O Canada!

Thursday September 14th, 2017

My flight landed into Vancouver at 6.10 pm, immigration was really quick but had to wait a while for my suitcase to come through, luckily it was amongst the first lot to come out. I then made my way to the sky train which would take me into the City centre. Once I arrived The Empire Landmark Hotel was easy to find but was a long walk down Robson Street, which is the main shopping street and all the trees were lit up with fairy lights, very pretty. My room was on the 25th floor and it had a small balcony and offered amazing views, the sun had just gone down and the sky was a lovely dark blue with a lovely orange hue. I had to take some photos before finally falling into bed.

Friday, September 15th

I woke up really early thanks to jet lag, the 8 hour time difference was really difficult to get used to. It was promising a nice sunny warm day so I decided to go to Stanley Park. I walked from my hotel down to the Lost Lagoon and made my way to the sea wall which is a walk around the whole of Stanley Park, about 6 miles in total. There were some great sights along the way, I got some lovely photos and even managed to see some Otters in the wild! I also saw the Lions Gate Bridge and North Shore Mountains, the Girl in the Wetsuit and I ended up at the Totem Poles. They were really fascinating and all had different stories to them, I love a good Totem Pole! There was a nice little gift shop there too, I saw a little badge very similar to a brooch my Mum has from my Grandma which is a maple leaf with Hamilton written through it so I got her a Vancouver one to go with it. Hopefully I’ll get back to Canada and I can get her a whole collection!

Saturday, September 16th

Today I walked down to Canada Place and went to the tourist information desk to book myself onto the Sea to Sky Gondola day trip to Squamish. It was going to be about an hours drive, our tour guide Federico gave us lots of information on the area and it was a wonderful scenic drive too. I sat next to Philippe who was from Brazil, he was working in Vancouver and getting to see some of the sights with his friends. We arrived at 11am and took the gondola to the top, it was really high up! Once at the top the views were stunning, I took lots of photos and then had a cup of tea and enjoyed the scenery. There were a few trails to walk so I did a couple of those too. I saw a little chipmunk on one of my walks too. After the trip back down in the gondola I then walked to Shannon Falls a massive waterfall, it was amazing!

Sunday, Septemebr 17th

Today I’m meeting up with my Disney friends and we are going on a road trip to Seattle! I got the sky train from Burrard Street to King George in Surrey where Derek met me, we went back to his to wait for Matt and Lindsay to arrive in the hire car. I was kept entertained by Dereks border collie Sadie, she was lovely and reminded me of my Shep.

Once we were on our way it was good to catch up, what I love about my Disney friends is even though we don’t see each other often we can just pick up where we left off and its like no time has passed at all. Once we arrived we headed to the Museum of Pop Culture which had a section on the Muppets and some music and movie exhibits. I got to see Dorothy’s dress from the Wizard of Oz!

We were then going to see a bit of the City but as it was throwing it down with rain we decided to head straight to The Cheesecake Factory, Matts favourite restaurant. I had no idea they did anything other than cheesecake! The monorail back was an interesting experience, it really tilted to one side, not fun. I got a couple of photos of the Space Needle as we made our way back to the car. We stopped off at some outlets on the way home and of course went to the Disney Store and I got a nice cup of tea, great way to end the day! It was lovely to see my friends again and I got to tick another place off my list.

Monday, September 18th

I went to Gastown this morning, it’s such a lovely area. I got some photos of the Steam Clock and Gassy Jack himself. I went nice and early so it wasn’t too busy. There were lots of little gift shops on Water Street so an ideal place to finish off my souvenir shopping for the family. I then walked back to my hotel and decided it’d been pretty full on so I’d just rest for the remainder of the day. I had a long soak in the bath and then read my book in bed.

Tuesday, September 19th

I went to the Vancouver Aquarium today, it was brilliant. They had Sea Otters, Dolphins, Seals and Penguins. They held little talks about the different animals which was interesting. I was definitely too obsessed with the Sea Otters they are just so cute and entertaining! They had lots of different types of Jellyfish in tanks too which looked really cool. It’s Matts birthday today so we’re meeting up tomorrow for some food and drinks.

Wednesday, September 20th

I decided to go to Granville Island this morning, I walked from my hotel and then got a little aqua bus over to Granville Island Market. It was a wonderful sunny day again, I’ve been really lucky with the weather! I walked around the market which was full of different foods and plants and flowers. I then went around the craft shops and ended up sitting on a bench outside the market in the sunshine to eat my dinner and there was a man there playing some music, it was so lovely I just sat there for ages.

In the evening I went to meet Derek and Matt at Doolins Pub where we had some food and a couple of drinks. I say a couple of drinks but poor Derek did end up wearing the remainder of my second glass, honestly cant take me anywhere! That aside it was a nice evening and a lovely way to say goodbye for now…………………..

 

 

 

Australia : The Land Down Under!

East Coast Travels : I have always wanted to visit Australia for as long as I can remember. It’s the ultimate adventure, the beaches, the surfing, the rainforests and of course exploring the Great Barrier Reef. Let the journey begin.

Tuesday 18th October 2016

My first ever trip to Australia begins, I’m very excited but not so much for the long journey there! I went via Dubai so it was 6 and a half hours and then 14 hours. I managed to get some sleep but ended up with a sore back and sore knees. Also the screen with the plane that doesn’t seem to move anywhere, not helpful! I remember looking out of the window when we had just passed the west coast of Australia, it was a really large flat space with nothing for miles, the land was a reddish colour and there were white patches which looked like lakes that had dried up. I thought well it cant be much longer now, turns out yes it can! It took another 4 hours before I reached Sydney and it went from daylight to darkness. I had no idea how large Australia really is, on the map it doesn’t look that big and it’s something you only realise once you witness it.

Wednesday 19th October

I finally arrived at 10.30pm and went through customs quite quickly but then waited an age for my suitcase! I had my reservation at the hotel ready and it suggested getting tickets for a shuttle transfer from the information desk. This would have been fine had the information desk been open but the whole airport was pretty much deserted, not what I expected from an international airport. Luckily I had done my research and new that my Central Station hotel was near a train station of the same name. So I walked to the train station which wasn’t far at all and I didn’t have to wait long. The train arrived and a young lad stood up so that I could sit down with my suitcase next to me, a great first impression. You often judge a place by the behaviour of its people and so far so good.

Thursday 20th October

I had arrived at my hotel at midnight and only managed 4 hours sleep. Oh the joys of jet lag and watching Cake Wars at 4am. Finally it reached an acceptable time to get up and shower and get ready to explore the city. I decided to go on the City Sightseeing Bus, it would definitely save my legs a bit. I got the bus from Central Station and made my way down to the harbour to catch my first glimpse of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It was jut lovely down there and very windy today, I obviously brought the Welsh weather with me! I had a wander around and then got back on the bus to head over to the Australian Museum where they had animal, dinosaur and aboriginal exhibits. It wasn’t a very large Museum in comparison to Aucklands for example, nice to wander around none the less.

