Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hot soup, tea and sleep

It started with a headache yesterday, and waking up today with a sore throat and feeling congested and tired. Wouldn't you know it, after almost 3 weeks off work I've come down with the flu. A day before I'm due back at work. Great.

It could have been worse I suppose. Imagine feeling under the weather during Christmas and not having an appetite? Scary thought. Hopefully people won't notice me hiding in my cubicle for the rest of this week ;)

New year's eve celebrations this time were a quiet affair, just a few drinks at our local pub to count down into the new year. J and I are still pretty tired from our trip to Ireland & Spain, so a noisy, boisterous night out was the last thing on our minds. Either that or we're just getting old!

We flew into Ireland 3 weeks ago today and spent some time in Limerick, staying with J's aunt before flying to Spain. J's brother was kind enough to take us sightseeing around County Clare.

The Irish coastline is spectacular, more so with the fog and mist, which somehow adds to the mystique. I am always amazed at how green Ireland is (yes very cliche). I find the many shades of green to be calming in a way. I have to also add that moss grows everywhere in Ireland - even in the cracks of car windows which I find hilarious.

Cliffs of Moher - County Clare
The Cliffs of Moher

We were relieved to come in from the cold, misty weather after a day of sightseeing. J's aunt had prepared a delicious homecooked meal by the time we got back - roast pork with carrots and creamy baked potatoes. Followed by one of my favourite desserts, pavlova. It was so good I had thirds. With extra cream. Well it was the holiday season after all. That's what I kept telling myself anyway.

We got up early the following morning to drive from Limerick to Cork for our flight to Barcelona. While small, single lane country roads may be quaint for sightseeing and experiencing Ireland, they're certainly no fun when you're in a hurry to catch a flight.

After a quick 2 hour flight we landed in Barcelona's international airport. J's sister, who lived in Spain for a year, had written out a list of useful words and phrases that would prove invaluable for our trip. Phrases like, "Two red wines please, "Two draft beers please" and so on.

Barcelona is a relatively compact, densely packed city. There are many narrow streets to explore and many, many little bars, some offering tapas. Perfect if you're feeling peckish. I was in heaven.

Gorgeous buildings in Barcelona
Gorgeous old buildings in Barcelona

We stayed in a lovely little hotel in the old city, and spent most of our time wandering the narrow streets. As we were a little pressed for time, we only had time for a small side trip to see the famous temple designed by Gaudi, the Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

The temple has a pretty interesting history, and as you can see the temple is still under construction (which began in 1882), NOT renovation. You can read more about the history of the temple here.

Sagrada Familia under renovation

Day two involved more wandering around and a visit to the massive covered market, the Mercat de la Boqueria. This was what I looking forward to seeing the most on our trip. Fresh fruits & vegetables, fish, the odd duck still with its feathers attached, and the piece de resistance - Spain's famous cured hams, or jamon. Yeah baby!!

Inside the massive covered market - la Boqueira
Colourful fruit stand inside the market

Jamon! Jamon!
Cured hams or jamon for sale

Seeing so many delectable treats made us hungry. So we headed to one of the few food stalls within the market. A glass of vino blanco, a hearty bowl of fish sopa and we were ready for plate of grilled sardines. My GOD they were good, I was tempted to order another plate.

Sardines for lunch inside La Boqueria
Heaven on a plate

After two great days in Barcelona, it was time to head back to Cork to spend Christmas with J's family. We stopped by the beautiful church near our hotel the night before we left. I think this is my favourite shot of the trip.

Inside Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar near our hotel

On Christmas day J's mum and aunt cooked up a storm - turkey, baked ham with a delicious mustard pineapple crust and trifle! My GOD I love trifle! It's been sooo long since I had trifle! Layers of sponge cake, decadent cream, cherries and port! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Anyway, I digress. After some champagne and sliced jamon hors d'oeuvres (all the way from Barcelona!), we sat down for Christmas dinner. We started off with an appetizer of prawns with sweet chilli sauce, before moving onto the turkey and other goodies.

Christmas dinner
Christmas dinner

Boxing Day (or St Stephens Day) was spent plonked on the couch in front of the telly recovering from the previous day's food fest. I don't think I've ever seen so many re-runs of Eastenders or Coronation Street in my life!

After almost 2 weeks away it was time to go home. We said our goodbyes and made our way to the airport for the six hour flight across the Atlantic and back to reality...

Going home


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