This year 2016 we are going on a trip which we have been planning since October 2014 when we received in the mail the latest Viking Cruises brochure which included their new ‘Ocean Ships’ namely the the just launched ‘Viking Star’. The trip looked really great, and as we received at that time a good ‘early bird discount ‘ price we went ahead and booked it. We then forgot about it whilst on our trip last year until we arrived back home in July and starting proper planning. We do a fair bit of research especially as we book, as we did last year, AirBnB apartments in all places we stay and travel in Europe via rail. It takes plenty of planning to get it all satisfactory so you know where & when you will be staying in the various cities.
The trip is as follows…… Leave Sydney on the 7th April with Singapore airlines ( we received with the Viking booking A$995 return flights, a great price ) fly to Singapore for 3 days as a long haul break, the fly from Singapore to Barcelona via Milan as a transit stopover. We stay in Barcelona for 7 days before boarding the ‘ Viking Star ‘ for the 15 day cruise to Bergen in Norway, the cruise is via Gibraltar, Lisbon, Bordeaux, Paris, London then Bergen. We are staying in Bergen for 8 days then train to Oslo for 4 days, then train to Stockholm for 4 days then train south to Copenhagen, once again for 4 days. From Copenhagen we then board the Serenade of the Seas for a 7 day cruise to Stockholm ( yes back there again, it was part of the cruise ) then Tallin ( Estonia ), Saint Petersburg ( Russia ), Helsinki ( Finland ) then back to Copenhagen. We then board a train for our trip down to Hamburg, staying this time with Rita’s cousin & her family for 7 days. We then take delivery of a motor home and in the next 2 weeks intend to drive down through Germany & France to Aubonne in Switzerland, then a round trip back up through Munich, Berlin & maybe a couple of eastern European countries back to Hamburg where we will stay for 2 days before train to Vienna for 4 days then train to Budapest for 7 days before flying back to Sydney on the 3rd July………watch the time fly >>>>>>>>
Day 1 ….. Caught the train from Morisset to Sydney, where we stayed in Ilya’s apartment in Wolli Creek, we have an early flight to Singapore & due to Border Security strikes have to be at the airport by 5:00am. Went for a walk around this newly developed town Wolli Creek, it is modern high rise apartment blocks with everything you would need to live so close to Sydney city, it has been very well planned & built, our host Ilya, a young Russian guy who has lived in Australia for 15 years, it an ex software developer now involved as a manager in event planning, we had a great stay with him.
Day 2 ….. Rising very early we had our first Uber experience, $8.75 to the airport, pretty amazing as the airport train is $16.00 each no matter the distance. Checked in & before long were on the plane for 8 hour flight to Singapore, arrived 2pm & caught the exceptional MRT into the city. Our host land lady met us & booked us into our place for the next 2 days, all good so far. Went for a local walk to explore a bit, Singapore sure is an amazing city in all respects.
Day 3 ….. The main reason we had decided to take a stopover in Singapore was to go and see the Gardens by the Bay which are located in front of the Marina Bay Sands hotel & the main new Marina Bay Area. At about 9:00am we waked from our apartment the 2 klms to the Bay Area, enjoying all the scenery on the way ( even though as is typical of Singapoer is was well over 30’C ). We are so glad we did this as the Gardens are truly spectacular, a design masterpiece I must say, every aspect is so well done. We spent the entire day & into the night ( the light display is at 7:45pm ) finally getting home at 10:00 that night.
A few more photos …….
DAY 4 ….. Today we have to just pass time as we are out of our apartment at noon but our flight to Barcelona is not until 1:40am tomorrow, Sunday morning, we have to be at Changi Airport at about 10:30pm tonight, crazy time for a flight, but you arrive in Barcelona at 11:00am local time ….. Going to be a long day >>>>>and it has been, at present at Changi International MEGA airport, this place is so big it has shuttle sky trains to take you to yout boarding gate. We have another 2 hours to wait before our flight, Rita is trying to sleep ?? It is 11:30pm & Changi airport is still full of passengers.