Just opposite the Museum was St Marys Cathedral a beautiful building inside and out and those stained glass windows, amazing! I then went back to the bus and headed back to Central Station via Woolloomooloo Bay which is home to the Australian Navy, no exciting sightings to report. Planning Palm and Bondi Beach tomorrow as it’s promising rain for Saturday and I start my Contiki Tour on Sunday so it’ll be my only opportunity.

Friday 21st October

I went straight to Central Station to get the train to Wynyard where I would then get the L90 bus to Palm Beach – Summer Bay! The bus journey took around an hour and a half but I had my music on and it was a lovely scenic ride so time passed quickly. It was really exciting to finally arrive as I’ve watched Home and Away for as long as I can remember and it did not disappoint! It was so beautiful, I took lots of photos and walked along the beach. Those sand pathways are not easy to get up either, I tried walking up and it was hard work, they run up it and make it look easy on t.v!

I met an Australian man called Spencer outside the surf club and he introduced me to his wife Rhonda, son Scott and daughter in law Belinda. They asked me to join them for lunch at the Diner. We sat at a table under a shaded area and chatted about travels and family life, it was lovely and they insisted on paying for my lunch which was very kind of them. They also said if I’m ever back this way to get in touch and I can stay with them for a couple of nights or longer if I’m good at washing up, haha.

It was really surreal to be in Summer Bay but I loved every minute of it! It was time to go back to Central Station where I would get the sightseeing bus to Bondi, the weather had turned a bit by this point so it was rather cloudy and windy. I didn’t stay long as I was tired but at least I could say I’ve been to Bondi.

Saturday 22nd October

Today was an overcast, windy and rainy day so there was only one thing to do, have a chill day and head to the Cinema. I watched Inferno because I love Tom Hanks but I have to say it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, I didn’t like the twist in it and it needed more of a romantic element for me. Went to a Contiki welcome meeting in the evening, our tour manager is Adam Zammit (he prefers to be called Zammit), tour starts in the morning, cant wait to see more of Australia!

Sunday 23rd October

We all met at the lobby of the Sydney Travelodge where we would stay for a further 2 nights. First trip was to the Blue Mountains! We met our bus driver Gary and checked out our coach “the pink panther” which would be our transport for the next 16 days. It was a great coach, laminate flooring, leather seats, charging ports and wifi, what more could we need. Music of course, Zammit had this bit covered starting with our day song which is This Is What We Live For by American Authors. We also had a wake up song which was  In My Blood by The Veronicas.

We arrived at the Blue Mountains around 10am and then we walked to Wentworth Falls. The scenery was just stunning and the mountains really do look blue. We could here cockatoos squawking above us as we walked along the pathway that was carved into the mountain at some points so we had to be careful not to bang our heads. The path was only slightly muddy in places and the weather was a bit chilly but walking at a steady pace warmed us up. The waterfalls were lovely and I managed to get a few photos before we made our way back up a series of steps (tiring) to the coach.

We were now going to the Three Sisters rock formation and Zammit had told us the history behind them on the way. The Three Sisters are sacred to the Aboriginal people and the story is that the three sisters were three women from the same group of Aborigines who had captured the attention of three men from a different group of Aborigines and they wanted to marry them. The elder from the women’s group forbade it and to protect the women he turned them to stone. He fully intended to turn them back once the threat had passed but he passed away before he could do this and therefore the women remained as stone.

It was really beautiful at the Three Sisters lookout and it just goes on for as far as the eye can see. I loved the way the clouds made shadows on the expanse of trees below and of course the unusual blue hue. After spending some time at the lookout we headed back to the coach to make our way to a beautiful little township called Luara. It was so pretty with it’s flowers and trees and actually looked like a little alpine village. A few of us had lunch in a little café, I had bacon and eggs on toast.

Then it was back into the city to check into the Travelodge. My room mates were Laurell and Amy. We had a short time to chat and get ready because then we were meeting everyone again to go down to Darling Harbour for tea at Stacks where we were going to cook our own steaks. I wanted mine well done so I stood at the grill for what felt like an eternity and then when I eventually sat down it still wasn’t as well done as I wanted. Also by this point I was so tired I could have fallen asleep in my food! Luckily it wasn’t too long before we headed back to the hotel.

Monday 24th October

Today we went down to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair which also has great views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House so it was a great photo opportunity. We then made our way to Manly while Zammit pointed out some areas of the city along the way. We also drove over the Harbour Bridge and a fun fact for you is that Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame actually used to work as a painter on the bridge. I love that film.

Manly was lovely with it’s tree lined promenade and the beach, wow. The waves were amazing too, they start so far out so we sat and just watched them coming into shore. There were a good few surfers and I found it more impressive than Bondi to be honest, the weather was much nicer though than when I was at Bondi. Another Manly fun fact is that Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban got married here, I can see why, although I’d marry Keith Urban just about anywhere!

I had lunch with Tatianna and Nina at a café on the promenade, I could have just sat there all day it was so beautiful. I had a Sydney Opera house tour in the afternoon though so we went to get the ferry back into the city. The ferry ride was interesting with a really rough patch about half way through, I had forgotten to take a sickness tablet but thankfully didn’t feel ill at all. The tour started at 2pm and I was slightly disappointed with it unfortunately. It started late and then felt a bit rushed and a couple of parts we were just told to sit on the floor and watch a dvd. The main theatre room was amazing, they don’t even have to use microphones because of the acoustics in there, which is why the building was designed this way. Lots of wood has been used inside the building as well and that’s because its good for sound. There is also a massive organ at the back of the stage and some of its pipes are as large as tree trunks apparently. They also have odd UFO looking things that hang over the stage and push the sound back down to the ground. Loads of people have played there including Michael Buble. We weren’t allowed to take any photos in there which again was disappointing. The cream sails of the Opera House are made of tiles – loads of them! It is a heritage listed building and is situated at Bennelong Point which was an important Aborigine meeting place.

The original architect of the Opera House Jorn Utzon was from Denmark and he actually never got to see it completed because of disagreements and changes in government e.t.c. I thought that was really sad as its such a unique building and so iconic. Our guide said they did eventually invite him back but that he was too old to travel, rather convenient if you ask me. Apparently his son who is also an architect visits regularly.

After the tour I walked back to the hotel after grabbing some food and planned to just relax while Laurell and Amy went to do the night time Bridge Climb, rather them than me! It takes up to 4 hours to complete from start to finish, madness. We have an early start tomorrow as its our first travel day, we are going to Coffs Harbour to a surf camp. Fun fact of today, there’s a Kangaroo and an Emu on the Australian flag because neither of them can walk backwards which therefore represents the country continuing to always move forward.

Wednesday 26th October

We arrived at Spot X surf camp last night and were shown to our shipping container bedrooms for the night, tea was included but was something I wouldn’t eat so I had to load up on snacks not ideal as I’d need energy to surf in the morning but there you go. We had to have bags to coach for 6.15am in the morning and our surf lesson was at 7am. I was slightly nervous after the talk we had about things that can potentially happen to you in the sea but I was brave and got myself into a cold/wet wetsuit, grabbed a massive board which I carried with Tatianna’s help and we headed to the beach.

