A Travellerspoint blog

Seville to Lisbon - Sunday, 17 July 2016

Travel to Portugal.

sunny 32 °C

Hotel - Intercontinental Hotel Lisbon, Rua Castilho 149, Lisbon - Room 1014

The Poet's Wife by Rebecca Stonehill was a book I read about a sherry making family before I left home. It was fiction but certainly set the scene for our visit to the bodega of Williams & Humbert yesterday.

Seville is called The Frying Pan because of the heat in summer. It is very hot and doesn't seem to get many breezes to help with the heat.

Driving to Lisbon, we notice that the land has become a lot more fertile.

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We changed our watches. Portugal is one hour behind Spain.

We passed Lepe. Lots of jokes about people from Lepe. They are all supposed to be dumb.

We stopped at Tavira for a couple of hours to have a break from the road trip to Lisbon. Tavira is a former fishing port but now a popular holiday destination. It has beautiful beaches and a delightful historic centre that is filled with lots of hotels and restaurants.

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We walked up the hill to the castle. It dates from the Moorish rule of Portugal and the 11th century. Tavira was conquered by the Christian crusaders in 1242 and the castle was at the forefront of the fighting. The castle was expanded in 1294 by King Dinis and the city walls were constructed in 1296. Its primary purpose was to defend against Moorish invasion but later the role altered to defend the fishing port from pirate raiders. The castle was severely damaged by the 1755 earthquake. Today the castle comprises of four solid stone walls with accessible battlements running along the eastern side of the castle. Great view over the city from here. The main gates open on the Largo Abu Otmana, the square in front of the massive Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo.

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We walked through the town and across the bridge looking for somewhere to have a snack. We ordered a snack and a drink and every combination of fruit drink I ordered, they were out of stock. I finally settled on an orange and mango drink. I had my first taste of the famous Lisbon custard tart and loved it so much, I had two. They were delicious.

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This little pet was French (what else!) and was all dressed up for her visit to Tavira.

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We had a comfort stop along the way and these great bikes and trailers were in the car park. No need to say where all the men headed.

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We arrived in Lisbon and before we checked in to our hotel, Isabel took us to the Museu Nacional dos Coches. It has one of the finest collections of historical carriages in the world. The museum is housed in the old Horse Riding Arena of the Belem Palace, formerly a Royal Palace, which is now the official residence of the President of Portugal. The museum was created in 1905 by Queen Amelia to house an extensive collection of carraiges belonging to the Portuguese royal family and nobility. The carriages date from the late 16th through to the 19th centuries. It was a great place to visit and well worth the time spent there.

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We visited the Jeronimos Monastery which is a monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome. It was classifed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The construction of the monastery began in 1501 aqnd was completed 100 years later. It houses the tomb of the navigator Vasco da Gama.

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We have a free evening tonight, so we decided to try our luck by eating out at a local restaurant, recommended by our friend Paul Kelly. The restaurant, Bonjardim, is known for spit roasted chicken with piri piri sauce. We caught a taxi to the area and the driver pointed at a lane way we had to walk through to get to the restaurant. We walked on and on and nothing seemed familiar but finally we found it and sat down outside and proceeded to order. There was a little jug of piri piri sauce on the table and we had a little taste - wow - it almost blew our heads off. So that was that. We won't be having chicken with piri piri sauce.

The waiter was one hundred and ten - not out - in fact all the waiters were cranky, old men. I ordered a sangria and he plonked a huge jug of it on the table. We don't speak Portugese and he didn't speak English but I finally made him understand that I only wanted one glass full. Much hrumphing and he took the jug away but somehow it arrived back on the table and I drank it (with a bit of help from Phil). How I could even stand up after drinking all that, I'll never know!

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Caught a taxi back to our hotel. That was a weird evening - eating on the streets with the locals.

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Posted by gaddingabout 23:18 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Madrid - Saturday, 23 July 2016

Free day in Madrid - Day trip to Toldeo

sunny 31 °C

Hotel - Hotel Villareal, Plaza de las Cortes, 10 Madrid - Room 501

Our tour of Spain and Portugal officially ended yesterday but we have decided to stay one more day in Madrid before we commence our Moroccan adventure by flying to Tangier tomorrow. We thought we might need a day to recover (which we do) but instead we decided to undertake a day trip to Toledo on our own via the very fast train. Toledo has been known historically for the strength of its steel and has been a steel making centre since about 500 BC.

