Thursday, July 26, 2012

Iberian Adventure - Part Two

Day 5
Up at 9ish to go out on the Atlantic Ocean for a kayaking session. Stunning clear sky... and a burning sun. Got a tad bit sunburnt, actually more like lobster red, but we don't really need to go there.
Lunch at Rockefellers was very tasty, but huge. Simon enjoyed the "Chiwawa" hotdog and I had the hugest chicken salad in the world. The leftovers feed us for dinner as well.
We had a relaxing afternoon with a nap and a wander to find some fruit and Aloe Vera gel for my burn. So worth the walk to find that!
Early night for us, but the tour mates went out, really enjoyed the bars, and woke me at 4am, as they didn't think to take their keys with them.

Part of an old fortress in Lagos, as seen from the kayak

Day 6
Up pretty early from Lagos to get to Tarifa, a bit of a decent drive. We quickly dropped off our luggage at the hostel, then we were walked down to the port so we knew where we need to be for our evening trip to Morocco. We then had a little free time, enough to find a restaurant and eat. I ended up with a prawn salad... it took all that time to deshell them.
The ferry there was a little delayed, but not as bad as it was the week before, apparently it was over 1.5hours late. The ride was fairly smooth, and took about an hour.
Once in Tangier we were given a bus tour of the suburbs, and had a little camel ride each for a couple of Euros (we'll ignore that we weren't in a desert or anything fancy like that, maybe next time we ride camels we will be in a desert).
We then had a guided, rather fast, walk through the Medina, didn't get many photos as we were being rushed along with no time to stop. We then had a little experience in a Berber (traditional Moroccan) pharmacy. The pharmacist tried to sell us all sorts of lotions and potions. I bought a couple. We were then guided to a traditional restaurant for a 3 course meal, it was tasty, but not everybody seemed to enjoy it. There were also musicians playing for us while we ate.
Then we had a late ferry ride back to Tarifa, and into bed.

On the ferry to Morocco (yes that's Morocco in the background)
Morocco by night
Day 7
We left Tarifa, where we could see the the tip of Gibraltar and we headed to Grenada. We stopped off in Ronda, a cute little mountain town, with a magnificent view. It was rather hot there, with not much of a breeze. Simon went for a decent walk for a good view of the "new bridge" ( 18th century)  from the bottom of the gorge, and got some great photos. I sat and had sorbet  with Mel (another NZ girl from the tour group), I was a bit sore still from the sunburn.
After our stop there we were back on the bus, next stop: Grenada. I really quite like Grenada.
We had an orientation walk, then out for a Tapas bar crawl. We had the world's tastiest cheese platter, and several more prawns (they are everywhere!), and more Sangria.

Ronda "New bridge" from the gorge
Day 8
Up early-ish (actually a little bit of a sleep in, in comparison to some mornings) to go and explore Alhambra!! That is one amazing creation. So big, so much detail, so much  beauty, and an amazing view. Rather, a stunning, incredible view of all of Grenada. If you have never heard of Alhambra, you have a little reading to do. It's really something worth travelling to see. We had a fantastic guide who seemed genuinely passionate about everything he spoke about. He was quite the wealth of knowledge. Our tour there lasted about 2.5 hours, but if you didn't have timed entry between the different areas you could really spend a whole day and not even see everything.
After that we had a small window of time to go back to the hostel, get food and get ready for going to a Turkish bathhouse, or Hammam. It was fantastic, 3 different temperature pools, a steam room, endless mint tea, and a 15 minute massage. 15 minutes was not long enough!! It was a lovely way to relax for a bit as the last few days have been non-stop.
We were then lucky to have time up our sleeves before going to a Flamenco show. Some of the others on the tour went in earlier to get Flamenco lessons. I spent the time backing up all the photos I have taken so far.
The Flamenco show was great, it was in a cave, a little room literally carved out of the hillside. The ride there and back though was another experience altogether. I think we all thought we were going to crash and die well more than once along the way. I am surprise there wasn't any collisions and very thankful too.

Day 9
We left Grenada on the tour bus and stopped off at a little town called Consuegra to see probable site of the Don Quixote novel. A pretty little town, not much there really aside from the pretty windmills, and a Visigoth castle on the hills looking over the town. Apparently it is a scene described exactly like that in the book.
After that super windy stop we went on to Toledo, to see a Holy Toledo Cathedral, really beautiful, worth the stop even though it was so hot we could barely be bothered with the walk to and from the Cathedral. Glad we did it though. It does surprise me though that through so much of Europe they have decided that building so close to these beautiful, picture perfect churches and banks and government buildings. It is so hard to get a photo that shows even a glimpse of how beautiful they are.
Around this cathedral there were lots of tourist shops, cafes, restaurants and weaponry shops. Yes, hundreds of knives and swords. I think they think they invented the blade or something.
Then we were back on the bus again for the last time with that group, back "home" to Madrid. That night we went out for some farewell tapas, then we went then back to see our favourite Spaniard, to have another jug of Sangria and a tasty salad, more free shots of who-knows-what when we paid.