We were shown the basics and practiced on the sand. The board was heavy and much bigger than me so this was a challenge in itself. I hesitated a bit before I got in, I never go in the sea because I’m afraid of what might be in it and this is Australia so I know what might be in there! Anyway you’re only here once so I got in and totally forgot about what might be in there with me because I was so determined to try and stand up on the board. I managed slightly a few times but its very difficult, they make it look so easy! You have to get yourself centre on the board then when the wave touches your toes on the end of the board, paddle four more times, place hands, back foot, front foot and twist. All with bent knees, ouch, I hurt my kneecap towards the end which wasn’t fun but at least I didn’t do it at the beginning.

After the surf lesson it was a quick shower and then on the coach to head over to Byron Bay and our first stop was Cape Byron Lighthouse, I love a lighthouse and a great lookout. I was looking out to sea and there before me was a Humpback Whale, how amazing! I was seeing Whales in the wild for the first time, I felt so lucky to be witnessing it. It’s the final couple of weeks of their migration and I managed to see some, wow! We went for tea at a beachfront restaurant in the evening and I had some lovely fish and chips afterwards we moved on to Cheeky Monkeys where I had a free glass of champagne before retiring for the evening. Tomorrow is Currumbin Wildlife Park where I get to hug a Koala, exciting stuff!!

Thursday 27th October

We had a free morning in Byron Bay so Tatianna, Nina and I decided to go for a walk along the sea front and then around the little shops. It’s a lovely little place with a relaxed vibe. Its still very windy but it’s not cold so its fine. We had bags to coach at 12.30pm where I managed to have a suitcase related incident. The coach parks around the corner from Nomads our accommodation so we had to walk around to it. Unfortunately there was a dog tied up outside a café with his lead stretched the whole length of the pavement, so as not to disturb said dog I decided to yank my case off the pavement and straight onto my big toe, ouch. Toenail trauma is not fun as you can imagine but at least my knee is feeling better from the surfing injury as it was the same leg. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m never usually this clumsy!

This afternoon we crossed from New South Wales into Queensland and the time is 1 hour behind here so we had some extra time at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary which by the way is my new favourite place! I actually got to hug a Koala, it was amazing! They are possibly the cutest things I have ever seen. They sleep for around 20 hours a day, sounds like the perfect pet to me! I got a photo of me holding it included in the price so that’s nice to keep. I also got to stroke a Kangaroo called Lisa, she was really fluffy and soft. They were so used to people that they just lie there and let you stroke them. Lisa was the eldest in the group at 12 years old, they have a lifespan of about 10-12 years but can live longer in captivity.  The oldest Kangaroo they ever had was a female that lived to be 25 years old and she even had a joey at 24 years old, crazy! I had a lovely time there it was a real highlight for me.

Now we have arrived at Surfers Paradise and we’re staying at the Alpha Sovereign hotel for 2 nights. It’s a nice hotel, our room has a small kitchen, large bathroom and a balcony, it’s very windy though so don’t think I’ll be venturing out there. We have a full free day tomorrow and a no coach day!

Friday 28th October

Today was a free day at Surfers Paradise, I decided to take it easy and elevate my bad foot. Tatianna went Sea Kayaking in the morning so when she got back we went down to the pool to chill. Later in the afternoon we went into town for some food and then walked around the little markets along the beachfront.

Saturday 29th October

Today we headed to Brisbane, we walked across Victoria Bridge and then along the south bank to catch the free city hopper boat to Eagle Street where we could then walk back down Queen Street. I went to the pharmacy to sort out some first aid bits for my toe and then I went to get some dinner before heading back to William Street to get back on the bus.

Then we were off to Noosa where we had a couple of free hours again. It’s getting warmer up here so I went for a sit down and a lemonade as I couldn’t manage the coastal walk because of my sore toe. Our accommodation for 2 nights is at the Noosa Lakes resort, it’s basically a little apartment that I’m sharing with Tatianna and Nina. It’s really beautiful here, our balcony overlooks the lake and surrounding trees and as I’m writing this the sun is setting in the background. We’ve ordered pizzas for tea and we’re getting our washing done as the washer and dryers are free here. I also managed to Skype home, it was lovely to speak to everyone. I’m looking forward to my Fraser Island day trip tomorrow!

Sunday 30th October

Today is Fraser Island day and our guide Jacob met us at 6.20am, we then walked around the corner to 2 massive ex military four wheel drives. We were in for a bumpy ride, luckily I got a seat up front where I could see out of the cab window. We drove for 2 hours through the Hinterland (the bush) I even saw a Kangaroo in the wild! There were lots of fields and trees and only some of the drive was on an actual tarmacked road the most part was on gravel/stone tracks. Then we finally reached Rainbow Beach, it’s called that because of the different colour sands, the story is that the Aboriginal people were throwing boomerangs so high that one hit the rainbow and the colours burst. You could actually see all the colours in the sandy cliffs when we drove along, the colours are actually different layers of minerals.

We stopped for some snacks and then headed for the ferry to take us over to Fraser Island. We drove straight onto the sand, which was surreal and then we went straight onto the ferry. It only took 10 minutes before we arrived and drove off the ferry onto 70 mile beach! We pulled over for tea and cake, best day trip ever! Whilst we were there Jacob showed us how to throw a boomerang. You throw it at a 45 degree angle to where the wind is coming from and if you do it right then it should come back to you. A few of the group had a go and it was funny to watch except for when it was coming straight for our heads!

While we were driving Jacob told us a bit about Fraser Island, lots of trees and plants were brought over by the wind and birds. The sand is millions of years old and came all the way from the Blue Mountains. It is the largest sand island in the world and also one of the oldest. The Seychelles are actually the oldest sand islands in the world.  The Aboriginal people that lived on Fraser Island were the fittest and that’s because they had access to such a varied diet. They were also very generous people and anyone who came to the island would be given permission to hunt for certain animals for example. The Aboriginal people believe that the land owns them not that they own the land. If they were born on Fraser Island they would be given a totem something that they would be responsible for looking after for example the honeybee, the dolphin, the kangaroo e.t.c

I loved learning some of the history of the place and the people. We were now at Central Station where we were going on a rainforest walk, it was amazing to go from wide open 70 mile beach to then being in the middle of a rainforest! The stream running alongside us was so clear and it is a sacred place for Aboriginal women. The ferns are some of the oldest in the world which is why part of David Attenborough’s Walking With Dinosaurs was filmed here. Jacob also showed us where the deadly Funnel Web Spiders live, they were just small black holes in the undergrowth. Moving on quickly we followed the track for about 30 minutes, some of the trees were huge, one was 90 years old and its trunk was really wide.

