Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lessons Learned - Spain

1. Its cold in the winter. I think I will save my winter excursion in the future to the Southern Hemisphere or Hawaii.

2. Hostels are not as bad as everyone thinks they are. They have cheap laundry service, english speaking people who want to meet like minded travelers and free internet (kiosks and wifi). On top of that, it made budgeting so much easier.

Goals for the future:

1. Take more pictures. I wish I would have gotten more pictures of Joe and I together.
2. Add more walking/hiking.
3. Plan more excursions (football game, etc)

As we plan for our big trip, please stay tuned for an occassional blog on the turmoil involved in preparing my life for such a large journey. Other than that, this will be my last blog for a bit that contains trip information from Spain unless I get questions from friends and family that I feel like I should answer.

I will leave you with one final view of Granada.

The Alhambra - The Disneyland of Spain

The major attraction in Spain is the Alhambra. The site is so popular and so famous that you need to prebook in advance over the internet and arrange a timed entrance.

The day we went was cold and wet which obviously did not add to the trip.
Even the wild cats in the area were desperate for warmth:

There were three main areas: the actual Alhambra or Palacio which was a moorish Palace; the Albayzin which was a fortress for the Moors and then the Christians; and finally Generalife which are the gardens.

The Alhambra was the bread and butter for the whole day followed by Generalife.

The highlight was the architecture which was of Moorish influence. Every detail was a masterpiece.

By the time we got to Generalife, the rain was really starting to become a nusance. However, the gardens did not seem to mind.

While exploring Spain, I have seen many gardens with each one beautiful in their own way.

I always imagine the rulers and the famous who enjoy them. I would have taken my breakfast and lunch in the gardens every day that I lived in one of thesse beautful palaces.

Granada - A spanish town with a different flavor

We were suprised when we arrived at our final destination in Andalucia, Granada.

Granada was the last stronghold of the Moors before the Christian Reconquest. Therefore, it has the rich flavors of the Arabic/Moors culture, like a tea bag left in hot water for longer than most.

Our hostel sat next to the Arabic quarter filled with shops full of spices, textiles, hookahs and ceramic arts. Also in the quarter were a large magnitude of tea shops.

Tea shops serve sweet tea and desserts (usually sweet and sticky). We also recieved complimentry Figs. (interesting)

In all, we spent two days in this place and we could have been happy staying here a week.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Back Home safe and sound

We arrived last night by subway, plane, train, bus and car. The trip was magnificant and we are looking forward to our future adventures.

I still have some back logged posts that I will slowly post over the couse of this week. Stay tuned.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Madrid - This time it's sunny

It was pretty soggy when we were in Granada for two days. This morning under dreary skies, we hopped on a bus for the long ride back to Madrid. Six hours to be exact.

Madrid seems to be in the hustle and bustle of christmas shopping and students entering and leaving the city to return to Mom and Dad for the big christmas feast. If you recall all roads come and go from Madrid.

Today is our last day in Spain. We will be returning home to Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon. The feeling is bittersweet since we are excited to see family and for christmas, but sad to complete our vacation.

Friday, December 21, 2007

For Lexi: I found the Perfect Hot Chocolate

The hot chocolate is practically as thick as pudding and pure goodness.

You buy them here with Churros for dipping.

Lexi, our search is over. This is the perfect hot chocolate. All that remains on our to do list is the perfect gravy.

I did not find that in spain.

Our day in Ronda

Ronda was a really neat stop over.

We took a nice hike down the gorge (around back) to see some various angles of the city.

Heading down the trail.

The new bridge! The bridge was completed in the later 1700's. The myth is that the designer of the bridge fell off the top when he leaned over to carve the date on his masterpiece.

After the hike, we walked back up and admired the view from the top.

(That scared the wits from us)
Dont look down.

Ronda - Spitting off the Top.

Joe is reading a book by Ernest Hemmingway about the Spanish Civil War. In the small town of Ronda, the town people locked the fascist people in the city hall. They then all got drunk in the local tabernero. All the townspeople lined up to beat the crap out of the fascist to their death and then throwing them off the cliff. The last one was a coward and they threw him over kicking and screaming.

..Even the priest took the dive.

Tarifa - No description needed.

Tarifa...any further south and your in....


Lay over @ Cadiz

A 4 hour lay over in Cadiz really made me wish that we stayed a day or so there instead of moving on to Tarifa so quickly.

Then again, I am not sure that we had time.

Cadiz had beautiful parks.

Here are dorky Joe and Mauri in Cadiz.

Mauri eating a bocadillo.

Joe! Notice the ocean in the background.

ARCOS - Feliz Navidad

I was just kidding about not having internet access. After some tinkering, I finally connected.

While in Arcos we stumbled upon a major christmas festival. It was a nativity scene with live people at various stations.

Nativity scenes are huge in spain and every city (large and small) has at least one. People get so excited about the display that they will stand in line just to see it.

Here is one that we snapped in Jerez.

Arcos was different. The statues were real people and real animals.

