A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

2 nights in CORDOBA!

wow, what a hidden gem, lovely place to stop and say goodbye to Europe!

Tuesday 29th October 13 (day 59)

Luggage on our backs we were in the metro at 10am heading to the bus station for our 11am coach departure. Today we are traveling from Madrid to Cordoba 360km to the south. The highways here in Spain are pretty good and it was all smooth sailing. Again landscape was not much and to tell you the truth I napped for the first couple of hours anyway. Again millions of olive trees for as far as the eyes could see, and also a fair amount of solar farms. Paddocks just full of great big solar panels all lined in rows. I think Australia should take advantage of the sunshine more like they do here in Europe. We have seen solar panels, both domestic and commercial, in greater use a lot more over here in the various countries than anywhere in Australia. Surely we have the same if not more sunshine?

Billboard count today, 2 toros, 2 bottles and 1 burro.

The bus stopped just half an hour out of Cordoba for our lunch break and we arrived on time just before 4pm. I had pre-booked a hotel who had advised we could get a local bus to near where they were situated. Before leaving the bus/train station I went and purchased the ticket for the next leg of our journey while Lyn sat with our luggage. We are only here for 2 nights and would save a trip back to the station to buy tickets later.

We found the correct local bus that took us to the historic part of town and supposedly close to where our hotel was. Again Lyn stayed with the luggage as I walked the narrow winding streets looking for our hotel. I returned, having no luck in finding it. A Good Samaritan shared her map and gps on her phone and we then managed to locate the hotel. Very close to where I had searched but hidden in a small square. It's a nice place, in what seems like a good location and a bargain price of 25 euros per night.

After checking in we decided to go for a little walk to have a little look around and to find the tourist office so I could get a map. No maps at the hotel.

Cordoba looks great, but as I was wandering around now and before when I was searching for the hotel I could not help but compare it to Morocco. Very similar architecture and with the same use of tiles on the walls like in Morocco. The biggest distinction being here everywhere is so clean and the obvious absence of men dressed in jellabas peering at us.

It was late in the afternoon and after our little walk we decided to leave the biggest attraction here until tomorrow, otherwise we will have nothing to do.

Returning to the hotel to put on some warmer clothes, although the days are still warm - mid 20's - once the sun goes down so does the temp. Out again for dinner at a small bar/restaurant we saw on the road near our hotel. Tried a local dish called 'flamenquin' = rolled meat, cheese, serrano ham and deep fried. Very nice, washed down with tinto de verano!

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Wednesday 30th October 13 (day 60)

What a beautiful day Spain has put on for us on our last day. Beautiful blue sky with a mild temperature.

Today we walked all around Cordoba - very beautiful place. Not much to tell really just look at my photos on FB and they tell the story of our day.

I went inside the Mezquita - bit of a rip off - 8 euros entry. Don't get me wrong very impressive the size of the place and everything but after being in Morocco and Turkey a mosque is a mosque - only the size varies. And I guess the fact that this one has a whopping big Cathedral built in the centre of the mosque makes it a little different. Just goes to show there was always and will always be money in religion.

Anyway besides the mosque, Cordoba is a very pleasant place to wander around the narrow alleyways of the historic town. As I said yesterday, very similar to Morocco but as you will see perhaps in a few days time from my pictures of Morocco here is a bit cleaner.

We bought some last minute souvenirs that we just couldn't live without ie Spanish flamingo style aprons and treated ourselves out to dinner for the last night. We were planning on having paella and found a great looking place during the day today. But alas after backtracking our steps of earlier in the day we discovered the paella place was not open for dinner. Never mind we just went to the same cafe as last night and had a nice dinner there instead to say farewell to Europe.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 13:26 Archived in Spain Tagged cordoba Comments (2)

Quick stop in Zaragoza! then on to MADRID.

Half way between Barcelona and Madrid we stopped overnite to break up the bus journey, then a few relaxing days is Madrid.

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Friday 25th October 13 (day 55)

Not a good start to the day, the elastic on my Keen sandal wore thru! bugger!

