Now, where were we?
Right, back again after the combined effects of the lurgy, coughing fits as a result of the lurgy, hotter than normal temperatures here in the UK, internet outages and a break from it all…
Yes, a break – and during the half term holiday too!
Booked a bed in an independent hostel in Northumberland, a couple of miles away from where Caroline was sharing a caravan with daughter, son-in-law, eldest son and Caroline’s grandchildren.
Had the whole hostel to myself on one night out of the four I was there and was one of just a few people walking on the beach between Cresswell and Druridge Bay on Thursday morning.
Got back home yesterday and there’s stuff to put away, wash and photos to download too.
And an election to vote in next Thursday!
We may have stumbled across the Metropol Parasol (middle picture on the top row), but after half an hour of wandering around under the structure and exploring the market hall, we had yet to find the entrance hall and the lift to get up onto the walkway up top.
Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’d walked past it as the entrance hall is underground and we’d missed the signpost at street level that would have put us in the right direction.
At €3 each, the admission charge wasn’t going to break the bank, but there were a couple of add-ons that made it even more worthwhile.
Apart from giving us access to the walkway, we also had a free beer each from the tapas bar at the top and a free postcard to collect from the shop in the Parasol’s basement area.
We spent a fair amount of time on the walkway. Some of that was just taking in the views and taking the occasional photos whilst the rest was having to wait for a bunch of hipster beardies to take what appeared to be their obligatory selfies on their mobile phones.
Not only were they taking a lot of selfies, but this flock (or should it be herd?) of beardies were also rather oblivious to the fact that there were quite a few people trying to either look at the view from the viewing section or trying to take their own photographs of the view rather than shooting themselves…
After free beer, postcards and plenty of time spent soaking up the sun and the views on the Parasol’s top deck, we headed back down and found a cafe for a light lunch and more wandering around.
More of the Metropol Parasol plus a whole lot of bull going on…
We weren’t using street maps to get around Seville as we found it easier to just roll the dice and see where we ended up. This first day in Seville was like all of the others spent in Spain – free and easy without any real need to hare around all of the sights listed in the various guidebooks we’d read before we got on the plane to Malaga.
IF we wanted to wander around, we wandered around, if we wanted a coffee or a beer then we stopped for refreshments and if we wanted to stop for rather good ice cream, sorry, gelato, we did – at a shop cum cafe on Avenida De La Constitution.
€9.20 for two ice cream cones? You’d better believe it, but they were probably the best ice creams that we’ve had and they also came with a pretty high standard of presentation too…
So what next? A mooch back to the digs, where we opened our room and initially thought the worst as none of our bags, clothes or other kit was anywhere to be seen.
When we found out what had happened, our shock turned to something else. Our kit had been moved back to the room we’d been in originally and whilst it was all in order and nothing was missing, we’d have appreciated it more had the owner waited until we got back and allowed us to move our kit ourselves.
Once we’d raged silently against the machine, it was siesta time, reading time and then wash and change time before heading out in search of our evening meal. Although we’d looked at a few places during the day, we wandered around for a while as most places were relatively empty, even though by now it was around 8.30pm.
One place had caught our eye, but we’d wandered on and then retraced our steps until we got back to Bar Pelayo – we took to calling it The Seven Bulls Heads – yes, seven bulls heads on the walls and plenty of memorabilia relating to bull fighting and bull fighters.
Bull fighting may not be to everyone’s tastes (it’s not ours), but it is a way of life in Spain and has been for a heck of a long time. I remember my aunt visiting Spain in the 1960s and talking about El Cordobes and bull fighting whilst a regular film at my local cinema’s Saturday morning film club was Tommy The Toreador starring pop star Tommy Steele.
Beer and wine were the drinks of choice for the night and whilst a couple of tapas dishes were the same as the night before, there were two that I indulged in that really hit the spot.
The first was gazpacho and the second was baked goats cheese. With ratatouille, spinach, tortilla and chorizo also on the menu, we didn’t need a sweet course, but did indulge in another beer and wine each before wending our way back to the digs that we don’t mention the name of for some light reading and a couple of soft drinks before we turned in for the night.