Then we were back in the truck and heading to Lake McKenzie. It was stunning, really clear and so blue, made from only rainwater and surrounded by rainforest. Then we had some lunch at the picnic area which was great because I was starving after such an early start. Then it was time to make our way back to the ferry. We drove along Rainbow Beach and cut through the dunes to another beach which would take us back to the main road. It was very surreal everyone driving on the beach as if it’s completely normal. The waves were actually quite brown in colour and Jacob said this was because of a combination of seaweed and coral spawn. Jacob has a few Aborigine friends and he said there are only around 20 left living on the island, which I think is quite sad really. He also said the Aborigines in this area were so good at tracking that the police actually asked for their help to track down Ned Kelly who was basically the Australian version of Robin Hood. I didn’t actually see much wildlife other than Cockatoos, we were warned about Dingo’s and how dangerous they can be so I was glad we didn’t encounter any of those! The whole trip was unlike anything I’m likely to experience ever again, one of the best day trips I’ve ever been on.

Monday 31st October

We had an early start again to set off for the Farm Stay. Our midday stop was at the Ohana Winery at Childers. We had an exotic fruits and wine tasting tour, we were shown some weird and wonderful fruits, I passed on sampling them as they didn’t look very appealing. Then we did the wine tasting and I liked the white wine but the others were a bit too exotic for my liking. There was a Strawberry, Pineapple and Macadamia Wine and also a really strong Port and a Limencello to finish. Luckily they were very small samples! We were then given lunch which was included and we were introduced to the couples pet dog Otto.

Then we were back on the road singing and doing a group quiz whilst on the way to Langmorn Cattle Station to spend the evening with the Creed family. It was a beautiful place in the middle of nowhere about an hour away from Rockhampton. Such a stunning location! Wendy greeted us with her adorable little doggie called Molly, she said she was a Moodle (Maltese/Poodle). She was loving the attention from everyone. Wendy said they also had 4 Border Collies but that they live in an outbuilding because they are working dogs. I told her about my Shep.

We were then shown to our rooms and then we were told to grab a cowboy hat and wait for Ron to arrive with the tractor and trailer to give us the grand tour of the farm grounds. They have Brahman cattle and the one we were going to feed was called Sausage. He was actually cute to look at but I didn’t want to feed him any bread not with that huge mouth! He also had a hump, I’ve never seen a cow with a hump before. During the ride we also saw a tree snake wrapped around a gate, Wendy said it had a frog in it’s mouth, I decided not to look too closely. They also had some horses. They have 2 small children and Wendy’s sister has 4 to send them all to boarding school would cost around 6 million dollars, so they have to work hard to be able to do it. Obviously farmers can have hard times too so they turned to tourism 17 years ago which has helped them out.

They have a large barn conversion which is the complex where we stayed/ate/danced and sang the night away. Ron also tried to teach us some whip cracking, he was really good at it and made it look easy. It was far from easy, I could not crack it to save my life, I was all whip and no crack. I did however manage to whip myself on the arm, others got their legs and one guy even got his back, they leave a really red mark on your skin. Their son who cant have been any older than 8 or 9 was amazing at it too, he was whipping it in circles over his head and making the loudest cracking noises, just brilliant bless him.

We then had a roast beef dinner and it was the best meal I’ve had since I’ve been here! Beef, roasties, vegetables and gravy and then chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert. Afterwards to work all that off we had some line dancing and then some karaoke. Of course I decided it would be a good idea to represent Wales and sing Tom Jones Delilah, Alice and Liz were kind enough to join me up on the bar. I’ve never seen so many blank faces looking back at me, haha, I mean come on people its Tom Jones he’s an absolute legend! I’ll never forget the time I saw him live in Colwyn Bay.  Oh I forgot to mention the small heart attack I had when visiting the toilet block, two words Giant Moth! Aaaaaaaaaaa

Tuesday 1st November

Bags to coach was at 6.15am again this morning, then we said our goodbyes and were on our way again to Airlie Beach the gateway to the Whitsundays. Some of the group are going for a 2 day sail, rather them than me! I’m going to enjoy some down time at this amazing hotel. Peppers Airlie Beach is lovely, my apartment is incredible, there is a large kitchen/diner and then a small living area with folding doors that open up onto a large balcony with the most amazing view of the mountains and the sea! It genuinely looks like a postcard, so lucky! Earlier we had some cockatoo visitors on the balcony. Serina wanted to feed one, we only had some of my shortbread biscuits so that had to do. Well it went down a treat and it decided to call all it’s friends over. They started multiplying before our eyes, it was actually a bit freaky. They are really cute though.

Wednesday 2nd November

Today was a full free day for me so I walked down to the beach front and around the little town itself. I got another postcard to keep the family updated with where I’ve been. I also got some lunch and took it back to my balcony to eat and to relax with my book. I got the hotel shuttle back into town in the evening to get some tea, I had a steak and drink meal deal. Then I got the shuttle back and showered and watched some t.v in bed. The weather here is quite hot actually, god help me when I get to Cairns tomorrow! I’m so looking forward to the Great Barrier Reef day trip though!

Thursday 3rd November

Today was a big travel day from Airlie all the way up to Cairns with one main stop for lunch at a place called Townsville. Not long after we’d arrived we went for tea at a restaurant down at the harbour called Ochre. This was one of the included meals and out of all the options I chose Barramundi, I didn’t think much of it and the dessert was an absolutely hideous looking nutty/pavlova thing, not for me. I was glad to get back to the hotel after such a tiring travel day.

Friday 4th November

Today was the Great Barrier Reef day cruise. We were at the coach for 7.15am and the harbour was only 5 minutes down the road from our Rydges Esplanade hotel. We were all given a boarding card and the people doing a scuba dive were given some forms to fill in. Then it was onto the boat which was a 3 storey catamaran type that you could see through the middle of. There were quite a few crew members and we were introduced to a few. It was at least an hour or so before we reached our first stop on the reef. The colour of the water becomes amazing and that’s when you know you’ve reached the reef. It’s a lovely light blue colour with darker blue patches which are the reefs below.

We had been given flippers and masks just before we arrived and I put a stinger suit and life vest on, so it was now time to get off the boat and go out into the open water. I think I must have been on a natural high because I was nowhere near as nervous as I thought I’d be. I also felt quite safe because I was going in with an expert and would hold onto a life ring which he would use to guide us around. Just before I got in they pointed out Barry the Barracuda, it was huge but they only eat fish so I dealt with it. I saw loads of colourful fish and some big bulb headed parrot fish.

It was very tiring after a while so I decided to head back to the boat. Just before I got back onboard a crew member says “oh watch out for that blue bottle jellyfish”. I freaked out and the girl ahead of me on the steps was more interested in spotting the jellyfish than getting back on the boat, I lost count of how many times I said “just get on the boat”! I managed to hurt my arm on the metal steps in the mean time because a wave sent me into it. I know this sounds ridiculous but I thought the water would be completely calm on the reef, I didn’t think it would be as wavy as it was which is probably crazy because it is the sea after all. Anyway I’m now sporting a lovely purple/blue bruise on the top of my arm.

