A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about megaliths

Evora Portugal - Ancient Cromlech Older than Stonehenge

sunny 15 °C
View The Iberian Penninsula in December on CherylGypsyRose's travel map.

IMG_4515.jpg
Evora is a historic 2000 year old city in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walled old town boasts Moorish, Roman and Catholic monuments, hilly cobbled streets, narrow lanes and spacious squares.

The Alentejo region is a major provider of the renewable resource, cork. All manner of cork items are sold including purses, shoes and hats. (Likely more necessary for the industry now that so few wines have actual cork stoppers!!)
IMG_4513.jpg
The bark of the Cork Oak tree is removed manually with an axe once every 9 years. Bark cannot be harvested until the tree is 25 years old. The bark is only taken from the tree base to the branch line. The Cork Oak lives about 200 years.
IMG_4491.jpg
The famous acorn fed pigs that turn into Iberian Ham feed off the acorns of cork oak tree.

There are numerous Neolithic stone formations in Alentajo but the ones not to miss are the 95 standing stones of the Almendres Cromlech about 15 km from Evora and 4 km from the village of Guadeloupe.

The term cromlech refers to a prehistoric circle of standing stones with a religious or spiritual overtone.

The Almendres Cromlech is older than Stonehenge and was in continuous use for 3000 years!

The dirt road from Guadeloupe to the parking area near the Cromlech is narrow, full of ruts and potholes. I was afraid the taxi driver would refuse to take his car further but he persevered and we did not get stuck in the muddy patches.

The one person in Evora who does tours was away for the weekend. The cab fare (and tour rates) on weekends is ten Euros more than on weekdays. The driver spoke German and Italian as well as Portuguese but no English.
Cab fare was 45 Euros because it is Saturday and we booked for 9 am
It was a fine sunny day, much nicer than yesterday. As I walked down the path leading from the car park to the stones I had no idea what to expect. The bright morning sun was shining in my eyes when the path curved and they came into view.
IMG_4375.jpg
63EE1365-2..CC05B8B017C.jpg

Beneath the shadows of cork and olive trees, a holy place, a message from an ancient people. It was larger and more expansive than I had expected, the placement of the rocks deliberate, their sizes and shapes purposeful.

The intimacy of the site was amazing. We were alone in the field, no other tourists, nobody but us. The stones were spread out in an oval shape, I touched them, hoping to leave a fingerprint, a bit of DNA.

Nobody knows exactly what this site was used for, possibly sun worshipers. Maybe they did ceremonial sacrifices here, I hope not since this is the highlight of my trip.

For thirty minutes I was completely engaged with mostly egg shaped stones, some taller than me. Words cannot describe, and pictures cannot capture, the beauty of this monument on a sun drenched December morning.
00ED4CD6E79770FD6546362163AD6B64.jpg

I reluctantly trudged back to the taxi. 'Wonderbar,' I said to the driver, 'magnifico'. My eyes watered as I climbed into the back seat.

It was a quiet ride back to Evora. We enjoyed a cafe au lait in the main square and were rewarded by the music of a folk choir along with a metal working demonstration.
IMG_4535.jpg

The square I really wanted to see was the one with the Roman Temple. Pretty impressive for recent stuff. I am all about pre history now. Where did they come from and where did they go?

On this sunny day the Roman Temple ruins are stunning. The Temple of Diana has been here since 200 AD.
IMG_4546.jpg

I like the saying painted on the fence, "Everything is a story".
IMG_4549.jpg

We had lunch in the courtyard of an upscale restaurant with Moorish architecture, seems to be connected to a pousada. It was very pleasant. I had plum cake and Rhea had a Bifana. The Bifana is a just cooked pork cutlet on a bun and was Rhea's go to Sandwich.
We each sampled a bite of the others food. Biting down on the chewy crust of the bun I dislocated my jaw.
Ouch, throbbing pain and my teeth did not meet on the left hand side.