We are exhausted. We have seen EVERYTHING and been EVERYWHERE and have loved every minute of it. Spain and Portugal are beautiful countries - clean, safe and friendly. These trips certainly aren't relaxing holidays - it's always, go, go, go. But we wouldn't have it any other way, as there is so much to see and so little time in which to see it and we wanted to see and experience everything Spain and Portugal has to offer.

This morning was the first morning for a fortnight that we could sleep in and leisurely wander down to breakfast without having to be conscious of having to board the bus at a certain time. About half our group was in there, enjoying a late breakfast and as some people are leaving today, we said goodbye to them.

We caught a taxi down to the station and bought our tickets to Toledo. The round trip for two people was 41 Euros. We were hoping to catch the 10.20 am train, but it was full, so we bought tickets for the 11.20 am one. Just as well, because we had a bit of difficulty trying to find the platform, let alone the level from which our train was leaving. Eventually, we found Platform 15 and sat down and waited to board. We weren't able to purchase an open ticket so chose to come back on the 5.25 pm train because we didn't want to be rushing around Toledo and running out of time.

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The train was clean and the trip from Madrid to Toledo on the very fast train took 33 minutes. Even though we were sitting backwards (which doesn't help my motion sickness) it was fine. Why Australia doesn't have a very fast train servicing the entire continent, I'll never know.

When we arrived at the station, there were two Hop On Hop Off buses waiting outside the station, so we bought a ticket and hopped off in the main square.

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We walked down to the palace and the cathedral and then wandered for a long time up and down the narrow little streets. Toledo is very hilly and the atmosphere in the old town is lovely.

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AND the best news of all, I was able to finally buy my flamenco apron that I spied in Valencia, didn't buy it and haven't seen one since! However, it was 15 Euros in Valencia and only 5 Euros in Toledo! I also saw one at Madrid train station and was intending to buy it on the way home, but it was 10 Euros, so I think I scored a bargain.

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We had lunch at a little cafe in the street and this guy was dressed up because he is getting married next week and his mates were taking him out. I'm not quite sure why he was dressed up like that but they were having a good time. We also saw a girl walking around with a veil on her head with her girl friends, but I don't know if she was she fiancee.

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We'd seen all we'd wanted to see in Toledo and caught the bus back to the station and were very lucky to be able to exchange our ticket and arrived back in Madrid two hours earlier than we had expected. Now at least I can catch up on a bit of blogging. I am about 11 days behind but have been too busy and tired to concentrate on it.

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We still have a couple of complimentary bottles of sweet wine and port to drink so Phil invited Robi and Renata from Canberra and Robert and Pat from Hobart up to a room to help us get rid of them. Then we went to dinner with Robert and Pat to a restaurant called Botin, which, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the oldest restaurant in the world! It is a very popular restaurant and they have two sittings - one a 8 pm and one at 10 pm. We all ordered something different - I had the Speciality of the House Lamb, Phil had the Speciality of the House Fillet Steak, Robert had the Speciality of the House Suckling Pig and Pat had half a grilled chicken. We all enjoyed our meals very much but all we had on our plate was the meat and three potatoes. No vegetables or greens. Quite odd. I also had half a jug of Sangria and could hardly walk when we left the restaurant to walk back to our hotel. Anyway, it was a great way to spend our last night in Spain.

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We are being picked up tomorrow morning at 8.35 am for our flight to Tangier.

Posted by gaddingabout 13:47 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Cordoba to Ronda - Thursday, 14 July 2016

Visit the Aljama Mosque in Cordoba and then travel to Ronda, standing atop the magnificent El Tajo Canyon. Dinner at a hotel in Ronda.

sunny 38 °C

Hotel - Parador, Plaza de Espana, Ronda - Room 111 - hotel in a stunning location overlooking the gorge. In fact, dangling over the edge.

When we went to breakfast this morning, there were Roman ruins under our breakfast table. How amazing. My feet are also back to normal. Thank goodness.

