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Seville II

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…

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!

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!

The right guide?

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Which guide is the right guide for you?

There’s a whole lot of reading going on, largely because the weather around wisepacking towers is not that condusive to heading out, no matter what clothing/footwear is being used at the time…

There’s four paper guidebooks and two language helpers on the desk in readiness for our next trip and a new one on the Kindle section of my iPad too (this one’s a brand new revision of an existing title and I haven’t as yet found anyone selling the new paper version…).

The four on the desk are from Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and DK Eyewitness whilst the new Kindle on the iPad is a Pocket Rough Guide.

Why four books and why are they from different publishers?

That’s all to do with getting a more rounded picture of the places we’re going to as each has its own take on the cities and what there is to see and do. As you can see from the above photo, there’s a lot to be said for hanging onto old editions of guidebooks as these can provide further information as certain stuff may be mentioned in one edition of said book, but not another, even though the sight or establishment is still operating….

These guides from the big names are being complemented by a set of city guides in Kindle format from the Atsons and Unanchored series of eBooks or those produced independently by the authors themselves..

Some have been paid for whilst others have been free downloads, but all are being read to get more information and yes, there have been some good tips that are being noted and stored for use on the ground when we hit the cities we’re going to as a means of ensuring that our euros go that little bit further by not resorting to big name eateries for drinks or snacks.

At the moment, all of the main guidebooks are providing good information in a very readable format, something that is a great improvement on our findings when researching the various trips to Portugal.

Rough Guides were our favourites on these trips in either full country or Snapshot/Pocket Rough Guide formats. These paper tomes were used in conjunction with info gleaned from Julie Dawn Fox’s books on Portugal and Porto along with tips from Julie’s website – https://juliedawnfox.com

You may wonder why I favour paper books over techno books…

1) Because paper books are easier to read on the hoof.

2) The indexing is usually much better in paper books.

3) They don’t require charging up at regular intervals.

4) They’re more discrete to look at when out and about.

5) Sections could be copied or cannibalised from the main book, especially if you’re going to one town, city or area for a few days or a couple of weeks.

No matter what the information in the books, the format or who the publisher is, there’s one aspect that’s never left out or forgotten about – using our eyes and ears to discover places, events or eateries.

We’ve spotted posters on noticeboards about museums, stumbled across eating places, taken river trips or found interesting shops by just following instincts and heading off in what turned out to be the right direction…

Although I’ve just bought that new Pocket Rough Guide for the iPad, it’s only going to be used as a guide on a forthcoming trip.

Although the booking has been done, what we do when we get there is largely going to be made up as we go along. There’s a couple of daft ideas floating around, but whether they come to fruition is another matter…

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Not in a guidebook, but the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum was found after seeing a poster on the wall at a campsite washing up area…

As seen in…

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The only surviving TSR-2 at RAF Cosford Air Museum

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A reminder of a former employer, Abergavenny

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Lyme Regis harbour, Dorset

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The Thatcher we approve of – Thatcher’s Cider Shop, Somerset

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One batch of raw materials at Perry’s Cider, Somerset

No brainers…

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Sometimes you just have to roll the dice to see this…

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Or this…

One of the ‘joys’ of looking at travel forums on a regular basis is spotting the number of posters who have done their research using guidebooks, Google, Yahoo, Bing or even travelogues to plan, loosely plan or even not plan their break, holiday or journey.

There are some who want fellow forum users to suggest where they should go or even plan out their trip for them.

Others want so much validation for their plans that by the time they’ve made multiple posts on a similar theme that forum members either ignore them or become sarcastic after offering the same advice again and again and again.

Those who haven’t done their research are easy to spot because they’re so vague in their requests for places to go or for someone to do their planning for them that they can’t even be bothered to include basic information such as their budget, their time frame, their interests or passions or whether they have specific dietary needs or accommodation preferences.

And the usual answer to this lot?

Suggestions to buy at least one guidebook for where they’re going – my response is normally to get hold of both a Lonely Planet guidebook AND a Rough Guide book to whatever country or area they’re visiting or to point them in the direction of either the forum’s own search function or the search engines mentioned above.

There isn’t any excuse for such laziness when you’re heading off somewhere. It’s your trip and I take the view that it’s up to you to do due diligence and do your own research into where you’re going.

Do the research and you have a good idea about what to expect.

Don’t do the research or let others point you towards sights, places, areas or countries and there’s a fairly good probability that the brown stuff could hit the fan, leaving you to scream and scream and scream when in fact there’s only one person to blame…

You!

At the other end of the scale are those who plan everything to the nth degree and want so much validation that they become a pain in the butt…

Even when they’ve been told by several posters that the weather may not be in their favour, that their choice of clothing for walking is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, or that they should loosen up, relax and go with the flow rather than ticking off every box on their long list of things to see and do.

Then there’s the lot who want to see as much of an area, country or even Europe in a few days rather than taking time to immerse oneself in one area or just one country as a means of exploring what’s on offer.

To those posters, I’ll invoke memories of a popular 1980’s t-shirt slogan:

“Frankie says RELAX!”

Don’t do it…