Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Two and a half weeks to go!

We're now two and a half weeks from take-off, and while I've knocked over a few of the things on my to-do list, there are still a bunch to go.

What I have done:

  • Organised International Drivers Permits for both JD and me
  • Bought spare battery for camera (actually three, after the first one took so long I doubted it would come at all - who knew that the best route from Hong Kong to Australia was via Sweden?)
  • Advised school of boys' absence
  • Renewed scripts for medicines, still need to get extra refill to cover period away
  • Confirmed no additional vaccinations required (although we didn't get the HepA booster we should have after India, and probably should follow up)
  • Decided I'll get an Italian SIM while I'm there, rather than any of the other options
  • Prepared a first-draft packing list, and discovered that JD and the boys will need to do some clothes shopping before we go (see after the jump)
  • Booked JD and the boys for haircuts a week before we leave
  • Added weather reports of a few of our key locations so I can distract myself when it's cold and wet outside. It's 3:30am in Cahus, and 18C there right now - that's higher than today's forecast maximum and it's a relatively warm day today.
  • Got a couple of collapsible water bottles (freebies from Yarra Trams)

I'm also keeping a close eye on Iceland's volcanoes which are threatening to blow. After the disruption caused by the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, I'm a little wary of what might happen. At the very least, I'll be sure to have at least one extra week's worth of medicines with me. And travel insurance to cover any losses.

As an aside, Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority now allows mobile devices to be used during take-off and landing, and Qantas and Virgin have formally received approval. I decided to check Emirates policy, and it appears it's been okay all along (as long as they're in flight mode). Yay! I definitely won't need to get a paperback version for flying.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Barcelona: dammit, two days will not be enough

Dad lent me a tourist guide for Barcelona, and the more I browse through it, the more I suspect we won't make it to Montserrat. With only two days in Barcelona, there's too much to see and do!

We arrive around 8pm on Monday night by train, and fly out at 12:30pm on Thursday. (I haven't checked whether we're required to be at the airport two hours before because its technically an international flight, or whether intra-EU flights count as domestic. Either way, Thursday morning is pretty much a write-off.)

So that gives us all of Tuesday and all of Wednesday. And Wednesday I've already booked.

On advice from several people, including my SIL, Rachel, who has just returned from a whirlwind trip around bits of UK & Europe, I have booked tickets for Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. (All pics on this page are from wikimedia, unless credited otherwise.)

Sagrada Familia
Our committed Wednesday schedule looks like this:
10:30am Entry to Sagrada Familia basilica
11:15am Hour-long guided tour
12:45pm Entry to the Nativity tower (including the lift)
 -- grab some lunch etc, and catch a taxi to the front gate of Parc Guell by 3:30pm or so --
4:00pm  Entry to the Monumental Park bit of Parc Guell
Parc Guell
So, that's Wednesday pretty much done. But there's a whole heap of other things I want to see in Barcelona, and I don't think I can squeeze them all into Tuesday.

There's "La Ruta del Mondernisme", a 4km walking route (plus deviations) covering around thirty of the fifty-odd key buildings, starting at Palau Guell, and going up past the Illa de la Discordia, to the Casa Mila. There is a Guidebook (12 Euro), which includes half-price entry to all the monuments. It's so full on that the "One Day Route" recommends only visiting inside one of the monuments.
Casa Mila

One of the included monuments that I'm very keen to see is the Palau de la Musica Catalana. Tours run every half hour, and last an hour. They are open 10am to 3:30pm. There are English-speaking tours on the hour, from 10am to 3pm incl, with up to 55 people per tour (Euro 18 per adult, various discounts available).
Palau de la Musica Catalana
I think Ky may be interested in visiting a whole bunch of surreal/fantastic buildings, but I suspect Jos and JD might get a bit over it. Perhaps they can do some of the other things and report back instead.

There's the Barcelona History Museum which I mentioned in my earlier post which focuses on the 13th and 14th centuries, but also has some Roman baths, mosaic floors, and other bits in the basement

There's the Museu Maritim, in the former shipyards with a collection of vessels from a replica 16th century galley, to a wooden submarine, open 10am-8:30pm.
Rowing slaves on the replica of the medieval galley (photo credit)
The Fundacio Joan Miro looks wonderful, as does the Museu Picasso, and the Salavador Dali ones are a bit further out of town.
Woman and Bird, at Parc de Joan Miro

And even if we can't get to Montserrat to go on a funicular and cable car to the top of Montjuic hill, where many of the 1992 Summer Olympics events were held. Unfortunately, I think my chronic shoulder injury means I won't be able to go diving there.
10m platform, with Sagrada Familia in the background (AFP/Getty via dailymail)