Adrenalin Reef Snorkelling Day Trip Review

I spent the week in Townsville for a conference and as much fun as industry conferences can be, I decided to take a day and head out to the Great Barrier Reef to spend a day looking at the fishes.  As it turns out, there is only one operator in Townsville that does snorkelling and SCUBA day trips and that is Adrenalin Snorkel Dive.  I was quite surprised a the lack of options, I thought there would be at least two or three operators taking visitors out to the Reef from ‘Queensland’s northern capital city’ (quote; Jenny Hill, Townsville Mayor), but alas… it seems to be these guys or head to Mission Beach several hours away.  So given that they’re the only mob in town, I thought I’d write up a detailed review that might be useful to future punters

I used to SCUBA dive in my early 20s and I was very tempted to do their ‘Introductory Dive’ for people who don’t have a PADI qualification, but was somewhat put off by the additional cost, the stress of trying to remember all that long lost dive shit, and hate dealing with hire snorkel equipment let along hire dive equipment (leaky masks, cheap inflexible snorkels etc – all leads to a less than ideal day snorkelling let along diving).  So I decided for the hassle free option of just snorkelling instead.

We were to meet at the Townsville Breakwater Marina, and given I don’t know Townsville very well, so I allowed myself heaps of time to walk there from The Ville Resort where we were staying.  Just as well, I was quite confused heading out there.  I saw one little sign that pointed from the pedestrian paths that head up the Strand, which read; “Adrenalin, this-a-way” and then was wandering through what felt like a gated community of apartment buildings?  It was not very clearly marked where we were supposed to go, so I was meandering through this residential area, and by the time I found myself at what looked like an abandoned demolition site, I was looking around for someone to ask if I was in the right place?!  Went past a strange set of shops – a barber and the Red Baron Seaplane place (none of which were open that early) and was about to turn back and see if it was somewhere else, when I then happened to see the Adrenalin boat through a chainlink fence… so happily was in the right place after all. Early morning confusion is not ideal.  Another sign part way through all those apartment buildings would have saved us, (myself and the German backpackers who were wandering around lost with me), a bit of ‘wherethefuckarewe’ at 7am.

But, we found the boat and were met by the crew.  There was Achim, who was obviously our Tour Leader for the day (you could tell; he did all the talking), two other dive instructors, and Jeff, our somewhat surly, hung-over looking, and somewhat disinterested ‘Captain’, who was driving our boat for the day.  After sorting out some equipment for sizing etc, we all dutifully climbed aboard and tried to find a spot to sit and chat with our fellow travellers.  The boat heads then to Magnetic Island (about 30 mins ride) to pick up more pax before heading out to Lodestone Reef.  The ride was, in my opinion, extremely rough and uncomfortable, even though the ocean was not particularly choppy and there were no white caps or anything like that.  It just felt like Jeff was hammer down to get us out to the reef asap, and don’t spare the horses.  Yes, it’s a two hour ride, and yes, everyone wants to get the max time out of the reef, but it was no two hour pleasure cruise – it was hang on and if you want a cuppa, half fill your cup.  There was sufficient warning about potential seasickness (take a few preventative tablets if you get motion sickness!), which of course no one heeded, and then at least three or four people who were looking mighty green around the gills when the Crew were offering fruit and bikkies as a bit of morning tea.

My initial impressions of the boat were quite positive – it’s a typical dive boat, equipment down the middle, quick dry padded seating along the sides, shoes off, quick dry marine carpet on the deck.  But I think it could use a bit of TLC.  The carpets in places are pulling up and could create a trip hazard, the toilet door which is held open by a tattered rope is a bit odd, the space for passengers to put their personal gear was also full of extra rental equipment, so all our stuff was a piled up mess.  The ‘Dry Area’ was anything but – the floor was wet, there were wet towels left about on the floor and the benches, and the later the crew were getting changed out of wet wetsuits in there too?!  What was the point.  Little things about the boat made me feel like I was on a predominantly blokey worksite – grubby handprints on all surfaces, paint flaking off, mould on nylon screens, water and cordial dispensers that need a good scrub… things that don’t matter to people who primarily care about function I guess. Anyway, the whole boat feels like it needs a lick and a polish – or at the very least a visit from an overly officious mother-in-law who likes to clean while everyone is busy at work.

