Tuesday, November 27, 2018

And Vango was his name.....

When it arrived, we spread it out
Upon the lounge room floor
A Vango Mirage 300+
From an Aussie online store

We weighed up all the benefits
Of several potential homes
In the end we settled on
This semi-geodesic dome

We needed something big enough
For us and all our gear
Seduced by it’s roomy vestibule
With length and height to spare

Coloured green for camouflage
With day-glo orange ropes
To prevent us tripping in the dark
Like a pair of drunken dopes

It sheltered us in Portugal
England, France and Spain
Through heat and wind and thunderstorms
And rains upon the plain

It didn’t see a lot of grass
Just rock hard ground or sand
But it was always there for us
This was not a one night stand

Most people know of Van Gogh
He of the starry, starry night
But our canvas is the work of art
(Polyester actually, ‘cause it’s light)

So for once our tent comes home with us
To leave it here would be a shame
It’s tough and strong and done the job
And Vango is it’s name

That’s Vango…….V-A-N-G-O,


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ju's relections

Coming home I am filled with a sense of gratitude.  Firstly, thankful that I got to do this trip and to arrive home safe and sound.  But mostly to be lucky enough to live in such a beautiful place with such loving family and friends to come home to.

The first person I see at the airport is my beautiful sister (well, she is my twin!) and I am so thankful I get to go through life with this wonderful person who I am lucky enough to have by my side from conception.  She has brought my Dad to the airport with her - he turned 90 while we were away and I am happy he is still here for me to come home to.  He is a brave, strong man who took the chance after the war to start a new life in a country on the other side of the world when he didn’t even speak the language.  I’m so glad he took that chance because it led to me being born here.  Pete and I have been to many amazing countries, but more and more as the years go by, I am incredibly grateful to call New Zealand home.  As we drove home from the airport along the rubbish-free streets and looked at all the lush green grass and trees, I felt a new appreciation for the people in local government who had set up systems to keep things ordered and clean and for preserving and protecting our beautiful environment.
A welcome home gift from Briana - she thoughtfully
provided a can of sardines so we'd still feel like we were
on holiday!

It was so lovely to see all our beautiful children at the airport looking happy and healthy.  That they took time out of their day to come and welcome us home.  They bought food and made cuppas so we could just talk and soak up the warmth and love of being back in our home.  They made us dinner, had looked after our business, painted the fence and looked after the house for us.  I feel incredibly lucky.

Later in the afternoon Pete and I went for a bike ride – all that sitting on the plane is just not good for a body!  Again I felt such gratitude, this time for the coastal walkway and the fact that it was not raining so we could get out and enjoy it.  Not just a safe place to cycle, but a great place to meet friends, which of course we did.  Always good to see friends but especially good to bump into Ray, who married us 31 years ago.

It was quite windy but we decided to go for a swim to try and rid us of that kind of seasick vertigo feeling you get after a long plane ride.  The water was warmer than any of our Atlantic swims and we even managed to bodysurf a few waves.  

How lucky are we to have all this on our doorstep?  It’s always fun to travel overseas with the joys and challenges it brings, but coming home is never a chore.  I love this place.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

15th November (raining and thunderstorms)

Our final morning in the Barcelona apartment. Tomorrow, we will leave this city for our journey home. It rained overnight and it was still drizzling on and off throughout the morning. Today we had no plans except checking on last minute taxis and arrangements that need following up. Dad had slept well last night, so we were glad about that, just hope we all get a good night tomorrow and everything goes off as it should arrangement wise. Whilst he slept, Ju and I had snuck off to the supermarket at 8.30am, not remembering that they open at 9am. Back for breakfast, without all that we initially required. Managed another trip to get supplies later on, also without getting wet.
Fixed a couple of holes in the boxes from when they had been shipped from Seville, purely with cardboard, but it did the trick. Although we have confirmed a carrier for the boxes, we have yet to confirm a taxi for the passengers, namely us.  About 12.30pm we strolled down the road, looking for a place to eat some lunch and eventually found a nice café/bakery serving lunch and coffee.
Blobbed at the apartment for the rest of the afternoon, as the weather closed in and got worse as the day progressed. By 5.30pm we were witnessing a great thunder and lightning storm and the streets were literally running with water. I’ll bet the locals were looking at us on our balcony wishing that we’d get the hell out of town, as they haven’t seen anything like this before. For us, it was quite an impressive show for our last night here. And it was free.
And so we come to the end of another adventure. This one hasn’t had as much cycling as we would have expected to do, but it has given us the chance to cycle the Loire Valley, with my Dad, not many could say that. It proved to him that even at eighty five years old, there are still things to achieve, although Dads been doing that his whole life. Tomorrow, we’re up at six o’clock, with a pick up time of eight o’clock to get us to the airport, sort the luggage and hopefully be eating breakfast by nine. Definitely looking forward to catching up with our kids and the rest of the family, plus our great friends, many of whom have been along on this ride with us, in spirit, with the odd comment thrown in on the blog.
All there is for us to do now is write our reflections on this tour and thank our amazing staff at Face to Face, without whom, we would not have the opportunity to undertake such enjoyable, quite often stressful, but always enlightening tours on the road less travelled.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