The Museu de Evora is located in the Bishop's Palace. Admission was about 3 euros, it is closed on Mondays and free on the first Sunday of the month. We were disappointed in the small display of prehistoric archaeology, the Roman tombs were more impressive:
IMG_4590.jpg
We toured the museum, had a drink on the third major square, poked through souvenir shops and then stopped by the church with skulls and bones. The Chapel of Bones is located in Saint Frances Church. Very macabre, kind of a downer after this morning.
IMG_4609.jpg

There is a museum in the church and stairs lead up to rooftop viewing points, Along the way I looked at their collection of nativity scenes from around the world.
IMG_4622.jpg
A street fair was set up near the bones cathedral so we looked around and on the way back to our hotel stopped at an indoor market to buy cheese and fruit.

We are staying at the Moov Hotel just inside the old city gates. It is located in a refurbished bull ring but the hotel is ultra modern.
The room is not huge but very good value for money spent.
35817344EEC8133002CB80EB3117B33B.jpg

I asked for ice at the hotel desk and they helpfully scared some up. Back in the room I take an anti inflammatory and ice my jaw. The ibuprofen kicked in, I felt a bit better. We walked to a nearby wine bar "Winetime" for supper. I had a beer and dates wrapped in Iberian ham.
I recommend this place as the waitress was super friendly, the price really reasonable and there was some ambiance. My portion of the eight euro bill was 6.75 Canadian.

The next morning we had time for a coffee before getting to the bus station.
The main square, Placo do Geralda, is near our hotel. Back in the day, during the Inquisition, public executions took place here. Today it is pretty tame by comparison. We sat by the cafe window to enjoy the view with our coffee.

One end of the square features Santa Antao Church. Nearby is a marble fountain built in 1571.
Santa Antao Church is built over the old site of a Knights Templar church.
IMG_4533.jpg
4D08B4E3A15D9BF6C43E88639CCA1A87.jpg
I cannot put any of my teeth together and can barely open my mouth. It seems less painful when I don't move my mouth so I resign myself to remaining silent except for emergencies.
We get two seats each on the bus so I am happy, lots of room.
We are going to Lisbon, our last stop.
On the one hour bus trip I go through my photos of Evora. I edit the rocks, enlarging areas that might have a picture or some marking.

Archaeologists have found faint markings and drawings on some of the stones and put forward some theories, but it remains pretty much a mystery. Why would a neolithic society take the time to move, modify and embellish large rocks?
The cromlechs are 6000 years old.
IMG_4429.jpg

The scenery along the route to Lisbon:
IMG_4706.jpg
IMG_5637.jpg

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:50 Archived in Portugal Tagged budget roman stonehenge portugal neolithic cork alentejo cromlech megaliths pre-historic Comments (0)

Evora Portugal - Ancient Cromlech Older than Stonehenge

sunny 15 °C
View The Iberian Penninsula in December on CherylGypsyRose's travel map.

IMG_4515.jpg
Evora is a historic 2000 year old city in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walled old town boasts Moorish, Roman and Catholic monuments, hilly cobbled streets, narrow lanes and spacious squares.

The Alentejo region is a major provider of the renewable resource, cork. All manner of cork items are sold including purses, shoes and hats. (Likely more necessary for the industry now that so few wines have actual cork stoppers!!)
IMG_4513.jpg
The bark of the Cork Oak tree is removed manually with an axe once every 9 years. Bark cannot be harvested until the tree is 25 years old. The bark is only taken from the tree base to the branch line. The Cork Oak lives about 200 years.
IMG_4491.jpg
The famous acorn fed pigs that turn into Iberian Ham feed off the acorns of cork oak tree.

There are numerous Neolithic stone formations in Alentajo but the ones not to miss are the 95 standing stones of the Almendres Cromlech about 15 km from Evora and 4 km from the village of Guadeloupe.

The term cromlech refers to a prehistoric circle of standing stones with a religious or spiritual overtone.

The Almendres Cromlech is older than Stonehenge and was in continuous use for 3000 years!

The dirt road from Guadeloupe to the parking area near the Cromlech is narrow, full of ruts and potholes. I was afraid the taxi driver would refuse to take his car further but he persevered and we did not get stuck in the muddy patches.

