A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about tapas

The Alahambra - Granada Spain

sunny 17 °C

Granada is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in southern Andalusia. We arrived on December 11 with the intention of touring the Alahambra.
Set high above the city and the River Doro, the Alahambra holds a strategic position. It started out as a fortress - an alcazaba, in the ninth century.

IMG_3523.jpg

A palace - alcazar - was built by the Nazrid kings in the thirteenth century and became the court of the Moorish rulers.
The palaces and surrounding gardens are masterpieces of Arabic art and craftsmanship.
20A6BF48DBFBE1F75F4CE31DDF21B55B.jpg

In 1492 the Christian monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, drove the last Muslim ruler out of Granada. The Moors had been in control for 800 years.
In the sixteenth century Charles 5 of Spain also built a palace within the Alahambra.
The fortress/castles/magnificent gardens complex is a World Heritage Site and one of the most visited monuments in Spain.
We booked tIckets online and we have a time slot of 1130 am to tour the Nazrid castles.
We are staying at ABS Granada a sister hotel to Monjas del Carmen, kind of the smaller, poorer relative.
We have a room with twin beds and a narrow balcony overlooking a quiet lane. Hotel Macia Condor.

IMG_3469.jpg

There was a pleasant girl at the front desk who gave us a map and explained where to exchange the internet printed voucher for tickets to avoid waiting in line at the Alahambra.
She also marked two recommended two restaurants near by.
We set out to look at the town. Numerous small lanes branch off and the first information centre is closed. We assumed it will open at 430 as lots of shops close for siesta.
We stopped at a recommended bar for lunch.
In Granada, if you order a drink you get a free tapas. I ordered a beer and we got a small plate of breadcrumbs and sausage. Likely Migas which is typical to the area, filling.

Tapas in North America does not compare. First they aren't free. Second, they are cheaper to buy here.
I doubt you could get much for 2 euros fifty cents (3.75 C) back home. The beer here is cheaper also and we are smack in the middle of tourist central.

Granada is the epicentre of the free tapas with drink tradition. Bars in other cities and towns may do it, but it is not reliable.

It is 17 degrees C, sunny, we go back to the tourist office and it is still closed. The map is examined, we veer left down narrow lanes.

We paused by the church of Iglisia do Santo Domingo which has some historical significance. It was originally the chapel of the Convent of Santa Cruz. Building started in 1512:
Granada.jpg

There is interesting graffiti in Granada as well:

IMG_3481.jpg

Having had no luck in our quest to pick up tickets to the Alahambra we made our way back to the hotel.
We will get our tickets in the morning. Our room is clean and the beds are comfortable, the sink is in the room, open a door and there is a toilet, open another door and there is the shower, pretty compact.
This was our smallest room and the cost was 65 dollars per night, no breakfast, good location, friendly staff, clean - a bit awkward getting showered and dressed but better than a shared bathroom!! Very compact but pleasant.
The street is quiet but when other guests go down the hall you can hear them talking which is annoying at 130 am. Depends on the manners of other guests, earplugs and eye mask recommended so you won't be bothered by the noise or hall light activated by movement.

12 December is a bright sunny day, we are up early as we want a coffee before the tourist office opens at 9. Turns out they open at 930. Also this is not the right place so we are redirected to another little lane and discover my ticket means handicapped (not senior) and I must go to the ticket office at the Alahambra and pay the difference which is another 6 Euros. So we basically wasted a lot of time to no avail.
We hopped on a red bus that is small enough to maneuver the narrow streets and were dropped off at the ticket office. The lineup was not too daunting as it was before 10 am and it is low season.
It was a pleasant walk to the castle:
FECB549AEF2363F4E499F402BDB18DB2.jpg
8B33F85BD126B27826A0A6C5FDBB9888.jpg

The evergreen hedge corridor with windows is so densely packed you cannot poke a finger into it.
Since we are early I quick toured the fortress. Lots of stairs to lookout points and views of Granada. I went to the bell tower last which seems the highest point. It took me a minute to recover from the climb up.
IMG_3528.jpg

We joined the line forming up for the castle and as we entered we were overwhelmed by the opulence and detail.

IMG_3601.jpg

Everything is intricately decorated, the ceilings are spectacular. Like other castles I have visited it is not very cozy.

IMG_3558.jpg

IMG_3627.jpg

The palace of the last Muslim ruler is an astounding example of delicately carved plaster, ceramic tiles (Azulejo) with geometric patterns, wood lattice, leafy courtyards, and formal gardens. Fountains and reflecting pools add beauty and harmony. It is mind-boggling when seen with a crush of other tourists from the four corners of the world. No touching!

IMG_3555.jpg

You really must experience it in person as pictures and words cannot do it justice.

