Chair antics

IMG_2010A blonde, a Swede and a partially blind Ugandan attempt to make a chair…. it sounds like the start of a bad joke doesn’t it?

Well, this is reality.  I’ve commissioned a Swedish volunteer to help me make some adaptive seating for a disabled boy in the village and we have roped in the skills of a local carpenter who has lost the sight in one eye and has provided some rather questionable chairs to the lodge we reside in.  His name in Mandev, which isn’t actually his name at all, more a nickname which abbreviated in Ugandan, means man with a beard.  He is in his 70’s, has a 20 year old wife and lots of children that attend our school.

The initial idea was to make some supportive seating for a boy without sitting balance which may help reduce his tone and give him some comfort.  My initial sketches, although not great, were quickly adapted by Jan our Swedish volunteer into something completely different but looked like it may work.  Given that Sweden has a reputation for high class products and of course is home to the infamous IKEA, which if anything shows how well the Swedish can put together furniture, I decided to run with it.

Many people in Uganda still resort to witch doctors and are under the impression that if they have a disabled child then they have been cursed in some way.  This young boy was identified to me by a neighbour and his parents were more than happy for me to meet him.  Unable to sit independently or talk, he has the most beautiful smile and I instantly wanted to try and help in some way.  At 16, it is unlikely rehabilitation will make any huge differences, especially if no-one is able to carry on my work after I leave.

The best solution therefore was to make him a form of adaptive seating to help reduce his tone, improve his strength and hopefully improve his quality of life.

The question was how to do this.  Jan decided that Mandev was the best option and we handed over his above plans… inevitably what we got given was nothing like it.

Needing to then adapt the plans I had a little help from Jessie, another physiotherapist I had made contact with who works at a disabled school.  We began to change the design to ensure that at the very least, he had some more flexion at the hips to stop him from sliding out and falling onto the floor.

The other very obvious problem was that the chair was wonky (a common theme with Mandev’s chairs!).  Hardly surprising, considering he measures the legs from a different point each time and his tape measure is so old that it no longer has numbers on…

IMG_1791.JPGIn addition to the chair, I also asked him to make a table which we could fit on top as the boy has enough upper limb activity to feed himself.

Five attempts later, with some measuring help from another Swedish volunteer, Jutta, we finally had something that was beginning to look like it might actually work.  Lucky, as I’m not sure Mandev would have been able to handle it if I’d have sent him back again to make more changes.

On the way back from town I bought a mattress to provide the additional support the chair still lacked.  Coming back from town, sitting three on a motorbike, holding a pair of crutches and a mattress I realised how much I have become absorbed in Ugandan life.  It also cemented the fact that I have very little regard for health and safety.

IMG_1967The chair looked great, such a good effort and I began cutting up the mattress to provide the chair with more postural support.  That is, after a photo of the carpenter with his goods of course.  Also, it turns out Mandev’s real name is Nathan… suits him far better I think!

IMG_1974.JPGAs the mattress was thick and I only had a small, plastic pair of scissors I had to resort to a knife to cut it up.  Although not ideal, I appeared to do a fairly good job.

IMG_1994.JPGAfter some battling to get everything back together we finally had a chair that might actually do the job.  I was buzzing!

IMG_1997.JPGTried and tested by our very own Pats…

IMG_2007.JPGThe next problem was how to get it up the hill.  On a good day, without carrying a huge wooden chair, it takes about 30/ 40 minutes to reach their house.  After trying my sweetest persuasion techniques, I couldn’t entice anyone to carry it up for me, except for one of the cowboys who then got called away milking.

So, what else to do in Uganda other than call a boba boda?  I have seen everything from goats to bananas to coffins on motorbikes so I was pretty confident they would be able to help me with my chair.  Laurence called in some friends and within 10 minutes my chair was being loaded onto one of two motorbikes – the other to take us up the hill.

 

Bumping up small dirt tracks and through banana plantations, on a motorbike, is an unbeatable feeling.  We passed the local villagers attending a service outside the church and I smiled and waved at some of my patients and the people I have come to know over the last two months.  It is such a wonderful community and I have loved being a part of it.