Roman Soldiers: Watch out baby jesus

Its not Christmas without a Christmas Donkey

As far as animals go, they had live goats, sheep, donkeys and horses. This really added to the festival.

Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus: Yes, they used a real baby who was not thrilled about the whole situation.

The last stop was a trip to see the three kings. The three kings day is the major holiday the children look forward. If you recall from your religion classes, the three kings brought gifts to the new Lord Jesus.

If you read a little bit more, the three kings bring game boys, wii's and futbols to little ninos and ninas across spain.

Granada - Running away from the rain

So far it has not rained on us. We seem to be running ahead of the rain schedule with damaging wind and rain trailing us closely. We saw some news on our last place we stayed: Tarifa. The people there did not look very happy.

We grabbed the 9am train this morning from Ronda. After an uneventful 2 hours, we hopped off the train at our final stop in Andalucia: Granada.

Granada is a world of difference from the other places in Spain. For one, it has a large Moorish (Muslim) influence filled with tea houses, and shops where you can buy scarves, hookah´s, etc. Joe is also in heaven since he covered Kebab in Sevilla. Kebab is like a Gyro. The cuisine is from the turkey region. Its filling a mucho cheapo. There are Kebab´s on every corner.

We are at a backpacker´s hostel for Granada and we have already toured the city to find some nice lookouts of the city below, the Alhambra on the hill and the Sierra Nevada in the horizon. We got some nice photos, but had to move onwards as the pick pocketers started to swirl like vulchers over a dead carcus.

Tomorrow is our last touring day. We have a noon reservation for the Alhambra which will take up our whole day for tomorrow.

Unfortanatly, my laptop has failed to cooroporate and I am once again stuck with a public kiosk. Therefore, no pictures until I return.

With the help of a thumb drive and at the mercy of Joanne and Eric, I should be able to add the pictures to my blog after Christmas.

Until then, I guess you will have to use your imagination.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


We arrived in ronda after a bus ride to Algeciras and a train from there. The wind in Tarifa last night was blowing so hard that is was maddening. The wind is a bit calmer in ronda, but we are freezing.

Unfortanatly, Spain has hit some nasty weather. the forcast: rain, rain, rain and rain. It is also unseasonably cold with snow only 30 km from Madrid. We do not have internet access in Ronda. I am actually at a bar writing this quick blog entry. We expect to arrive in Granada on Friday to visit the Alhambra. Granada is expected to be the coldest place in spain that we will visit. Just in time for a cold spell.

As far as Ronda goes, we walked around town despite the murky weather and we got some very nice pictures of the famous sites in the town. I will leave the description to the pictures when I get a chance to post them in Granada.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Next stop - Ronda

After a couple of days in Tarifa which is a little beach town on the southern most tip of Spain, we are heading inland to Ronda.

Unfortunately, posting pictures on the internet is timely and I still am not caught up. I still have Arcos, Cadiz and Tarifa pictures in my camera.

Please stay tuned and let me know if you are enjoying the blog through comments and emails.


Patio's: whoever invented them is a genius

Many of our places we have stayed at have either a patio or a terrace. These hang out spots are the best place to unwind after a long day of touring.

The terrace was located on the roof in Arcos.

Joe and his books.

Mauri sleeping.

Who would have thought.

ARCOS: A room with a view

Arcos is one of Spain's many hill villages. This tiny town is perched on top of a cliff and the houses practically hang over the side.

Because of low season, we got the opportunity to stay in a beautiful pension.

We just couldnt look down.

These pictures were taken from our room.

What a cute couple!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Porsches on Parade

Thirty Porsches traveling through the little hill town of Arcos with a police escort. I believe the town people were just as amused.

Poor Babe!

.........and yes, that is a hoof.

Cafe con Leche

Heaven on earth!


The Spanish people rarely go to one bar to eat and drink the night away. They take their drinks standing up at the many taberneras and accompany their vino, fino or cervesa with a bite or two of food: TAPAS: mini dishes to share around the table.

Tapas is a taste. If you want a larger portion its a racion. They usually run between a euro to three euros depending on the kind of food being served.

Iberian Ham. Very awesome.

Stewed Stuffed Pepper. I forgot to tell Joe about the pepper details. He liked it anyways.

Anchovies w/ Olive Oil and a dab of Gauzpacho (cold tomato soup)

Chorizo - Andalusian style (soaked in Wine). For this dish, it was one step further - Jerez style: soaked in Fino (Sherry). Awesome.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wonderful Wonderful Arcos

Last night we were surprised with a wonderful Christmas festival. It was a parade, but the people moved instead of the paraders. We were shuffled through the various narrow alleyways of Arcos to several nativity displays. Instead of the normal statues, we were greeted with live people demonstrating the various bible stories that build to Christmas.

The parade was complete with live animals (goats, sheep and donkeys), lots of adults and children dressed up as townspeople of Bethlehem, Roman solders and even a baby played little Jesus. They sang and danced, clapped their hands and shook tamborines. It was fantastic. We then bought freshly roasted chestnuts which i have never had before.

