Saturday, July 16, 2011

Toughing it out at training!

Last Sunday Teddy and I ran 8km which we tend to do on the days I'm not running with other people and have shorter distances to run. He's getting much better although he is still distracted by other dogs.
On Monday I returned to the speedygeese session at Parliament House. Oh boy, I found it tough! After a couple of warm up loops of PH we were divided into teams of two for the main session. Yelena and I were put together. We ran fast down the diagonal grass in front of PH and straight up the hilly edge (just under 300m), tagged our team member and jogged slowly across the top straight while waiting for them to do the opposite diagonal and run uphill to tag us. The plan was to repeat this 12 times although we only managed nine repeats before the fastest team finished. We finished with a cool down loop of PH. It was of course freezing to start and I wore long pants and long sleeved top although I did strip down to a t-shirt as we warmed up.
Total distance: 8km

Another 8km run with Teddy.

This morning, after a weights session at the gym and a 15mins abs class, I ran with my music, from home down to and round Lake Ginninderra and back again. I haven't run that course for ages and it's also the furthest I've run since before my trip so it was challenging.
Total distance: 15km
Time taken: 1hr 33mins


Tonight I returned to the speedygeese session at Dickson. Brrr, such a cold open place to train. Having said that it was great to meet up with everyone and to welcome a few new people to the session. We started with a couple of warm up laps and then were divided into relay teams of two like on Monday. I was put with Cinea who was brand new to the speedygeese. However, this time one team member ran 300m fast, tagged the other person, then jogged back 100m ready to be tagged after the other team member had run 300m. Again the goal was 12 repeats and we managed 11 although our team finished after everyone else had stopped. We warmed down with a long lap of the oval.

This morning I met up with Andy at the war memorial for a run at the civilized hour of 9.30am. There was lots of cloud cover but it had reached 5deg by that time after minus 2 overnight so I even wore shorts and later in the run was running in a t-shirt instead of long sleeves. Because there was no wind for a change the temperature felt more comfortable although I did keep my gloves on for the duration of the run.
Total distance: 15km
Later Jen joined us for a coffee at the War Memorial and this time the coffee was lovely - yay!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Shaking off the Jetlag

Our long flight home was not without its share of dramas. The first glitch happened at Barcelona airport when we were told to take our stamped "tax free" receipts through customs to the Blue stand on the other side.. Once through customs you are classed as being in another country and cannot turn back. When we handed them over we were told that the shop stamps were not sufficient but that we should have had them stamped by the Spanish customs on the other side. They were therefore invalid for our hoped-for tax refund on our purchases. Good start!

Next stop the British Airways Club which has a reciprocal arrangement with Qantas club. This was not our day however as apparently our Qantas Club card did not have sufficient status for this BA Club and we were unable to use their facilities.

We should have stayed downstairs where there were heaps of cafes and shops to browse around. On this side of the barrier there was a McDonalds, a small magazine shop and a loo. It was a long wait until the next flight.

Fortunately at London airport we were welcome at the BA Club. It was so pleasant and relaxing that we were the last passengers on the next flight - you know that moment when everyone stares as you try to find your seat just before take off! You probably don't, but I know it well being married to the most laid back man on this planet:)

At Hong Kong airport the plane stopped to refuel. This meant we all had to disembark, take our boarding passes, walk downstairs and through the bag check area again before reboarding the same plane. When we reached the bag check area Mr B discovered that he had left his boarding pass on the plane after having carefully remnded me to take mine with me! Back to the other end to have a new one issued then to do the entire process again. Ho hum! Of course I had my laptop in my hand luggage and so all this had to be checked through twice. At least it filled in the refuel time!

At Melbourne Qantas club we freshened up with a shower and oh boy was it good! And then it was a very quick flight back to Canberra with no more dramas, just a very long, very cold, wait for a taxi!

So there it was Wednesday and that day was really a complete write-off - unpacking, Washing updated, food shopping done and a quick lie down which turned into a five hour sleep in the afternoon!

Next day my beautiful Teddy dog was returned and on Friday I took him on an 8km run in our local area.

Still feeling slow and lethargic I met up with Andy at the war memorial for a run down to the lake, on to Molonglo Reach and back to the War Memorial carpark. It was sunny but fresh and on the return we were hit by a head wind which slowed us down even more. It was a great catch up time but I have lost a lot of fitness and speed.
Total: 11km
Time taken: 1h13mins
Later the coffee at the cafe did not fulfil my expectations. I have yet to consume that perfect coffee!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Adios Espana

Our final two nights in Spain were spent in Tarragona, a major industrial port which has preserved many remnants of its Roman past, which of course means there were lots of ruins to explore. Unfortunately we only had one full day in Tarragona on Sunday when most of the tourist spots were closed and we were unable to enter the closed gates although there was still plenty to see.

In the town square there was a very "different" statue of hundreds of men standing on each others shoulders like a human tower. Apparently this is a rendition of what actually happens at the Terragona festival when there are contests held to see who can build the highest human tower!

We had a couple of lovely meals for our last evenings in Spain, enjoying tapas and sangria on Sat evening and on Sunday night I had the best duck breast ever, cooked in the most divine sauce.

The sales were in full force here and a little last minute shopping just simply had to be done before leaving at about mid- day on Monday to drive to Barcelona.

