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Hola Seville!

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!

To Malaga – and beyond!

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.

Hola – the bag contents…

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…

Hola – plans v reality III

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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…

TTFN!

Hola – plans v reality II…

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To Seville – and beyond!

Now the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes work.

And sometimes they don’t!

With the dates, flights, accommodation and travel set in stone, there were a few misplaced problems to overcome.

Like certain places being closed on a Monday – the day we had planned to spend a full day wandering around Malaga.

Fortunately we found out the easy way that the times quoted in the guidebooks for the opening hours of the museum dedicated to Pablo Picasso were wrong, as we discovered when wandered aimlessly up a side street and unexpectedly found it open…

We did fill up the day though and thought that we could take a wander around the other places we’d thought about on either Tuesday or when we got back to Malaga on the Wednesday at the end of our trip.

Er, wrong in both cases. As you may have seen from the photo on Monday’s posting, it was raining (and then some!) on Tuesday so we stayed in our hotel reading and drinking coffee rather than trying to find out info on the iPad Mini as guess what – we couldn’t get onto the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, no matter how hard we tried…

With the weather against us, we also abandoned plans to walk to the coach station in Malaga and opted to take a taxi instead, a wise move when we saw how the deluge developed as we waited for our bus to Seville.

Although we’d planned to take that wander around the missed sights in Malaga on our final full day in Spain, that didn’t happen. We checked into the same hotel, dumped our bags on the room floor and turned on the TV.

Which revealed that there had been a major incident in London at places we’d only walked around in February.

With CNN being the only English speaking option on the hotel’s TV and that lack of Wi-Fi, a trip down to the lobby for a coffee and accessing the BBC coverage via the lobby computer was the only way we found out more about what had happened.

And so rewind a bit to our arrival in Seville. Which is where we actually wished that we had a decent street map to find our accommodation for the next four nights. I’d printed off three sheets of differing scales from Apple Maps that should have got us there, but didn’t.

After much scratching of the heads, we found one spot that almost correlated with the printouts and we took it from there using nous rather than the map.

Our Pension owner was welcoming, took our details and payment, showed us to our room and then gave us a much better map of Seville and a couple of recommendations for a flamenco club and a good tapas bar.

With the weather in Seville being distinctly better than it was in Malaga, a mooch around led to us doing a bit of a circuit for a while before we found a different tapas bar just up the street from where we were staying.

The fine weather continued for the rest of our stay in Seville, a factor that led to me taking a lot of photos in a short time. As we wandered around a market in a park, the space on the SD card finally ran out.

“No problem” or so I thought as I had another SD card in my camera pouch. On swapping them over however, I discovered that what I thought was a fresh card wasn’t – it was a full one!

Fortunately we were within a few metres of the main branch in Seville of El Cortes Ingles – a big department store along the lines of John Lewis here in the UK. I found their photo department, the memory card section and a 16GB Sony SD that was duly bought and installed – with a 3000 + shot capacity, I suspect that it may last me a while, even at my shooting rate!!!

Sod’s Law however did give this one a bit of a sting in the tail. I got back to the hotel, went into my charger pouch to get the camera charger and I remembered something.

That there was a new 4GB SD card in the pocket of the charger bag! D’oh!!!

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Yes, it exists – photographed before the SD card cried ‘No more!’…

Hola – plans v reality…

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We knew there would be rain in Spain one day… Just not this much!

The planning for our trip to Andalucia started a while ago.

The initial thinking was to head over there in October 2016, but thoughts changed and we ended up visiting Herefordshire and Somerset.

The thinking started again back in November 2016 and a simple plan was drawn up – fly in and out of Malaga from either Leeds/Bradford or Manchester airports and take a look at the Picasso and other art connections in Malaga before heading to Seville, Cordoba and Granada and then head back to Malaga for the flight home.

This was expanded upon by getting hold of both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide paper guidebooks to Andalucia. Although I’d already taken a read through the LP and RG books on Spain, the area specific guides provided more insights to the cities we were intent on visiting and useful snippets regarding travelling times between cities by bus or train, eating out, flamenco and a few tips on speaking Spanish.

Flights and our hotel in Malaga were booked via Expedia whilst digs in Seville, Cordoba and Granada were booked via booking.com.

All of this happened back in November 2016, as did upgrades to the basic flights as we chose to pre-book seats on the plane in both directions and opt for priority boarding.

Yes, this put the price of the flights up, but we reckoned it was worth it as a means of getting settled in to our seats and as a means of ensuring that our hand luggage wasn’t stashed in the hold instead…

The decision to use buses rather than trains in Spain came down to two factors – cost and journey times (which in one or two cases quoted in the guidebooks were shorter on the bus rather than the train…).

Booking the buses was left until January and it has to be said that booking buses between Malaga and Seville, Seville and Cordoba along with Cordoba to Granada was pretty easy via the http://www.alsa.es website.

A problem did arise when it came to book the journey between Granada and Malaga. My UK bank card had been used for the first three transactions, but wasn’t being accepted for the one that would take us back to Malaga in readiness for the flight home.

Technology being what it is, a web chat was established with Alsa and it transpired that I should have used a Spanish bank card or PayPal for all of my ticket buying transactions!

As the first three sales had gone through without any difficulties and I had both printed off the online tickets and the ones sent to my email address, I decided to press on for the fourth transaction and book it via PayPal.

The problem being that I hadn’t used PayPal for years and couldn’t remember what my password was. That took a bit of time to resolve, but hey presto! That last set of tickets was bought, paid for and printed off…

With all of the flight, accommodation and almost all of the internal travel sorted out, there was a couple of things left to do – book tickets for our visit to The Alhambra in Granada and sort out transport to Manchester Airport.

Tickets were easily booked and paid for via The Alhambra’s website and that was almost it.

Next up was the booking of rail tickets and we almost came unstuck.

We were travelling on a weekend when there was planned maintenance on the railway line. Although the website showed this, it didn’t tell us the full nature of the replacement bus service operating on our day of travel.

After three attempts at finding out, it was time to jump in the car, head to a mainline station and ask questions. Once answered and the printouts handed over, the tickets were bought and paid for and that was it for two months.

When March came around, all we had to do was get some notes, check the mid-range weather forecast and go…

There was however one small problem left – neither of us speak Spanish!

Hola… the pics part 2!

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Could this be our new back garden getting the first set of visitors?

No, it’s part of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristanos in Cordoba…

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Even The Alhambra in Granada needs some TLC from time to time.

This is part of Palacios Nazaries complex as is…

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Palacio del Partal which is also undergoing some restoration work…

More on our Andalusia jaunt next week!