A Travellerspoint blog

Barcelona - Friday, 8 July 2016

Free day to recover

sunny 35 °C

Hotel - 1898 Barcelona, La Rambla, 109, Barcelona - Room 340

After our big 12 hour sleep, we are feeling reasonably normal so showered and dressed and wandered down for breakfast. There weren't many people around and we haven't met any other Scenic travellers. We'll all come together at a welcome function tomorrow at 6.00 pm.

We ordered boiled eggs for breakfast and when Phil asked for some salt and pepper, the waitress brought over some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Something lost in translation there! They have the most amazing things on the breakfast buffet, but the most amazing thing of all was a huge, double decker chocolate cake. Even I couldn't face chocolate cake that early in the morning! And the cherries are huge.

Our hotel is in a fabulous position, just a very short walk to the main square. We have a room on the third floor with a cute little balcony.

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We wandered up there and bought a ticket on the Hop On Hop Off bus and proceeded to do the red route and the blue route, to give us a bit of an idea about Barcelona. It is a lovely city and the buildings are gorgeous and contrary to popular belief, not every building in Barcelona was designed by Gaudi but nevertheless, they are all beautiful.

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Most of the buildings in the inner city have a very unusual feature. The fronts are chamfered which means the square is cut off apparently to make it easier for the trams to see what was coming around the corner, but it has made for very attractive and unusual buildings. All the streets are lined with trees and a lot of them have a green area down the middle - a bit like Northbourne Avenue in Canberra. The city is also extremely clean. It has a very nice feel to it.

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This is a statue of Christopher Colombus, pointing to the new world. His finger is half a metre long.

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We were supposed to meet our tour guide to Montserrat at 2.45 pm, just near the Hard Rock Cafe in the centre square, so after our Hop On Hop Off bus tour, we headed for the Hard Rock Cafe for a quick lunch because the bus was a bit late getting back. Well, the Hard Rock Cafe was overflowing and it was a 40 minute wait for lunch. Eek! by this time, we only had about 20 minutes before we had to meet our guide.

We dived into MacDonalds and it was absolutely packed, so we went next door to Burger King and absolutely gobbled down our lunch in 15 minutes. How we didn't get indigestion, I'll never know!

We found our guide Oliver with his orange umbrella, and boarded the bus along with 29 others for the hour drive to Montserrat. What a stunning place it is. It reminded us a lot of Meteora in Greece. A monastery set high up in the mountains, run by Benedictine monks. There is also a boarding school there for boys who are members of a choir, but they have to leave when they are 14 because their voices change.

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In the church is a statue of the Black Madonna. No one is quite sure why she is black but one thought is that the wood she is carved from (poplar) became black from the candles burned in the chapel. The inside of the church is quite lovely and the Madonna is situated up high, above the altar. We didn't queue up to see her up close. We just viewed her from the church floor.

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Then we had some free time so Phil and I caught the vehicular to the top of the hill which gave us magnificant views down on the monastery. We just had enough time to take some photos from the top then caught the vehicular back down the mountain and raced to the bus, with about five minutes to spare. I wanted to buy an icon and we rushed into an icon shop but as we only had a couple of minutes for shopping, I bought a ghastly little wooden statue of the Black Madonna and then raced to get on the bus. There were some really nice icons on the wall, but we just didn't have time to look at them properly. I hope to be able to buy some more icons during our time in Spain / Portugal.

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When we got off the bus in the main square, we were absolutely amazed at how many people there were in the area. It was absolutely teeming. I have never seen so many people in the one area in my life. You can't really get the feel from the photos but imagine the Sydney Boxing Day sales and multiply it by 1,000!

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Back at the hotel by about 7.30 pm and Phil made contact with the Fullers, who were the first Scenic people to arrive. The wife was sleeping so we went to dinner on our own, at the Tapis bar next door to the hotel. I had my first Sangria in Spain and we had a couple of tapis and a pizza and then came back to the hotel.

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We checked out the swimming pool on the roof and discovered a bar and a lovely place to eat in the cool of the evening. We will probably go there for dinner tomorrow night after our welcome function.

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Posted by gaddingabout 13:02 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Hong Kong to Zurich to Barcelona - Thursday, 7 July 2016

We've finally arrived!

