Francesca 1, British Winter 0 | Where’s the Best Place to Go in Barcelona?

Is it weird to feel bad on a good day? I feel kind of icky, because I’ve had a cold and my copy of Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor finally came into the library – I reserved it in July. July! – so I’ve been reading more and sleeping less (well, reading more than normal and sleeping less than normal. That was a bad comparison now I think about it). But it’s a good day, because I’m seeing Lorde in London tomorrow and I just booked a holiday! In fact, I’m having a mini-holiday when I see Lorde, because it’s easier to stay in Wood Green and take the tube to work in Portobello on Thursday than it is to go home at midnight and get up at seven for a two-hour commute. The big holiday is four days in Barcelona with my friend Ruby in January, because what’s the point of January if not to head south. Technically we’ve only got as far as booking flights, which is what I wanted to talk to you guys about.

I’ve never been to Barcelona – the last time I was in Spain, the term ‘eurozone bail out’ hadn’t been coined yet – and Ruby has, but on a school trip in year 10… We both want to see the Sagrada Familia and Picasso’s museum but other than that, we’ve got four days to explore and let’s see everything. If you’ve been to Barcelona, tell me: where would you recommend for two faintly antisocial, faintly arty people in their early twenties? One of us – ahem ahem – does not get holiday pay and will be on a strictish budget. I’m fairly sure we’ll bump into some Gaudi buildings and museums and La Rambla, and I’m aware that Barcelona takes ‘faintly arty’ to another level, but unlike the last trip I took, I won’t have three months to read Lonely Planet and decide whether or not I can stomach another jade buddha. Am kind of banking on not seeing any jade buddhas this time around, you know?

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
(from Pixabay) 

Let’s assume I’ll be making a similar decision regarding crucifixes… anyway, tell us your recommendations!

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Packing – Or Not – Some Bags

I always get a bit confused after a bank holiday – the joy of long weekend is kind of negated by not knowing what day it is for the rest of the week. So to make myself feel efficient in the face of uncertanity I’ve been adapting my Society6 and Etsy shops a little bit. Etsy will be completely digital after 30th September because I’m out of the UK for a month and posting physical items will be a bit tricky. Have a look at both sites to see if anything tickles your fancy.

Oh, Francesca, where are you going?

Eh nowhere special. Just Greece.

Just kidding.

From lisce.tumblr.com
From lisce.tumblr.com

I’m excited as my friends are to be going to university, which is to say slightly nervous but ready to make an important change to long term living arrangements.

There’s so much to do. Normally I pack two days before a trip maximum, but this time I have to think about the things I don’t want to be without for a month. Apart from the dogs (apparently they have to stay home, pfft), that’s mostly work stuff.

You know, my computer.

Which is a mishmash of ergonomic writing gear, a TV screen, an external hard drive and a small-but-still-sizeable PC tower. Apart from the keyboard and mouse none of that will fit in a suitcase or be physically transportable, which leaves me with a few options:

  1. Take my iPad and beforehand find an app or piece of tech that allows me to plug in the keyboard, mouse and hard drive
  2. Get a cheap-as netbook and plug in the keyboard, mouse and hard drive
  3. Just get a netbook and take the risk that by using a normal keyboard I won’t take ten steps back physio-wise
  4. Attempt all business from my phone.

Personally I favour option one because it doesn’t involve taking out a loan or wrecking my muscles. I suppose I could lug everything I normally use a thousand miles in a lot of bubble wrap, but that would involve paying EasyJet a billion quid for extra weight allowance and that’s not including clothes and stuff.

Hmmm.

Okay I’m off to move cardboard boxes out of my bedroom and maybe have a shower (I thought at 10:30am “I’ll do some work then have a shower.” It’s now 5:40pm). If anyone knows where I can get hold of Hermione’s beaded bag, let me know.

‘The Morocco Diary’, Days 4, 5 and 6

The Internet on my laptop is currently not working, so I’m using my parents’ giant TV-screen-computer to post. So enjoy, in high definition.

