(Mostly) Dodging the Rain in Spain

Oct 27th, 2018, 06:52 AM
  #21  
twk
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I posted a link to our apartment in Seville in the original post, and you'll find good pictures of the interior there, but I wanted to include a few photos here.


The courtyard from ground level. There is an opening to the left on Calle Agua where you can look into the courtyard


Calle Agua. The wall of the Alcazar garden is on the left, and our apartment building is on the right.


View from first (US 2nd) floor.


Front of the building (Plaza Alfaro) and side along Calle Agua. Every time we opened that door, it seemed like there were folks standing on Plaza Alfaro trying to get a peek inside.
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Oct 27th, 2018, 07:08 AM
  #22  
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DAY EIGHT: SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13

With a tour of the Alcazar booked for Sunday, today was supposed to be our day to see the Cathedral, which usually opens at 11. Being in no hurry, we went to a cafť and had chocolate and churros for breakfast before heading to the cathedral. On the way there, we noticed an incredibly long line of people hoping to get in to the Alcazar, which seemed to me to be longer than it should have been, but when we got to the cathedral, we found out why; like the Mezquita the day before, the cathedral was closed for a service, but this closure was until 5:15, only 45 minutes before its scheduled closing. So, the cathedral being a lost cause, we, like everyone else, had to find something else to do, and we opted to go see the bull ring. Iím sure the cathedral closure was a bonanza for the bull ring tour operation, but we waited in line, trying to find some shade on a day when the temperature got up to 88F, secured some tickets, then waited some more for the 40 minute tour. I wouldnít highly recommend this tour, but, lacking the cathedral as an option, it was a decent fall back position. Afterwards, with the traditional Spanish mid afternoon meal time approaching, we took the advice of our landlord and crossed the river (bull ring sits on the East bank) to the Tirana neighborhood, and ate on the rooftop of a place called Betis7. We had a very nice meal (tried my first ox tail), before getting a taxi back to the apartment, or so we hoped. Our cab driver misunderstood where we wanted to go, and realizing his mistake, turned off the meter for the rest of the journey, but we ran into crowds and barriers around the cathedral, indicating that there was going to be some kind of procession stemming from the cathedral ceremony. We opted to get out and walk the rest of the way. Never found out what the celebration was, but the church bells started ringing at 5:00, so I guess thatís when it happened. Overnight, storms from a hurricane that made landfall in Portugal passed through and the forecast was that this might bleed into Sunday, but the rain, and the clouds were all gone by daybreak in Seville (not so elsewhere in Spain, as we learned on the news).


The cathedral from Patio Banderas


The royal box at the bull ring


Another view on the opposite side


View of the cathedral from our table on the rooftop terrace of Betis 7, a restaurant in the Tirana neghborhood
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Oct 27th, 2018, 07:59 AM
  #23  
 
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I am enjoying your report and photos! We visited many of the places on your itinerary in September 2017. I like your photos of the Mezquita better than ours, especially your photo of the altar with a view of the Mosque's arches. And your photo from the courtyard showing how the cathedral rises out of the Mosque. You have a great eye for composition.

We spent 2 nights in Cordoba and loved it! Cordoba was one of our favorite places. We also spent one night in Toledo, which was nice because it was less crowded at night. But I realize everyone has time constraints so a daytrip is better than not seeing the place at all. We traveled with another couple, and they and my husband weren't too enamored with Madrid, but I loved it. I love the art museums, the palace, and Retiro Park. I wish we had time to wander around Salamanca. never enough time.

Looking forward to the rest of your report!
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Oct 27th, 2018, 10:44 AM
  #24  
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Thanks Karen. The Mezquita is really hard to capture in a photo. It's just bizarre how that cathedral was plunked down in the middle of the mosque, but you have to appreciate their decision to do that, rather than level the mosque, as happened in so many other places in Spain.

I read your report, and some others, looking for inspiration. Everyone has different opinions, and that's one of the things I like to see in reports. It helps make the tough decisions on where to allocate your limited time.
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Oct 27th, 2018, 12:32 PM
  #25  
 
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Great photos. Love the view from the rooftop terrace!
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Oct 28th, 2018, 11:27 AM
  #26  
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DAY NINE: SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14

Hurricane Leslie made landfall in Portugal overnight, and while we had some wind and rain, the storm moved out of southern Spain rather quickly, leaving clear blue skies and perfect temperatures in its wake.