More on Seville next Wednesday…
Some of the many faces of Seville – which is why we’re going back!
Our wish list for Seville was a short one – see the Metropol Parasol, visit the Real Alcazar, have tapas for the first time, take in at least one flamenco performance and (in Caroline’s case) pay a visit to the Cathedral.
Our bus from Malaga reached Seville in late afternoon and it should have theoretically a half hour walk to our digs for the next four nights.
We checked in sixty minutes later and were shown to our first floor room. Simple? Yes. Basic? Yes? Budget friendly? Yes.
Following a brief siesta,we scrubbed up and then hit Seville. The district we were staying in – Barrio Santa Cruz – had a few roads through it, but the more interesting parts were linked by narrow footpaths flanked by shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.
So we wandered and did more of the same as a means of getting our bearings and trying to find a place to eat later on. After investigating a few places, we settled on a tapas bar just a few hundred metres from our digs.
Ordering beer and wine was easy, but choosing which tapas was a different matter. Sea food was out as neither of us partake, but it wasn’t that hard to find seven tapas choices.
Ratatouile was one, spinach topped with an egg and small ham chunks was another, but as the dishes kept on coming, we weren’t all that worried as we’d only had a snack lunch on the bus from Malaga. Seven empty bowls later, we were done. Or were we?
Although I’d had a couple of beers and Caroline had had a large glass of wine, I decided that we should have a glass of manzanilla to round off the evening instead of coffee.
We were fed and watered later than we would normally be at home, but we were still a couple of lightweights compared to locals who were just heading out as we headed back.
After a side visit to a small shop for some bottles of water and chocolate we started to unlock the room door, but were stopped by the pension owner.
He explained in broken English that the room above us was getting some emergency work done on it and that this was starting early on the next morning. We could have the downstairs en-suite instead, so we collected our barely unpacked bags and accoutrements and headed downstairs.
A bit of clothes washing was done before we turned in for the night, but fortunately most of the stuff had dried when we noticed the ‘No clothes washing‘ sign on the back of the room door. Oops…
With just washing and dressing to do the next morning, we got an early start.
Which is just as well as we needed to find somewhere to have breakfast and the first coffees of the day. Help was at hand though as a guy doing some touting for a walking tour tried to do his thing and tempt us onto the tour.
When we explained that we were looking for breakfasts, he pointed us in the direction of the place he had his breakfast every day – Taberna El Papelon (see the pic above). “Look for the red canopy” were his parting words as we headed off after thanking him.
We were the only Brits in the place, but we got our fresh orange juice, coffee and toasted croissants and jam without any difficulties and ended up with a sub-€8 bill for everything. And it was a pretty good way to start the day.
Although we weren’t heading anywhere in particular, we found ourselves outside a civic building that was the scene of a worker’s protest. We never found out what the gripe was, but we did get approached by a couple of Americans who were eager to talk to us and find out some opinions from us.
Yes, you’ve guessed it – Southern Baptists on a mission from God…
After answering their questions and Caroline commenting on the deck of cards they were using to help them in their quest, they realised that we’d got thoughts on religion that didn’t tally with theirs (both of us have been there, seen it, done it and walked away from different religious backgrounds) and we agreed to disagree.
With that settled in a very friendly way, we continued on our meanderings and then realised that we were almost upon the Metropol Parasol. After crossing the road to it and exploring the structure from the ground and the market at that level, only one question remained – how the hell did we get up to the walkways on the top?
More on Monday!
Malaga – not what you might expect!
“Why are you spending so much time in Malaga?’ was the comment Caroline’s eldest made when he found out that we were spending three nights in the city – two at the beginning and one at the end of our recent trip to Andalucia…
The answer was simple – we’d spotted comments years ago that Malaga was an interesting place to visit and to wander around.
There are arty connections, museums to visits and sights to see – providing that a) you’re not planning on going on a Monday and b) it’s not raining….
