A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

Granada

With the Alhambra this time

sunny 35 °C

Again we head over to grab bocadillos, but get distracted on the way at a place called Reez. This is a small studio run by Celina and Juan in Placeta Albiada in Albayzin, www.reez.es. Here they make and sell inspired creations in glass and silver. Within two minutes of arriving we were all sold on a necklace for L, and after a few minutes more we realized that they made the necklace we bought for someone else in the centre yesterday! They have a great range of creations and are continuing to challenge themselves in new directions. In the end we get a number of things and have them sent back to Oz as they are too big and fragile to carry.
We get the bocadillos – great again – and head for the Alhambra. Well, first we have to get a Batidos to steel us for the long afternoon. And then we stop at tourist shop where L has to get me another Kukuxumusu shirt when she sees the design and G gets another one too. We are hooked. On up the hill.
We get up and get our tickets – reserved earlier, they spit out as soon you stick in the purchasing cards. Grab an audioguide and then off – in the wrong direction. First stop is the Generalife. These magnificent gardens consist of a 50 metre wide and 500m long terrace with different gardens leading up to the Summer palace built by the emirs of the day. The gardens have rose walks, fountains and pools, framed views of the Nasrid palace, and hedgerows.
Generalife gardens

Generalife gardens

It is a hot day but the temperature drops straight away in here. We enjoy this for a while before we head into the palace. Here there is a mounting yard and reception patio (as far as the likes of you and I would have got) before going up to the Patio of the Water Channel. This is a patio with an arched colonnade around the outside and a pool running down the centre with fountains playing into it. The plantings are quite recent, and if it wasn’t for the bloody tourists the whole thing could be quite relaxing!
The Water Patio

The Water Patio

The water stairs, Generalife

The water stairs, Generalife

We spend quite a bit of time here enjoying the vista before moving on. We are shadowing a couple having their wedding photos done – he is trying not to sweat in the 34 degree heat and coat tails, but not being successful. Wandered through the Medina, then to the Parador (didn’t get into this one – too expensive) where we settle down for a cool restoring drink. Not cheap, but nothing is up on the Alhambra.
Refreshments at the Parador

Refreshments at the Parador


Next we dive into the Moorish bath (figuratively) before going on to Carlos V’s palace. Story goes that he liked the Alhambra and it’s architecture so much he wrecked a good portion of it to stick his own palace in which was then never finished when he pegged it. It would probably be quite a drawcard if it didn’t have so much to compete with here.
Off to the western end and the Alcazabar. This is the original fortification protecting Granada looking out over the valleys below and linked across to other forts on the Sacramonte side. There is a tangle of cobbled approaches up to the main gates, each protected by another doorway and fortifications. From the main towers there is a view over all of modern Granada, which is growing at quite a rate. The final part of the Alcazaba is a small garden set nicely on the outside wall to catch the sun.
Alcazaba Garden

Alcazaba Garden


Last is the highlight of the visit – the Palacio Nazaries. Visits here are by a system of timed entries, you get in during an assigned half hour slot, and if you are late you miss out. Start by heading through a chamber used to hold low level councils and to deal with the common folk. This has some great mosaic tile work, and was later converted into a chapel. Beyond this was the patio of the Gold Room, where a certain rank would get to and higher ranks would be greeted. Beyond this was the Golden Room, used for top meetings. The patio is marble floored with great plaster and tile decorations. We go through here into the palacio de Comares, built as the residence of the ruler. The main feature here is the use of water and light in the Patio of the Myrtles, with a huge space with a pool down the centre and plantings around the outside (more recent and to stop tourists falling in I think).
Patio of the Myrtles

Patio of the Myrtles


Then there is the Salon de Comares, the great audience hall. It is not huge, but very ornate. It has an detailed marquetry ceiling showing the sky, and fantastic plasterwork on the walls. Plenty of people stare up in wonder until they lose themselves and fall over backwards. This leads through other rooms to the magnificent Patio of the lions – well I’m told it’s magnificent, all I could see was screening, scaffolding and a space where the lions were not. Patio des leones (sin leones)

Patio des leones (sin leones)

Also the room of the kings was closed because they heard we were coming. From the patio we work our way to the Patio de Lindajara (not to much scaffold here) which looks to be a 1700’s planting, and then out to the Partal gardens, with its great pavilions and pools. Out the turnstile and into the remainder of the gardens.
Patio Linderaja

Patio Linderaja

In the Partal Gardens

In the Partal Gardens


Well it is a fantastic place to see, but frustrating that there is so much scaffolding around. The Generalife was much better then I was expecting, and I was hoping for more from the Nasrid palace. So even on the whole. If yo want to spend more time in the ticketed areas, you can see Carlos V’s palace and the Arab baths without a ticket ( or before/after your afternoon/morning session) filling your time in the ticketed areas.
We got a taxi back to the cave but it was 8pm and we had to drive up to Jaen yet.

