Saturday, June 20, 2015

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

Ibiza 

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 Ushua├»a, 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.

One of the quieter parts of Ibiza...
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!

Mallorca

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

Valencia

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!

Valencia

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

Valencia

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.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 28 - What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?

Alicante to Valencia via Costa Blanca - airbnb apartment 

We headed off at 10am to start our drive north and the city was quiet, hardly surprising when the square outside our room, which looks pretty much deserted most of the time, was packed to the brim with people when we went to bed at 1am.

We decided we should take the coastal route to Valencia. Our first stop for breakfast was Benidorm, we had only been there 5 minutes when K said "can we go now, I've seen too much". The beach is lovely, incredibly long and unbelievably wide with beautiful soft, clean sand & in the distance jutting out of the water like a half sunken ship is a huge rock island. The issue was with the people the esplanade was full of oldish men walking with their tops off with these massive guts, it really makes your eyes water, who needs to see that? The bay is full of ugly, old high rise apartments, which is a shame when the beach is so nice. And there they were again, heaps of people baking in full sun, with the sun lounges turned to face the sun, cooking, roasting, burning.

Now that's a great spot for a library ... on the beach!
Next stop for lunch was Gandia. We were rather bewildered on the road to Gandia (which seemed like a normal country road, not much in the way of buildings) by coming across women in the middle of nowhere either sitting on a chair or standing by the side of the road - we wondered what they doing? A bit of googling and we found out, they were prostitutes - that explains the girl in the pink bikini and high heel shoes. We were struck at how vulnerable they were, with not a soul in sight for miles, how horribly desperate they must be.

We arrived at Gandia to find more of the same, that is ugly high rise on the foreshore & an abundance of retirees. We were beginning to wonder if we'd done the wrong thing by booking 4 nights in Valencia?

Another nice airbnb apartment in Valencia, and as Valencia is the home of paella we were looking forward to another nice one after the one we had in Granada. After checking out some reviews on Tripadvisor we headed out with great anticipation to a place very close to us. Oh the disappointment, it was woeful, Four tiny pieces of pork rib no bigger than your thumb, four thin slices of tomato on undercooked rice, and not all of the ingredients listed on the menu! Not only was it tasteless we were both still hungry afterwards .... now we are top scared/scarred to try paella in Spain again!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Day 27 - Is it that obvious?

Alicante

This morning we walked the short walk down the hill from the old town to the esplanade and the marina. Some of the boats there were amazing, real high end, massive and we presume luxurious inside. Then we got to the beach and what a shock! We stood their amazed by a couple of things - firstly there were so many people, the beach and the water were so crowded (though not quite as bad as Ipanema in Brazil). The other was that all these people were baking with very few using any shade let alone hats! You can pick the Aussies when you are overseas as they are the only ones that wear hats, the sun smart campaign hasn't made it to Europe. It appears possible to stay out all afternoon here in 30 degrees without sunscreen and not get burnt, though it's still hot. The other surprising thing was that so many people were drinking beer at 11am - Alicante looks too touristy for us.

We continued along the esplanade until we found the lift to take us up to the Santa Barbara Castle. It is perched high on a hill will amazing views of Alicante and the beaches. We then visited the Volvo Ocean Race Museum which explains what it is like to be on these boats when they are at sea, its a shame the simulator only operates on the weekend as it is meant to be a great experience.

A beach and a fort - not like home at all
It must be really obvious we speak English, without even opening our mouths everyone speaks to us in English, even the beggars ask us for money in English!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day 26 - Do these people ever sleep?

San Jose de Los Terreros to Alicante - Santa Barbara Guesthouse

We were woken up early to the sound of a thunderstorm and heavy rain, and we were also surprised to find it quite cool as well, apparently the storm was all over Spain. 

The rain in Spain falls mainly on us ...
We first drove to Murcia to meet up with another Spanish friend, Alicia. Alicia took us on a tour of Murcia on foot in the rain. We visited the normal sites in the town centre (cathedral, etc.) and finished off with lunch before driving on to Alicante.

The hotel was quite tricky to find as we traipsed on foot back and forth and up and down the narrow winding streets, eventually the hotel manager found us, coming up to us on the street and asking our name. We tried some Italian for dinner, as we were so close to Italy surely the food would be OK? Wrong again, last time for us, we will wait until we get home!

We headed back to our hotel only to find that we still haven't adjusted as well as we thought to Spanish time, since as we were heading off to sleep about 12.30am the place was just starting to wake up. People chatting in the street, a 2 year old playing on play equipment in the middle of the night outside our window - the noise went on for hours!