Walking 800Km! (Camino De Santiago)

In Bangladesh, less than 31% of women have a secondary school education and around 45% are illiterate.

I first met Monita in 2017 whilst I was living in Northern Bangladesh as a community worker. Due to Monita being so kind and welcoming we became fast friends. We travelled around rural communities delivering health and social workshops. We created the workshops together whilst Monita also taught me Bangla so we could be as effective team as possible.

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Since I left Bangladesh Monita has carried on this great work and continues to work as a school tutor to support her mother and younger siblings. Monita has recently passed all her exams and has applied to university to become a nurse. But this costs money that she does not have.

40853360_1564043922993043_r.jpeg                                            Monita leading a workshop on her own after I left Bangladesh

So…I will be walking 800km along the Camino De Santiago from 21st August to 25th September 2019 to raise money for Monita’s Nursing Degree. The degree costs around £1500 and any money raised above this target will go towards food and shelter for her mother and younger siblings who are dependent on Monita. If you want to help, no matter how big or small, please follow this link https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-monita-become-a-nurse-for-her-community

Thank You!

40853360_1564044120327552_r.jpeg                                                                         Monita demonstrating how to do CPR 

Barcelona Day Four: Easy Mazes and the Gothic Quarter

Our last day here in Barcelona started slowly as our over-priced cocktails from last night took a grip. After re-hydrating we sloped towards the nearest cafe we could find. Typically we found the best breakfast spot on our last day. It was a tiny, albeit slightly cramped veggie cafe. But it was cheap and delicious.

After consuming some food (5 plates of food to be precise..) we strolled around the nearby gothic quarter; home of the town hall and very impressive gothic cathedral. The area was buzzing with locals, tourists and street sellers.

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When i’m in a new city I like to try out the different modes of transport they have on offer, and Barcelona has trams. So we boarded a tram to our next and last destination of the holiday- a hilltop maze. unfortunately it turns out the tram lines are very limited and we had to get off after two stops to get a bus. We both needed the toilet and luckily we had got off the tram near a new, and very modern shopping mall in the middle of nowhere. There was music playing out speakers around the shopping mall, if you’ve ever played Sims, you can imagine the music playing.

We also realised we hadn’t consumed any water for a very long time so headed into a CarreFour super market- well we tried. The entrance wasn’t very clearly marked (considering Alex speaks both Catalan and Spanish)  so we just headed backwards through the self checkouts so we could get into the supermarket. But one lady on the checkout did not take us ‘breaking in’ to the shop very kindly and proceeded to shout at us then call security..

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So after that slight misunderstanding we boarded the bus; drink-less.  It dropped us at the bottom of a massive hill, on a road, with no pavement and no phone signal. Against our better judgement we started to walk up the giant hill.. And to our surprise the winding path did lead us to a beautiful gardens complete with a maze..

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Although often the main selling point of these gardens is the maze, it was very small thus easy to complete. The real charm of the place is the hidden, secluded paths winding through forests, past waterfalls and beautiful wildlife.

As we reached the exit of the gardens and the entrance of the metro it dawned on us that this was the end of our holiday. So we collected our luggage, stocked up on tapas and spent our euros in duty free. So here we are at Barcelona airport planning our next trip whilst waiting for our delayed flight home..

Barcelona Day Three: Cable Cars and Castles

Day three in Barcelona called for an Al Fresco breakfast. Alex and I returned to the cool shopping centre built in an old bullring to buy some pastries and fresh orange juice. We then headed to the  national art museum of Catalunya. I was promised escalators to the top and there were- but they weren’t moving. So after a sweaty trip up hundreds of stairs and some now, slightly warm orange juice we made it to the entrance of the museum. But we weren’t there for the museum- the view opposite is stunning. The only problem was, this view is no secret. There were hundreds of tourists and school kids at the top. Along with some pesky pigeons vying for my pastry so we didn’t stay too long.

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The view from the bottom of the art museum of Catalunya

Luckily the paths at the back of the museum is slightly quieter and even better, leads to a cable car.. The cable car was 8 euros and took around 10 minutes to get you to the summit- the location of Montjuic Castle. As we are travelling on a budget we decided not to pay to enter the castle, instead we went for a stroll around the castle grounds which are free. You can do a full circle around the castle- we even spotted some archery practice.

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After a returning on the cable car, a frantic search for a free toilet and a delicious waffle we decided we needed some culture. After looking through a list of art exhibitions in Barcelona we chose to visit the centre of Photography, showcasing the work of legendary photographer August Sander. I was really excited as I had researched Sanders work last term at uni. The Photography Centre is extremely accessible, plonked ring tin the middle of Las Ramblas. Which made it even more odd that it was so quiet when we entered. Not that odd though when we re-read the exhibition poster. It was opening in 3 days time- a day after we leave. With our tail between our legs we did the only thing possible- retail therapy. After Alex bought a whole load of make-up which will be impossible to pack in our hand luggage decided a rest at the apartment was needed.

