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London calling again!

img_0131Yes, it’s the Food Hall at Harrods…

You may remember that Caroline and I had a grand day out in London back in February…

A condensed piece about the trip heads up a feature on Wanderlust Magazine’s website.

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/planatrip/inspire-me/lists/readers-tips-london-insider-knowledge

Enjoy!

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Spainpacking

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Choosing what we took with us on our road trip around Andalucia was determined by several factors.

There was the little matter of the size of hand luggage bags on Ryanair… some 5cm less on the depth of the bag compared to other airlines we’ve flown with since we bought our Osprey Farpoint 40 packs.

There were other considerations – the differing types of accommodation, the need to cover up in some of the places visited (Seville’s Cathedral and Mezequita in Cordoba) and expected weather conditions after looking at ten day forecasts (warm to hot during the day, cool on a night were among our expectations).

Pack size rules were adhered to as we chose items that could be washed and worn, used as layering pieces for cooler nights and we also packed long sleeved shirts for when we  visited places that required arms to covered.

So, how did we stick to around 7.5kg each in the hand luggage?

My North Face hooded soft shell has now bitten the dust, but it was worn on the plane rather than packed. It looked a bit worse for wear, but it has seen some action and has been proofed a few times to provide extra protection.

It had deep zipped pockets that took an iPad Mini, the Lonely Planet guidebook, my Nikon camera and the old Samsung dumbass phone when going through security, passport control and checks at the boarding gate.

The power adaptors for the tech mentioned above were in an IKEA pouch that, along with my wash bag, could be easily pulled out of the Farpoint for security checking and then pushed back in with the clothes, travel towels, booking printouts, bus tickets and meds.

Clothing included 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, a Rohan Merino wool based t-shirt and another pair of Goa trousers. On the feet were ventilated Salomon trainers, the only footwear I decided to take.

Caroline’s choices also included a mix of rapid wash/dry and wear items such as Rohan Ultra Silver Camisole tops and briefs, a couple of their vest tops, two Stria long sleeved tops, Rohan Travel Jeans, 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 items had been used on a few travel trips now or even on a day to day basis. Respective day bags were from Rohan’s Stowaway line-up (a pack for me, a handbag for Caroline)

And in the wash bags? Well both Caroline and I use shower gels by Lush on our travels and she’s also using their shampoo bars.

I also packed a small bottle of tea tree oil that was used when I shaved with a disposable razor whilst sample size toothpastes from our dentist came in handy. The ViaSonic battery toothbrush stayed the course, even though I’d forgotten to put a new AAA in it!

Other items in the wash bag included some travel wash to do the clothing wash and wear thing, a small Nivea SPF30 suncream, a bottle of clove oil and a tube of Bonjela (both in case of dental problems…).

With two out of the four choices of accommodations providing shower gel and shampoo in the bathroom/shower areas, the above choices only needed to be complemented by the local purchases of Axe (aka Lynx) body spray and packs of baby wipes to cope with the after effects of street food on the hands or melting ice cream hitting clothing.

Other things? My iPad Mini has the Kindle App on it and loads of books, so the iPad was used for reading rather than surfing whilst Caroline had her classic Kindle. Both of us had mobile phones too.

Mine was hardly used, whilst Caroline’s did see some action as family members called or sent texts to her.

Did our packing choices work? Yes has to be the answer, even though there was more rain than we anticipated in Malaga. We sat that out in a hotel foyer until it was almost time to get a cab and head down to the bus station for our journey to Seville.

The coolest nights were those in Granada, but the layering choices worked to keep us warm as we wandered around in search of food. My only regret was not having another pair of shoes, but as plans to buy an extra pair failed due to cost issues, I didn’t worry too much about that.

Malaga and home…

When we left White Nest Hostel in Granada, we were already discussing where we would go to on our next Andalucian next road trip.

With flights more likely to be in and out of Malaga than Seville, the likelihood is that our destinations will include Ronda, Cadiz, Jerez and Seville.

We’d probably also top up on the places we visited in Malaga too.

Some were closed on our first full day there whilst the morning after was a complete wash out thanks to the rain storm that hit the city and lingered until after we’d got our bus to Seville.

