Search for  Spain-Portugal  found 34 posts
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Oct 6, 2015, Tuesday
Off to the Iberian peninsula    Madrid, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 6, 2015, Tuesday
Oct 7, 2015, Wednesday
Plaza de Matute, Madrid    Madrid, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 7, 2015, Wednesday
Oct 8, 2015, Thursday
Madrid Eats    Madrid, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 8, 2015, Thursday
Oct 9, 2015, Friday
Madrid Errands    Madrid, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 9, 2015, Friday
Oct 10, 2015, Saturday
Toledo    Spain, Spain-Portugal Toledo  
Oct 10, 2015, Saturday
Oct 11, 2015, Sunday
Shopping and Art in Madrid    Madrid, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 11, 2015, Sunday
Oct 12, 2015, Monday
Adios Madrid, Hola Granada    Granada, Spain-Portugal Spain  
Oct 12, 2015, Monday
Oct 13, 2015, Tuesday
Granada    Granada, Spain-Portugal Spain  
Oct 13, 2015, Tuesday
Oct 14, 2015, Wednesday
The Alhambra    Granada, Spain-Portugal Spain  
Oct 14, 2015, Wednesday
Oct 15, 2015, Thursday
Tres manifestaciones    Granada, Spain-Portugal Spain  
Oct 15, 2015, Thursday
Oct 15, 2015, Thursday
Granada to Ronda    Ronda, Granada, Spain-Portugal Spain  
Oct 15, 2015, Thursday
Oct 16, 2015, Friday
Ronda    Spain-Portugal Ronda  
Oct 16, 2015, Friday
Oct 17, 2015, Saturday
Ronda    Spain-Portugal Ronda  
Oct 17, 2015, Saturday
Oct 18, 2015, Sunday
Ronda to Tarifa    Spain, Spain-Portugal Tarifa  
Oct 18, 2015, Sunday
Oct 19, 2015, Monday
Reminded of my good fortune    Spain, Tangier, Spain-Portugal Tarifa  
Oct 19, 2015, Monday
Oct 19, 2015, Monday
The Kasbah    Tangier, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 19, 2015, Monday
Oct 20, 2015, Tuesday
La Tangerina    Spain-Portugal Tangier  
Oct 20, 2015, Tuesday
Oct 20, 2015, Tuesday
Tarifa again    Spain, Spain-Portugal Tarifa  
Oct 20, 2015, Tuesday
Oct 21, 2015, Wednesday
Adios Tarifa    Spain, Spain-Portugal Tarifa  
Oct 21, 2015, Wednesday
Oct 21, 2015, Wednesday
Arrival in Seville    Seville, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 21, 2015, Wednesday
Oct 22, 2015, Thursday
Seville    Seville, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 22, 2015, Thursday
Oct 23, 2015, Friday
Driving to Marvao    Portugal, Marvao, Spain, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 23, 2015, Friday
Oct 24, 2015, Saturday
Castelo de Marvão    Portugal, Marvao, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 24, 2015, Saturday
Oct 25, 2015, Sunday
The Road to Portagem    Hike, Portugal, Marvao, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 25, 2015, Sunday
Oct 25, 2015, Sunday
Castelo de Vide    Portugal, Marvao, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 25, 2015, Sunday
Oct 26, 2015, Monday
Marvao to Evora    Portugal, Evora, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 26, 2015, Monday
Oct 27, 2015, Tuesday
Evora    Portugal, Evora, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 27, 2015, Tuesday
Oct 28, 2015, Wednesday
Evora Cathedral    Portugal, Evora, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 28, 2015, Wednesday
Oct 29, 2015, Thursday
Tchau Evora    Portugal, Evora, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 29, 2015, Thursday
Oct 29, 2015, Thursday
Olá Lisbon    Portugal, Lisbon, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 29, 2015, Thursday
Oct 30, 2015, Friday
Sintra    Sintra, Portugal, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 30, 2015, Friday
Oct 31, 2015, Saturday
Wandering in Lisbon    Portugal, Lisbon, Spain-Portugal  
Oct 31, 2015, Saturday
Nov 1, 2015, Sunday
Adeus Portugal    Portugal, Lisbon, Spain-Portugal  
Nov 1, 2015, Sunday
Dec 19, 2015, Saturday
Iberia Notes    Spain-Portugal  
Dec 19, 2015, Saturday
 
 
 

Off to the Iberian peninsula

 
October 6, 2015   Madrid, Spain-Portugal
 
 

Im heading for Spain. Well, no, actually Im back home on rainy Vancouver Island, but Im posting as if I'm travelling to Spain, using notes and photos. So here goes.

Our plan: fly to Madrid, spend a few days in Madrid, then head south through Andalusia, west through Portugal, and then, four weeks later, end up in Lisbon.

