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Our Amazing European Christmas & New Years; 5 Weeks!

Our Amazing European Christmas & New Years; 5 Weeks!

Mar 2nd, 2013, 05:37 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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It wasn’t too far to head towards Gibraltar so off we went; now we didn’t really know too much about this place so I was reading out of the guide book on the way. When we got to the huge line for the border crossing I suddenly read that if the line is long, abandon the car and walk over, so we did. Walked straight through with barely a glance at our passports and when we emerged on the UK side there was a tour desk. We quite spontaneously decided we would do it, they only take four people at a time and there was another couple wanting to do it, so off we went. Do not hesitate to do this, it was amazing, and there is now way we would’ve seen so much on our own especially without a car and no way we could’ve done it with the van. We loved every part of it, we have some great photos of the monkeys and we loved the caves and tunnels, and it was a hoot to drive across the runway, we would’ve loved to have had to give way to a plane, the tour ended at the main square. So we had fish & chips (we we were technically back in the UK) and had a great wander around all the English shops, just a great day. Caught the red double Decker bus back down to the port and we were on our way again.

I had really wanted to visit some of the ‘White Hill Towns of Andalucia but with our detour into Cadiz we’d really missed Arcos de la Frontera but chose to head towards Ronda, WOH! What a great town, we found a good campsite just outside town for the night and the next day headed in. To dh’s absolute delight we saw the Puerta Nuevo (New Bridge), we walked over it and under it, what a beautiful bridge and a beautiful town, spent a lot of time just wandering the very steep streets, even stumbled across the ruins of the Arab Baths. They have a great bull ring in the lovely square (apparently Ronda is the ‘birth place’ of bullfighting). After a quick espresso we were off to Zahara, we saw this beautiful town long before we reached it, it stands on a hill and the white buildings stand out so magnificently.

We drove up the windy road and found a great parking spot on a look out, so out came the chairs and we sat in the sun having a cuppa taking in the beautiful scenery. We decided to leave the van and take a walk up into the town as we could see a beautiful ruin at the very top. It was a long steep walk but we were rewarded with amazing views and snap shots of local life along the way. Found our way to Torre del Homenaje, the ruin at the top but for the life of us could not find a way in!! But we enjoyed the walk around it, easier walk down to the main square which was one of my favourite. Had a real local feel about it, with the very nice Santa Maria Church and it was a beautiful day so lots of locals out and about having coffee, lunch etc. We had a lovely lunch here and a well earned beer.

Next we picked Seville, had a great drive and again we were so fortunate that it was winter, as we drove into the city with barely any traffic. This was our biggest fluke of the trip, we’d set city centre on our satnav and saw another van parked by the river,near a beautiful bridge. We had no idea exactly where we were but pulled up under one of the many beautiful fruit laden orange trees, while trying to work out how to pay for parking a local came along and attempted to explain why we didn’t have to pay this particular day, we still don’t know why, but we didn’t pay. So we thought we would head across the bridge it kinda felt like thats where the old town would be, and there on the footpath was a tourist street map someone had dropped. So funny, once we found our bearings we realised we had parked in the perfect location, directly across from the main Bull Ring and a block from old town.

So off we went exploring, it was getting quite late in the afternoon but we made it for the last tour of the day of the bull ring, it was nearly dark by the time we came out. Checked we didn’t have any parking fines and headed into a Flamenco show, again just across the road. We still hadn’t found anywhere to stay at this point but figured after the show we would work it out. We had a pretty nice dinner at the show and enjoyed the dancing and when we came out, the other van was still there so we decided we’d stay the night there too. So off we went exploring the old town, there were so many people about, thriving markets selling all manner of things and a brilliant light show on one of the old buildings set to music. A really magical night, must admit we didn’t sleep too well, traffic noise and just knowing we were sleeping ‘on the street’ but it was also fun.

Woke the next morning and headed across the road to a great local bar, where we had the best coffee and ham on bread I’d ever eaten. And to sit there at the bar with the locals starting the day, was just pure joy.

We did love Seville

Nearly done, just the last couple of days in Madrid and one night in Amsterdam.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 07:14 AM
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Loved your travel diary. We are heading to Spain next week, have a resort booked in Estepona, so are only a short drive from Gibraltar, not too far from Malaga, and Ronda, but a bit of a longer drive to Seville. A lot of the comments on my request for info on the must sees, focussed on the LONG drive to Seville from our resort and several posters advised that it was too far for a day trip. We googled it and it is only 2 hours and 16 minutes, which, being from Canada, we don't find all that long. You, being from Australia, probably feel the same way, our distances here are large in comparison to Europe! How did you find the driving in Spain? Is traffic harrowing in the cities, or just normal for cities. We hope to explore and see lots of the different sights. Happy Travels on your next trip!
ggarrish is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 11:44 AM
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I loved it too, aussie.