I also went on the glass bottom boat which may have been a mistake because a bout of seasickness hit me at this point. It may have just been getting back on the boat after being in the sea. Once back on the main boat I had a lie down and a little doze and felt a lot better after half an hour had passed. I’d had a seasickness tablet so it was strange that I felt ill at all as they usually work really well. I saw a Green Turtle from the boat and managed to grab a few photos of it which I was pleased with as I love turtles, so cute!

We then moved on to the second spot and had some lunch. I didn’t get off the boat this time, I decided to chill and just take in the beautiful scenery. Luckily I had a good shaded spot on the boat too so I was very comfortable. After a while it was time to head back and we were given some cheese and crackers, fruit and cake. We arrived back around 4.30pm and went back to the hotel to go for food and drinks at the Wool Shed. I had a pizza and a couple of drinks including free champagne, don’t mind if I do. I had a great day and ticked another thing off the bucket list. Who knows how much longer the reef will be here for, I’m glad I can say I’ve seen it and it was beautiful.

Saturday 5th November

Today was a free day for me as I’ve not booked any of the thrill seeking extras so I’ve been souvenir shopping for the family and myself. I wanted to get something that I could keep so I got a handmade wooden trinket it’s in the shape of Australia and is painted with traditional Aboriginal art, it’ll look great on our coffee table. I’ve also ended up with lots of Koala related souvenirs, basically I’m in love with them.

I’m going to go for food later with the girls but I’m just relaxing in the room and will go to the pool after to read my book. It’s very humid here! There is some cloud cover today which is good, it makes it a bit more bearable than being in the blaring sunshine. In the morning I’m off to Cape Tribulation for some rainforest exploration. Cape Tribulation is actually the only place in the world where 2 world heritage protected sites meet, The Daintree Rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef.

Sunday 6th November

We left at 8am after meeting our new driver for the next couple of days. His name was Cavel and he was a lovely Aboriginal man. First we were off to Mossman Gorge for a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk which was conducted by another Aboriginal man who met us at the entrance to the rainforest. Before we entered the forest he conducted a traditional smoking ceremony for us, some leaves were placed on the fire and we wlaked around it while he asked his ancestors to look after us while we were in their area. He pointed out different plants and bush food and told us about the wildlife here. When he was younger he would have competitions with his brother to see how many lizards they could find. He had a brilliant eye for it, we saw a few but one time I said oh yes when he was pointing one out but I couldn’t see it.

The land is called Kuku (pronounced Gugu) Yalanji. There are several different dialects in their language. The dreamtime stories are all about creation. There are sacred sites for both women and men, they would never go to each others, they are completely separate. If they ever did, something bad would happen, it would affect them physically and mentally. When the boys and girls reach a certain age usually around 12 or 13 they would go walkabout with their grandparent, they would then teach them everything they need to know. It is something that could take weeks, months or even years, especially if the grandparent wanted them to become the next leaders.

They know their land so well, they are literally at one with the land. They have key point indicators which are basically signs for example when a certain plant is blooming then they know that the crocs eggs will be hatching.  When certain leaves for example the fan palm decrease in size it means the weather is too bad to go fishing because of the wind. They also have 6 seasons and I think they were Summer, Winter, Start of Dry, End of Dry, Start of Wet and End of Wet.

We also went to a stream with a lovely view, it was strange to be in an actual rainforest. He also showed us things from the forest that they would use as paint to take away their scent for hunting and they would also have some to identify themselves. There were some stringy plants with lots of spines all over them which you could easily get caught up in if you weren’t looking properly. They call them the “wait a while plant”, makes sense. There was also a plant like nettles but much worse which you need to avoid at all costs and the only way to treat it would be with wax strips or back then urine, urgh.

He also told us about Cassowaries and how dangerous they can be, they are attracted to the colour blue and eat blue fruit, 1 of which was poisonous to everything else. We also saw a snake on top of the hut where we later had tea and what they said was bread but it was more like a scone with jam, I enjoyed it a lot! While we ate and drank he showed us how you play the didgeridoo it’s all in the vibration of the lips to start with and then your breathing technique.

Then we headed back to the bus to go and get some lunch from the supermarket and have a picnic in the park. Then we were on our way to The Beach House in Cape Tribulation for the evening. We had to drive onto one of those ferry’s that takes you across the river which only takes a few minutes, you think they’d just build a bridge really. Anyway we were soon surrounded by rainforest and the coastal drive was lovely. The waters around here are all crocodile infested and soon a load of Jellyfish will join them too. We arrived at around 2.30pm and the little beach huts were cool. I walked down to the beach and took some photos, it was lovely down there. I finished my book and went for food at around 6.30pm. We ended the night by sitting around a little fire at the edge of the rainforest next to the beach. I went to bed early in preparation for my 5am wake up call to see the sunrise!

Monday 7th November

Today is day 16 and the last day of my Contiki Tour. I woke up at 5am and strolled down to the beach, it was still dark and a bit eerie. Once I was down at the beach I grabbed a chair to watch the sunrise and then some of the others from my group arrived. There were some clouds but we could still see the pink/orange colours. It changed often and looked like a beautiful oil painting. I took some lovely photos and to make the whole thing even more special 2 Dolphins appeared!! It was one of the most magical experiences of my life! I cant believe I’ve finally seen them in the wild and in such a beautiful setting. I completely welled up, just stunning and the perfect way to end this amazing trip.

I’ve now seen Whales, Kanagaroos, Turtles and Dolphins in the wild during this trip. Australia really has been everything I hoped for and more!

We got to the bus at 9am and then went for a couple of walks through the rainforest with Cavel telling us about the land and more about the key point indicators, they basically mean that they never have to go looking for food e.t.c because the indicators tell them what to get and when. Also they believe that you only take what you need and not what you want.

Cavel is actually from Central Australia so he has to speak a different dialect here in Cairns. He speaks a few different dialects because he learnt his mothers and his fathers as well. He said you stay with your parents until you can walk and talk and then you are sort of passed on to your grandparents because they are considered the most knowledgeable.  He said he didn’t like school and that he used to get into trouble with his father because of it. Eventually his father said enough is enough and you can work on the farm instead. He learnt so many skills from working on that farm.

Cavel has been a bus driver/guide for around 5 years now but before that he was a banana picker for around 7 years or so, he told us what that entailed and it sounded very hard going. He said his change to bus driver/guide was definitely a change for the better. He’s a lovely man, bless him. It was great to hear the stories he had to tell.

We also saw some mangroves on our walk and then went to the Alexandria lookout to get some good photos. We went to a lovely place called Port Douglas for lunch and it had the most wonderful little church called St Marys By The Sea, Cavel said it is so popular that there is a 2 year waiting list to get married there. We also stopped at Rex lookout on the way back to Cairns which was amazing.