I was up on the street looking for bread at about 9am. Not much use as the supermarket did not open until 10 and the bakery a few doors down was also not yet open. So breakfast was going to have to wait until we arrived at the bus station. Due to this we decided to leave a little early so we would have time to find something to eat. When handing in the room key the receptionist handed us a breakfast voucher for breakfast at the hotel where we had spent the 2 previous nights. We were not told that breakfast was included in our room rate at the pension, but it made the high price a little more bearable. Lucky too that we had decided to leave for the bus station early so we still had enough time to have breakfast, catch the metro just 2 stops and still be early for the bus departure.

Barcelona was not looking like it was going to be enjoying a lovely blue skied day today like yesterday, so it was not so bad leaving. We were glad we had such a nice day yesterday.

Our bus journey today is just under 320km away to Zaragoza. This place was chosen by me only for the fact that it was approximately halfway between Barcelona to Madrid. I don't think there is anything really significant to stop at Zaragoza for except to break up the trip. Our bus departed Barcelona at 11.30 and with a 20 minute stop at a place called Mont Blanc we arrived at our destination just before 4pm. The countryside was not very exciting along the way and to tell you the truth most of it looked like desert.

Highlight for me was spotting not just one but two Osbourne Bulls (google if you don't know what that is).

There was a tourist office at the bus / train station who advised we could get a bus just outside to very close to the pension I had booked online last night. The station here was absolutely massive and seemed a little overkill for the size and destination of this town. I guessed that maybe it was a leftover from when Zaragoza hosted the world expo in 2008.

We waited about 15 minutes for a bus and only had to walk about 3 minutes to our pension, which was excellent and one of the cheapest places we have stayed all trip. 27 euros for the night.

The historical centre was only a 20 minute walk away and we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around and exploring the town. Found a great bull ring and a very hard to miss massive basilica! I presume this town only has this impressive building because it is on the pilgrimage trail.

We walked along the river and came across a group of men in suites having a photo shoot using the stone bridge and the basilica as a backdrop. Of course Lyn and I in our daggy backpacker clothing jumped in next to them and were advised in broken English that they were shooting photos for financial magazine, and the photographer told us the guy he was taking photos of was 'man off the year!' They were good sports and had a bit of a laugh with us and even helped us later with taking a photo of us with my camera.

It was still quite warm here in the afternoon and evening, with the temp reading 22 degrees when we were walking home and that was after dark.

We have an early morning call tomorrow as we are booked on a bus at 8.50am to continue our journey to Madrid.

Saturday 26th October 13 (day 56)

It was still dark at 6.50am when the alarm went off. It was still dark at 7.30am when we waited at the bus stop for a bus to the bus station. It was still dark at 8.00am when we arrived at the bus station. It was still dark at 8.15am when we were waiting for our coach to arrive. It was only just light at 8.50am when the coach pulled out of the bus station commencing our journey to Madrid.

Again the scenery along the way was not much to recall. Of course we are in olive growing country so we did see millions of olive trees growing in groves across the hillsides for as far as the eye could see.

We arrived in Madrid just 10 minutes later than scheduled at 1.10pm. My friend Dean, who lives here in Madrid, was there to greet us and escort us via metro back to his and Alec's apartment where we would be staying for the next 3 nights. Ironic thing is, our visit has coincided with them moving to another apartment, so we are a bit in the way but they were nice enough to let us stay during the move. I think Dean must have sensed our desperation for the need of a washing machine and took pity on us. I promised we would not be in the way or need any entertaining, just point us in the direction of the washing machine and a bed for a few nights.

After dropping off our bags, we went out and had lunch which consisted of an assortment of tapas: including my personal favourite: ham. If any of you reading this have been to Spain and have eaten the cured ham you will know where I am coming from! We also had cheese, croquets, potato - all to die for and washed down with another Spain favourite of mine: tinto de verano (which my lovely niece describes as poor mans sangria - but she has never tried it so how would she know)! But I guess it's not far from the truth as it's red wine mixed 50-50 with lemon fanta! Yes I can feel you red wine drinkers cringing at the very thought of mixing red wine with soft drink, but it's very refreshing and a popular beverage here in Spain (as well as in Springwood, Queensland after I introduced Miss A to this concoction :-) cheers Miss A we had a couple for you).