shame about that carpet! you'll have to put it down as the one that got away.
annhig is offline  
Mar 5th, 2013, 10:55 PM
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ggarrish, I agree 2-3 and even a 5 hour drive just isn't that big a deal to us. Plus the ever changing scenery is a delight. We were really fortunate with our driving, dh has done a lot of driving in Europe and the roads weren't too busy, I personally think it was so easy because he had an amazing navigator. ;-) I hope you get to Gibraltar and enjoy it as much as we did.

annhig........I would've loved the carpet but as I sit here looking at my 2 year lab/retriever I'm glad I'm not worried about him sitting on the much cheaper rug I have at present. I'm sure the rain here in Brisbane will stop one day!!!
aussiedreamer is offline  
Mar 5th, 2013, 11:44 PM
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We headed for Madrid again with no real idea of where we'd stay the night but knew we wanted to get pretty close to the city as we had to drop the van off the next day. Dh had done some research and took me to the Las Rozas outlet shopping village, just outside Madrid, oh what fun. I had hoped to ‘pick up’ a new outfit for dd #1’s engagement party so I was thrilled to have a look through the beautiful boutiques. I was just beginning to think it was all a bit high end, when a walked into one store and found ‘the dress’, it was exactly what I’d been looking for and it fit, like a glove. Best part? It was originally €340 I got it for €74, boy was I happy (& it was perfect on the night). It was now quite late in the afternoon and it was becoming bitterly cold, so we headed off to find a campsite. This was the biggest one we’d come across, although it was all but empty, so we certainly had the pick of the sites.

www.campingelescorial.com is where we ended up, we headed for the café/bar area to have a drink before dinner. This restaurant was huge, it was only 6pm and dinner wasn’t served till 8pm. It had started raining and it was really really cold, so we set ourselves up at a table with our laptops and a glass of red and settled in. It was a lovely evening, the barman was an absolute gentleman, he was so friendly and helped us work our way through the tapas menu. When I came to Mocilla on the menu I had no idea, I had no Spanish, he had no English but he ‘decided’ I should try it. Oh Dear…….black pudding really is an acquired taste…….apparently I haven’t ‘acquired it’. So after a lovely evening we headed back to the van for our last night, just as a gentle snow started to fall, woh, what a great last night. But be careful what you wish for, it was so cold and the wind so strong, I was waiting for the van to tip. We think it was the coldest we’d been on the whole trip.

Found our way back to the rental agency and after a thorough inspection and our goodbyes we left the van. Got a cab back to our hotel, Room Mate Mario and settled into our lovely spacious suite for our final 3 nights. We headed out right away, decided we would do the tourist bus because we were pretty comfortable in our immediate area and we’d seen quite a bit, but didn’t want to miss anything, so we spent a couple of hours touring and it was great. Beautiful crisp, clear day and we both enjoyed the commentary. We decided the next two days would be more relaxed, lots of shopping, eating, drinking and walking. The highlights for me were another visit to san miguel market for a really long grazing lunch, discovering Pasteleria "La Mallorquina in Puerto del Sol for the yummiest cakes and great coffee, just wandering the streets and plazas. Our final meal was at http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaur...ta-Madrid.html it was so lovely. When we got our wine, dh made a toast to a wonderful holiday, the waitress asked us where we’d been and when she found out this was our last night, she really started spoiling us. It made it a really special last night and the goodbye we received and the waving from the door, you’d think we were long lost relatives, just a really great night.

We didn’t have to catch our flight till later the next afternoon, so we headed to the El Rastro Flea Market, what fun. We loved wandering through the antique/second hand area and yes we did buy a little something. A beautiful old brass door knocker that weighed a ton, thank goodness for b/class ;-) and I have to admit we had to open that dam thing at every customs counter on the way home, but it was still worth it. The flight to Amsterdam was a breeze; we caught the train from the airport to the main station, how delighted we were when exiting to see Amsterdam completely covered in snow. I’d booked the Ibis hotel right at the station, so easy, out one door and walked a few metres and we were there. Dropped our luggage, checked with the front desk that we had the right tram number to get to the restaurant and off we went.
The 20 or so minutes it took us to get there was wonderful, to see the city covered in snow was so special, when we got off at our stop and the tram pulled away, we looked across the road through the beautiful mist to see the glowing lights from the restaurant that is set in Frankendael Park.

Oh I knew this was going to be a great night………….
aussiedreamer is offline  
Mar 6th, 2013, 01:45 AM
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We entered the park and walked across a small bridge, the mist was really thick and the restaurant really stands out like a glowing beacon. When we entered, we were thrilled, what a beautiful place. Again we were greeted with such warmth, I’d booked this restaurant before leaving home, I’m so glad I did. We got a beautiful table and could see the kitchen and out to the garden. It’s a degustation menu, so we just sat back and enjoyed every second of it. I asked for a copy of the menu on leaving, so I’ll share with you our lovely dinner………

Shallot tarte tatin, veal rib-eye pastrami, gherkin vinaigrette & cress salad
Pumpkin soup with young garlic, smoked almonds & cavolo nero, cream of parmesan cheese
Langoustine with potato & chorizo crisp, fried chicory & a winter purslane sauce, carrot oil

Main Course
Farmhouse chicken, filled with a mushroom stuffing, lemon risotto, roasted purple carrot & poultry jus

We didn’t have the optional cheese course.

