A Travellerspoint blog

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Lazy Sunday

And so it begins, the final week in Spain.

Have we already been here for eight days? How is that possible? Sixteen days is not a long enough vacation. Yeah, white whine, I know.

Seville has been good to us, and it's a bummer to be leaving in two days. I feel as if I'm finally getting comfortable in the city and have some bearings for the surrounding area. A lot of this is the result of trial and error, mind you, but the city grid seems to make sense and we even ventured out this evening without our map!

Despite the hustle of the city, Seville feels fairly laid back, and thus it only seemed appropriate to sleep in this morning. There was no 12 p.m. rising like yesterday, but we did make it to 10:30 a.m. with no problem. The morning was cooler than previous days, and a passing cloud cover provided some much needed relief from the sun. It was the perfect weather for a run, so I laced up my super shiny cross trainers (seriously, if the sun were out the glare on my shoes would temporarily blind passerbys) and hit the trail.

Sort of.

I had to first walk through the Plaza de Duque and past the wondering stares as people sipped their coffee and eyed me strangely. I guess I did look pretty ridiculous when taken out of context. However once on the walkway down by the river along the Paseo Marques de Contadero I found that I was in good company. Bikers and joggers alike were out in stride, weaving through the slow strolling foot traffic and dodging teenage boys practicing Parkour.

Zac trailed behind me again, carrying my water and sunglasses for when I may need either. I plugged in my headphones and hit the pavement, taking in the beauty of the city as I ran. We have yet to cross the river to see the other side of Seville, but the plan for tomorrow is to do so in the evening and to take in another Flamenco show. We have been told that Triana is a good neighborhood for that, so we'll cross the bridge and stroll along Calle Betis and find something there. We also hope to find Agua de Seville, an interesting concoction of four different kinds of liquor, champagne, pineapple juice, and cream. The drink sounds like something I'd find dumped together in a garbage pail at a fraternity, but I'll give it a go anyway.

After the run we returned back to the hotel so I could get ready for the day. It already felt to be late, but we're on vacation and early morning activities are rarely on our to-do list. Since it was Sunday a lot of shops and stops are closed, but there is a Sunday market next to the Museo de Bellas Artes that I'd read about and decided I wanted to see. We wandered over to take a gander and admired the paintings that lined the streets as local artists showcased their talents and answered questions about their work. Zac and I had no real interest in buying anything, seeing as how we already have too many paintings that remain unframed and unhung in our house. It was a quick walk through the small plaza of painters and we were off to find lunch.

We settled on an unsavory little dump of a place for our meal, though two of our tapas were well enjoyed by each of us. One unknown order proved to be a pile of potatoes smothered in mayonnais with shredded carrots thrown in for good measure. It was left virtually untouched. Lunch started off with Zac getting pissed or shit on by a bird (we still don't know which) that happened to be sitting in the tree above him as we sat down at the table. I think that maybe should have been a sign to keep on looking for a lunch spot. I was just too damn hungry. The bird tried to warn us, and we just wouldn't listen.

IMG_7812.jpg

One thing I've come to notice about Spain is that the bathrooms here are pretty gross. Often times toilet paper is missing or soap empty. Toilets with seats are pretty fancy, I think. Otherwise it's pop a squat or sit on a thin toilet bowl. I'm not sure which I'm supposed to do in that case. Hot water is surprisingly hard to come by in public bathrooms (and many restaurant ones as well). I feel like I need to carry my hand sanitizer with me. It's not that any of these things really gross me out (though they probably should)--it's just that I expected higher standards. I'm in a well developed European country, and if the Spanish can conquer South and Central America, surely they can conquer good hygiene.

The most off putting of it all is knowing that if I'm not getting toilet paper and soap in 7 out of 10 bathrooms, neither is the wait staff serving me or the chefs cooking my food.

That only compliments the savory notion of dirty hands when one also takes into account that most wait staff seem to smoke in Spain. Perhaps it's a case of the availability heuristic, but truly we see most wait staff standing in restaurant doorways, cigarette in hand, waiting for customers to come in, or if already in, waiting for them to order. We see people smoking in other situations, but not nearly as often as catching waiters smoking. Why is this? Are we just looking to confirm our bias by taking note of it when we see it, but not when we don't? Oh well.

After lunch we headed toward the Plaza de la Encarnacion. It was here I wanted to see the Metropol Parasol, the world's largest wooden structure. It looked like a mushroom and honey comb had a giant baby. Because that's possible and makes sense.