Our flight was supposed to leave Hong Kong at 11.35 pm. We all boarded on time and then sat in the aircraft for two hours, before we took off. Apparently there was a computer malfunction which is a bit scary because if the computer doesn't work, neither does the plane, in most cases. It was quite hot and stuffy and this time our seats are side by side. Not as much shelf room as Cathay Pacific but nevertheless the seats recline down as flat as a bed, so there is plenty of room to stretch out, even for Phil.

I was quite tired by the time they served dinner so I only had the entree and dessert, but I must say it is not a patch on Cathay's food. I had a pretty good sleep and Phil did too. He watched more movies and I started a new book The Sisterhood.

Breakfast was average but they did serve a nice bircher muesli. After 11 1/2 hours we got off and then the fun began! First of all, there were supposed to be ground crew at our arrival gate to hand us new boarding passes for our new flights. An enormous amount of passengers had missed connecting flights. But the arrival gate was changed and they didn't let the ground crew know. It was about 7.30 am and the airport was like a ghost town. We asked a policeman for directions to the Transit/Transfer Desk and he sent us on a wild goose chase. We went through security again, then Border Control and finally found someone of authority who could point us in the right direction to find the desk. We were standing right next to Transfer Desk B but of course, there was no one there, so we had to walk a million miles to Transfer Desk A which had quite a lot of passengers queued up. Finally our turn arrived and we were put on a flight to Barcelona, leaving at 12.25 pm, arriving at 2.05 pm. So now we have a four hour wait.

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I tried phoning our transfer driver in Barcelona to give him our new flight times, but no answer. I finally got onto the Scenic emergency line and told her but she alreay knew.

Finally we boarded our two hour flight to Barcelona. We are feeling pretty tired.

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The Swiss Alps from the plane. We were sitting on the wrong side for a great photo, but you get the idea.

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This Russian guy was sitting opposite Phil on our flight to Barcelona and they struck up quite a friendship. He was a very funny guy. Ex Russian pilot. Our landing in Barcelona was a bit rough and he raised his eyebrows!

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We had lunch served on the flight of roast beef and potato salad and this gorgeous little thing was a cheese flower. It was very nice.

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Our first view of the Spanish coast line.

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We landed and amazingly our luggage that had been checked through from Sydney to Barcelona was there. We really thought we'd be hunting for it. Made contact with our driver, William, who was born in Scotland but has lived in Barcelona for most of his life. We are a bit hot but we have the wrong clothes on for 29 degrees. The trip to the hotel was quite fast and uneventful, with William pointing out a lot of land marks and warning us about where not to go and to watch out always for pick pockets.

This is an old bullring turned into a shopping centre. Thank goodness we won't be going to a bull fight because I would just hate that.

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Hotel - 1898 Barcelona, La Rambla, 109, Barcelona

Our hotel is just lovely. It is very old and has dark wood everywhere. We were upgraded to a suite on the third floor, with our own little balcony.

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What a nice welcome for us.

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We met the Scenic Rep in the foyer and she booked a trip for us tomorrow to Montserrat. We are the second lot to arrive and she gave us the name of the other couple and we'll make contact.

We returned to our room and I had a long awaited shower and decided to have a small rest. THAT WAS FATAL! I lay on the bed at 5.30 pm and we both woke up, in our street clothes at 5.30 am the next morning! Obviously we needed the sleep!

Posted by gaddingabout 13:06 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Sydney to Hong Kong - Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Cathay Pacific Business Class - Total Luxury

semi-overcast 16 °C

Room 828 - on the top floor, with a corner room overlooking the airport. We even have a "panorama" shaped window in our shower from which we can see the sky. It is nice. We must remember to ask for this room on our return.

We both had a pretty good night's sleep. The beds and pillows are lovely at Rydges - I think they are called Dreamliner or something like that but they are great. Phil watched a Wimbledon match but after a couple of champagnes I didn't have any trouble nodding off. I woke up several times during the night, but that was just excitement about today's travel plans!

We had a light breakfast and are now relaxing in our room until we check out at 12 noon and walk across the road to the International Terminal. We have a great view of the International Terminal from our room and have been watching the HUGE international planes take off all morning. It is quite amazing how steeply they ascend - scary really.