So after two hours of bumping along with very halting conversation – did I mention how loud the engines were on this boat?  Four hours of droning in the day and I was yelling at Mr K when I got back; gave me serious pause to be concerned or the employees who are working with that noise four hours a day, six days a week, however many weeks a year… they’ll all be deaf by 45 (hey, wait… maybe that is why Jeff the Captain seemed so disinterested – he’s just gone deaf!)  Huge unaddressed Occ Health and Safety issue for sure.  Meh.  We eventually get to the Reef and it was a fantastic spot – after the long bumpy ride, I would not have imagined that 80kms off the coast, there would be a calm, lightly lilting haven to drop anchor and go diving.  The SCUBA peeps got their various briefs yelled at them over the engine noise on the way out there – no briefing for the PADI qualified, minimal briefing for the ‘working through their log books’ and what I strongly suspect is an insufficient briefing for the Introductory ‘have a go’, non-qualified divers (I’ll come back to that later).

The snorkellers who need the least briefing, and you would have thought would be easiest to kick off the boat and get them in the water quickly, were somehow last to leave the boat after the divers spent a bunch of time pfaffing around with equipment checks etc, and taking up space.  The Crew did a great job of helping everyone get sorted for their diverse activities given their varying levels of skills, ability and familiarity. Actually, I think the Crew are the strength of this whole outfit.  We did our first dive/snorkel at around 10:30am and stayed out on the reef until about 12pm when we were called in for some lunch.

And it was gorgeous – lovely weather (after setting out with it looking very cloudy and overcast, the sun came out for us), warm water (around 23-24C), light waves which didn’t hamper swimming, minimal current and about 25m visibility.

lodestone-reef-4lodestone-reef-3 lodestone-reef-1

lodestone-reef-2

I took these pictures on my day out with my dinky little Olympus TG3 Tough underwater happy snapper… the place is far more beautiful than I could capture with that.  Lodestone Reef has kilometres of simply stunning corals and a plethora of fish and marine life.  We saw more fishes than I could list, some small black tip reef sharks, starfish, sea cucumbers, an eel, some crustaceans – it was everything the Great Barrier Reef is talked up to be.  I was buddied up with one of the German backpackers – and he had never been snorkelling before, and I think I can say that this is as good as it gets anywhere in the world. It was truly spectacular.

We stopped for a lunch of sandwiches with cold meats and salads around midday and I noticed that of the five people doing the Introductory dive, (one was working through is PADI dive log so had dived before; for the others this was their first SCUBA experience), two of them had gone down, and come back up to switch to snorkelling instead.  It seems that they felt somewhat overwhelmed at being ‘thrown in the deep end’, so they ditched it.  I can understand that – breathing underwater is a unique experience and it can feel quite weird at first, but what you’re not prepared for is the inability to communicate and many people will freak out when they suddenly realise they are in this isolated situation, with very little preparation, and no way to adequately communicate if they have a problem… which is exactly what they both said when asked why they abandoned their Introductory dive.  Most people learn to dive in controlled water conditions – swimming pools, off piers or beaches, not in open water 80kms off land.  I’m not sure if it’s wise to be throwing European tourists into SCUBA gear after a 20 minute talk; it’s probably putting them off the activity for life.

Over our lunch break, we had a very comprehensive and informative talk about the different corals and different species we were observing on the Reef.  Even though I grew up in Queensland and have been skin-diving in Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and loads of places around Australia, I found this presentation to be really helpful.  It was definitely useful to many of the foreign visitors who have never seen this sort of marine life, and they had a much better understanding of what they were looking at in the afternoon dive after having the opportunity to hear this information from the Tour Leader.

After lunch, we had another dive/snorkel for about an hour and a half before the horn was blasted to come back to the boat for the ride back.  Now, the divers were all back on board by the time the horn was blown and most of them were dry and changed and happy – the length of their dive having been dictated by their air tank capacities, or the dive instructors telling them it was time to go; who knows, but they were all aboard.  It was the half a dozen snorkellers who had to rush back to the boat and were barely hauled aboard when the anchor was pulled up and the Captain gunned it to head back to land.  Which meant no time to rinse the salt off, no time to change into dry clothes, no time to grab a cuppa, before we were being thrown around like rocks in a lapidary tumbler for the next two hours.  I made the mistake of wanting to change out of my wet things for the long uncomfortable trip back, and was jostled around mightily in the only change space available – the dinky little toilet.  I should have just sat through the trip in my wet, sticky bathers because I hurt myself attempting to change with one hand holding onto a grab rail and the other trying to pull on clothes feeling like I was being agitated in a washing machine.

