Rambling About in Barcelona

It has been weeks since our weekend in Barcelona and I have yet to post photos of the trip.  We only had a few days, so we had to prioritize.  We knew we had to see Sagrada Familia and whatever else we could squeeze in, we did.

Now I know very little about architecture and have little patience for all the intricacies of how Gaudi finally decided on his designs for Sagrada Familia, yet I was drawn to all of it.  There is no need to an expert in order to appreciate the complexity, enormity and the dedication that has been poured into designing and building the church.  You can see it on the end result and hints of it in what is being built …and you can definitely hear it in the local guide we had during our walking tour.  Allan’s parents were in Barcelona about 10 years ago, and they were amazed by it even without stepping inside.  We were fortunate enough to arrive  now that it is open to visitors.  Maybe it was the solemn music playing, or the ethereal feel of the interiors or  everything that we have heard about it leading up to that moment…but when we stepped inside, we couldn’t help but be overwhelmed.

We didn’t get to see much of the rest of Barcelona, but we did manage to walk around Barri Gotic.  I found the small streets and alleys charming — as I usually do.  I am very partial to narrow streets packed with lots of little shops.  I do hope we will manage to go back…there is plenty more to discover in Barcelona.

Journey of a lifetime

In exactly 2 months Socs and I will embark on a trip almost 2 years in the making. I’ve been dreaming about this trip for a while to say the least, and it is quite surreal to know that in 2 months time Socs and I will be on a plane to see the highest peak on this planet.

Yes, we are off to Everest Base Camp. I’ve spent a lot of time planning and researching about the trek itself; when to go, what to bring, how long it will take, and the risks involved. And we’ve spent the good part of the year slowly stacking up on the clothing and gear we need, and we’ve got a few more items left on the list but we are basically good to go. Most of the administrative requirements have been settled as well. As for the physical training, we are still on it and should push ourselves hard this month and settle back down to prepare ourselves for an adventurous 3 weeks in the Himalayas.

This trip is actually going be our honeymoon and part of our planning process was actually debating on whether we wanted to do this or maybe just use the money to tour Europe or do something closer to where we are. But the end of the day, the allure of Everest looming above our heads and the timing of it all makes this the perfect time for us to embark on this journey. I can’t wait to get on with it.

How to Survive Silverstone F1

For Allan’s 30th birthday, I surprised him with an email confirming that I have purchased tickets to the July Silverstone F1 race.  I know, the actual ticket would’ve been nicer, but they only send those out about a month in advance of the race.  Fast forward to last weekend (or is it fast forward and reverse back? Whatever.)…we left London on Friday morning and arrived at Northampton before noon.  Our hosts for the weekend were opening their home to race goers as local hotels and B&Bs were full and we had arranged for them to pick us up at the station.  A half hour ride later and we were in the village of Silverstone, with our gear in our room and ready for our first afternoon at the circuit grounds.  The sun was out but we brought our rain gear — the forecast said there would be rain.  And rain it did.  Our race weekend was our friendly reminder of what British summers really mean — alternating periods of sun (and it can be really warm ) and rain (and it can be torrential rain too).

So, since Allan has designated me to be the one to write about this, I have decided to share with you what we wore and what we brought in order to survive the race.

Before I continue, let me clarify:  the weekend was spent mostly at the circuit where you will only be guaranteed cover from the rain if you’re VIP and staying in one of the fancy buildings they have for you.  Otherwise, you’re free game for the elements, even if you have covered grandstand tickets.  Rain does not fall straight down…add in some wind and you’ll find yourself sprayed with rainfall at your nice and cozy allocated seat.  That was a little hint of bitterness here from someone who could only afford General Admission tickets AKA find a spot wherever and try to catch as much of the race from there — mind you, those tickets weren’t cheap either!  Right, so we’ve established that we would be outdoors and roaming the grounds mostly except for raceday when we would find our spot and stay there (or risk not seeing anything at all).  The plan was to be there from 10 am til end of the Qualifying races on Saturday and from 630am on Sunday til whatever time we fancy leaving the after race party.  Yes, long days outdoors.

So if you fancy experiencing Silverstone F1 yourself and would like some tips, please read on.  Hopefully this will help you survive your weekend outdoors.