Wandered over to the terminal at 11.00 am and proceeded to check in. The Business Class queue was very short and check in painless. We were given a couple of Express Passes for Border Control (Immigration and Customs) and then proceeded to the security check. Of course, Phil's carry-on got held back and he had to open it and drag out all his medication. It looked like a travelling pharmacy! They queried a small bottle of eye drops and his small, small jar of vegemite. Just as well they didn't confiscate his vegemite and there would have been hell to pay!

I was having my own issues on another queue. I didn't pass the electronic screening for some strange reason because no beepers went off, but nevertheless I still had to be patted down which of course revealed nothing. After repacking our bags and redressing ourselves, we made our way to the Qantas Lounge and settled down for an hour and a half relax before boarding our flight.

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Poor Phil. Had to repack his bag!

We boarded on time. We were in the front section of Business Class - seats 15A and 16A - sitting in our own private capsules, one behind each other. Plenty of room. Our take off was delayed by about 30 minutes as due to westerly winds, only one runway was open. However, when we took off, it was as smooth as anything. In fact, the whole flight was great - 8 1/2 hours of it. We had an Australian flight crew. It is always VERY reassuring to hear an Australian voice coming from the cockpit.

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Phil watched a few movies during the flight but I read my book "War Brides" the whole way. I am now up to the final chapter, which I hope will tie up a few loose ends, so I am saving it for the next flight to Zurich before I go to sleep.

My golfing friend Joye, said that Cathay Pacific had the best Business Class than any other airline and I think she is right. The food was amazing and for the first time in my life I ate every single thing that was served to me. We had a pre lunch drink and I chose an "Oriental Breeze". It was made of a plum-sour tea and cranberry juice with honey and fresh lemon juice and a hint of rose water. AND it had a fresh baby pink rosebud floating in it. It was lovely. And accompanying that, was a bowl of warm nuts! Very special.

Lunch was great. Smoked duck breast and apple raisin salad; seasonal salad and balsamic vinaigrette; ricotta ravioli, sun dried tomatoes, asparagus and lime caper herb cream sauce; cheese, crackers and walnut prune paste, followed by cherry cheese cake and cherry compote and a cafe latte! Yum, yum, yum.

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We had another snack of pumpkin and rocket quiche and chocolate ice cream.

We landed at 9.35 pm Hong Kong time and walked about six miles to our departure lounge for our Swiss Air flight to Zurich.

Hong Kong airport - huge!

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Posted by gaddingabout 22:42 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Canberra to Sydney - Tuesday, 5 July 2016

On the road again!

rain 6 °C

We woke this morning to a dreary, raining and cold day in Canberra. Very depressing. We drove over to Fyshwick to pick up our rental car, had a bit of lunch, packed the car and were on the road to Sydney at 12.35 pm. It rained until about Goulburn and then it was fine all the way to Sydney, which was good, as the weather forecast for Sydney today was rain, rain, and more rain.

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On the M5, just as we were approaching the tunnel, and in quite a bit of traffic, a big roll of plastic dislodged from a truck and came bouncing over three lanes of traffic. Most cars were able to swerve to avoid it but one ran over it, as he had nowhere to go, except into a brick wall! That's how accidents happen but thank goodness, all was okay today. Just as well it wasn't raining and the road slippery, or it might have been a different story.

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Mmmmmm, how much room is there in this boot?
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What has she got in this bag?
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Perfect fit!

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Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel (our home away from home)
We arrived at 3.30 pm, checked into the hotel and have a room on the top floor, on the corner, overlooking the airport. Check out is at 12.00 nn, which is great because our flight to Hong Kong doesn't leave until 2.05 pm. Because we are members of the Rydges Priority thing, we get a couple of complimentary drinks in the bar and 20% off our meal in the restaurant. It's all looking good! Roll on Spain!

We had a very pleasant dinner at Rydges Airport Hotel, Sydney. I had my complimentary champagne and Phil had a beer. I had grilled swordfish and Phil had a pizza and had a very invigorating dinner conversation with the man at the next table - Justin Finigan from Melbourne on his way to Korea for work. Feng Ling Wong from Stockholm was at the adjoining table and Phil had an interesting conversation with him. More champagne and red wine and more interesting conversation. A very good night was had by all.

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Now back in the room, having a cup of tea and watching Wimbledon.

Posted by gaddingabout 03:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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