Posted by lostagain 15:54 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Malaga and Granada

Not the Alhambra yet - here we stay in a cave

sunny 33 °C

Guess where we are staying in Malaga? That’s right a Parador – The Malaga golf Parador. It is new and light and airy and right on the beach with a pool and golf course. It is also on the landing path of the airport so despite the triple glazing we have heard planes all night. They let us stay a little late so we can have a swim in the pool before we leave.
From our room

From our room


Malaga town centre, once you are past the concrete jungle is not too bad. We get a milkshake and get a bike taxi ride around. The roman theatre is behind a fence for repairs. We have a bite to eat and then get on the road to Granada.
Malaga taxi

Malaga taxi

Well we try. As with a lot of Spanish cities, road signs come and go, and a lot are placed behind trees just to help. We are heading out of Malaga and cross over the road we are supposed to be on – not good. Back again, then see where the missing piece wasn’t.
Along the coast and then up to Granada. We have to meet our host in Plaza Nueve, which we find no problems, but there is no place to stop, and the flow of traffic forces us through and up a tiny street next to the river teeming with people out for their Saturday night display. Nowhere to stop still. Then L pulls onto the footpath at the only bit that is wide enough, and we call Carol who comes and picks us up. No worries, we were heading in the right direction anyway. Follow up some of the narrowest roads seen to date and get settled in our home for the next two nights - a cave in the Sacramonte district.

The cave is one of a series dug in the area and a lot are used for tourists but the majority are still lived in. Ours has been a two space cave with an add on at the front with all the plumbing for tourist comfort. Wander a little down the ‘road’ to see the sunset over the Alhambra. We settle in under the blankets as it is naturally cool.
Alcazaba at sunset

Alcazaba at sunset


Generalife at sunset

Generalife at sunset


The next morning (just) we get up and have cereal for breakfast. We have a wander into the town centre via the narrow cobbled streets of Sacramonte and Albayzin, where the guide book tells us tourists often get mugged. Some great views across to the Alhambra though. What we do get here is some great value bocadillos – 2 Euro each for chorizo tomato and cheese – and great fresh stuff too. Head on down into the centre trough the old town which has been decked out in stores much like the medina streets in Morocco. We wander around but being Sunday nearly no shops are open, except for tourist shops and heladeria. Grab a batidos each to keep us fortified. Head around the streets just taking it in until the royal chapel is open; this was raised for Ferdinand and Isabel but was not finished until after they died. Isabel was the driving force behind the Spanish Inquisition, throwing all the Moslems and Jews out of Spain after they took the keys to the country and sent Christopher Colombus off on his journeys. Anyway, they ended up with a lovely chapel on prime real estate and lovely marble monuments over their lead coffins in the crypt. The very cheeky next generation (whom no one remembers) had their own monuments built there, but a bit higher than Isabel and Ferdinand. Bad form. Some of F& I’s favourite religious paintings and accoutrements are also on display here and worth a visit. We wandered around a bit more but I don’t recall too much. Had an ordinary dinner in Plaza Bib-Rambla –avoid eating in tourist plazas like that.
Next morning we have breakfast, bring in the washing and pack up. We are leaving the bags in the caves for the day while we go to the Alhambra in the afternoon.
Our cave house

Our cave house

In our cave house

In our cave house

Posted by lostagain 16:48 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

In and around Seville

And very nice too

sunny 33 °C

In the morning we leave Tavira to head back into Spain. As we drive along the roads, there are stork nests everywhere. They have obviously decided the man made trees are a lot easier than the natural ones as every single electricity pylon has a nest on – some have three. The electricity companies have decided it is easier to encourage them than to have them nest in the more sensitive bits of the grid and in many places have added platforms to the pylons suitable to start a nest on!
Stork's nest in a radio tower

Stork's nest in a radio tower


As we get close to Sevilla, I notice something we have seen on TV. It is the huge solar array where hectares of mirrors reflect the sun onto towers to capture the heat. We decide to investigate, and get off at the next stop. An hour later, we have circled the installation, getting no closer than 5 kms away. We are about to chuck it in when we see a small sign to Solargeo 1, and head down there. There is no visitors centre, but we can get up to the wire with no issues and see it at close range. The reflected light on the target is so intense that it glows white hot, hurts your eyes to look at and seems to pulse in the heat. Looking closely from the side you can see puffs of smoke as unaware insects have been attracted to the glow and been vaporised in a blink. We don’t know what happens to birds.
We found it!

