited and edged our way forward. Within an hour we were becoming nervous about making our flight, and I went to the Iberia airline `billett´ window to ask if we could get our boarding passes. I was told to go straight to the top of the queue, so collecting Cath & Gill, we pushed forward. A pommy bloke protested loudly, so I answered loudly (in English) We´ve been told to go to the front - our flight is in 15 minutes´. He subsided, but not so the Spanish woman who obviously didn´t understand English. She berated us in no uncertain terms, so that EVERYONE began looking and adding their comments! Luckily I can´t understand Spanish. We were then told to go to desk no. 2, which was a `last minute desk´, where a very helpful woman calmly fixed our boarding passes and wished us buenos dais. Dashing along miles of shiny linoleum, faster and faster, the backs of my calves burning from walking in sand yesteday, we made it to the passport check, and I, last of the three of us, scored a gorgeous wink from the gorgeous passport official as he stamped my passport. Made my day, and it needed to. We got to the boarding lounge to find the flight delayed by half an hour. That soon extended to an hour and ten minutes. Our original flight plan had an hour between landing in Madrid and then flying to Tangier. Sure enough, we didn´t make the Tangier flight. At Madrid airport we went through a circus of being sent to the customs gate, sent back, waiting for nearly an hour to get to the Customer service counter, waiting another hour to get tickets issued, trying to get the airline to give us a hotel room, ending up with meal vouchers for a crappy italian fast food outlet and weasling our way into the Iberia VIP lounge courtesy of Cath´s Qantas club card. She was only supposed to be allowed to bring in one guest, but I showed the receptionist my Qantas frequent flyer number and we explained about being stranded at the airport for 10 hours and she let me in. Very nice, free alcohol & food, showers, internet and after sitting in the lounge for 6 hours, I discovered a room with day beds! Cath managed to ring the tour agent in Tangier and tell them about the delay. We had a driver booked to pick us up at the airport at midday, poor fellow would have been put out. Now we are hoping that one will turn up at midnight! The thought of being stranded at Tangier airport at midnight is not a comfortable one. All this and we haven´t even made it to Morocco yet.....

Monday, September 29, 2008

Barcelona Beach

We walked down La Rambla to the port and the beach. We passed the market along the way, that we had visited yesterday.

The thing that most suprised me about Barcelona is the number of tourists. I reckon about 80% of the people on the street are tourists, no more so than at the beach. The beach scene is quite different from that in Australia. We were suprised at the number of people who go to the beach quite dressed up. You don´t see many men in shorts, unless they are swimming. There were also very few people swimming, although the water looked gorgeous. It seemed to shelve off quite steeply and there were good body surfing waves of about 1m rolling in against the haze of the deeper ocean. Perhaps there was an undertow? It was lovely and warm, I would have been tempted to swim at home in Melbourne.
There are so many cultural mixes here, we saw families where the children were running around naked up to the ages of 6 or 7, and ones where the children were dressed in `Sunday Best´complete with shoes and frill topped socks, and little muslim girls with headscarves, all enjoying the beach. Of course there were lots of beautiful young people promenading up and down, and the sunbathers had tans in all shades of gold and brown, none of them looked sprayed on. The body beautiful was displayed in every size and shape, it didn´t matter how fat you were, as long as you had a tan, you could display it in a bikini. The older set (over 70´s) were congregated in front of a building that seemed to be a sports club. They had a beach volleyball court set up and were playing vigourously. Up on the esplanade there were martial arts clubs doing displays, more beach volleyball, musicians playing jazz, latino and soul music, and rows and rows of restaurants all looking out over the blue blue sea. It´s very mediterranean, with palm trees and pink washed apartment blocks crowding up to the esplanade. The pedestrian esplanade varies from 3 to 10m wide, and breaks out into large plazas at the end of every intersecting street. On the sand itself, are set cafe-bars with timber decking and lathe roofs, so relaxed, you could easily sit there all day. In another part there are deck chairs for hire, for the serious sunbathers.
As we walked back from the beach we went along the port area again and found it alive with a carnival fun fair. Along the port area all the Sunday market traders were set up. The young african men set up goods on a blanket or sheet, with rope tied to each corner and held tight in a bunched fist. It didn´t take long to work out that they are illegal immigrants and the roped corners of their merchandise display allow for a quick lift and getaway should the migration officials come. There are some beggars in Barcelona, but not too many. They mainly congregate around the churches and along La Rambla, the famous tourist thoroughfare. Mostly people seem to find something to do, like the young illegal immigrants and the people who spray paint themselves and pose as statues.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday in Barcelona

Yesterday afternoon as we walked through the del Born area it started to rain. It had been humid all day and finally it rained, great big splashy drops turning into a steady down pour. We all got wet feet and legs and had great fun finding a local bar to dry off in. In the evening we walked over to the Port area and had dinner at a seafood restaurant, ordering tapas of sardines in raspberry vinaigette, mussels in wine, and calamari rings followed by rice noodle paellas, which were so yummy. Our eyes were bigger than our tummies and we really could have had only one serve between the three of us. We were still very tired, and all slept well.
We've had a wonderful day today. It's been gloriously sunny with a cool breeze, perfect for walking.