Today, we had our pre booked entry for the Alcazar, which included a guided tour of the Cuarto Real Alto (the Royal familyís living quarters), at 10:30. The tickets tell you to be at the entry to the living quarters 15 minutes before the timed entry, and we arrived at the Alcazar main entry in plenty of time to make that, but even though I showed my tickets to the guard working the ticketed entry line (maybe 20 people, as opposed to the hundreds in the other line hoping to get in without advance tickets), it was already 10:10, and we had to pick up our regular audio guides before making our way though the inner courtyard to the stairs leading to the Cuarto Real Alto. Once there, we found that we had to pick up another audio guide, then run bags through another metal detector (they had one at the main entry), and to lock those bags, any cameras, and cell phones in lockers (which required a one euro coin), before starting the tour, which consisted of listening to the audio guide while the guard herded us from room to room. Was it worthwhile? If you are willing to commit to a time certain and purchase tickets well in advance, itís not a bad use of time, but itís not a canít miss opportunity.

After this limited tour was finished, we used the other audio guide to go through the rest of the Alcazar, where we were allowed to take pictures and wander at our own pace. After finishing with the palace, we took a few minutes to grab a bite he eat at the cafeteria in the gardens, before setting out for a closer look at the gardens, which, besides being impressive, were also used as a shooting location in Game of Thrones (serving as the palace of Dorne). Afterwards, we went to lunch, with the intention of killing enough time to head over to the Cathedral around 3:00, some 30 minutes after its Sunday opening time, in hopes that the entry line would not be too long. If it was, our backup plan was to take a carriage ride. Sure enough, the line at the cathedral was rather long, so, having seen a lot of cathedral interiors, we decided we could pass on this one, and take a carriage ride instead, which allowed us to see Maria Luisa Park and Plaza de Espana (another filming location, which served as British headquarters in Cairo in Lawrence of Arabia).

In the evening, we walked about 50 yards from our apartment to Plaza de Santa Cruz for the flamenco show at Los Gallos. While this is unmistakably a tourist attraction, it was fun, and the performers were quite talented (at least to my untrained eye).

One interesting thing not directly related to our itinerary is that England and Spain were scheduled to play an international soccer match on Monday nigh in Seville, so, during the course of the weekend, but particularly on Sunday, we noticed groups of England fans arriving and checking out the town. Unbeknonwst to us, the England fans were having a little too much fun only a few blocks away from where we we staying. I was sort of glad that we were scheduled to leave town on Monday, as I would have been sorely tempted to go to the game Monday, but we were spared that temptation since we had to leave the next morning.



Courtyard of the Maidens


Ceiling in the Hall of the Ambassadors


Hall of Tapestries


Baths
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Oct 28th, 2018, 11:45 AM
  #27  
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Some pictures from the gardens




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Oct 28th, 2018, 04:02 PM
  #28  
 
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Beautiful pictures. Thank you.
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Oct 28th, 2018, 06:23 PM
  #29  
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DAY 10: MONDAY, OCTOBER 15

Today, we said goodbye to Seville (and our wonderful apartment), went to the train station, picked up a rental car, and headed for our next destination, Marbella, on the Costa del Sol, but with a trip along the Route of the Pueblos Blanco along the way. I had considered going down to Arcos de la Fontera and working west to Ronda from there, but concluded that this was too ambitious, and would settle for seeing Zahara and Grazalema on the way to Ronda.

From the outskirts of Seville, the land went from flat plains, to rolling hills, every inch of which was cultivated until we reached the foothills of the Sierra de Grazalema, and even then, there were orchards of some sort high up the sides of the mountains. I really wish I'd stopped to take pictures as we went along, but I'm not sure the pictures would really capture what you see with your eyes. Growing up the son of a rancher in Texas, it was amazing to me to see how intensively the land was cultivated in Andalusia, but the farms here appeared much more prosperous than those in La Mancha. However, farming wasn't our real focus. We wanted to see some hill towns, but not necessarily tour the towns, since the architecture would be little different from the close quarters of the Barrio Santa Cruz, where we had spent the last 3 nights, or, for that matter, the old section of Cordoba. I felt like simply seeing the situation of a few of these towns, while making a stop of several hours in the largest hill tow, Ronda, would be sufficient.