14th November (sun and cloud and mild)

If the average apartment in Spain is like the one we are currently staying in, I wonder how people manage it. Dad, who normally sleeps pretty well, had a shocker last night. Because of siesta in the afternoon, a huge amount of the population don’t finish work until after 9pm and others even later. As they tend to eat out for evening meals, it means they don’t get in until 11pm-12am. Then, there is the settling in phase of sorting things around the home, putting on washing etc. This is fine, if you have a well built home with good soundproofing and carpets, but therein lies another issue. Most apartments that we’ve stayed in have walls as thin as paper and tiled floors, which means you can hear every movement. God help you if people are eating and keep getting up from the table, it’s a racket. In this apartment, all of the above apply and every time someone flushes the loo, or runs some water, you hear that too. But the worst aspect,….yes it gets worse, is that you can hear everything they say to each other. If there is an argument going on, look out. The Spanish are loud in all respects, but when arguing, it reaches crazy levels. Poor Dad had one of those nights, a bit like I have here very often, where the noise was loud and constant until the early hours of the following day.
He looked and sounded very jaded, so, I suggested that he may want to spend today indoors, whilst Ju and I explored. He agreed. So, after breakfast, we took off along the road to the nearest Metro station and hopped the tube for Tibidabo, heading into the hilly area of Barca. We wanted to see the church and basilica that was there along with the views of the city. There is also a little theme park. Our ride up was, thankfully uneventful, as we have been informed by locals to keep a very close watch on our possessions. After Dad’s incident on the tube in Paris, we are on the alert. 
Walking up through Tibidabo

A walk up through the suburb of Tibidabo revealed one plush home after another, each trying to outdo the next it seemed with size and design.  We were grateful we didn't have to walk the last part of the hill and took the funicular, for Euros 15 to the top. 

Tibidabo Basilica
Cathedral underneath, Basilica on top.
Sorry about all the cathedral shots but we just loved the dramatic clouds and lighting.

Obviously they have fun times in this church, judging by the size of this juke box.

The walk had been pleasant, but up here, a black cloud was hovering and the wind was cool. I was still only wearing a t-shirt and shorts, so it wasn’t cold as such. Took some shots up here and visited both the church and basilica. Once again, it was amazing to see the younger folk taking photographs of each other. The location doesn’t seem to enter into the equation. They stand and then pose, flicking hair, turning heads, pouting, lifting chins, with the background being a block wall, or the edge of a hedge. Don’t get it myself, but seriously intend to practise my posing for future trips.
Look beyond Pete (I know it's hard to tear your eyes away) and you'll see the street we had to walk up.
We were very happy to see these escalators up the steepest part of the hill to Guell Park.

Rode the funicular down and began our walk to Guell park, where a lot of Gaudi’s work is on show. Although this was quite busy, it was nice, once again, to be away from the very busy, city streets. Spent a good while here, wandering the gardens and taking shots. Of course, whenever an opportunity presents, the authorities will put an entrance fee in place. In the park, you could walk freely in some areas, but not others. Ju and I managed to get around paying, by walking to another position to get a shot. The price for entry was steep, (almost as steep as that hill to get here) for the options that it presented.
Walking into Guell Park

This part of the park was being repaired and had workmen all over it - it also happened to be the bit they were charging for, so we didn't bother.

Had some fantastic views over Barcelona today but the camera doesn't generally do it justice.
Here you can see the Sagrada Familia taking shape above the rooftops.
A young man had tamed and painted this dove to earn some tourist dollars.

Guell Park entrance

The entrance building.

