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Spain - Part II

SPAIN | Thursday, 29 August 2013 | Views [626]

Happiest we were all day - Alhambra

Happiest we were all day - Alhambra

Seville

Given that we had pre-purchased tickets to the Alhambra in Granada with only a few days ahead to spare, our time in Seville was short.  We arrived early evening and were pleasantly surprised, again, by the location of our “hostel”.  I use quotes here because it was a very nice hotel room, located two blocks from the beautiful Giralda Church in the prime Barrio Santa Cruz neighborhood for a very very inexpensive price – not exactly a typical “hostel”. I did my research on this one, but damn, I’m good! 

Seville is the home of tapas, sangria and flamenco dancing.  We enjoyed much of the first two, but were unable to catch a flamenco show in our two brief nights.  We strolled around the first night, eating Bull’s tail (Toro) – the local delicacy (quite delicious!), in respect for the tradition of bull fighting here.  Bull heads are also in all the restaurants.  The other main event we missed was a bull fight – but neither of us are too broken up about that, as Chris’ brother reports it is pretty brutal!  The first real day was spent in the Giralda Church which is said to be an “icon of Gothic architecture” and the world’s largest cathedral.  It was stunning in both size and beauty! It also houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, which was pretty cool!  Our second day we spent some time in Alcazar Castle (which is a small version of the Alhambra, which we saw two days later) located in the same square as the church.  There is still a huge Moorish influence evident in Seville, and the Alcazar Castle is a good representation of the mosques and palaces that were present for centuries in the area.

Although we were warned repeatedly not to go to Seville in July or August due to the heat, we did seem to be acclimated somewhat better than most of the tourist we saw, as we were not melting quite as rapidly.  However, Jackson may have felt it a little more than Chris and I did, as he was quite cranky those two days compared to the week before. Or he might just be two.

Quick review: great Tapas and we would have loved to stay longer.

 

Granada

The only reason we went to Granada was for the Alhambra Palace – a 13th century structure with grounds and other buildings on site that date to the 11th century.  The area was Muslim controlled for 800 years and Granada was the capital of the Muslim world for much of that period, making the Palace the icon of political power and opulence.  Truly amazing and beautiful architecture – my pictures do it little justice.  So ornate and rich in design, with layers of color and texture. The day was somewhat marred by our failed attempts to have Jackson ride/sleep in the backpack carrier, as no backpacks were allowed inside the palace (no accidental brushing up against the 1000 year old hand-carved tiles that lined the walls, ceilings and sculptures). So he was held, for the entire 2+ hours we were inside (thanks to Chris, as Jackson wanted nothing to do with me holding him). 

The town of Granada was fine – we didn’t explore much as we were only there for 36 hours.  The one thing I enjoyed outside the Alhambra was a local graffiti artist who painted all over town, down alleyways, on overpasses and on every spare wall there was.  Very pretty murals and faces with a distinct style.  I never found out if he/she was “known” or viewed as a menace, but the art was fun to spot as we took busses, cabs or walked around town.

Now, out of this heat and to the beach…

 

Vera Playa

After several short hops through areas and a lot of travel, we decided to plant ourselves for a five days on a beach in southern Spain.  We picked Vera Playa outside of Almeria due to the lack of summer tourists and the laid back vibe.  The water was slightly warmer than Peniche, Portugal, making our beach days a little more enjoyable.  So nice to just relax again before we head on over to Barcelona.  We did just that, relax and nothing more, as there really isn’t anything to do in Vera Playa except lay in the sun.  Our condo complex had a nice pool, as well as one just for kids, which Jackson enjoyed.  The owner of our condo was very nice, and he and his girlfriend took us out to dinner in the neighboring village of Mojocar one night.  Great couple from Madrid who added a nice level of adult conversation to our child filled vacation.  Jackson really liked them too and would run up to meet them when he saw them around later in the week.  Rather than take the 11 hour bus from there to Barcelona and waste an entire day, we flew another short hop and landed in Barcelona in time to look around and have dinner – with one complication…

 