I’ve really enjoyed my time in Australia and I’ve managed to see so much. It’s been quite the whirlwind so I’m glad I’ve kept a travel journal. I will end by taking the lead from Australia’s Indigenous people and I’ll never say goodbye just “see you again”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viva Mexico

May 2007

My flight to Guadalajara was going via Atlanta and would take around 15 hours all together. The connecting flight from Atlanta was the smallest plane I had ever been on. I was not a fan, it felt slightly claustrophobic and you could feel every little bump in the air. In the case of planes amongst other things I feel bigger is definitely better. I was very tired upon arrival that evening, luckily going through passport control took all of 2 minutes as someone looked at my passport, looked at me and that was pretty much it. My friend Edgar was there to pick me up, it was lovely to see him again and proof that he knew me very well he had some chocolate waiting for me in the car, life saver!

So the plan was to go to Puerto Vallarta to meet up with a group of my friends at the beach, Edgar wasn’t able to go as he had work commitments but he saw me safely to the bus station where we booked me onto a coach and I was able to put my very basic Spanish into use by spelling my name (I know, impressive right)! We then called my friend Oscar who confirmed he would be waiting for me at the other end. The coach was lovely, I had a seat towards the front and it was so comfortable and fully reclined, I remember nothing of the journey as I literally slept the whole way there which I think would have been around 5 hours or so.

I arrived into Puerto Vallarta feeling revived and everyone was there waiting for me which was a lovely welcome. We then made our way back to our apartment and had a drink and a catch up before going to bed, I couldn’t sleep at all, probably because of my 5 hour nap on the coach! Morning soon came and there was a handy little shop just around the corner to get some milk for my cereal. Once everyone was up and about we decided to spend the day at the beach, we packed up the cool box and off we went. There was one person too many to fit in the car but like the gentlemen that they are they insisted I sit in the passenger seat while they all crammed into the back. Luckily it wasn’t far to the beach and it did not disappoint. It was a lovely palm tree lined beach with some big and expensive looking properties placed all along the shore. I enjoyed the sunbathing while the guys decided to brave going in the water for a swim whilst I waved to them from the safety of my sunny spot on the sand. Oscar and I then decided to go for a walk and a paddle along the shore, there was a lovely warm breeze.

The next day we headed to Marina Vallarta where we boarded the Sarape for our day trip. The views of the Old and New Town from the sea were stunning as we made our way to the first stop Los Arcos where snorkelling was planned. Breakfast was included so I went for something I recognised, a banana. On arrival at Los Arcos people started to queue up for the snorkelling gear and the first few eager people jumped off the back of the boat into the sea. What happened next could only be described as something from a nightmare, the sea was filled with jelly fish. They were everywhere, the crew had to throw ropes out to the people that had jumped in to then pull them back in towards the boat, carefully navigating their way around the jelly fish. I was so glad that I was nervous in the first place which meant I was at the back of the queue!

So jelly fish averted we were then on the way to the second stop Las Animas Beach. It was a beautiful stretch of beach with it’s palapas (open sided shacks with thatched roofs made of dried palm leaves) and tall palm trees it looked wonderfully tropical. We sat at a large table in the shade and had some drinks. Meanwhile a guy has approached the table with what can only be described as a disgustingly massive iguana in the hope that we would want to pay for a photo with the thing. After sending him on his way the guys decided to try some water sports, watching them on the banana boat was hilarious. Then it was back to the boat for some lunch and on to the third and final stop Quimixto, where I was told we were going on a “small” hike to see a waterfall.

First of all we had to get into a really small rowing boat to be taken onto shore which was an interesting experience by itself. Then we embarked on the so called “small” hike, which I didn’t think was very small at all also flip flops probably weren’t the best footwear choice for this kind of walk. Anyway after walking through a little local village, across a small stream and up a large hill we finally made it to the waterfall. I love a waterfall and I was glad to have finally made it but now there was another challenge, the seating area was across the most rickety put together wooden branch bridge I’d ever seen. Slightly terrifying but my need to have a sit down and a drink drove me on, by the way I have never known Coca Cola to be so cheap anywhere else in the world and at this point that was just as well as I needed a crate of it to revive me for the walk back down!

The following day we just chilled and went to a steak and seafood place for lunch. I went for the steak option as I dislike all seafood unless its good old British Fish and Chips, this place was far removed from that offering delights such as Octopus and other equally unappetising things, I was glad the menu wasn’t in English. There was however a Mariachi band playing in the restaurant, I love a Mariachi band, they were great. The next morning Oscars face was twice the size it should be, he has a seafood allergy which he knew about but loves seafood and thought he’d be alright eating a small amount. So off we went to find a doctor to sort him out with some antihistamines. Oh how we laughed, bless him. That evening we had a night out and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen!

Soon it was time to return to Guadalajara, Alexis drove us through some lovely Mexican countryside, I saw lots of tequila plants. I was picked up by Edgar as I was going to spend the rest of my time exploring the city with him. The next morning we went to explore Mexico’s second largest city which has some amazing architecture. First we went to the Cathedral, it is built in the Spanish renaissance style with neo-gothic bell towers, it has been rebuilt several times due to earthquakes. It really stood out with it’s golden coloured domes and spires, impressive looking. We also went inside where it was a lot cooler with its altar made of marble and silver. The cathedral houses the relics of St Innocent as well as the remains of cardinals and bishops, even the heart of a former Mexican President.

Then we had some lunch and sat outdoors at a lovely little restaurant. It was the Mexican Mothers Day that day and they were giving out roses to all the mothers. Our waiter came over and asked Edgar to translate, he said even though I was not a mother, I was still a woman and that’s why he would like to give me a rose. Such a wonderful gesture. We then went on to Hospicio Cabanas which is a world heritage site and is one of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in the Americas now being used as a museum.

I was also lucky enough to meet Edgars extended family to celebrate Mothers day, I was given such a warm welcome and treated as one of the family. I was also shown how to make tortillas from scratch, I wasn’t very good and decided it would be best to leave it to the experts!

The next day we had breakfast in a different part of the city I forget what the area was called, but we walked down some lovely cobbled streets and passed some shops full of pottery and handicrafts on our way we found a beautiful courtyard café. We sat right next to a such a pretty little fountain in the centre of the courtyard, it was beautifully decorated with freshly cut flowers, the sun was shining and the birds were singing in the trees, bliss.

I had a lovely time in Mexico, experiencing both the coast and the city and was lucky enough to have such great friends to show me all the best places. Its also worth saying all the Mexican people I encountered on my trip were so friendly and genuinely happy to have me in their country. I have travelled to many other countries throughout the world and have to say Mexican people are the nicest I have ever encountered.

I would not hesitate to visit again and would urge others to do so, I would love to visit Riviera Maya and see Chichen Itza next time. Watch this space. Viva Mexico.

 

 

 

 

New York, New York

May 2012

First I flew out to Orlando to meet my then boyfriend. I spent a few nights at the Hard Rock Hotel and spent my days relaxing by the pool which was good to get over the jet lag. I also celebrated my 25th Birthday whilst there and went to Universal City Walk in the evening and ended up at Rising Star Karaoke where people get up and sing with a live band, it was good fun.