So, we diverted off the Seville to Ronda highway in order to see Zahara and Grazalema. Getting to see these two hill towns involved climbing a great deal along narrow and twisting mountain roads. These towns probably didnít need much in the way of walls, since their altitude was an effective rampart against any but the lightest of armed forces, who would have been exhausted from the climb, and probably easily repelled by the locals. The pictures do not do justice to the setting of these two towns, particularly Grazalema, which is way up in the mountains, basically at the top of a pass. You climb, and climb, and climb, then you reach Grazalema, and the road to Ronda seems relatively flat (with cork trees stripped of their bark), but then you look off in the distance and realize how high you actually are.

After we got back to the main road, the trip in to Ronda was easy. We got to Ronda around 1:00, found the parking garage in the central square of the old town, Plaza del Socorro (and were quite fortunate to find a space, and beyond lucky for it to be one that was easy to get in and out of), then set off for Restaurante Pedro Romero, across from the bull ring. This place was a virtual shrine to bull fighting, with posters and pictures of bull fighters, and their famous fans (we saw Hemingway's picture, and Franco and Orson Welles supposedly also adorn the walls). After a good (if pricey) meal, and an excellent dessert, we walked past the arena to the mirador for its view of the Puente Nuevo, the cliffs, and the surrounding countryside. What a view! What a drop! This is not the place for anyone with serious vertigo issues. We (gingerly) made our way along the cliff's edge to the bridge, then across to the Moorish quarter for a look around that side of town, before heading back to the car for the rest of the trip to Marbella.

The road between Ronda and Marbella was much better than the one through the Sierra de Grazalema National Park, but it was still a challenging mountain road. The payoff was the outstanding views of the Mediterranean we saw as we descended toward the coast. I was tempted to stop and take pictures, but I didnít really think that photos would do the scene justice. Everything went smoothly until we reached Marbella and the vicinity of the parking garage where we were supposed to park. When we got a couple of blocks from garage, we discovered that they were setting up barricades, with the apparent intention of re-paving the road. We tried every different approach imaginable, but just couldnít get to the garage or to the general proximity of the old town, where our hotel was located. So we ended up parking at another garage, about 3/4 of a kilometer from our hotel, then having to lug our bags that distance (didnít seem to be any way for us to catch a taxi and get appreciably closer). At the hotel, they told us the work would be done the next day and it would not interfere once we got back from our planned day trip to Gibraltar. That would prove to be wishful thinking.



Zahara


Grazalema


Puente Nuevo, seen from the new town in Ronda


Looking back at the mirador near the bull ring can make you a little queasy, when you realize that you were standing on that seemingly unsupported ledge
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Oct 29th, 2018, 06:10 AM
  #30  
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DAY 11: TUESDAY OCTOBER 16

Our tip to Gibraltar went pretty smoothly, up until we started heading back after lunch.

We drove to La Linea, parked in one of the garages close to the border (Parking Focana, 1 Av del Ejercito, to be exact), then crossed the border on foot. As suggested by the clerk at the hotel, we opted for the taxi tour originating from the border, which proved an excellent choice. For 30 pounds per person, the minivan taxi took 8 people (and one small dog named Alice) to four stops: one at the south end of the Rock, which they refer to as the Pillars of Hercules stop, then about halfway up to St Michael's cave, a natural limestone cavern rather lime Carlsbad Caverns on a much smaller scale, which the locals use as a concert venue (no air conditioning required as this below group d venue maintains a constant temperature), then to the highest point of the tour at the monkey feeding station (slightly lower in elevation than the cable car station, but a point along the spine of the ridge summit that allows you unobstructed views East and West, and an excellent view across the straight to Morroco, with the tip of the Rock in the foreground), before a final stop at the siege tunnels facing north (toward Spain) which were used by the British to defend the Rock against Spanish attacks, before dropping us in the center of town. This was an excellent tour, just under 2 hours in length, which allowed us to see much more than we would have by going up the cable car, even if opting to walk down. I can see no reason to opt for the cable car, other than saving a small amount of money.

