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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 – 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… 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!

Hola… the pics part 1!

thumb_DSCN1935_1024When Caroline met a rather bronzed Pablo, Malaga

thumb_DSCN1954_1024The rain in Spain doesn’t always stay on the plain – Malaga

thumb_DSCN1963_1024That’s one heck of a mushroom, Seville

More on Friday!

Hola…

Twelve days, four cities, public transport, tapas, art, history and flamenco…

What’s not to like about Andalusia? Apart from the rain in Spain…

Insurance…

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It was a long way down from this spot!

One thing that’s surprised me over the last few months is how many people are logging onto forums or asking questions on newspaper websites as to whether they should take travel insurance or not.

To me, it’s a no-brainer. Yes, you should is always my answer as I have pre-existing conditions that have to be declared in the wake of having had a stroke, but I’m also aware that the EHIC card doesn’t cover you for all eventualities or things like repatriation in the event of a biggie occurence.

Yes, specialist cover should be sought for dangerous sports etc, but even if you aren’t going paragliding or doing free-fall, there’s always the possibility that something unexpected might happen.

My stroke happened three days after a medical at a new GP practice and a few months after a nasty infection occurred following a small graze on my left leg (open leg wound for 3 months and an abcess inside open leg wound too).

There’s always the effects of liquor mortis to consider – either down to your consumption or a visiting meathead intent of drinking themselves into oblivion. Or inattentive drivers, unknown allergies or stumbles in the street…

Yes, the insurance premium will add more pounds or whatever to the cost of the trip, but it may be a lot less than the medical bills or those for repatriation to a hospital in say the UK after a crash or medical problem, especially if it’s happened on the other side of the world or in the US of A…

Treat ’em and street ’em may not be possible!