After a very long flight from Singapore via 1 1/2 hrs stop in Milan where we had to just sit on the plane ? We arrived in Barcelona at 11:00am and as we could not check in to our apartment before 2:00pm we decided to catch the airport shuttle into the city, it was good and due to something happening in the city centre, we got dropped about 2 klm from our apartment. We walked toward our pad stopping off on the way for a coffee and baguette. We finally arrived at 2:00pm as required & were met by a young lady who was the caretaker, she showed us the flat and it is really great, recently renovated in a modern style but leaving the old features which have all been restored, we are very pleased with the choice, it is also very close to many attractions being only one klm from the Sagrada Familia which is most probably the main thing most people want to see. Went for a walk around the area, picked up some food & beverage supplies, back to the flat & in bed by 10pm.
The next morning, day 6, we decided to do a local explore, so headed in the direction of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s pretty amazing dream to create the perfect church, probably not quite the correct words, anyway upon arriving there, only a 10 minute walk we found hundreds of people waiting to go into the attraction, we enquired and the best way to avoid queues is to book online, so we did that sitting on steps outside and got an opening at 4:15pm that day, paid & downloaded the entry tickets in less than 5 minutes, how good is modern smart phone technology. We then went walking again coming across a quaint old building, market area then somehow onto the main shopping street in central Barcelona, not remembering that most smaller businesses shut down between 2:00pm & 5:00pm for siesta, the larger shops seem though to remain open. Looked around here until it was time to get back to the Sagrada.
We arrived back in time and were amazed at what the interior holds in this hard to explain building, it is really an architectural masterpiece, with the overly intricate structural design, considering not only were most of the plans, drawings & plaster models destroyed at various times in the past 100 years, but also that every single detail in this eccentric building has a distinct meaning and use, you really do find this a bit hard to process as this building has been under continual construction for over 100 years and the predicted end is still 10 years away, it is truly a major feat of engineering as they have had to remake all of the detailed mounds to assist in the construction, not forgetting that up until probably 15 / 20 years ago they would not have had 5 or 6 cranes looming overhead lifting all the intricate building stones into position …… The photos give a bit of an idea into this amazing building …….
I am afraid to get the real scale & feel of this spectacular building you have to visit & form your own opinion !!!!!
We headed home from seeing this phenomenon with mixed feelings as to how to interpret this building, I really think we were spoiled with seeing some very impressive churches & mosques on our trip last year …….
Day 7 ……. Another day in Barcelona … We set out this morning to go on the ‘ hop on, hop off ‘ bus but as we walked toward one of the pick up points we came across the Barcelona ‘ Arc de Triumph ‘ which led us down through a park so once again onward we strolled. We had a very interesting day by as usual stumbling across very interesting areas. We ended up down on the Barcelona waterfront in the recently developed Marina Precinct, as usual huge motor yachts from the mega wealthy were moored down there an a large shopping complex, the whole place was buzzing with restaurants, bars & people trying to sell different things to the locals & tourists. On our way back home we found the Barcelona Cultural Centre where they have discovered the remnants of the old city from the 1700’s, the have done a huge dig & found the foundations of parts of the city, which now tells a story of existence in that period, very interesting. Arrived back home about 6:00pm after another exciting, exploring day ……
Finally after another busy
walking day, back home about 6:00pm ………
Days …. 8 and 9 …..
The next two days have been spent still exploring this very big city, we walked again finding fantastic locations & just generally experiencing Barcelona ….. We went online & purchased a two day ‘ Hop on Hop off ‘ bus tickets on the Barcelona Turistico bus which has three lines, the Blue, Red & Green, we stayed on the bus enjoyed being driven around the Blue line region, then transferred after a bite to eat onto the Red line bus, after a few stops we arrived at Camp Nou Stadium, the home of the famous Barcelona Football Club, they have here a extremely successful Camp Nou Experience tour which we had wanted to go on so we got off the bus a this point, purchased our tickets and went on the Camp Nou experience.