We found it!

Hotter than Blazes

Hotter than Blazes


We head into Sevilla to have a look around before finding tonight’s Paroador. We park near the Bull Ring, but race past on the way to the centre. First things first - to the Heladeria to get a Batido each. That’s a milkshake.
World's biggest Gothic cathedral

World's biggest Gothic cathedral


We get to the Cathedral with 30 minutes to spare, and so are travelling around a bit fast. Once we get in we are told that one of the main features, the Giralda is closed for renovations. Inside the cathedral is massive, a huge gothic building built over a mosque torn down after the Christians took over the city. A lot of the hall of the cathedral is relatively plain, the decoration is in the side chapels, the choir and the altar. The altar is ginormous and very detailed. In the back of the sacristy it is possible to see some of the original Muslim details behind all the treasures, and there is the council room, where the church bigwigs met. We exit out into the orange patio still preserved from the mosque as where the devout would wash before prayer.
The Patio of oranges in the cathedral

The Patio of oranges in the cathedral


We are staying tonight at the fantastic Carmona Parador. Yes I do love them, yes they normally are expensive, but they can be within reach if you get set price (tarifica unica) deals far enough ahead, or take advantage of other offers. Become an amigos of Paradors and get more special offers! www.parador.es Carmona Parador is an old 14th Century Muslim fortress (done up a bit since then) overlooking Carmona. You have to go up through the winding cobbled streets of the old town before going in the castle walls. Once inside there is a Moorish patio with a fountain in the middle, and an opulent lounge with a view over the fields, away from the city. And there is a pool – which is open! For some reason a lot of hotels will advertise a pool, but they only run it mid June to September – even though we would be in it now, straight away.
Carmona Parador

Carmona Parador


Settled in we head down into Carmona to grab some tapas for dinner. Where we do go has a few interesting looking things so we order. They come out as big serves, and the bill is huge too, so I think we have been taken advantage of and given full sized serves. Make sure you specify raciones (tapas size), or medias (half normal serves) if you just want a small amount. Not happy, we go somewhere else for desert but end up getting the sweetest concoctions possible. Too much!
The next morning we have to be up and away. As usual it does not really happen. But we are heading off to Sevilla at a not bad hour. Our main focus for today is the Alcazar, the seat of the Moors when they ruled. And it is very impressive – but it has been added onto many times over the years by all sorts of rulers as they turned up and wanted to put their own spin on things. Today it remains the official seat of the Spanish Royal Family in Sevilla.
The Mounting Yard

The Mounting Yard


There are some great room and halls with typical Moorish tiles wood and intricate plasterwork. The pool in the patio of the Maidens was great. The Hall of the Ambassador’s was incredibly detailed.
Hall of the Ambassadors

Hall of the Ambassadors

Patio of the Maidens

Patio of the Maidens

As is always the case, the victor made use of the palaces of the defeated. The Spanish added on, their highlights include the council chamber and particularly the ceiling in the council room (where all the loot from the Americas got divvied up) and the tapestries in the Chambers of Carlos V.
Tapestry

Tapestry


From the palace it is down stairs to see Donna Maria’s Bath, a grotto created when a Patio was filled in over a Moorish garden pool. Then the gardens which are a jumble of updates on updates, from the 16th through to the 20th centuries, almost like an attempt at a tour through the ages. It is very relaxing and soothing though.
maria's bath

maria's bath

In the Alcazar gardens

In the Alcazar gardens


Alcazar gardens

Alcazar gardens


We catch a tram to the end of the line (about 500m – they are adding more) and walk to the Plaza de Espana, a huge thing, a bit of a monstrosity from an exposition in the Moorish Revival style – but the important thing was that G recognised it straight away from Star Wars episode II.
Plaza De Espana

Plaza De Espana


Walked back to the car and got not so lost on the way out this time. Back to Carmona and into the Pool for an hour before we head down and stuff our faces for dinner. Roll back upstairs to bed.
Another great Parador

Another great Parador

Posted by lostagain 16:25 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A Day in Santiago De Compostela

sunny 25 °C

The next morning we make use of the hotel’s shuttle bus into town and get dropped off close to the old town. Antonio, the driver is very proud of his town, and makes sure that we know all the sights we need to see. We follow his guidance and head up around the eastern side of the old town, past the university (original buildings form the 14th century) and on to the markets. The markets are still held in the same stone halls that have been used for centuries (with mod cons of course) and you can get all your fruit, vegies, deli, meat, fish, fresh herbs and plants. There are even small landholders that come in with there few bits and pieces to sell in town.
Cervantes growing flowers

