Spain: The Madrid Edition.

Day 28 (MY BIRTHDAY!!!!) continued:

Along the three hour drive to Madrid, we made a stop at a gas station where my sister valiantly used that magic eraser to remove even more of the green paint from the side of our white Alfa Romeo from our small collision in Cordoba.  She was wildly successful, and we were feeling even more confident that we would be able to get away with it when we dropped the car off that afternoon.

When we arrived in Madrid, we planned wisely to park the car in a parking garage close to our hotel, drop off our bags, and then return the car to the rental facility.  What we didn’t anticipate is the heavy traffic in the city, along with how packed and tight the parking garage would be. Once we found a parking spot, I had to jump out of the car to guide my sister into the spot. One of the attendants came out and attempted to help as well. Really, he just “yelled” at my sister in Spanish. Finally, we had most of our bags and were able to take the escalator up the street and navigate our way to Vincci The Mint, our hotel. It was easy to get there, but we had a big scare at check-in. My passport was missing.. Thankfully, as I was panicking, the young man working the front desk helped me out by accepting my drivers license opposed to my passport. Because of this, we were able to get into our room, and I was able to dig through everything in search of my passport. It wasn’t there. It was either completely gone, or I had left it in Sevilla some how.  I was so frustrated, the last thing I wanted was to have to drive back to Sevilla for it or spend a few days more in Spain while waiting for a new one after a long visit to the US Embassy.

After digging, we had no choice, but to move on with the day. We headed down to the car to take it back to the rental facility. Before we left, I made it a point to check the car for my passport. I remembered that I had it when we were leaving for Tarifa, and I had set it down quickly right before I went to pay for our parking. Thankfully, I found it down on the inside of the seat. YAY!!!!!  I was plagued with relief as I waved it at my sister while she paid for our current parking.  She got back in the driver seat, and I guided her out of the parking spot as best I could. It was so intense, but she made it happen! You go, Erica!

We made our way outside of the city to the address that was on our rental car email. Funny enough, after about a 30 minute drive in traffic, there was no rental car drop off at the address we drove to. We didn’t know what to do, so we drove back into the city. We circled around the train station and pulled into a parking spot in front of a hotel, where I jumped out and attempted to ask the doorman for help. He was saying that it was right in the vicinity but he wasn’t 100% sure. So, being as it was, we drove into the parking lot of the train station. My sister jumped out & went to find it. After about 20 minutes of sitting in the car, she showed up, and knew exactly where to go. She got us there! The rep came out and looked over the car & gave us the receipt. We were not charged for any damage! WOO HOO!!!

iphone update 1870We had some of our smaller belongings with us that we had opted out of carrying to the hotel earlier, so we decided to hail a cab back to our hotel. It was a quick and easy ride. We dropped off our belongings, layered up and headed out for dinner. My sister was hell-bent on taking me to the mushroom bar, Meson del Champiñon, for my birthday. I was 100% in, but we were having a hard time finding it because Erica didn’t have the name. She knew it was right around Plaza Mayor. We did a full circle inside, and the mushroom bar was nowhere to be found. We were hangry & ready to give up, but we gave it one last try. We wandered down the stairs leading to the outside & took a look around. WE FOUND IT!!!!! We walked over to the right and headed in. They were packed! iphone update 1853There were no tables available, so as soon as a spot cleared at the bar, we moved in. We ordered a couple plates of mushrooms and a couple of beers that were so satisfying. We were also served a small plate of bread to accompany the savory stuffed fungus. You guys, oh my god. These mushrooms were the most incredible mushrooms that I have ever had, and may ever have. Despite the mushroom ecstasy, we decided to escape the crowd and find a place we could sit down. We headed back into the plaza and found an outdoor cafe where we were able to use blankets near a heater & ordered the worst paella we had the whole trip, simply because it was under-cooked… but it was hot, and that was all that was really important considering it was freezing and damp outside. Our meal was accompanied by the sounds of locals making music around us. It created a fun atmosphere that we really enjoyed.

After that, we went on a quick hunt to find a Spain patch for my sister for her back pack, and then we headed back to the hotel to sleep.