Day 4

8th April, 2012

Yesterday was not good – except for teaching the kids the Macarena, it was very long and dry.

Today, we only have to walk 18km. It’s not great, great being under one km, but it’s a hell of a lot better than before. Apparently yesterdays 20km was the equivalent of a D. of E. weekend, but way under the time. My legs still ache.

But, today seems hotter. Mr Dell just looked up the temperature on the thermometer heat thingy, and it was 26°C. Should I mention that it’s only 7am?

I’ll tell you how the day goes later. Yusef is calling us at the mo. We’ve learnt that “alle” is Berber for “come”. Well, he told us that. It’s pronounced in a kind of all-ay way. I’m off now.

LUNCH TIME!!

We’re currently eating lunch in the second half of the Dades gorge, next to the river that we are always following. We have done god knows how many river crossings, meaning my boots and socks are soaking wet, because we can’t wear sandals or have bare feet for “safety reasons,” which to me, is a pile of bullshit. The fact that wet boots give everyone bad blisters ALL OVER THEIR FREAKING FEET is more the safety issue, but Dandruff Dave thinks a cut would be a lot more painful. Well, somebody needs to tell Dave that once you’ve cut yourself, you don’t really feel it, because you put pressure on it, and the pain goes. But a blister, a blister doesn’t stop hurting when there is pressure on it. No, instead, it bursts after a few hours of agony, and then pus goes everywhere if you’re lucky, and it will probably get infected. Joy.

Sorry. Rant over.

Anyway, the gorge is quite pretty, and it has shade, which I am thankful for. We saw what looked like a suicide note graffitied on a wall of the rocky edge cliffy thing. I would’ve taken a photo if I hadn’t been wading through water. It said though: “IF YOU EVER SAW ME SMILING, YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT I ACTUALLY FELT SICK INSIDE”

2010 – 2 -12

Soo…after that depressing note, I leave to enjoy the food (salad and pan). 

Back. It was all good. So was food. The highlight of my day has to be the oranges. Oh, and Mr Dell’s and Franki’s farting competition was pretty funny. They’re the Fart Patrol now. We spent dinner in a Berber tent discussing boyfriends, boys, and Mr Irvine’s Butt.2 Mr Irvine was my Irish Year 8 English teacher, the one that said “porn” instead of “poem”. Because of his accent. And “Cher” instead of “shower.”

Anyway, he is also sharing a house with Mr Dell, and Mr Dells’ brother. But he has a huge butt. It’s very noticeable. And now Mr Dell is going to take a look. Euurrrggghh, I’m really tired though, so I’m gonna sleep.3

Day 5

 

9th April 20124

HALF WAY THROUGH!!!!

Yaayyy!!! Half way through our trip. I am enjoying it so much, but I can’t wait to see a proper bed, let alone sleep in it. And the luxury of being woken up by an alarm clock at 6:30, rather than the prayer call at 4:30. Still, when I’m home, it’ll be hard not to speak French, and I won’t be able to stop calling bread “pan”. Can’t wait to see everyone though. Especially to show off this non-existent tan. No, wait, I lie. I have a watch-strap mark, – and god is it sexy.

I forgot to mention the campsite yesterday. We got there, and there was two guys, sitting in the middle of east Jesus nowhere, selling fizzy drinks. I got a coke, and it was the best coke ever5. However, when we looked at it, it had 4 e-numbers and way more sugar than your standard English bottle. It had 64% of the Daily Recommended Allowance for sugar in. Think that’s bad? Rhianna got the last Fanta orange, and it was a radioactive fluorescent orange colour. It really was neon, and had 8 E nos. in, and even worse, was 72% of the RDA for sugar. It probably made her hyper, and then everyone wanted one. But, well, she got the last one.

Franki also had some Dextrex, so she was hyper over dinner. She did the same tonight.