After the tour, we headed south down Main Street for a pizza place near the cable car station and I had a good pizza. When it was over, we asked the guy at the pizza place about getting a taxi back to the border and he seemed to think that wasnít going to happen (it seemed that the only thing taxis were doing was tours of the rock; maybe thatís an off-season limitation) and suggested we take a bus. But, for some reason, my sister refused to take the bus, and said she wanted to walk back. Probably not the right move. The walk through town was OK, but longer than you would expect. Crossing the runway that runs just parallel to the border on foot, if you hadn't been walking 20 minutes prior to that point, would have been neat, but as part of a very long walk, it wasn't all that fun.

We finally made it back to the car, and the hour long trip to Marbella was without incident, but, when we got back to the vicinity of our intended parking garage, there was paving equipment just a few cars ahead of us, and, right behind them, up went the barricades in the same position as the day before. So, not wanting to waste another half hour looking (probably in vain) for a way to park closer, we returned to the garage we had used the night before. So, as I stated earlier in my summary of La Villa Marbella, it's a really nice hotel, but beware of the parking situation if you are bringing a rental car.



Crossing the border on foot


The Rock, the moneys, and Morocco in the background


Our taxi. The cable car stop is probably 300 yards behind us, and a little higher in elevation, but it's along the same ridge line, so the view wouldn't be much different.


The warning sign as you get ready to cross the runway
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Oct 29th, 2018, 06:22 AM
  #31  
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A few more Gibraltar pictures



I think all tourists are legally required to take at least one photo of the monkeys


La Linea and the airport seen from just outside the siege tunnels


Gibraltar town


The 9th member of our tour group, Alice
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Oct 29th, 2018, 06:56 AM
  #32  
 
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Still enjoying your report. I love all of your photos. The Gibraltar photos are very interesting, and help the reader imagine what it's like. The only previous photos I have seen are of the rock itself.

Also love your Seville Alcazar photos. I thought the Alcazar was stunning, and ranked a close second to the Alhambra for me. My husband skipped the Seville Cathedral because it was the 4th cathedral on our trip, but I went in with our friends we were traveling with. We had overdosed on audioguides at this point, so we skipped those, and primarily focused on the tomb of Columbus and walking up the Giralda for views of Seville.

Just curious, how many nights did you stay in each place?
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Oct 29th, 2018, 08:10 AM
  #33  
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We spent 6 nights in Madrid at the start.
3 nights in Seville
2 nights in Marbella
3 nights in Granada
1 night at the Madrid Airport Hilton

I try to avoid one night stays, if possible.
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Oct 29th, 2018, 08:42 AM
  #34  
 
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Originally Posted by twk View Post
We spent 6 nights in Madrid at the start.
3 nights in Seville
2 nights in Marbella
3 nights in Granada
1 night at the Madrid Airport Hilton

I try to avoid one night stays, if possible.
Thank you for this great trip report - my husband and I are going to be traveling in Spain for a month in April/May 2019, and the first part of our trip will mirror yours in some ways. Having been to Madrid three times in the past, we will spend only a night or two there before heading to Seville for Semana Santa. Will also spend time in Malaga, Granada, Ronda. Planning a day trip to Gibralter, so your observations are quite helpful in that area.
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Oct 29th, 2018, 09:02 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by scdreamer View Post
Thank you for this great trip report - my husband and I are going to be traveling in Spain for a month in April/May 2019, and the first part of our trip will mirror yours in some ways. Having been to Madrid three times in the past, we will spend only a night or two there before heading to Seville for Semana Santa. Will also spend time in Malaga, Granada, Ronda. Planning a day trip to Gibralter, so your observations are quite helpful in that area.
That sounds like fun. I would love to see Semana Santa in Seville. I really enjoyed Gibraltar, and not just for the view of the Rock, or even the history of the British occupation. After seeing all the Moorish influence that still remains in Spain, it just sort of tied things together to actually go and see how short the hop is between Morocco and the Iberian peninsula with my own eyes. Whether one does that by going to Gibraltar, or perhaps taking a ferry from Tarifa or Algeciras to Tangier, it just seems to me to be a good way to tie it all together. Sort of like going to Dover or Calais and looking across the English Channel.
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Oct 29th, 2018, 01:25 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
Also love your Seville Alcazar photos. I thought the Alcazar was stunning, and ranked a close second to the Alhambra for me. My husband skipped the Seville Cathedral because it was the 4th cathedral on our trip, but I went in with our friends we were traveling with. We had overdosed on audioguides at this point, so we skipped those, and primarily focused on the tomb of Columbus and walking up the Giralda for views of Seville.
Meant to respond on this part: Yes, I loved the Alcazar in Seville. [Spoiler alert: Seeing the gardens at the Alcazar helps soften the blow from not getting to see the Generalife at the Alhambra due to the rain]. Of course, the building isn't quite as old and historically significant as the Alhambra, but it is a top sight. As to the cathedral, I would like to have gone up the Girlada, but after my experience in Toledo, I promised my sister I would not climb any more towers. Beyond that, I think the Columbus tomb was probably the most noteworthy thing I missed out on from not seeing the interior. Getting to see the exterior from that rooftop across the river really was enlightening--it is, after all, a conventional Gothic cathedral with flying buttresses and the typical floorplan, but from street level, it looks like something else entirely. You really have to see it from a distance to see it for what it really is.
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Oct 29th, 2018, 02:04 PM
  #37  
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DAY 12: WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17

