September 20-26: Barcel-ohhhhhhh-na!

Once again, apologies to my (most likely two!) remaining readers who’ve put up with these long absences.

We had a great time in Barcelona, and rather than bombard you with a week’s worth of photos, I thought I’d just add in a few Instagram photos I posted (@angebella72).

Barcelona is made for walking … we racked up the kilometres to the point where we wished we’d booked in a massage at the end of the week to relieve the sore calf muscles. We also did a little bit of shopping … well, ok, I did. Two new dresses, two new jumpers, a pair of pants and a scarf practically leapt (leaped?) into my suitcase. Leaped, I tell you. Of course, excuses were made … love that colour, perfect for winter and of course the best one … perfect for WORK!

We did the red bus tour as well and that was a great way to see so much of the city in one hit. Highly recommend that in most cities, actually. I could definitely live in Barcelona, and with my new love for Sicily, I think our holidays for the next few years might be sorted. Or maybe we could just live there?! The food, the weather, the people, the … vibe?!

Ok, without any more waffle, here are the photos.

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Day 1: Hanging around by the water and the Olympic harbour

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Day 2: Sagrada Familia, more beach and beers

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Day 3: Bus tour took us to Park Güell and Montjuic then we wandered around the food markets and watched a tightrope walker at the beach on the walk home

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Day 4: More beach and walking, then a festival with our Camino friend Gemma, followed by fireworks

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Day 5: Last day – shopping, Ramblas Poble Nou, lazed on the beach, went to a food festival at Plaza Espanya and re-did a beer moment from 2011

Had to add this one in ... churros (long skinny donuts) dunked in hot chocolate - I could live on them!

Had to add this one in … churros (long skinny donuts) dunked in hot chocolate – I could live on them!

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Sunrise at the airport as we waited to board to come home. We left sunshine for fog!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

September 2-20: Oops … sorry about that!

Iiiiiiiii’m baaaaaaack …

It’s been a mental few weeks, and to top it off I had a chest infection which made me cough like a coal miner and sweat like a piggie. But I’ve almost kicked it to the curb, and am ready to, finally, write about what’s been happening.

Once I’ve written it all out, it will feel quite boring, I’m sure! But the best piece of news is …

Drumroll …

As of October 1, I will officially be the Communications and Project Officer for PAGES, an organisation which disseminates scientific data/research/reports on past global (climate) change. This was the interview I had on September 1. I found out I got the job on September 7.

The office is in Bern city, a convenient walk then bus ride away. I’ve actually been working there quite a bit in the past few weeks, doing the handover. The previous employee had her last day on Thursday and will work externally from Norway until the end of the year. This means I won’t be thrown into the fire from the outset, which is wonderful – knowing she will be there to pass on all her knowledge over the next few months is such a relief. There are only five people working for PAGES, so everyone has a wealth of information stored in their heads. Here’s a link to the website if you fancy a read … http://www.pages-igbp.org/

I’ve also been writing the stories for my friend’s magazine, which was great except I was sick, then all of a sudden I didn’t have enough time. One story worked out really well, but I failed to get an interview for another story so had to change the concept a bit, and then – bless – my friend said I didn’t have to do the final story as it wasn’t coming together like I’d hoped and we agreed it wasn’t a story as such anymore.

Plus, I was working at the karate clothing website at the same time too. So it was a busy period. I hope the cough goes away soon; Leo has had an earful of it, and so have I. Juggling three jobs while hacking away was rather unpleasant. Going from minimal work to too much was also a challenge!

The other exciting news is … we’re off to Barcelona for six nights … tonight!! We won’t be going back to Australia at Christmas, because of the new job, so decided to have a quick one-week trip before I start officially. We’d thought about Iceland or the Jurassic (south) coast of England, but the weather didn’t look great, so we opted for sunshine and sangria instead. Really looking forward to eating loads of patatas bravas and maybe even having a swim in the ocean.

Rene lost his driver’s licence so has given me the keys to his car and taken back the keys to the Töffli. I think I actually got the chest infection from riding the Töffli in the early mornings to Maru Dojo, just after it turned cool very quickly. The car isn’t as easy to park as the bike, but it does mean I’m able to do a bit more with four wheels as opposed to two … and it’s dry and warm inside! Thank you, Rene.