Although we’d left the house and started our journey around 9am, we didn’t actually check into the Ibis in Malaga until after 10pm Spanish time.
Our plane was leaving Manchester Airport in the afternoon, but by the time we’d factored in getting a bus to the railway station, getting to Manchester Piccadilly and then transferring to the replacement bus service to Manchester Airport, we thought we’d better leave early, just in case.
The RyanAir flight went smoothly on the way out as we’d reserved seats on the plane and had opted for Priority Boarding so we knew where we were heading towards once we’d boarded the 737 and that we could have our packs in the locker and be sat down and resting way before the rest of the passengers got onboard.
At the Malaga end though, we had to wait until we could actually get off the plane, hit passport control and then find the railway station to get a train into Malaga – to the end of the line as that was apparently about ten minutes walk from the Ibis.
Getting the tickets was easy. Getting the train was easy. Using the printouts from Apple Maps wasn’t, but fortunately Caroline spotted the Ibis lights and that put us in the right direction – almost.
Pavement works meant that there was a detour to take rather than using the direct option, but we got there in the end, checked in, dropped the bags in our room and headed down to the bar for drinks and a snack or two.
Getting the breakfast option in the hotel did save some time (but not money!) the following morning before we headed out to explore Malaga on foot.
I’d booked the Sunday flights before I’d looked closely at the opening times for the places we wanted to explore – big mistake as most of our potential destinations were closed on a Monday according to both of the guidebooks we’d used to plan the trip.
So we wandered around, aimlessly at first and then with a little more purpose as we found Teatro Roma, spotted the Alcazaba, famed tapas bar El Pimpi and stumbled across the Museo Picasso as we strolled up a side street.
What was unexpected was the fact the the guidebooks were wrong and the Museo Picasso was open. The other surprise was that the admission charge was less than that quoted in the guides as the number of works on display had been reduced.
With Caroline taking two spins around the museum, I headed to the cafe after one to sort out where to go next and to partake in a coffee and the second beer of the day.
One thing we didn’t use on our strolls around Malaga was our map. Yes, we were misplaced a few times, but it all added to the fun as we explored!
We’d found a cafe for lunch, a couple of places for coffee or orange juice and had bought one or two things too – Caroline had bought a leather belt and had had extra holes punched into it whilst I’d bought some Axe deodorant (aka Lynx in the U.K.) plus some bottled water (we’d heard about the quality of the tap water in Malaga – allegedly!) and some wipes for those times when finger food beckoned and there wasn’t a wash basin in sight.
The other place we’d stumbled across was the Mercado Central – a market the likes of which I haven’t seen for years.
Bread, cheese, cooked meat, fish, fruit, olives, raw meat, seafood and food of all kinds to go (along with drinks too) made for a wish that we’d booked into a hostel rather than a hotel.
Our evening meal also led to furthering that thought. After mooching around looking at menus, we settled on a small place where we were the only Brits among the customers.
The menu was in English though and whilst I picked a favourite meat dish, Caroline went for the tuna option. The pork & veg and accompanying beer went down well , but Caroline and I hadn’t realised that the tuna was going to be served raw.
It was well presented though and it went down the same way as the wine, even though Caroline would rather have had it cooked than raw – her youngest son is the sushi fan, not her! Or me…
The walk back to the hotel was interesting, because we ended up walking for more than we we needed to in order to get back to the Ibis.
A stop was made to stock up on bottled water and to get a bar of chocolate, before we spotted the Ibis once more and headed back, but not before taking a look in the window of the local KTM dealer.
I’m not a biker, but Caroline’s youngest is and whilst he’s expressed a few interests in KTM motorbikes in recent months, he’s still got his 650cc Suzuki.
As I’ve mentioned before, the following morning was a washout for wandering around as the heavens opened and we ended up killing time in the hotel lobby before getting a taxi to the bus station in readiness for our bus to Seville and tapas, breakfasts in a local cafe plus flamenco, time on the Parasol, chats with religious types from the state of Georgia and possibly the best ice cream, sorry – Gelato – we’ve ever had.