The one person in Evora who does tours was away for the weekend. The cab fare (and tour rates) on weekends is ten Euros more than on weekdays. The driver spoke German and Italian as well as Portuguese but no English.
Cab fare was 45 Euros because it is Saturday and we booked for 9 am
It was a fine sunny day, much nicer than yesterday. As I walked down the path leading from the car park to the stones I had no idea what to expect. The bright morning sun was shining in my eyes when the path curved and they came into view.
IMG_4375.jpg
63EE1365-2..CC05B8B017C.jpg

Beneath the shadows of cork and olive trees, a holy place, a message from an ancient people. It was larger and more expansive than I had expected, the placement of the rocks deliberate, their sizes and shapes purposeful.

The intimacy of the site was amazing. We were alone in the field, no other tourists, nobody but us. The stones were spread out in an oval shape, I touched them, hoping to leave a fingerprint, a bit of DNA.

Nobody knows exactly what this site was used for, possibly sun worshipers. Maybe they did ceremonial sacrifices here, I hope not since this is the highlight of my trip.

For thirty minutes I was completely engaged with mostly egg shaped stones, some taller than me. Words cannot describe, and pictures cannot capture, the beauty of this monument on a sun drenched December morning.
00ED4CD6E79770FD6546362163AD6B64.jpg

I reluctantly trudged back to the taxi. 'Wonderbar,' I said to the driver, 'magnifico'. My eyes watered as I climbed into the back seat.

It was a quiet ride back to Evora. We enjoyed a cafe au lait in the main square and were rewarded by the music of a folk choir along with a metal working demonstration.
IMG_4535.jpg

The square I really wanted to see was the one with the Roman Temple. Pretty impressive for recent stuff. I am all about pre history now. Where did they come from and where did they go?

On this sunny day the Roman Temple ruins are stunning. The Temple of Diana has been here since 200 AD.
IMG_4546.jpg

I like the saying painted on the fence, "Everything is a story".
IMG_4549.jpg

We had lunch in the courtyard of an upscale restaurant with Moorish architecture, seems to be connected to a pousada. It was very pleasant. I had plum cake and Rhea had a Bifana. The Bifana is a just cooked pork cutlet on a bun and was Rhea's go to Sandwich.
We each sampled a bite of the others food. Biting down on the chewy crust of the bun I dislocated my jaw.
Ouch, throbbing pain and my teeth did not meet on the left hand side.

The Museu de Evora is located in the Bishop's Palace. Admission was about 3 euros, it is closed on Mondays and free on the first Sunday of the month. We were disappointed in the small display of prehistoric archaeology, the Roman tombs were more impressive:
IMG_4590.jpg
We toured the museum, had a drink on the third major square, poked through souvenir shops and then stopped by the church with skulls and bones. The Chapel of Bones is located in Saint Frances Church. Very macabre, kind of a downer after this morning.
IMG_4609.jpg

There is a museum in the church and stairs lead up to rooftop viewing points, Along the way I looked at their collection of nativity scenes from around the world.
IMG_4622.jpg
A street fair was set up near the bones cathedral so we looked around and on the way back to our hotel stopped at an indoor market to buy cheese and fruit.

We are staying at the Moov Hotel just inside the old city gates. It is located in a refurbished bull ring but the hotel is ultra modern.
The room is not huge but very good value for money spent.
35817344EEC8133002CB80EB3117B33B.jpg

I asked for ice at the hotel desk and they helpfully scared some up. Back in the room I take an anti inflammatory and ice my jaw. The ibuprofen kicked in, I felt a bit better. We walked to a nearby wine bar "Winetime" for supper. I had a beer and dates wrapped in Iberian ham.
I recommend this place as the waitress was super friendly, the price really reasonable and there was some ambiance. My portion of the eight euro bill was 6.75 Canadian.

The next morning we had time for a coffee before getting to the bus station.
The main square, Placo do Geralda, is near our hotel. Back in the day, during the Inquisition, public executions took place here. Today it is pretty tame by comparison. We sat by the cafe window to enjoy the view with our coffee.