Day 29:

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iphone update 1855We woke at a normal hour and headed out into the city. It was going to be just an easy day for us. We got breakfast at a small cafe and ordered a couple of omelettes. The omelettes were completely runny inside, so we did our best to eat all that we could and split. We then headed toward Plaza Mayor. We figured we would check and see if there were any street artist… When we got there, we were completely taken aback. Not only were there street artists, there were performers, and there was a whole market lining the entire square full of vintage stamps, coins, trinkets, and more. It was awesome. It was a great place to spend the morning. We ended up buying a some vintage postcards for my dad that depicted bull fighting, and we each bought one more oil painting to add to our large collection. It was a really great way to start the day.

From there, we knew that we needed to pick up additional luggage, so we headed back toward our hotel, down one of the wide shopping roads that had several shops offering luggage. We found a couple pieces that suited our needs &, even better, were on sale! From there… we went back to the hotel & began attempting to pack up our souvenirs since we were leaving the following day. We got a pretty good start, but it still needed some work. It was a little nerve-racking packing our beautiful ceramic pottery into cheap luggage, but the good news is that it all made it a-okay.

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Anyways, back to the trip… We decided to head back out for lunch & made our way down the street to Le Pain Quotidien where we proceeded to have an incredible dish of vegetable lasagna followed by carrot cake that was divine. Not to mention, that the glass water bottles were the most incredible shade of blue, that we decided to take them with too! I know use them as vases.

iphone update 1862We began our journey toward the Palacio de Cristal which sits in the very large and beautiful Retiro Park. It was a beautiful day. The weather had finally warmed up a bit, and the sun was shining. We talked about history and life as we cruised through Madrid. We enjoyed watching the street performers entertain visitors in the park & seeing the people paddle boat in the large fountain/water feature.  We were in the park for a while, we enjoyed seeing the palace & even going in side. Then we stopped at one of the cafes to finally try the churros, a deep fried pastry dough served with chocolate sauce. To be honest, I didn’t understand the hype. I think Mexican churros are better, and the ones at Disneyland are the best… mmmm… that cinnamon sugar goodness!

We decided to explore more of the city on foot. We aimed to find the palace, but that didn’t go as planned. I think we were in the vicinity, but Erica ended up having to go to the bathroom so badly that we ended up heading back quite quickly and making a pit-stop in a Burger King.

iphone update 1868We were still hungry since our lunch was light, and decided that an early dinner was necessary. We did what any reasonable person would do, and went back to Meson del Champiñon. This time though, we beat the rush and got a table in back right next to the charming keyboardist. Not only did we order a couple rounds of mushrooms, we ordered cheese, we ordered olives, and we ordered fried peppers…. It was all so amazing!!!! I loved every minute of it. I could eat there all the time, and I wish there was a Meson del Champiñon here in Scottsdale. haha.

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iphone update 1872iphone update 1871There was one last stop that we had to make while in Madrid & that was the bull bar, La Torre del Oro. Along with its interesting history, the decorating was intriguing as well. There were heads of slain bulls on the wall along with vivid and graphic photos of bull fighting. There were also photos of celebrities and presidents that had visited. It was a really cool place, but I don’t know that I have the stomach to go back. The men working there were very kind. When we ordered the beer, they served us another small drink that was definitely comprised of beef broth & a mystery ingredient that kind of freaked me out. (Out of politeness, I finished it.) There is something about drinking beef broth drinks while look at injured bulls and injured bull fighters that really just turns your stomach a bit. I’m glad we went, and if you are up for it, go. It’s a cool place. But considering I’m not one to condone animal abuse, which I think is a category that bull fighting may fall under, I most likely won’t go back.

We decided that we should start heading back toward the hotel, but I really wanted one last crepe, so we stopped in at a cafe that had just that… a chocolate crepe… a chocolate crepe with an orange flavor… THE DISAPPOINTMENT STRUCK!!!! Orange has no place in chocolate, I don’t care what anyone says.. I did eat it anyways, but I was happy when it was gone.

We headed back to the hotel & finished organizing & packing. We were leaving super early the next morning for the airport, so we went to be early.

