Staying in Our State

The COVID19 restrictions have not only closed our international borders but at the moment we are confined to travel within our home state of Queensland.  This is not as bad as it may seem at first when you consider that Queensland is a larger area than the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Portugal combined.

We decided to have a short break for a couple of days and headed to Hervey Bay which is a mere 220km drive to the north of where we live.

There was no particular agenda but we did catch up with a couple of friends along the way.

It was beautiful winter weather with clear days and cold nights.

Amphitheatre at Noosa Botanic Gardens

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Dundowran Beach

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Pelican near Urangan Jetty

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Fountain in Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens

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Bridge and lake in Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens

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It was an enjoyable couple of days and I am looking forward to exploring other destinations that are not too far from home.

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Not This Year

It is now six months since we arrived home from our last overseas trip but in some ways it seems like a lifetime ago.

We drove to Victoria in December to spend Christmas with family followed by a planned road trip through eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW.  This came unstuck as our route and the bushfires came almost face-to-face in Lakes Entrance.  We hastily re-arranged our itinerary but still managed to spend four days indoors with family in Canberra during a period of extremely poor air quality due to the smoke.

After our 9 week overseas sojourn in late 2019, we had decided to take a break from overseas travel in 2020.  Instead, we planned to do some domestic travel, including a short break to Uluru at the end of March.  The specific reason was to see the Field of Light.  Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak ended that idea and we are now tentatively going in June 2021.

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Thankfully, we were not overseas nor did we have major bookings in place when both international and domestic tourism ground to a halt 2 months ago.

Like everybody else we are mostly confined to home apart from the occasional brief trip for essential groceries.  I am sure that movement will gradually resume at some time but holidays seem a fairly remote possibility just now.

Will we go overseas again?  This has been the question on many people’s lips.  There are places I still dream of visiting and trips I had tentatively semi-planned.  My next destination was Scandinavia in 2021 but that is now on hold.  Maybe 2022?  None of us really know what the next couple of years will look like with respect to international travel but I can honestly say that while I would be somewhat disappointed I could certainly accept the fact that I may never travel overseas again.

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I imagine that this blog will be pretty quiet for the foreseeable future but I am still around at

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What Did it Cost?

As promised in my last post, here are the financial details of the trip.

I will begin with the easiest figure – the grand total for 2 adults for 64 nights and days was $25,452.12

This is how it was broken up.

Airfares $   3,946.12
Accommodation $   9,522.40
Insurance $      556.54
Transport $   4,412.98
Food/Drink $    4,279.22
Sightseeing/Tours/Events $    1,512.60
Souvenirs $       223.12
Other spending $       999.14

It is interesting to see where the money went.  Accommodation was the biggest single cost.  We paid an average $151.00 AUD/night.

Transport was trains, ferries, car hire, fuel and parking fees.

Food and drinks included everything that we ate or drank from restaurant meals, drinks at the pub, groceries to an occasional ice-cream or cup of coffee.

Sightseeing etc was made up of admission costs, guided tours, cruises and shows.

As always, souvenirs are relatively modest.

The category of ‘Other’ was everything else – shopping, gifts, phone credit, haircuts etc.

The figures are not quite as accurate as other trips as we shared accommodation and transport expenses with our family in Spain during the week spent travelling together.  If this is taken into account the accommodation costs would be a bit less and the transport cost somewhat more than the figures show.
Although I kept a note of our spending during the trip, I did not know how much we had actually spent until I converted it to AUD.  Once again, I am happy with how it all worked out.
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Final Fling – Fountains, Funicular and More

On our last day in Barcelona we made the most of our Hola BCN cards which are valid for various modes of public transport, including the Montjuic Funicular.  The lower terminal is at a regular Metro station but the exit at the top has a relatively fancy facade.

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This funicular is quite short and nowhere near as steep as the one at Montserrat.  It is also predominately in a tunnel so not a lot of views en route.

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We then strolled through some tranquil gardens which was was welcome relief from the noise and bustle of the city below.  Here are a couple of the fountains and water features.

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At the foot of Montjuic, near Plaza Espanya is the National Museum of Catalonian Art with the Magic Fountain in front of it.  This fountain is lit up with coloured lights and ‘dances’ to music for an hour several evenings each week but the rest of the time it is slightly less spectacular.

