From Barcelona With Love (AKA Tales from my Holibobs: Part Two)

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This morning Facebook informed me that today is the first day of summer and although the sun has put in an appear over the last hour or so, today has mainly been dark and gloomy and rainy. I'm not going to moan as it means I got to go for a walk with my gorgeous daisy umbrella and if you give it a couple more weeks they'll probably be announcing a hosepipe ban anyway!

With 53 days to go until my next holiday I realised I am probably better off cherishing the sunnier moments from my holiday back in May and I thought I'd share them with you today. (Better late than never seems to be my most used line, but it's true.) Back in April I wrote about how Barcelona became one of my favourite places to visit and on Monday 9 May I boarded a plane from Gatwick to go back there for the fifth time. 

When I booked the holiday towards the end of last year I was so excited, but in the run up to it I have to admit I was feeling less than enthusiastic. I was feeling a little down about my lack of gusto for the trip and wondered whether I should have just cancelled it when I moved back home with Mum. The fact that thunderstorms were forecast for most of the week probably didn't help either.

Despite the forecast apparently being true as we landed in torrential rain, my mood lifted as we walked out of Barcelona-El Prat and made our way to the bus stop. That tingling anticipation of being in my favourite place in the world had returned.

Later I spoke to Mum about how I had been feeling and we decided that we had probably both been concentrating so much on getting through the Isle of Wight and saying goodbye to Nan and Granddad that we hadn't given ourselves the chance to actually look forward to going to Barcelona. Now we were here, we were determined to make the most of it, whatever the weather!

In a change from my usual choice of hotel when staying in Barcelona, we treated ourselves to one that is right on La Rambla and just a minute's walk from Plaça de Catalunya. I am always nervous about speaking Spanish as I know I'm not very good, but the gentleman on reception was so happy and encouraging that I enjoyed practising with him. As our flight landed early evening, we were quite hungry by the time we got to the hotel. 

We decided to have dinner at my favourite place to eat in the city - Flaherty's Irish Pub. Most people see it as a cop out to go to an Irish pub while in Spain, but it is right opposite the university I went to while on placement and I have very fond (though sometimes hazy) memories as I went there most days be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a drink between lectures, cocktails or just to watch the football (yes, I used to enjoy watching football).
On Tuesday morning we walked the short way to Plaça de Catalunya and enjoyed a spot of people watching over breakfast. We then went to the bus stop and bought a two-day pass for the Barcelona Bus Turístic. I swear I have used this every time I've gone to Barcelona. There are three different routes that take you around the main tourist hotspots. I love it because you can hop on and off as many times as you want and you can get to see the city instead of sitting on the Metro. It's worth every penny, particularly as it comes with a discount booklet for lots of different tourist attractions and fast food outlets.
The destination for the first full day of our holiday was Mount Tibidabo. It's something that I had never done on any of my previous visits so I was quite excited. We took the Funicular del Tibidabo up to the summit on what was looking to be a glorious day. Once you get up to the summit there isn't actually much up there apart from the Amusement Park, the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor and a pretty awesome view of the city. I'd also heard about a geocache in amongst all the love locks that can be found at one of the viewpoints, but we weren't able to find it. 
Once we had taken lots of photos we took the funicular back down the mountain and then strolled down to the bus stop so we could get the bus back to La Rambla. We had lunch at a lovely little pizzeria and decided that we'd go back to the hotel for a rest before going back out. Shortly after we got to our room we heard the rain start to fall. It rained and rained and rained. That evening we ended up dashing to the supermarket for some snacks and went back to our room via the ice cream parlour and watched NCIS dubbed in either Spanish or Italian.
Wednesday was the last day that we had our bus ticket so we decided to make the most of it. Mum was sure that she hadn't been to Montjuïc so we decided to go while the weather was good in case it took a turn for the worse again. We took the funicular up the hill using the discount from our tourist bus booklet, but the walk up the hill is also very pleasant. Once we were up there we had a leisurely stroll around the castle ruins. In the past I've run around the city like a loon trying to fit everything in as I've usually gone with someone who hasn't been before. This time it was wonderful to just enjoy being in a place that I love and not having to rush.
Once we'd had enough of walking we got the bus to Port Olímpic and had lunch at another one of my favourite places to eat - Crêperie Bretonne Annaíck. Apart from the fact that I love a crepe, savoury or sweet, the kitchen is a silver double decker bus. I love it!
After lunch we took yet another stroll along the beach. Despite the weather the previous two days it was actually quite warm and if we'd thought about putting our swimsuits on under our clothes, we could have had a little dip. As it was we just enjoyed the feel of the sun on our face as we walked back to La Rambla.
Thursday was our last full day in the city and we decided to just have a shopping day so we wandered mainly around the Barri Gòtic. It was another beautiful day apart from one quick shower. We ended our holiday with another meal at the Irish Pub mainly because we wanted to celebrate the holiday with a few cocktails. I'm sure by the time you're in your 30s its OK to be a bit tipsy in the presence of your mum, especially when she is too, right...?
I had a lovely weekend away and it was just what I needed. I can't wait to go back to Barcelona, hopefully in the not too distant future and go full on tourist again. Until then, goodbye you crazy, beautiful city.


DofE Diamond Challenge Update

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Back in February I wrote a post about the DofE Diamond Challenge which you can read here. I thought I'd give you all a little update particularly since I made the decision a while back to change my personal challenge. 