When we reached Malaga, returned to the Ibis for another night, found our room, the bags hit the floor and we sat down, put the television on and started flicking.

As one might expect, the Spanish channels were first up on the menu, but the pictures onscreen were very familiar to us as we’d been in Westminster a month beforehand and had taken photographs around the Houses Of Parliament and that end of Westminster Bridge.

The news about the Westminster incident had obviously broken as it was on all of the Andalucia channels. We found CNN and heard what had happened from both the news anchor in the States and a reporter on the ground in London.

As repetition set in as it always does on rolling news channels, we flicked once more and were surprised to find one of the channels we’d viewed a few minutes beforehand broadcasting some very raw images of what had happened on Westminster Bridge.

Should that footage have been shown? Probably not (in the UK at least) unless some pixellation had been applied to protect the injured person’s identity (our suspicion though was that images being shown were of a body rather than and injured person).

So, there was a bit of a dampener put on the end of what had been a rather enjoyable road trip around Andalucia. We decided to do some pavement pounding in search of coffee and a handbag that Caroline had seen on that first day in Malaga.

Malaga was in festival mode as it was the Malaga Film Festival. We walked the red carpet laid along one of the main streets, dodged displays of an Audi SUV and tried to work out which of the films we’d actually seen.

We didn’t see the local boy made good who was picking up an award (clues to his identity – he’s played a Mariachi, an animated cat with hat, claws, swordplay and the ability to sing Living La Vida Loca alongside a walking, talking donkey plus a few other roles too).

After coffee etc, it was back to the hotel for a shower, change and out in search of food. One place that wasn’t trying to pull people off the street was Ciao, an Italian place that had its menu outside and quite a few people eating inside and outside.

Yes, it was full, but if w’ed care to wait for a while, we’d have the next available table was the gist of the conversation we had with a member of staff. We wandered off in search of somewhere else, but went back, had another chat, took a couple of seats and received as complimentary glass of wine to help ease our waiting time.

Eating at an Italian restaurant has become of a bit of a last night thing for us as we’ve ended up having pasta or pizza on several last nights now in Malaga, Lisbon, Oslo, London and Glasgow.

Ciao was definitely on a par with our favourite Italian eating place in LisbonRestaurante da Vinci. Fine pasta for Caroline, a larger than expected calzone for me plus wine, coffee and a dessert ensured that we needed to walk some of the meal off before heading back to the hotel. So we did.

And got temporarily misplaced (or lost if you prefer that term!). The street map was back at the hotel, but after twenty minutes of wandering, I spotted the cafe we’d had a meal in on that first day in Malaga.

We backtracked a bit, headed up one of the side streets and spotted other cafes or shops that we’d passed before. After about fifteen minutes, we spotted the sign on the Ibis hotel and headed in that direction for one last drink before bedtime.

The following morning ticked all the usual boxes – breakfast, pack, check out of the hotel and walk to the station to get a train to the airport. Getting through security didn’t take long and neither did finding an overpriced sandwich and drink for lunch.

The airport shopping bill was a small one – one bottle and a pack pocket size black bull. Caroline rolled her eyes once more, but the bull stayed in the basket, was paid for and has a new home on my desk… And why not?

The best part was about to come though. We’d booked priority boarding with Ryanair and were ushered through the boarding gate with several other priority bookers.

There did appear to be something missing as we waited to board the plane.

I’d spotted that you could see a fair bit of the airport through the windows by the ramp we were waiting on, so it wasn’t a total surprise when one of the check-in crew announced that we would have to come back up into the gate area because the plane had been told to park up by a totally different gate…

We eventually boarded, got to Manchester and then got the train and a cab home from what had been a very enjoyable trip…

We’ll be back, but where did we go to next – that will be revealed next week once we’d covered the wisepacking angles from this trip!

Granada II

Where were we? Oh yes…

Caroline headed off towards the Generalife and Summer Palace and I got more and more engrossed in the book I was reading on my iPad’s Kindleapp. My phone was off as usual, but on checking my watch, I realised that I hadn’t seen Caroline for quite a while.