When we arrived, the boy, P, was on the floor outside and smiled at the sight of us (his dogs were slightly less friendly and did their best to inflict fear).  On previous visits he has generally been outside but when I have turned up unexpected he has been lying on the floor, in a small hut and I believe this is where he usually stays.

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We lifted P up into our arms (for anyone bothered about manual handling – TIA) and carried him to the chair.  It was instant gratification for the last few days stresses and exertions.  He looked perfect.  Yes, the chair was probably only just adequate but he looked so much better and it was definitely worth the effort.

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His mother, who had seen us passing, had ran up the hill from the evening church service to meet us.  Her kind words and blessings making it all the sweeter.

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That smile!

I haven’t yet mentioned by this was actually my last evening at the lodge and it could not have been better.  Leaving behind something so small, that will make such a huge difference, there is no better way to end a trip!

The only issues were that I burnt myself on the motorbike exhaust (basic error – and one I have avoided for years!), giving myself a second degree burn.  Fail!

I also definitely paid too much for the boda (to add insult to injury) and he wasn’t dropping his price, so I had next to no money for food or water for the next 30 hours until my flight!  But, it was worth it all for the sense of accomplishment.

Thanks to all the amazing people that helped make this a reality.

To donate to my projects so I can keep providing help where it’s needed, visit my just giving page here.

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Right to an Education

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I strongly believe that every child deserves the right to an education.  Having been lucky enough to be University educated in the United Kingdom, it is something I value highly.

One thing I have learnt since being in Uganda, is that things don’t often work out as expected.  After all, this is Africa.  Yesterday, my plans to start health screening on the oldest nursery school children, were knocked on the head.  We needed to print more screening sheets but as the power was down, we were unable to.

On my way back to the lodge to sort the papers, I passed a small boy.  Bare foot and dressed in rags, talking to the staff outside the gate, they were trying to round up enough money for a bus fare.  It turns out the boy had been found earlier in the morning, sleeping in a ditch outside the lodge.  He had spent the night there.  Visibly in pain, he limped towards us.

His name was Paulo and he was 11 years old.  With nurse Rosen’s help, we established that his father had taken him to his sisters, where he was to work for an old lady as her cow boy.  He walked there and back each day and after working two months, reasonably asked for some money.  At this request, the old lady ‘chased him away’.  He went back to his sisters, who instead of helping him, made him start walking back home.

It had taken him 4 days to reach here and he lives near Mburo, another 3 hours drive away.  There was no way, with any conscience, that I could have just let him get on a bus when he could barely stand.   Instead, I picked him up and piggy backed him to the lodge where he could shower and change.

This was very emotional.

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Outside the showers

This photo captures the moment perfectly.  Sitting outside the staff showers, waiting.  It is heart-breaking, in this moment, to see a broken child.

He stripped off his rags, torn and dirty and dropped them on the floor.  Standing malnourished, naked and vulnerable, he just looked at me.  He was placing all of his faith in a complete stranger.  More than that, in a white stranger, whom he could only communicate with on a basic level.

I fetched a bar of soap from my room and my towel and ran the shower for him.  I have no idea if he has running water at home, although it is still rare in our region, so I doubt it.  Despite his fears and exhaustion, it was obvious the pleasure he took as soon as he stepped under the water.

Naked, swollen-bellied and eyes closed, a small smile danced across his lips.  Despite his ordeals, he stayed in the shower and scrubbed every area of his body with the feverishness of someone who has not washed in days and the conscientiousness of someone much older than his years, who knew to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Dripping, he stepped out of the shower and I wrapped him in a towel.  I’d set Rosen the task of trying to find some spare clothes from the donations that may fit him but after holding a recent market to make money for the school, we had no children’s or men’s clothes left.  We managed to find an old shirt and school jumper but no bottoms would fit his tiny frame.  Eventually, Tony found a smallish pair of shorts with a draw string waist, some of his own, that did the job perfectly.