Day 10
Today we had a walk about Madrid to the gardens, then in the other directions to the Royal Palace. The Palace is beautiful, and situated to have the most amazing view. In trying to find the entrance to the Royal Cathedral we stumbled upon the crypt. It was just a small donation to enter and well worth it. Bigger than most churches I know and constructed in the style the cathedral itself would have been in, but the crypt is new.
After that was directions disaster number one. We trusted google maps to guide us. It did, we got there, but there wasn't a walkway the whole way from where we got off the bus. Actually there was only about 50m of footpath before we ventured off-road to get to the hotel. But we got there.
It was at "The Biggest Hotel in Europe" that we had  the most expensive dinner of our lives. Tasty, but I'm still very certain that it wasn't worth that much. We did however hear a bit of Bic Runga in the restaurant, made us feel at home!

Next post will be of our Italian adventure!
<3 Anita and Simon

Friday, July 13, 2012

Iberian Adventure - Part One

Day 1 & 2
We made it! Two long flights and 2 short ones, and we are in Madrid. Simon managed to sleep a little on the flights, and I managed maybe 2 hours at most... seems that I prefer lying down when I sleep. Our 6 hour stay in the Singapore airport was pretty cool. There is a beautiful little butterfly garden... so cool, er rather hot and humid, but really pretty, and some carnivorous plants.
Once we got to Madrid we jumped on the Subway and made it to our hostel... a little bit of a feat, our instructions only said that it was a 3 min walk from the station... but no clues for direction. (Turned on the data roaming for this... sorry Dad!) After a little nap, we headed  out in search of food which was an awesome little experience, very friendly service... the opposite of what we were told to expect from the Spanish. Delicious food, and even better Sangria. Free shots when we paid too, tasty bonus.

Butterfly garden

Butterfly garden at Changi Airport, Singapore

Day 3
A nice early start after a strange sleep, the room was hot, and there was continuous noise out the window, Spanish people apparently party in the streets all night.  They were just quietening down as we got up, at 6:30am!!
We jumped on the bus for a short 2 hour drive from Madrid to Cordoba and I immediately felt sick, worst motion sickness I can remember having... and I get it a lot. I had forgotten to move my anti-nausea meds from my pack to my carry on bag... not good. I tried moving up to the front of the bus, and took some anti-naus another girl gave me... worked a gem, woke up from a short nap feeling so much better.
We had a gorgeous little walk about in Cordoba, hunted for an ATM and finally found one that wanted to give us Euros. We also visited an amazing building, the Mezquita, which was originally a mosque, but the Christians deconstructed the guts of the building and built a cathedral inside of the mosque. The only building that is both a mosque and a cathedral.
Then we travelled onto Seville, a pretty city with a lot of history.  After a quick dip in the rooftop pool of the hostel we went on a guided walking tour of the central city. Really cool, a real eclectic mix of so many cultures, from a span of several periods. Thankfully it was later in the day, and was cooler because of the breeze at about 35C, apparently the group the week before were doing it in 42C heat!
Later on we ventured out (around the corner) to a tapas bar where we enjoyed Dogfish, Bull tail and pork fillet.  Then cheap drinks at a bar a few doors further down.

Cordoba cathedral pillars and arches

Bridge into Cordoba

Seville building of many different architectural styles

Cordoba cathedral ceiling

Day 4
We woke up from a good sleep, and headed out to check out the inside of the Cathedral (free entry on Sunday for mass) we were a little late... accidentally turned the wrong way, but still got in for a look around, Some parts were cordoned off, so we couldn't get close to Christopher Colombus' tomb -very impressive from the vantage point we had, but not good to get a photo, sadly.
Then back on the bus to head to Portugal. We are now in Lagos, after a little stop in a town called Silvas where there is a beautiful little castle, the last remaining in the Moorish style. The place we are staying at in Portugal is amazing, it's an apartment being rented out. We have our own room and ensuite, and the place has a pool in the back yard. There are 6 others from our tour group staying in the house too.

Seville Cathedral

Lagos - Salmon for dinner

Out on the town in Lagos... party central
More stories to come!!

<3 Anita and Simon