The worst part of travel is of course flying. At least between books and movies and meals and sleeping and drinking the time on a plane passes quickly, if not forgetfully. Today I watched an HBO show and part of a movie. I couldn't hear most of the dialog. There were three trips through security, each different. The US I think has the most border security layers. Newark security featured a photo-based control which I think I failed as I got extra questioning. Newark airport is terrible, worse than Dulles: no signage, no maintenance, horrible food selection, it looks like a dump. I read a Ben Marcus short story and Rick Steves and then I started an Othello audio book. I popped a calming pill on the last leg, Newark to Madrid. Too snug, too far back in the plane, I started thinking there is no place to land between Newark and Madrid. I started a recent Helen Mirren movie. I fell asleep.

 
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Madrid to Lisbon      
 
Madrid to Lisbon      
 
Madrid to Lisbon      
https://jamesgaston.ca/342
 
 

Plaza de Matute, Madrid

 
October 7, 2015   Madrid, Spain-Portugal
 
 

Our flight arrived Madrid an hour early, 9 am. We took the express bus to Atocha station, which is near the apartment and museums. A transit station that's in a great neighborhood.

Next we walked ten blocks to the Apartments Las Letras, on Plaza de Matute. We are there by 11 and check in. A bored young woman sat at the hotel desk. The apartment was disappointing and, we'll discover, will tie for worst with the hotel in Evora. The window opened to a light shaft and the sound of jackhammers. The rooms were run down. The couch looked retro stylish like it was pulled from a '55 Cadillac, but small and hard and uncomfortable. No comfortable place to sit. The bathroom was modern and light though the toilet seat was loose, which we found to be a chronic problem among our choices of accommodations. There was also a sign warning no tp in the toilet. Great location though. Cafes, museums, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, all are just blocks away on pretty car-free or car-controlled streets.

After a rest we walked to a cafe for churros and coffee then explored the nearby squares. Dinner was pizza and pasta at a cafe nearby.

 
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Madrid      
 
Madrid      
 
Madrid      
 
Madrid      
 
Madrid      
 
Madrid      
 
Meat cones      
 
Meat cones      
 
Meat cones      
 
Jamon is the national meat      
 
Jamon is the national meat      
 
Jamon is the national meat      
 
Atocha station      
 
Atocha station      
 
Atocha station      
https://jamesgaston.ca/335
 
 

Madrid Eats

 
October 8, 2015   Madrid, Spain-Portugal
 
 

Today's pictures are all about food because today was largely about food though there was also art and murder and mayhem. But I've only pics of food.

We started our first full day in Madrid by getting out of the somewhat depressing apartment to do Rick Steves' Madrid walk. Steves is good at hitting the major sites and sharing his thoughts though as I learn more I don't always agree with some of his choices.

As we approach each site we stop to look around and then read the text. While we'd already seen two, Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor, as they are just short blocks from the apartment, we revisited them to learn more about their history. And there is a lot of history here, under foot and all around. It's the same story we will hear over and over again, Visigoths, Moors, Christians, battles, inquisition, torture, heathens made to convert, Jews killed, blah, blah, blah, the oh-too-familiar story of humans behaving badly. In fact, the same story is still playing today.

Along the walk we purchased a bag of simple cookies (10€) from the cloistered nuns at the convent of Corpus Christi. You ring a bell, are buzzed in, then wander until you find an old wooden lazy Susan embedded in a wall. No one speaks English - more common in Spain than in Portugal, we will find - but somehow we managed to place an order. The cookies were simple and a bit dry.

Lunch is at a great find, the wonderful but super crowded tapas market Mercado de San Miguel. A gold star to Rick Steves for including this place.

The highlight this afternoon was seeing the room-filling ominous Guernica at the Reina Sofia, one of Madrid's big three museums. It is across the street from Atocha station. While there we also saw a number of works from artists such as Dali, Picasso and Miro.

 
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Pastries      
 
Pastries      
 
Pastries      
 
Meat and wine      
 
Meat and wine      
 
Meat and wine      
 
Olives at tapas bar      
 
Olives at tapas bar      
 
Olives at tapas bar      
 
Mercado de San Miguel tapas      
 
Mercado de San Miguel tapas      
 
Mercado de San Miguel tapas      
 
Ring bell 4 cloisterd nuns' cookies      
Ring the bell, wait to be buzzed in, wander over to the window, then buy some ok cookies.
 
Ring bell 4 cloisterd nuns' cookies      
Ring the bell, wait to be buzzed in, wander over to the window, then buy some ok cookies.
 
Ring bell 4 cloisterd nuns' cookies      
Ring the bell, wait to be buzzed in, wander over to the window, then buy some ok cookies.
https://jamesgaston.ca/333
 
 

Madrid Errands

 
October 9, 2015   Madrid, Spain-Portugal
 
 

I know, I was in Madrid and should've been hanging at patisseries, which are everywhere, but instead my desayuno was nuns' cookies chased by a couple of cappuccinos from the little red machine down the hall which made a surprisingly good drink for 0.80€.

Today was spent shopping and walking. We walked through the Corte Ingles at Puerta del Sol. A huge department store, they've a building with nothing but shoes. There was a line of people waiting patiently to enter the Apple store next door. Border security, err, Apple security managed the crowd with calm competence. I think they were only letting beautiful people into the store.