After lunch Lyn and I went for a wander around down town Madrid. Place was crawling with tourists and locals alike. Being a Saturday and a sunny day to boot, every man and his family were out and about. Exhausted after our 2 hour walk we returned to the apartment for a little siesta before going out for dinner. Hey when in Rome, or more like when in Spain - have a siesta.

We left for dinner at about 9pm - early by Spanish standards - and met up with some of the boys friends. It was midnight by the time we had finished dinner and despite our afternoon nap the day was starting to take its toll and I for one was glad to see my bed.

Sunday 27th October 13 (day 57)

Leaving the boys to continue their packing and moving, Lyn and I took ourselves off on the metro to the El Rastro Sunday Market. Famous in Madrid this market has been going for 100's of years and you can buy just about anything from old rubbish to antiques to tourist rubbish to new stuff, clothes, shoes, bags, everything.

First up we stopped at a cafe to have coffee and a toasted sandwich as we needed the energy if we were going to see the majority of this market.

The sun was out and so were the crowds. This place is known for pick pockets and I was chosen by a particularly brazen girl as a would be victim. As I stood talking to Lyn about something we were looking at in a stall this girl with a poncho on stood close to me and attempted to unzip my bag. Lucky for me the zip tab had broken off my bag and it was not so simple to open, but even so she was not being very subtle about it anyway. Almost tugging at the zip I looked down at her hand and then looked her in the eye and she did not even bat an eyelid. Just looked straight through me as innocent as the day she was born. I should have yelled and made a fuss, but I was just so gobsmacked at the way she just looked directly at me and then casually walked away when she realised that I realised what she was doing. Extra careful after that, keeping a hand on my bag at all times.

We bought a couple of little things but mostly just spent the time wandering through the market having a look. Before we knew it, it was lunch time and in one of the streets of the market was a food outlet that people were lining up to get into so we thought this must be good. We also joined the queue and were rewarded with yummy open XXXX bread topped with our choice of: baby eels, octopus and ham with cheese. After eating them we understood why the locals were lining up for them.

We had a lazy rest of the day, with everything getting it's turn in the washing machine.

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Monday 28th October 13 (day 58)

Our main objective for today was to pack up some things we are carrying that we want to send home, take them to the post office and mail them away. We still have some camping stuff from the bike part of our trip that we want to keep but do not want to carry with us any longer.

The man at the post office was very helpful, sold us a box (which we didn't even manage to fill but the next one down was too small) and helped with filling in the paperwork. Getting rid of a bit of weight is a relief and hopefully will make travelling a little lighter. (Cobi this box should reach you in 4-5 weeks).

This done, we actually did nothing else for the rest of the day. I tell a lie, I did use this day to organize visa's etc for a future leg of our trip. Thanks again to Dean for leaving the wifi on at the old apartment for us to use. Not exactly sure what Lyn did with her day - between washing machine loading and unloading that is.

Later in the night we took the metro with Dean and Alec to see their new place and went to a local bar/restaurant to have dinner and say farewell. It's a shame we did not get to spend more time with the boys but we are really grateful for them letting us stay over in the middle of their move. These few days of catching up on washing and other travel housekeeping has been great. And just the fact of having somewhere to stay without having to do or go anywhere is a great way to wind down a little after constantly moving. Thanks Guys, sure we will be back in Madrid again - and we must plan that trip to Poland!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 13:13 Archived in Spain Tagged madrid zaragoza Comments (0)

And into Spain, Barcelona - home of Gaudi

Couple of days in Barcelona soaking up the warm sunshine (yes they still have it here in October) and a bit of culture (yes they have that too)

Tuesday 22nd October 13 (day 52)

Our hotel receptionist managed to print off our bus ticket so that was a relief. We had our last French breakfast in our hotel room after Lyn had visited the supermarket and purchased our last French baguette. We finished the last of the cheese for breakfast and making a sandwich to take with us on the bus.

Carrying our bags downstairs it was farewell to Sofia and Fonsi, who will be collected by Jean next week. We slipped Dracula's assistant 20 euros to pay for the storage of the bikes for a week and the printing of the bus tickets. He may have been a little creepy but he sure did help us out.