Back to today’s news. We only walked 12km, but it was worse than the other days. It was mainly all uphill, on a rocky, crumbly surface. Loads of people fell over (strangely enough, I haven’t yet, which is unusual for me), but no one is dead yet. Thankfully, as we ascended (posh, I know), it got a bit cooler, and there was a hint of a breeze. The view was good, and I like the atmosphere up here, despite it being overly colourful. Not. Everything, and I really do mean everything, is the same colour as the rock, orange. It all blends in. Have these people not heard of paint??

As I write this, I can hear the mules sneezing. It is very funny. The best bit of today, was definitely the food.

For lunch, we had pasta, bread, lentils (carbs, carbs, carbs!), sardines and, OMG, CHIPS!!!!! We went crazy, and possibly scared the guides. But then, it gets better, because when we got to camp, which was an empty house thing in a small village, with land around it, they had food for us, that wasn’t mint tea and biscuits. They had this sweet bread stuff, with a cream and hazelnut spread – which really is to die for. It was better than Nutella, and completely different. The bread, I need to make and eat back home. It was made from flour, water, milk and sugar I think. I got Rhianna to ask in French. It is the best.

Thinking about it, there is loads of stuff I have forgotten to mention.

Firstly, on Day One at the airport, I was responsible for the random drug search Laura and I got.7 We were waiting for Rhianna’s bag to get searched, and I was saying something like “It’s not like we’re child drug smugglers or anything.” And then at the same moment, a security dude was passing by, and Laura saw him speak into his radio thing, saying “These two on the end.” We were sitting on the end of the end bench, so er, yeah, it’s us. Then, alas, as we were walking away, some woman was standing at the exit staring at us, and as we got there, she was like “Excuse me, we’d just like to do a random drug search on your hand luggage.”

BAM – we were screwed. Obviously not, because as I said in the first place, we are not child drug smugglers. Tip for you all: never mention drugs at an airport. Anyway, we were all clear, except for the hand sanitiser Rhianna left in her bag.

Okay, next thing, on Day 4, our campsite was near the river. So, Laura, Rhianna, Ridhi, Katie, Natalie C and I all went down to wash hair, or as it turned out, each other’s’ hair, because we used bowls, as we didn’t want to make people’s water supply soapy. It was SO good! Pretty refreshing. Freezing cold, but nice. And we had to do a lot of back bending. What made me feel better is that everyone else had greasy hair.

Thirdly (is that a word? My sense of English has gone. Lost forever. I think it’s a word though), on Day 4, we also played football with the locals. The outnumbered us, and were about 6-8 years old. The Arabic guides though, who I believe go by the names of Yusef, Hassan, Husain and Syed joined our team, as well as the one Arabic girl. We lost. But then again, we were in sandals/flip-flops. Actually, that’s not really a valid excuse, because they were in bare feet.

That’s it for then really.

Tonight we were in the mud hut bit of the campsite for dinner, and camping in tent in the “garden”.  We also played a game of “Duck Duck Shoe” with the little girls from the village. It was only girls, and for some reason unknown to most of us, the boys were kind of forbidden to play. Maybe religion, or maybe typically violent male children. It was like Duck Duck Goose, but you dropped a shoe behind a person, and they had to run at you and touch you with it.

Overall, a good night. Off now. I crave a proper bed. And a mattress to go with. And normal milk instead of powdered. That’s all.

X

Day 6

10th April 2012, 10:38pm

Thank the Bloody Lord!

Today we completed our trek, finishing with a spiffing 20km again.  I had huge sweat patches (don’t worry, no bigger than everyone else’s), a dodgy non-tanned patch, and a need for jelly beans.

Leaving the campsite, we spotted two sheep skulls, five hooves/legs, three jaws, and a strange furry lumpy thing. The sheep round here look really healthy though, so god knows when the sheep massacre happened.

No river crossings today, which is good, but instead lots of rock climbing.

