Granada was next on the list. Again purely for one reason and one reason only. The Alhambra.
I didn’t research or knew much about Granada other than that was where Alhambra garden was and Alhambra was something that was so fairy tale like and almost mythical when I started Architecture and studied history.
But we had a problem. I forgot to buy tickets in advance!! I kept thinking I need to but also kept forgetting so by the time we got to Granada I was very much stressed and was about to break down and cry. (really!) So the first thing we did when we checked in was to ask where to buy tickets and was told online tickets are sold out and we will have to try our luck early morning because they do release some at site every day. The horror!!!!
So next morning, we woke up virtually in the middle of the night… Left the hotel in the dark… The streets of Granada were completely empty, except for a lonely street cleaner spraying the cobblestones with water under the dim light of beautiful antique streetlights… A long, lonely walk up a steep hill, and finally, way before daylight hits the beautiful red-clay walls, we arrive at the ALHAMBRA!!! All of this, so we could be the first at the entrance because online tickets were sold out…. Proud as hell, we turn a corner to the ticket office……. there is a line of about hundred people!
We waited for nearly two hours and managed to get a limited access pass which meant we couldn’t go in to the Nasrid palace, guess we have to come back ;), but everything else was still pretty amazing. I will let the photos do the talking.
Where can I start? Seville in my head was different to Seville in front of my eyes. In my head it was this rugged farm lands with olive groves and small town with walls painted in mustard yellow. In reality it was a much bigger town. But when we went looking for accommodation, I was thrilled to find that we were yet again in other ‘old town’ area. It was amazing!!!!!
a little touristy at first with lot of eating places catering to that but nothing can beat walking in narrow paved paths with mustard yellow walls surrounding us.
There were 100 of little roads and we got lost. Really lost. And it was fun. A place we saw once we could almost never find again. 🙂 I could Live in that old town for a long long time. I loved it. And then there were tapas. (Drool) We ate so much tapas as main meals I have forgotten what main meals look like. They were amazing and every 5 minutes after walking you will come across eateries/ restaurants/ tapas bars and deciding where to eat was out biggest problem. 🙂
Main attractions in Seville include the Alcazar, with some saying it is more beautiful than the one in Alhambra, The Seville Cathedral, Metropol Parasol, Arena for bull fights,etc.. and even on a quiet day you will still have to stand in queue. So As we spent the first day walking around the town and appreciating the amazing architecture, the horse carts that are so unique to Seville and getting lost in the little streets we decided to leave out going inside the cathedral. Tough decision, I know but by this point we have been to so many cathedrals that were wonderful it didn’t feel appealing to wait in queue for hours to get into another.
Of course that didn’t mean we didn’t appreciate the cathedral from outside. We did day and night. 🙂 It was magical atmosphere around the Cathedral and the horse carts made it extra special. (Even though at some point I did feel sorry for the horses)
Then the next stop was the Metropol parasol or the Mushroom. 🙂 I was quite excited to see this as I couldn’t picture the structure I have seen in photos in actual Seville town. But when I went there it was surprisingly well done. I didn’t expect to like it as I have heard Sevillians do not particularly like the structure. I understand why. It is something very different and we did question ‘why is it here’? 🙂 But I am glad I made the effort to go see it. It was structurally beautiful and the views of seville from the top was even more beautiful.
Just as we got out of here it started pouring. We ran in to a local fish shop and had a drink while the rain stopped and called it a day. Next morning was the big day. Seeing the Alcazar. I really didn’t know what to expect but I was blown away. It was amazing.
The architecture, the details, patterns. landscaping, colours, paintings and I could go on. It is a must see. I’ll let the photos speak for itself.
After being awed by the Alcazar we did a night time walk around town. It was even more spectacular.
Next day we headed to the other side of the town, where there were less tourist and not as glamorous but just as interesting. Ate some chestnuts, some ice cream, walked in and out of a few shops and headed to the Bull fighting arena.