We walked back to the Temple de la Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's church, then up to the Hospital de la Santa Creu I Sant Pau, which he also designed, then right up the hill to the Park Guell. Spent the whole day sight seeing and walking. I'm glad I decided to pack the digital camera, everything about Gaudi's work is a visual feast. The Temple de la Sagrada Familia is stunning, the passion that drove this man to dedicate his life and that has inspired generations since is extraordinary. I felt so moved by it that I made a commitment to myself that I will come back for its opening ceremony, whenever that may be. The officials are saying around 2020.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Techno frustrations & Gypsy stings

Well all my planning for being able to post photos and txt to the blog, from my mobile whilst travelling have come to nothing. I first suspected problems when I tried to send a photo from Tullamarine and the phone gave me a message saying that the blog didn't recognise my carrier. I figured that it was because I had switched to roaming and so I re-registered the blog and I got a photo through. Thought I had fixed it, so I have sent a couple of photos over the last 24 hours, but no luck - they haven't turned up on the site.
Today I think some gypsies put a moker on me. I got stung by them in an absolutely typical scam. We were in a courtyard behind the Barcelona cathedral, admiring some buildings and listening to a guitarist. A young girl came up to me and asked me to sign a petition to fund a home for deaf children or some such rubbish. I should have told her to go away. Things happened very fast, the minute I hesitated, she became very insistent and I, stupidly gave in and even more stupidly gave her a couple of euros. Suddenly she dropped the euro's and there were 3 girls around me all shoving petitions under my nose and saying 'you must sign', I yelled at them 'No!' and they took off so fast, they were gone in a split second. I thought I'd been smart and saved my bag from being ripped off. It wasn't until half an hour later that I realised they had actually taken my coin purse right out of my hand and I hadn't even realised. Fortunately I only had 15 euro, a AUD$10 in it, my spare phone battery and a spare phone memory card, as the rest of my cash and my credit cards were in my money belt with my passport. But I think they put a curse on me as the next thing that happened was that my phone camera stopped working!

We haven't really recovered from jetlag yet. Gill and I arrived in Barcelona at 9.30 am on Thursday morning after 25hours travelling, and we were on the go all day. We did the Gaudi bus tour in the afternoon and it was just fantastic. I couldn't believe that I was actually IN Park Guell and looking at and touching all those incredible mosaics. We drove past houses he built and went to the Sangra familla. I find it almost incomprehensible to imagine the passion that drove this man. We ended up in bed by 8.30 pm. Today we have been to place espanola and the National Museum of Art, Catalanya, then through the park juic, past the olympic stadium and got lost trying to find our way back. I ended up finding our way by instinct as the map got so torn we couldn't hold it together to read it. We spent the afternoon wandering the del Born and Gothic districts, eating, drinking, shopping and enjoying ourselves. Cath & Gill are already in bed asleep, & I'm on my way!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All packed

I'm so nervous. I've been packed for hours. What if I've forgotten something critical? What if they don't validate my e-ticket when I get to the airport? What if customs doesn't like the fact that I've got two back up systems in case my pump fails? Arrrgh!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


It's fabulous how when no-one else will do any of the sometime extreme things I decide to do in training for the various events I commit to, my sisters can be relied on to turn out and accompany me. I think about 2004 when Gill & I did our first `Great Vic' bike ride, and Gill would turn out at Sparrow fart to do training rides. This week it's been doing long walks as I prepare for my trekking in Morocco. Last Sunday Gill & I did nearly 3 hours around Jells Park and the Dandenong Creek trail - enduring an absolute lack of loos along the way. Lucky we're both used to bush camping! Today it has been Sally who joined me and did a full 20klm walk from Williamstown back to Seabrook providing much needed company and good cheer. This time loos were available and the weather was perfect for walking, although we did run into some fairly hefty headwinds.
John started out with us, but unfortunately his knee started to play up and he had to turn back and take the train back to my place and wait for us there.

The little girls mother offered to take a photo with both Sal & I in it, and as soon as she took the camera, the little girl marched up and positioned herself for the photo. Her Mother was saying `No sweetie, you don't need to be in this one." but I said, "C'mon, you can be in it, it proves we've been to the beach!"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Travel Tips for Idiots

I feel like I'm living `travel tips for idiots' at the moment.

  • Travel tips for Diabetics

  • How to travel with an insulin pump

  • DAV Increased Security for Air Travel

  • Travellers Health - Polio, Cholera, Typhoid, Rabies shots

  • New Rules for Taking Liquids Aerosols and Gels through Security onto International Flights

  • Free International SIM card for your Trip!

  • Fast track online registration

  • Confirm your ticket online

  • Make sure you've left copies of EVERYTHING at home

  • Make sure you've actually remembered to take the originals!

The biggest drama is the medication. Since insulin is something I literally cannot live without, it and the equipment used to administer it become a prime focus of my life. Because of the security now necessary at airports, I have to make sure that everything I carry has it's original labels & prescriptions. I think I have to put it in plastic bags so the customs officers can screen it easily. I have to carry doctors letters, extra medical insurance, Diabetes Australia & NDSS membership cards, - split between two carry on bags, (don't ask me why).

The list so far is:

15 Canula sets

15 Pump Cartridges

4 10ml vials of fast-acting Insulin for the pump

4 packets of blood testing strips

2 blood testing meters - in case 1 breaks down

2 Insulin Pen & some Syringes in case the Pump fails

1 10ml vial of long acting insulin in case I need to use pens or syringes

Enough pen needles to cover me until the pump gets fixed or I return home ????

1kg of Jelly Snakes as emergency food - because I don't know what the food routine will be while we're trekking

Here's some Photo's of what all this gear looks like
and this is how much room it takes up in my medium sized travel pack!
I've packed the suitcase at least 6 times, been out walking with my trekking poles and backpack, nearly worn my new walking shoes out already and I'm still not sure WHAT I'm going to do if they give me a hard time at Customs in Morocco :-(