The ride back to Townsville was exactly as the trip out, bumpy and uncomfortable, and sitting sidelong to the boat, rather than facing forward or backwards, really doesn’t help you maintain your balance.  We did slow down a couple of times when the Captain spotted some humpback whales which was a cool and unexpected bonus for the day.  The Crew were circulating with more fruit, biscuits and fruitcake for everyone – diving, swimming or snorkelling is exhausting business if you are not used to it, so those snacks were much appreciated, but again, having a cuppa was a seriously questionable decision.

At the end of the day, we were given feedback forms and I was happy to tick all the 4 and 5’s for ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent’, but there was limited opportunity to provide any substantial feedback, especially considering you are 1) attempting to write while being thrown about as the boat bounced along and 2) you are handing the form right back to the guys you are reviewing and there’s less than 20 pax, so not hard to see who has written what.  Almost immediately after the feedback forms were handed in, I was disappointed to see a ‘tip jar’ placed on the table and a bit of spruiking encouraging people to leave a tip if they had a good time.  Like most Australians, who are unaccustomed to tipping, I was not impressed.  We have all shelled out somewhere between $240 for the snorkelling day trip to $350 for introductory dive daytrip PER PERSON and here we are being pressed for a tip.  Anyone reading this from the United States… in Australia, we have award wage structures that cover people working in hospitality and service industries, including the tourist industry, which ensures a decent living wage.  Tipping is not required to ‘supplement income’ the way it is in the US where people get paid a pathetic $2.15 an hour to work in a restaurant.  The fact that American tourists have trained tour operators worldwide to EXPECT tips at the end of an expensive tour is getting really tiresome.  I fully believe ‘when in Rome’, and pay my tips like a good little girl when travelling in the US, but if Australian service providers start expecting tips when we know staff are well paid for what they do, then they can get stuffed.  We tip when and if we want, for exceptional service only, where we feel staff went above and beyond what is expected for the price of admission.  /ENDRANT

Other than that slight unpleasantness, I have to say I had an amazing day out.  I was ill prepared for how rough the ride out to the Reef would be – but that is probably due to my more recent ocean going experiences all being on enormous cruise ships, with the occasional tender boat ride.  I would highly recommend this trip as a great way to see the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, and the experience has me looking up ways to renew my PADI dive qualifications.  🙂

Pokemon Go Egg Hatchings

If you usually tune into this blog for travel updates, you will just have to ignore a couple of posts… rest assured, the travel will be back shortly!  😀

I have been playing Pokemon Go since coming back from Barcelona and have to say it is sure keeping me active.  I have walked nearly 300kms (time that I undoubtedly would have couched) in the last couple of months, and that’s nothing to sneeze at for a chronically pained person… pain levels are through the roof of course, but an extra bonus, I’m down a few kilos.  Go me.

Anyway, we have a little Facebook group chatting about Pokemon Go, called the Magikarp Appreciation Society, and I said I would post up some experiences with egg hatchings because most of us in the group have some level of OCD/compulsive behaviour going on in varying degrees 😉 and the randomness of egg hatchings is driving some of us crazy!

5km egg 1

I decided to try and hatch whole batches of the same egg to try to not keep getting ‘random’ shit hatches.  It felt like every 5km egg I was hatching was a silly Psyduck or a Polliway, and every  every single time I hatched a 2km egg it was undoubtedly a Zubat or a Weedle, and of course all of those are everywhere!  Now I can’t really back that up with empirical evidence, because I wasn’t writing them down, but it certainly felt like every hatched 2km or 5km egg was completely common rubbish. So I thought trying to hatch a bunch of the same kms eggs together was worth a crack (pun intended).