So, time to get moving. I’ve packed my silver carry-on suitcase, which has one side empty, with enough for the week and more. See previous packing efforts here, here and here … I’ve taken the black and white heart dress; the black jacket; a (new) pink cardigan; the Japanese print skirt; a pair of mushroom coloured shorts; a pair of jeans; black belt; red, black and (new) pink t-shirts; two singlet tops; two scarves; a (new) denim blue thin poncho; bikini; minimal jewellery; black handbag; spotty green cap; umbrella; sandals; leather sneakers for walking; ballet flats; underwear and socks; mini iPad and iPhone. I’m excited to have these new clothes too!

Wishing you a wonderful week! I’ll write more when I’m back from Barcelona. Adios Amigos!

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My not impressed, sick face

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Flowers Leo bought me when we found out I got the job!

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Liliane’s blooming marvellous roses

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Me feeling happy about my flat tummy

Covered in dirt after doing the mowing

Covered in dirt after doing the mowing

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Lovely clear Sunday walk to the flower field

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Saw a cat in the dying sunflower field

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Leo taking photos in the flower field. We bought pink lilies and some asters

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Funny little pumpkins to buy, for autumnal decorating!

June 14: Fourth anniversary

Four years ago today, I walked 29km in Spain with a stranger.

The previous day, I could hardly walk. My feet were blistered and my legs were tired, after six days walking 135km on the Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port to Los Arcos. At the hostel, after I’d showered and tended to my feet, this stranger commented on my slow, heavy gait. “Do you always walk like a duck?” he asked in accented English. “No” I replied and strode past, muttering obscenities under my breath. What a nerve!

The next morning, the morning of June 14, I set off early thanks to five snoring Hungarians who’d been up well before dawn. I walked alone, and turned to take a photo of the sunrise over Los Arcos. And there he was, walking towards me. “Oh great,” I thought, “here comes The Duck Guy.”

We fell into step and walked together – me trying to be pleasant to this Italian born, Swiss raised bloke called Leonardo, while cursing my blisters and sore legs with each metre. Yes, I was walking very slowly, and still like a duck, but I wasn’t going to forgive him in a hurry for that comment!

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Leo, on our first day walking together. It was my seventh day on the Camino, hence him holding up seven fingers. I took many photos of walkers representing each day

After a few hours, talking about music and movies, we met an American-German woman named Simone and the three of us walked for a while before taking shelter from the midday heat in a tunnel with a South African actress, a young German guy, and one of my original Spanish walking friends, who I’d met on day one.

When we checked into the hostel, we were assigned beds, with Leonardo’s being above mine. I wasn’t sure what to think by this stage – he had been really nice on the walk, and a part of me wished it had been just us walking together all day. But I was on this “long walk with a small backpack” adventure alone and meeting someone wasn’t part of the plan. Especially someone who lived in Europe.

After an afternoon relaxing, including Leo washing some of my clothes while I had a beer with Simone (!!), it was time to sleep. While getting settled, I noticed his arm hanging from the bunk bed. His hand was right in my line of vision. Was he trying to say something? Or was he just asleep? I looked at his hand for a very long time, and eventually summed up the courage to take it in mine. He gave a warm squeeze, as a kind of ‘hello, thank you for a good day and good night’, and that, as they say, was it.

We were together for the next 24 days, walking to Santiago de Compostela. You get to know someone very well spending 24 hours a day with each other, walking and talking. We had no commitments (work, family, social and so on) to distract us. It was an intense month and at the end we had to make a big decision.

I stayed in Spain and walked to Finisterre, Leo stuck with his original flight and flew home to Switzerland, and 11 days later he met me in Barcelona. We spent four days there, then I flew with him to Switzerland for three days, to visit the little gingerbread house where he lived and to learn more about his life. We said a sad goodbye and I returned to Barcelona to continue the final few weeks of my European adventure.

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In Barcelona

Fast forward to November 25, 2011 – Leo flew to Australia to meet my family, and December 5 we arrived in Switzerland to begin our life together. It’s amazing how things work out. I had no intention of meeting someone while I was on the walk, and that’s exactly what happened. Sometimes you just have to go with it and I’m very glad we’ve had the courage to ‘give it a go’.

Happy fourth anniversary, Leo, you cheeky monkey! Imagine if you’d never made that duck comment? Imagine if I’d not walked with you that day? It’s amazing how life can instantly change for the better.

(And, yes – for the record – even without the blisters, I still walk like a duck.)

Wishing you a wonderful day.