One end of the square features Santa Antao Church. Nearby is a marble fountain built in 1571.
Santa Antao Church is built over the old site of a Knights Templar church.
IMG_4533.jpg
4D08B4E3A15D9BF6C43E88639CCA1A87.jpg
I cannot put any of my teeth together and can barely open my mouth. It seems less painful when I don't move my mouth so I resign myself to remaining silent except for emergencies.
We get two seats each on the bus so I am happy, lots of room.
We are going to Lisbon, our last stop.
On the one hour bus trip I go through my photos of Evora. I edit the rocks, enlarging areas that might have a picture or some marking.

IMG_4461.jpg IMG_4418.jpg

Archaeologists have found faint markings and drawings on some of the stones and put forward some theories, but it remains pretty much a mystery. Why would a neolithic society take the time to move, modify and embellish large rocks?
The cromlechs are 6000 years old.
IMG_5718.jpg IMG_4429.jpg

The scenery along the route to Lisbon:
IMG_4706.jpg
IMG_5637.jpg

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:50 Archived in Portugal Tagged budget roman stonehenge portugal neolithic cork alentejo cromlech megaliths pre-historic Comments (1)

Ancient Dolmens near Antequera Spain

sunny 17 °C

In July 2016, UNESCO named the Antequera megalithic dolmens a world heritage site. Dolmens are ancient burial sites and Megaliths are massive stones used in prehistoric construction.
C41F6969-E..3B4318DD12A.jpg

We took the high speed train from Barcelona Sants Station to Antequera on December 6. The trip took 5.5 hours, average speed, 250 km per hour.
20161206_115656.jpg

The Antequera Santa-Ana station is actually 17 kilometres from the town. Thank goodness there is a bus into town about every half hour. Buy bus tickets in the information office inside the station for just a few Euros.

We walked from our hotel in Barcelona to Sants Station. We were hoping to get a coffee but were held up at the entrance. Bags, jackets and purses go through a scanner at train stations.
There was an issue with my suitcase.
'You have a knife!' Rhea and the agent advise me. I squinted at the screen. The paring knife in my suitcase looked like a dagger. 'You can have it, no problem,' I volunteered.
No I had to go into a private side room with a different guard. I opened the stuffed suitcase, praying the knife would be near the top.
Whew! I pulled it out and handed it over. 'This?' he sniffed and handed it back. 'You can take it. Now show your passport and sign this paper.'
Just like that I am a free woman boarding a train with a knife in my suitcase. I had knitting needles in my purse and, as I pointed out to Rhea, I could probably gouge somebody's eyes out. People travel with pens all the time and they could inflict a bit of damage. Not to give anybody ideas.
I was baffled the knife wasn't confiscated. It is pretty dull but the guard never even tested the blade. Handy for cutting off a bit of cheese as we travel or saw off my arm if I fall into a crevice with my suitcase.

Antequera is a pretty ancient town in the fertile district of Andalusia. It would be an easy day trip from Malaga but we have booked two nights here.
High speed train tickets were seventy five C each - a good deal booked online.

We have double booked hotels for the first night. This happened because of free cancelation - Rhea had booked a room for one night too and her email said cancel by Dec 3 but it meant cancel on or before December 2.
When she casually mentioned her booking (morning of Dec 3) it was too late for either of us to cancel.
She tried to argue her case but no luck. We decided to take a cab from the bus station to my hotel which we had for two nights and we would leave her big suitcase in my room.
The Hotel Toril is not fancy but it is clean and the room I was assigned had three single beds and was huge. It was also very quiet. Wifi was terrible but you could get it in the lobby.

Around 3 we walked to the tourist office which was a block from Rhea's hotel. Many shops were closed for siesta.
7E4308B6CB1581D72C5456240769AD15.jpg

Her room was not as big as mine but was cute and clean and very well located on San Sebastián Square where the hop on and off bus starts.
IMG_2582.jpg
She decided it would be easier to stay at my place since I am navigationaly challenged and needed to be guided home.
98A3191F-5..5A5FE553748.jpg

Antequera has a population of 42000 and has a 5000 year history.

