101 things about me

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

One little acorn, oh were have you been?

I've been to London to visit the Queen...

Funnily enough, I traveled all that way hoping to surprise Her Maj with my unexpected visit, and she was thinking exactly the same thing about me. Turns out, she was dropping by my place in Melbourne at the precise moment I was hoping on sharing a couple of scones and pot of tea with her at the palace!

Funny how things happen like that sometimes! I really must plan it a little more carefully next time! We are both busy people afterall...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona #2

So, let me give you a hint about traveling and technology...

Overnight is the perfect time to recharge your batteries (both physically and technologically), but be warned... when you recharge your camera overnight and get up early, specifically to beat the crowds and the long long queues, make sure BEFORE you depart for the day, you collect the battery from the said charger and put it in your camera.

Don't wait until you get to your destination to realise the battery is still attached to the powerpoint back in your hotel room.

Afterall, a camera without a battery is kinda useless! Trust me, I know.

Thankfully my iphone came to the rescue and through the magic of instagram, the photos still look pretty amazing.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona...

More Gaudi greatness...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Beautiful Barcelona...

Barcelona is an incredible city with so much to see and do. For us, the highlights were without doubt all of the fabulous Gaudi architecture and the Picasso Museum.

Gaudi's architecture was bold, creative, innovative, artistic, prolific and beautiful. The scale and nature of his work was astounding and even the smallest of details were way beyond what I had imagined. That he was given the opportunity from early in his career to build and create such amazing buildings (mostly through his patron Eusebi Guell) was incredible and many of the buildings are now open as museums for the public to visit.

This is a great city to visit. Many of the sites of interest are in the central district and within easy walking distance of Las Ramblas. And if you want to venture further out, or you are not wanting to walk, the metro system is amazing - clean, prompt and clearly displayed, it's easy to navigate, even as a non Spanish speaker.

Barcelona is Gaudi central. But it also home to the incredible Picasso Museum, with an amazing collection of Picasso's works from his earliest years through to the end of his remarkable career. Make it high on the list. You won't be disappointed. His work from his teenaged years is truly awesome.

Here are some pics of some the wonderful places we were lucky enough to visit.

Casa Batillo

Casa Batillo

Casa Batillo

Casa Batillo

Casa Batillo

Sagrada Familia


Park Guell

Gaudi Home
Park Guell

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

Small treasures...

I am a collector. And love to be surrounded by my things. To have them displayed beautifully and be able to see them every day.

I like to have them within reach. To pick them up and feel their weight. Stroke the smooth surfaces, and the rough, the cool and the soft. I like to turn the items in my hands and consider them carefully.

To move them about. To make simple shrines. To find comfort in them. To hold my small treasures close gives me pleasure.

Friday, 11 November 2011


Because a date like this deserves a post all of it's own.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Staying safe in Barcelona just requires a little common sense... and a chupa chup

From the moment we started talking about traveling to Barcelona, we were warned about the dangers and the seedy reputation of the beautiful city's darker side.

We were warned about pickpockets, con-men, gypsies, and shysters.

"Watch out for pickpockets"...
"I just heard a friend of a friend had their suitcase stolen from the reception of their hotel as they booked in, so be careful"...
"When on the trains, watch out for card sharks"...
"Don't trust those buskers in Las Ramblas"...
"The gypsies work in groups you know... be alert"...

So when we booked accommodation (I had technology problems and was unable to book any of the places that came highly recommended on TripAdvisor) we relied on a travel agent.

She told us the best area to stay so that we would be in a safe area but also in the heart of the action. We emphasised our requirement for a central location where we would feel comfortable to come and go at any time of the day or night if we so pleased, and given her experience and knowledge of Barcelona (and lack of ours) we left it in her safe hands to organise.

On the morning we flew from London to Barcelona (knowing we were going to arrive around 8pm) I finally double checked the booking and our hotel location, only to find we had been booked into a hotel in the area our travel agent* had told us to avoid, which also happened to be in the old red light district. Trip advisor reviews were a mixed bunch, but on the whole the hotel location was an issue with many travelers. Unfortunately it was too late to change the booking.

We arrived after dark and my heart sank as I saw the narrow shadowed street where the hotel was located. It was a nice hotel, the staff were friendly and helpful, but their advice on how to get to and from the hotel in hours of darkness did not instill confidence.

The first night we ate locally at a little street side restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. It was a warm evening so there were lots of people out and about, the tables were full and well serviced by attentive waiters and we sat in the flickering lights and neon glow of the neighbouring strip club/porn shop and watched the world go by.

We followed the local custom of sitting with our handbags on our laps whilst dining, deciding it was a pretty good practice and if it was good enough for the locals, it was good enough for us!

Sangria, an enormous pan of paella and a few scuttling cockroaches later... and our warm welcome to Barcelona was complete!

Knowing we were staying in a 'less desirable' location, and with all the warnings ringing in our ears, we spent much of our time in Barcelona alert to our surroundings. We carried our handbags close to our bodies, and once we checked in to our hotel, we locked all our valuables in the safe in our room and carried only what we needed. 

And we never had a problem. We walked everywhere, caught buses and the local metro and felt safe wherever we went. And whilst we never personally felt under threat and we left Barcelona with our wallets intact, I think it is fair to say, that problems do exist.

Tourist areas were a particular target and in one of the shops at Park Guell (a major Gaudi attraction at the top of the city), the first thing we noticed was a sign warning of pickpockets IN THE SHOP!!! Local signs, all tourist advice and even the shop keepers and market holders warned us to be careful.

Barcelona has a bad reputation not of violent crime, but of the 'petty' crime that removes passports and wallets from bags, steals cameras, mobiles and valuables and can generally ruins a holiday.

So, if you plan to visit Barcelona (or any other major city for that matter) take my advice...

Carry no more than what you can easily hold on to. Don't be flashy with jewelry or expensive accessories. Keep your valuables close, with bag zips hidden from prying eyes and hands. Try to know where you are going so you are not a target (avoid consulting maps and guidebooks in the streets if you can). Try NOT to look like a tourist. Dress as you would at home. And stay alert.

And whilst you are taking these simple precautions, try and remember not everyone is dangerous. Remember that people can be friendly and helpful and genuinely happy to be of assistance... without wanting to rob you! And remember to have fun. To enjoy your surroundings. To soak up the amazing atmosphere. Get out and enjoy the sights, just be careful.

Because, for all it's 'bad' reputation, Barcelona's reputation as an amazing city, is also well deserved. It is beautiful, fascinating, friendly, intriguing and welcoming. The old city centre with it's narrow lanes and hidden doorways is full of secrets and well worth exploring. The history is incredible and the art and architecture in particular is breathtaking! (another photo filled post to come)

One security guard we saw was standing guard with a baton at his side and chupa chup at the ready... I kid you not - a chupa chup! Supposedly he was ready for any sticky situation! (ha ha!)

*In our agent's defence, on the day of booking there were major computer issues and another agent booked the accommodation, and had I checked the booking earlier, it could have been changed, but I left it until it was too late.