We walked to Atocha station to pick up train tickets for tomorrow's trip to Toledo. On the way back we walked down the street of outdoors stores. Reminded me of the outdoors stores in Vancouver, all grouped around the giant MEC on Broadway. A pair of pants at Barrabas caught my eye...

Dinner was tapas and paella at Taberna el Arco on Huertas 7, about a five minute walk from the apartment. The only complaint I've got with Madrid is the apartment, and fortunately the weather and city are such we have little reason to be there.

 
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Plaza de Jacinto Benavente      
 
Plaza de Jacinto Benavente      
 
Plaza de Jacinto Benavente      
 
City Hall with refugees welcome banner      
 
City Hall with refugees welcome banner      
 
City Hall with refugees welcome banner      
 
Puerta del Sol      
 
Puerta del Sol      
 
Puerta del Sol      
https://jamesgaston.ca/338
 
 

Toledo

 
October 10, 2015   Spain, Spain-Portugal, Toledo
 
 

Toledo is a Spanish hill town with a long history which of course is not exactly a unique offering in this part of the world. It is beautifully preserved. Being a 30-minute train ride from Atocha Toledo is very popular with day trippers. Rick Steves says stay overnight, and perhaps he is right.

That said, we were glad when the time came to catch the 20:20 back to Madrid. The crowds of selfie-snapping tourists made us feel claustrophobic. I'm not sure there is anything, well maybe the El Grecos, that you can't get in another Spanish city. All that Toledo offers is more tourists per square meter.

Dinner was tacos and pisco sours at the wonderful El Estribito Chil-mex in Madrid, not Toledo.

 
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Toledo was crowded      
 
Toledo was crowded      
 
Toledo was crowded      
 
Toledo cathedral      
 
Toledo cathedral      
 
Toledo cathedral      
https://jamesgaston.ca/337
 
 

Shopping and Art in Madrid

 
October 11, 2015   Madrid, Spain-Portugal
 
 

Our last full day in Madrid. I really like Madrid. I found the historic center where we stayed, the oldest narrowest most touristy area, felt pretty relaxed. Thanks perhaps to some combination of buildings, plazas on almost every corner, few cars, and countless cafes.

Today we walked through wall-to-wall people at the street market, el Rastro, which snakes along several blocks on several streets. Along the way I stopped at Barrabas to buy a pair of pants; I bought them for their warm tan color.

Later, the Prado. The block-long line to get in is worth it, it's a huge beautiful museum, but best to have a strategy. I didn't, still I remember enjoying the opportunity to see works by Velasquez, Bosch, and Goya.

For dinner, delicious little works of art at the tapas restaurant around the corner VI Cool.

 
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Street musicians      
 
Street musicians      
 
Street musicians      
 
El Rastro, Madrid street market      
 
El Rastro, Madrid street market      
 
El Rastro, Madrid street market      
 
El Rastro, Madrid street market      
 
El Rastro, Madrid street market      
 
El Rastro, Madrid street market      
 
Madrid city hall      
 
Madrid city hall      
 
Madrid city hall      
 
Madrid      
 
Madrid      
 
Madrid      
 
Prado museum      
 
Prado museum      
 
Prado museum      
https://jamesgaston.ca/339
 
 

Adios Madrid, Hola Granada

 
October 12, 2015   Granada, Spain-Portugal, Spain
 
 

Our last morning in Madrid and breakfast is two eighty-cent sweet machine-made cappuccinos plus the last of the nun cookies. Yum. I'm happy to leave this apartment but sad to leave Madrid. Add Madrid to list of return-to's.

As we walked to Atocha station the streets are dead. Too dead. Then we see them. Zombies? No, cops, then officers and soldiers, jeeps and tanks. This is either a parade or a coup.

What an idiot I am, today is Hispanic Day (Da de la Hispanidad) or National Day (Fiesta Nacional de Espaa), a national holiday commemorating the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas. They are celebrating finding us.

No time to watch, unfortunately. We've a train to catch. The train to Granada - well, almost to Granada - is fast, as fast as 301 km per hr according to the readout over the door. And of course it's smooth and so much more comfortable than a plane. Just short of Granada, about an hour short if by car, we stopped at a new station in the middle of nowhere where we got off the train and got on a bus for the final one-hour leg. While not as comfortable the bus did have free wifi. The train tracks are being upgraded to handle the high-speed trains and are expected to be done by the end of the year.

Once in Granada, we walk to the hotel, stopping along the way for lunch at a cafe in a cafe-lined square. Looks like Granada is following the pattern set by Madrid, with square after square, cafe after cafe. Life is tough in Spain.

The hotel, Arte Vida Suites & Spa, turned out to be our favorite of the trip. Several pictures are included below. Arte Vida is quiet, roomy, and perfectly placed in the center of town. Our apartment had several rooms with comfortable places to sit, a big bathroom, even a washing machine. Perfect. The friendly lady at the desk even got us tickets for Alhambra.

We walk around town, to Plaza Nueva and then along the rio Darro that runs below the Alhambra. Lots of young people out as this is a university town. Heading back, we hear firecrackers then music then encounter a parade of solemn men and women, then a band, then a religious procession and a float and incense. Probably the same Hispanic Day celebration we saw setting up in Madrid.

