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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!

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!

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!

Father’s Day in Cordoba…

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Another day, another queue!

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It did fill up, honest!

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No, not a queue, just a party heading for the gardens

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One of many vistas in those gardens

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Columbus, Fernando and Isabel. Fernando wasn’t hearing the drums…

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More of the gardens.

After finding our way around Cordoba without an Apple Map on Saturday night, we had a fair idea of where we were going on Sunday morning.

The breakfast at Hotel Serrano was OK, but the coffee and non-serrano ham left a bit to be desired.

Something Caroline noticed though was a couple of blokes adding four sugar sachets to their glasses of orange juice. Yes, we like sweets and chocolate, but neither of us have taken sugar in tea or coffee for years (it’s over forty since I last put sugar in tea or coffee).

I can still remember my reaction when I’d been given the wrong cup of tea at work a few years ago (Hi Carole!) and a cup of sugared Nescafe in Cyprus ten years ago, so putting sugar in orange juice was definitely a no-no!

Anyway, the coffee in the hotel ensured that we had a cafe stop on our way to the  historic part of CordobaMezquita was open for services on a Sunday morning, so we decided to head there in the afternoon once we’d been to Cordoba’s Alcazar and had lunch.

Yes there was a queue to get into Alcazar de los Reynes Cristianos (to give it its full name) and guess who was in that queue? The couple who had been decidedly frosty in the restaurant we’d eaten in on Saturday night…

Although there were rooms to see in Fortress of Christian Monarchs, the main attractions on this bright and sunny day were the gardens.

Which were busy as families were out to celebrate Father’s Day.

Once away from the entrance to the garden complex, there were ample opportunities to just wander around and admire the gardens, fountains, flowers, shaped trees and what looked like giant stone chess pieces placed on top of plinths. They were in fact depicting the Spanish Royals meeting Christopher Columbus at the Fortress back in 1486.

Our wanderings were tempered by a few opportunities to sit down, top up the fluid levels from our water bottles and top up the sun protection from pocket packs of Nivea SPF 30 sun cream.

After a while though, our thoughts turned to Sunday lunch. No, not roast and veg style, just something more in keeping with the surroundings.

The Father’s Day crowds ensured that most places were full – even Burger King. A short beer stop quenched the thirst and we headed off and found a place that looked inviting and had plenty of covered seating.

We sat down at one table and were promptly moved to another. Choices were made from the menu, but a brusque waiter made it plain that we couldn’t have tapas, so I made do with a bowl of gazpacho soup and pondered the word on the wall outside the restaurant’s front entrance.

Tapas.

With food and drinks consumed, we asked for the bill. The requested bottle of water hadn’t turned up and wasn’t on the bill, but the unasked for (and not consumed) bread basket was.

Given the brusqueness of the waiter, I ended up querying the bill with just one word using the inflection of Manuel from Fawlty Towers

“Que?”

I reverted to English to explain that we hadn’t ordered or eaten any bread, so the waitress went inside and brought us a new bill that was bread-free and a few € less than the original.

As Mezquita didn’t open until 3pm on a Sunday, we still had plenty of time to wander around some more, so a beer break was called and followed by an ice cream break. With the electronic ticket machines labelled as being out of action, we had to join the queue to get tickets. Once bought, the law of sod was invoked once more as guess what happened?

Those out of action labels were taken off those ticket machines…

As we made our way to the entrance queue proper, we did notice an interesting example of Girl Power as a couple of armed police officers were stationed nearby.

And it wasn’t the bloke who was toting the machine gun…

More tomorrow!

Bye, bye Seville, hello Cordoba!

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After one last tapas meal at The Seven Bull’s Heads

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Queuing for the Alcazar? That was so yesterday!

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Time for breakfast…

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We’ll be back…

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Seville’s bullring – we gave it a miss

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Cordoba by night, and yes, that’s Mezquita in the floodlights

If it’s Saturday, it must be the day to move on.

We’d enjoyed our few days in Seville and another good night in a tapas bar, but it was time to find breakfast and then the bus station so we could make our way to Cordoba.

One of the topics discussed during our previous night’s meal was whether we’d go back to Seville on another trip. As ‘Yes’ was the answer to that one, I suspect that we’ll have another night or more in Bar Pelayo (the real name of The Seven Bull’s Heads), more time wandering around the Alcazar and more of those posh ice creams we had on our first full day in Seville.

And more breakfasts in Taberna El Papelon.

We will however look for another place to stay as we weren’t overly keen on the pension that I’d booked us into. Where will we go? I suspect that there may be some consulting of guidebooks and asking questions on travel forums as well as a closer perusal of the comments made on various accommodation finding sites.

The walk to the bus station gave us a chance to stretch our legs before hitting the bus station and getting the bus to Cordoba. This was the most expensive bus ride on the road trip, but as it was a Saturday and we’d got bargain tickets for other journeys we had, we weren’t complaining.

Until we got to Cordoba. Exiting the bus station and finding our way out onto the main road via the railway station was the easy part.

Following the printouts from Apple Maps wasn’t…

We’d got into the right street, but could we heck as like find the street that Hotel Serrano was on. We walked, we looked and we walked some more, but it wasn’t until around 30 minutes later did we realise that we’d missed it, so we backtracked, found it and headed in.

After getting up to our room, there a plan was hatched. Shower and change, do the clothes washing that we needed to do and then head out to stretch our legs once more and find a drink or two.

That set us up quite nicely for the evening. Once the siesta was out of the way, it was time to head out and see what was out there.