Last summer I got a Fitbit Charge for my birthday which really pushed me to walk the three miles to work every day so that I could reach my 10,000 step goal. As the weeks went on I started walking longer routes to work and starting doing walks on Sunday mornings as well as parkrun (or parkwalk as Mum and I like to call it) on a Saturday morning. By September I was feeling so much fitter and I really enjoyed the time I had to myself listening to music or audio books or just time to clear my head ready for the day ahead.

At the end of September that all changed when I got a new job in Tonbridge and had to start driving to work. My weekly average went down from around 85,000 steps to just 35,000 (to be honest that's probably being generous) and as the weather got worse I even stopped doing my weekend walks. I used the dark mornings and bad weather as my excuse and my motivation just dissipated.

I decided to change my challenge back in April when I was planning our holiday to Barcelona. I knew that our trip would be an excellent opportunity for lots of walking and with spring well and truly in the air I really wanted to start walking regularly again. I am awake early most morning anyway so since the beginning of May I have been getting to work between an hour and a half and two hours early and just going for a walk before work. 
I've really enjoyed getting to know the area where I work and will hopefully one day live. I love just looking on Google Maps and deciding where I am going to go the next day. I've found several routes now that I like to rotate so that I don't get bored and most of them can be made slightly shorter or longer and I use mapmywalk to record the distance and time it takes to complete the route so that I have something to refer to. 

It has also helped me to start regaining the fitness that I had worked so hard to build up last summer. This leads me on to my challenge. It is recommended that everyone walks 10,000 steps a day and while I do try to do this, there are obviously some days where I just want to have a duvet day and watch Harry Potter until my mum begs me to put something else on. 

So I decided that my personal challenge would be to walk 600,000 steps over 60 consecutive days. While that does work out at 10,000 steps a day I didn't want to commit to that in case the weather was absolutely atrocious or I had an injury or something. However I am pleased to so that today is day 43 of 60 and not only have I managed to walk at least 10,000 steps every day, but I am also 100,000 up on my target so far.
Once the challenge is over I am determined to keep walking regularly and hopefully by autumn I can find a few exercises classes near me to keep me going until the weather is dry enough to walk again.

Just a reminder that you can donate to The Duke of Edinburgh's Award using the JustGiving link to the right or text TGDC60 followed by the amount you would like to donate (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070. If you want to create your own personal challenge and raise money for this fantastic cause you can do so here.

Saying Goodbye (AKA Tales from my Holibobs: Part One)

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I am so overdue in doing this seeing as it's now a whole month since I got back from my holidays, but better later than never as they say. I've had a weird week and my next holiday seems so far away still so I thought instead I would reminisce about my last one. Let me take you back to Friday 6th May when me, my mum, my uncle and my cousins descended upon Portsmouth & Southsea...

The reason for our visit was perhaps not the most joyous of occasions as we had planned a day trip to the Isle of Wight to scatter the ashes of my nan and granddad. Despite the reason for our visit I was excited to see upon our arrival that the hotel was right on the seafront and next to the amusements and funfair. The air was full of the smell of fish & chips and fresh, hot donuts. We, OK, I had an early night ready for the next morning when we had a lovely walk along the seafront to the ferry. I even found a sign at Gunwharf Quays that made the Potterhead in me leap for joy. Of course, I had to take a photo.
The ferry trip was quick and calm and once we got to Ryde we found a lovely cafe to have some breakfast before walking back to the pier to get a bus to Ventnor. We always used to go there for our holidays during May Half Term and then when I left school, they started to go in September instead. I have very fond memories of those holidays. My best friend from school Sarah used to come with us and my granddad always used to give us a pound's worth of two-pence pieces to use at the amusements. I had planned to change a pound up for old time's sake so imagine my disappointment as we walked along the Esplanade and saw that they were all boarded up. Sorry Granddad, maybe next time.
We stopped at The Spyglass Inn for a quick drink before making our way to their final resting place. It was one of the pubs which my granddad would frequent. He'd start off at one end of the Esplanade and work his way down to the other where we'd often find him sitting on the bench chatting to anyone and everyone who passed him.

Once we were all refreshed from the heat (the weather was beautiful as promised) we walked up the path where my mum used to walk our dog Ben and found a quiet spot. The ongoing joke of the weekend had been to check the wind direction before setting them free and luckily it was working in our favour. Once it was done we all had a quiet moment with our thoughts before heading back into town. While I have no doubt in my mind that my nan and granddad loved each other, they argued like crazy. It made me chuckle to think that if you listened very closely to the wind, you might just be able to hear the sound of them bickering.
The rest of the day was spent visiting some of our favourite places on the island. The morning had gone much quicker than we expected so in the end we only had time to visit Godshill and Shanklin (with an ice cream at the latter), but it was lovely to revisit them after 13 or so years. I am sure my cousins would have liked longer there as they had never been before. 
We made our way back to Ryde and got the ferry back to the mainland where we enjoyed a scrummy family meal together. For me the best thing about the weekend was all of us being together for the amount of time we were. Even if my mum and I have a weekend up in Norfolk we might only see my cousins of an hour or two here and there so I cherished every moment.

After dinner the kids went to explore the amusements and Mum and I went to try and find a geocache aptly named 'Never Forgotten'. Unfortunately we're couldn't find it, but on the way back to the hotel we did find another. (We also attempted to find one in the other direction on Sunday morning, but the less said about that the better.) The sea air led me to another peaceful night's sleep and only one day left before my proper holiday.
To be continued...
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