Cervantes growing flowers


We go through to the Pilgrim’s Gate, where we can see some happy walkers finishing off their pilgrimage. There is an estimate of some 100,000 people doing the various walks each year. There are a steady stream coming in through the town, all sorts of ages, fitness and sizes – well done you!
We are heading out of the old town walls to the Gallacian Museum (Museo de Pobo Galego) in an old convent. We have come here to see a staircase. But before we get in, we get to see some historical aspects of Gallacian life over time. There are some things on the fishing industry, the local crafts and an almost hypnotic old documentary of the life cycle of a sardine tin from the early 20th century – from being printed onto a sheet of metal, having the base stamped, the sides formed and solderd and the whole thing packed into wooden cases to get sent to the cannery. But the staircase – this is an unique triple fluted spiral staircase going up the outer wall of a 4 metre wide cylinder, with access points at different levels for the three different staircase. This means that if you want to go from one level to another, you may have to go down to ground level to switch to another staircase – and be careful to get the right one because it can be along journey back again – good fun and the museum was a very pleasant surprise.
The magnificent triple fluted staircase in the Gallacian history museum

The magnificent triple fluted staircase in the Gallacian history museum


Back into town and to the cathedral (after a tapas lunch) The cathedral is huge, and we haven’t even come through the main entrance. The surprising thing is despite it’s position as one of the three great pilgrimages for Christian, the main hall of the cathedral is quite unadorned. There are a lot of chapels off to the side and the main altar above the remains of St James is very lavish, but most of the rest is bare stone. We then head around to see the remains and give the statue of the apostle a hug, as is the custom. G is quite taken in by the experience.
The ornate altar piece

The ornate altar piece


We then head out to have a look at the outside of the cathedral. It is quite weatherworn, and there are a lot of plants that have taken root in the stonework. The front Facade is HUGE, with the main part of the cathedral being very ornate, but also later additions on either side adding to the bulk, but being at different heights and not really complimentary do take away from it. The cathedral fronts out onto a huge square which also houses the town hall and a Parador (couldn’t get into this one) a very regal site.
The Cathedral of St James

The Cathedral of St James


The rest of the day is wandering around Santiago, enjoying the streets and the sights. We then head back to the hotel for a hit of tennis with some desperately sad racquets.
Gardens in town

Gardens in town


It's not all old in Santiago

It's not all old in Santiago

Posted by lostagain 02:55 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Ribadeo to Santiago

And cathedral Beach

semi-overcast 22 °C

In Ribadeo, we are looking out over the Eo River from our room.
P1020128

P1020128


We have gone half board, so we have a lovely big dinner and roll back to bed. In the morning with dinner still on our stomachs, we don’t have space for too much food before we head off. In Ribadeo, we are trying to find a laundrette, but the only place we can find is industrial. Laundrettes are not to easy to find in Spain. We reckon it won’t be a problem in Santiago de Compostella with all those dirty and sweaty pilgrims needing a clean!!
Head out to the coast line to look along the cliffs and beaches in the area. The coast is quite rocky and known for its formations. We have a pleasant drive along looking for the famous Praia de Catedrais, the cathedral beach. We wander along a broken asphalt road until, where a branch road comes off the coastal further inland, the road suddenly becomes a lot newer, wider and marked – and there is a car park divided up for buses, campervans and cars – I think we have found it.
The local cliffs

The local cliffs


The cathedral beach is known for the rock formations carved out of the cliffs by the wave action on the Bay of Biscay. There are some great arches as well as deep caves and fissures. The cliffs are very layered and flaky in appearance but where the rocks are rattled around in the caves as the waves come in the walls are worn smooth.
Supporting the locals

Supporting the locals

Nature reflected

Nature reflected


The rest of the day is travelling across to Santiago. So far, we can see where the current Spanish deficit has gone. They are building roads hand over fist. And not little roads either, but massive freeways to cut through the mountain passes and do away with the windy ‘A’ roads. We have been on and seen them making some massive bridges and smaller tunnels, by the time it is complete, it will be a fast trip around Spain - but you may lose touch with what you want to see.
We reach Santiago, and book into the hotel. They have a pool but it is only a summer pool, and not open in late May! So - go and do the washing instead. Well, I do the washing while the others go shopping. I get to write post cards for a few minutes before switching to Monty Python on the ipod.
Washing done its into Santiago at night to get a bite to eat. We don’t get into the old city and have a light tapas dinner at a pub.

Posted by lostagain 02:55 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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