Darkness had fallen, and as we headed out, we decided that we were just going to go with the flow, so we did as a steady stream of people headed down towards the river.

Whilst we spotted a few likely places to eat, we headed down to and over Puente Romano. Whilst there was no luck finding an eating place on the other side of the river, we headed back into the centre, took a few photos and then spotted a sign regarding night tours of Mezquita.

We hadn’t heard about these, but a door opened to let some people in so we asked the lady at the door about the night tours, but this one was full.

We did find a restaurant eventually (at one point there was a running joke about having a romantic Saturday night meal in the branch of Burger King that we passed a couple of times), but we hit gold.

No notes were made and I’ve misplaced the receipt that bears the name of the restaurant we ate in, but it was cool (in more ways than one!), the food was good and so was the ambience – apart from the rather frosty faced couple we’d been seated next to…

Once fed and watered, it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep in readiness for what was going to be a fairly busy Sunday wandering around Cordoba, another Alcazar and the Mezquita.

On the Spanish version of Father’s Day

More tomorrow!

Alcazar…

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The Alcazar of Seville

The Alcazar of Seville was one of those places that sprang out from the pages of the guidebooks as we planned this particular road trip.

We’d put off visiting for a couple of days, largely because every time we passed the entrance, there were queues.

As Friday was our last full day in Seville, we couldn’t put off visiting any longer, so it was up early, shower, dress and head for breakfast before joining the queue to get in.

When we reached the front, we realised why there was a queue to get into this World Heritage Site – airport style security with both walk-through body scanners and x-ray machines to examine the contents of day bags, hand bags and camera pouches.

There’s plenty of buildings to wander around, but there are also some impressive gardens to walk around. I’m not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but even I was impressed but the way in which the gardens were planted, laid out and kept spick and span as people entered and gradually dispersed themselves around the numerous arrays of plants, lawns, ornaments and fountains.

Words can’t really do justice to what we saw during our time in the Alcazar (Lonely Planet’s Andalusia guide devotes almost two pages to describing the complex), so here’s a few pictures selected at random from those taken as we wandered around…

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After a few hours in the Alcazar, it was time for refreshment and a chance to rest our feet. The cafe was rather busy and customers were being treated to grand displays of feathers from an obliging local peacock. Who stopped when I got my camera ready….

If you are every in Seville, you really must bite the bullet and join that queue at the Alcazar. Words can’t really describe it as there is so much to take in as you wander around the buildings and the grounds.

Although the complex is right in the centre of Seville and is bordered by main roads, it’s very peaceful and the only audible intrusions came from the sounds of sirens on a couple of emergency service vehicles as they headed off to do their stuff.

Yes, there were quite a few people visiting the Alcazar on the day of our visit, but once we’d left the buildings and the start of the garden area behind, we had sections of the gardens to ourselves and weren’t being bothered by selfie stick toting phone owners.

We’ve already said that we are going to go back to Seville for another visit and that will be including return visits to the Alcazar because this was one enjoyable way of spending a day just wandering around on our own and exploring the site without a guide or a guidebook.

And without a tour guide marching us around in record breaking time in order to get the party back on the bus to get to the next stop along the way!

Next up – Cordoba!

No pics, just words…

If it’s Thursday, then it’s time to get thee to a flamenco club.

Now we’d seen what the admission charges were for some of the flamenco shows, but we’d heard about a club in one of the back streets when reading a Kindle book on Seville (Seville for Free 2016 by Lynne Knightly) before we headed off.

The same club – La Carboneria – was also recommended to us by the owner of the pension we were staying in as being one of the best places to go – and he was right.

My earlier confusion in trying to find the club was understandable as we’d found out after seeing that notice near the original entrance on Calle Levies which pointed in the direction of the new entrance a few hundred metres away on Cespedes.

As we’d taken our time over the tapas, we arrived at La Carboneria around 9.30pm and wandered in.

The club was already busy, and there weren’t any seats to be had. So beer beckoned and a couple of camas of Alhambra ordered in my best Spanish (I was getting the hang of it, honest!).

At €2 per glass, it wasn’t going to break the bank, but one guy standing next to me came rather unstuck when he came to pay as he presented a card to pay for his drinks. The problem he faced? No cards, so he was given directions to the nearest ATM…

There was a sense of deja vu as I looked around La Carboneria as it brought back memories of heading out to clubs to see bands in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Unlike Riverside in Newcastle-upon-TyneLa Carboneria wasn’t a standing venue as there were long tables and benches on the lower and upper levels of the club.

The audience was a good mix though – old, young and of different ethnic backgrounds too (very reminiscent of those attending gigs at the Harambe Africa festival). You could spot the tour parties though – students with one eye on their friends and the other on the screens of their respective mobile phones.

The music started around 10pm though. Guitars first and then the essential combination of guitars and dancer.

Whilst there were two musicians, there was only one dancer, but was there passion in the dancing? Oh yes…

From where we were standing, we could only see the hand movements and the facial expressions, but there was so much intensity in those movements and expressions that seeing the feet moving wasn’t necessary.

As the intensity rose, the dancer’s hair started to move too and it wasn’t long before hair was falling into the dancer’s face.

Fortunately that happened on the last song/dance of that particular set. That passion contented as the night wore on in the other two sets we witnessed from the same players and dancer.

As the night wore on though, we became conscious that we’d been up for a long time and that as good as the night was, we really did need some sleep, especially as we had a long, good Friday planned.

It was to be our last full day in Seville and there was a lot to do, especially as we had planned on an early start to get in the queue to take a look around Seville’s Alcazar.

More on Monday!