The festivities concluded with all the ninos paying a visit to the three kings to tell them what they wanted for three kings day (around Jan 5th). This is the Spanish version of Santa Clause. I have some nice pictures of that.

This morning we took a walk to the nearby lake and took a small hike below the gorge. I snapped some nice pics of the town while I was at it.

Tomorrow we are making our way to Tarifa which is the most southern tip of Spain. We were going to make a trip to Vejer, but we nixed it from our schedule since we are desperate for some budget living, wiFI and laundry machines.

Talk to you soon!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Arcos for two days of rest

We arrived in Arcos de la Frontera after a ho hum stay in Jerez. We stayed at a simple hostal in Jerez and nearly froze our asses off. We were eager to move on to a smaller city and we also made the decision to spend a bit more here. You will not be disappointed with the pictures from our hotel room. Arcos is a hill town and its city sits on a cliff. Lets just say: if something blows out of our windows, its gone!!!

I will post the pics as soon as I am able to get wifi on my laptop.

In the mean time Joe and I have discovered some cheap eats. We now pack our breakfast in the morning with food from the mercado. We also have discovered bocadillos. The spanish people love Pan (bread) and Jamon (ham). The pan may not be as tasty as France´s baguette, but they make it fresh every day. A bocadillo is a sandwich but they put the Ham on a nice peice of bread or roll. Its cheap, only 1-2 euros.

Another nice food is tortilla. Tortilla is not what we are used for. Its american equivalent is an omelet.

We are off for some tasty menu del dia. We will keep you posted. Expect more pictures in the tuesday time frame. (I hope)


Friday, December 14, 2007

Jerez de la Frontera

Hello. We arrived in Jerez de la Frontera this morning and took a tour of the Andalusian Equestian Arts Center. We got to pet the horses and watch the horses pratice in the ring. We will be tasting some sherry tonight which is Jerez´s claim to fame. We have limited access on the internet. We expect a solid day of internet access in Tarifa. We should be there in a few days.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Joe and I have fallen in love with the menu del Dia. The meal is three courses: 1st plate, 2nd plate and desert. The meal also includes bread and a drink (cola, wine or beer). This is a good way to eat alot of food for cheap. We usually are given 2 or 3 choices for each course. During lunch (lunch is between 2 - 5 pm during Siesta) we walk around reading the menus and prices at each eatery which are posted on the window. The best Menu's are written by hand and just tossed on paper then taped to the door.

A menu that is in English (very rare) and/or a menu that is neatly typed is not my type of restaurant.

Here is an example of a menu:

Primero Plato

Calamares con Salsa: This is not the exact name, but basically this was a stew with squid. The word Salsa is equivalent to the word "Stew" in spain. It is not a chip dipper.

Segundo Plato

Albondigas con Tomate y Potatas: Albondigas is meetball and this dish is soaked in a tomato sauce with French fries on the side. No fingers in the potatoes. You eat everything with a knife and fork.

Postre (Desert)

Flan: Pretty damn good.

This meal was only 8.50 Euros which is pretty dang good for a tourist area.

Here is my Primero Plato: It was a tomato based vegetable stew with Egg on top. Awesome!

Sevilla - Cathedral

Our first full day here, we visited the catholic church of Sevilla.

Once again, Sevilla is similar to Cordoba. The romans owned it. The Moors destroyed and rebuilt. The catholics took over, destroyed and built a church.

However, this church is unique. The people of Sevilla wanted to separate themselves from other cities in spain. So how do you do this? Simple, build a big ass church. The cathedral is the biggest church in the world and was completed in just over a century. (1402 - 1506).

One of the fun things about the churches here is they have these really neat alters for each of the saints. Here is a really bad pictured of Joe in front of the dedication for St. Joseph.

The truly exciting thing about the Cathedral of Sevilla is that it contains the remains of Christopher Columbus. Until recently, there was much skepticism on whether the bones in the tomb were really Columbus. However, DNA evidence of the bones have matched Christopher's brother, Diego.

I hope I can have an entire statue of four men holding my coffin when I die.

Lastly, cant go to a church without posting at least one crucifix:

The Catholic Church's response to Global Warming

Sevilla and why we wont leave!

What was supposed to be two nights in Sevilla turned into three because the city was so much fun.

During our stay we had dinner with a nice guy from Slovakia who lived for 3 months in Malvern. Small world. We really enjoyed his company.

We also took in some sights, saw some Flemenco dancing, picnicked in the park, drank sangria and tapas tapas tapas!!!

The city was a blast, but we must move south. Tomorrow is Jerez de la Frontera which is a town known for its Sherry and horses.

I will be spending the next hour posting some thoughts on Sevilla.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cordoba - Final Thoughts

I think the picture says it all.

Cordoba - Alcazar

A neat little castle and bueatiful Moorish Gardens known as the Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos.

Christopher Columbus was a guest here to bring news to Isabel and Fernando.

"America is great. Great places will come from the Americas such as McDonalds and Starbucks." -Columbus