The day before it was the ‘final’ bull fight of the season and A was so eager to go. But I am not a fan of bull fights and will not stand and watch people kill animals so we skipped that. But as a peace offering to A we decided to take a tour of the arena. It was interesting. 😉
All this time we were looking for a place to see some flamenco. After all this is Seville. But everything we came across was either expensive or just for tourists. As much as we wanted to see a local performance, with the amount of tourists in the area we realised it was going to be impossible. So while I was browsing online to find some info I came across a blog by some one (sorry I forget your name) talking about a very low key place so we decided that night to go on search of that. So like I have mentioned before, the old town is a tricky place to navigate. But we did well. We got there and it was just a red door with the name Carboneria. We walked in with a bit of suspicion and someone let us in to see the back was a bigger area packed with people but with a dodgy look. 🙂 We got ourselves a drink, found some amazing people, met a friend for life and got a seat to see what this was all about.
It was definitely an interesting night with lots of fun. A good high to end our seville adventures.
Woke up in Barcelona.
First on the cards was a walk to La Ramblas. It’s the most talked about in Barcelona and I wanted to find out why. What’s so special. I saw. It’s a street that’s like the spinal cord. It’s wide with wide pavements in the middle where thousands of people walk up and down, where restaurants have their seating so people could watch people, where artists are at work while you watch in amazement, where many more narrow streets branching out and where strange people will offer you weed. 🙂
While walking we had one place in mind. La Boqueria. The oh so famous fresh food market. How we regretted having lunch before coming here. It was amazing! Food food and more food. you get stalls of colourful cups of fruit juices and fruit salad stacked up on ice, jamon hanging from ceiling or sliced up and ready to eat, empanada’s of all different shapes and colours, seafood bars where people just wait to be seated on stools and fresh seafood is made to order within the small stalls, then a whole world of fresh fruits and veggies and seafood!
After munching on a few things we got back on to Ramblas and headed straight to the waterfront passing beautiful old buildings and little streets adorn with bohemian fashion and decors. The next stop was the Barcelona cathedral. During our trip we got to see so many cathedrals and this was definitely one of the most beautiful ones and it was free! (surprise surprise) As soon as we got there it started pouring but that didn’t stop us from taking photos under an umbrella. 🙂
First day in Barcelona and it looked very promising.
We decided to dedicate our next day to Gaudi. What is Barcelona without Antonio Gaudi? However I will do that in the next post otherwise this is going to be too long. But worth mentioning is the best paella we had that night along the beach. Full of shellfish and big portions of food and sangria. In our happy place after the sangrias we ended up walking in the middle of the night in El Born and Barri Gotic, two neighbourhoods that are not the most safest to be walking at that time. But we had an amazing walk admiring the calmness except for the occasional drunk men out and about and seeing a whole new side of Barcelona when everything had stopped.
Next morning we did a little day trip to Monserrat, which will also be another post. But once we got back to we walked from Plaza Espanya towards Font Magica de Monjuic or magic fountains for the night show that is not to be missed. Along the way we stopped at a few beautiful buildings and one of them was Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. The Fountain area was already full of people when we got there and there was so much happening. When the show started, really late it was amazing. What a way to end the day.
Last day In Barcelona was the best. We started off at Arc de Triomp and then a walk in Barri Gotic and El Born during day. They are undoubtedly my favourite areas in Barcelona. A little dirty, a little dodgy but full of character and full of things to see and do. Along the way we sampled everything chocolate and pastries, chatted to wonderfully friendly shop owners, watched some outdoor performances by some cool guys, witnessed a wedding at another beautiful cathedral, a peak at Picasso Museum and a taste of artsy culture. In the evening we hired bikes and rode through the tiny streets ringing the bell every two minutes and along the waterfront all the way to barceloneta beach, had a few cocktails and rode back and ended the day and our trip to Barcelona in such a high!
Travel tip – Hiring a bike is a must do when in Barclona. Anyone can do it as the streets are full of riders and is safe. We got our bikes from a place called Green Bikes and they are friendly and flexible. Only 3 euros an hour and their bikes are pretty good.