La Pena de Los ENAMORADOS, a limestone hill, can be seen from almost everywhere in the town. It is known as Lovers' Leap and has a legend.
IMG_2934.jpg

It appears as a man's profile, the sleeping giant.
D2242BE2-7..E4F93C99809.jpg

The Pena de Los Enamorados has a significant connection to the Menga dolman: on the summer solstice the rising sun shines over the peak of Enamorados and straight across the entrance to the chamber.

IMG_2711.jpg

The Menga Dolman is almost 30 metres long and is the largest in Europe. It is about 5000 years old. The heaviest upright stone weighs over four times more than the heaviest stone at Stonehenge! The Menga Dolmen is unusual because of its alignment with a natural monument, Enamorados.
A2915EF3CC19F24713B9499941BC6C70.jpg

Nearby is the Viera Dolmen which is, in customary fashion, positioned towards the sun.
0FBF4297E810F1CB819CC0DB80929350.jpg

A bit further away (and due to lack of transportation we did not visit) is The Tholos of el Romero which is positioned towards el Tocal Mountain.
The three megaliths and two mountains were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2016.
We visited the information centre on site first to watch a video portraying an educated guess of how the huge rocks were moved and put in place in pre historic times (lots of manpower). Then we viewed the Menga and Vierra Dolmens.
IMG_2716.jpg

The hop on and off bus stops here for 20 minutes. We actually stayed longer and took a later bus around to see the dolmens again.
IMG_2654.jpg

Following our two full circuits on the hop on and off bus we visited the municipal museum which was closed until 430 pm.
B2DE586B-5..732C1EA233F.jpg

It is a large museum with displays of the prehistoric dolmens, Roman tombs and statues, including a first century bronze Ephebe (considered the most beautiful Roman sculpture in Spain), paintings, church silver and a nice gallery of the works of Christobal Toral Ruiz.

Contemporary artist and home town boy, Christobal's gallery had a suitcase theme including a huge interpretation of Valesquez' Las Meninas where suitcases represent people.
IMG_2940.jpg
I liked this painting, she only has a carry-on:
A27C8E32D28E0BC5AC28B5E57F03081B.jpg

The Museum of Civilization, Antequara, is worth a look. It is closed on Mondays and closes every day at 2 - plan a morning visit.

Nuns in habits were selling special Christmas cookies from convents but we bought ours at a bakery. Polvoron cookies are a type of shortbread, very crumbly, flavourful, melt in your mouth. We bought a dozen for 12 euros, the nuns were selling them for seven dollars a kilo - these are very light cookies.
The convent cookies are interesting: there are two shuttered windows. The first one is where you place your order and the second one is where you receive your purchase.
IMG_2836.jpg

Antequera is an ancient town, as the name suggests. The dolmens go back to the Bronze Age. Then there was the period under the Roman Empire until it was conquered by the Visigoths who were invaded by the Moors in 711 AD. The Moors held power until the 15 th century when Ferdinand 1 of Aragon drove them out.
We saw Roman ruins, the alcazaba and numerous Catholic Churches. A very historic town. Pleasant, slow paced, sunny and warm.

IMG_2659.jpg

The hop on and off bus was open air and the other tourists were Spanish.

Nothing seemed very commercialized, the hop on bus cost 6 euros (Seniors rate) and the dolmens were free. Unbelievable.

IMG_2954.jpg IMG_2736.jpg

On December 8 our bus to Malaga left at 9 am. We decided to walk as the depot was only a ten minute stroll from our hotel. We stopped for a coffee at a corner bar. Very good coffee for one Euro each. There were 2 Irishmen having a shot with their morning cuppa and one was very talkative. This was our first encounter with native English speakers - it is Dec 8, we have been in Spain for a week!
Irishman_in_Antequera.jpg

The hotel clerk had given us directions, the Irishman gave us directions and the bartender escorted us out and pointed the way. Ten minutes. Half an hour later we got directions from a restaurant waiter and thirty minutes after that we rolled into the bus depot.