Day 29:

When we woke it was dark and raining. We were schedule on the 8:25 AM flight, and therefore wanted to ensure that we had plenty of time to get there. We wanted to leave the hotel by 6 AM. We were originally planning on taking the train, but opted for a cab instead. After checkout, we headed outside & quickly hailed one. The drive took longer than expected because of heavy traffic.

Once we got to the airport, a man came up and grabbed our bags and placed them on the trolley and began pushing them toward the American Airlines counter. He insisted that we tip him, and we declined. We thought he worked for the airport initially, and were a little frustrated that a stranger would just come up and assume that you want there help and would pay them for it. He was angry with us, but we didn’t care… We were way to exhausted to care. Instead, we got our tickets, checked our bags, and headed to our gate.

We were worried that we wouldn’t make our first flight because it would be too full and we were flying standby… but that wasn’t the case. We got on the first flight out headed for NYC without any issue. We even got to sit next to each other.

Just like that, it was bye-bye, Europe. Hello, home! I was okay with that. 29 days exploring other countries was more than enough. I was excited to be back in my own bed with my dog in my family’s home.

THE END.

Spain: The Sevilla Edition (Part 2). 

Day 27:

We slept in after the strenuous day we had prior. We were excited about what possibilities awaited us that day. We were in agreement that it would be a great day to head to the Alcazar, but our first order of business, as usual, was breakfast. We headed to the local Starbucks nearby, where we ordered our hot beverages and each of us got a pastry. I was really excited to be able to get a cinnamon roll because that option is not available in the United States, and it was amazing!

We started off by doing some light wandering around the city, passing by tourist shops, clothing shops, and cozy cafes.  We found ourselves along the the exterior wall of the Alcazar again, Here, we found a street artist selling his very small paintings of orange trees & homes for 15 Euro. Erica was quick to pick one up, and then we decided to get a move on to the Alcazar. When we got the gate we saw that line extended almost the length of a football field from the ticket counter. We got in line, but we wanted to be sure that we were in the right spot to purchase the tickets, so I headed to the left and into the large courtyard, Plaza del Patio de Banderas, attached to the Alcazar. In there I found the exit of the Alcazar and various street artists. One of which was woman doing beautiful watercolor work of the mosaic designs from various Moorish buildings in Andalusia and elongated cityscapes. Her work was captivating, but I knew I had to get back to Erica and the line. I told my sister what I had found out & we decided to check out the art after our tour.

iphone update 1804Eventually, we were at the ticket counter. We bought our tickets, walked through the metal detector, and then headed on in to grab our free audio guide. We did our best to click through in unison, but between looking at things & listening to things, we ended up separated several times. This meant, half the time I was trying to listen to my audio guide, I was, also, wandering around looking for my younger sister which ended up with me giving up on the audio guide because I couldn’t focus and ended up in a different room with no clue of what was being discussed. I’m the type that would rather admire the beauty and try to imagine it in all its splendor than listen to the mundane audio anyways. It just doesn’t hold my attention.

iphone update 1810iphone update 1817We explored the halls, and admired the gardens… We even laughed when we saw that someone had placed an orange on one of the pedestals where a piece of art had been removed from. We constantly trying to figure out which part of the Alcazar was used in the filming of Game of Thrones… Yes, that’s right… FUN FACT: The Alcazar is Dorne! We enjoyed letting our nerdy side out for a bit, and relaxing in the stunning gardens. The outside was as beautiful as the inside. And the Baths of Maria De Padilla were really extraordinary to be able to walk into. They were simple, but the architecture was very beautiful. I am not sure which part I loved most at the Alcazar. Everything was exquisite. The carvings, the mosaics, the gardens…. there was constantly something catching my eye. It’s truly remarkable to think of what this place has seen since the 14th century, and how much history has taken place there.

With a feeling of satisfaction in terms of experiencing the Alcazar, we decided to head out. We did not want to miss the artist with the water color paintings. When we got to her, we were both mesmerized by her work, and we ended up buying 6 pieces all together. Four for me, and two for Erica.  We were feeling so ecstatic about another acquisition. We were at 16 paintings total, and we hadn’t even been to Madrid yet!