*Insert unpublishable paragraph of bitching about certain people here*8

Tonight, we are in a hostel, all in one big room. The guides leave us now, and I will be sad to see them go. It’s like losing your map in the middle of the desert. To finish our journey with them, we danced and sang English and Berber stuff.

Apparently I went a bit hyper when we got back to the room. I appear to have created a dance for losers of the Tarzan game. It’s really good. And then I went around I did some Russian Rasputin Dancing, and Just Dance dances including Ring My Bell. Now everyone thinks I am crazy. Especially as after my hyper fiasco, I sat in the corner, half crying, half hysterically laughing, and then stared at Laura for a while. Yeah…… It was probably the jelly beans. They still contained lots of sugar. And maybe I ate too many…..

As I write this, It’s just me and Caffa up, and Katie is deep breathing. I also have toothpaste on my spots, as does Laura and Franki, because according to Sophie and Sarah, it actually works. We will see.

I’ve got to say, the sun and Vitamin D is clearly getting to our heads. The debate on double dipping continued today, as well as creating and solving scenarios where we are faced with a pride of lions in the middle of nowhere – this is a serious question – Who will be eaten first, who will be allocated what role in our survival mission etc.

Katie has moved on and is talking now too. I keep hearing “I don’t know” and “Olive”, and occasionally “Hmmmm….No”.

The conversation over dinner tonight was generally about Hana’s love life, and how she calculates whether a boy likes her or not. Not very is well is the answer. She said because this guy she knows, also called Yusef, passed her the bread, he is deeply in love with her. The scary thing, is that she is serious. Mr Dell is worried now, seeing as he just passed her the tea…

Washed hair again today too – we had a mass shower of 5 people. I know it sounds extremely wrong, but the room was huge, we didn’t have a lot of time, and we were in bikinis/swim stuff. We went first, and it was me, Laura, Rhianna, Franki, Sophie and I. However, the shower was freezing cold, but we told all the other groups it warmed up nicely. It was funny to see their faces when they emerged, shivering and wanting to kill us…

What else today?

I don’t know right now. My legs ache a bit after 70 odd kilometres of walking, but if I think of anything, I’ll add it in.

Nighty night, as Agnes would say.

X

1. So this bloke, as well as being suicidal, can fly. Or owns a bloody big ladder. Both things are profitable, so someone will have talked him down. Hopefully.

2. I’m not sure whether ‘Mr Irvine’s Butt’ is supposed to be all capitalised, but it can stay there. ‘But’. Haha.

3. If Mr Dell, Mr Dell’s brother or Mr Irvine would like me to edit that out, do let me know.

4. Gerard Way’s birthday. Yout thought I couldn’t squeeze an MCR reference into a diary about Morocco? Never underestimate the power of the MCR fan.

5. I’m not sure if ‘coke’ should be capitalised, but that can stay there too. ‘Coke’. Haha.

6. Not falling over is unusual, as anyone in last week’s karate lesson can attest.

7. Actually, I’m responsible. So’s my dad. Because we are dark, and therefore not trusted in airports. Isobel knew this and talked about it. You’re welcome, Laura.

8. I’m supposed to decide what is and isn’t publishable. Let’s pretend I edited that out.

‘The Morocco Diary’: Day 3

  We return to Isobel’s World Challenge Adventures. It’s fun to comment, so I have. Note: Bel sends pictures with every update, and I’ll post the ones I don’t think are a giant violation of strangers’ privacy when the entire diary’s been published.

-F

Day 3

7th April 2012, 8.23am

 

WE MADE A FRIEND!  The whole of our group is hanging over the terrace, which in turn, is creaking, shouting at some kid sitting on the wall beneath us in French. Luckily, half of us remember some French, and four actually take it. His name is Mohammed and he’s nine. We have photos of him too. Poor guy. We’ll be leaving in a bit, so bye for now. 😀

6.49pm

EUUUURRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!

We walked 20km today, in this heat. My legs are worse than karate will ever make them1, and it’s so bloody hot. We looked at 4.00pm, and it was 26°C.