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Stepping out of the store room Paolo looked like a completely different child and I showed him a photo of how he looked in his new clothes.  Lifting him up onto my back I grabbed a banana from the kitchen and a large bottle of water from the bar.

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We got back to the others and little Paulo was unrecognisable.  Sitting down under the shade of the registration tent, I took a look at his feet and his left ankle was acutely sprained.  Very tender and swollen he was now struggling to even stand, so I grabbed our only bandage from the clinic and strapped it as best I could.

We grabbed him a soda and some bread and set up a mattress for him to lie on in the shade.  He tried to stay awake to listen to our conversation but eventually drifted off into the most peaceful looking sleep.

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When he woke, he finished his food and drink and, well rested, I carried him back to the road to wait for the bus. Along with bus money, we packed a bag with his rags, some biscuits, a few pencils and a letter folded in his top pocket explaining how we found him and that a bright young boy like him should be in school and not working.  We explained that as a school, we are able to provide bursaries and hope that the family will contact us to let Paulo continue his education.

He is the sweetest boy.  I’m so glad we were able to take him in and show him kindness, even if just for the day.  However, it is heart-breaking to know that once he gets home, we have no way of knowing how he will be received or if his family will agree to let him continue school instead of working.

There are so many injustices in the world and it is so sad when it happens to young children.  I pray that the letter we sent with him will be enough to change his future.  If he were able to return, I would pay his school fees myself without hesitation to keep him here, safe and away from child labour.  It is so sad to be in this situation as, despite all that appears best for him, the only option, the right option, is to send him on his way and return to his parents.  I guess all I can do is hope that they get in contact with our director when he returns.

If you want to contribute to my overseas work, then please follow this link below to my crowdfunding page.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/diana-whiteside

 

 

Thank you and please share.

Hong Kong: 24 hours of chaos

So, I’ve been very bad with my blog recently and a short time ago, on a trip to Wales we found my friends travel blog from when we did SE Asia.  Not only could I not believe it had been 5 years since then, I also could not believe how funny it was and how many of the little things you forget… cue blog.

This time my adventures are taking me East again, to Hong Kong.

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My trip started the night before, when I set off to London to stay with my friend Clemency.  Unfortunately, as I was on my way down I received a message saying her key had broken and we wouldn’t be able to get into the flat, as it was too late for a locksmith and her boyfriend was away.  Luckily, she has family nearby, so disaster averted and we were taken in by her aunt and uncle for the night.

The first real obstacle came early next morning, about 6am, when the tube tram in front of mine hit some metalwork on the track.  As a result, the line was closed and I was unable to proceed to Heathrow.  For once in my life (with Clem’s help) I had left with enough time to spare and managed to get the bus halfway around London to Paddington, catching the express with just enough time to check in (and be upgraded to business class!).

The flight went relatively smoothly until HK itself, when due to the worst storms in recent years we were unable to land.  The cabin crew did their best efforts to keep us all informed but we were kept in a holding stack for what felt like hours until we were finally re-directed to land in Taiwan until the worse passed.

Several hours later we were successful and landed safely in HK despite Typhoon Pakhar’s best attempts to prevent us.

 

 

 

 

Now, despite August often being a wet month for HK, two typhoons in 10 days is exceptionally rare and I’ve only come this time of year to meet my friend Jezebel who is currently travelling in Asia.

Landing on my feet as always Jez had already booked a nice hotel to ‘treat’ herself between travels.  All I had to do was jump in, perfect!

However, I was flying in a day before and as I was in London looking at hotels for the following night I was struggling to pick between an extra, more convenient night at her hotel vs. satisfying the traveler in me.

Needless to say I picked the less practical option.  Instead of a fancy hotel I chose to spend a night in a rather interesting alternative.  Less of a hotel and more of a complex.  Only after my nights stay did I decide to actually search for the place I had stayed in..  In fact, all I had to do was type in the name of my hotel to see that it had once been described by a HK professor (who studied it for four years) as a ‘world hub of low end globalisation’.  Rather condemning.