We headed right when we made our final exit. I was hungry, so we headed to a street cafe, Alianza Restaurante & Cafe,  and took a seat outside even though it was freezing. The cafe was busy that sitting outdoors seemed like our only option. I just ordered a simple pizza, and naturally as I was almost finished, my sister decided she was hungry. She didn’t want to order there since I had just finished so we decided to find something else on the way back towards the hotel since we wanted to drop off our paintings. We stopped in at a street side cafe for Erica. She ordered something & I got a crepe. (I just love crepes so much.) We hung out watching the group of girls in front of us, and exchanged light conversation and goofed off on our phones. As soon as Erica was finished, we grabbed the tab, and hit the street. It wasn’t too long of a walk back to our hotel.

iphone update 1839While there, we did a full inventory of all of treasures and the numbers were truly funny.  1 Moroccan Rug, 16 paintings, 2 large Moroccan bowls, 1 teapot, 1 pitcher, 1 spoon rest, 2 bone inlay boxes, a small dish, 4 vases, & two baskets…. and i was still toting around my finds from Zimbabwe & South Africa, as well. It was safe to say that we needed to buy additional suitcases when we got to Madrid.  We got a handle on our packing by getting everything mostly organized, and ready to go to the car the next morning.  It was time for us to head back out.

We decided that we wanted to go to a roof top bar, and there just happened to be one right by the Cathedral de Sevilla, La Terraza de EME. The view of the cathedral from the room was extraordinary It glowed golden in front of the deep blue back drop that slowly turned darker with the minutes.  We each had a cocktail and discussed the plan for the following day: my birthday. This drink was a little bit of a precursor considering a bulk of my birthday would be spent driving again.

With a couple drinks down, we decided to move on, and try to find a place out of the cold. We both wanted to go to a Flamenco show, but didn’t book anything in advance. We were pleasantly surprised when we came across Milagritos, a tapas bar with a flamenco special. We got to watch flamenco & get a tapas dinner that included 3 tapas, a salad, and a small dessert. It was soooooo good. The paella they served which was only about 1 cup worth was some of the best paella I’ve ever had. I also finally tried croquettes, which kind of looked like a tater tot, but were cheesy & yummy. I was kind of bummed that I hadn’t ordered them before, but I guess it’s wise not to eat too much fried food! haha. As we ate we listened the young Spanish woman sing her lungs out. Her voice was deep and strong and it resonated throughout the small cafe. The male flamenco dancer stomped and moved quickly around the small dance floor. It was so exciting to watch. Between the thundering sound of his feet hitting the floorboard & her voice blaring throughout the room, my senses were so overwhelmed that part of me wanted to run away & I wanted to laugh with enjoyment.  TIP: In a nutshell, I would go back to this place to dine but I would take in another Flamenco show elsewhere, maybe one with more elaborate costumes. 

After dinner, we just headed back to the room. All we wanted was to escape the brutal cold.

DAY 28 (MY 29th BIRTHDAY!!!):

We got packed up, bundled up, and made one last Starbucks run. Thankfully, we beat the mob of students into the Starbucks, but that didn’t stop a few from trying to cut the line. Funny enough, one of the other young people in the line (unaffiliated with the mob), totally started calling people out & telling them to go back. It was hilarious and awesome!! (You go, dude!!!) We got our coffee, tea, and pastries. …and, then headed to  check and see if the watercolor artist was in her same spot from a couple days before. We were wanting to get a painting for my dad, but, sadly, she was not there. Nor was she there the night before.

After our small dilemma, we just headed back to the hotel. We dropped our drink & food in the car & headed up for our luggage.

We checked out & then were back on the road. Madrid, here we come!!!

…to be continued…

Morocco: The Tangier Day Trip Edition.

