Today we took a holiday from holidaying and it was awesome. We went for a morning run and then settled in for a day on the couch watching movies and TV shows. I’m sure my father will be very puzzled by this as his travel philosophy is to hit the ground running and see as much as you can, but it’s been almost 4 months without a proper couch day. Our next stop is Morocco for two weeks so we thought we’re best to make the most of the opportunity, because I’m sure we’ll find Morocco not so relaxing. We also realised it’s been almost 4 months since we’ve cleaned a bathroom or vacuumed a floor but surprisingly we’re not missing that as much. Matt left us yesterday to continue his holiday in London. We’re so glad that he came and joined us for the 3 weeks as we covered a heap of ground and laughed plenty. He did leave as the reigning champion of both Snap and Gin, although we’re not the best card players so it’s probably not a title worth boasting about.
Cordoba is a beautiful riverside town with oodles of history. It houses the Mezquita-Cathedral which began as a mosque in 785AD but after Christians captured Cordoba they tore down the centre of the building and built a cathedral. The result is so strange but so intriguing. The building has a large footprint and as you’ll see in the photos the area is covered in support pillars with brick arches and a low ceiling height. Once you reach the centre of the building though, the pillars stop and the ceiling climbs into the traditional cathedral style. One thing we really enjoyed was that we got to visit for free. They don’t advertise the fact, but if you arrive between 8:30am and 9:15am they’ll let you enter for free but then at 9:25am you’ll be ushered out to allow ticket holders to come through. At EUR8 each we were very happy with our saving.
Our accommodation in Cordoba was probably one of my favourite bits though. We had a 2 bedroom apartment right in the middle of the old town in a traditional style 2-storey building with a square courtyard in the centre. It was situated down a narrow laneway which only had pedestrian traffic, with the exception of the odd vespa that would use the lane as a shortcut. We had a big TV and a couch which came in handy as the Spanish Motogp race was on while we were there. Matt joined me to watch the race but Anna isn’t quite captivated by bike racing – well not yet anyway 🙂
You can’t visit Spain without going to a Flamenco show, so we took to the world wide web to find a show with a genuine feel. We had seen many places advertised that looked like a stage in the corner of a dingy bar but we were sure we could do better. TripAdvisor saved the day recommending a show that is held in the courtyard of a residential building with a small and quaint feel. We were a little worried when we arrived since we were pretty much the only patrons there and we were seated in the front row, but the venue soon filled up. With only a guitar player and a singer they created a fantastic sound using the dancers tapping as percussion. I think it’s one of the only times I’ve noticed where the band plays to the timing of the dancers and not the other way around. The show went for 90 mins and you could tell it was quite a workout for the 5 dancers. The costumes and choreographed stage stomping really made an impression.
Our journey to Seville was quick and we cannot fault the rail network here, as all of the trains were punctual and very comfortable. Upon arrival we had a 30 minute walk from the central station to our apartment which wasn’t too bad because we arrived before the heat of the day. I did feel a little for Matt though because he had a duffle bag so he couldn’t wheel his bag like us. I’m so glad we didn’t go for backpacker carry packs because we’ve been able to wheel them almost everywhere. The apartment here isn’t as flash as some of the others but worked out great value for the centre of Seville. In our time here we’ve checked out the Cathedral which is absolutely huge and we also visited the Alcazar which is a Moorish royal palace filled with gardens and mosaics. The cathedral also houses some of the remains of Christopher Columbus, although we did hear that it’s only about 150 grams. It sounds like on his death they chopped him up and spread his remains around all the different places he explored. Sounds a little morbid I think. The Alcazar was an incredibly photogenic place filled with courtyards, archways and beautiful mosaics. Anna was in heaven snapping away as we made our way through the palace and grounds. I think we spent double the time we thought we would because every room was so ornate and unique.
As most of you will have noticed food plays a large role in our adventure. Well to mix it up we thought that we would learn how to cook some dishes with the hope that we can reproduce them at some stage. We attended a cooking class last night where we made a traditional paella, gazpacho and spinach with chickpeas. I say “traditional” because there are some rules about paella that seem to be taken very seriously. The chef may have spent 10 minutes reinforcing these points… 1. Paella only has chicken and rabbit meat (definitely no seafood) 2. The rice should not be gluggy like risotto and 3. A true paella should have a crust that allows the pan to be tipped on its side without the contents shifting. Well the 6 students were all involved in the preparation and I’m pleased to say that the paella did in fact stay in the pan when tipped and it tasted oh-so-good. The class included sangria while we were cooking and a couple of glasses of wine while we ate dinner. It was great fun and we’re glad we got to try real paella. It takes about an hour to make and involves some time critical steps, so it wasn’t too surprising to learn that most of the tourist restaurants serve paella that was perviously prepared and frozen. We had one in Madrid and it definitely wasn’t the real deal.
After the course we went in search of some good locations for night shots. As we move further towards summer the night photography is becoming increasingly difficult as sunset is getting later and later. We went up the top of the Metropol Parasol or as the locals refer to it, the mushroom. This architectural art piece covers a large rectangular plaza providing shade and housing a marketplace below. It was quite controversial at the time of construction but we like it. It doesn’t pierce the skyline of the city and it’s different. Sometimes I’ve felt that the desire to maintain the historical aspects of the towns we’ve visited has prevented new styles from taking flight. Anna managed to get some good shots before the battery went flat. As the photographer’s assistant I guess that’s my bad.
So from here we’ll be on a bus tomorrow morning down to the southern tip of Spain where we’ll board a ferry to Morocco. We intended on staying in Spain for another month at which time we’d join my parents in France, but unfortunately my tourist visa only allows for 90 days within a 180 day period. So with 60 days already used, I need to save the remainder for time in France. Fortunately I worked this out sooner rather than later, but it means we had to change up the trip a little. I’m sure Morocco will be very interesting and we can’t wait to check it out.
Fail of the Week
I’m not too proud of this one. We went halves in a new Macbook Air for the trip and I accidentally knocked it off the side table the other day resulting in it crashing down on the tile floor. The crashing sound made me think it was going to be a write off but fortunately it still works. The plastic hinge piece has cracked so I may need to have that fixed at some stage. I wasn’t impressed with myself.
Meal of the Week
The paella was definitely the best of the week but our runner up prize goes to our homemade Double Bacon Cheeseburgers completed with Pineapple, Egg and of course Beetroot.
Our tips for touring Spain:
- The fast trains aren’t cheap but they’re the easiest way to get around. That being said, there’s no need to catch the early morning trains as the journeys are quick and the days are long.
- Try to book apartments instead of hotel rooms because the buildings themselves are impressive.
- Touristy things are expensive in Spain but look into free entry periods. Most places have them but sometimes they aren’t practical.
- Be prepared to eat late in the evening and don’t forget about siesta. The stores close from around 1pm-4pm and dinner can be hard to buy before 9pm.
- If you’re going to have paella make sure you check into whether the place makes it in the proper way. You can get ones with seafood that are made the proper way. Avoid frozen ones.
- Don’t be surprised when there’s no drinks menu, just wing it. You can always get Sangria.
Average spend for Spain was AU$112.67pp per night for everything except Disfrutar.