So the phone was booted up and I found that there’d been a missed call, a voicemail message and several texts in the last quarter of an hour…

Caroline had taken a wrong turn and had ended up outside the entrance to the Alhambra complex. She’d also misplaced her ticket too, so she couldn’t get back in to come and find me.

We did find each other once I’d booted up my phone and a spot of shopping in the Alhambra souvenir shop was called for and then a coffee and cake stop back down in the city centre.

We’d spotted Cafe Lisboa earlier in the day, our order was taken and coffee and some rather cake was delivered to our table. As we’d been out for nine hours, we headed back up to White Nest for a siesta, shower and change and then a search for an evening meal.

There were a few places open on our last night in Granada, but we wanted a change from tapas or even shared dishes like those served in the Moroccan place the night before.

An Italian restaurant was spotted and food and drink was duly ordered. I’d love to tell you the name of the place, but the receipt was misplaced and it wasn’t in a guidebook, but the food, drink, desserts and coffee all hit the spot.

There was once place left to go though on our way back to our room. I’d misplaced the bag containing the things I’d bought at the Alhambra shop and there was only once place it could be – Cafe Lisboa.

It took a while to get myself understood, but it was there and was handed over. As we left, a pact was made with Caroline. If we needed second breakfasts the following morning, I was buying and we’d have our second breakfasts down at Cafe Lisboa.

The mini market around the corner provided us with some soft drinks, bottled water and a bar of chocolate before we headed back to do some reading and then chase some zzzzs.

Although we were up early and packed, we didn’t have to check out until much later, so we wandered down to White Nest’s dining room and found that yes, the breakfast choices were limited again (White Nest to their credit did post a reply to my review on booking.com which apologised for the limited breakfast fodder due to the school group).

So there was only one thing for it – down to Cafe Lisboa for second breakfasts! Coffee and croissants were ordered and duly arrived – but the croissants were huge, and just as good in their own way as the pieces of cake we’d had the day before.

It wasn’t just the croissants that were huge. An American family with a father who looked like he went to the same barber as Gibbs from NCIS had ordered a cooked breakfast and it looked like the size of that cooked breakfast had defeated them.

As we still had time on our hands, some shopping time was called for, but we also needed a cash machine as the two of us needed a few more € to cover any purchases in Granada, in Malaga the following day and any final snacks or drinks in the airport before the flight home.

As Caroline wandered around one shop looking for things to take home for her grandchildren, I picked up one item and could hear Caroline groan in the distances as I walked to the cash desk with a blue and white plush bull.

The groan turned to a longer groan and an extended eye roll when I pushed the plush in the right place and a bull sound came from within the toy’s innards… Nothing was said though, either by Caroline or the lady taking my cash to pay for the blue and white bull.

It was now approaching check-out time, so we headed back, picked up our bags and wandered down to the nearest taxi rank to get a cab back to the bus station.

Yes, it wasn’t something we’d normally do, but as we’d noticed that it wasn’t a straightforward route to the bus station, it would save us a whole lot of time.

Lunch that day came courtesy of Aldi. Their store was just a few hundred metres away from the bus station, so that was the stop of choice for both food and drinks for both lunch and the bus ride to Malaga.

Coffee levels were topped up in the bus station cafe though, but when I bought a beer too, there was a small tapas plate as part of the deal. We’d heard about the free tapas plates in Granada, but this was the one and only time we’d experienced the custom.

Apparently it’s the thing to do in Granada – buy a beer in a bar and you get free food. For those without beer intake limits, it’s a bonus, especially if you’re on a bar crawl, but for those like myself who are on beer intake limits, it’s an interesting snack attack.

When the bus arrived and we headed inside, we swapped notes and agreed that we’d use buses again on our next trip around Andalucia.

Yes, the bookings had been done a few months before we travelled as a means of saving money, but we’d been impressed by the comfort levels and the on time nature of the journeys, even though we hadn’t been on the best buses on the fleet or had paid full whack for the four bus rides we’d been on.

On Saturday – Malaga in festival mode and time to go home…

Alhambra…

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I make no apology for making this more of a picture based post regarding our visit to the Alhambra Palace.