IMG_7804.jpgIMG_7808.jpg

The Metropol Parasol has a large market inside, but it was closed today due to it being God's Day and all. A day of rest, or whatever people do on Sundays. That rest includes not going to the market, apparently. We made note to go tomorrow instead.
After the plaza we walked through the Macarena neighborhood, north of the city center. We passed by the Basilica Macarena and Arco de la Macarena, as well as the parlament building and the murallas.

90_IMG_7817.jpg

The walk back to our hotel that afternoon found us passing through the Alameda de Hercules, a square with several fountains and restaurants that stretch several blocks. This was a place that was clearly where the locals hang out, and we strolled through and made note to return that evening for dinner. We then cut through some side streets in the neighborhood to get a better feel for life in Seville. It's easy to love a city when you spend time in the main center with its well kept streets, charming store fronts, and historic buildings. It's another to love a city when you are in the thick of reality, dog shit on the sidewalks, and buildings with graffiti.

90_IMG_7810.jpg

Still, I found myself liking the neighborhoods outside of the city center. Most shops were closed, but fruit stands and supermercados were plentiful. Tapas bars and cafeterias were on every corner. People walked the streets with their children on bikes, and apartments were lined with Juliett balconies housing plants and tangled vines. It felt real, and it felt lovely.

We stopped at one of the markets and picked up some more snacks for tapas. Cheese, crackers, tuna, olives, pickles, asparagus, peppers, and baby eels for Zac (blech). Everything was brought back to be enjoyed on our terrace, accompanied by a good book. It was a lazy afternoon that matched well to our lazy morning, and the expected and subsequent lazy evening.

90_IMG_7827.jpg

When the sun set and the weather cooled it was time to eat again. We kept good on our word to return to the Alameda de Hercules, and I am so glad we did. The plaza was more alive than it was on our first pass earlier in the day, and there were so many restaurants to choose from that it almost felt overwhelming to choose. In the end we picked a place that was close and had seating, seeing as how many of the restaurants had packed tables. We'd left for dinner earlier this evening (at 8:30 pm) because tables begin to fill to capacity around 9/9:30 pm.
Fortunately we chose right, and our restaurant had great food AND clean bathrooms. The wait staff were attentive and friendly, and looking around at all the food being brought out it seemed that quality and quantity were both high marks for this establishment. If you find yourself in the Alameda de Hercules and want affordable and good food, I recommend Parilla de Badulaque.

Instead of desert at the restaurant we stopped at a small store and bought plenty of candy to enjoy. I think I have a cavity. I swear, between the daily glasses of wine, all the cafe con leches, sweets for breakfast, cheese, bread, desert, candy, cookies, and tapas I've been eating I am coming back from this trip a good five pounds heavier. My pants are already tighter, and I wish I was just being over dramatic about that, but it's the sad truth. Short jogs won't negate the daily intake of indulgences.

And you know what? It's so totally worth it. The wine here is great, even the house wine, and the food in Seville is really, really good.
We have one more week to squeeze in as much indulging and fun as we can. I'm confident we'll make this happen.

Posted by JorieW 15:50 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Spanish Bombs

All day long I've been singing Spanish Bombs by the Clash. I can't help it, and it's stuck in my head. Every vacation seems to have a theme song, and this is appropriately the theme song to our current holiday.

Let me apologize in advance--it's getting late and we've just come back from dinner, which means we've also had a fair amount of wine (and I've only had a small amount of whine). If my thoughts are incoherent or run on more than usual, you all know why.

Today was our first full day in Seville (or Saaaaaaaay viiiiiii yaaaaaa, as we've been calling it). My intention was to wake up early and get to exploring, but that plan fell through. Zac and I ended up sleeping in until noon. Um, yeah.

With a late start we hit the city, ready to take in whatever Seville had to offer. Fortunately there was some coffee involved, and eventually we worked our way down along the river and strolled along the Paseo Marques de Contadero, a beautiful paved walkway following the water and running parallel to the city.

IMG_7684.jpg

It took us by the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza and the Torre del Oro.

90_IMG_7689.jpg

The Torre del Oro was built as a watchtower along the river. Unfortunately my camera crapped out on me at this point, and I annoyingly whined for the remainder of our walk through the Catedral de Santa Maria.

Whining generally means I'm hungry, so we stopped to eat along the way. We'd strolled through many of Seville's streets and enjoyed the beauty and enchantment of the old architecture mixed with new. The city is beautiful and charming, lively and bustling. There are people milling about, but many are locals and it does not have the same isolating tourist feel as the Albayzin in Granada or the tourist center of Cordoba. The mix of tourists and natives is a decent balance (though, admittedly the scale shifts when near the Cathedral), and I didn't see bedazzled sweaty old women blocking walkways with their bright orange and green name tags and lolly-gagging husbands ten feet behind scouring maps and getting in the way.