Our final day with a rental car would see us relocate from Marbella to Granada, via the coast highway, with a stop in Nerja to see the beach and eat some paella for lunch, at a spot as close as we would get to the ancestral home of paella (Valencia, which is farther up the East coast). We were headed for a spot recommended in a guidebook which shall not be named where they cook the paella over a fire out in the open for you to see, so you know it hasnít been microwaved. Sitting amongst a bunch of Brits enjoying a beach holiday was interesting in its own right. The paella was good, and if I was going to spend a beach holiday on the Costa del Sol, this would probably be my kind of place, more so than Marbella or Puerto Banus. Much more laid back and family oriented. After lunch and a walk along the beachfront, it was time to get back in the car for the final driving leg of our trip, to Granada. The Hertz office in Granada is located at a hotel in the center of town, but just a short drive off the freeway. The Hertz office is on the corner of the building, and there is a closed garage door next to it, but you just drive up, push a button, and the garage door is opened. Then you have to proceed to the 3rd level, through a rather tight and small garage. We arrived about 3:45, and the guy at the hotel desk said that the Hertz office was closed until 4:30, but that you could simply leave the keys and appropriate paperwork in the drop box on level 3, which I went back and did. I received an emailed receipt around 5:15, so that went without a hitch.

From the hotel, the clerk called a taxi for us which arrived in 2 minutes, and we were off for our lodging at the Alhambra Apartmentos Turisticos. We had two rooms, each with a few, living area, kitchenette, and bath. Because we were supposed to be a party of 3, one of the suites was a slightly larger ďexecutiveĒ suite, which I let my sister take since I had the larger room in Seville. The building is built into the original city wall (remnants of a tower), with an open courtyard around which there are three levels of rooms, topped by a terrace with a magnificent view of the Alhambra. I ventured out for a few photos before nightfall, but otherwise, we decided to rest up for a long day at the Alhambra on Thursday...weather permitting.



Looking northeast on Burriana beach at Nerja


Looking southwest on Burriana beach at Nerja


Ayo's place on the beach...


...where they serve some tasty (and freshly cooked) paella
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Oct 29th, 2018, 02:21 PM
  #38  
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A few pics of the Alhambra taken from our apartment in Granada, and of the apartment from the Alhambra

Our apartment from the Alhambra


The terrace of the apartment with the Alhambra in the background


Closeup of the Nasrid


Closeup of the Alcazaba
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Oct 29th, 2018, 02:39 PM
  #39  
 
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Those white towns look interesting- would never drive in Europe but that's the kind of scenery I guess I would miss when I make those compromises.
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Oct 30th, 2018, 06:11 AM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by Adelaidean View Post
Those white towns look interesting- would never drive in Europe but that's the kind of scenery I guess I would miss when I make those compromises.
I'm not sure if Zahara and Grazalema can be done by public transport, but I'm sure there are some hill towns that can be done that way--I would imagine that you could get to Arcos and Antequara by public transport. Ronda is on the high speed rail line that runs to Algeciras. Still, a rental car gives you a lot of freedom in rural areas. And, I'll say this about driving in Spain: it was the easiest of the 3 European countries I've driven in (France and Scotland being the other two). Getting out of Seville was really easy for a sizable city, and the drive from Seville to Marbella, via Zahara, Grazalema, and Ronda, was one of my favorite days of the trip.
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