A couple of days later and we were going to drive up to New Jersey to spend some time with the boyfriends friends and family and of course to visit The Big Apple! We stayed over night in South Carolina and the next day we arrived in New Jersey. It had been a lovely sunny drive up and we even passed through Washington where I managed to catch a glimpse of The Monument and The Thomas Jefferson Memorial building. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for a tea break at Baracks place.

We spent a lot of time with the boyfriends friends and family at their houses where we spent the days outside in the lovely sunshine and we went out for meals. Then it was time to spend the day in Manhattan, we got the Staten Island Ferry over. it was such a lovely warm day that there was a haze over everything. It started to clear up as we approached, we passed the Statue Of Liberty, I had always imagined it would be much bigger than it actually was. It was a nice way to arrive passing the statue as so many have in the past. Then we started to approach the Manhattan skyline, there were so many different looking buildings all at different heights. Some were older looking buildings made from brick and they were surrounded by newer looking glass and metal buildings.

Finally I had set foot in New York, we were going to walk a little before using the Subway to get around quickly and easily. We walked passed the bronze Bull outside the Stock Exchange and then passed the new Twin Towers where construction was still taking place. We were getting hungry at this point so it was time for a hot dog from one of the street vendors. I had no idea until after I’d eaten it that they are locally known as “dirty water dogs” gross! Still it did me no harm.

Then it was time to get the Subway to Times Square. We walked around and spotted all the different shows that were on at the time. I can imagine it would have looked more impressive at night time. Next it was on to the place I had wanted to go ever since I’d watched Sleepless in Seattle, The Empire State Building!

We walked to Fifth Avenue and there it was and it looked exactly like it does in all the movies. I was not going to leave without going up to the top, so we went inside and it was a lovely entrance. It was very busy, it was actually Fleet Week which is where the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard dock in a variety of major cities for 1 week and get to visit it’s tourist attractions. Anyway I was prepared to wait, we had to go through a security area just like you do at the airport, then you pay and then you go to several different areas where you queue up. Just when you think you’re getting somewhere you realise it’s just another queue. When we finally got to the lift to take us up I realised why it had been taking so long, they were really small and couldn’t take many up at a time. Also they did not look anything like the lifts they show on Sleepless in Seattle with the silhouettes on the doors. After a couple of hours we made it onto the 86th floor observatory deck, the most famous observatory in the world! The views were very impressive and you could walk all the way around to get 360 views. I saw the Brooklyn Bridge, The Hudson River and East River, The Chrysler Building and could just about make out The Statue of Liberty through the haze. The only disappointment for me was that Tom Hanks was not up there waiting for me!

Once we had made it back down it decided to rain so all in all we were very lucky that it hadn’t rained when we were up on the observatory deck! I had wanted to go to Central Park next but didn’t fancy it in the rain so we decided to get the Subway and make our way back to the ferry. For our last night before flying back to Orlando we stayed in a hotel with great views of the city and Brooklyn Bridge.

I would have loved to have spent a bit more time in Manhattan but I’ll probably go back one day maybe around Christmas time as it would be even more magical then!

 

 

 

The City of Light (La Ville Lumiere)

October 2010

I had been to Paris before but only to Disneyland Paris so I had never been to the City itself. I had always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower! I arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport in the morning and the transfer to my little studio in the city took around 1 hour with the traffic. The metro was only a 2 minute walk away but rather than work the stops out I wanted to get to the Eiffel Tower straight away so I hopped in a taxi.

I was not disappointed at the beautiful setting before me! It was a lovely  sunny Autumn day and I had the Tower to my right and the Seine river to my left. Paris really is a City of amazing architecture. I walked around the surrounding areas and took some beautiful photos and went into a shop or two and ended up buying some lovely souvenirs.

I was due to meet up with my Friend Edgar that night, I hadn’t seen him since May 2007 when I had stayed with him during some of my holiday to Mexico so I was very much looking forward to it. He came to meet me at my studio but it wasn’t very obvious where about it was and I had little to no signal. So he stood in the street just shouting my name, by some miracle the lady who had checked me in was in the street and let him in to the building and gave him directions to the studio. We were finally reunited and we were on our way to a club on the Champs Elysees. It was very busy and getting a taxi back proved to be quite a task!

The next day we met up at the Eiffel Tower and today we were going up it! There was the option to walk up or to take a lift. Walking was not a real option to me! So there was a short wait and then we were taken up some of the way in a glass lift where we then got out and wondered around the observatory deck. Next it was up to the very top and the views were amazing, it was another beautiful clear sunny day and you could see for miles! I took lots of photos, we could see the Arc De Triomph, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Seine.

The next day we met up and decided to explore the City our first stop was going to be The Louvre. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, it is a very large and impressive building. There are fountains outside and you enter through the glass pyramid. There are lots of different collections within the museum, including Egyptian, Greek and Roman Antiquities, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, Paintings, Prints and Drawings. First we wanted to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. I have to admit I was very underwhelmed as the painting was so small and it was housed in a room with a large painting the length of a whole wall which I found much more impressive. My favourite section was the Egyptian artefacts section, I found it all very fascinating. We stayed until the museum was closing and then made our way to the Eiffel Tower in time to see it light up and sparkle at 7pm.

We decided The Palace of Versailles was to be our next visit. There were lots of public service strikes taking place at the time so unfortunately when we arrived we realised we would not be able to go inside the palace. It was such a shame as I had seen some beautiful photos of what some of the grand rooms looked like. We were however still able to explore the grounds which were vast. We then headed back to the City to find the Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge is French for Red Mill. The Moulin Rouge is best known for the birthplace of the modern can-can dance. If you want to watch one of the cabaret shows be warned it is very expensive. We decided to do some more souvenir shopping and get some lunch and then we went on to La Defense.

La defense is the business district of Paris and we also did some more shopping here. I got some photos  of La Grande Arch De La Defense, also if  you look straight down the street it stretches all the way back to the Arc De Triomphe.

The Arc De Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, it honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. When we arrived there just happened to be some kind of remembrance ceremony taking place.  There also happened to be a very attractive French Police Man in attendance. Lets just say I had to be dragged away.

We also explored The Champs Elysees which is well known for it’s theatres, cafes and luxury shops. I took some photos of these luxury shops for example Louis Vuitton which only allowed a certain amount of customers in at a time and the rest had to queue up outside! I was happy to window shop. The only shops I did go in were the Disney Store and H+M, which are much more in my price range.

I was due to fly back home the next morning and it was lovely to know it would be a wonderfully short flight. I had loved my time in The City Of Light and could now tick off ‘See the Eiffel Tower’ from my list. Magical.

 

 

 

Beautiful Baroque Barcelona

September 2014

I arrived in sunny Barcelona at 11.45am. I had already pre booked the Aerobus which would take me from the airport to Placa Catalunya where I would then get the metro to the Barceloneta stop. Word to the wise, pick pocketing does take place in Barcelona but as long as you keep your wits about you then you should be fine, I wouldn’t recommend backpacks as they seemed to be the obvious target. The hotel I was staying in was located in the Old Town area and was called Park Hotel, it was easy to find as it was opposite Estacio de Franca the large train station. I only had a weekender sized bag on wheels with me so travelling with it was easy enough. The hotel didn’t look much from the outside but was clean and modern inside, I had requested a quiet room when I booked through booking.com and I was given a room towards the back of the hotel further away from the road where the noise was minimal.