The first clutch of the same eggs I managed to get together were 5km eggs… Took a little while to get most of the screen full of 5km eggs, but by walking off the 2km ones, and leaving the 5km ones behind, I eventually got what I was hoping for.  It seems 10km eggs are hard to come by in Pokestops hereabouts.  I picked up a bunch of incubators from The Shop, and off I went.  Results were:

5km egg 2 eggsAt this point, I was pretty happy with my wash – eight 5km eggs hatched and every single one of them a different creature.  Plenty of candy and no Psyducks or Polliwags in sight!  If this works, and eight eggs reliably ends up with eight different creatures – I wanted to work my way into having a whole page of 10km eggs to try and get something other than another common-as-all-giddy-up-annoying-as-fuck Pinsir from a 10km egg!

So I tried it again… with eggs as per image to the left.  10km being held over to hopefully one day get a screen full of them.  Results were, again, pretty good… some the same as last time, but importantly, all eight were different creatures.

This seemed to be working, so I kept up with the mass evolvings rather than just walking them off sporadically or starting them out of time with each other.  The next batch, I only had six 5km eggs (as I was hoarding 2kms and 10km ones so I could try and do similar mass evolvings…

As you can see, this batch of four sadly hatched two Psyducks, which blows my theory that the game isn’t mean enough to throw up multiples of the same creature in a mass egg hatching.  Though I have vague recollections of having to stop part way setting these going in order to fetch another incubator from The Shop, and was doing it in the car while Mr K was driving, so it’s possible that the last Psyduck wasn’t in the batch but rather 100-200m behind the others, but popped up at the same time because the in-game GPS and pedometer is a bit fickle.  I’ve notice big discrepancies between what my Apple Watch says I have walked compare to what the game thinks I have walked… Watch will say 2.2kms walked, game will show only 1.8kms walked..?  Go figure, they’re both running off the same phone.

The next batch was all different again – and this time I know they were set going in one hit at home…

So by now I am sitting on three 10kms eggs waiting to get a whole batch, and a few 2km eggs that I thought I’d try and get going together. I’d say about 75-80% of eggs I pick up are 5km eggs, which will make getting eight or nine 10km eggs quite a lengthy process.  The first 2km batch looked like this:

Charmander and a bunch of candy – very cool; Magikarp candy never goes to waste, and the rest is what I usually see when I hatch a 2km egg one at a time.  Second batch of 2km eggs yielded pretty much the same deal, one ‘coo’ hatch and rubbish:

I have run two more batches of 2km eggs, and each time got one ‘good’ Pokemon – another Charmander and a Pikachu – each of which hatched along with three really common ones: Pidgey, Zubat, Weedle or Caterpie (sorry, I stopped screen-grabbing the commons because I am sick to death of goddamn Weedles!).  So far, I feel that hatching in batches is definitely worthwhile.  The bigger the batch, the higher likelihood of getting a few decent egg hatches in one hit.

After that I had enough for another batch of 5km eggs… again, all different.

So overall, my very unscientific, completely subjective user reinforced opinion is that it is much better to hatch a bunch of eggs together than to walk off just one at a time, or to walk off a few that have been set going at different times to avoid Zubat overload.  However, yale has rightly pointed out that this could just be a really obvious case of subjective user confirmation bias.  🙂  So take it with a grain of salt.

Oh, and I will totally update this if I manage to get a handful of 10km eggs together to hatch all at once… I have four so far.

Update 11th Sept…

currentI am currently sitting on five 10km eggs and still trying to fill a screen full of them to evolve en masse. It’s certainly taking quite a while to get there with the 2km and 10km eggs hardly ever coming from the Pokestops.

I’ve been walking off smaller batches of three and four 5km eggs while I slowly accrue 10km ones, and some singular 2km eggs (which have yielded largely Weedles, Rattatas, Zubats, but also one Squirtle and one Pikachu).

The more recent 5km batches have spat out the following:

Very disappointing to see the double Krabby hatch – completely blows my theory that the multiples will be different.  I guess they are ‘predominantly’ providing different monsters if hatched in batches, but not always… still, now I know I could do all this only to hatch a bunch of Scythers and Pinsirs when I get all the 10km eggs going.  :/

Oh dear lord, not more Psyduck candy?!  How many Golducks does one girl need?

Apparently, many, many, more Golducks are needed.  :/

 

golducksHelp!!!
My Pokebag is turning into Golduck central…!