90_IMG_7691.jpg90_IMG_7693.jpg90_IMG_7695.jpgIMG_7796.jpg

No, this city is truly what I imagined Spain to be, down to the scent of olives along stretches of city blocks. This of course is often masked by the scent of horse shit from the carriages that circle the plazas, but what can you do? At times I'm not sure if I can differentiate between the two smells, to be quite honest. I think there's something wrong with my nose.

Orange trees also line the streets, and I wish they were ripe and ready for picking. However I've read that the oranges here are bitter and often not to the sweetness most expect from the delicious fruit, and the oranges here are used for marmelade and lotions instead.

At lunch Zac fixed my camera. Yaaaaay!

90_IMG_7690.jpg

I then insisted we circle back to the Cathedral so I could get pictures. The Cathedral de Santa Maria is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in the world. It was build after the Reconquista on the site of the city's former mosque. We did not go inside the Cathedral, but the stonework and detail was impressive, and we passed by for a second loop without complaint.

IMG_7696.jpg
90_IMG_7706.jpg

We continued to wander along Seville's busy streets, ducking through alleyways and admiring the beauty of the city around us. Truly, Seville is a lovely city, and large enough that we could spend the entirety of our four days walking through different neighborhoods and not get bored.

90_IMG_7715.jpg

Continuing along, we found ourselves at the Plaza de Espana, a truly breathtaking and expansive sight. It is located next to the Parque de Maria Luisa, and is a fairly new structure built in 1928. It was built to showcase Spain's industry and technology exhibits. Beautiful bridges with colorful tilework surround the plaza and allow easy passage over the moat, which is filled with row boats of people.

IMG_7726.jpgIMG_7728.jpgIMG_7729.jpgIMG_7736.jpg

Several alcoves line the plaza, each representing a different province or city of Spain. I made it to Barcelona today!

IMG_7749.jpg

Today the Plaza consists of government buildings.

IMG_7758.jpg
90_IMG_7780.jpg

After catching our breath from the sheer size and beauty of the Plaza, we continued onward into the Parque Maria Luisa. The park, like the Plaza, was built in 1929 for the World Fair. It was a wonderful park to walk through, and we found ourselves wishing we had a book and some food to picnic. Instead we just sat on a bench and took in the views.

IMG_7784.jpg
IMG_7793.jpg

I felt myself getting cranky again, which signaled it was time to leave and get some food. The day was hot (nearly 100 degrees again), and I was parched. The combination of heat and hunger can easily turn me into a monster. I suggested stopping by a market and buying ourselves some bread, cheese, and treats to make tapas and enjoy them along our beautiful rooftop terrace. After what felt like aimless wandering, we finally found a market. Thus we enjoyed the early part of our evening on the roof.

90_IMG_7801.jpg90_IMG_7800.jpg90_IMG_7802.jpgIMG_7803.jpg

The food culture in Seville is strongly aligned with tapas, wine, and late night starts, so we didn't leave our hotel for dinner until after 9 p.m. With such a late rising this morning that didn't seem to be a problem for us. Walking along the crowded streets we found it difficult to get a table in many restaurants, and often bars were tapas only. The energy of the crowds combined with the noise of the city made for excitment and fun. This was not what we are used to, and this is not what one finds in Seattle.

The restaurant we settled on was okay. We didn't even bother trying to get into the more upscale or popular tapas restaurants. Instead we found ourselves on a busy side street, drinking wine, and taking it all in.

Four days here doesn't seem like enough, but it will have to do. I'm excited to see what tomorrow has to offer. I'm also kind of excited to go to sleep. What can I say? It's the wine.

Posted by JorieW 15:58 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Es Seville

Rockin' and rollin'.

I'm starting the first part of my blog on a rickety RENFE train heading toward Sevilla. It's early afternoon and the heat is at its worst, making this one well timed train ride. I figure I'll multitask so long as my laptop battery holds out. What else am I going to do? Talk to my travel partner? Psh.

The sun has been pretty unforgiving during our time in Cordoba. It's been hovering around 100 degrees and no clouds are shouldering the burden of UV rays. Armed with a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, I have been wandering the streets following shadows to walk in.

When I woke this morning the sun wasn't even up yet. I had hoped to rise early enough to venture out for a jog along the Rio before too many people were out and temperatures became too high. It was 7 a.m., and crickets were still singing their nighttime symphony through the silent and dark streets. This didn't seem like a good time to go jogging in a city I hardly know, alone. Instead I slept a little more.

