We made it inside the Cathedral, the 3rd biggest in the world after St Peters and St Pauls (of which I’ve visited both), another beautiful piece of architecture. We looked around with our audio guides (which were very thorough / boring) and walked up to the top tower to the lookout. Gem nearly crapped herself when one of the giant bells went off over her head! The crown there has the second largest pearl in the world.
From there we got lost walking to Plaza de España, where Star Wars was filmed. It’s a big U shaped building with stunning mosaics all around. I was exhausted and in a silly mood, we took some funny pics around the place!
Lunch time on the river (decidedly average tapas) then into the bull ring! Unfortunately there was no bull fighting on for another month, I would have loved to visit. We signed up for the next guided tour and was taken around the stadium which is the oldest in the world still in use. It’s privately owned and absolutely stunning. There’s a hospital, a museum and the grounds are the brightest yellow/ orange sand you’ve seen!
We learnt about the history of bullfighting and the toros (Bulls), little things like the ear of a bull is cut off as a trophy if the fight goes well and if it goes really well both the ears and tail are cut! Also the best ending for a bull fight is when there is a great bull and fighter who put on an incredible show and the judges wave a yellow flag, signalling to finish the fight with no death. The bull is then taken off to make little toros and treated like a king and the fighter is held in highest regard. Everyone wins.
Interestingly the Bulls only ever fight once and when they die, their meat goes to the local restaurants to be made into yummy tapas. Lots of the restaurants have bull heads on their walls, I wish I could have visited a stud farm.
From there, more gelato then out for dinner at a place where there was no English menu (clearly a local joint finally) and we had a lovely tapas dinner.
Gem and I went in search of a fresh breakfast (my waistline is seriously expanding) after seeing a market on Las Ramblas a few days before.
I got a beautiful little tray of berries. Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and a fresh green juice.
We wandered the streets and I bought some new pjs and a taco & tequila top.
We flew to Lisbon and checked into our hostel. Ha! I forgot the taxi driver. So we get this taxi driver from the airport to the hostel and he’s speaking rapidly in Portuguese to which I’m just replying to what I think he’s saying. Holy shite he drove fast! True crazy European driver. Flat foot and zig zagging around all the cars, beeping when they weren’t going fast enough for him and nearly causing multiple accidents. You’ve never heard so much beeping! Kept turning around and giving us little smiles and shrugging when I giggled at his actions as if to say ‘these other people driving terribly huh?!’ Hilarious.
Now I’m not a fan of hostels, but this one was fantastic. Very cool fit-out and atmosphere. It’s in a railway station but you’d never know it. It’s lush and green and the dorms were lovely and clean. Right in the heart of Lisbon. I was very impressed.
We attempted to get Tram 28 which takes you around all the city that the tourists want to see. Unfortunately, so did all the other tourists that day. Hangry, I left Gem in line and went in search of food. Came back with custard tarts (local special) and a choc croissant. Gave up on the line and paid a tuk tuk (you’d be half mistaken for thinking you were in Thailand) to take us to old town.
Old town was bustling and beautiful. The Lisbon streets are gorgeous. All tiny pavers on the ground and mosaic apartments. As always, with sheets and washing hanging out the windows. We wandered around exploring, marvelling at the architecture and graffiti. We later learned the graffiti was a big part of Lisbon, with many areas provided by the government to be creative on.
Unfortunately we ended up in the main tourist area for dinner. We sat in the middle of the street and people watched as we waited for our meals. We both had the grilled cod. What they didn’t mention was how the Portuguese prepare their cod. They rub it in salt and cure it then leave it to sit in salt water before grilling it. So it’s pretty salty. I wasn’t entirely impressed.
Thankfully our roommates didn’t get in till about 5am as I had a terrible night coughing up a storm. I wound up having tea in the common area from 3-4am trying to curb it.
We awoke to our AirBnB host, Mario, making us breakfast in the kitchen, croissants, cake and toast galore. Sweet touch. The girls set off on a walking tour I had also planned to go on but I’d really gone downhill over night and was ready to get some antibiotics and rest. Best laid plans always go astray!
Turns out the pharmacies (which are everywhere) don’t sell antibiotics over the counter. Dammit. They recommended a doctors and I jumped in a cab as I was feeling pretty fragile.
As it turned out the docs was the public hospital. And it was full. I took my ticket number and awaited my turn, trying to understand some of the Spanish. It was full of your usual public hospital characters…
Anyway my ticket comes up and the man says that as I’m kiwi I have to pay…. At another area. Following the yellow line I go, a man yells at me in Spanish, which I didn’t realise was at me, then came out to see why I hadn’t answered.
