Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Day 38 - To the land of french fries and chocolate (not necessarily in that order)

Ibiza to Brussels

We headed to the airport early as we had to claim back some Spanish taxes (21%), and there was also a strange set up where we had to go to the RyanAir office to have our boarding passes verified and stamped. As normal we were way too early - better than being late though, as we hate airport stress - this comes from previously living a long way from the airport and running the risk of unforeseen airport traffic jams.

A sneak peek at tomorrow's exciting scenery
Once arriving in Brussels we caught the bus to the city centre where our English friends Anita and Laurence had spent a horrid day travelling to meet us. They had arrived at the ferry from England to France to find there was a strike on and the French had not only barricaded the port but had also placed debris and burning tyres in the tunnel leaving thousands of people stranded. They were very lucky as they had left incredibly early, around 5.30am, so were part of the few people that managed to catch a ferry from Dunkirk. Later we were to see on TV terrible scenes of illegal immigrants running after stranded trucks and climbing wherever they could to try and get across the border.

We went for a walk around the city, shocked at how cold it was. Apparently Belgium is known for being cold, the flight attendant even had a did as we were landing (it's cold, but you already know that ....). Well, we didn't know that, put that down to lack of research. 

We went to a restaurant recommended by the people who owned the place we were staying, which specialised in traditional Belgian food. Our table was next to an opera singer from New Zealand who was stranded because of the port closure. He was excellent company and was obviously bored on his own, just another example of how many people's plans had been thrown into disarray by the strike action.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 37 - and the sun sets on our Spanish trip ....


We went to Playa de Bossa for lunch on the beach and to do some souvenir shopping to prove we had been to the party capital of the world. We then walked back to Figueretes via the beach, it was probably quicker than the taxi or the bus taking into account the one way streets and tourist traffic. 

In the afternoon we caught the bus to Sant Antoni on the other side of the island to watch one of the world's top sunsets (so they say) while enjoying a drink at the renowned Café del Mar. We were quite surprised to arrive and find no beach, just a rocky foreshore, very few boats but lots of people all obviously doing the same as us and paying for overpriced drinks while waiting for the sun to set. Disappointingly there was a bit of cloud about so the sunset wasn't that great, we may be biased but Australian sunsets are better - though this wasn't the best night for it. Once sunset was over the beach area emptied pretty quickly, although there was a busy market place near the middle of town.
Lots of mildly disappointed people ...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day 36 - Time for some downtime!


We decided to have a quiet one today and lazed around the beach and cafes of Figueretes, the "suburb" we are staying in. The good thing is that it's relatively quiet and has a nice beach and restaurant strip, but it's walking distance (or a short taxi or bus ride) from the main beach at Playa den Bossa, We just sat in the sun with a drink and tried to forget that we would soon be back in Melbourne's winter!
A nice quiet spot in Ibiza!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Day 35 - If only the music had been better ....


In the morning we walked into Ibiza old town, which wasn't far at all, and for a change there was plenty of shade and a nice sea breeze. Ibiza town doesn't have a beach (that we could find) but has the obligatory castle on the hill, narrow roads & pretty houses that you see in pretty much all the old towns of the cities in Southern Spain. A lot of these pretty houses are now tourist and clothing shops or restaurants. The area mainly consists of a large marina/port, but not nearly as many yachts and boats as Mallorca.

As everyone knows Ibiza is all about clubbing and partying so we had to go to a club. The Balinese lady from the restaurant last night recommended Ushuaïa, a hotel with a massive open air night club, at Playa del Bossa, The club was open from 3pm-12pm (our kind of hours - no need to worry about having a nap before hand!).

The club was huge, the area is massive, it was 35 (~$50) each to get in, drinks were extra and very expensive. After walking around Playa del Bossa and having dinner, we arrived around 8pm. The area was very different to where we are staying, the crowd is younger, the beaches and the whole set up geared more towards relaxing on the beach during the day and partying at night. 

Maybe they should call this a dayclub instead of a nightclub
There were girls arriving in bathers, high heel shoes and not much else, lots of people had temporary "Ants" tattoos (the name of the night at the club). Once it got darker the lighting setup was good, the stage was located at one end of the area with pools in the middle. We headed down to the stage for a while and were very close to the front with the "alien" dancing girls on stage and a chubby DJ who looked like he should have been in home in front of the TV with a pizza. The DJ's that play here are world famous and apparently do amazing things, maybe we're showing our age (or maybe we were on the wrong drugs??), but we just couldn't see what the big deal was, though everyone was in a party frame of mind.

As far as night clubs go this was interesting but the music was too samey for us, the show we went to at the Coco Bongo Club in Cancun back in 2007 or thereabouts left this one for dead!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 34 - Beginning of the end

Mallorca to Ibiza - Apartamentos Mar y Playa

We we really starting to feel the holiday is winding down now that we are heading to Ibiza, the last Spanish destination of our trip. We could have done with at least another day on Mallorca as we really didn't see the best of it. Nicola picked us up and drove us to the airport, and as the taxis on Mallorca have been expensive we are so grateful to Nicola for seeing us off!

Once again we had originally expected to catch a ferry from Mallorca to Ibiza but flights are cheaper and quicker, only 40 minutes this time.
Up the ramp and into the old town...
Our hotel is right on the boulevard and a stone's throw from the beach so its in great position, though there are two apartment blocks and we are in the block across the road behind the better building on the beach. Even though we have a nice balcony to sit on the view is of the building between us and the beach - I suppose that is what happens when you don't pay for the sea view.

We found a cute little restaurant for dinner run by a Balinese lady, she told us Ibiza is really only open 7 months a year, and she and here husband return to Bali for 5 months and then come back to do it all over again. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Day 33 - Hi Nicola!