Turning up I was ambushed by people in what was essentially a maze of indoor markets.  I fought my way through with my case and found the lift upstairs.

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The receptionists were nice enough and at least the hotel offered the unique experience I had been looking for.

Normally I would opt for a dorm in a hostel, as it’s a good way to get to know people and get some travel tips for the city.  This time, as I was only staying the night and likely to have jet lag, I had opted for a private room.  This was definitely the best choice.

In fact, I slightly dread what a dorm would have been like, considering of all the places I have stayed, this was definitely the worst.

The single bed filled the whole room, except for a small fridge which not only smelt very offensive but had a pool of water collecting in the bottom.  Water seemed to be the theme in this room, as although having the luxury of an en-suite, the shower head was literally over the toilet with just enough space to stand and left the whole room swimming in water after use.

Finally the additional opulence of air con was made less luxurious by the fact it was leaking.  Dripping water constantly onto the view-less window sill and the bottom of the bed itself.  In an attempt to be helpful, the staff gave me a towel free of charge (so generous) to place under the ceaseless drip.

The air-con proceeded to stop and start all night long to a huge whurring noise, which didn’t actually concern me half as much as the frayed and exposed wire to the broken fan underneath it!

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Thankfully, as I’m writing this, I miraculously made it through the night without being electrocuted.  Hurrah!

Having said all of this, it was bearable and my memories would have perhaps been fonder if I’d have been less optimistic.  Always eager to explore a new city, I left my room and never one to wait for the lift, skipped to the stairwell with enthusiasm and bounded down the first few flights.

Anyone else may have been deterred by a completely empty staircase.. but as they say ignorance is bliss and I jovially made my way down past the crumbling concrete; damp, peeling walls and exposed wiring.  I happily made it down to about the fourth floor when I noticed a man sitting sprawled on the stairwell, shoeless.  In a typical English manner, I slowed out of politeness, in order to give him space as I passed.  This was my first error (or second after booking the hotel!).

In the few seconds I slowed to pass him, he lunged and tried to grab me.  Luckily and ironically, out of courtesy I had given him a wide birth.  He just missed me and although he brushed my bag, my reactions were quick enough to dodge and pull my bag with me so I wasn’t held back.

In my complete naivety and shock I turned around and gave him an incredulous look.  I could not for the life of me work out why he had tried to grab me!  Retrospectively, I’m a moron and should have run, but it took a couple more slightly less enthusiastic flights of stairs before I realised I needed to get out of this completely isolated, rundown stairwell.

Only then, I couldn’t find a way out and obviously couldn’t go back the way I came.  I stumbled upon the second floor equally deserted, full of empty street stores and came to the conclusion this was not the place to walk around on your own, especially not later on and into the night.

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Once outside, the typhoon was still raging and despite my raincoat, I was soaked within seconds.  I attempted to explore the streets with no map and no idea where I was, looking for food but all in vein.  All I could seem to find were stores selling fried fish balls, chicken feet or intestines…. After 25 hours travelling I can’t say it was top of my list.  Instead, I finally found a small place serving dim sum, so opted for the safe option of spring rolls and pork dumplings.

Obviously, that was when I was hungry and desperate.  The next day in the same area I could find nothing but delicious looking restaurants… but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.

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I made the wise decision to go to bed early and sleep off the jet-lag.  Luckily, I was exceptionally tired and not kept awake (much) by the warm, damp smelling, fire hazard room that I was staying in.

Welcome to Hong Kong…

Devonshire Weekend Away

Wow! What a weekend!

After years of saying we’ll plan a weekend away, we finally succeeded and we hit the jackpot.

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#madeinyorkshire (or the majority of us were)

Devon was our destination of choice, not for any particular reason other than it’s a lovely county and we felt fairly sure they would have a large enough house we could hire for the weekend. We booked through air bnb and although you can never be entirely sure what you are getting I was pretty certain it would tick all the boxes.

It did not disappoint.