The sleeping giant dominated the skyline as we headed south to Malaga:
A2A36F7AC853BE00F3E6D9A9FB005F0C.jpg

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:39 Archived in Spain Tagged museum spain espana tapas megaliths dolmens polvoron pre-histórico Comments (0)

Travel on a Modest Budget: Spain and Portugal in Review

sunny 17 °C

If you think you cannot afford to travel, think again!

If I can do it, anybody can do it.


Although the 'grow where you are planted' team has a point, I align more with 'a rolling stone gathers no moss.'

Tips and tricks on travelling on a small budget at any age:

In December, 2016, my sister and I went on a three week budget trip to Spain and Portugal. I am 67.
All in, my trip cost three thousand Canadian dollars but it could have easily been pared down to less.
For any American readers, this would be around 2200 US dollars.
I will break down the costs and remark on further cost saving measures.

Itinerary:
Barcelona: Dec 2 - 6
Antequera: Dec 6 - 8
Malaga: Dec 8 - 11
Granada: Dec 11 - 13
Seville: Dec 13 - 14
Albufeira: Dec 14 - 16
Evora: Dec 16 - 18
Lisbon: Dec 18 - 22

Cost of Hotels in Canadian dollars:
Barcelona: 4 star Ayre Hotel 4 nights 387
Antequera: Hotel Toril. 2nights 102
Malaga: Includes breakfast 3 nights 302
Granada: 2 nights 129
Seville: One night 48
Albufeira: includes breakfast 2 nights 90
Evora: 2 nights 106
Lisbon: Includes breakfast 3 nights 172
Total divided by 2 is $668

The cost to fly into Barcelona and home from Lisbon to Calgary Alberta was 1023 C with KLM.

Airfare was a big chunk of my budget. There were cheaper flights to Paris and London. You could use air miles. People who live closer to Toronto or anywhere in the US would score a better deal.

I paid 248 C for trip cancellation and medical (some credit cards cover this). Also I am 67 so that ups the cost. I basically wasted $50 for phone coverage. I never needed it, wifi is widely available - but it bought me peace of mind. So there goes 300 C off my budget.
As you can see after hotels, airfares and the phone/travel insurance I have just a shade over one thousand dollars left to spend.

Opera. 42
Hop on and off bus Barcelona 2 days 50
Train Barcelona to Antequera. 75
Admission to Alhambra 40
Flamenco in Seville. 23
Buses between cities. 107
Taxis and local transit. 125
Taxi to Cromlech 35
Hop on and off bus Lisbon. 2 days 30
Odd Museum entrances 20
Total 547

We saved money by watching our food budget, dining out carefully and buying fruit, cheese, Iberian ham etc. to make our own meals. I packed a paring knife in my checked luggage for this purpose. You could buy one there but I didn't want the hastle.
I do not consider dining the highlight of my trip. I like to eat local foods like tapas and Iberian ham in Spain and custard tarts and bifanas in Portugal. I prefer a local place to eat rather than a tourist restaurant. These are not easy to find when you are staying near sites where tourists gather!! But I tried.
B13D6776-C..B3B4B8BD0AD.jpg
The price for this salad and quiche with a glass of wine was under twelve dollars:
90_IMG_5578.jpg
You can get a good sandwich and a glass of wine for seven dollars in a decent but not elegant environment. Conversely you can buy a beer and a tapas in Granada and with the free tapas, enjoy a light supper or good lunch for less than seven dollars.
9E4206CB-E..F93E92396E8.jpg
We bought cookies and croissants from bakeries, oranges and persimmons from fruit markets, we were not hungry.
We never held back on a good cup of coffee!! That was our treat.
90_IMG_3108.jpg
Beer is cheaper than coffee so I enjoyed a few glasses of beer and also wine. Beer and wine cost fifty cents Canadian more than water, sometimes less!
This exact trip is doable for three hundred dollars less. Just replace the hop on and off buses for 'free with tip' walking tours, cut out half the cabs, forget the phone and find cheaper accommodation in Barcelona and Malaga.
If you find cheaper accommodation everywhere else and make a few tweaks you can do it for even less!!
Or you could cut back on the accommodation budget and eat out more!!