When I finally did get out of bed and showered it was nearly 8:30. The sun was finally up, so we hustled over to the Mezquita to get in during the free touring hours. Monday through Saturday the Mezquita is free to view from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. except on major holidays. Otherwise the cost is 8 euros to enter. The courtyard outside is free to wander.

90_IMG_7588.jpg
90_IMG_7587.jpg

Arriving so early, we found ourselves nearly alone in the giant mosque. This gave us time to peacefully stroll through the impressive halls and admire the art and history of this stunning and historic structure, a structure with a rich history and changing hands of power.

90_IMG_7624.jpg
IMG_7625.jpg

The Mezquita dates back to the 10th century when Cordoba was one of Europe's most prosperous cities and under a new emir, Abd ar-Rahman III. In 1238 the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral, the same year as the Spanish reconquista.

90_IMG_7627.jpg

I'd recommend going to the Mezquita for anyone visiting the area, however I was happy that we chose to take the opportunity for the economically friendly visiting hours. Was it worth the 8 euro? Am I cheap if I say no? Keep in mind that I'm a religiousless heathen. I enjoy viewing beautiful cathedrals, mosques, temples, etc, for the sheer appearance and architecture, but religious art or beliefs interest me very little. I didn't grow up with stories from religious writings, and most of the main characters are unfamiliar to me. I know Jesus. He's a pretty big protagonist in these tales. The rest of his supporting cast--not so much. I don't mean to be blasphemous, though I often am, but I just never learned and it just never mattered. Now for the real cake topper: paintings kind of bore me unless there is scenery or lots of vibrant colors. I said it. It's out there. I'm not just a heathen, but an uncultured one at that. Yes, it's worth seeing, even at the gouging price of 8 euro.

With all that said, I enjoyed looking at the beautiful detail in the walls, the intricate carvings of heavy wooden doors, and the smooth stonework beneath my feet. I also really enjoyed walking through the ripening orange trees in the couryard outside. One day I'd love to live somewhere with an orange tree in my backyard. Not the Mezquita, though. I'm aware it's not an option.

Our self-guided tour of the Mezquita took about a half an hour. Once done we returned back to our hotel (which was only a two minute walk, maybe) and ate a small breakfast of pan y mantequilla and cafe con leche. It was enough to keep our bellies content while we spent the next couple hours exploring the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.

90_IMG_7630.jpg

During medieval times the Alcazar was occupied by the Visigoth as a fortress. When the Visgoths fell to the emirs of the Umayyad Caliphate the structure was rebuilt. As the city grew and flourished the Alcazar expanded. In 1236 Christian forces took Cordoba during the Reconquista. The Alcazar is possibly most famous as having been one of the primary residences of Isabella I and Ferdinand II. They used the Alcazar as a permanent tribunal of the Spanish Inquitition. In 1482 the Alcazar acted as a headquarters for the Inquisition, and much of it was converted into torture and interrogation chambers. I must admit that touring the underground Arab baths are mighty creepy when one considers that they had been converted into torture chambers during the Inquisition.

We were told that the Alcazar was where news of America's discovery first broke. That was pretty fascinating.

The small Alcazar itself was a nice walkthrough (minus the torture and bloody history), but the gardens were truly the highlight. Again, we went during free visiting hours (8 a.m.-10:30 a.m.), and saved 4.50 euro each. The gardens were one stop I would have happily paid the money for without regret (or paid Zac's money, I should say...). We strolled through the maze of well kept foliage, orange trees, and rose bushes while listening to the bubbling of fountains and kicking dust at pigeons. Several breaks were taken along the way, stopping at a bench to rest and talk while enjoying the sunshine and scenery. It was a nice way to spend the remainder of our morning.

IMG_7670.jpg
IMG_7666.jpg
IMG_7663.jpg
90_IMG_7658.jpg

IMG_7649.jpg
IMG_7635.jpg

90_IMG_7669.jpg

After the gardens we decided to explore more of Cordoba. We wandered away from the tourist center and out into the main avenues with busy traffic, super mercados, and small tiendas strung along the way. We walked along grassy park stretches and talked politics. It felt very grown up.

Soon we headed back toward the Plaza Tendillas to stop for some cafe con leche y postre. The desert chosen today was a yummy chocolate covered-something-or-another, and it held us over until lunch. This was a very good thing, because after we left the Plaza we got lost. For a while. We wandered around, looking for a recognizable street or the river from which to point us in the right direction (or any direction, really). Still, nothing came. Eventually the city faded away and we were surrounded by apartment buildings several stories high and neighborhood playgrounds. Hm.