Chocolate pecan nut tart with orange marmalade & rhubarb sorbet

It was perfection, all served so beautifully in an amazing setting. When we left, we were escorted to the door and the young lady said,” Oh look, it’s snowing’………OH really? Could this night have been more perfect? I think not.

So that’s it, a great night’s sleep and an enjoyable but uneventful flight home via Singapore and it was all over, another great trip. So we have one more engagement party for our second daughter in 4 weeks and we leave for Munich, Budapest, Prague, Krakow, Moscow, St Petersburg & Vienna in 5 weeks. Once again thanks for all your assistance in the planning of this great holiday.

aussiedreamer is offline  
Mar 6th, 2013, 07:54 AM
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When I came to Mocilla on the menu I had no idea, I had no Spanish, he had no English but he ‘decided’ I should try it. Oh Dear…….black pudding really is an acquired taste…….apparently I haven’t ‘acquired it’.>>

have you tried it with scallops? very good, if a bit "cheffy". it may also depend on the black pudding as some are more palatable than others.

what a wonderful trip - and you are off again! of the places you are going to my fave is vienna - I loved it so much, despite the biblical quantities of RAIN we suffered from when we were there, but then you're obviously used to that.
annhig is offline  
Mar 7th, 2013, 01:57 AM
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Hi again annhig, yeah I have tried it with scallops, I'm not a fan of the texture. any MUST do's in Vienna, apart from the obvious?
aussiedreamer is offline  
Mar 7th, 2013, 12:35 PM
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hi aussie, shame about the black pudding, did you try hog's pudding in Cornwall? [it's more like a large sausage, and in colour it's sort of beige!]

as for Vienna, i don't know what you think is "the obvious"!

perhaps the best day we had was when we got the bus to the top of the Kahlenberg [the hill over looking Vienna] and then walked down through the woods and the vineyards to Grinzing and Heiligenstadt, where we did a tour of the "Heurige" [wine taverns] that sell their own wine. [they are advertised with boughs of trees sticking out over the door!] They usually have great food [buffets or nice menus] and we had such a good time we still can't remember how many we visited!

we also enjoyed the Prater - nice biergarten and food there too - as well as the famous wheel. [you can see a lot of out trips are food and drink based!]

of the "obvious" pleasures, we particularly enjoyed the Sissi exhibits at the Hofburg and if you buy the "sissi" pass, you get into the Schönbrun without having to queue!

the cafes are also great fun - there are loads of different choices but we eventually settled on the "melange" as our normal coffee.

[you can find my trip report fro a few years ago if you click on my screen-name - you'll find that sadly my DH did not enjoy Vienna as much as I did, and the weather was diabolical, so some of it is a little jaundiced!]
annhig is offline  
Mar 7th, 2013, 01:33 PM
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Thanks annhig, I'm looking forward to reading it. I especially like the sound of Kahlenberg and the walk and wine.....

Our trips are also very heavily food/wine based.

Thanks again.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Sep 5th, 2013, 03:24 PM
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Finally completed my photo book for this trip, thought I may as well add it in.

aussiedreamer is offline  
Sep 10th, 2013, 12:51 PM
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Fun photos, aussie.

We're thinking about a late winter trip to Seville and Cadiz, so it was fun to read those parts again and to see your orange tree parking spot. What a great trip you had.
stokebailey is offline  
Nov 28th, 2013, 09:41 PM
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Sorry to top an old report but I've finally discovered Flickr and have added photos from this trip.

aussiedreamer is offline  
Nov 29th, 2013, 06:39 AM
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In case you have forgotten, that statue near one of Lisbon's Faculty of Medicine in Campo de Mártires da Pátria (modern name of the Campo de Santana) is the statue of José Tomás de Sousa Martins, a renowned XIX century Portuguese Doctor, Professor and Scientist.

There's still actually a national popular cult around his figure, because he refused to take payments from the poorest. It's so popular that some people consider him a "saint".

That statue is from 1907.
Lisbon_Eagle is offline  
Nov 29th, 2013, 02:38 PM
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Thanks for that, I do remember hearing about that and saw all the 'plaques etc.' around the base.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Nov 29th, 2013, 04:53 PM
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Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos! Lovely!
aussie_10 is offline  
Nov 29th, 2013, 06:58 PM
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just to say: thanks for taking time to post this report Ausie! I loved reading it, and I really enjoy your travel style - well planned but with enough time for wandering and exploring. Thanks for the details about food and wine!
kovsie is offline  

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