Friday, April 18, 2008

Southern Spain...

Niki and I managed Madrid and Barcelona on our own but thought it would be nice to take a guided tour of southern Spain so we could relax and let someone else do the planning. Of course we hoped that the group would be young, lively and fun (like us!) but not so much. Don’t get me wrong, we loved the Australian family and the two Australian women who left their hubbies at home to travel for three weeks (Niki and I in 20 years) but the group wasn’t exactly a bunch of 20’somethings out on an adventure.

Aña – our tour guide was too cute! She would always say “Hello Beauties” when we hopped on the bus and ask us if we were going to the discos today? She must have thought we’d been partying a lot because every time we rode on the bus we both crashed the entire ride! What can I say cars make me sleepy!

Our first stop was La Mezquita mosque in Córdoba. It was built in AD 784 and is an amazing place – inside there are 850 columns supporting the arches. Later a Christian chapel was built in the mosque and caused a big stir. It’s hard to believe something this gigantic and intricate was built thousands of years ago.

Next stop Seville (Sevilla)

After dinner Niki and I set out in search of Sangria! We didn’t make it very far before we spotted a park. You know me and parks - there is no waiting we had to go straight there. It was pretty, small, and not very complex. It ran along the main road of town and had a large fountain in the middle. When we reached the other side we had gone completely the opposite direction of our original destination so we just kept walking. Pretty soon we were passing restaurants and shops then we rounded a corner to see a beautiful round fountain next to a tram rail and it was gorgeous in the evening lights. Seville is a very charming and romantic little city that we both loved.

Wow, by now we are glad we ventured out and didn’t crash right when we got to our hotel. The best was still around the next corner though and we had no idea.

I’ve found this to be one of the best parts of traveling, you don’t want to be overly prepared and know everything about a town before you get there because it takes some of the fun of the surprise out of nights like this! We snapped a few pics and started down the main shopping street.

The streets of Sevilla -

It couldn’t have been 30 seconds before we both realized we were walking towards the 3rd largest cathedral (its named Catedral – original I know) in the world! OMG, it was amazing! The next day we toured the cathedral with audio guides (we love those things!) and learned all about the 44 chapels and Christopher Columbus’s tomb which is held there. They finally have DNA evidence to prove this!

Niki finding our way home... :)

Christopher Columbus's Tomb

View from the top of the cathedral!

The Amazing Alcázar gardens! – Seville, Spain

The audio guides were all out when we reached the Alcázar which was a bummer since we missed some of the cool history that goes along with the oldest European palace…but I didn’t mind because who cares when you have gardens like they did. I would have just lived outside. I have to say the Jardines de los Reales Alcázares might be the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen. I’m having a hard time on this trip picking my favorite garden because they are all simply unreal! Inside the palace walls the garden held fountains with ducks afloat, gardens with peacocks roaming, painters standing with their easels painting the amazing scenery as tourist ooh’ed and ahh’ed at its beauty. I was in heaven once again and we stayed for a long time just taking it all in.

Pics of the Alcázar gardens so you can see what I mean!!

Last stop on our southern tour – Granada!

We went straight to the Alhambra, there is an age old saying about the Alhambra “Si mueres sin ver la Alhambra, no has vivido.” (If you die without seeing the Alhambra, you have not lived.) I am here to assure you that in fact you will be ok if you aren’t lucky enough to see the Alhambra with your own eyes…here are some pics.

I actually didn’t get to see inside the Alhambra myself because our lovely tour guide didn’t check the tickets before hand and we were 4 minutes late for our scheduled tour. They are very strict here and turned away over 20 of us without a second thought.

Needless to say, we were all thrilled with Carlos or whatever his name was as he showed us around the gardens and the Alcazaba (fortress) where we climbed up the Torre de la Vela (watchtower) for an amazing view of Granada and rang the bell (which apparently will bring along a nice guy to sweep me off my feet, or that’s what I heard anyway).

That night we could have gone back and gotten the inside tour but we heard it wasn’t that great anyway so we joined our group for a tour of the Albacín and for an authentic flamenco show! Besides the fact the Costa Rican girl on the tour had to translate our tour guides English it was really cool. We got to see the Alcazaba at night which was amazing!

The flamenco show was really fun, by now we were buddies with a bunch of people on our tour and we crammed in a tiny cave to watch them dance. These women were amazing and must have very strong legs!

That was the end of the tour for us and the next day Niki and I jumped on a flight to Barcelona to finish out our Spanish Adventure!!

A couple random last pics from Granada...

One of the reasons I love Europe so much is because they are ridiculously energy efficient! In our first hotel room we couldn't figure out how to turn on the lights...Aña said don't you have your room key? yes?? You just put it in the slot! No one can ever leave the lights on here..all power turns off in your room until you put the key back in!

Me and an enormous door at one of the churches we visited!

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