I stopped and asked a man on the street which direction to the Mezquita and he mumbled something about seven blocks and pointed in the opposite direction that we had been walking in. Only seven blocks? That didn't seem too far off track. However it was far more than seven blocks, and eventually we flagged down a taxi and appreciatively took it the remaining distance. Our cab driver had a chuckle at how turned around we had become. By this time I was sweating profusely and had eaten half of the cookies I stopped to buy at the store along our walk in a stress induced feeding frenzy. Needless to say, I was not nearly as amused as he was.

Still, we made it back to the hotel, ate lunch, and headed out to the train station. Now I'm on a train.

And now this is going to really blow your mind--the power of time. I'm now five hours in the future and sitting upon our peaceful terrace under a clear night sky, listening to the sounds of laughter and clanking silverware from neighboring restaurants in the Plaza Duque. We've made it to Seville, and boy does it feel good.

My first impression of Seville is so far a good one. It's Spain's fourth largest city behind Madrid, Bracelona, and Valencia, and just glancing over the map given to us by our very kind receptionist at the hotel has us realizing that four days here was a wise decision. We've already pin pointed several places we'd like to walk to, a few bars we care to frequent, and have a to-do list that includes smoking Cuban cigars on our terrace as the sun goes down (or after, perhaps). I'd really like to go to a bull fight, but Zac is vehemently opposed. I'd also really like to see a soccer game, but Zac is almost equally as vehemently opposed to that as he is to the bull fighting.

Most of our planned activities are pretty small and insignificant. The first thing we did and crossed off of our list was going out to dinner for tapas only at a fancy pants place. Zac had run to the market earlier and spotted a nearby restaurant he wanted to try, so out we went. There was a man playing beautiful music on his guitar as we ate, and he didn't even ask us for tips afterward--that's how you know we picked somewhere classy!

The tapas were really well done, and we feasted on different kinds of fish, octopus (Zac), tuna tar tar (Zac again), beef (me), salad, and some dish that was really, really delectable and involved mushrooms, egg, and a potato puree. We each had a couple glasses of wine to accompany the food, and I must say the wine I had was really well enjoyed. That's probably why some of my words don't go together properly right now.

After our meal we returned to the hotel to enjoy the wine Zac bought earlier at the market (when he ventured out on his own and found it and bought it--I'm so proud!), which is where we now reside. The terrace is really wonderful, and I am excited to enjoy it during the day. The rooftops of the plaza peek over the flower potted walls of our hotel, and sitting in the warm evening air while enjoying a plum and some wine leaves me feeling as if there is no where else I'd rather be.

Posted by JorieW 00:05 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Cordoba, And Such.

Another early morning rising awaited me this morning. The sound of my alarm going off before the sun is up is such a rude and terrible awakening.

This morning I was fortunately not nearly as cranky about it as I was yesterday. For whatever reason I was able to get up after the first alarm and maintain some sense of deceny for the day. Probably because my stomach is feeling much better. Oh, come on--you had to know that I wouldn't go one trip without writing about gastrointestinal issues. Isn't that why you read my travel blogs?

Fortunately my stomach is mostly okay. I think it's just been a little adjustment for my digestive track to get on board with the Spanish diet. At home I eat mostly vegetables and proteins, but here I seem to be eating mostly carbohydrates. What can I say, bread is served with every meal, and I think that bread has formed a dam in my small intestine. I suppose that's far more preferable to my Peru ailments.

If you've traveled with me you'll know that I don't like going anywhere for the day without a proper trip to the loo, so maybe that's why I was cranky yesterday? It's my best guess.

What? You don't find the topic of pooping as funny or entertaining as I do? Why are we friends, again?

So, feeling stellar today (thanks for the concern) I woke up with no problems, packed up my things, and wrangled Zac out of bed. He has no issue waking up and immediately leaving, but I need a little time to myself in the mornings (and not just for the aseos). I drank my tea, read some news, and said my own little goodbye to Granada. "May I see you again," I thought as we walked down our apartment steps for the last time. And perhaps I will.

Off to Cordoba we went! I nodded off on the nearly three hour train ride, probably because I am weirdly comforted by most movement. With some good tunes playing on my headphones and the proper sway I could fall asleep standing up with enough rocking. The cat nap did me good, and I arrived in Cordoba ready to be a tourist!

Shit, nevermind, I'm not ready to be a tourist.

90_IMG_7617.jpg

Cordoba is beautiful and the small streets are quaint and well kept. The houses are traditional, and Spanish tile work abundent. Water fountains are fixtures in courtyards and plazas bask in the sunlight around most corners. Shops are plentiful, and anything you need can likely be found with enough walking. It is an adorable and charming city--filled with tourists. I thought I wanted to be one, I really did. Just blend into a sea of faces, bartering for a summer dress or picking out a fan to cool myself with as I eat ice cream outside the Mezquita. Doesn't that sound nice?

