Monday, December 31, 2012


Yesterday was Gaudi day. As I've been sleeping very late the day doesn't seem to start till after 1pm at the moment, though yesterday I did wake not long after 10am so managed a run first while my host was still asleep. 

We went to visit Park Güell, along with 10 gazillion other people. I'm told the crowds are normal no matter what day of the week, but it does spoil it somewhat, especially the first parts which contain the  most mosaic work, as you are unable to see it fully.. However, despite the masses it was still a fabulous place to visit. 

One of the houses at the entrance was under scaffold and mesh so could only see this one.

Walked through the market place area first which has ornate tiled mosaics on the ceiling,

Then rambled along the various colonnaded pathways.

As you get further up the hill and the park you get fabulous views of Barcelona including Gaudi's most iconic project.

After navigating most of the park we then went into the city again to see two more famous buildings. The first was Casa Batlló, which also had a reasonable crowd of people stading outside.

It would have been nice to go inside, but i was hungry and didn't relish the idea of being in a queue for over an hour.

A few minutes walk up the orad was another significant building Casa Milà, again with the crowd outside and the long queue to get in.

By this stage I was starving and dying of thirst so it was off for beer and tapas, and that would be a 750ml beer!

Today was Sagrada Familia, but that can wait till the morning....and I don't know why the formatting is fukked, but i can't be arsed trying to fix it right now.

Milano to Barcelona

It's now Sunday 30 December and I am on to my second full day in Barcelona. As I seem to have switched to Spanish time it's just after 1pm and only now going to head out in to the streets.

I left Milano on Friday but had most of the day free to wander aimlessly. It was a stunning sunny day so yet again another picture of the Duomo, but this time in full sun.

I then headed to La Scala, but the queue was about 3 hours long to get in, so just headed of walking without looking at the map. I ended up in the designer district but along the way passed two contrasting pieces of sculpture.

I then came across this end of town, just to name a few.

I then headed back in the general direction of Piazza Duomo and came across the panini shop where I had got a nice coffee the day before, so this time stopped for food as well.

Parma, rocket, tomato, mozzarella and olive panini. Very yum. Ater eating I headed back to the hostel for a while as I was totally exhausted by this stage. I'd had very little sleep the night before due to the other room guets not following hostel etiquette. At three I loaded the packs on my back and front then went to the station to catch the airport train. I ended up taking the one earlier than what I had booked and glad that I did, as it's quite a distance, and also meant I had time to eat and have a beer at the airport.

I arrived in Barcelona 15 minutes ahead of schedule, go Easyjet! Michelle was at the airport to meet me, so we took train, metro, and tram to the apartment, and finally got in around 11.

We sat up and had beer and chattered for quite sometime then off to bed for a much needed sleep.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Barcelona day one

I slept until after 11 am, and felt like I could have slept more but felt I was wasting precious sightseeing time. After a nice breakfast Michelle and I headed out to the streets, while Jen stayed in and worked.

We walked along the beachfront from the apartment to the city, and through the Barceloneta area. The weather is sunny and warm. It seems a winters day here is a bit like a summer day in Wellington. Along the walk we passed the olympic village built for the 1992 games, and this piece by Gehry.

From the waterfront headed up in to the city and started to wander through little alleys and streets. I needed coffee so we stopped at a small, yet very smart place for coffe and a "cake". It is called Bubo, and the patisseries were stunning. I had a "Big Mac", that is a macaroon bun, fondant cheese slice, chocolate covered ganache meat patty and caramel sauce.

We also had a lime tart that was multi layered. From there we walked more and more narrow streets and alleys and at came to one tiny enclosed square where the walls were all still pock marked form bullet and bomb schrapnel from Franco's reign. This square was used to assassinate people as it has only two tiny entrances so could be easily closed off.

From there walked along another alley, and through an archway which lead to some preserved columns from the Roman era.