We were still a good way from the apartment, but decided to walk back and on the way, grabbed a coffee and something to eat. Arrived home to discover dad asleep, sitting up on the bed, leaning into the headboard. He looked comfortable enough and with little snores, every now and then, figured he was getting some much needed rest. Julia had been online to try and track the bike boxes and decided that we should take a walk around there, after a cuppa.
With dad still out to it after forty five minutes, we took off to the Post Office. Sure enough, they had arrived. The guy we dealt with was very understanding of our “no car” situation and loaned us the use of a dolly, to push one box at a time, back to the apartment. That was extremely effective as even though we only had three blocks to walk, it would have been a pain having to carry those 30 kg boxes one at a time through the busy streets.  Upon arriving back with the second box, we found dad awake. When I asked how he’d slept, he told me he hadn’t and was adamant that he hadn’t been asleep, whilst sitting in bed.  Mind you, he also hadn’t heard us popping back into the apartment three times, making a cup of tea and shifting the two bike boxes in and was very surprised to see them.
We popped across the road to a lovely café, for a coffee and cake. Very enjoyable. The late afternoon, early evening was spent blogging and working out Friday’s routine, for our flight home. At 7.30pm, we strolled around the corner, where we found an Indian restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal and great service. Back at the flat, we enjoyed watching the game between Barcelona and Real Madrid, played three weeks ago, before hitting the sack, hopefully, for decent sleeps.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

13th November (sun, cloud, mild)

Slept pretty well and woke to a nice day. Showered and did some washing after having eaten first up. Julia and I walked a couple of blocks to pick up our bike boxes from the Post Office, which we were going to carry back to the apartment, however, they had not arrived. Back at the flat, Julia jumped on the internet to track where they might be. Only information was that they should be here by tomorrow. We still haven’t found how we can transport them to the airport as the boxes they are in are massive and will struggle to get in even the shuttle vans with seats in, unless they all fold down.
That put a spanner in the works with our time running out. 

We decided that we were going on a walking tour of part of the city today and our first stop would be the Sagrada Familia, this time in the light of day. With daylight came a deluge of tourists. Still managed to find opportunities for photos and I have to say, it is certainly a work of art and totally different to your average cathedral – and we consider ourselves experts now.  

Didn’t realise that Gaudi (the architect) died in 1926 after being hit by a tram.  The locals thought he was a homeless person and so he was taken to a paupers hospital, where he died a couple of days later.  He was 73 years old and had devoted over forty years of his life to the designing and building of the Sagrada Familia.  They think it will finally be completed in 2026 but it’s a bit of a mission, trying to build something of such a huge scale with all those tourists around.  You can just imagine the carnage if one crane operator has an off day.  Even though the cathedral is not finished, it is the most visited tourist attraction in Spain.

Costa coffee beckoned and even though we knew it would be more expensive than normal, we figured it would be worth it as we hadn’t had a good coffee in a long while.  We ordered and sat down, before being served our café grandes in takeaway plastic cups. Not impressed.  Good coffees need savouring out of a cup. I asked the girl what the story was and was told they only do grandes in takeaway cups. Perhaps you should have a sign telling people that then…!! The coffee, apart from the way it was served, was cold. Not in keeping with their “Every cup a work of art, every sip an experience.”  Very disappointing Costa.  New Zealand coffees would leave you lot for dead.
Casa Batllo, also designed by Gaudi
Casa Mila

Casa Batllo again

Set off on our walking tour. We were basically doing a Gaudi walk today checking out his works of architecture and we weren’t disappointed. If there was a problem, it was that a lot of his work cannot be captured by camera, because trees that were planted many years ago have grown to block out a lot of possible options for good shots. Still, we persevered and did pretty well. He was a man with creativity for sure. The whole city is geared up to this man and his buildings – it’s quite incredible.  But then his designs are very unusual and easily spotted. 

Barcelona Cathedral

This artwork caught my eye - and a few other eyeballs as well by the look of it.
Pete plays tourist guide - and did you know Dad, this wall is 400 yeras old.

We had walked a long way, past all the designer label stores and down to the marina to begin the Las Ramblas walk, before heading to the Plaza d’Espanya. We were now marching past tenements and apartments. Reached the Barcelona Arena, which looks like a bullfighting ring but is just a shopping centre. Paid to go to the rooftop for a view of the city and the magnificent Museum of National Art of Catalonia, with its cascading waterfall. And then…..my camera battery died. Luckily, Dad had brought his and Julia was snapping away on hers, so we had all bases covered. 

View from the top of the Arena Barcelona
Museum of National Art of Catalonia

By now, the sun was beginning to set, so a visit to the Metro and a journey back to the Sagrada station, soon had us walking to our apartment after purchasing something to eat from the supermarket.

One for the HoboGang

After eating, we spent the rest of the night contacting possible bike transporters and as of bedtime, still have no idea if we can get those damn boxes in a car/van/truck. The language barrier is a problem as we have discovered with even simple requests, which after relaying the information, we have received something completely different. Only time will tell and time is running out. Received a message just before sliding into bed from a company called Get Bag, who reckon that they can get the boxes into their van plus one passenger. That means that the other two will have to take a taxi. Shouldn’t be a problem, but, once again, it’ll depend on a variety of factors. All it will take is for the taxi not to show and we have a whole can of worms related to checking in.