Ninety-nine percent of tourists here are over the age of 50. I'm not kidding. They roam in hoards of sweaty old women in bedazzled hats and old shuffling men with hiking poles that match their mullet hats. No attempt at Spanish is made when speaking with the locals or eating at restaurants, and these groups seem to spread out along sidewalks with little regard to others trying to pass by. Do I want to be a tourist if this is how we're perceived? Nah.

Zac pointed out that many are German, so we spent the day immitating awful German accents and cracking jokes about currywurst and party boys. It should be noted that Zac is part German. Still, his impression is awful.

We figured the crowds would thin as the day progressed. Many people swarming the tourist center near the Mezquita and Alcazar were on day trips from Madrid, their bright orange or green name tags a dead giveaway. We'd wait them out, we decided.

Our first stop of the day was for coffee and lunch at a small restaurant just around the corner from our very central hotel (Hotel Lola).

90_IMG_7584.jpg

We have a lovely view of Calle Romero and shops, restaurants, and souviners are never in short supply. We also have this:

90_IMG_7583.jpg

I don't know if I have the courage for it.

The food we had at lunch was fine for what it was, but the coffee was not particularly satisfying. What's a person to do?! Go get more.

90_IMG_7571.jpg

The second coffee stop of the day was much more pleasant. We stopped in a little cafe that had a beautiful open patio, few people, and surrounded us with plants and beautiful Spanish tilework while we sipped some cafe con leches. It really hit the spot.

90_IMG_7573.jpg

After coffee and food we moved on to exploring some of Cordoba.

Cordoba was an Iberian and Roman city during ancient times, and excavation is going on in the city to reconstruct some of the ruins that have been discovered beneath neighborhood blocks. In the Middle Ages it became the capital of the Islamic caliphate. The mixing of rulers has left for some fascinating architecture, including mosques turned cathedrals turned tourist centers. At one point Cordoba was the most populous city in the world, though now it boasts a mere 330,000 people.

We walked through the Mezquita, arguably one of Cordoba's main tourist sights. We only walked the grounds, deciding to return for a tour of the mosque tomorrow morning when it's free (before 10 a.m.). Our next stop was a walk across the Rio Guadalquivir along the Roman bridge for more expansive views of the city, and on this beautiful (and really hot) day it did not disappoint. The bridge was built in the early 1st century BC, though it has been renovated and restored several times since. Now only the 14th and 15th arches are original.

90_IMG_7599.jpg
IMG_7598.jpg
IMG_7592.jpg

Following beautiful views of the river and Plaza Vallinas we stopped by the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos and Jardines del Alcazar. Like at the Mezquita, we were simply checking it all out, deciding to return again tomorrow morning before 10:30 a.m. for free admission. Is it worth getting up early to save some money? Perhaps not, but in the end it's 8 euro for the Mezquita and 4.50 euro for the Alcazar per person, and that'd be better spent on lunch with a sangria if you ask me.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent leisurely strolling through the neighborhoods just outside of the Alcazar and near the University of Cordoba. On our walk we saw the Roman Temple, the theatre, Mausoleum, and the remains of the Palace of the Emperor Maximan. We walked along the famed Calleja de las Flores and Calleja del Panuelo in the old Jewish quarter, and the Posada del Potro, a square mentioned by Cervantes in Don Quioxte.

We attempted a visit to the Cordoba botanical gardens, which were closed by the time we arrived. Peeking through the gates we came to the conclusion that this was for the best, as the gardens seemed more like a pleasant walk through a small city park than anything else, and we could do that for free along the Avenida Conde de Vallellano, which we did. We also saw this:

IMG_7607.jpg

Seriously, who thought a statue of one stag sniffing the arse of another was a good idea in the middle of a busy road?! I actually think it's pretty great. Either someone has a good sense of humor, or someone is really oblivious.

Walking along the neighborhood streets of Cordoba was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. Many shops were closed for a siesta, but we did find a restaurant to stop and have some drinks at. It was called El Oliva and I only mention it because it had the best gazpacho I've had so far in Spain (and I've had gazpacho every day). Many of the restaurants serve gazpacho out of a box (yes, there is boxed gazpacho), but this restaurant made it from scratch. Instead of oil they used a little bit of cream, and it was served with peppers and onion to garnish. Que delicioso! Paired with some cold drinks and Spanish olives it was a much appreciated and enjoyed respite from the heat.