We could have saved money by not traveling during a week that included two national holidays, Dec 6 and 8. Many Spaniards take the week off or make a five day weekend so hotel prices are higher.
Also we booked several hotels in advance with free cancelation which is more expensive than booking with no refund. Note that Seville, Albufeira and Lisbon were booked with no refund and were very reasonable.
I used hotelscombined, tripadvisor, trivago, booking.com, hotels.com, and Expedia.
All of our hotels had a tripadvisor score of over 8 out of ten.
All of our hotels had a private bathroom and a good location, either convenient to local transit or the old town. They all had elevators. When I was 63 I stayed in a place with 105 stairs (and could still do it in a pinch) but prefer not to wear myself out at the hotel.
I like to conserve my energy for all the other stairs and steep inclines I am sure to encounter during the day. Even though all our hotels came with a lift stairs were still involved in four of them - but only one flight.
You can save money by taking a room with a shared bathroom, booking a hostel dorm or a hotel room further out or look into Couchsurfing - please only select Couchsurfing if you value the cultural experience!! The intent is not just a free place to flop for the night!!
Ayre Hotel Gran Via was the nicest room we stayed in. We had an executive room as it was cheaper than a regular room at the time we booked:
20161202_063635.jpg
However, the room I enjoyed the most was the much cheaper seafront room with breakfast in Albufeira. There is something to be said for a million dollar view!!
2C107DDF-D..9283B4BABDD.jpg
Also the very cheapest hotel we stayed in was in Seville and I found it wonderful, top of the list of recommended places.
DDB6D776-D..148A1F1FE2A.jpg
We got a super rate online for the high speed train from Barcelona to Antequera but generally in Spain buses are cheaper. Therefore, our shorter trips were by bus. The Man in Seat 61 is a good train transportation site.
The buses were clean and comfortable and although seats are generally assigned we often moved to have two seats each when the bus wasn't full.
Although low cost airfare is tempting, the luggage restrictions are brutal and getting to and from the airport more daunting and sometimes more costly than getting to train and bus stations so you have to factor this in.
IMG_4243.jpg
Actually in Portugal trains are very reasonable but the timetable for buses suited our schedule better.
We saw a lot of countryside traveling this way.
08ABFDA4-C..EFD97F70CAA.jpg A3D2E1D5-3..2B3F8EFBE34.jpg

If you are a senior or a student check if there are special rates for buses, trains and entrance fees, you can save a bit of money.
The inter-city buses in Portugal offered a seniors rate for example.
Check out the 'free admission' dates. The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is free on Sundays.
If you are walking a lot with your luggage and taking buses, trains and low cost airlines I recommend a carry on size suitcase with wheels. I took a suitcase that measured about 7 by 14 by 20 inches and had enough room for all that I needed and a few things were extraneous.
Packing
In my suitcase was:
A daypack - (only used to carry souvenirs when my suitcase got too full).
Two pair of black leggings - one was pj bottom
Black pants
Black cardigan
Five tops - used one as pj top
Underwear and socks
bathing suit - did not need the hot tub at La Chancla was too cold!!
Sandals - used once but could have got by without them
Makeup and deodorant. Flat iron
Chocolate and granola bars
Gum, polysporin, Tylenol for cold and flu, Ibuprofin.
Printouts of hotel reservations
Two pairs one dollar gloves - rarely used.
Tablet, charger and converter.
I wore
Sleeveless tank top with long sleeve black T shirt, baggy cashmere black pullover, Packable down jacket, black leggings, silk and cashmere pashmina (too big would not bring again, replace with smaller scarf), black socks, black sketchers. Remember, it was winter in Calgary.
In my jacket inside pockets: money, passport, credit card and travel documents.
A neck pouch with money, debit card, drivers license and medical insurance card.
My cell phone was in the bungee cord necklace.
IMG_6086.jpg
I only carried a purse onto the plane on the outgoing trip.
My suitcase started out very neatly. Like items were tightly rolled and put in plastic freezer bags and all the air was removed. The short sleeve t-shirts and bathing suit all went together in a zip lock bag.
The sandals were held together with an elastic band and placed at the bottom, near the wheels.
Everything almost was knit, lightweight and stretchy.
This was my basic look no matter what I was wearing, no kidding:
bench_2_barc_.jpg

