Barcelona

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Top comment from friends/family on hearing we went to Barcelona: "Did you get pickpocketed?"

No!

And now that we've got that important question out of the way, here's a vague summary of what did happen:

Sagrada Familia and other Gaudí stuff

I've seen plenty of photos of the exterior of the Sagrada Familia, and yet I was still surprised that it managed to be even uglier in real life. The nativity facade features carvings on top of carvings on top of carvings. I believe this side was 'finished' before Gaudí got squashed by a tram, but I can't help wondering how much more, well, more it might have been if he'd lived longer.

The passion facade is a lot less bonkers (and certainly has nowhere near as much carved shit), but still not exactly nice to look at - it's very stark and pointy and looks really mean.

The inside, on the other hand... wow.  It's so colourful!  And not much in-your-face religious imagery, which is a very refreshing change from all the other Spanish cathedrals I've visited.

colourful stained glass in the Sagrada Familia
mmm rainbowy

One side's windows are predominately reds and yellows, while the opposite is blues and greens.  With the light shining through it's pretty much one big glowing abstract rainbow.  I like rainbows.

[Bonus points go to Jon for somehow putting his phone camera in black and white mode while taking photos of the stained glass!]

We went for a tower tour of the nativity facade, which involved a lot of stairs, general confusion of which way you’re supposed to go, and some close ups of the (ugly) 'bowls of fruit' at the top of some of the (many) towers.

There are plenty of other Gaudí designed buildings in Barcelona that we didn't bother visiting, but we did cough up €10 to go around the monument zone in Park Güell. You do get a nice view over the city, but although it was exactly what I was expecting, I generally found it a bit underwhelming.  

A large case of "pots and kettles" here, but there were soooo many people just taking photos - my favourite being a lady who was very visibly tutting and rolling her eyes whenever someone dared to walk in the background of "her" personal instagram photoshoot. Sorry, but that's what happens when you decide to pose on a busy footpath at a popular tourist site!!

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Malta

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An extra day off work for my birthday seemed like a good excuse for a long weekend away.  In fact, I insisted on it!  After some debate, we settled on Malta for a mix of history, culture and sunshine.  I've been to Malta before, in 2013, but Jon hadn't.

Thursday

Six thirty am flight.  Nnnggghhh... We landed at about 11, dropped our bags off at the hotel in Sliema, and hopped on a bus to Mdina.  Wandered around the walled city (which doesn't take long!) and shared a very tasty Maltese platter for lunch.  Fresh bread, crackers, sheep's cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, etc, with a glass of wine each. Yum.

Mdina city gate
Mdina gate, with bricked up medieval gate also visible.
No idea why I didn't move slightly to the right to get a better photo, hmm.  I blame the heat.

Suitably refreshed, we visited the dungeons then left the walled city to see St Paul's catacombs in Rabat. I have to admit I got a bit bored of catacombs fairly quickly - there's a lot of them, and they're all very similar...

Friday

Started the day bright and early with a 2hr segway tour of Valletta. Including holding up the traffic on some of the very narrow and steep streets. Near the end of our tour I discovered that it is possible to fall off a Segway while travelling along a flat pavement.  Oops. No harm done though - just a grazed elbow, assorted bruises on both sides of both legs (??) and a bit of damaged pride.

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British Camp

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Continuing the occasional series of "Katy and Abi go for walking with the dogs". Plan A was a weekend in Pembrokeshire, camping and walking some bits of coast path.  But then we remembered that Pembrokeshire is quite a distance away and the weather forecast looked a bit crap, so time for Plan B.  This involved flicking through several local guidebooks and maps and eventually settling on the Malverns.

Starting at Hollybush, we headed for British Camp via Millennium hill, then down to the Malvern Hills Hotel.  As it wasn't quite midday we debated if it was too early to stop for lunch, but decided against walking further as the rain seemed to be getting heavier.  Turns out this was a very good decision as it absolutely chucked it down the whole time we were eating.

dog standing on a hill

As we left the pub after finishing our roast dinners, we noticed a sign on the door saying "sorry no dogs today".  Fairly sure that wasn't there when we arrived, as it's a very dog friendly pub - Tilly and Cai weren't the only ones in there by a long shot!  Maybe they were actually just running out of space to fit all the dogs in...

Our route back took us past the reservoir and skirted the edge of the woods before rejoining the track back to the car park.

British Camp reservoir

About 10km in total I think, though as I didn't pause my watch while we were in the pub  it went a bit squiggly mad and added on some extra imaginary distance.