You are going to be spoiled for choices when it comes to food in Barcelona. But don’t eat at La Ramblas. You are going to be another one of those tourists then. 🙂
An hour away from Madrid is Toledo, a UNESCO world heritage site that is an amazing example of cultural co-existence between the Christians, Muslims and Jewish. It is the most popular day trip from Madrid and the old city of Toledo is on a mountaintop surrounded by the Tagus river. The photo below is not mine (http://madridenjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/toledo1.jpg) but I thought it will give you a better idea of the overall picture of why it is a beautiful place. We did try to get this photos but we didn’t have time as it is a fair bit of travelling away from the city.
Old city of Toledo is relatively small and you can pretty much walk through the whole thing within the day if you are pretty fit. 🙂 It is a place full of beautiful old buildings and architecture from different cultures and tiny streets between buildings and surprise surprise there are cars and taxis that manoeuvre their way in those tiny (I mean tiny) streets. Of course the people who are walking has to either get out of the way by walking quickly to a bigger street or crawl into a doorway or something. There are lot of places of interest such as the Cathedral, Alcazar, Plaza Zocodover, El Greco Museum, etc.. I am not going to say much because there are lots of photos and they will hopefully speak for themselves. 🙂
So many beautiful doors and details everywhere.
Travel Tip – It is a beautiful place no doubt but because it is easy to reach and is on every online guide and tourist brochure it is full of tourists. So try avoid going on weekends. Also don’t try to go inside every attraction as pretty much all of them charge a fee to enter. Walking around and looking at somethings from outside is as nice. 🙂
When we were trying to decide where to go for our next big adventure, we were tossing up between a few countries and then I put my foot down and decided on Spain & Portugal. (ok maybe I exaggerated a little bit there ;))
And then after 4 months of planning and a 25 hour plane ride later we were in Madrid. After finding our hotel and leaving our backpacks we stepped out to the streets of Madrid.
After just two minutes of walking we found plenty of cobble stone streets, cute restaurants with chairs and tables out on the street and jamon hanging off the ceilings and people chatting and getting ready for the lunch rush. We decided to first get some food so wandered in to a restaurant which had ‘Paella Marisco’ on their chalk board menu but it was empty. We knew before coming here that in Spain people don’t have lunch until well past 1pm. And we were a little bit early. The guy behind the bar was nice and asked us to have a seat but food won’t be ready till 1. We were fine with that and I ordered the paella and a sangria while A ordered jamon tostadas with a beer. We saw tostadas in every lunch menu and they were pretty much slices of toasted bread with thinly sliced cured meat.
Then we excitedly waited for our first taste of Spain.
Then we headed back for a nap to get rid of jet-lag (unsuccessfully) and started wandering again at night. It was a different sight. The streets were completely taken over by people. We walked to Puerta de sol (Gate of the sun) one of the most known and busiest squares in Madrid. People were everywhere. There were dancers, footballers, magicians and sellers. It was somewhat overwhelming but exciting at the same time. Next stop Gran via, the street known as the Spanish Broadway. It was big. Architecture, lights, shopping, food, people, cars, all in one place. It was a shoppers paradise. From there we moved onto Plaza Mayor, where grand buildings stood on all four sides making this one of the biggest squares I’ve seen, Yet it was much calmer than Sol, maybe it was late at night. Still it had a very real european feeling with restaurants on all sides and seating out in the open.
Day 2 in Madrid started with a walking tour. We decided to do a free walking tour just to get a glimpse of the city, to know the places we might not go otherwise. This turned out to be a good idea. We started from Plaza Mayor and went to the ‘square of the closed gate’, the oldest restaurant, Plaza de La villa, Catedral de La Almudena, Palacio Real de Madrid, Plaza Oriente and finished off at Plaza de Isabel II or the Opera Square.