Phew, some relief from the Psyducks.  Now to go out and find some Pokestops and spin me up some more 10km eggs… come in spinner!
pokemon egg hatch

One quarter of one century, in pain. Everyday.

I am not one of the lucky few, for whom worries slide off them like water off a duck’s back.  I have PCOS. I am infertile as a result. I also have insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. And I have had four majorly shitty car accidents that have each contributed to fucking up my physical and emotional health.  And yes, when I talk about my MVAs I always refer to them as ‘shitty’ car accidents, not horrific, not soul destroying, not back breaking, not any another sort of adjective… always just plain old ‘shitty’. Not entirely sure why but probably something to do with associating these incidents with having real shit luck – because none of those four shitty car accidents, were my fault.

The first shitty car accident happened when a cab driver didn’t see me and failed to give way at a Stop sign and pulled out in front of me; I hit the brakes hard and we T-boned into him anyway (it was that or veer into the oncoming traffic).  The second shitty car accident happened on a one-lane country road down near Lismore on Christmas Eve; I saw an oncoming car, dipped my headlights, got two wheels off on the shoulder and approached the crest of a hill.  The other driver said he didn’t see us, (more likely he was just young and stupid), and was on the wrong side of the road when we got to the top of the hill.  We hit head-on.  He was doing about 100kmph, I was doing about 85kmph.  The third shitty car accident happened in Tasmania on the Great Lakes ‘Highway’ (pfft, read: high speed unsealed road), where a friend took a corner too fast and got loose in gravel that was shifty after recent snow melt.  He fishtailed a bit, overcorrected and rolled us into a ditch.  I mostly remember careering for a guidepost thinking, ‘Not again.’  Came to hanging upside down in the car with a smashed windscreen in front of us and a boulder about 2.5 feet from my face. Then I smelled petrol and hit the seatbelt release and fell down crushingly on my neck. Not my best laid plan.  The fourth shitty car accident happened on my way home from work, less than five kilometres from here.  The traffic in front of me had stopped short as they braked to wait for someone to turn into a driveway.  I stopped short too.  The lady behind me, who I believe was on her fucking phone, failed to stop and just drove straight into the back of my stationary Rav4 with her Mazda RX8, lifting us up onto two wheels; we hovered for what seemed an eternity (giving us plenty of opportunity to wonder if we were going to be rolled into the oncoming traffic – a white ute), before the momentum brought us smashing down onto a silver Falcon that was stopped in front of us. Double whammy that one.

Four shitty car accidents, and all I got was this fucked up chronic neuropathic pain condition and a perfectly logical phobia of other people’s inability to stay the fuck away from me on the road.

Today is exactly twenty-five years since my first shitty car accident.  I’ve been through EVERY FUCKING TREATMENT OPTION available… short of heading to Mexico where they stick electrodes up your nose and fry your brain stem – and you have no idea how much I absolutely want to scream when someone says ‘Oh you have back pain? You should try my chiropractor/Bowen therapist/Reiki fucking master’.  They may as well be recommending their favourite goddamn barista for all the good it will do.  Because unless your practitioner can target the nervous system for rehabilitation and/or nerve regeneration, it’s of no fucking use to me. So happy ‘Quarter of A Century of Chronic Pain Anniversary’ to me.

I’ve been dealing with pain every waking moment of every single day for way too long.  I have gone through every fucking emotion possible over these shitty car accidents and the subsequent chronic pain. I’ve gone through the, ‘it’s not fair’, the ‘why me’, the ‘I can’t take this any more’, the ‘I hate my painful body’ and all the other incarnations of negative screwed up thinking that go with having a pervasive and unrelenting chronic pain condition. Most days, I grit my teeth, ignore it to the best of my ability, and vaguely hope no one notices.  I’ll go about the day smiling and nodding and pretending I give a crap about all the stuff that is going on around me, and expend all the energy I have not to let on to my friends and family how much I want to scream at them – “I don’t care about any of this shit, I just want to curl up in a ball, cause as much trouble as I can, and have the nervous breakdown I so desperately deserve!!!”  Instead, I smile and ask them how their work/wife/life been treating them…

Twenty five years and I am absofuckinglutely exhausted.  I haven’t had a single night’s sleep that wasn’t just a medicated stupor, for nearly a decade.  I haven’t had a day without some kind of pharmaceutical life jacket holding my head above water for longer than I can remember.  I haven’t had a moment where my brain wasn’t screaming that my body is in pain since 1991.  I haven’t had a day where I felt strong and comfortable in my body since longer than my drug addled, pain enfeebled brain, can remember.  1991 for fucks sake! I’ve been in pain every day since the C+C Music Factory was ‘Gonna Make You Sweat, Baby’!