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Turning into the grand drive we were giggling with excitement and couldn’t wait to run inside and grab our rooms. We were greeted by some of our party who had already arrived (and obviously already taken the best bedrooms) and ran about the house exploring. It felt like a maze, endless rooms of ridiculous proportions, completely over the top for a weekend stay but just what we wanted.

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Corridor to the dining room
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Drawing Room

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Katie and I were sharing and chose the chapel suite with a view over the side lawns towards the folly.  Yes we had our own folly! The perfect space to call ours for the next few days.

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Room with a view

Returning downstairs we were greeted to glasses of wine and cheese and I guess you could say it all escalated rather quickly from there.

By the time the London party had arrived we probably on the other side of merry and although I can’t recall at what exact time we all thought it a great game to swap clothes and run around the house collecting obscure and ornate objects to place on the games room table… It was only after spending about half an hour shut inside a dogs cage I realised we were all absolutely obliterated.

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Not my best angle!

Needless to say the quiet and sophisticated Friday night drinks did not happen and I do hold Thomas partially responsible for the eccentric drinking games.

We woke the next day with absolutely stonking hangovers but to a beautiful day, 30 degrees, sunshine and not a cloud in the sky.  We breakfasted on the lawn and the majority decided that a swim would be the perfect hangover cure.

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Breakfasting in style
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Off for a dip
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Dogs encouraged!

Yes we had dogs! The gorgeous Roo and Rupert who were luckily small enough to be easily picked up.

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@roothecockerpoo puppy looking unbelievably adorable
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Puppy Love! I want one!

Rupert, obviously oblivious to his stature even tried to take on a couple of swans before being luckily resuced by Sonny.  Yes, we even had swans. They settled by the lake near the boathouse… because where else would swans reside darling?

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Our resident swans

My random fact that I always say when the conversation arises is the only legal place to kill a swan in the UK is Worcestershire.  The queen actually still owns all of the swans and only recently has this crime been pardoned of treason.  My friend has reliably (or perhaps not so reliably) informed me that the country of Worcestershire was exempt from this rule following royal pardon.

However, having finally just googled this after years of being gullible and telling everyone of Worcester’s royal exemption, this does not appear to be in the least bit true; likely my friend and subsequently myself have been spreading complete and utter nonsense for the last 10 years.  However, as it now appears to be a good yard to spin, I will continue to tell people my utterly useless and completely fictitious fact about swans.  If anyone knowledgeable in the area ever reads this then please contact me to let me know, I would love to know the details.

The rests of the day we played in the sunshine and pool, including a rather competitive game of water polo.

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Action Shot!

We whiled away the rest of the day eating and drinking (mainly drinking), playing rounders and even partaking in the odd yoga session.

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Cobra position
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Luncheon on the lawn
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Joined at the hip #besties

Close your eyes and picture the most idyllic setting to settle and read a book.  Is it here?

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English Summers…

After an amazing day, fuelled by hair of the dog (or puppies) it was time to get ready for dinner.

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Gorgeous girls

We took meals in turns and Clemency and Jolyn had taken it upon themselves to cater for perhaps the most highly pressured meal of the weekend.  They excelled, a delicious joint of ham with all the trimmings, cooked to perfection!

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H-am-azing!

They had laid the dining table beautifully and fit for the finest of dinner parties. The most impressive thing about the dining room was the balcony overlooking it.  We had our very own minstrels’ gallery overseeing the dining table below, obviously the perfect stage for an excitable game of charades (involving finger puppets) following dinner.

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The perfect dinner

After dinner and games it naturally descended into prosecco pong and needless to say some more sore heads followed in the morning.

The little time we had in Devon felt like an oasis.

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Spot the gender difference
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England can get sunshine!
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Bat and ball
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Sleeping off the hangover under the trees

And like Devon knew we were leaving, the glorious weather ended and we spent the morning of our drive back exploring the rugged and beautiful Devon coastline.

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Could almost be a Jack Wills advert!
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Best friends

Such an magnificent weekend with the most incredible friends.

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Same time next year? x

BCN Again

Back in Barcelona. Well, sort of.