€65 later and I was up to the sixth floor to see the doc. I needed to blow my nose and noticed a lack of soap and hand towels in the bathroom, along with no toilet paper. I had a sudden wave of gratefulness wash over me, realising once again how lucky I am to live where I do.
Finally I’m called in and a jovial young male doc and his younger female apprentice (I think?) examined me thoroughly. Two stethoscopes on my chest, my back, two looks in my mouth, two blood pressure readings and much discussion between them. I was quite amused and they were engrossed with me.
The male doc explained through broken English that I had a chest infection (no surprises) and he would issue me with antibiotics. He confirmed my fear that I couldn’t drink. Dammit! In Spain, the land of sangria and wine and I can’t taste the local offerings.
Three hours later, and none of sleep which I had intended to do, I arrived back at the apartment to climb the stairs to relax.
The girls had messaged where to meet them for lunch and after finishing my consulting I was straight over to meet them.
La Paradeta is one of the best places I have eaten so far. A seafood restaurant favoured by locals (recommended by a guide), you go in and choose your fresh seafood and how you want it cooked. They weigh it and send it off to the kitchen in front of you. The seafood varieties were wide and I could barely choose! The lobsters were still alive, it was all so fresh and I was really excited to try it. We choose the prawns in garlic, baby octopus grilled, mussels in marinara, fried calamari and some raw oysters for a grand total of €40, including wine for the girls! One of our cheaper meals and one of the most fresh and delicious.
We savoured the food (oh and get the garlic sauce) and I sipped my sparkling water, smashing antibiotics, trying to feel better in time for Sagrada Familia, the famed Gaudi cathedral.
The cathedral itself is just breathtaking from the outside and even more so inside. I could talk for a long time on the meanings and learnings, but know this, if you’re in Spain, go there. It’s spectacular and one of the best things we did on the trip hands down. I was absolutely awestruck by Gaudi’s brilliant mind, the intricacies of the design and the sheer scale of the cathedral.
We did a tour up the top tower for some extra views around Barcelona before coming back down the stairs. It’s a freaking long way. So many stairs everywhere in Europe!
We went to Gaudi’s Park next but there was a 2.5hr wait and the walk up there (stairs, so many more) had exhausted me so I left the girls and went back to rest.
Thought I’d try find a massage first though… What a mess! Couldn’t find any so kept venturing further. Found a lady on the street with a massage sign, she took me up many sets of stairs where a man told me (surround by men in the waiting room) that there was only a ‘couples massage for 45 mins left’ when I was obviously alone. Yup, I had sure as hell walked into a men’s only massage parlour. The next one I saw was no different and I was quite far away and tried to wing the back roads home… Bla bla… Made it home with only half an hour to rest before I met the girls. Again, best laid plans always go astray!
I met the girls downstairs from the apartment and took them back to where I’d wandered through trying to get back. It was quite a cool area and we choose a restaurant for tapas and paella. Unfortunately we were seated next to some young Aussies who talked in what I would call, bogan accents about their latest conquests and who was ‘slaying’ who. They tried briefly to engage us but that was never going to happen.
Home to bed around midnight ready for our flights the next day, Asti to Singapore and Gem and I to Portugal.
We left the boat early in the morning, everyone feeling pretty average. Asti has booked a hotel the night before to try sleep off her illness in comfort, the rest of us were a pack of coughing, hungover humans quite happy to be getting off the rocking boat.
We took the bus straight to the airport. Packed in like sardines, we had to stand up in the alley and the motion sickness combined with my hangover had me repeating ‘you will not spew on the bus’ over and over. I made it there, and made it through check in… But then ran to the bathroom and spewed my guts out. Felt heaps better after that!
In Barcelona we found our AirBnB apartment with ease and Mario, was the ever enthusiastic host. He carried my bag up the ‘four’ flights (read six) of stairs to his apartment where the three of us were uber excited to have real beds and showers and space after the boat.
By this time my cough and sweats had set in and he also translated the instructions for the medication I had picked up.
We explored Las Ramblas where we were staying (awesome place to be based), grabbed a snack and set out across the city. We walked to the waterfront, the gothic quarter and Arc De Triomf before returning to Las Ramblas for dinner. Big mistake. Do not eat on Las Ramblas! Staff couldn’t give a flying f*ck, prices were inflated and well, the staff really made it a terrible experience. We couldn’t even leave for ages because he wouldn’t get us the bill.
I was beginning to feel really unwell and Asti was still recovering so we had an early night in.
Want new blogs to your inbox?
Yeah you do!
Add your email to receive new blogs to your inbox. We promise not to spam.