 
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Granada      
 
Granada      
 
Granada      
 
View from train, Madrid to Granada      
 
View from train, Madrid to Granada      
 
View from train, Madrid to Granada      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Plaza Nueva      
 
Plaza Nueva      
 
Plaza Nueva      
 
Plaza Nueva      
 
Plaza Nueva      
 
Plaza Nueva      
 
Carrera del Darro      
 
Carrera del Darro      
 
Carrera del Darro      
 
Door      
 
Door      
 
Door      
 
October 12 festival      
 
October 12 festival      
 
October 12 festival      
 
October 12th festival      
 
October 12th festival      
 
October 12th festival      
https://jamesgaston.ca/340
 
 

Granada

 
October 13, 2015   Granada, Spain-Portugal, Spain
 
 

Breakfast quickly becomes routine: two cappuccinos, both of which I drink, plus a pastry at Cafe Lisboa on Plaza Nueva where one of the waiters brings to mind Javier Bardem. Afterwards we head to the ticket office to pick up Alhambra tickets, but after a bit of a wait we find they only release Ticketmaster tickets. We'll have to get ours at the gate tomorrow.

Next, we stop by the TI to inquire about transport to Ronda. The TI recommends the train. Good. I'd take a train even if it the bus is cheaper and shorter. So of course now we walk to the train station to purchase tickets.

So far, most people we've encountered in Spain speak some English. In all cases, their English is better than my Spanish, since my Spanish is based on three years in middle school and decades of neglect ever since. A 128-day Duolingo streak hasn't brought it back.

After a bit of shopping - I've eyes on a pair of shoes that for some reason make me think of Doctor Who - we hike up to the viewpoint at the top of the Alcicyn neightborhood. Supposedly a dicey neighborhood at night, it seems perfectly wonderful on a sunny day. Windy narrow streets, staircases, a residential neighborhood with many sunny gardens and the impressive Alhambra as backdrop.

Dinner at Tagine Elvira. Good and cheap.

 
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Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Arte Vida Suites      
 
Colorful and detailed      
 
Colorful and detailed      
 
Colorful and detailed      
 
The Alhambra seen from Albaicin      
 
The Alhambra seen from Albaicin      
 
The Alhambra seen from Albaicin      
 
The Alhambra seen from Albaicin      
 
The Alhambra seen from Albaicin      
 
The Alhambra seen from Albaicin      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
Flamenco demonstration      
 
Flamenco demonstration      
 
Flamenco demonstration      
https://jamesgaston.ca/341
 
 

The Alhambra

 
October 14, 2015   Granada, Spain-Portugal, Spain
 
 

After cappuccino and pastry at Cafe Lisboa, we kill the morning until it's time to start walking to the Alhambra. Our tickets are for noon entry and we figure no more than thirty minutes to walk up the hill from the hotel.

The Alhambra requires some planning since tickets are limited. If you know the date you want to visit, morning or afternoon, and the time during this period you want to enter the palaces then buy ahead of time via Ticketmaster.

The Alhambra is big. It combines flower-filled gardens, fountains and pools and troughs of water, Moorish and Christian palaces, and on top of all this, there's also a fort. The whole is a mix of Moorish and Christian architecture set on a hilltop overlooking Granada. It's one pretty spot after another.

 
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Cathedral      
 
Cathedral      
 
Cathedral      
 
Segways are popular      
 
Segways are popular      
 
Segways are popular      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
 
The Alhambra      
https://jamesgaston.ca/343
 
 

Tres manifestaciones

 
October 15, 2015   Granada, Spain-Portugal, Spain
 
 

I am writing this on November 13 with the grim news from Paris in the background. Hard to focus on light comments to accompany vacation snaps.

So back to Spain, where it is 15 de octubre...

Paul and I had one last breakfast at Cafe Lisboa. Two cappuccinos and a pastry of some kind, always different and always delicious. Paul ordered something more substantial. We checked out of the wonderful hotel and started the walk to the train station.

Along the way we encounter not one, not two, but three demonstrations. Cool. The first, in Isabella square, was small. It's the group holding red stop signs. The second was largest of the three, and it looked like all seniors. I've no idea what they are demonstrating about so I applied google translate to their text, "Por una tributacion justa para las pensiones de los emigrantes retornados" which gave "A fair taxation for pensions of the returnees". Following up with a little searching I think they are calling for a change in the tax applied to foreign pension income and of course I've no opinion on this, I'm just reporting.

The third was a demonstration by Peta. Ha, just kidding, it was the students at one of the local colleges dressed up as some cow/cowboy hybrid. Lots of college students in Granada.

 
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Demonstration      
 
Demonstration      
 
Demonstration      
 
Students as cow/cowboy hybrid      
 
Students as cow/cowboy hybrid      
 
Students as cow/cowboy hybrid      
https://jamesgaston.ca/349
 
 

Granada to Ronda

 
October 15, 2015   Ronda, Granada, Spain-Portugal, Spain
 
 

Today we walked to the Granada train station, picked up a couple of sandwiches, and boarded the train bus. The train's out at the moment, they are upgrading the track. Half way to Ronda, in Antequera, we transferred from the bus to the train. Once we arrived in Ronda we bought our tickets for the Sunday train to Algeciris then walked across the newer town to the old town.