**I don’t have as many photos as usual, perhaps because I was out of my comfort zone**

Day 26:

We woke really early, around 5 AM. We were dressed and ready within close to 30 minutes, and headed down to the garage. I was driving that morning. We were headed south two hours and fifteen minutes to the port town Tarifa, and wanted to catch the 9 AM ferry to Tangier, Morocco with time to spare. The drive was fairly easy as we followed the directions on our phone. Thankfully, we made it there without any issues.

iphone update 1769The sun was finally up, and we were starting to gain some energy as we parked our Alfa Romeo in the paid parking just outside the terminal. We walked in to buy our tickets which took no longer than 10 minutes.  We purchased the 9AM ticket with an open return time that evening, which was convenient because it meant we could take our time.  From the ticket counter, we headed toward the cafe where we were able to grab our tea & coffee and a couple of pastries before boarding. Slowly, but surely, we were getting more and more excited.

iphone update 1771The time finally came to board the ferry.  Once we were on, we realized that we needed to line up to get our passports stamped since we were technically leaving the country. We made our way from the back of the boat to the front as they processed each person quickly.  With our newest stamps added to our passports, we grabbed a couple of seats next to the window, towards the back of the boat. We laughed and had a great time talking and bonding as the boat began its crossing of the Straight of Gibraltar. The ride was a little over an hour, and fairly smooth. The boat did rock a little, and there were some Islamic women dressed in their traditional veils that were struggling. One of them was vomiting into the nearby trash can, and the other sat there with her eyes closed trying her hardest to hold it together, as one of her children was climbing all over her lap, and her other sat right next to her. Another little American girl, who was traveling with her parents and her little brother (who was passed out on the bench without a care in the world) was crying from sea sickness & her mom spent much of the ride with her in the bathroom. It was all hard to watch, and I was definitely feeling for them, as well. It brought me back to Cancun from the year prior when we were doing our Scuba training. We encountered some rough waters there, and i just didn’t know if I would be able to finish the day.

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Finally, we arrived in Tangier all intact, with some others weighing a little bit less. We headed through customs which was effortless, a quick glance and a stamp and we were through. As we emerged from the building, it was very cold & there was a very light rain beginning to ensue. Suddenly, Morocco didn’t seem like the greatest idea, especially as we began being hounded by the local taxi drivers trying to give us a ride. We did our best to shoo them away in foreign languages… Our goal was to not let the locals know that we were American, but that didn’t last long. haha.  The locals wore us down, after turning down several drivers, we had one that approached us & made us an offer than seemed reasonable, especially because my sister seemed uncertain about which direction we should be heading & didn’t want to take any risks. We told our driver, after agreeing on a price, that we wanted to head near the Medina.

As we road along in the back seat, discretely counting out our Euros to pay with, our driver repeatedly offered us the scenic city tour. We on the other hand, continually turned him down. Once we were in the vicinity of the Medina, he made his offer one more time. Upon our refusal he stopped the car so we could get out, and threw his hands up in the air in his frustration.  At this point, we were a little overwhelmed and completely out of our comfort zone.

iphone update 1773We wanted to grab breakfast & found a small cafe just in front of us. I don’t recall the name, but I remember the way it felt when we walked in. It was a building full of Moroccan men who stared at us so intently as we walked through, it was almost as if you could feel their eyes piercingly judging us wild American woman (who were modestly dressed). The man working there led us to a table in the back of the building on an screened in patio. We were inhaling the strong smell of the cigarette smoke from the Europeans just one table over. The menu was in Arabic & English, but didn’t seem completely clear. We went with the first option since it seemed the safest for breakfast. Upon arrival we were pleasantly surprised. It was toast with goat cheese & honey, olives ,and their mint tea which is very sweet and delicious! We ate all that we could, and did our best to drink up our tea that seemed to be made of pure sugar. Our breakfast maybe costs us a couple US dollars, which was incredibly exciting. We made our payment & headed to use the restrooms, which were fairly sketch. The man who tended them was very kind & attentive in getting us tissue to dry our hands.

From here we headed out in search of the Medina. We began our way through a calm area, and up a large hill. We had a man following us, continually offering us a tour, but we learned that it was important to try to avoid the locals offering tours because you can unintentionally end up in a dangerous situation. We did our best to shake him off which was incredibly difficult and somewhat unnerving, but it eventually worked. TIP: The people there are incredibly persistent, and it can be very exhausting. You just have to stand your ground & be aware of your surroundings. We tried to laugh these situation off and not let them overwhelm us too much.