So much has been written about Granada’s World Heritage Site by those who know more than I do (Rough Guide Andalucia devotes @ six pages including maps and photos to the site, as does Lonely Planet Andalucia).

Our visit to Alhambra was booked back in January 2017, and yes, that was a wise move as the Sold Out signs were already posted when we collected our pre-booked tickets around 9.15am.

As our allocated time to enter Palacios Nazaries wasn’t for another couple of hours, we had time to wander over towards it, taking in the gardens, and second breakfasts too.

Whilst we’d had a spot of breakfast back at White Nest Hostel, there wasn’t much of it about thanks to the school or college party that had almost cleaned out the breakfast buffet selection.

A couple of bread rolls with marmalade and a cup of coffee weren’t going to set us up for the day, so coffee and a vending machine snack topped up the energy levels enough to last us until lunchtime.

Although I’d visited Alhambra back in 1999, there were only a few parts that I remembered seeing on that visit. With so much to see and take in, we took things nice and slow in the run up to joining the queue in readiness for our slot to get into Palacios Nazaries.

After queuing for a while and a bag check, we joined those starting to wend their way around the complex. We did hang back a bit because we’d noticed the amount of people who were wanting to photograph everything and then take selfies of themselves against the same views or interiors.

Taking things slowly had its advantages. We saw more than those doing Roadrunner impressions and had time to take things in. There were a couple of times when we couldn’t get into certain rooms, but we just held back a bit and got in when things were quieter.

We eventually exited the buildings and started to wander around the multi-level gardens adjacent to Palacios Nazaries for a while before hunger hit once more and lunch was declared.

Whilst we gave the vending machine coffee a miss this time, another machine served up not one, but two packs of sandwiches. Coffee came from the hut near the entrance to the Alcazaba fortress this time – good coffee, and rather strong too…

Once the coffee was downed, we entered the one way system in the Alcazaba, got the cameras out and then explored the fortress. I got told off for sitting on a wall rather than a bench, but once I’d found a proper seat, I could see that the wall was a bit older than the concrete I’d been sitting on at the top of it was older than I’d realised.

As Caroline and I made our way over to the Generalife and Summer Palace, my left leg started playing up thanks to some post-stroke muscle trouble, so I sat down to relax and do some reading.

Caroline headed off towards the Generalife and Summer Palace and I got more and more engrossed in the book I was reading on my iPad’s Kindle app. My phone was off as usual, but on checking my watch, I realised that I hadn’t seen Caroline for quite a while.

So the phone was booted up and I found that there’d been a missed call, a voicemail message and several texts in the last quarter of an hour…

More tomorrow!

Cordoba to Granada

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From the alleyways of Cordoba

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To a colourful hostel – White Nest, Granada

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To The Alhambra Palace

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And just one of many views over Granada…

A short post today as we’ve had a hectic weekend in Cumbria, so here goes!

The bus journey from Cordoba was the longest on our tour of Andalucia. The ride was a comfortable one, especially as we’d taken light refreshments with us to consume along the way.

We’d spotted on the maps of Granada that the bus station was a couple of miles away from White Nest Hostel, our home for the next two nights. There was the opportunity to get the bus into the centre and then make our way on foot from there, but we chose to grab a cab instead.

There was a little bit of confusion when we got to the taxi rank as the driver didn’t appear to recognise the address on our booking sheets. After a short time talking over the radio, we set off and soon realised that we’d done the right thing in getting the cab, because the journey to White Nest didn’t appear to be a simple one.

As the road narrowed, the cab started to avoid the pedestrians that were making there way along in the same direction as us. The entrance to White Nest was up an alleyway, we entered, registered and was then given the room key and directions to get to it.

When we opened the door and stepped inside, it became very apparent that we’d struck gold and had got a room with a view.

The vista from the room’s double doors was right up to The Alhambra and as it was dusk, we noticed the palace’s floodlights sparking up, leading us to rightly believe that we had got the best room in the house.

After a quick change, the search for a meal began as there were a couple of rumbling sounds to be heard when people walked past us. We took a look at a couple of places opposite the end of the alleyway, but the menus didn’t appeal, so we wandered off.

One place looked inviting, but the friendly bloke let us down gently to the fact that he was just closing up, so we turned around and headed back down the street to a cafe that we’d spotted, but initially decided against.