Rain Jacket

Rain Jacket

Equipment # 1 – Rain Gear

For us it was time to road test our waterproof outer layer for EBC.  If they cant keep us dry for Silverstone then we know we’d be in for serious trouble if it happens to rain in the Himalayas.  Take note:  if you are in doubt that your rain jacket can withstand pouring rain, then by all means, bring an umbrella.  Remember, we’re talking RAIN and not just sprays of water.

Trek Pants

Trek Pants

Equipment # 2 – Waterproof Pants + Shorts

We brought along our trek pants (yes, another EBC staple) since it is mainly water resistant and we can convert them to shorts.  Note, they are only water resistant which means they can get soaked.  For us though, it was sufficient.  If you’re standing up while its raining and you don’t sit on anything wet, then these will be enough.  But if you’d like to sit on the grass or bench while its raining, then please bring waterproof overpants that you can wear on top of your shorts.  The key here is that you have the option to wear shorts or pants.  Remember that it wont be raining all the time…when the sun comes out in all its wonderful warm glory, you’d want to be able to let your legs breathe and get a little bit of sun.

Tank Top

Tank Top

Equipment # 3 – Tank top + Cardigan

Okay, the tank top is mainly for women, but for the gentlemen out there, go on and substitute your out in the sun shirt alternative here.  If you fancy going shirtless, then by all means go ahead.  I would still recommend bringing a shirt to wear when the sun’s hiding though.  The top is self explanatory… wear something that you’d like to tan in.  However, I won’t suggest bikini tops for women — F1 fan based is male dominated (and the smell of beer proves it) and while some would appreciate the sight, some might actually not to be distracted from the race.  Its a free country though, so if a bikini top is your best tanning aid, then go ahead.  Just be prepared for it (and I don’t just mean bring the sunblock).

The cardigan or whatever else you would like to use as an alternative will be when it starts to get a bit windy and a chill’s in the air.  Our rain jackets didnt offer much insulation, so the extra cardigan helped a lot in that area.

Sunnies and Sunblocks

Sunnies and Sunblocks

Equipment # 4 — Your standard Sun friends

Sunblock for your body and sunblock for your face — yes most of the time they are two different things (although they weren’t for me for the longest time…what can I say, I’m all grown up!).  Do not forget your all important sunglasses as well.  Great for making sure you see whatever you can of the extremely fast race cars backlit by the sun (or for the shirtless men worth staring at, discreetly of course).  Allan also bought his F1 cap (Red Bull!!!) to help with the sun.  My head has always been too big for any headgear so I let my hair do all the “sunprotecting”.

Wellies

Wellies

Equipment # 5  — Wellies

I managed the entire weekend just wearing the wellies without substituting them for flip flops.  When I wanted them to breathe a little, I took off the boots and just wore my socks.  You wouldn’t want to wander around in just socks though as there’s mud leftover from all the rain.  Its also because of the mud that I figured I didn’t need to bring my flip flops to the circuit.  I’m already terrible at doing my nails, imagine getting mud stuck in them — eeewwww.

Allan carrying the flag

Allan carrying the flag

Equipment # 6 – Your colors

Allan was intent on bringing a Philippine flag to the race.  I argued that there were no Filipino drivers nor teams in F1.  He argued that it would make for better conversation in case it ever made its few second appearance on TV.  I figured, what the hell.  So we brought our huge Philippine flag to the race.  Unfortunately we weren’t in the camera’s view where we were seated so there was no TV appearance.

Chair and Backpack (with raincover)

Chair and Backpack (with raincover)

Equipment # 7 and 8 – Your Miscellaneous and their rain gear

Our main extra item for this trip were our pair of folding lawn chairs.  They were essential especially on race day — if you find the spot you like, you unfold your chairs and thereby claim it as your own for the remainder of the day.  We arrived on Sunday at 630 AM and our first choice spot was already full.  We were luck enough to get second row seats on our second choice spot and our lawn chairs stayed put until around 3pm when the race ended.  We took turns buying food and heading to the toilet, but we never feared that we would lose our place, thanks to our chairs.

Other essentials include:  cameras (of course), snacks, drinks, cash and books.  If you’re there early and you have plenty of time to kill, reading helps make time fly by.  I would possibly also recommend a little pillow especially if you fancy snoozing while waiting.  Finding a comfy position to nap on the chairs put us at risk of stiff necks, thankfully we didn’t suffer from it.