We walked from the train station to the center of the city. Not a notable walk, just a gradual uphill through a typical Spanish town. But soon we hit a large square overlooking the 100-meter-deep El Tajo gorge which is quite something. The gorge is spanned by an old stone bridge, the Puente Nuevo (it's called the new bridge, curiously). On the other side of the bridge is the oldest part of the city, our destination.

Our apartment, at La Colegiata de Ronda (Plaza Duquesa Parcent, 14) turned out to be a roomy, comfortable, and complete apartment with a friendly proprietor. The apartment spans several rooms on the top-floor. It has open-beamed ceilings, a kitchen with washing machine, couch, chairs, and beautiful woodwork throughout. The small, deep windows gave geranium-bordered scenes of a tree-filled square. Comfortable and picturesque and located right in the middle of the old town, what more can you ask. The apartment is next to the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Mayor Ronda. Of course it's all rich with history, with many stories of locals fighting off the insurgents down in the valley below.

After checking in we walked back over the bridge to the newer part of town. I bought some socks (poor packing) then we checked out the grocery stores. Dinner was delicious tapas at el Lechuguita. 10€ got us 9 tapas plus wine and beer. Their signature dish is a quarter head of lettuce with a secret sauce and it really was good. We came back later in the week and ordered it again. The place is crowded with locals, many having to stand as the tables and stools are few. We capped off the evening by a walk around town then back to the apartment for a glass of wine. Or two.

 
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Next stop Ronda      
 
Next stop Ronda      
 
Next stop Ronda      
 
We changed trains between Granada and Ronda      
 
We changed trains between Granada and Ronda      
 
We changed trains between Granada and Ronda      
 
New bridge to old town      
 
New bridge to old town      
 
New bridge to old town      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
Our hotel, La Colegiata de Ronda      
We rented a one-bedroom apartment off a quiet square in the old town.
 
Our hotel, La Colegiata de Ronda      
We rented a one-bedroom apartment off a quiet square in the old town.
 
Our hotel, La Colegiata de Ronda      
We rented a one-bedroom apartment off a quiet square in the old town.
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
 
La Colegiata de Ronda      
https://jamesgaston.ca/344
 
 

Ronda

 
October 16, 2015   Spain-Portugal, Ronda
 
 

When the first humans settled in Ronda they were drawn to it because it is an easily defensible place. It's almost completely surrounded by rocky cliffs as much as 100 meters high. This was successful, Ronda fended off all attackers, but only until their Achilles heel was discovered, their source of water. Lack of water made Ronda surrender.

Today, of course, Ronda's invaders are tourists. Ronda offers a comfortable combination of touristy and real. The city is clean and well maintained and takes advantage of it's beauty and history. Broad paths track along the cliffs, plus there are paths down to the valley below.

The small, historic old town connects to the newer and larger part of the town via a centuries-old stone Puente Nuevo (new bridge). This bridge was built over the period 1751 to 1793 so it is new only in relation to the other two bridges in town which are far older, the Puente Romano (Roman bridge) and the Puente Viejo (old bridge).

In addition to the cliffs and the bridges, there are attractions such as Moorish baths; Spain's oldest bull fighting ring; and churches and squares and well-priced restaurants. The bull fighting ring is still in use and attractive. Ronda is quite romantic and not without a hint of danger. You can't help think it would all come tumbling down were there an earthquake. But not a bad place to be should there be a zombie apocalypse.

 
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View from old town      
 
View from old town      
 
View from old town      
 
A city square      
 
A city square      
 
A city square      
 
Cafes      
 
Cafes      
 
Cafes      
 
El Lechuguita, tapas restaurant      
 
El Lechuguita, tapas restaurant      
 
El Lechuguita, tapas restaurant      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Puente Nuevo      
 
Puente Nuevo      
 
Puente Nuevo      
 
Plaza de toros de Ronda      
Spain's oldest bullfighting ring
 
Plaza de toros de Ronda      
Spain's oldest bullfighting ring
 
Plaza de toros de Ronda      
Spain's oldest bullfighting ring
https://jamesgaston.ca/345
 
 

Ronda

 
October 17, 2015   Spain-Portugal, Ronda
 
 

We spent the morning walking around town and then hiked down to the bottom of the gorge. The gorge is the source of the town's safety, it's walls are formidable, but the gorge is its weakness as it is the town's source of water.

By afternoon the weather turned to rain so we pulled out rain gear and walked over to the Museo Joaquin Peinado. Peinado was a contemporary of Picasso and was influenced by him, especially in his cubist work and still lives. Which was great because I love Picasso. The museum is in the light and spare Moctezuma Palace.

Lots of shops with reasonably-priced ceramics. Paul bought a couple of colorful plates, and they survived the trip.