Feeling a little nostalgic from our last visit to Spain in 1973 we stopped at Sitges for lunch. This is a delightful little beach resort (supposedly known as a "gay" resort) with lots of seaside restaurants and lively bars. We enjoyed a lovely "menu de dia" at a restaurant facing the sea watching the little fishing boats with the Sitges' landmark, the 17th century church of Sant Bartomeu, standing on the hill in the distance.

Sadly this was our last stop before heading to the airport, returning our hire car (not without some drama as the location had moved) and commencing the long trip home with short stops at London, Hong Kong and Melbourne airports on the way.

Adios Espana and Portugal. We have had an awesome holiday.

A taste of heaven at the Costa Blanca!

On 1 July we reached Eastern Spain to spend a night in Alicante in the Costa Blanca. We were on the 5th floor of the hotel and it was accessed by a lift surrounded by glass like a bay window on the outside of the building giving the sensation of actually being outside. The beach was a drive away and took several roundabout ways to find where to park as we always ended up going past it in the wrong direction and not able to turn around. Eventually we found an underground carpark and at 8pm on an overcast evening we jumped into the waves. I was a bit dubious until my bare feet touched that water. It was just amazing. It felt like a tepid bath except there were great waves for fantastic body surfing. We had a glorious swim. I couldn't believe how beautiful the water felt and how long we stayed in there at that time of night without sunshine.

Later in the evening we found the most fantastic little restaurant where we chose a very large plate for two of prawns cooked in a variety of ways. Yummo - it was divine and the bottle of vino was great too.

Everyone at all the little restaurants on the hill where we were, was serenaded by an accordian player (who was actually really good) and his partner who was playing the tambourine. When they finished she turned the tambourine upside down and approached everybody for a donation. We responded positively as we enjoyed the music. However, we didn't buy the red roses, glow sticks, watches or shirts which we were also offered during the course of the evening!

Next morning we had time for a run before breakfast. We ran from the hotel to the beach and along the boardwalk enjoying the sea air. With less hills we managed to run our 9km two minutes faster than our previous run.

Later we went for an explore and discovered that all the sales started that day, on 1 July, just when our suitcases were already full (almost) to the brim!

Exploring Granada

We spent three amazing days in Andalucia in Granada, Southern Spain. Our hotel was in a busy area and about ten minutes walk from the busy bustling city where there were pedestrian streets with "Christmas" lights hanging in rows above us. We explored everywhere by foot including the Albaicin which is in a corner of the city on the hillside. This is mainly pedestrianised and reflective of Granada's Moorish ancestry. The Albaicin is the site of the first fortress built in the 13th century with cobbled alleys and villas with Moorish decorations and gardens. There were some stunning views and we could view the Alhambra (see below) perfectly. Many of the street names start with Cuesta which means 'slope'! We were also rewarded with a free orchestral concert conducted from the top of an apartment which was a school of music. It was lovely!

On one of our days in Granada we joined a tour bus which collected us from our hotel and took us to The Alhambra. This amazing complex dates back to the start of its construction in 1237. The gardens were built to be a recreation place for the King of Granada and the palace was built much later in 1525 for Charles V just after his marriage but he never actually lived there.

The Alhambra was a complete town within the walls with shops and public baths, but it fell into disrepair with nobody living there. In 1923 restoration began and continues today it being declared a World Heritage site in 1984.

Our extensive tour took three hours and then we continued to explore the places we missed such as the baths and the fort. With so much to oooh and aaah at and hours of walking we definitely enjoyed our final dinner (and wine) in Granada that evening.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Missing Africa by ONE minute!

The drive to Granada took most of the day and it was nearly midnight when we arrived. However on the way we passed hundreds of modern windmills dotting the landscape and stopped to explore lots of interesting places. During our stop in Tarifa, a 30min ferry ride to Africa, we suddenly had the urge to "just do it". The boat left at 3pm and it was 2.45pm and our passports were in the car parked a long way up the hill. We ran back to the car and pulled everything out of our backpacks and suitcase having momentary panic attacks when it took 10 mins to find the passports in the bottom of the suitcase. We rushed back to the boat with one minute to spare but weren't allowed on - bother, that was 15 very exciting minutes when we almost caught the boat to Africa! We had to be satisfied with blurred photos of it in the distance instead!

Our next stop was Gibraltar where we stopped to ogle the legendary rock and to laugh at the monkeys guarding this British colony. It was quite strange realising that residents here speak English, have British number plates and we were actually in the UK in the middle of Spain - bizarre!

Our last stop before Granada was Ronda and here we spent two hours exploring as it was a fabulous town, with great views and gorgeous white washed houses on steep banks.

A few hours later we finally reached our destination. Granada is in Andalucia in Southern Spain and the temperature continues to rise!

Living the High Life in a Monastery

On Monday 27 June we drove to Santa Maria near Cadiz in Southern Spain for just one amazing night in a monastery which had been converted into a fabulous hotel. It was unbelievably luxurious with marble staircases, 16th century paintings hanging on the walls of long corridors and huge chandeliers, original monks' kneeling benches and gorgeous courtyards. For a really reasonable price we had a luxury suite and free wifi. In fact we have stayed in 4star hotels or equivalent everywhere we have been and have paid less (often much less) than $100 a night except in Barcelona where it was very slightly more. Booking online as we go seems to be the way to travel.
Santa Maria was a delightful little place with very narrow cobbled streets, cute restaurants and interesting markets by the river. We also discovered that petrol is 30cents a litre cheaper in Spain than in Portugal!

Next morning we took the very slow winding scenic route to Granada.