A few seconds too long at London Heathrow Airport

I tried my best not to breathe. Don’t gasp for air. Don’t move. Don’t do it. This too shall pass. This too shall pass, I tell myself.

My eyes bulged as I held my breath, glaring at the innocent strangers surrounding me. Don’t do it, Liv. Keep it together. Don’t do it.

Uh oh. Game over. I gasped.

There I was, only 1 hour in to the Malaysian Airline 787 flight to Kuala Lumpur, spluterring like a fool.

A chunk of cantaloupe melon which I was merrily eating from my airplane food tray had gone down the wrong way and the coughing and spluterring was uncontrollable. Fellow travellers curled away into their seats in sheer disgust. What a selfish girl, exposing us all to the coronavirus on a 12 hour flight. Shame on you, girl. Shame on you.

“Wrong! Way! Huhhhh – choking! Mel-on… Wrong… Hole.” I did my best to articulate.

I said before going on this trip, that I wasn’t put off by the hysteria that the media has created surrounding the virus… But in all honesty, it is a little unverving. Especially seeming to be the only two humans travelling and not wearing a face mask.

The 4 and a half hour coach journey to Heathrow, for example. Some woman, a couple of rows back (and another rare non-face-masker), was coughing up her lungs every couple of minutes. Not a smokers cough, not a mucusy cough, but a harsh, stubborn, dry cough – just like the NHS guidelines states.

‘We’re doomed.’ Being in the same claggy air as Mrs Splutter Guts for such a time, we were bound to catch something. And oh, what’s that? Yup. My throat is sore.

In a 20 minute stop at a service station, my proactive self purchased a pack of Halls Extra Strong (menthol action). Extra strong – ya not wrong. If you want your eyes to stream and your nose hairs to feel like they are being ripped out, give ’em a go.

Due to the virus, the airport was much quieter than usual. What was the usual though, was beeping as I went through security (gets me every time). This time, however was certainly the most thorough search I have had to date… Now I’m not sure there is a pretty way to describe it… Nope, there’s not. So here goes –

The swift all body rub by the stern gum-chewing female security offiicer had a very memorable moment – that moment being a very firm pressing on my pubic bone. Was it an accident? Did her hand slip? The question is, why was she there a couple of seconds too long? Perhaps, like in any job, she had a moment of daydreaming, wondering what she was going to make for her dinner that night and what might be on the telly. And then she thought, oops. I’ve been touching this lady’s private parts for too long. My bad.

I let out an involuntary giggle and my cheeks flushed a deep shade of red with the embarrassment that the crowds of people surrounding us knew exactly where she had just rubbed… I immediately told Mum and I’m glad she found my trauma amusing.

 

Visiting Barcelona: Always a good idea

You could say my trip started when I asked myself the question: why have I never been to Barcelona before? It’s a city rich in culture with mesmerising architecture cradling you on every street. It’s a city that offers exquisite tapas, sangria galore, and it’s always ready to cater to your fresh paella desires. It’s a city for the fashionistas, the beach bums, the health freaks, the foodies, the history geeks and the artists. It’s basically a must-see and therefore a must-go. To top it all, it’s so close (just over two hours flight, and you can get very very very cheap flights). So to answer the question, WHY have I not visited before? I really don’t know. This must change.

Me: “Lauren (colleague*), what are you doing a couple of weekends from now?”

*I use the word colleague very loosely. We’re great pals.

Lauren: “Nothing. Probably an Aldi shop. Maybe going for a run. Why?”

Me: “How about going for a run up Montjuic? In Barcelona. Let’s go.”

We then both did that thing that girls do when you jump around a bit and dance excitedly but you’re too excited you don’t really make any noise. (Note: no one else was in the office at this time).

We’re both the kind to save, save, save, and the odd splurge on an exciting last-minute travel plan, well, I don’t see anything wrong with that. We were lucky and found very cheap flights and cheap hotel. We’ll barely be in the hotel anyway, we’ll be too busy having fun, seeing new things and trying new food.

***

(Sighs). The concept of time is mad. Like the blink of an eye, it was about to start and then it was over. We went, laughed, ate great food, took some photos, got blisters, laughed some more and then came home. We’re back in the office.

Weekend trips away certainly don’t give you as much space or thinking time as a big backpacking trip and there isn’t enough time to feel part of a new community, BUT, they are very special in their own right. If you’re subject to the chronic travel bug, weekend trips to a new city will give you that quick fix, a boost of travel pleasure, if you may. In some ways they actually trump long-term trips as they’re less tiring and you’ll constantly have that energetic wide-eyed enthusiasm. (Unless you’re Lauren, having a sense of humour failure whilst getting harassed by locals selling mojitos and a foot massage on Barceloneta Beach).

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I hope that after reading this, you might consider saving the pennies to visit a new city in the near future! Or how about a national park you’ve never been to or a new museum in your hometown? Keep doing things that excite you.

But before you go, I’ll leave you with my tips on where to go / what to do in Barcelona, should you be visiting soon.

  1. Dine at Les Quinze Nits on the Place Reial. AMAZING food, great prices! It was so good, we went here twice and I had (big statement) the best dessert of my life. The Catalonian special was a magical concoction of coffee gelato, crème brulee and rich melted dark chocolate. (Video evidence of my foodgasm is available upon request).
  1. Trek (run if you’re a keeno) up Montjuic to see the Castell de Montjuic. Top tip: if you want incredible views, go early before 8am. No tourists.
  1. Rent bikes and ride along the pathway, parallel to the beach. It goes on for miles and miles. This was our favourite activity!

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  1. Meander around the Gothic Quarter and be in awe of the architecture that towers over you. Don’t plan too much, just get lost amongst it all and see what you find!
  1. Drink coffee in Els 4 Gats. It’s cute, quirky and has a great selection of drinks. To make it even cooler, it’s a café that Picasso used to hang out in.
  1. Visit La Boqueria market, one of the best food markets in the world. They say, ‘if you can’t find it in La Boqueria, it’s not worth buying.’

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  1. Of course, do the classics too! See La Sagrada Famila, Park Guell and eat tapas to your heart’s desire!

Shout out to Lauren: I’m usually a bit of a loner and I use this blog to encourage solo travel. But Lauren, I loved every minute with you. Thank you for such a special weekend. And thank you for walking all of those miles with me to get that sandwich that I really, really wanted for lunch.