I have taken quite a few photos over the years, but when it comes to appearing in photographs, that’s another story.
One shot has escaped though and it’s on P19 of the latest edition of Wanderlust magazine.
The quote is about the recent developments relating to taking tech stuff on aircraft and how it may or may not affect travellers.
As I don’t have a smartphone and had Wi-Fi problems in Spain, I suspect that you can guess which side of the arguement I took!
A slightly different version with a different photograph can be found here…
Yes, I meant to post this last Friday, but our internet provider decided to do some upgrades on their system without telling the most important stakeholders in the process – their customers!
The Andalucia trip was twelve days long and involved a bus and train/coach ride to Manchester Airport, rail journeys between Malaga Airport and the city centre and then four coach journeys, the odd cab ride and some walking.
There were a few more things to consider – the three differing types of accommodation being used (hotel, pension and hostel), the need to cover up a bit in some of the places being visited (such asthe Cathedral in Seville or the Mezequita in Cordoba) and weather conditions (warm to hot during the day, cool on a night and rather wet in the case of one morning in Malaga.
And then there was the little matter of the size of hand luggage bags on RyanAir… which were some 5cm less on the depth of the bag compared to some of the other airlines we’ve flown with since we bought our Osprey Farpoint 40 travel bags.
The RyanAir pack size was adhered too with ease as we merely packed items that could be washed and worn, used as layering pieces for the cooler night time temperatures and we both included items with long sleeves for those times when the place we were visiting required arms to covered.
How did we stick to around 7.5kg each in the hand luggage?
By working within the rules!
My North Face hooded soft shell jacket was worn on the plane rather than packed. It’s looking a bit worse for wear, but it has been proofed a few times to provide additional elemental protection.
It also has deep zipped pockets of the kind that will take an iPad Mini, the Lonely Planet guidebook to Andalucia, my Nikon digital compact camera and my Samsung dumbass phone.
All of the power adaptors for the above were in an IKEA wash bag pouch inside the Osprey along with clothes, hotel booking printouts, bus tickets, meds and my actual wash bag.
My clothing was the usual mix of Rohan items – two pairs of Goa trousers, a Microgrid Crew Jumper, three Progress polos, two long sleeved polos, a few pairs of Cool Silver Trunks and some M&S Freshfeet trainer socks.
Worn items included that TNF soft shell, a Rohan Stronghold shirt, one of the same brand’s Merino wool based t-shirts and another pair of Goa trousers. On the feet were ventilated Salomon trainers, the only footwear I decided to take with me (I had a cunning plan and it didn’t work Mr. B!).
Caroline’s choices included a mix of rapid wash/dry and wear Rohan Ultra Silver Camisole tops and briefs, a couple of their vest tops, two Stria long sleeved tops, Rohan Travel Jeans and Travel Linen trousers plus a Pathway Cardigan and a Royal Robbins shirt/jacket. Her footwear comprised a pair of Ecco pumps and Ecco Mary Jane shoes.
Did it all work? Yes is the answer because most of it has been used on a few travel trips now or on a day to day basis in the case of some of my items.
I regretted not having an extra pair of shoes with me, but that was part of the almost cunning plan. I’d seen some adidas Gazelle shoes I quite liked in Leeds and thought that they might be cheaper in Spain.
They weren’t as whilst they were £75 in the UK, they were €100 (@£90) in JD Sports in Cordoba and the same in an independent store in Malaga.
And the wash bags? Well both Caroline and I have taken to using shower gels by Lush on our travels and she’s also taken to using their shampoo bars. A small bottle of tea tree oil and some shower gel was used when I shaved whilst sample size toothpastes from our dentist also came in handy.
I still use my ViaSonic battery toothbrush and it stayed the course, even though I’d forgotten to put a new AAA battery in it before we left. Other items in the wash bag included a small Nivea SPF30 suncream, a small bottle of clove oil and a tube of Bonjela (in case of any dental problems…).
Other things? My iPad Mini has the Kindle App on it, so the iPad was used for reading more than it was for internet surfing, Caroline had her classic Kindle with her and both of us had our mobile phones too. Mine was hardly used, whilst Caroline’s did see some action as family members called or sent text messages to her.