It was around 1.30pm by the time I checked in and had settled in my room. The first thing I wanted to do was take a shower and put some clean clothes on as by this point I was starting to melt! It was around 27/28 degrees but felt a lot hotter with the humidity in the city. I then decided it was time to explore, Parc de la Ciutadella was right next to my hotel so was going to be my first stop. It was very pretty with lots of green open spaces and tree lined paths which often led to some beautiful fountains. Barcelona Zoo was also situated here but as I was only there for a few days I decided to give that a miss.

Next I decided to walk to Port Olympic which was by the sea and offered up a lovely sea breeze. From Port Olympic you could see all the way down to Port Vell and it looked so beautiful so of course I got carried away and walked all the way down there! I have since found out that the beach is about 2 miles long so that’s how far I walked in that heat, I must have been mad! I was really hungry by this point so walked back up into the city itself for a bit to eat, I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food I like to stick to what I recognise so Burger King it was.

After refuelling I wanted to explore further, the architecture in Barcelona is amazing and I ended up at Catedral de Barcelona which dominates the Old Town. The magnificent Gothic Cathedral was begun in 1298 but was not finished until the early 20th century. I took some photos of the eye catching façade. I stumbled across some other interesting buildings but my feet had given up by this point so I got the metro back to the Barceloneta and then a short walk back to the hotel. I then planned what I was going to do the next day and had an early night as I’d been up since 5.30am and had walked half of Barcelona!

Next morning I went to the Maremagnum shopping centre where I found out most shops didn’t open until 12 but there were a few little cafes open so I could have some breakfast before catching the hop on hop off City Tour Bus. I had also purchased the 2 day bus ticket online before arriving. Once on the bus I was given some headphones to plug in for English commentary on the places of interest along the way, which was actually really interesting. I decided I was first of all going to get off at Sagrada Familia, it was an absolutely amazing looking building! Gaudi was commissioned in 1883 to complete a Neo-Gothic cathedral. It became his life’s work and he lived like a recluse on the site for 16 years. He is now buried in the crypt. The building is still unfinished and work continues on it to this day. The queue to go inside was insane and I didn’t have all day to wait so I had to make do with taking lots of photos of the outside which included the Nativity Façade and the Passion Façade. I would advise anyone planning on visiting Sagrada Familia to book tickets online before arriving to save a lot of time and to ensure you actually get in.

Then it was time to get back on the bus and head for Parc Guell. Gaudi was commissioned in 1910 to lay out a private housing estate on a hillside above Barcelona. There are also some beautiful mosaic works by Josep Maria Jujol. From the bus stop it is a steep walk up to the entrance so I would advise purchasing something to drink before you head up. It was also very busy when I arrived and I was told the next available entry was not until 2.30pm, I waited in the shade and had a drink and a white chocolate magnum. It was lovely up there but very hot! I entered at The Square which offered beautiful views over the city and the undulating benches covered in Mosaics were very pretty. I took lots of photos before I moved on to the Hypostle Room which was a covered area with 86 columns supporting the square above. The ceiling was formed of small domes and was decorated with some lovely tiles. Then I walked on to the Monumental Flight of Steps, the steps are full of detail such as gargoyles, mosaics and a large brightly coloured Lizard. Then there are the 2 mosaic pavilions which have intricately tiled exteriors, one of them houses the visitor centre.

I then made my way back to the bus where I got off at the Maremagnum shopping centre and had some food at Macdonalds and then did a bit of shopping because it would be rude not to and because I needed some comfier shoes! I had only been wearing some New Look sandals and had managed to get a blister underneath my foot so I purchased some comfy canvas shoes from H+M. I then decided to walk back into the city via the Wave Bridge and then over to La Rambla which is an historic tree lined avenue that has a Monument to Columbus at the bottom of it. I walked my way up La Rambla and passed lots of little stalls selling flowers, gifts and food e.t.c. There were also palm tree lined squares with lovely fountains in the middle, which is what I had pictured when I thought of Spain. I walked all the way up to Placa Catalunya and then got the bus back as close to my hotel as it went and then a short walk back to the hotel for a shower and an early night. I also planned where I wanted to go on the second tour bus route the following day.

The next morning I got up early and headed to Sagrada Familia so that I could get in the front of the queue to go inside. I was right at the front at 8.15am and I new it opened at 9, great. No, it hit 9am and a guy came around to say it was at full capacity and that you wouldn’t be able to get in until at least midday! I didn’t have the time to waste as it was my last day so I cut my losses and got back on the bus to do the orange route.

I passed the Jardins de Mirramar where lots of different species of plants grow even cactus that date back hundreds of years. Then it was up around the edge of the mountain of Montjuic where there were some amazing views over the city. We also passed the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Diving Boards where Tom Daley has competed,  I recognised it from when we’d seen it on t.v – it’s certainly a pool with a view!

I got off the bus at stop 8 the Art Museum which was an impressive looking building and I then went down the different levels of escalators towards Placa Espanya. There was an amazing multi level fountain surrounded by beautiful Roman architecture. I got some lovely photos, a couple asked me to take a photo of them and I asked them to take one of me in return. Placa Espanya had 2 massive Venitian Towers which were modelled on the bell towers in St Marks in Venice and a large fountain in the middle of a roundabout also by Josep Maria Jujol. There was also a bullring (built in 1899) which has been converted into a shopping and entertainment centre.

I then got back on the bus and decided to get off at stop 15 L’illa Diagonal a large shopping centre which I had some discount vouchers for and picked up a free shopping bag which had lots of different things all over it that were supposed to represent Barcelona. I also had some food in a café in between shopping and then I ended up with a Haagen Daas ice cream. I then got back on the bus and got off at stop 17 La Pedrera (the stone quarry) Gaudi’s greatest contribution to Barcelona’s civic architecture. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any photos of the outside as it was being re furbished but I went inside. Gaudi designed his eight floor apartment block around 2 circular courtyards. The lift takes you straight up to the roof terrace which has lots of interesting sculptures and chimneys and there were some amazing views of the city including Sagrada Familia. The museum “El Espai Gaudi” was on the top floor and had models and explanations of Gaudi’s work. Then there was the apartment itself with it’s old fashioned bedrooms, bathrooms, living room, kitchen and maids room. It was very fascinating. There are no straight walls in the building at all!

I finished the day by getting back on the bus to go to stop 1 Placa Catalunya to walk down La Rambla to do my souvenir shopping. I managed to find something for everyone and at good prices too. Then it was back to the hotel to pack up and get ready to leave the following day. My stay was short but sweet, I had a wonderful time and have some brilliant photos to show for it. It was some of the hottest/humid weather I had ever experienced and my legs were wrecked but it was worth every minute. I would not hesitate to visit again one day.