Every city in Europe has a cathedral and we have seen many of the major ones so unfortunately the interiors are all starting to blend together, the memorable differences really lay in the external. Mallorca's cathedral varies from the others we have seen as rather than being in the middle of the city where you can't quite get the best view of the grandeur and architecture, this cathedral has one of the best views of the city. It is on the major road near the marina and can be seen in its entirety from many areas of the city. 

This cathedral has room to breathe
The marina here has more boats and yachts than we have seen at any other port. The closest beaches to the city centre are pretty average, we didn't have time to go further afield but apparently there are many beautiful coves. The old city was interesting, Spain really excels when it comes to city squares, they are everywhere and well frequented. 

That evening we caught the bus to San Agustin where K's Scottish friend Nicola has been teaching primary school for the past three years. We met Nicola at an Indian restaurant right on the edge of the cove with a view of the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean from the terrace. From there Nicola took us to a bar before we headed home quite late. She is really happy here, Mallorca seems a lovely place to live although the pay could be better and being an island, everything is more expensive.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 32 - New Orleans in Mallorca

Valencia to Mallorca - Catalonia Majorica Hotel

This morning we ventured into the more downtown/commercial area of Valencia and we were very pleasantly surprised. Beautiful, incredible buildings and squares, lots of shops, a real European buzz without the tourist shtick.

We then went back to collect our suitcases and head for the airport to fly to Mallorca. We had never planned on flying as K had thought it was just a short ferry ride away, but when we finally decided to look into it the ferry was very expensive and took all night! The plane from Valencia to Mallorca was quite cheap and only took an hour, so a much better option.

At Valencia airport we were both given a major shakedown, K was given the clothed body search which included the inside band back and front of her pants plus having to take the chap stick put of her pocket and roll it out to prove its inner workings. M had his backpack totally (or so they thought) emptied and every little thing examined, but as normal they missed a pocket. Incredibly they found nothing, except that we are two boring travellers who have travelled enough to know what we are permitted to carry on!

A room with a view
Our hotel is high up overlooking the huge marina with more yachts, boats and cruise ships than we have ever seen - beautiful view. Luckily the hotel has a funicular to transport you to near the bottom of the hill near the marina.

After walking the foreshore & general area we came across what the owner said was "the only authentic New Orleans restaurant in Spain". Yum it was!! Finally decent food with spice and taste - best meal so far!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Day 31 - To the beach


Another museum this morning, this time the Ceramic Museum. The pottery was kind of interesting, but the outside of the building was more interesting. Then, so we wouldn't be caught out like yesterday, we went to the Central Market to buy some food for lunch before catching the bus to the beach for the afternoon.

Just a standard Spanish ham display
The Valencia beach was quite a surprise as it was unbelievably wide and flat. Valencia had been experiencing a lot of unusual afternoon storms and very heavy rain since we had arrived, the skies were darkening and everyone was leaving the beach as we arrived, fortunately though the threat didn't eventuate. This beach was quite different to the others we had visited in that it didn't have huge ugly sky rise buildings along the foreshore, and the restaurant/cafe strip seemed very small compared to others. It appeared to still be waiting for modernisation and hadn't fallen to ugly development ..... yet.

For dinner we made our third trip to an Argentinian steak restaurant. We had tried to get to this place twice before (last night in very heavy rain) only to find it was closed both times. This time though it was open, third time lucky!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 30 - Come on Valencia, open up, we're hungry!


Today we visited the incredible buildings of the Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciences. It's an amazing complex, a series of massive buildings, gardens and pools all built in the old river. In 1957 the river in Valencia flooded and badly damaged much of the city so a decision was made to divert the river, this led to a massive green area around the edge of the city. It has now been turned into gardens, walking and riding trails, sporting grounds and these massive buildings.

We are a bit partial to a good science museum especially after visiting the massive and inspiring one in Munich. This didn't live up to that standard but still had plenty of interesting hands on experiences to keep us occupied for a few hours. 
Some space age looking buildings - for when you're sick of cathedrals
We also visited the Fallas museum nearby - Fallas are giant papier mache figures that are paraded through the streets during one of Valencia's major festivals, they are normally burnt afterwards but they keep the best one every year and put it in this museum. 

By the time we finished there we thought we would head for the Central Market as it is one of the oldest European markets still operating and buy something for a late lunch. However we were a bit late and it was closed, so we walked the streets trying to find something that was open, finally finding a place that sold us a roll and a tomato  - will we ever get used to the fact that everything is closed in the afternoon? You really have to plan ahead in the morning if you feel like eating something in the afternoon!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day 29 - Popemobile


We joined our normal "free" walking tour as we find it gives us a good overview of the city when you first arrive. This tour leader was a bit of a lecturing type but her information, stories and explanations were good. They also help you find things that you wouldn't normally notice, we had visited the cathedral the night before but how had we missed the mummified arm of St Vincent in a glass case and a room that supposedly had the Holy Grail from the last supper?

There's the narrowest building in the world
After the tour we took advantage of the fact that entrance fees are free on a Sunday and visited the Archaeological Centre built over part of the original Roman city. After that we found ourselves watching the arrival of a huge statue of the Virgin of the Helpless in something resembling the Popemobile. People were not only touching and kissing the clothing but also the sticker of the statue on the door of the transport vehicle.

There are lots of little girls around the cities dressed in beautiful communion dresses and lots of weddings that if you can't see you can hear by all the fireworks. Today, especially this morning there were lots of people dressed in their Sunday best, people here dress very elegantly on their days off.