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There is also a monumental fountain in the centre of Plaza Espanya.  This was designed to stand at the gateway to the avenue leading to the 1929 World Exposition which was held on the lower slopes of Montjuic.

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This will be my final post for this trip, apart from a post with the financial details which I will do once I finish the calculations when we get home.

I hope you have enjoyed the adventure as much as I have enjoyed sharing our travels.

Excuse me, but I have a plane to catch.


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Gaudy Gaudi

I guess the title of this post probably gives away my thoughts on Antoni Gaudi, the Catalan architect regarded as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism.  It is worth noting that at the time of his graduation, the director of the Barcelona Architecture School, said: “We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will show.”  I don’t know whether ‘fool’ would necessarily be my description.  I am thinking more along the lines of ‘crazy’.  However, like most artistic endeavours it is a matter of each to their own.

We visited Guell Palace, one of Gaudi’s early commissions.

A model of the palace.

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Here are some examples of what we saw.

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Part of the exterior of the rear of the building.

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Looking up from the grand central hall to the domed ceiling.

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Based on my experience of Guell Palace I decided not spend another EUR10.00 each to visit Guell Park.

While walking along Passeig de Gracia today we came upon another unmistakably Gaudi building, Casa Mila, and GMan noted that it “looked like something out of the Flintstones”.

Decide for yourself.

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We then walked a bit further to see the much-vaunted Sagrada Familia.  By this stage I had a pretty fair idea of what I would think of this unfinished Gaudi masterpiece.

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There were some particular details in Guell Palace that I found interesting but overall I struggled to find anything that excited me about any of Gaudi’s work.  My greatest disappointment is the fact that my father, a draughtsman, is not alive as I would have loved to have heard his opinion.  I do not think he would have been a fan.  My father loved clean, simple designs and particularly abhorred buildings which incorporated a mish-mash of different materials and styles – the complete antithesis of everything which Gaudi appears to have embraced.

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Magical, Mystical Montserrat

Montserrat which literally means saw-toothed mountain is about 60km from Barcelona and we decided to take a day trip there.  It is definitely worth doing a bit of reading and research to work out the various options and pitfalls.  We decided on all-inclusive tickets for just over EUR50.00 each.  While this may sound excessive, it was much cheaper than buying all of the individual tickets separately and it included a substantial buffet lunch.

The train leaves from Plaza Espanya for the 1 hour journey to the village of Monistrol de Montserrat from where you can ascend to the monastery by either cable car or rack railway.  We chose the latter as I am definitely not a fan of cable cars.

The view from the station where we transferred to the rack railway.

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A close-up of the track as we waited for the descending train on the passing loop.

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While Montserrat is primarily a religious site and pilgrimage destination, there is a selection of things to see and do.  You can take the funicular even further up the mountain where there are walks of varying lengths and the Nature Centre with displays about the flora, fauna, climate and geological history of the area.

The funicular approaches the lower station.

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Views from the funicular as we ascended at an incline of approximately 65 degrees.

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I could not help but be reminded of Hanging Rock in Victoria, except on a much larger scale.

A 15 minute walk afforded even more views.

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On our return to the main complex we stopped for lunch before exploring a bit more.  Our ticket also included an audio-visual presentation about the monastery and entry to the museum/art gallery.  The basilica was our final stop before we left the mountain.  Naturally, no photographs were permitted inside the basilica, however, here is a view of the exterior from the enclosed courtyard.

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Then it was time to retrace our steps and return to the bustling city of Barcelona.



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Last Train to Barcelona

Well, not strictly the last but it was the final major train journey of this trip.  We had an early start in order to catch the 8am train from Alicante for the 6 hour ride.  Photos from a moving train are ridiculously difficult so you will just have to believe me when I say that we saw some of the most productive horticultural land we have seen in Spain.  There were miles and miles of orange groves as we travelled through Valencia province – unsurprising!  The views of the glistening turquoise Mediterranean Sea were stunning.  There were time when the tracks were literally suspended on the edge of the cliff and it was impossible to see the ground – you were looking straight down at the ocean!

Our time in Barcelona has been complicated slightly by the protests and demonstrations following the sentencing on Monday of the Catalan pro-independence leaders.  We did not arrive until Tuesday and the worst of it was on Monday when the demonstrators shut down the airport for several hours.  There has been ongoing violence and clashes with police but that has generally been at night and not in the area where we are staying.  A general strike on Friday effectively shut down the city but did not really impact on us.