For dinner it was back to our fave, El Lechuguita. We splurged, 15 for 15 tapas plus beer and wine. We were first ones there when they opened, the only customers at all, but it was standing only by the time we left. We followed dinner up with a couple of pastries on the rainy walk back to the apartment.

 
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Cathedral Santa Maria la Mayor Ronda      
 
Cathedral Santa Maria la Mayor Ronda      
 
Cathedral Santa Maria la Mayor Ronda      
 
Puente Nuevo      
 
Puente Nuevo      
 
Puente Nuevo      
 
Old town, Ronda      
 
Old town, Ronda      
 
Old town, Ronda      
 
The "new" bridge      
 
The "new" bridge      
 
The "new" bridge      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
View from Ronda      
 
View from Ronda      
 
View from Ronda      
 
Cliff-edge street      
 
Cliff-edge street      
 
Cliff-edge street      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Ronda      
 
Puente Nuevo      
 
Puente Nuevo      
 
Puente Nuevo      
https://jamesgaston.ca/358
 
 

Ronda to Tarifa

 
October 18, 2015   Spain, Spain-Portugal, Tarifa
 
 

Today we left Ronda for Tarifa where we'll take a ferry to Tangier. We walked to the train station for the 9:25 to Algeciris. Fortunately the rain had stopped. The train was a local so it makes a number of short stops before its final stop in Algeciras. Once in Algeciris, we cross the street to the bus station to catch the bus to Tarifa.

The bus from Algeciris to Tarifa traveled over windswept hills with expansive views of the Mediterranean and, further out, to Africa. Africa looked close, like Port Angeles from Otter Point. Arriving in Tarifa the bus stopped several blocks from where I expected but the town is so small it really doesn't matter, at least if you are being dropped off. Of course it does matter if you want to catch a bus. One of many times the CityMaps2Go app was helpful.

Tarifa brings to mind Santa Cruz and Valparaiso: tacky buildings mixed in with nice ones, surf shops, lots of kids. But Tarifa also has a well preserved old town with windy narrow streets and buildings in Andalusia white. Tarifa's beach is long and wide and beautiful, kilometers of sand. The winds and waves make it popular with surfers.

Our hotel, Casa Blanco, is one of those that photographs well but in person it's worn and neglected. No good place to sit, check. Loose toilet seat, check. Worn paint, check. And then there was the odd design choice of putting the rain-head shower in the middle of the bathroom. Maybe it sounded cool but it wets everything when you use it. Not sure it's advisable to get design ideas from the RV industry.

But, and it's a big but, the hotel is conveniently located in the old city, next to a cafe lined square and just blocks from the port. And the proprietor is helpful and all to happy to share his opinion though more laid back than I'm accustomed to.

We checked in, changed to shorts as the weather was warm and a little muggy, then walked to the ferry terminal to ask about tickets. Turns out there are two ferries and they run every other hour. About 36 each way for a 35 min ride. We then walked down to the Isla de las Palomas via Calle Alcalde Juan to watch the surfers. The actual tip, the southernnost point in mainland Europe, is closed to the public. Then we returned to town for an afternoon snack of quiche and cappuccino. It started to rain hard so we finished our food then headed back to the hotel.

For dinner we walked to a Mexican restaurant but as there was only one staff member and he looked terribly over worked we left and ended up eating Italian, pizza and pasta.

 
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Train station, Ronda      
 
Train station, Ronda      
 
Train station, Ronda      
 
Tarifa      
 
Tarifa      
 
Tarifa      
 
Puerta de Jerez, entrance to old city centre      
 
Puerta de Jerez, entrance to old city centre      
 
Puerta de Jerez, entrance to old city centre      
 
Nuestra Señora de la Luz      
 
Nuestra Señora de la Luz      
 
Nuestra Señora de la Luz      
 
Tarifa - Tangier ferry      
 
Tarifa - Tangier ferry      
 
Tarifa - Tangier ferry      
 
Tarifa - Tangier ferry      
 
Tarifa - Tangier ferry      
 
Tarifa - Tangier ferry      
 
Kilometers of beaches and strong winds      
 
Kilometers of beaches and strong winds      
 
Kilometers of beaches and strong winds      
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Reminded of my good fortune

 
October 19, 2015   Spain, Tangier, Spain-Portugal, Tarifa
 
 

We started the day by walking the block to the city wall then through a doorway called Puerta de Jerez. In the next block was Cafe Azul where we had good crepes. Today's election was on our minds. Also the ferry ride to Morocco.

It was raining hard when we walked back to our hotel, Casa Blanco, where we checked out.

Well, we didn't completely check out, we left a couple of bags with the hotel. We were only spending a night in Tangier. Not much, no, and probably like judging Mexico from an overnight in Tijuana but at least I'll add Africa and Morocco to my list of visited places.

We caught the 11 am ferry to Tangier. No problem getting on, it's not high season. The ferry is as nice as a BC ferry but zippier looking. It's a catamaran and they look like they are going fast even when they aren't.