We officially had escaped 2 people trying to wear us down into their overpriced tour that could possibly turn into a robbery (you never know over there) and we were now trying to find the Medina. Little did we know, we were inside, and at the very top. We wandered around a bit, and found ourselves near a couple of small shops in the street markets. They had opened earlier than the rest, and the owners were very pleasant and polite, and just wanted to show us their items for sale. We looked briefly, but wanted to continue on our way since they didn’t really have what we were looking for: POTTERY!

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From here we began wandering the streets in all directions… We took in the beautiful views overlooking the ocean, and we wandered the markets. We both wanted to pick up some artwork while we were there, and found some in one of the shops. We also found a sweet little vase to bring back for our mom. However, once we were ready to make our transaction, the shop owner told us that our total was going to be 90 USD (881 Moroccan Dirham) for a small vase and 3 small paintings. We were taken aback by the high price, and we didn’t know who should take the lead on the negotiating, so naturally we panicked. We decided to create a diversion, because we knew we were getting “scammed”. This was our first attempt at purchasing stuff here, and we didn’t know what to do. haha. We decided that we needed to go to the ATM.  The shop owner instructed his son to guide us. Our problem was, we wanted to ditch this guy, but also, actually get cash. When we got to the ATM, Erica waited to get the money, and I tried to communicate to the guy that we would meet him back at the store. It took a couple tries, but finally he understood that our plan was to head back to the shop shortly, once we had the money.

Once we were free, we headed over to the center of a round-a-bout to very discreetly count our funds, and then we headed back into the market. We wandered into a small well-lit shop right off the main road, where we were able to find a small & beautifully painted white and blue vase to bring home for our mom.  We negotiated the price down 5 Moroccan Dirham which is the equivalent of 50 US cents. It cost us $2.50 USD.  From here we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. We were in and out of several shops looking over all of the beautiful ceramic pieces & browsing the large stacks of old rugs looking for new homes. Everything was so beautiful & colorful! It was hard to say “no” to all of the lovely treasures surrounding us. We were in and out and found ourselves lost in the market while buying our goodies to bring home. We had hand-painted bowls, bone-inlay boxes, and I picked up a beautiful rug. We stopped in at a cafe where we got another glass of hot mint tea. We drank it slowly as it was searing hot. While we were sitting in the warm and wore down cafe, a young Moroccan boy came in trying to sell us Fez hats. We continually told him “Nein” (German for “No”), until he left  frustrated and somewhat yelling. We were uncomfortable from the situation of a child trying to force us into buying souvenirs, and the strong aroma of cigarette smoke from a couple tables down.  We decided to wrap it up fairly quickly, as we felt slightly choked from the smoke.

iphone update 1793We headed back out into the market and wandered aimlessly for a while, popping in and out of additional shops & enjoying each others company and the bold adventure we were on. We wanted a new way to carry all of our new belongings, and decided that we should buy woven basket totes to carry instead. We wandered into one of the shops and made inquiries about the prices on the plain tan straw baskets. The price he wanted was too high to justify, so we walked out toward the shop next store where a man had baskets with a hints of purple woven through out. As we were working on making a deal, a man on the street knew what we were looking for & decided that he wanted to sell me his baskets. He started to put everything I had in his baskets, and it created an uproar since we were already in the process of making a deal with another shop owner. All of a sudden, the men were all yelling at each other over selling us baskets. We took the ones from the street owner, the ones with hints of purple, and put our things inside, and left as quickly as we could to avoid the uncomfortable drama.

iphone update 1778We didn’t know what else to do, so we headed toward the wall of the city, and found ourselves making our way down to the main road that sits right next to the docking point for the ferry. (Yes, we were only minutes away this whole time, which we had laughed about earlier that day when we first were taking in the magnificent ocean views.) We found ourselves staring at a wall infused with a  small hotel & private homes, with immaculate views, that extended back towards the markets. It was truly awesome. Still plagued with uncertainty of what to do next, we climbed back up the wall part of the way and took a seat on a ledge overlooking the street and the water. We were wishing we could drop off our bags so we could explore the beach, but with the amount of weight we were lugging around from our previous purchases, it didn’t seem practical.  Instead, we sat for a while immersed in conversation about what we had been experiencing.

