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View CJTaylors 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

Due to the price difference between the bus and train over a large distance, we decided to take an overnight bus to Barcelona from Cordoba. We hardly got any sleep on the bus. However, we stopped into some interesting Spanish towns where it appeared as though the whole region was celebrating a fiesta. Several towns had fairs on, with many people out in the streets, and the towns decorated in lights, and men and women wearing traditional dress. We were lucky enough to see fireworks at about one o'clock in the morning, that lit up the otherwise dark sky, at the most fantastic angle as the bus passed along the highway. We got into Barcelona at 7am, waking like zombies. We took the metro into the centre of the city - La Rambla, where we were able to drop off our bags at Hostal Campi, where we would stay for the next three nights. Barcelona is in Catalonia, where Catalan is predominately spoken. They have an independant cultural identity and there will be a referendum next year to decide whether Catalonia will break off from the rest of Spain. They are against bull fighting and have banned the sport from the region, and they have their own dance where they gather in a circle holding hands and intermittently lift their feet up. Barcelona can only be described as a strange city. One moment you're walking past a street party with a brass band and drums, the next winding your way down the dark narrow streets, dodging George Orwell square where itinerants pass the time waiting out the 5 years they need to stick it out to be given nationality. We went on a walking tour through Barcelona with this outlandish young Australian guy with a crude but funny sense of humour that had Jade laughing for most of the 2 hours. Jade had half a mojito before she was out for the count and had an early night. We pre-booked tickets for Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Church, that started being built in 1882 and is due for completion around 2020. Architecture like you've never seen, with tree like supporting structures and angular sculptures. Chris took the lift up to the top of the church where he took some photos of the Barcelona panorama. On our last night we went for a walk up Montjuïc Mountain to the castle and enjoyed our last look at Barcelona, and Spain for that matter, before leaving for Italy.

Posted by CJTaylor 11:38 Archived in Spain


View CJTaylors 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

We had a good train ride into Cordoba and caught up with a female couple from San Francisco we had met in Granada. We took a bus to the old part of town and just next to the bus stop was a fantastic organic, neo-hippy type of coffee shop run by a young couple with a daughter, with delicious salads, toasties and coffee. We then went on to find our accommodation, Hotel Plateros in Seneca Square (named after the Roman emperor). After checking in, we went for a walk around the old town of Cordoba, where we had a tapas dinner with this gorgeous dish of potatoes, fried egg and balsamic vinegar. The next day we went into the Mesquita (mosque) which was first a church, then was converted into a mosque, before becoming a catherdral after the reconquest of Cordoba by the Christians in the 13th century. We walked around the Jewish quarter and visited one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. The Alcazar was worth seeing but nothing to be compared with the Alhambra in Granada. Cordoba was the best culinary destination on our travels in Spain. A wounderful blend of Andalusion Spainish and North African cultures. Chris organised a night out at a Flamenco dinner show that was really special. Our favourite dish was salmorejo a local variation of gazpacho soup. The host was very generous and a fine flamenco guitar singer. A beautiful Spanish woman sang in a way that was so expressive and heart rendering. Cordoba was a nice way to end our stay in Southern Spain before moving onto the North East of Spain - Barcelona.

Posted by CJTaylor 11:29 Archived in Spain


View CJTaylors 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

We Took a train from Granada south and west to Ronda. Ronda is a small city in a rural area, and is famous for it's bridge - Puente Nuevo (or New Bridge). We stayed right in the old city at Hotel Ronda. In Ronda we went into an old Arab bathhouse, and down into an abandoned mine which was also used as a fort. The mine went right down into the canyon where turquoise water of the river ran through. We also went down the other side of the mountain to look at the waterfall and river running under the New Bridge. On the way down, we saw a snake winding through some cool damp rocks. To get down to the water, you needed to climb down some rocks using a rope tied to a tree. Chris did it but Jade was too scared and wasn't able to reach the rocks with her foot. The next day we went for a walk out into the country side, which was hot, sunny, dry and hilly. The road ran along small farms and we were impressed by the very old looking olive trees. Spanish olive oil is top stuff. We enjoyed a nice vegetable paella, and Chris ate a bulls tail. Unfortuantely, we had a bit of a stressful time, when we found out about a national transportation strike and were refused tickets at the train station to get to Cordoba. So for a day, there was no way out of Ronda unless you had your own car. Luckily we were able to stay an extra night at Hotel Ronda and then make our way to Cordoba.

Posted by CJTaylor 08:12 Archived in Spain


View CJTaylors 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

The bus trip from Madrid to Granada in the South of Spain (the Andalucia region) was very comfortable - Chris read Bill Bryson's Thunderbolt Kid and Jade read Colleen Mccullough's Thornbirds. When we arrived in Granada there were crowds of young people at the bus station and later it seemed as though it was the start of semester at the University of Granada. We took a local bus and then walked to our accommodation - Hostal Lima - where we would stay for 3 nights. The owners were proudly Spanish, and the hotel lavishly decorated - http://www.hostallimagranada.com/en/habitacioneshostallimagranada.php

The breakfasts there were very good and included gazpacho soup eaten with toasted bread roll slices and the most delectable olive oil. In Granada, we walked around the city, admired the Moorish architecture and gardens and enjoyed the warm weather. The main highlight of our visit was the Alhambra, a Moorish Palace taken by the Spanish Catholics in 1492. With the most beautiful gardens which contained thousands of roses and kilometres of open water aquaducts, and large goldfish in ponds. The Nasrid Palaces in the Alhambra were like walking into another world. In Granada, we also went the Monastary of Cartuja, built in the 14th century in a Baroque style. It contained paintings of monks with firearms, axes in their heads, and monks being dismembered. The church within the monastary was massive and highly ornate with large marble altars and fine wooden structures. The atmosphere there was quite heavy and somewhat sinister, with overtures to Spain's violent religious past. The area around the monastary was dry and dusty, and gave you the feeling that you could be in Mexico, on the look out for a Desparado. In Granada we also liked wandering around the tight, winding streets in the Moorish area where you can sample the hookah pipe.

Posted by CJTaylor 09:52 Archived in Spain


View CJTaylors 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

We took a train from Bordeaux to Madrid, stopping at the Basque town of Irun. The train went through the Pyrenees Mountains. We got into Madrid at 10pm, and took the easy to manage metro to our accommodation - Hostal America. One difference between France and Spain, is that the Spanish seem to be more laid back and less image concious. There is a cosmopolitan mix of people including a South American and Filippino population. The next day we looked around and did a walking tour. Chris got his beard trimmed and hair cut at the oldest barber in Madrid. Madrid has numerous brick buildings painted in yellow, orange and red filling the inner city. We found it strange at first getting used to the opening hours of busineses to take into account siesta. The busiest part of the day seems to be between 8pm and midnight. Jade quickly took to this lifestyle, having a siesta during the afternoon and then staying up until late. On our second day in Madrid we continued to explore the city, joining another walking tour, where we were shown bars that had been continually operating for over 150 years, and the old financial centre which boasts many grand 18th and 19th century government buildings. In the evening we went into the Prado museum (free after 6pm) which houses some of Spains best paintings including those of Goya. On our way back to our hotel, we walked through the main park in central Madrid, which is laid out in a series of formal gardens with many monuments throughout. The next day we headed to the bus station where we caught a bus south to Granada.

Posted by CJTaylor 09:39 Archived in Spain

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