Struggling with our luggage, it was easier to move all our stuff on the bikes than it is carrying it all, we walked the short distance to where the bus would be collecting us. Just to make sure I walked a bit further to the train station and checked with a taxi driver who confirmed we were in the correct place to get the bus. We were a little early but we did not want to risk missing the bus so thought a short wait at the bus stop was better than having to hurry to catch it.

The bus was due 10.45 and did not drive up until 11.15 by which time we were starting to doubt we had the correct place to catch it - but we did and it was a quick embarkment when it finally showed. The bus drove out of Narbonne and we said goodbye to this town and this country. As we drove close to the coast visibility was not so good due to what looked like sea fog. The Australians we met yesterday said they had the same fog yesterday when they had been to the coast and also did not see anything.

The border crossing from France into Spain was almost invisible and before we knew it we were in a different country.

The bus stopped in Figueras, Spain for a 30 minute lunch break. We went to a small park opposite the bus station to eat our French sandwiches. The Spanish sun was out and it felt like it was welcoming us to this country. Wow, sure is a lot warmer weather here in Spain - it was a good sign.

We rolled into Barcelona Sants bus station a little earlier then scheduled just before 4pm. The lady at the tourist desk at the station advised it was best if we headed into the centre, which was just 3 metro stops away, to find a hotel. We managed to buy tickets and find the correct line and before long we were exiting the metro at Cataluyna Place.

As per usual, Lyn stayed with the luggage while I did the leg work to go find a hotel. I visited about 10 different hotels along the La Rambla until I decided on the Hotel Cortes. Over budget but we are in a big city and most of the places I visited were full or just too divey. At least this one included breakfast in the 85 euro tariff but was only available for 2 nights and we want to stay 3, but we took it anyway and will find another place for our 3rd night.

We checked in. The guy at the reception was really helpful, giving us a copy of our passports and advising we shouldn't carry any valuables on us due to pick pockets. Wow.

After taking our bags to our nice room we decided to go outside and have a wander along La Rambla. It was so weird to see so many tourists, the street was really crowded. After all the places we have recently been in France that seemed like ghost towns this was so strange. And so many different languages being spoken all around us, it was just such a contrast.

Best part was, it was warm. We were out on the street after dark and still had just shorts and t-shirts on. This is why there are still so many tourists visiting here - the weather is still lovely and mild. And it was a Tuesday night and all the shops were still open when we returned to our room after 8pm.

We had been to a supermarket and purchased a bottle of champagne (or at least sparkling wine) to celebrate the end of our bike adventure. Dinner was an assortment of cold meats, cheese, olives, pate and bread in our room, that we had also purchased at the supermarket.

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Wednesday 23rd October 13 (day 53)

Breakfast was fresh rolls, croissants, cold meats and fresh coffee. The waiter was a little amazed when I asked for my 4th cup of coffee but they were only little cups! He claimed my heart would be racing all day.

Last night I booked us on a Gaudi free walking tour with Runnerbeans Tours. Of course this is not a free tour as you are expected to tip at the end, but I have been on a few of these free tours in different cities and they never disappoint. Now of course you all know who Gaudi is (if not don't - shame on you google it).

Meeting point was about 10 minute walk down La Rambla and started at 11am. Weather was beautiful. Perfect blue sky as you will see from my photos on FB. And again warm enough just for shorts and t-shirts. We visited the main Gaudi landmarks (again see photos on FB) and when the tour finished at Sagrada Familia the tour guide, Miguel, advised how to get to Park Guell - another famous Gaudi landmark. Miguel advised we visit the park within the next 2 days as from then on they Barcelona government is going to start charging an 8 euro entrance fee.

We had no trouble following the metro directions getting to the park and then followed the outdoor escalators up to the lookout. Fantastic views of Barcelona from here.

As the day was warm we decided to treat ourselves to a beer in the small cafe in the park.

It took the rest of the afternoon for us to walk back slowly to La Rambla where we had a very late lunch, which was actually dinner because it was 6pm by the time we sat down to eat. Good thing we filled up at breakfast this morning at the hotel. We found a cheap restaurant actually on the Main Street that offered 3 tapas and paella for 8.95 euros. The food was good and we washed it down with 1/2 carafe of house rose. Definitely a lot cheaper to eat out here in Spain than it was in France.