From there our wanderings took us to a square which housed the city hall of Barcelona on one side, and the hall of Spain on the other. The City Hall of Spain was open which apparently was very unusual. It housed some exhibition of Asian pottery in the open areas, but we didn't look at it as everything else on view was far superior, for example a Miro sculpture.

Along the way we also passed Gaudi's first commission.

We then walked up La Rambla, and along the way went into a market. The market was just an overload of fabulous food of every variety, including cured hams at prices of up to 259 Euro per kilo. The mushroom stands were covered in these yellow and green ones.

A lot of places had these small cones of ham and cheese ready for you to take away and munch.

The seafood was also an overload of abundance, with much of it still kicking.

Today was all about Gaudi, but that is a story for another post.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I arrived in Milano around 4pm yesterday. The journey from Brissago was easy, the only tiring part was trying to carry my back pack the last section, so once I made the Piazza Duomo I gave in and got a taxi to the hostel. 

The hostel is lovely, starched sheets even. The only downside is that it has a very funky bar as part of it ,so sleeping was a bit of an issue at one point. 

After I settled in and had consumed two beers, one being my complimentary welcome drink, I then went for a wander around the neighbourhood. I headed back to the Piazza Duomo which was a hive of activity. There is a market, a Christmas market I think, going around the Duomo, which had loads of food stalls, a couple of which are below. The first being nougat, which I somehow managed to resist.

 Then there was masses and masses of focaccias, I didn't resist one of  those.

 Then arancini, which of course I had to try as well. (why is my arse exploding?)

 This is what they look like on the inside....

I then got back to the hostel just after seven to discover it was aperitivo time, which meant another buffet of food to try, this time free!

Today after finally waking about 9 followed by a leisurely breakfast, (finally muesli and yoghurt) I didn't hit the streets till close to 11am. The body is starting to tire at the moment. First port of call was of course the Duomo. Though the Piazza was heaving with people there was no queue to get in.

I could put up masses of pictures of all the stained glass but will show restraint, and only of the main altar. Sadly I had put all my coins in the box for the poor, so had no loose change to light a candle for David but I'm sure I will have another chance on this journey.

I then went off to do the highlight of the Duomo, and that is walk on the roof.

The intricacy of, and the amount of statues and carvings is just breathtaking. Also, once on the roof and walking another set of steps you can feel the foot treads that have been worn into the marble from centuries of people. Below just a sample of statues and gargoyles. I'm sure I've used up at least a gb on the Duomo alone!

I then headed back to ground and finally had my first coffee of the day, which was also my first in Italy. It was drinkable, bliss. I also went back to the focaccia stand above and got some lunch.

After that I went for a big stroll and thought I would take my chances at getting to see the L'Ultima Cena. I got a bit lost along the way, but as it was such an interesting lost it didn't matter.

I did eventually get to the Santa Maria della Grazie, and after enquiring found I could get in at  4.15pm. To view the Last Supper is reservation only, but I thought I'd try my luck. I ended up declining, as that was over 2 hours to kill and it really has been cold today, the first day for gloves. I instead decided to wander the streets by a different route back to the hostel. On the way I came across the museo della scienza, so in I went. I was fascinated by the Foucault Pendulum.

After that wee sidetrack I started to get very tired so thought I would go to the stazione centrale to book my train ticket to the airport tomorrow. That proved too hard, so it was back to the hostel collecting a vast amount of parmigiano along the way.

Now I am sitting in the bar at the hostel trying to decide if I go out and wander around again for something to graze on, or just wait for aperitivo time here and eat for free. So many decisions - to be continued.

Update: Aperitivo won. This is my wee plate of food,

Just a tiny sample of what was on offer.

Mind you, all drinks were 10 Euro. I'm now going downstairs to the hostel's bar for another drink and another round of food!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brissago and Christmas.

Woke up way too early on Christmas eve after a Not Great sleep, but that was good as it turned out my phone time was set to pm and not am. At one point I thought I heard street cleaners, but in actual fact it was the trams swishing up and down the next street.