The museum is in the sturdier, blockier castle of Charles V and it is closed on Mondays. Disappointing.
There was an art exhibit upstairs by the painter Fortuny. He was the father of the famous dress designer. We walked through the exhibit but picture taking was not allowed.
IMG_3645.jpg IMG_3644.jpg

The most significant design element of the Henry V castle is the large central courtyard:
A29AA487CC30A709F42089EB5B98BA9F.jpg

It has an dimpled, pillow-y looking exterior with benches and brass rings all around. The rings are set up quite high. Was the purpose functional or aesthetic? Did they stand on the bench to tie up their horses?
90_IMG_3642.jpg

I was not aware persimmons grow in Spain. They hang from leafless branches:
90_20BDCBFEBA2564F7461ECB5BCED16E3B.jpg

We took the red bus back downtown. The ticket costs two dollars and is good for an hour so we had time to take another bus for a circuit to see a bit more of the city.
For a late lunch we went to a busy bar I spotted yesterday. The few tables were occupied but eventually we got one.
I ordered a beer and a tapas and got a free tapas as well, this time rice and ham. I ordered another beer and the free tapas was fish, pickled, very good. Total price for two beer and three tapas was eleven dollars.
9E4206CB-E..F93E92396E8.jpg

Most people are standing at the bar.

IMG_3669.jpg

A young man with a metal instrument case walked by. I asked what he had in his case. A violin. He was an American busker. He sat with us and counted his change, there was a lot of it, he is making at least a few hundred Euros a day. I did not realize it could be so lucrative.

We walked around, picked up some souvenirs, and the day was over.

Tomorrow, 13 December, we go to Seville.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 20:09 Archived in Spain Tagged alcazar spain granada espana castle andalusia fortress alcazaba tapas alahambra azulejo Comments (0)

Seville Spain - Flamenco, Guitars, Budget Palace

sunny 16 °C

Seville is the capital of Andalusia in southern Spain. It was under Moorish rule for 800 years and the magnificent Seville Cathedral is built where a mosque once stood. By volume this is currently the largest church in the world. By area it is the third largest.
557EDD12D7B38DB1CD5CC0ABE0FC1847.jpg

The bell tower, La Giralda, is accessed by ramps not stairs and was originally the minuret.
The series of ramps is wide enough for two guards on horseback to pass each other.
The ramps made it easier for the Muezzin to deliver the call to prayer five times a day.
Seville Cathedral and the Torre Giralda are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The church was built between 1402 and 1506.
Christopher Columbus is buried here.
The Cathedral of Saint Mary by the Sea and the striking Giralda are the most visited sights of Seville. The tower dominates the city's skyline. The Renaissance style top was added to the original minaret:
IMG_3707.jpg
We arrive by bus from Granada.
We are staying at Hotel Zaida which I recommend if you enjoy a days gone by vibe and do not need five star status.
Our room was clean and comfortable and the lobby and common areas are a reminder that this hotel was once a Moorish Revival style palace built in the 1700s!!

DDB6D776-D..148A1F1FE2A.jpg
It cost thirty Euros per night through Booking.com - less than fifty Canadian.
The lobby was spacious and the snacks and drinks available for purchase were cheaper than many stores.
Of course this is low season but for a budget hotel Zaida has an excellent location, an elevator and an abundance of charm. Tick. I have slept in a palace.
We are only in Seville for one night. As we walk to the Cathedral I recall my previous visit. It is lovely in the old town, very walkable, fairly flat.

The Archivo de Indias houses extensive documentation of trading with Latin America during Spain's Golden Age. Seville was the hub of receiving goods for over two centuries. The Archivo is a World Heritage Site.
IMG_3699.jpg
We stop for coffee. It costs more to sit outside so, cheapskates to the core, we opt to perch on stools inside. Since it is a gorgeous sunny day and the patio faces a pretty square this was a mistake. Uncomfortable, dimly lit and no ambiance.
We have arranged for tickets to a flamenco show and are headed to Santa Cruz, the old Jewish Quarter. It is a maize of narrow lanes but we found our way.
IMG_3737.jpg
We stopped for tapas and hit a bar that did not offer free tapas with drink. We're not in Granada anymore. I have seafood paella and it is good.
939481359A42396EBAFD89188D61261F.jpg
We are early to the Casa de la Guitarra but the manager welcomes us graciously and shows us we have reserved seats right in the front row. Since our seats are reserved we wander the neighbourhood and pick up souvenirs. I bought black and red flamenco shoes for my granddaughter (she is three).
I watched flamenco when I was here in 2012 (Backpacking a Continent on Fifty Dollars a Day). I do not expect to be as amazed this time. There are some once in a lifetime experiences.
The venue is different and so is the format.