If I had to give up one point of interest it would be Sintra since it was so tourist-oriented, full of tourists, touts everywhere selling tours, too much. It is cheap and easy to get there from Lisbon so an easy day trip if you are into castles.
I have reached the point where the castle has to be really historic for me to want to take a peak. I liked Bran Castle in Romania and would recommend it - the setting of Dracula which was fiction, based on a real guy, Vlad the Impaler.
The Alahambra has a castle worth seeing:
20A6BF48DBFBE1F75F4CE31DDF21B55B.jpg

I loved this trip. My favourite hotels were Zaida in Seville and Sol e Mar in Albufeira.
My favourite town was Antequera Spain.

My number one moment was the cromlech in Evora Portugal.
63EE1365-2..CC05B8B017C.jpg
Our nicest taxi driver was in Seville.
I had several good experiences buying souvenirs: a little Moroccan shop two doors away from our hotel in Granada; the shop next door to the Casa Guitarra in Seville where I purchased the flamenco shoes and dress for my grandchild and buying shoes in Lisbon.
My best purchasing deals were the Dali clock in Barcelona, the Aria baby doll in Malaga and my Handmade in Spain espedrilles from Lisbon!! For five Euros these sandal have leather uppers and a jute heel.
90_IMG_6091.jpg
My best meal was at Alfama, Lisbon.
The best and cheapest cafe con leche was in a working class bar in Albufeira and the worst was in a four star hotel in Barcelona!!
Irishman_in_Antequera.jpg
I could have skipped Sintra but am grateful I stood on Cabo de Roca.
IMG_5717.jpg
I am glad I went to the opera in Barcelona as it afforded the opportunity to experience the magic of the Palau de Musica.
IMG_2474.jpg
I wish I had purchased a pooping log and nativity cagnere in Barcelona - at the time it seemed like two more useless souvenirs but in retrospect I would have kept them myself to trot out every Christmas and explain the significance to anybody willing to listen.
B81FE75B-9..FFD4FA75730.jpg
The most touristy places were Sintra, Albufeira and Granada. The least touristy place was Antequera Spain.
IMG_2606.jpg
I wish I had purchased port in Portugal but I am happy I at least bought Ginja the liqueur with sour cherries!! I drank a shot of ginja with the locals, standing in close quarters on the street, little plastic cup in hand, purchased it from a counter, no chairs, this is straight stand up, glug, glug, pleasant.
If we had ordered one in a sit down bar it may have come in a little chocolate cup, yes, it goes well with chocolate, desert alternative. I bought my bottle of ginja at a grocery store, six euros with cherries. The cherries have pits.
IMG_6101.jpg
I am glad I ate tortilla and Iberian ham and I am making tortilla at home: the trick is to use a lot of olive oil when pre-cooking the potatoes and then allow the potatoes to sit in the beaten eggs for an hour before cooking up the mixture.
The other trick is to use an oven proof frying pan to finish cooking the top. This makes a nice brunch dish and I can regale my guests on Spanish tortilla and tapas.

Tips on Language and other things:
- a lot of Europeans are fluent in English
- learn at least hello and thank you in each country's language
- use the word station not depot, train station, bus station
- use the word taxi not cab
- use the word pharmacy not drug store
- be aware that your suitcase, jacket, etc may go through a scanner at train stations as well as airports.
- get familiar with local currency and have some with you as you may not be able to use credit at some smaller stores or stations
- always remember you are a guest in a foreign country.
- if you want to eat the same food prepared like back home, maybe you aren't cut out for travel.
- MacDonalds and Starbucks are in most cities, if you must, go there.

Embrace the differences, enjoy.

20161215_152321.jpg

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 19:19 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona culture travel bus train gaudi canada budget discount cheap europe bargain tips deal sale affordable senior customs frugal low-cost economical shoestring moderate cheapskate megaliths azulejo testimonial penny-pinching low-income seat61 Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]