The ferry was about half way across the Mediterranean when it slowed then stopped. We'd encountered a very small boat in the middle of the Mediterranean. The ferry passengers crowded around windows and decks to observe the little boat that looked to be quite full with maybe nine people. The boat was barely visible among the waves. We waited almost an hour until a red Salvamento Maritimo boat arrived to provide assistance. This is a similar red boat to that i'd seen docked in Tarifa.

It was somber almost emotional seeing this tiny boat full of people trying to get to a better place.

And while I was standing there on the deck, thinking about what I was seeing, I thought however the election goes we know everyone in Canada will abide by the results, they'll all work together, and that this stability is something most people on this planet can't take for granted.

After checking into the elegant La Tangerina we explored the neighborhood, known as the Kasbah, as well as the nearby Medina and the square called the Petit Socco. Dinner was lamb tagine at Le Nabab.

 
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Tangier on the map      
 
Tangier on the map      
 
Tangier on the map      
 
Salvamento Maritimo, Tarifa      
 
Salvamento Maritimo, Tarifa      
 
Salvamento Maritimo, Tarifa      
 
Isla de las Palomas, Tarifa      
 
Isla de las Palomas, Tarifa      
 
Isla de las Palomas, Tarifa      
 
Ferry approaching Tarifa      
 
Ferry approaching Tarifa      
 
Ferry approaching Tarifa      
 
Airbus A380 on board      
 
Airbus A380 on board      
 
Airbus A380 on board      
 
Freighter in Mediterranean      
 
Freighter in Mediterranean      
 
Freighter in Mediterranean      
 
Refugees, Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
Refugees, seen from Tarifa-Tangier ferry. Spain is in the background.
 
Refugees, Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
Refugees, seen from Tarifa-Tangier ferry. Spain is in the background.
 
Refugees, Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
Refugees, seen from Tarifa-Tangier ferry. Spain is in the background.
 
Refugees and Salvamento Maritimo boat, from Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
 
Refugees and Salvamento Maritimo boat, from Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
 
Refugees and Salvamento Maritimo boat, from Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
 
Refugees and rescue boat, seen from Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
 
Refugees and rescue boat, seen from Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
 
Refugees and rescue boat, seen from Tarifa-Tangier ferry      
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The Kasbah

 
October 19, 2015   Tangier, Spain-Portugal
 
 

We walked around the Kasbah and the medina, both of which are near the hotel. Lots of colorful people and shops: weavers and furniture makers and vegetables and long dresses. It felt a bit Harrison Ford movie.

Song for the day is of course Rock the Casbah by the Clash.

 
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City view      
 
City view      
 
City view      
 
City wall      
 
City wall      
 
City wall      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
City square      
 
City square      
 
City square      
https://jamesgaston.ca/363
 
 

La Tangerina

 
October 20, 2015   Spain-Portugal, Tangier
 
 

We woke this morning to welcome election news from Canada. We then ate breakfast in La Tangerina's dining room, sharing a table with four French-speaking people. Real French sounds nothing like Duolingo French.

Tangier feels less intimidating today. We walk around the old city, exploring the narrow passageways lined with shops selling a lot of familiar stuff like clothes and food and hardware and services like cutting hair. The same stuff but presented differently, small colorful shops to don't offer any shopping anonymity. Later, we are back on the ferry for Tarifa. A short trip but I am ok with that. The almost empty ferry leaves a half hour late.

A few photos from our hotel and the streets of Tangier.

 
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La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
La Tangerina      
 
The outside of the Kasbah      
 
The outside of the Kasbah      
 
The outside of the Kasbah      
 
Ferry port      
 
Ferry port      
 
Ferry port      
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Tarifa again

 
October 20, 2015   Spain, Spain-Portugal, Tarifa
 
 

Back in Tarifa we find our bags already in our room at Casa Blanco. We got a larger more comfortable room but it had the same dumb shower. We snacked at El Gecko (4 hamburgers) and returned later in the day for dinner. Returning is ok if done judiciously. In between we walked the beach and picked up medicine for a cough I'd developed. I found Tarifa charming but I am also aware some don't.

 
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The beach with Isla de las Palomas (background left)      
 
The beach with Isla de las Palomas (background left)      
 
The beach with Isla de las Palomas (background left)      
 
Tarifa      
 
Tarifa      
 
Tarifa      
 
Hotel Casa Blanco      
 
Hotel Casa Blanco      
 
Hotel Casa Blanco      
https://jamesgaston.ca/365
 
 

Adios Tarifa

 
October 21, 2015   Spain, Spain-Portugal, Tarifa
 
 

Yesterday's rain left, the weather was blue sky perfect. I was sorry to say goodbye to Tarifa. Morning coffee at a cafe, walk to the beach, then breakfast at, yes, El Gecko, cappuccino and scrambled eggs and bacon. Pack, settle account, then walk to the bus station for 12:30 bus to Seville. I think it was 40 for two.

The bus was largely empty, nice for us if not so nice for the bus company. I listened to an audio book as we headed north. The countryside was hilly and green and windmill covered near water then flat and dry inland. I saw a number of white towns on hilltops, the signature of Andalusia.