I’m completely over it.  But have long since had to reconcile myself to one solid unwavering brick wall of a fact, that drives me every day – that where my unrelenting pain is concerned, I have only two options – keep gritting my teeth everyday and getting on with it or opt the fuck out.

And I’m no fucking quitter.

chronic pain

HOHO Virgin in Barcelona

Out my window this morning…Okay, so I am pretty well travelled I guess, but for some reason, I have never found myself on a Hop On Hop Off Bus.  Most cities have them and they’re designed to mass transport tourists directly to the sights, but I have somehow managed to avoid them, either by just going places on foot or by using public transport.  Today, feeling rather tired after yesterday’s stressful and exhausting adventures, we decided to get on the HOHO bus and just potter around Barcelona and see where we ended up.

We saw about four different buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi, his mark is definitely all over the city of Barcelona.
This building was a personal residence owned by some very rich earl – it takes up an entire block and the family typically lived on the bottom floor and rented out the top floors. The Segrada Familia in all it’s be-scaffolded and be-craned brilliance.  This is such a beautiful building and it is much further completed than when I was here 20 years ago, I dare say a trip back when it is finished would be well worth it… 

Barcelona really does have lots of wonderful architecture Sarria The Monestir de Pedralables The Palau Reial-Pavellions Guell – but unable to get a decent photo of the famous dragon gate… more Gaudi.Futbol Club of Barcelona
Pg. de Gracia – More Gaudi Painted under a street awning. In the pavement. We drove around for about two hours – most of my photos were crap.  Too many people, cars, lamp posts, trees in the way.  The commentary was good, but if I can’t move to a better vantage point or wait for people to leave my shot, I can’t take a decent photo.  So I guess HOHO buses are not for me.

After that we went down to the pier at the Port Olimpic for some lunch at El Cangrejo Loco, which was recommended by Antonio for their fabulous paella.  It’s a gorgeous spot right near the Playa Nova Icaria with gorgeous views.  Quite a nice restaurant. hoho 31ADuck breast lasagnehoho 32 Seafood paella.hoho 33

After this we bought the kids back to our hotel room for a much needed cool down in the pool.  Spent a few hours up on the roof with a few vodka breezers and some donuts that Mum bought… not a bad way to spend a bit of down time in Barcelona.  A bit later in the evening, the mob came over near our hotel for a bit of dinner.  The street our hotel is on – the Rambla Catalunya has a string of restaurants with alfresco dining in the middle of the road, so we chose one of those restaurants and had some more tapas and paella.  It was okay, but not great.  Took a few night pics of the area from the street and the hotel balcony…

While we were waiting for tables for dinner, there was a guy sitting on a park bench, playing a flute.  He was really quite good and seemed to be enjoying himself.  A few people were watching and enjoying him play, when a little girl walked over and put some coins in his flute case which was open in his lap (he had no cap/bucket on the ground as is customary), and then the poor guy looked all flabbergasted as he tried to give the money back and explain he was just playing.  It was very cute. So tired.  Going to have an easy sea day tomorrow in my hotel room, I think!

A sunrise, a military coup, a gothic cathedral and a tapas bar… Welcome to Barcelona!

Last day on the ship woke up to the most beautiful sunrise I have seen in years. Simply spectacular…Barcelona 1 Barcelona 2 Also woke up to the news of a violent military coup in Turkey affecting Istanbul and Ankara and oh shit – Mum is supposed to be flying to Istanbul in less than 20 hours.  So, of course that meant as soon as we got to decent wifi, I spent the better part of two hours trying to call travel agents, tour operators and travel insurance providers to find out how to cancel, rebook, claim a whole bunch of messy shit to change her plans.  The tour operator – Peregrine for anyone who is interested – were originally adamant that the tour was still going ahead.  That once they got out of Istanbul that everything would be safe enough for their passengers.  They did seem to be overlooking the fact that there were tanks in the streets in Istanbul, citizens rising up against the rouge military, a President holed up at Ataturk airport, and orders to shoot down planes that were not following lawful military commands!  There were over 80 people killed and hundreds injured when I was doing this, and later in the day some 3000 soldiers arrested and court judges exiled.  So yeah, saying you’re going to continue with your tour in a country with no stable government seems a bit well, fucking stupid to me.