We flew from Leeds this time as it seemed easier but as I was partially responsible for booking the flights we obviously flew to Gerona instead.. oops.

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The flight itself was an eventful one and never one for the quiet life I ended up being responsible for a medical emergency mid-flight.  As a result, and on my say so, we diverted to Paris for an emergency landing.  Needless to say, I’m not sure I have EVER been under as much pressure.  So, when finally arriving in Barcelona itself (by bus), we were in dire need of a drink!

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We settled at a bar in the sunshine outside the Born Cultural Centre, near to our friends apartment.  There we enjoyed a couple of beers whilst recounting the journeys excitement and waited for our friend to finish work, ready to greet her with a pretty bouquet from the beautiful almond flowers.

Now, Barcelona is one of the worlds most notorious cities for pick-pocketing.  Having learnt my lesson previously when I had my entire suitcase stolen, passport included (even though it was right next to me!) this time Katie and I were taking no chances.  As a result, ribbon is now an essential item in our hand-luggage.

Spanish tip:  ‘mi maleta es robada’  will come in handy if this ever happens to you and you find yourself at the Barcelona Police Station!

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Barcelona is the most beautiful city and we were fortunate enough to have the first real sunshine of the year.

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My friend Millie, being a local, took us to some of her favourite places which was great, as we didn’t have to plan anything at all and dined like royalty all weekend.

The first night we ate at Costa Pacifico, an amazing Mexican restaurant in Born.  It’s a fun, lively place, in fact so much so that during our supper we got talking to some locals who joined us for the rest of the meal.  The fish tacos were to die for, although we perhaps over indulged on the Margaritas a little!

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I did try to get some pictures of our food, but by the time I got my phone out most of the meal was gone.  Something I learnt as school is when eating with my friends, there is no time to waste on things like photography or you miss out on dinner!

So you’ll have to take my word for it.  The food was delicious, especially if you, like us, are partial to cerviche.

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We spent the weekend catching up and whiled away our days walking the streets of Barcelona…

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enjoying the beach,

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shopping,

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and hopping between tapas bars enjoying wine and incredible local food.

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Not to mention the essential aperol spritz or two.

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Now for any foodies out there like us who enjoy tapas Carrer de Blai is the perfect place for you! It is an entire street filled with endless eateries offering cheap pixtinos to eat at leisure.  Just grab a seat, order some tapas and when you’re done, move on down about twenty metres and repeat the whole process again!

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Obviously how much you spend will depend on how much you eat. With these girls the last time we were let loose on pix in Notting Hill we managed to devour £50 worth of tapas each!! It was delicious and by the end of our meal they had started bringing the food directly to our table instead of just laying it straight on the bar, however thankfully we did not consume quiet that much this time!

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Finally, a must do is Palo Alto Market on a sunny day.  It is a street style market in Poblenou selling anything and everything hipster and runs the first weekend of every month.

From local arts and crafts, to food, drink and live music, it’s only 4 euros to enter and definitely money well spent!  Set amongst beautiful, old, tree lined walls it’s the perfect place to sip away the afternoon like a real Catalonian.

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To round up I’m going to give you my two favourite restaurants we ate at during our stay.  The first was Llamber opposite the Born cultural centre and luckily right by Millie’s apartment.

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The food was beautifully presented and wonderfully fresh.  Naturally, we had a little of everything, including more cerviche.  Although delicious as this was, we ended lunching here following the previous nights escapades at Jamboree in Placa Reial and one of our party might have felt a little too ropey to enjoy this to the full!

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The other place I highly recommend, for those of you that are tapas-ed out, is koku kitchenIt is a Japanese restaurant in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, specialising in Ramen and buns.

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We ate upstairs in the bun restaurant and feasted on steamed buns, served in bamboo.  They came with a variety of delicious fillings including grilled pork and duck.  Not to mention, no meal would ever be complete without some sides of edamame, tempura prawns and a selection of dumplings.

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As always, I think we managed to cram as much as humanly possible into our long weekend (including a little life saving!) and I can’t wait to be back again soon!