Before returning to our hotel we stopped at a few other hotels as we needed to find another room for tomorrow night. Not having any luck finding another hotel we opted to take a room at a pension 2 doors down from our hotel that was recommended by our receptionist. It was pretty expensive for what it was but it seems we have little choice as everywhere else was booked out. Seems tourists are still flocking in for long weekends to enjoy the Spanish sunshine. Not that I blame them one little bit.

Tomorrow we are heading to the beach and will take our swimming togs just in case it's warm enough for a dip in the Med.

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Thursday 24th October 13 (day 54)

What a beautiful sunny warm day Spain greeted us with again today. We had a late breakfast - delaying our checkout until the last minute. We had to move into a cruddy place a few doors up which is only 10 euro cheaper but 50 euros worth more crappy and no breakfast. But everywhere else was booked or over 100 euros per night so we had to suck it up if we wanted to stay another night in Barcelona - which we did.

It was just after midday as we strolled the 1km down La Rambla towards the beach. We stopped briefly at the tourist information booth to ask how we can get to the bus station tomorrow and also asked with is the nicest beaches around the area. The lady laughed and said none of the beaches here are nice, you need to drive for about an hour north to get a nice beach. Ah, we said, ok we will just dip our feet in then. She advised not even to do that much. I know its a city beach but how bad can it be?

We strolled in the sunshine enjoying every minute of it. Actually it felt quite warm even though the outdoor temp gauges were only reading 24, I'm sure it was hotter than that.
We stopped to watch some street buskers - mainly the statue type who move when you drop a coin or coins into their tin.

There seemed to be a quite a few people (tourists) around as we meandered around the port which was home to very few flash yachts. The foreshore around the port was nice with lots of space for walking, bike riding and benches for sitting or cafes to enjoy a refreshing beverage.

I spotted a supermarket so we grabbed a couple of cheapy alcoholic beverages and found a nice bench within metres of an overpriced cafe and enjoyed their same view for a third of the price.

Thirst quenched, we continued on to the beach where a surprising amount of people where baking the day away. Although it must be wall to wall skin here in the summer time as the locals and tourists crowd the sand and cool off in the water when the weather is hot. I was pretty keen to have a dip in the sea until I dipped a toe in and almost froze it off. No matter where we have travelled the Mediterranean Sea always is too cold for swimming no matter what the weather. So I was contented with a toe dip to say we touched the Atlantic and crossed to the other side and touched the Mediterranean!

A little while later we found another shady bench and a near by supermarket to purchase our picnic lunch and another cool bevvy. We were not the only ones with this idea as the park benches seemed to be more crowded with lunch time picnicers than the nearby cafes. It was a beautiful day as we sat ate and watched the passing pedestrian traffic passed by on foot, bicycle, rollerblades and skateboard. Nice relaxed beachy atmosphere here.

After lunch we continued our strolling to the southern end of the beach that soon became obvious that this was the nudist part of the beach. Now I have absolutely nothing against nudists (having myself just recently done a naked romp in the ocean) buy why is it that nudist on a crowded beach, up close to everyone, are always wrinkled leather skinned men of a certain age (60+) who are not afraid to let it all hang out for the world to see. My god, I just had lunch! and this was no eye candy for dessert I can assure you.

We averted our eyes and walked on quickly. At the end of the beach was the huge W hotel - not sure why we didn't stay here during our visit in Barcelona. Lyn and I as usual casually walked inside and used the lobby toilets. Wow this place was nice, must be 5 star. We sat in the lounge bar for about half an hour enjoying the air con. When a waiter came up to take our order I just told him the usual spiel that we were waiting to meet someone - this works every time and they don't come back again until they see us with someone - which of course is never. Just out of curiosity I checked on the internet to see the price of the room, and then is became evident why we did not stay here during our visit to Barcelona. Rooms ranged from super cheap 330 euro to 10,000 for the penthouse suite. Yes this was the price per night!!!

So after a bit of a relax and watching rich folk for awhile be moved on and returned to the real world - our world.

I'm glad we spent the extra day here in Barcelona just to have a walk around the beach and have a bit of time to sit and people watch. Tomorrow we are heading towards Madrid, however breaking the bus journey with a nights stopover in Zaragoza.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:18 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona Comments (3)

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