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Before we left Cordoba, we undertook a walking tour of the old city and visited the magnificent Aljama Mosque, which is actually a mosque and a cathedral combined. It is very famous and the photos just don't do it justice. It is a most stunning place. Our local guide was Maria. The structure is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of moorish architecture. When the Muslims conquered Spain in 711, the church was first divided in Muslim and Christian halves. The sharing arrangement lasted until 784 when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir Abd al-Rahman I, who then proceeded to demolish the original structure and build the grand mosque of Cordoba on its ground. Cordoba returned to Christian rule in 1236 during the Reconquista and the building was converted to a Roman Catholic church, culminating in the insertion of a Renaissance Cathedral Nave in the 16th century.

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It is hot but the narrow streets provide some protection from the sun.

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We had lunch at a street cafe, beer and pizza and were joined by Rob and Pam from New Zealand.

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Waiting for the bus.

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On the way out of Cordoba, we stopped to take a photo of this old bridge and arch.

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We left Cordoba and headed for Ronda. Our hotel in Ronda is run by the Government, but has the best position in town - right on the edge of cliff, overlooking the valley. Magnificent views.

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We then went on a walking tour with the local guide Pepe. Pepe was a pain in the neck. He was older than most of our guides and said that we walked too fast. We were hot and tired and wanted to get the walking tour over so we could relax in our hotel before dinner that evening. Pepe took us to Casa Don Bosco which was built in the early 20th century and is accessed via a tiled entry way. The house contains a large collection of regional ceramics as well as 19th century tapestries. From the terrace, we had fabulous views to the gorge and our hotel.

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He then took us to Plaza de Toros, the oldest and most highly regarded Spanish bull ring. It was built in 1785. In this bull ring in the 18th century, Pedro Romero introduced a new style of bull fighting on foot as opposed to horseback. He was also the first to begin using a red cloth. His son and grandson were also bull fighters.

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After the guided walking tour, we walked into the streets and sat and had a couple of beers. We were joined by Grant and Curvetta and Coral and Eddy. There was a Pommie couple sitting at the table next to us and she was off her face, but kept drinking and nearly fell off her chair several times. They started chatting to us and told us they had been living in Spain for about 18 months, and kept moving around. They had sold their home in the UK and were supposedly living the dream in Spain. Drinking all day in the pub is not my idea of living the dream!

We had a set menu dinner in the hotel tonight. It was nice but being a government hotel, they wanted us to pay for the water at our table. Isabel sorted that out, quick smart.

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Posted by gaddingabout 09:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Granada to Cordoba - Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Visit the amazing Alhambra Palace, which dates back to the middle ages. Travel to a Spanish mountain village where you'll enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals over a traditional lunch.

sunny 38 °C

Hotel - Palacio del Bailio, Cordoba - Room number 21

Before we left Granada, we visited Alhambra Palace. Our local guide was Lorena. Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid 13th century by the Moorish Emir Mohammen ben Al-Ahmar. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333. In 1492 the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella, where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition. It is a huge and beautiful complex and took a long time to walk through it. There is just so much to see and take in, I couldn't possibly write it all here. I took millions of photos. Here are just a few.

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I have noticed that my feet and ankles terribly swollen. My sandals are tight because of the swollen feet. I have never had that before and am feeling quite worried. Curvetta told me to keep them raised which I will do this evening when we arrive at the hotel.

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Drove to the village of Alafarnate and we were divided into groups of about 10 and had lunch in a local villager's home. We went to Virginia's home and it was lovely. She didn't speak any English and we didn't speak any Spanish but Isabel had tried to teach us a few words of appreciation for our host's cooking. The food was plentiful and delicious.

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Prior to the lunch, we were given a guided tour of the village by an Englishman who has lived in this village for about 18 years. He moved there with his wife and their two boys were born there. His wife was a local tour guide and about a year ago, suddenly had an unexpected heart attack and died. Very sad and he is still very much grieving. Since her death, he has taken over her guiding role and is enjoying it.

The sleepy Spanish in the mountains and the Englishman reminded me of a series of books I read before I left home by Victoria Twead called One Old Fool in Dorset; Two Old Fools - Ole; Two Old Fools in Spain Again, etc and so on it goes.

The streets in the village are very steep. There is no one around. There are loud speakers on every light pole and our guide told us that this was used to broadcast all the village news, prior to the internet and mobile phones. If you happened to be caught having an affair, that would also be broadcast to all and sundry!