Got to the central station in plenty of time and then eventually caught the train to take us to Brissago. It was a stunning sunny day in Zurich and unbelievably was predicting 22 degrees. The train of course left right on time and the journey was very confortable with lovely scenery along the way. Only one decent photo though as the others blurred or had window reflections.

The road and rail infrastructure of Switzerland is amazing, but really just a reflection of the wealth of the country. As the train went through and over the Alps you could see the incredible amount of raised highways, tunnels, and covered roads following a similar route. As well as the road and train routes the Swiss Government is now building another tunnel just to move freight.

One train change took us to Locarno, the end of the rail line, and a very affluent town on the edge of Lago Maggiore. From there it was a bus through the other villages on the edge of the lake until Brissago. It was then a wee mini bus up the hill to my hosts house. Below is looking up from the lake edge.

From the road it was then a wee walk along stone pathways, with raised walls alongside that are of medieval origin. I was in heaven. 

Rita and Willem had an aperitivo ready for arrival. We consumed the food and Proseco, then the eldest and the youngest went off to snooze. Though I was tired, I had to go out and explore. Willem took me along some of the old stone pathways, then up through forest paths and eventually on to the road. We walked up a bit, then he turned back but suggested I head to the 800 metre mark where there was and old church. 

I then carried on walking up the zig zagging road up the hill. The view below is at the start of the walk, looking towards Locarno.

And in the other direction Italy.

As I wandered up I came across a giardiniere's property where all the cacti and tall trees are wrapped up for winter. On the train ride I had seen trees tied up, and it is done so they don't break with the weight of the snow. To my eyes they just looked weirdly cool.

After much slow and steady walking I finally got to the church. I have no idea what the incline  was that I was walking, but I was down to only a t shirt as I did the "stroll". The church as built in 1572 according to the sign.

I couldn't get in but managed a shot through a grill.
By this stage I was quite high and with the sun going down and mist the view was constantly changing.

On the right of the bottom picture you can see a white line. This is the border of Switzerland and Italy that is cut in to the forest. I spent a little time sitting in the portico of the church giving thanks that I am so lucky to be in this wonderful place. Eventually the cold set in so I had to start walking again.

The walk down of course took a fraction of the time as going up, except for a wee spot of dither as I tried to find where the path to the house was off the road.

When I got back to the house an afternoon snack was laid out consisting of a traditional Basel nut tart. The snoozers were awake and after an espresso decided it was time for them to walk. Willem and I got into a discussion about grapes which meant he had to bring out the grappa that had been made from the grapes growing in the garden. He also assured me it was a perfect accompaniment to nut tart! What else could I do, I couldn't offen my host.

After the walkers were back we then moved on to their traditional Christmas eve dinner of raclette, and for the second night in a row I ate way, way too much melted cheese and bits that go with it, plus wine, ice cream and more grappa. Along with this the presents were opened.

Christmas day dawned misty and damp. After a breakfast of more cheese Willem decided a wee 3 hour walk was called for, so off we went on a different trail. Interestingly at one point there was a barricade and sign saying "path closed', but surprisingly the Germans broke the rules and climbed over the barrier. The wee slip was easy to negotiate so the walk continued. We walked for 2 hours up to about 800 metres as Willem thought the cafe up there may be open. Rita is 82 and kept pace all the way. This is what the walk was like.

Naturally when we got to the cafe, it was closed so turned around and went back. 

The rest of Christmas day was very quiet. We all retired to our rooms and slept a bit, then I cooked a very simple dinner of roast chicken for them, and it was early to bed at around 9pm.

This morning was the usual breakfast of cheese, and then I packed to leave. I walked down the hill to the bus through gorgeous old stone stairways and paths, but am still waiting for the pictures of that to be sent to me. I then headed off on my journey to Milano, and am now here in a fabulous hostel full of free food....but that is tomorrows story.

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