We’re at camp now, and I’m sharing a tent with Franki and Hana, my “tent buddies.”

We made more friends here too2. A bunch of kids who claim to be 12-14, that are actually probably 6-10. But there was a huge, flat sloped rock, that we stood on, and taught them the Macarena. I believe we have that on film too. They even remember the music, which we kind of sang. I only remember the names of three of them – Jamal, Syed and Mohammed.

God, there’s so much to talk about. Our guide, Yusef, is the guy that brought us tea at the hostel. He’s very nice, as well as all the other Arabic guys, who help out with everything. However, none of them speak English either, so once again, we’re relying on French and sign language.3

The scenery today was alright. But we had to walk up a long dry road, that kept going up. That was horrible, and right in the sun. But after 2 hours on that road, we just sung to pass the time. I forgot to say yesterday, that when people weren’t sleeping on the minibus, we just sang. It was pretty awesome actually, even the driver said so.4

On that road though, we passed a load of women carrying huge piles of sticks on their backs – poor people. Most of the women here are some kind of agricultural farmer thing, but either way, it’s not a job I would want.5

Footnotes

1: I beg to differ, and so would Sensei.

2: Where is ‘here’?  You should have attached a map. Most people I know can’t point to Morocco if you shove a drawing of Africa in their face, let alone work out from your diary where you are. And don’t comment saying ‘the middle of the freaking desert’. Google Maps would know.

3: I knew there was as reason I don’t sign up for foreign trips. My French and sign language knowledge consists of curse words.

4: I would beg to differ here to, had I been present.

5: That final paragraph sums up Western living, your education, your intelligence all that is wrong with the rich/poor divide at once.

Happy Wednesday.

  Apologies for the distinct lack of funny/Germany-related blogs, but I have had a pretty intense weekend and am still catching up on my beauty sleep. As you can tell, I need a lot of it:

 

  My camara ran out of juice a couple of times on the trip, so I need to raid some people’s Facebook pages and (this is a hint, guys) get some photos from my friends. You know what my email is. Once I’ve got enough stuff together I’ll work on a slide show or something – the only problem with this blog’s layout is the lack of space for photos. Either they’re too small to see or go in columns.

  Anyway, as we got to Berlin via aeroplane, have a looksie at some complaints made to Thomas Cook about holidays last season…

  • “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
  • “It’s lazy of the local shop keepers to close in the afternoons. I often need to buy things during the siesta times – this should be banned.”
  • “On my holiday to Goa, India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food at all.”
  • “We booked an excursion to a water park, but no one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels,”
  • “The beach was too sandy.”
  • “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white.”
  • “Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women.”
  • “We bought Ray Ban sunglasses for five euros (£3.50) from a street trader, only to find out they were fake.”
  • “No one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”
  • “There was no egg slicer in the apartment.”
  • “We went on holiday to Spain, and had a problem with the taxi drivers, as they were all Spanish…”
  • “The roads were uneven.”
  • “It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England, but it only took the Americans three hours to fly home.”
  • “I compared the size of our one bedroom apartment to our friends’ three-bedroom apartment, and ours was significantly smaller.”
  • “The brochure stated ‘no hairdressers at the accommodation.’ We’re trainee hairdressers, will we be okay staying there?”
  • “There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish, the food is Spanish, too many foreigners.”
  • “We had to queue outside with no air conditioning.”
  • “It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel.”
  • “I was bitten by a mosquito. No one said they could bite.”
  • “My fiancée and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”
  • A tourist at a top African game lodge overlooking a waterhole who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel ‘inadequate’.
  • A woman threatened to call the police after claiming that she had been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.
  • A guest at a Novotel in Australia complained his soup was too thick and strong. He was inadvertently slurping gravy at the time.

I have a few of my own to add:

  • Zakynthos, Greece: “The portions are too big. I am on a diet.”
  • Zakynthos: “The eggs are too strong.”