Which was our mistake. We were the only customers and I got the feeling that the chap running the place was about to close up, but we ended up having a very fine Moroccan style meal with hummus and pitta bread, salad, falafel, mint lemonade then coffee and a sweet course to round things off.

As it was around €28 for this feast for two, we weren’t complaining, especially as it was so good, yet oh so simple.

One returning to Room 37 at White Nest, the view from the window just begged to be looked at. The night shots didn’t work out (and neither did the day shots), but the eyes had it and there was no way that we were going to complain about this room.

Tuesday was going to be Alhambra day – more on Tuesday!

Mezquita

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Mezquita on the right, and a few potential visitors too

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Yes, you’ve guessed it, another queue!

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The outer walls of Mezquita – and a couple of horse drawn carriages too.

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Puente Romano with Torre de la Calahorra over the bridge

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Down the alley

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And into the main square

After the Alcazar and a spot of lunch, it was time to head in the direction of Mezquita to have a seat, relax, buy some tickets and head inside.

With the ticket machines out of order when we looked, it was join the queue time again as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. The ticket seller was grumpier than one of the Seven Dwarves, but we thanked him anyway and headed in the direction of the Mezquita’s main entrance.

Whilst there’s photos on here of scenes around the Mezquita, there are no shots of the interior, largely because of the No Photography sign that I’d seen on the way in.

Caroline and I adhered to this, unlike quite a few others who were using cameras and  phones to take shots inside the building. Not only that, but there were also those who were sending and receiving texts or even calls inside Cordoba’s Mosque/Cathedral.

Now you may have realised by now that I’m not a fan of visiting churches etc and it’s usually Caroline who heads inside whilst I take a wander around the local area either taking photos or reading/chilling out with a coffee or beer as the case may be.

I was intrigued by Mezquita though, especially as it’s a former mosque that’s been expanded since becoming a cathedral.

Yes, it was busy, but we decided to look around Mezquita in an organised way rather than heading off in the haphazard manner that some were heading off in. We were surprised by the amount of noise and vacuous conversations that some were indulging in as they wandered around looking at their mobile screens rather than at the building’s historic surroundings.

Although there were many aspects of Mezquita that I found fascinating, there were others that I just couldn’t relate to at all, even though there were plenty of people looking at these Christian elements of the interior.

As it turned out when we swapped thoughts later on, Caroline hadn’t really related to these elements either, just as she hadn’t with some aspects of the Cathedral in Seville when she’d visited that building a few days earlier.

I decided to take a seat while Caroline wandered back to an area that she hadn’t been able to look at a few minutes before and I could’t help noticing how many were glued to their phones or making/taking calls inside the building rather than waiting until they got outside.

As a non-believer, even I know that there is a time and a place for using a phone and that a Sunday afternoon inside of Mezquita was neither the time nor the place…

When Caroline arrived back, we decided to have a seat somewhere and relax for a while before heading back to the hotel for a siesta, shower, change and evening meal.

We ended up in a bar/restaurant that I’d been into a couple of hours before and I was rather surprised to find that the barman was already pumping up a glass of beer for me. A second was ordered and paid for so Caroline and I swapped notes on Mezquita and did a spot of people watching too.

One thing that Caroline and I both agreed on was that if we do go back to Cordoba, a night visit to Mezquita is definitely the way to go as a means of having a quieter, less intrusive experience.

Although we headed out for an evening meal, everywhere was busy with it being Father’s Day, so we ended up in once of the few places with room to spare at the tables in their courtyards.

It wasn’t the best meal we’d had on the trip so far and it was a good job we’d got a large bottle of water with our first drinks as service for both food and drinks was a little on the slow side.

Desserts didn’t come into play that night and neither did a drink at the Irish bar just around the corner from our hotel. Although there was a rather large display in one of the windows of the bar, it wasn’t possible to get one of my favourite Irish beers or one of Caroline’s favoured whiskeys, despite their brands being heavily promoted in that display!

So it was to be an early night rather than the one that we’d planned. Bags and clothes were prepped instead for the next day’s bus ride to Granada

More on Monday!