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The Terraza Hotel 360 bar

I don’t know why but when deciding what I wanted to do in Barcelona, I was set on seeing a sun set. Maybe (and rather embarrassingly) I assumed the sun would set beautifully over the beach- obviously not, Barcelona is on the East coast. After speaking to some local friends they suggested the rooftop terrace at the upmarket Terraza hotel. So after dressing up and pretending we knew what we were doing we walked straight into the hotel lobby, to the lift and up to the top floor. We walked straight into a 360 rooftop bar with seats around the edge primed to witness the sunset- just what we were looking for. After paying for some over-priced cocktails we sat down ready for the sunset and boy did it live up to expectations…

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Barcelona Day Two: Walking my socks off

Alex, who I’m travelling with, has family on the outskirts of Barcelona so she headed off early this morning on the coach to visit them for the day.  Leaving me with a metro ticket, a map and a day to explore the more ‘touristy’ side of Barcelona.

First stop, Sagrada Familia. After trying to memorise the map in my head (don’t ask me why) the Sagrada Familia poking out about the buildings was a welcome sight. Its an incredibly impressive piece of architecture and like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I didn’t stay too long as I knew there was a lot more I wanted to see but I am really glad I visited, it’s a must see for a reason.

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According to google maps the walk between the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, my next stop, was 32 minutes away. What it didn’t tell me, and I should’ve worked out from the geography of Barcelona, that this walk was all up a steep hill. That being said this was one of my favourite parts of the day as I explored some of the backstreets and enjoyed chatting to locals in a sweet cafe half way up the hill.

After arriving at Park Guell, slightly hot and out of breath, I spotted a queue for tickets. Being British I saw my time to shine and stood in line. But as I got to the front I was told theres a limited capacity in the park and the next available tickets were for 5pm (it was only 1pm).

But the women on the information desk was extremely helpful and told me that a large portion of the Park (around 2/3) is actually free to walk around at anytime. So I thought the best compromise was walking around the free parts rather than waiting around for 4 hours- Im glad I did. The wildlife I spotted along the beautiful paths was worth the uphill walk alone. At random parts along the paths you could get a glimpse of the Barcelona skyline. And at one view point there was an Elvis impersonator singing Take That songs- all a bit surreal.

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I spent a couple of hours in the park wandering around, buying snacks and eating snacks. By this time I had just about recovered from my earlier hike so I decided to embark on another uphill walk, this time to the Carmel Bunkers which according to many travel blogs offer the best panoramic views across the city.

From the park it was a 30 minute hike, but halfway up I started spotting graffiti sprayed by the locals. It started off as ‘go home stupid tourists’ and got progressively more aggressive the further up the hill you go. After researching, I found the locals are against the Carmel Bunkers new found popularity as tourists often drop rubbish and the prices in local cafes and shops have been hiked up.  I made the decision to carry on as it’s a weekday so it wasn’t very busy and of course took all rubbish home with me.

After a steep walk and a set of steps I reached the top. The views were stunning and only a handful of people were at the summit. I sat for about 30 minutes taking it all in as the top offers a 360 degree view. It you visit, it’s a great idea to take food and drink with you as it is a de-hydrating hike to the top, but please respect locals and take any rubbish home with you.

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The view was pretty spectacular

With Alex heading back from visiting her family I jumped on the metro back to the apartment. But before I did I checked the pedometer on my phone- I had already walked 15km!

After a (well-earned) nap we headed out for dinner which provided more great views! We headed to a shopping centre which has been built in an old bullring. And if you take the escalators to the top you get to a 360 degree balcony with restaurants based in the centre. Here we had Paella and some more tapas (of course) and watched the sun set out the window.

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The view from the restaurant

After a day of walking and eating we headed back to the apartment for an early night and to plan for tomorrow. Already we have planned to visit a castle, a photography exhibition, an art museum and ride on a cable car..

Barcelona Day One: Airports and Beaches

Today I set off for the East coast Spanish city of Barcelona. I have been before, but when I was a kid so I was looking forward to returning and exploring more. I am here just for few days during my spring break from university. I am travelling with Alex who like me, lives in Brighton but spent her childhood in Barcelona.

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Like any good holiday we spent our morning consuming overpriced food at the airport, loosing track of time and running to our gate. Although we were the last to board the plane, we made it in time to sit onboard as our flight got more and more delayed.

Finally we were off and after watching copious amount of Parks and Rec we landed. Travelling with someone who has spent half their life in Barcelona made travelling from the airport to the city centre stress free. This was helped by the constant stream of reasonably priced airport shuttle buses.

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An aerial shot of Las Ramblas

It was a 30 minute bus ride into the centre and then a 5 minute walk to the apartment we were staying in. By the time we had refreshed and unpacked it was early evening. So we decided on a walk along the beach and some food. To get to the beach we had to stroll down the most famous street in Barcelona; Las Ramblas. Its a palm tree-lined avenue leading from the centre of town down to the beach. As I remembered from when I was a child it was filled with tourists and stalls selling everything from souvenirs to flamenco show tickets. If visiting it’s a good idea to keep your belongings close as pick pockets operate in this area.

The beach was beautifully serene and quiet with the sun setting behind it. The only danger here is getting hit by what felt like hundreds of skateboarders- all way cooler than I’ll ever be.

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Walking along the beach built up our appetite so we dipped into a side street for some tapas from a recommended restaurant. This was the first tapas I have ever had and it didn’t disappoint. The only negative I can think of, is the broken unisex toilet door which led me to seeing a man in a rather uncompromising position…

With full stomachs a good night sleep was needed so we headed back here to the apartment. Tomorrow we have a full day planned so stay tuned..