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Prior to lunch we visiting a small shop that had a tasting of olive oil, olives and almonds. Local produce - nothing better. The almonds in Spain are bigger and flatter than Australian almonds and softer and easier to eat.

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After lunch and lots of hugs and kisses goodbye, we visited an olive pressing plant. There was so much wheat stubble and dust flying around, I ended up with a huge dose of hay fever.

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We arrived at our hotel in Cordoba and have a lovely room on the ground floor, with a window/balcony overlooking a garden and the pool. We went for a swim and the cool water helped my swollen feet go down.

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Because we had had such a huge lunch, we decided not to have any dinner so I took a hay fever bomb and went to bed.

We are noticing that lots of flowers and plants the same as Australia. Agapanthus, crepe myrtle, oleanda and blue plumbago.

Heard it's snowing in Canberra today. Very excited to see the photos on Facebook. We are 38 degrees in Granada/Cordova.

Posted by gaddingabout 04:53 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Valencia to Granada - Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Scenic drive to Guadix, home to the Alcazaba de Guadix and the Barrio de Santiago cave district. This evening dine within AndalucĂ­a's largest bullring at Restaurant El Coso, whilst enjoying a traditional La Tuna Folk Band performance.

sunny 38 °C

Hotel - AC Palacio de Santa Paula Granada, Gran Via de Colon, 31, Granada - Room 225

On the bus and driving through the countryside and stopped for lunch at La Parada de Puerto Lumbreras.

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We continued on to Guadix, home to the Alcazaba de Guadix and the Barrio de Santiago cave district. This area is very reminiscent of Coober Pedy in central Australia. It is extremely hot and dry and a lot of the families in this town live in homes carved out of the caves. Scenic have a regular stop at a home where three generations have lived in a cave. They have a museum and a shop and the father has learned to speak English so he could tell us all about their life in a cave.

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He has a little boy named Paco and Paco has his own Scenic Tours badge. He can't speak English but was a bit shy at the beginning but was happy to show us through the house and the museum and then showed us how he helps his father dig another room. Fascinating.

We continued on to Granada over a very mountainous road. We have a few motion sickness people on the bus, me included, and we all have our different needs. One needs to sit up the front, one needs to sit up the back and I prefer to be closer to the front when the roads are hilly and windy. Spain is the third most mountainous country in Europe.

We arrived in Granda and our accommodation is just lovely.

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We met in reception and all walked to dinner which was held in Andalucia's largest bullring, at Restaurant El Coso. We didn't see inside the bullring but the restaurant was very atmospheric with posters of matadors and bulls all over the place, and there was even a statue of a bull.

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Half way through the dinner we were entertained by a traditonal La Tuna Folk Band. They were excellent and we even bought a copy of their CD.

La Tuna Folk groups originated a long time ago when university students, who needed more money to survive, decided to dress in traditional dress, and entertain diners at restaurants with traditional Spanish songs. The story goes that some students got so involved with their La Tuna commitments that they neglected their studies and ended up failing their university courses. Also, when some fathers discovered their sons were part of a La Tuna Band, they intervened and made them leave the band altogether.

The band who entertained us, I think, were professional La Tuna singers, and not university students. They were great and a good night was had by all. Check out the guy with the grey hair. He was SO cute!

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Because it is so hot, the Spanish have a siesta in the afternoon, which means they don't start eating their evening meal until about 10 am. We feel very safe wandering the streets late at night. They are full of families and groups of males aren't hanging around. It is a very nice feeling to wander the streets safely on a warm evening, watching the families interacting with each other.

When we joined this group, most of them were coughing and spluttering with some bug they had picked up on their French River Cruise. We are trying to avoid catching it, but I am sure this will be impossible. In fact, tonight I have the feeling of a sore throat starting, so after dinner Isabel, Lindsay from Springwood, Qld and I walked to the chemist to buy some medication. I am going to try to nip mine in the bud. I bought some paracetmol, throat gargle and lozenges and it only cost 15 euros. Medicine is very cheap in Spain.

P.S. Sorry for posting this blog so late, but our two weeks in Spain and Portugal was so full on, I didn't have time to write and publish my blog. I am trying to catch up, but it was such a whirlwind tour, it is hard to remember everything that happened - but I'll try!

Posted by gaddingabout 03:56 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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