90_IMG_7608.jpg

Continuing on we found ourselves at the Plaza Tendillas. Zac's sweet tooth kicked into gear and we were on the hunt for a pasteleria. Luck would have it that there are several around the Plaza Tendillas, and Zac picked one out and we sat and shared it as we stared out into the plaza and people watched. Isn't that part of the fun of it all? This plaza was about a ten minute walk from the Mezquita, and that ten minutes made all the difference. This was a plaza filled with locals, and fanny pack wearing, bedazzled sweaty old woman and flatulant old men were nowhere to be found.

The walk back to our hotel was a pleasant one, and we strolled hand in hand admiring the homes and local art projects. Hand in hand, I should say, until a car came. The streets in these Spanish cities are old, and therefore quite narrow. Many times I find myself saying that a car surely couldn't fit down a street, only to see one screetch through minutes later. Often we have to step into an apartment doorway to give room for the car to pass. Surprisingly the damage to cars appears to be minimal, or there are just a lot of autobody shops in Spain.

By the time we walked through the Mezquita to head back to the hotel it was nearing 6 p.m. and the streets were open and clear. The tour buses had gone, and those of us that remain are staying in hotels sprawled along the main corredors of the neighborhood. It was peaceful, warm, and exactly what we wanted.

IMG_7613.jpg
IMG_7615.jpg
90_IMG_7617.jpg

Cordoba at night was a far cry from Cordoba during the day. We returned back to the Plaza Tendillas after attempting to eat at a restaurant in an adorable small plaza that simply did not seem want to serve us. Spain is much more laid back in the restaurant culture, and one must signal the server to get anything. Show up before kitchens open and you can enjoy a beverage, but come dinner time don't expect your waiter to bring you a menu or give any indication that food is being served. If the kitchen opens at 8 pm expect that you'll get to order around 8:30 pm.
Spanish time. It's wonderful until you're really, really hungry.

At the Plaza Tendillas we found a side street cafe and ordered dinner, finally. The food was mediocre, but I was too hungry to care much. The wine and warm summer night were enough to keep me content.

Anyway, food aside, our evening in Cordoba was relaxing, though poor Zac had major allergies and/or a cold coming on (though he insists he's just allergic to all the old people). He was sneezing like crazy and could seem to find no respite to the madness. He downed a couple of sangrias to distract the sneezing in the event that it was allergies and then pounded a litre of water in the event that it was a cold. One can never be too careful.

Tomorrow we wander Cordoba and take in the Mezquita and Alcazar before heading to Sevilla in the afternoon. It will be nice to have four days in Sevilla to unpack our stuff and just chill out in one spot. Sadly we only have a week and a half before we leave Spain. Time flies!

Posted by JorieW 15:24 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

The Alhmmmmmmmmmmmmbra

Mornings are not my friend. Friends should pick you up and make you a better person, but mornings just drop me flat and make me a bitch. This morning was no exception. I was tired, I was grumpy, and I had to get up early to see the Alhambra.

90_IMG_7455.jpg

I've been admiring the gallant structure from across the Albayzin for a couple of days now, and while I adore the view I must admit I know little of the Citadel itself. Sure, I've heard terms of "Moorish architecture" and "a city within red walls," but I knew little of the history, or its importance. Thus came the nickname "Alhmmmmmbra," as in "hmmmm, I wonder what that's about?"

I know, I know, stupid tourist. Go figure, show up somewhere because Trip Advisor says you should and know nothing of what makes it a UNESCO World Heritage site other than it's old and pretty. It's embarrassing, I admit. Publicly. On the internets. When I could have just kept this all to myself.

The Alhambra was built in the 9th century atop the hill of La Sabica, a strategic location overlooking the entire city. It is a fortress, city, and palace all in one. The name is derived from Arabic and means "red castle," which accurately describes the Citadel's stonework. The Islamic palaces were built for the last Muslim Emirs in in Spain. It was constructed by the Berber ruler Badis ben Habus. The Citadel has belonged to both Muslim and Christian rulers over time, but was neglected and abandoned during the 18th century. Thieves and vandals lived among the fortress, as well as Napoleon's troops! In 1870 the Alhambra was declared a national monument and restoration began to repair the damage done.

Walking through the fortress was well worth the early morning wake-up and facing my bitter enemy, mornings. The structure continues to undergo renovations, but one only needs to stroll through the halls of the great palaces, gardens, and towers with eyes wide open to experience an overwhelming sense of wonderment at the beauty of it all. Even old, faded, and dilapidated walls, stairs, and doorways were stunning. To imagine the marble new and shining in the sunlight, the fountains alive and fresh, the ceilings painted and colorful--it was staggering, to say the least. To have lived in this fortress would have been incredible. The fact it exists is incredible.

