Our first day in Bangkok, we spent around Pratunam, the area where our hotel was situated. Hoping against hope for some decent shopping. As I have said, the Indra Square shopping was now hopeless. After a truly great omelette for breakfast by the pool, we checked out a market across the road. A little better but no Thai silk. Far from it!
Lunch by the pool (a good spot) and a sketch. Satay and fishcakes. We asked again at reception for places to shop and were told to try the Pratunam Centre, on the opposite corner. Now that is not as simple as it sounds because of the Bangkok traffic. You need to go along the road to where there is a pedestrian bridge, go across there, and find your way back to where you want to be.
All along the main street (Ratchaprop Road) are market stalls. In fact the market stalls had better quality merchandise than Indra Square. But no Thai silk. Well, we did by scarves (shawls?) of ‘Thai silk’ but not Thai silk as we know it, maybe silk-thetic? Pretty though. I will show you in a couple of days.
We never found the Pratunam Centre, though we did find the a Platinum Centre. Could it have changed its name? Definitely no Pratunam Centre nearby. We didn’t buy anything though we met some ginger cats, very self-possessed.
Dinner in the hotel. Far too complicated to get a taxi in the crazy traffic to go somewhere else. Luckily, great food. Major glueing evening. Gotta catch up.
Waking up on a cloudy Sunday morning in Helsinki, in a bed like a cloud. It was hard to get up.
But breakfast, coat and scarf and out we go, walking into the centre of Helsinki. Not far, and not as cold as I had expected, except for the chilly wind coming down the side streets. Mostly foreigners out and about. Shops don’t open till midday on a Sunday in Helsinki, so we were window shopping, then had a look at the one souvenir shop that was open. High quality goods, notable for their difference in colouring to the hotter colours of southern Europe. Misty blues, pebble colours, very restrained and rather sophisticated.
On down towards the water, and Kauppatori Market. Only purchase, a reindeer magnet for my new fridge. (I will have to draw all these fridge magnets!) Lovely setting with the old and the new in Boats on the water. We looked also at the major structures in downtown Helsinki, the senate building, the cathedral, and then driven by the wind we went to a lovely old cafe for ‘lunch’. (Not the one with all the foreigners…ours was full of locals.) We had decided to have cake for lunch. Finland is known for great cakes, and we were not going to miss the opportunity to try one. We had seen wonderful berries in the market, and both chose cakes with berries. So I sketched mine.
A quick look in Stockmans, the major department store, and it was back to the hotel to collect our luggage and away to the airport for our long flight to Bangkok. Not long enough in Helsinki. Perhaps another trip on Finnair and a longer stay next time. Impressions…..pink granite outdcrops everywhere and the pavements made of the same stone. Trees, water. There is a boat tour I would really love to do.
With heavy hearts we made our way up Las Ramblas pre-dawn. None of us wanted to leave Barcelona. We got on the trusty Aerobus just as it got light. Off to the airport for our flight to Helsinki.
Now I wonder if you noticed that some days ago the Italian days and dates morphed into Spanish? As we ended this day in Finland the day and month names are in Finnish now. A very exotic language to look at, Finnish. I am fascinated by it. See, ‘flight time to destination’ – lentoaika määränpäähän. So away to Helsinki with a lentoaika määränpäähän of 3 hours 50 minutes, but with a time difference of two hours we lost nearly six hours and didn’t arrive at our hotel until after 5 pm.
We chose nearly all our hotels through Tripadvisor reviews and they were all great. Every time I would be waiting for the one that was the disaster, and it never came. We stayed at Glo Art Hotel in Helsinki, partly because it looked like a castle on the outside. We loved it. The beds to quote Broni, were ‘like a cloud’. It was also the first shower since Switzerland that wasn’t hand-held. We were exhausted after our late night and early morning. It was chilly in Helsinki. Cold, but it certainly gets colder here in Sydney in the winter. But we were tired and we didn’t feel like going out in the dark and cold in a strange city.
Glo Art Hotel is reasonably large but in the reception lounge it has the ambience of a small hotel. The receptionists are very friendly and they also bring drinks and ‘panini’. We decided to have ‘salmon panini’, but when it came it was entirely different and much superior to what we were expecting. It was a type of very delicious traditional Finnish flat bread with real salmon. So delicious that we (quite hungry) initially said ‘we will have to have another one of these’, but it was so rich and filling we just couldn’t. And so to bed in our clouds’.
It was our last full day in Barcelona and we went out for breakfast. I wanted to eat an enseimada. I used to eat them every day for breakfast the summer I spent in Majorca many years ago. I had no idea until recently that they were available in Barcelona.
We wandered around looking for a suitable bar for breakfast and ended up in Plaça Sant Josep Oriol. Oh, I sketched here last time I was in Barcelona and I’d forgotten all about it. However after breakfast I left Broni and her son together there. They live the other side of the world from each other and they needed some time together. So I photographed the balcony and lamp I had sketched before and off I went. Shopping.