Barcelona

The flight was great, short and easy, with a 30 min cab ride to the beautiful flat we rented for the week. However, as we exited the cab, Chris’s phone hit the ground for its final time and was done!  We kept saying how much we were reliant on his phone for GPS, tracking bus schedules and keeping us and Jackson entertained at various times. We have even felt somewhat disappointed in ourselves that we could not have more freedom from this electronic device while on our extended vacation – we almost chose to leave it at home. But we really needed his phone! Our flat happened to be two blocks off of Paseo de Gracia, the major shopping area of town, and there was an Apple store about five blocks from us. I guess you could call it lucky (it could have happened in Ometepe, Nicaragua), other than we spent the rest of the day and half of the next getting a new phone and having it synched in with the Cloud.  My big issue was not with the phone, but with the flat itself.  Beautiful, open, remodeled, perfectly located… with deafening construction on the adjoining wall from 8am to 6pm. I love sleep, especially when my son is on a schedule where he is waking up at 10 each day and taking 2-3 hour naps in the afternoon.  Not possible, not even with earplugs.  And the worst part was feeling guilty for having searched so carefully for the perfect spot for Chris’ mother, Carol, to spend her one week with us only to not be able to sleep.   I searched the next morning for an acceptable alternative, but with such short notice there was none.  So, we both decided to let our issues with our entrance go and begin to enjoy the wonderful city of Barcelona.

Barcelona is fabulous!!! I would have loved to stay three weeks instead of one.  Everyone says it is all about the architecture, which frankly, neither Chris nor I have ever been that into while traveling.  But you just can’t escape the magic of Gaudi’s buildings and the general Modernista style throughout the city.  It’s breathtaking! We waited to see the sights until Carol arrived and acclimated a little to the time zone.

Our first day out with Carol we spent mostly in Guell Park, an experiment where Gaudi was commissioned to create an entire community for the wealthy filled with Dr. Suess-like homes, playful paths and gardens, and intricate mosaics.

Day two we took a double-decker tour bus around town to see what there was to see and decide the rest of our trip.  Not the best use of time, but a good way to rule out areas and get an idea of all there is in Barcelona. It was also nice to ride around instead of walking in the very hot city, as it is just too large to walk the entire thing.

Day three we went to Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s “masterpiece”: an ornate church that has been in construction for over 100 years and is estimated to go another 40 before completion.  There will eventually be 18 towers, but for now there are only a handful which look like melting candles from afar, but are detailed sculptures of religious meaning. The exterior is incredible, but the interior is also beautiful in its grandeur, having elevated this church to “basilica” status due to the extravagance and beauty.  Chris wrote: “Very inspired by the artistry, science and nature captured in this building and others by Gaudi”. Casa Batllo and La Padera by Gaudi were also beautiful and completely different in feel, as they were remodels to existing homes/apartments rather than his own creation from scratch. The amazing thing about Barcelona is that the city decided to beautify by hiring architects and artists to remodel certain buildings in the 1920’s. Since then, they have both modernized and continued the unique feel of the art by adding facades that are lovely, creating an entire city of beauty.

We spent a day going out to Figueres, a small town that is known for one thing – Salvador Dali.  We visited the Teatre-Musea Dali, in which he lived and is entombed, including viewing most of his life’s work. I wasn’t really a fan before, we went because Carol liked him, but I think I am now.  Most striking to me was Dali’s emphasis in his works of people being hard on the outside and soft and confused on the inside.  He used eggs and Spanish bread to represent this human feature.  His struggle with human unconscious was also quite profoundly represented in his work.  Overall a nice train ride out of the big city for the day.

We ate wonderful food, including black paella and tons of tapas.  Carol was kind enough to babysit a few nights, allowing Chris and I a few needed nights out on the town.  We went dancing two nights and met some nice people with whome we hope to stay in touch! We had a fabulous time with Carol, and were so happy to have her there to share our experience of Gaudi, Dali and Barcelona – and our bottle of port from Porto.  She left early our last day and we squeeked in one last sight - the Palau de la Musica Catelonia, where there are still intimate performances inside a concert hall filled with amazing mosaic and sculpture.  We are done with “Western” Europe for a month, but will be reentering when we go to Austria.  Off to Croatia…

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