Eventually, they came to their senses and cancelled the tour and were offering a full refund.  But the whole thing made for an extremely stressful morning, what I am sure is an enormous phone bill, a huge amount of disappointment… and a deep sadness for the people of Turkey that followed us around all day.  I love Turkey, and Istanbul has long been my favourite city in the world.  I hope things settle down for them.

By the end of that it was nearing lunch time… oh yeah, we ate, but you know.  There was jugs of sangria.

Barcelona 3 Public fountain on the corner of some building… so cool.Barcelona 4

Barcelona 27

On our way back from the Ramblas area where we found some lunch, we wandered past the Barcelona Cathedral and decided to go in and have a look.  It’s a brilliant gothic cathedral and very imposing just in its sheer size.Barcelona 5

Saints looking down at you as you walk in.Barcelona 6Above the doorway into the cathedral…Barcelona 7This cathedral has the typical high vaulted gothic arches and is lined with little naves on either side of the main part of the church.  Each one is dedicated to another saint and holds a scene with elaborate paintings, statuary, tapestries, and ornate gold painted carvings.Barcelona 11 Barcelona 10
Barcelona 22Barcelona 21There’s a lift that goes up to the roof, so we got a chance to go up and have a look at the city roof tops, as well as see some of the restoration efforts that are happening as they repair the roof.
Barcelona 24 Barcelona 23 The outside of one of the stained glass rose windows – there are many of these above the buttresses, but from the ground inside you can hardly notice them they are so high off the ground.Barcelona 25We also had a chance to go out the side where there is a huge cloistered courtyard, with many tombs of important cardinals and bishops, as well as more naves dedicated to saints.  This beggared belief to me – there were 13th-15thC paintings out in the courtyard naves that were not protected, not in humidity controlled environments and just outside!  Bizarre.

Barcelona 17 Barcelona 16 Naves in many nooks to the right…Barcelona 15 This nave is OUTSIDE!  Paintings and all.Barcelona 14Centre of the courtyard.Barcelona 13 Barcelona 12 There was also a museum area within the complex, which was a ‘no fotos’ area.  But we still managed to get a snap of this Rowan Atkinson look alike on the ceiling…
Barcelona 14A

In the centre of the cathedral were stalls heavily decorated with heraldry of members of the Order of the Golden Fleece.  I’ve seen these images on the internet for years (and yes, have a whole bunch of them on Pinterest under Heraldic Achievements), but it was amazing to seem them all together.Barcelona 19
Barcelona 20 Barcelona 18 Last nave as we were leaving the cathedral.
Barcelona 26We eventually got back to the hotel, picked up our luggage and then went to find our own hotel.  By happy coincidence – or just me being forgetful – it turns out we have a rooftop pool, and nothing could have been more welcome this afternoon.  We went up for a quick swim, cooled right down, and came down for a bit of a nap before meeting back up with the others for some dinner.

They took us to a quaint little tapas bar that they had found when they were in Barcelona last year and we hooked into the sangria and shared a lot of delicious tapas.  It’s called Rebelot, and is one of those dodgy looking places full of old furniture, mismatching chairs and weird stuff on the walls, but seriously good food.
Barcelona 29Barcelona 30Grilled octopus with chorizo on hummus.
Barcelona 28AMarinated duck breast with asparagus and orange flavoured puree something? 😛
Mini lamb burgers with cheese, caramelised onions and salad – sans burger.
Barcelona 28Scallops carpaccio with avocado and tomato salsa with dill or something.
Barcelona 28BAll fantastic – 10/10. Would go again.

It was then onto another bar for more drinks, then eventually back to the hotel.  All up a very stressful day to start with, followed by a bit of touristy stuff, and a great relaxing meal with good company to finish the evening.  I am exhausted – and know not how to say that in Spanish!