And how did we cope with the rain pictured above?
We cheated by staying in the lobby of the Ibis in Malaga drinking coffee until about an hour before we needed to head out for our bus. Whilst the bus station was only about fifteen minutes walk away from the Ibis, we decided to take a cab rather than get ourselves and our kit wet.
A wise move, because boy did the heavens really open when we got to the bus station!
The rain in Spain doesn’t always stay on the plain…
Yes, normal service has resumed….
Where were we?
Ah yes, Seville. After booking into our digs and going out for our first meal in the city, we returned to our room and a request to move into a room downstairs as some last minute work was going to take place above us.
So we found ourselves in a ground floor en-suite – which was good as we needed to do our first set of washing our wash and wear clothing.
After doing the wash, wringing it out and rolling it up in travel towels and hanging it up to dry, we then noticed the sign on the back of the room door forbidding clothes washing in the room. Mmm…
Everything was dry come Wednesday morning though, which was a good thing as we headed out in search of places to see and things to do. When we got back though, we were pleased that everything had dried out, because we returned to a room devoid of all of our stuff.
We thought the worst at first, but some broken English came from above to tell us that we’d be back in the room that we’d originally been allocated and that all of our stuff was up there. Relief in one respect, but neither of us were too happy about our stuff being moved when we weren’t there!
Come Thursday and Caroline headed into the Cathedral after first checking the times for the roof tour she wanted to go on. After she’d paid and headed in, I headed off to do some exploring of my own, get a coffee or a beer and then return to our pre-arranged meeting place next to the Real Alcazar.
We met up again two hours later, swapped stories about our exploits and headed for lunch. As we finished, Caroline looked at her ticket and realised that she hadn’t been booked in for the roof tour at 16.30, but the 12.00 one…
Oops – she’d been booked onto the tour that a Cathedral guide had said was full. No matter though as we just decided to wander around some more, go for a beer and tapas mid-afternoon break and then head back for a siesta and some more clandestine clothes washing.
And that was about it for the small problems we encountered in Seville. The entrance to the flamenco club had moved, but that was about it.
We did have more problems with Apple Maps printouts in Cordoba, but we eventually found our hotel after much scratching of heads. Whilst we’d had good Wi-Fi at the basic guest house in Seville, in Cordoba the iPad got a signal in the hotel lobby or when we opened our room door…
When it came to Granada we took no prisoners in getting to or from the bus station to White Nest Hostel – we got a cab in both directions! It did however take us a while to find the ticket booth at The Alhambra the following day, but we got there and started to make our way around.
The site was busy and we weren’t the only ones who had difficulties with the vending machines dispensing coffee, sandwiches or snacks. The coffee one was interesting, the sandwich one dispensed not one, but two packs of sandwiches whilst the snack one behaved itself.
Best laugh of the day came when I headed downstairs to the gents toilets. As I was leaving, a whole party of Oriental ladies were heading into the gents.
They were rather surprised when I pointed out that it was the men’s toilets they were trying to get into and they soon scurried back upstairs.
Yes, I’ve been in rock or student clubs when ladies have invaded the blokes toilets (the queues were shortly and it wasn’t uncommon to hear the words ‘It’s alright guys, we’re not looking!‘ as the invasion took place….
Anything else? Not really as the rest of the visit to Granada was as planned.
In Malaga though, one problem arose after we checked into the hotel and switched the TV on.
One of the local channels was showing live footage of an event that had happened in London. The only English channel was CNN and their reporting was about an incident at Westminster.
With no signal for the iPad or for Caroline’s Android phone, it was lobby computer time to find out what had happened where we’d been back in February. BBC, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Independent websites told the story about what had happened.
Which almost brought us to the end of such aspects of our road-trip…
Friday’s posting will be about the stuff we took with us to deal with RyanAir’s luggage restrictions, the weather conditions we were expecting, the places we were heading to and their respective dress codes.
The story of the trip proper starts next Monday…