Finally, everything has to go into a bag.  My backpack was our equipment of choice but feel free to bring along your duffel bag, messenger bag, picnic basket, whatever.  Just make sure that your bag is also protected from the rain.  You don’t want those sandwiches ending up soggy in those wicker baskets now do you?

So there, our equipment list that helped us survive the weekend.  Granted, they may not make you the best dressed race goer but at the very least you wont be drenched one minute and sunning yourself dry the next.  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why women wore maxi dresses and sandals.  They ended up hitching their dresses up a bit and with mud on their feet.  They looked lovely, but only when the sun was out and the ground was dry.  Not my cuppa tea.

There was quite a mix of thingamajigs that people brought, one of the most common was the coolbox loaded with beer (and maybe water? not sure, but I’m certain there were beer in them).  So essentially, its whatever is sensible and whatever floats your boat.  Just make sure you check the forecast and if it even mentions rain, bring your raingear.

At Silverstone

At Silverstone

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

Its been months since the last update!  Since then, well, Allan’s found his (our) apartment in London, I’m moving out of my Dublin apartment to a shared one still in Dublin.  We’re trying this based-in-different-countries again and see where this will take us.  The main thing though, is that we will be working on the same project, so we’re together most of the week still.

But lets forget all these complicated matters for now.  We finally got off our behinds long enough to explore a little bit of Dublin.  We consulted the magic Trekkin in Dublin guide and figured we’d give Howth a try.  Its about half an hour away from the City Center by train, and promises great views and even greater seafood.  We were craving for the now more frequent sunshine and fish other than salmon (we love salmon, but we need variety) so we decided, Howth it is!

other Howth tourists enjoying the view

The trail started out as walking right beside the main road.   With a backpack and hiking boots and a variety of wet/cold weather gear, we felt a little odd.  Especially since most of those walking were in sneakers, leather shoes, boots and dresses even.  Eventually we found the path that went up the cliffs and snaked around to give us great coastal views.  It even became a little more “forest”-y at one point, with trees and shrubs all around.  We wandered off the path at one point to find a spot beachfront and break for lunch, before we found the trail and followed it until it crossed a golf course and back into civilization i.e. roads again.

It took us about 5 hours, with breaks included.  At the end we ended up in a pub having Fish and Chips and some Seafood chowder for our efforts.  Needless to say, it was a tiring day but well worth it.  We enjoyed Howth so much, we returned the weekend after with some friends.  The second time around we didn’t follow the trail and just went Fishmonger hopping and sun soaking.

More photos from both trips are in my flickr account.

First Anniversary

Over the weekend, Socs and I celebrated our first year anniversary as husband and wife. We wanted to do something special other than a “regular” dinner out or weekend trip. Socs was able to find a great place on the other side of Ireland that would suit both the occasion and our personalities. Enter Delphi Mountain Resort.

It was a long trip (3 hour train ride and 45 min taxi) but well worth it. The place was situated in between mountains, near rivers and the only fjord in Ireland. Our activities: surfing, hill walking, biking and generally enjoying the Irish countryside.
We went biking a few hours after arriving to explore the place and make full use of our time there. Socs does not know how to ride the bike, but she managed after much encouragement from me.
I was a little disappointed in the surfing since we were given beginner’s foam boards instead of the surfboards we were used to, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I was able to stand up a couple of times and survived the relatively colder waters of the Atlantic (it was a sunny day so it wasn’t Irish cold). The waves were pretty huge and powerful too, and although we were way past where the waves broke the white water still had the strength to push the boards. It was weird wearing shoes (required for safety) during surfing, it actually hindered me for a bit but it was a good learning activity to possibly continue surfing here in Ireland.

We initially wanted to climb the hill near the resort but we were both a little tired and was promised a good day the following day so we decided to explore the area by foot. Following the road we walked for a couple of hours, testing both our gear and taking a bit of pictures.
On the day of our departure, we woke up early and immediately left to climb up the hill. It is definitely different from climbing back home or in Vermont. There are no trails and we had no map or guide. I was a little apprehensive about climbing so we set mini destinations on the hill. We never managed to get to the peak, we were walking diagonally instead of vertically, but we did get to a decent elevation (around 150m) and enjoy the view. And we made it back for breakfast to boot!
A scenic taxi ride later, we were back to reality of the 3 hour ride back to Dublin.