IMG_7457.jpg

90_IMG_7468.jpg

IMG_7479.jpg

The views from the palace and towers were beautiful, and we were able to spy our apartment from across the hill. Can you see it?

IMG_7481.jpgIMG_7483.jpg

Yeah, good luck.

After exploring the fortress itself we strolled through the Generalife gardens, taking in the beautiful landscape and more stunning views.

90_IMG_7494.jpg

IMG_7500.jpg

90_IMG_7507.jpg

Surprisingly we were only at the Alhambra for about two and a half hours. Probably because we didn't get the audio tour.

After the Alhambra we made a mad dash for some much needed coffee. It didn't matter that the cafe we stopped at only made instant coffee--someone was going to get hurt if I didn't get some caffeine. Once in my system I was good to go. We took off for a walk, stopping at the Mirador de San Nicolas again to get breathtaking views of the Alhambra and Granada.

IMG_7539.jpg

IMG_7543.jpg

By then my stomach was threatening to let loose my "hanger" (or hungry anger), so we stopped for some lunch. It was nothing special, just a typical "menu del dia" that is offered in most restaurants here. For about 10 euro you can choose a first and second course (smaller portions, of course) and get bread and dessert with it. The restaurant we chose was not particularly good, but they gave us free paella as a tapas with sangria, so we were content. Zac had a little accident with his salad, spilling open the pepper shaker. This is where I would insert a sad face. Instead I'll just show you the picture:

IMG_7549.jpg

I was thoroughly amused by this, though Zac was not.

After lunch we spent the blustery afternoon reading by the pool and enjoying some beverages. I accidentally read ahead in the third Game of Thrones book, ruining a surprise to come, and Zac spent time dipping his feet in the pool while playing on his IPad. The heat was draining us both, so we kept things pretty low key. Here I am enjoying some Alhambra Especial in front of the Alhambra:

IMG_7550.jpgIMG_7552.jpg

I think that's a commercial right there.

Zac did his thing, too:

IMG_7554.jpgIMG_7557.jpg

What bums we were!

After a few hours I decided I needed to do *something.* I'm a pretty active person, so not getting up and moving around makes me feel lazy. I decided to go for a run, against my better judgement, in the evening as the sun began to go down. It was still pretty hot, probably close to 90 degrees. I had Zac dutifully walk behind me and carry my water so I could jog ahead a few minutes and then circle back to get something to drink. This system worked well, or so I thought. I chose a road outside of the rocky Albayzin that was smooth and graveled to avoid ankle rolls and tourists. Most of the people I passed were likely locals, and it was nice to run through some of the local neighborhoods. Still, I got so many strange looks! I couldn't figure it out. I ran for about 40 minutes before deciding it was time to finish up. The heat was catching up with me and I began to feel self-conscious.

I still have no idea why I got so many looks. I thought maybe it was because I was running when it was hot outside. Zac suggested that maybe people thought it strange that I was a woman out running alone (unbeknownst to them my trailing husband and water boy was not far behind). Zac noted a few dudes checking me out (insert pride here), but mostly the looks were pretty disdainful. I don't know if I'll be running here again.

After all that heat and movement I needed to freshen up. Big time. I showered and got ready for dinner--we were hitting the town in style.

90_IMG_7559.jpg90_IMG_7562.jpg

We ate dinner at a Moroccan restaurant that was highly recommended in Granada, but which fell flat in my humble opinion. We (for once) skipped on dessert before calling it an (fairly) early night. An early rising awaits us again tomorrow as we leave Granada and take the train to Cordoba. Stupid early morning obligations.

As the evening winds down and I sit under a bright quarter moon, staring out at the red fortress and listen to bats flutter overhead I am reminded that vacations pass far too quickly. While seeing the world is a wonderful gift, there is always bittersweet emotion at only getting to see a place for such a short amount of time. Could we spend our entire two weeks in Granada and get to know the city more thoroughly? Of course. Is that how we travel? No, definitely not. Our trips are like a pupu platter--a little bit of this and that mixed in with something else. It's by design, of course, but it can be sad to leave a city that is so thoroughly enjoyed.

I'm hopeful that Cordoba will woo me the way Granada has, and Seville and Puerto de Santa Maria after that. If not, I guess we'll always have Granada.

Posted by JorieW 13:24 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

(Entries 36 - 40 of 75) « Page .. 3 4 5 6 7 [8] 9 10 11 12 13 .. »