 
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Casa Blanco (missing the B)      
 
Casa Blanco (missing the B)      
 
Casa Blanco (missing the B)      
 
Tarifa's long beach      
 
Tarifa's long beach      
 
Tarifa's long beach      
 
The usually full El Gecko early in the morning      
 
The usually full El Gecko early in the morning      
 
The usually full El Gecko early in the morning      
 
The road to Seville from Tarifa      
 
The road to Seville from Tarifa      
 
The road to Seville from Tarifa      
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Arrival in Seville

 
October 21, 2015   Seville, Spain-Portugal
 
 

The bus from Tarifa took about three hours to get to Seville. Most of the scenery was rolling hillside with the occasional white town. We immediately find Seville attractive as even the bus station is attractive. And from there it's a short walk on Avenue de la Constitucion, a beautiful street, to our apartment. Seville was making a good impression.

Our apartment was rented from Apartamentos Torre de la Plata, located at Calle Santander 15.. It's well located: a block from Avenue de la Constitucion plus not much further to the river, the cathedral and many of the major city sites. In addition to its great location the apartment was spacious and functional with a balcony and washing machine, but it was also a bit characterless and worn.

Dinner was schwarma at one of those cafes that tries really hard to pull you in off the street. It worked this time. And the food was good enough.

 
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Clip clop clip clop      
 
Clip clop clip clop      
 
Clip clop clip clop      
 
Riverfront      
 
Riverfront      
 
Riverfront      
 
Old building      
 
Old building      
 
Old building      
 
City street      
 
City street      
 
City street      
 
Streetcar      
 
Streetcar      
 
Streetcar      
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Seville

 
October 22, 2015   Seville, Spain-Portugal
 
 

We were in Seville (Sevilla in Spain) primarily to rent a car to drive to Marvao but we decided to extend it to a couple nights to get a look at the city I'd heard of (the Barber of Seville) but otherwise had no impression.

Now when I think of Seville I flash on Avenue de la Constitucion, a wide pedestrian street fronted by imposing stone buildings. Turns out, Seville is yet another beautiful Spanish city with the predictably nice walk-able streets and great food and all quite well maintained. Later I read that Seville is famous for hot weather and flamenco dancers but I missed both. On the other hand, we did explore the wonderful old town with narrow windy streets, and intimate square after intimate square.

Our day in Seville started with a healthy breakfast of cappuccino and apple pie. From there we walked to to the other side of the River Guadalquivir, the Triana neighborhood where we bought two small ceramic pieces at 7.50 each. Lunch was at a large tapas market. I'm really growing to appreciate tapas for the variety, serving size, and lack of commitment. And so far they've all been delicious.

Dinner was at the tapas market, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco, on Calle Arjona. 15 for 3 large tapas and wine. From there we walked along the river back home.

 
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Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
A tapas food court.
 
Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
A tapas food court.
 
Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
A tapas food court.
 
Tapas, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Tapas, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Tapas, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Leg of pork, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Leg of pork, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Leg of pork, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Pork cones      
 
Pork cones      
 
Pork cones      
 
Tapas, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Tapas, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Tapas, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Leg of pork, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Leg of pork, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Leg of pork, Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Ibero-American Exposition 1929      
 
Catedral de Sevilla      
 
Catedral de Sevilla      
 
Catedral de Sevilla      
 
Seville river front      
 
Seville river front      
 
Seville river front      
https://jamesgaston.ca/368
 
 

Driving to Marvao

 
October 23, 2015   Portugal, Marvao, Spain, Spain-Portugal
 
 

Upon waking in Seville it was time for a cappuccino, a dessert, and a walk to the Europcar office, the one at the train station. We were off to Marvao. We expected to drive through a forest of cork trees to get to a town perched on a hill shared with a castle. Another settlement that exists thanks to its impregnable situation. We rented the cheapest car, a Mini-sized but soggier Opel Adam. It had a slick stop-start and felt rock solid on the highway.

We quickly came to refer to the car as Adam. I drove Adam a half hour of Seville streets followed by an hour of four-lane divided highway followed by a few hours of windy two-lane roads followed by parking at the end of the road, just below the town. Along the way we stopped at a cafe for 1€ espressos and at a rather seedy store for groceries. We saw a lot of what I quickly realized were cork oaks, some showing bright red as if freshly injured skin.

Our hotel, Estalagem de Marvo, was very charming. Everything about it was well executed, the proprietors helpful and friendly, and so it joins Ronda and Granada and Tangier on the list of really nice places to stay. Estalagem de Marvo includes breakfast which is needed since Marvao is so small it doesn't have the patisseries that other cities offer. The hotel's reception room doubles as the town's only grocery store.

 
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Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao town seen from castle      
 
Marvao town seen from castle      
 
Marvao town seen from castle      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao door      
 
Marvao door      
 
Marvao door      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao, from Castle      
 
Marvao, from Castle      
 
Marvao, from Castle      
 
Old car      
 
Old car      
 
Old car      
 
Garden below castle      
 
Garden below castle      
 
Garden below castle      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Marvao      
 
Castle guard tower      
 
Castle guard tower      
 
Castle guard tower