Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 13 - Big plaza, big cathedral


Today's walking tour took up most of the day, finishing at the very impressive Plaza de Espana around 2pm. 

After the tour we visited the Cathedral, which is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It was originally a mosque, it appears common that when the Christians repelled the Muslims from a city that they appropriated the huge mosques rather than destroy them. 

We did the walk up to the tower which interestingly was a ramp not stairs - in the original mosque it was difficult for the elders to climb the steps five times a day to call for prayer so a continuous ramp was built so that they could be taken up and down by horse. 

Now that's a plaza!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Day 12 - Some space at last (and a washing machine)

Córdoba to Sevilla - Airbnb apartment on Calle San Vincente

Once again the fast, modern and efficient AVE (fast train) took us from one Andalusían city to the next.  We are staying at an Airbnb apartment, great to have so much space and a washing machine, for around the same price as a decent hotel room.

We headed out to explore, and ran into some sort of religious procession, the Spanish seem to be into this sort of thing. The street was crowded and we tagged along for a while to see if anything exciting would happen, but this one just seemed to be your standard garden variety oxen powered religious artifact procession, so we soon tired of it. 

We seem to have adapted to the Spanish way and now take it easy & read during the heat of the afternoon, have dinner at 10pm and walk the streets until we're done. The streets are so busy in the evening with people walking and so many young children, how do they go to school the next day? It's a totally different way of spending 24 hours.

I wonder if it smells in there?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day 11 - Ruined


We took the bus to Medina Azahara, a massive palace complex of which only 12% has been excavated to date. Like all these places it has unfortunately been plundered to nothing over the years but it was still worth a visit. 

The weather is really warming up which makes it difficult to do much in the afternoons, but we're on holiday after all! After a couple of sangrias we found a lovely Moroccan restaurant with a rooftop terrace and huge meat skewers and rice - perfect as we have finally both got our appetites back.

This would have been quite impressive back in the day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 10 - Ice cream for lunch


I think we're finally in holiday mode, it seems to have taken about 10 days for us to de-stress and get over being sick.

Today was warm, 31 degrees so we went exploring in the morning and checked out the gorgeous Alcázar, the old Muslim fort which had beautiful gardens and water features, a really lovely place. After that we toured the stables of the Andalusian horses and watched them being worked, quite interesting techniques, PM K if you want to know more.

We then followed the Spanish and retreated out of the sun for a few hours, coming out for our daily ritual of icecream, can substituting lunch for ice cream be called a diet?

A swim would have been nice at that point!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 9 - Fair enough


Looks better in real life
We joined another "free" walking tour, they are kind of free as you don't have to pay if you don't want to but you would feel pretty lousy when the guides work so hard. This girl was much better than the one in Madrid and took us to many interesting sites, the tours are a good way to get the feel of a city when you arrive.

In the afternoon we visited the Mezquita, the original grand mosque which has a cathedral built inside it, apparently the number one European Tripadvisor site for 2015. It was certainly impressive, especially in the way it mixed Christian & Muslim devotion and religious iconography. There is this continual theme in Córdoba of the successful combination of Jewish, Muslim & Christian religions living together harmoniously.

Córdoba is a very pretty city with lots of narrow alleyways and cascading flowers from lovely balconies. We are finally getting used to the Spanish way of life, doing little in the afternoon heat and then heading out again later in the evening. 

I quite like this one
Tonight we headed for the fair that does the round of the Andalusian cities and happens to be in Córdoba this week, maybe we will see it elsewhere in the south of Spain. The fair (as well as all around town) is filled with women and children in traditional dress, we are not sure if its because of the fair or if it's nornal, but they all do look so pretty.

Between the Mezquita and the fair (which was over the other side of the river) we clocked up a lot of k's walking, around 17kms today!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 8 - Call that a knife?

Madrid to Córdoba - Los Apartmentos de Fuente

Didn't take many photos today.
This'll have to do.
We headed out in the morning to purchase some Damascus steel knives for a friend, then quickly visited the museum inside the Alcázar before catching the fast train to Córdoba (incredibly there was no direct train, we had to go back to Madrid and change trains). 

It was Sunday which in Spain means pretty much everything (except for the touristy stuff) was closed, but we had a nice wander around town. The weather in the evening was very pleasant, and Córdoba is a nice easy town to get around, with a nice river and old Roman bridges - so far it looks old and interesting.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day 7 - Holy Toledo!

Madrid to Toledo - Hotel Santa Isobel

We had originally planned on catching the fast train to Toledo, but the guy at our hotel in Madrid said the bus would be quicker, easier to get to and cheaper - well it was cheap, but as for the others ..... 

We finally arrived at our quaint hotel in the old town and headed out to explore the incredibly old streets of Toledo. Toledo isn't too big so we had little trouble stumbling along most of the major sites in our walking. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that most sites were free on Saturday afternoons, though the admission prices in Spain so far are very reasonable anyway. 

We ticked off Casa del Greco, the churches, the synagogue, cathedral etc (as you do) and after dinner enjoyed the beautiful sight of the lit cathedral from the roof top terrace of our hotel.

I wonder what their electricity bill is like?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Day 6 - Sí Señora, how may I help you?


No, I can't figure out what it is either
We spent the morning wandering the streets of Madrid (K thinks it's because M was in charge of the map, but I'm sure I read somewhere that the best way to recover from gastro was lots of walking .....).

We finally made it to the Museo de Arte Reina Sofia for some Dali & Picasso (amongst others). The Spanish have done well in the history of painting .... Australia on the other hand has Mr. Squiggle and Rolf Harris .... 

At one point K was sitting in a museum guard's chair in the corner of one of the many rooms when she was mistaken for someone who worked there and was asked directions to Picasso's Guernica. Not only did she know what it was, but she also provided directions to it in perfect Spanish (thanks Manny, who'd have though K would - nearly - be mistaken for a local).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Day 5 - Recovering .... slowly


We started the day with an early morning "free" walking tour, unfortunately not one of the best we have been on. The problem when there is only four of you on the tour is that you can't sneak off easily, so we stuck it out to the end. K was still wasn't 100% but managed to survive all that walking anyway, and at least we now had a good idea of the main sites to revisit later.

We headed to the palace in the afternoon and had a look inside, the usual palace stuff so we won't bore you with the details. Once again we managed to miss the crowds, school children were arriving just as we were leaving - perfect! We also checked out the Cathedral, the usual cathedral stuff so we won't bore you with the details.

A plaza. Much like many other plazas.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day 4 - It must have been something you ate!


K was laid up in bed all day with a stomach bug, so very little to report today. M walked along the river and to the other side of the Palace Real but didn't go too far .... the real sightseeing will have to wait.
A view of the palace. Very palacial.