After the walk we decided to venture on our own towards the Art district which turned out to be quite different from the Madrid we have seen so far. It was big and clean with less tourists and felt more like a CBD in a western country of course except for the amazing architecture that are centuries old. First we headed towards Reina Sofia Museum, after being inspired by the works of Picasso, Salvador Dali and many alike we headed to the Prada Museum. It is Spain’s main National Museum and home to some of the finest collections. And not surprisingly there was a massive line. It was too long to wait to get in for us so we decided to take a photo of the line, say hello to the museum and move on.
And move on we did. We spent an amazing Autumn evening in Retiro Park.The park was full of colours, sun was ready to set and the weather was beautiful. What better way could you end a day? Walk around the park, a quick look at the crystal palace just before it closed and ended the day sitting in a cafe near the lake, sipping coffee, watching people and writing postcards. The park was full of colours, sun was ready to set and the weather was beautiful. What better way could you end a day? Walk around the park, a quick look at the crystal palace just before it closed and ended the day sitting in a cafe near the lake, sipping coffee, watching people and writing postcards.
On our way back we came across the Puerta de Alcala. The light was perfect for some amazing shots. Dinner was at Mercado San Miguel. I have no photos for proof. But it’s something you have to do. There are lot of options. Buy some tapas with all sorts of fillings, a nice big glass of sangria and… The End. 🙂
Travel tip – Madrid is full of tourists and even more tourist traps when it comes to eating and drinking. Have meals at their times. Lunch after 1pm and dinner after 8pm. Always stay away from restaurants and bars near major sights and wander into the little streets. A tip we got from a local, if there are english menu’s, if there are signs saying’ we speak english’ or if there are photos of the dishes in the menu, especially paella, run! 🙂
Everyone these days talk about the travel bug. Or maybe I hear it more because it’s in my head. I didn’t know about this bug until a few years ago. Or at least wasn’t conscious about it. I have always wanted to travel. Ever since I remember. See the world, talk in different languages, eat all types of food, meet people from other countries. I think i got that from my father. And was lucky to go a few places when I was a kid. But growing up in Sri Lanka, backpacking around Europe was not a thing. I never have heard about it in my late teens. Internet wasn’t that big 10 years ago in Sri Lanka.
The biggest exposure and influence I had was discovery channel and its three travel shows. Lonely Planet, Travellers and Intimate Escapes. I was addicted.I dreamt about doing what they do. Grown up, and travelling the world for a living. A new place every time. Fancy hotels, or not. Fancy meals, or not. But I didn’t know how to make it happen.
Then life got in the way.
As a student in Sri Lanka you will never be able to make enough money to travel. (ok maybe never say never) We didn’t have part time jobs, if we did have any job at all that would have been barely enough to travel from home to school let alone to a different country. So there goes the early 20s as well. Moving to a western country, even though was a big step in itself, definitely opened up a lot of possibilities. Everyone you worked with from school kids to proper adults have been to Europe, going to Europe or planning their future trip to Europe. It was a thing. Backpacking around the world was a thing. They have around the world tickets!
This brought back the bug in me. I can actually do this now. But then came the phase of ‘oh I don’t have the money’, ‘oh but I need to save for next years semester fees’ and so on.
It took loosing a job, a declining savings account and a best friend who was ready to do anything to jump into action. And so finally I went to Europe. It was one of the best decisions I made in my very confused life time.
Getting back home I hardly had any money. As a graduate it took the next few years to build things back.Now with my husband we have done our second trip to Europe. We may have started late, but like the wise man once said, its never too late. 🙂
The world is waiting for us to come see it.
p.s – I have about 2,000 photos in my library waiting to be sorted out so I apologise for the next few weeks when I start the photo overload. Or maybe not! 😉
Seafood paella for lunch, tapas for dinner, churros with chocolate for a mid night snack and sangria all day.
When in Spain do as the spaniards do.
That’s right, we are in Spain!! 🙂
This has been almost 4months in planning and it’s happening right now. We started off in Madrid and working our way from there. Of course knowing me I have tons of photos accumulated already, but have to wait till we get home to put them up.
It’s a little dream come true. Just the two of us and our backpacks walking the cobble stone streets of Spain. 🙂