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After 15 minutes or so, and after the fear of a local wanting to come & try to sell us some form of tour or souvenir, we decided that we wanted something to snack on and headed to the Continental Hotel which was up a set of stairs along the outer wall. It brought us up onto a small patio which led us indoors. We requested a table, and were informed that no food was available to order, but we could get drinks, so we just got a couple of waters & relaxed on the balcony. We enjoyed the time to sit in an actual chair as the weather began to turn once again. At one point we had the lightest drizzle interrupting our break, and the temperature began to drop once again, but it didn’t last long, thankfully.

iphone update 1789We spent about 45 minutes hanging out and talking to another tourist couple who was heading over to Spain the following day. We informed them of the present cold front that had been viciously attacking our trip, and that they needed to be prepared for the weathers brutality. Eventually, though, the time to move on came again. We tried to maneuver our way out the front of the hotel to the market streets, but that didn’t seem possible because  a man came after us quickly and ushered us back out the way we came.

iphone update 1796Finally we were on the main streets, but didn’t know which way to go. We were hungry, tired, and our hands were full. We wanted a good meal since we knew we wouldn’t be able to get one in Tarifa, nor on the road back Sevilla, The task was difficult since we hadn’t seen many nicer restaurants or cafes along the way. As we tried to navigate our way back through the city, which seemed impossible, we ended up stumbling upon a small Moroccan restaurant called Restaurant Rif Kebdani. It is highly ranked on TripAdvisor, and I can attest that everything we got was exquisite!!! I, now, am always wanting to eat Moroccan food. haha. We each ordered a soup and we shared chicken couscous. The flavors were amazing & the appetizers which they bring (free of charge) were so tasty… I couldn’t get enough. It comes with bread and the dipping dishes were unforgettable.  If you are going to make a stop in Tangier, check this place out. The food is on point, and the atmosphere is truly enchanting. It will make your vacation so much more exciting!

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The time came for us to start making our way back to the boat for the 7 PM departure. We had plenty of time, but we were unsure of what it would be like trying to get back on the boat, and unclear on how to find our way back down and out of the “walled” city.  So, we started out and, sure enough, we felt a bit like we were going in circles until, finally, we were able to get a vantage point & maneuver our way down. Once there, we watched the cars & found the perfect time to cross over to the port.  We headed in and showed our passports & tickets and then were shuffled into the customs line where if felt like it took way longer than it should to have our passport processed. From here, we headed into a waiting area where we took a seat for a short amount of time before they called everyone out onto the tarmac.  The clouds had mostly taken over as the sun was setting, and it was windy and became cold again. We were ready to board. However, protocol had to be taken, and we were required to wait until the boat was cleared & they checked our documents.

Once we were back on board, we were able to grab a seat without any further document processing (unlike on the way there). We grabbed a couple of seats by the window where we crammed in with our baskets full of finds and my new old rug. We were able to watch as the storm progressed over the ocean. The water was far rougher as we sailed from one continent back to the other. We both tried to rest a little bit before the drive we had ahead of us.

It was raining and much colder when we reached Tarifa. We got inside the building & waited calmly for our passports to be stamped. My impatient little sister, left me behind as she made a quick run to the car. In the heat of the moment she slipped on the slick sloped ground exiting the building, and, from inside the building, you could hear her brand new ceramics inside smack the ground along side her. I was in the process of preparing my own exit as I saw this happen, and thankfully a couple of guys were quick to help her up and collect her things. She was perfectly fine, with nothing more than a big old bruise on her leg. But her brand new hand painted bowl from Fez & her fun aqua vase that she fell in love with had broke. While she was discovering this tragedy, I was attempting to pay our parking ticket. TIP: Trying to pay for parking on a machine is a foreign, non-English speaking country is usually a challenge, even when you use the English setting because it still doesn’t always translate properly, so be prepared to take your time figuring it out.  When I got back to the car, Erica showed me her damaged bowl & I assured her that it could be repaired. It would never be perfect, but it could be repaired.

Finally, it was sorted. Between both of our frustration & our exhaustion the drive back was off to a rough start. and didn’t get much better. It didn’t help that our GPS was slightly lagging, so we kept missing turns and having to reroute.