We, I am not a European football expert only enjoy watching this very fast dramatic game when it comes up on TV at home & always have liked to watch it & also read up a bit on what is happening over here in football. To say these people are passionate about the game in a great under statement, they are more than that, the amazing thing about Barcelona & why it is so special is the club is owned by its 150,000 members, they make the decisions, how this works, I do not know but it is very successful & profitable club and the way the have created the Camp Nou experience & museum ie excellent, you really see everything about this football club right down to going into the players dressing room and pre game area. The tour takes at least 2 hours even if you are in a hurry and you cannot hurry here as to be in this stadium & see its enormous size is fantastic, holds 100,000 spectators & apparently fills up with every home game. This is the stadium where Bruce Springsteen ( he is here on the 14th May ) and ACDC and other big name acts hold there mega concerts, as the Spanish are great concert lovers. We really enjoyed seeing this place in the real and to get the feel of what it must be to be a passionate ‘ BARCA ‘ supporter.
After that great experience we continued on for a full route of the bus, checking out all there is to see, it is a bit over whelming this city, so big in area …. We ended our day at the main square in central Barcelona, before boarding another bus back to the Sagrada which is the closest stop to where we live. The buses will only stop at designated points regardless, they are not allowed to just pick up & put you off where you want, hence some walking to get to major places is required.
Day 10 …… We wanted to do the third section of the ‘ Hop on Hop off ‘ bus today but to get to the start of that section is a bit of a journey, we walked up to the Sagrada stop & boarded our bus there, always very long lines of people wanted to use the buses & most want to sit up top in the open, lucky we were only using it as transport from point to point as we had already seen the sights from top deck, therefore we were willing to take a bottom seat so skipped the queues, good move as it saves heaps of time. We got off at the very popular Park Guell, which is another of Gaudi’s art displays, all related to the park & his contact with nature, unfortunately for us the wait to get into the walled centre display section was 6 hours, they only allow 400 people into this section at one time, so bad for us we missed out so just walked around the park itself which is a bit dismal but still enough to see including the home Gaudi’s lived in for 20 years. Some park photos here …
We then continued on, hopping off the bus a few klms down the road to have some lunch, found a popular area and walked around a bit, had a great panini & salad & coffee before hopping back on the bus to reach the start point of the third, green route before the day ended, last bus is at 8:00pm …… We board ed the bus and enjoyed the troop along the newly redesign edge waterfront area of Barcelona, this city sure knows how to do great things for their people, it is so clean, parks & gardens everywhere, bike riding lanes, skateboard parks, they have it all here and right on the water, it really is a credit to the city, they have utilised the infrastructure from the 1992 Olympics to a great advantage ………
Last full day for us here in Barco tomorrow, board Viking Star on Sunday ……..
Day 11 …. Saturday in Barcelona……It is pretty impossible to see everything in this great expanse of a city, we were going to have a break today but instead went to the beach,, we walked directly down our street Carrer de Sardenya about 12 blocks, watched some guys play a game of soccer on the way before finally arriving at the main beach, we did not swim, seems nobody swims just all sun bake, play sport or just sit and eat & drink at all the many restaurants & bars along the beach strip, we had some lunch & just sat & watched all the action for a couple of hours.. We then walked the entire beach strip which is a couple of klms before heading back home through the park in front of the Arc de Triomf & to our surprise there was an organic, natural health, self sufficiency type faith stretching the entire approx 1. Klm length of the park & it was absolutely full with people. When we first entered the park there was some drummers playing local Catalan music, very vibrant and fast paced, it was truly fantastic to see this moving music in the raw. We then strolled the park. Getting home about 7:00pm, another great day & our last in Barcelona in our apartment, we have had a great time. Staying in cities for this length of time you do get to feel the city proper ……. Tomorrow onto ‘ Viking Star ‘ …….