This one is highly rated on Trip Advisor and has more guitar and less dancing. The performers include one Spanish guitar player, a singer/human percussionist and a female dancer.
The theatre is also a guitar museum, with the largest private collection of nineteenth century guitars in Spain.
40E45584F508D37EE9F3D2D4F2D674CE.jpg
The above picture is only a small example.

First the guitar player performs a few tunes alone. His fingers fly over the strings. I am reminded of birds. He gives an introduction to each piece in both Spanish and English, these are folk tunes.
He is joined by another man who coughs and drinks water and shouts Ole as the guitar is played. He taps his feet and starts clapping in time, some softer, others like cracks of thunder. He is providing percussion and it's pretty effective. The audience is encouraging, Brava, Brava.
The dancer shows up wearing a long skirt with combs in her hair and beige flamenco shoes. The percussionist gives her his chair and moves to the other side of the guitar player.
IMG_3762.jpg
She appears to be getting into the mood of the music, nodding, snapping her fingers, and tapping her feet. After a time she livens up and stands, the percussionist starts to sing, it seems he is imploring her, she seems to be rejecting him, her fingers and arms move, sometimes her feet are moving so fast they are blurry.
Her face is contorted , anger, fear or defiance, maybe all three, maybe none of the above. We are so close to the stage I can see the beads of sweat on her forehead.
This is a real workout. She is adding percussion with her intricate footwork, the singer is sweating profusely as well so here is an idea for couch potatoes who like to sing, no excuse not to work out now!!
Brava, Brava the audience puts in their two bits.
The guitar player is cool as a cucumber, there is a lot of eye contact and nodding among the three on stage, it does seem kind of spontaneous and there is a definite connection and collaboration going on up there.
The dancer is almost violent in her moves, she does a few kicks towards the audience, first to her right and then towards the centre, it's not very ladylike, we catch glimpses of her white underwear.
I am worn out when the number finishes, Brava, Brava I chime in. Sweat is pouring down her face, her hair is damp. She disappears off stage, for a shower I presume, and the singer and guitar player do a few more tunes, they are both very good.

For the finale the dancer shows up, sits, taps, claps and then performs a happier, more light-hearted dance.
IMG_3763.jpg
She has tidied herself up and is wearing a different outfit. This dance is not as strenuous as the last one. I enjoyed it more as I was not so distracted by the sweating.
However, the first dance had so much passion and strength it was really the show stopper.
We clap, shout Brava, eventually throw in a standing ovation, but these performers , who are beaming and bowing, do not volunteer an encore. It is not their habit.
They have a second show shortly.
I feel a bit invigorated. It is still warm outside, I decide to buy the flamenco dress that matches the little shoes.
We lined up for a cab and scored a van. The cab driver spoke pretty good English and advised us to walk as he could not maneuver the narrow streets and had to take the long way. We opted to ride and he pointed out sights of interest along the way.
We passed the University which is the old tobacco factory and was the setting for the opera 'Carmen.' Some day I will watch that Opera since I have heard the story.
Flamenco was invented in Andalusia, possibly Seville. It has evolved over centuries to be a Spanish art form but seems to credit its roots to gitanos, Spanish gypsies who migrated from India. It includes Moorish and Jewish influences.
The word flamenco was a widely used term for Gypsy/gitano. Roma is usually considered the politically correct word today.
It was the song and dance of the lower classes. They expressed their passion and anguish and since they were illiterate the old tunes were passed along orally.
The guitar was not introduced to Flamenco until early in the 1800s. It is similar to a classic guitar but uses thinner strings and cheaper, thinner wood.
I was disappointed that our dancer did not wear the bata de cola for one of her numbers. This is the name of the dress with the frilly long train or tail we associate with Flamenco.
It takes a talented dancer to maneuver the train to be a partner in the dance. It was only introduced in the mid to late1800s, possibly as a jest to high society as trains were not fashionable at the time.
The next day, December 14, was a dreary, rainy day, but it was not cold. We had a relaxing breakfast and coffee in a bustling cafe a block from our hotel.
The streets are narrow and jammed with bars, cafes, souvenir shops, it is a touristy area, so we picked up a few more souvenirs and walked to the bus station.
It has been a short but satisfying visit. I was in Seville for several days in 2012 - if you have the time take a look at the stunning architecture of the Metropal Parasol, completed in 2011.
Although difficult to read because of the yellow letter this sign speaks to me:
Don't wait for the perfect moment. Take this moment and make it perfect.
IMG_3728.jpg
We have been in Spain for 13 days.
IMG_3773.jpg

We take the bus from Seville to Albufeira Portugal on 14 December.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 20:03 Archived in Spain Tagged seville spain espana cathedral budget sevilla carmen flamenco tapas Comments (0)

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)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]