Back to the bead shops for actual purchases this time. My favourite wholesalers and a few other shops as well. Lipsticks. A couple of fridge magnets for my new fridge, still to be purchased. Then I walked around the streets looking for a table outside a bar where I could sit and sketch. All full. Walked more. Still all full. So, OK. This sketch was done from a photo. The second one from a photo and the last.
By the time I met Broni and her son at La Boqueria at 1pm I was parched and, yes, the feet were even more ragged. We found a seat at one of the bars inside the market, any seat, and ended up eating sausage (think cabanossi, salami). Delicious. Then siesta.
Only a short siesta as we had to pack. I also had to go to an exhibition, Sketching Barcelona. It was just nearby and I popped around alone. Each area of Barcelona was represented by a different sketcher. There was a book for sale from each artist and I had thought to buy the one of the Barrio Gotic. However I walked in and was confronted with sketches of ……last night! Last night on the bus. Scenes of Barcelona at dusk. So I bought Sagar Fornies‘ book ‘Redescobrint Eixample’. You can see some images from it here. It takes me back immediately to Barcelona and a warm evening on the top of that bus. Great exhibition. I would have likied to buy more books. Why didn’t I?
In the sketches of Barrio Gotic, I saw a reference to a bar called La Plata, which ‘has the best fried fish’. So off we went for our dinner. Tapas. Either, fish, salad or bread. No bread for us, just the fish. Sardines that you eat whole. Yummm. But Broni didn’t eat the heads, and was cheerfully mocked by the waiter, all in Spanish. Go there often enough and you’d soon be fluent.
After, to Plaça George Orwell, not far from home for a long-promised mojito or three. A first for me.
Today was the day we would get our tickets on the Bus Turistic and make our way around Barcelona on the hop-on hop-off bus, visiting the Gaudi sights. We started at Casa Batllò. I had wanted to see inside it for a long time. Last time I was in Barcelona, I missed out. Not this time. Barcelona is full to bursting with tourists, far more than last time I visited.
Casa Batllò is a bit squeezy with a lot of people in there. However it is so beautiful, and there is so much to see in the one house that we spent the whole morning there.
Just a couple of blocks away is La Pedrera, also known as Casa Mila. There was quite a long queue, and my companions were less than keen to join it. I had been in there before, so I had no arguments. We went off down a side street nearby and found a delicious lunch of pintxos, small snacks.
On the bus again, we headed for the main sight of the day, the cathedral of the Sagrada Familia. A loooooong queue, a very looooong queue. Fortunately they had a helpful marshal who told us the waiting time would be one and a half hours. Forget it.
Next stop, Parc Guell, where it is free, so no waiting time. However it was crawling with tourists and very hot. We climbed up and up amid all the crowds and at the beautiful Plaça with the curving mosaic seats I called a halt. I wanted to sketch at Parc Guell. The others went on and up and I grabbed a tiny spot in the shade and did my sketch.
Enough of tourists, they said. We’re going home for a siesta. And we did.
A stroke of brilliance though, they suggested we go on the last run of the Bus Turistic at 7pm, and that is what we did. Barcelona at dusk is just so beautiful. We did the Red Route, which took us about two hours, with gridlock being played as a sport in Barcelona. It was a wonderful experience there in the dusk on the top of the bus with very few tourists, passing the beautiful Gaudi buildings and many other wonderful Modernist buildings also. It delivered us back at the bottom of Las Ramblas, where we found some tapas for dinner in a small placa, and then home.
Late rising and then a long walk on our ragged feet. Broni and I went to investigate the bead wholesaler in Carrer el Call and found that it is now a whole street of bead shops that runs right down Carrer Boqueria to Las Ramblas. Not shopping, but preparation for shopping later in the week.
But we were heading away from the Ramblas, first to the Catedral. It is a beautiful gothic cathedral, but I hadn’t been inside before. We were surprised to find a colony of thirteen large white geese living in the cloister. The number of geese is the age of Santa Eulalia, patron saint of Barcelona, when she was martyred by the Romans. From there we walked to the area that is known both as La Ribera and El Born (confuses me!).
Near the Picasso Museum there are some interesting little streets and we were heading that way to Plaça Santa Maria del Mar for lunch. I wanted to sketch the same lamp that I sketched last time I was in Barcelona. We ate at Les Caputxes, and this was one of the times I slid the placemat out from under my plate and took it home for collage purposes. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the inside of the church as they closed it while we were eating (yes, patatas bravas and calamari -tapas). Oh how I love patatas bravas.
We walked slowly back to our apartment via the Desigual shop. I had seen one of these shops in the Via del Corso in Rome, seen a scarf and a bag I liked and thought ‘but that sounds Spanish’, and looked it up. In Barcelona they are everywhere. I never found the bag again, but I did find the scarf and this was the day I tried on many scarves…and bought one. This is it.
Siesta time, then a long walk ending near Catedral again where we had Best Icecream Flavour of the Trip….orange. Oh, it tasted like eating mandarins. That night Broni cooked in our apartment. The energy!