On our first full day we headed towards the centre of the action and walked the length of the famous boulevard, La Rambla.

Typical building

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This 1.2km stretch of predominately pedestrianised street seethes with tourists and their nemeses, scammers and pickpockets.  It certainly has to be seen but I was quite glad to make it safely to where it ends at the harbour.  This point is marked by the 60 metre high monument to explorer, Christopher Columbus.

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Just off La Rambla we found Guell Palace, an early work by Barcelona architect, Antoni Gaudi.  I will discuss this further in a separate blog post.

Finally, we headed along the waterfront to the Museum of the History of Catalonia.  It is well worth devoting a few hours to explore this large and brilliantly curated museum.  It was particularly interesting to gain a little more understanding of this region in the light of the current events regarding independence.


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End of the Road (Trip) – Alicante

Our road-tripping week with family ended with a final drive from Granada to Albacete.

Here is a view from that drive.  The olive groves seem almost endless and are planted in some of the most inaccessible terrain.

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From Albacete we caught the train to Alicante on the south-east coastal strip of Costa Blanca. The beach is undoubtedly a summer tourist mecca but we really came to experience the ‘old town’ and to see the Santa Barbara castle.

We managed to do both in spectacular style.  I knew that the accommodation I had booked was close to the castle but on the first evening I was amazed to discover that this was the view from our front balcony.

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The next day we walked to the top of Mount Benacantil where the castle is situated.  Like so many of these structures it is a massive complex which was extended over a number of centuries and served various purposes.

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There are 360 degree views from here and we also witnessed an approaching thunderstorm.

This view of the old town shows our apartment building in the centre of the photo overlooking the park.  The cathedral of St Nicolas can be seen in the background with a blue dome.

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The old city wall is clearly shown in this photo.

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The approaching storm.  We did get some rain but it was not torrential which is hardly surprising for an area where the average annual rainfall is about 10 inches.

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Road Trip – Granada

We had allocated 3 nights in Granada when planning our itinerary for a couple of reasons.  The days of travel both to and from Granada were going to be fairly long so I figured we would all need a bit of a break.

The main reason for choosing Granada was to visit the Alhambra complex and this was definitely worthwhile.  It is grandeur on a massive scale and it was difficult to capture in photos.

While the Nazrid Palaces are the most spectacular section of the complex there is much more to see.

One of our early views.

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Archeological digs are ongoing.

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Columns around a central courtyard in the Carlos V Palace.

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The Nasrid Palaces are a series of buildings and courtyards built and decorated in elaborate style during the 13th to 15th centuries.

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Entrance to the Nasrid Palaces is for a fixed time-slot so we planned our visit for later in the day.  This meant that we were able to enjoy views of the approaching evening.

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I did not find the actual city of Alhambra particularly appealing but am glad we came.

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Road Trip – Seville and Ronda

One of the highlights of our time in Seville was visiting the Flamenco Dance Museum and seeing a flamenco show.  Unfortunately, there is no photography allowed so I have included a link to the website so you can get a taste of what we saw.  It was a spectacular hour of energetic entertainment.

The following evening we went on a boat cruise on the Guadalquivir River.  While the scenery was perhaps not as spectacular as the Douro River cruise in Porto, it was interesting to see the bridges as well as the Tirana neighbourhood and the buildings on what was the site of the 1992 Expo.

We departed from near Torre del Oro, a military watchtower built in the 13th century.

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Some of the bridges.

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Old waterfront neighbourhood of Tirana is now quite gentrified with restaurants lining the river.

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Beautiful at night.

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The next day was quite a long drive to Granada but we broke it up with a stop in Ronda.  Despite what I had read and heard, our initial impression was not particularly favourable.  We approached the city through the semi-industrial area but as we drove on we reached the sights for which it is renowned and the resultant swarms of tourists.   This hilltop city has a beautiful bridge across a deep ravine, however the best view of the bridge is actually from below it.  The access road is not for the faint-hearted and in fact, ‘road’ is a rather generous description.  Goat-track would be more apt.

Looking up from the gorge at the rock formations.

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The bridge blends into the ravine remarkably well.

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Part of the wall of the old town.

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There are also great views of the surrounding farmland and mountains.

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From Ronda it is a long and winding road descending to the coast near Marbella in the heart of the Costa del Sol.  This was not of particular interest to us so we continued our travels on the highway and turned away from the coast towards Granada.


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