We eventually got back to our hotel very late. Erica attempted to pull into the parking garage and park, but ended up gently grazing the side of the car along the wall. It clearly happened on a regular basis based on the amount of paint and marks in that area. It was a tricky bend to navigate, especially for an American since everything is bigger.

iphone update 1842.jpgWe were in bed well after midnight, and were fast asleep within minutes. We had an incredibly spontaneous journey that day, and despite the small hick ups & uncertainty of what to expect, it was probably one of our favorites. We had many laughs about our time in Morocco.

For instance, I tried to help my sister buy her pretty aqua vase (the one that broke) by negotiating the price down. I was being very reasonable buy trying to drop off about $1 USD  to 50 cents, but the man claimed that I was insulting him when he “has a nice shop full of nice things”.. or that time the man who sold us our stunning bone inlay boxes joked about trading me for camels, and my sister, misunderstanding what he was saying, said she would be willing to take one camel for me… Yes, apparently, I am only worth one camel. haha.

Despite the headaches and frustrations that come with being in such a country, we met some truly lovely people while we were there & it was an absolutely pleasure to able to partake in their culture & their food for just a day.  I cannot wait to visit Morocco again!

…to be continued…

 

Spain: The Sevilla Edition (Part 1). 

Day 25 continued:

Our drive into Sevilla was pretty easy. It was an hour and half, and we only missed our turn off once because as usual, we were hoping to park close to our hotel, Hotel Alcázar. That wasn’t happening, so we found some metered parking nearby, parked our car, grabbed our bags, and wandered toward the main road & on into the lobby. The guy at the front desk was a little rude, and made it clear that we couldn’t get into our room until check-in time.  So, in order to apply pressure, we sat in the lobby for about 45 minutes until we could get into our room. We were dead set on being able to get cleaned up & drop our bags off before we headed out.

iphone update 1707Thankfully, he did give us directions on where to park the car for a nightly fee. The hotel had a small parking garage just around the corner. So, while we were waiting, we headed over to grab the car from our metered spot, and navigated our way to the garage. I jumped out to press the button to open the door, and Erica pulled the car in. I had to jump out and guide her because the ramp and spaces were so narrow that it was almost impossible to do alone.

Finally, about 15 minutes before check-in time, we were given our room key. We grabbed our bags out of the storage closet, and headed to the elevator & up to our room. It was the smallest room that we had on the whole trip. We were having to rearrange things just so that we could somewhat fit. ..but it was comfortable, and we had a large balcony with an awesome rooftop view of the city.

iphone update 1709We headed out in the early afternoon. We needed to grab some grub, but also, wanted to make our way toward Plaza de España by way of the Alcázar & the Sevilla Cathedral (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See). We took the long way there because we could not find the entrance to the Alcázar. We walked along the beautiful outer wall as we wound through the narrow cobble stone streets finding our way into the charming tourist areas. We explored the shops, and found an incredible shop filled with ceramic pieces dating back to the 14th century, and yes, you can buy them but at a hefty price. We grabbed lunch at some small street cafe where we got who knows what. The details were not important…

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What was important, was that we eventually found ourselves face to face with the beautiful Cathedral in the heart of the city, just near the train tracks (it’s more of a cable car situation).  FACT:  The Sevilla Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. We had no choice, but to conquer the Cathedral first. We made our way around the massive structure, and purchased our tickets inside, from there we made a long walk into the heart of the church. It was overwhelming as most churches can be. There were tourists everywhere, and everything was so ornate. (Sadly, many of pictures that I took on my Nikon from Sevilla onward have disappeared, I assume it happened while trying to transfer.) We made our way through quickly, somewhat turned off by the amount of gold that was stashed behind the partitions because the gaudiness of old Catholic churches has always been repulsive to me, and I say that as a practicing Christian. We were in a rush because the church was closing soon, and we needed to reach the top of the bell tower, the Giralda. FACT: The Giralda is 104.1 meters tall, and you must climb 35 sets of ramps to the top, and then a small section of stairs to access the city views, and get a look at the beautiful & very loud bells, which will ring right over head.  It was worth the calf-burning climb to the top. It was a beautiful day to take in the city of Sevilla. (I’m so disappointed that so many of my photos have vanished.) We spent about 10 minutes at the top making it all the way around, and waiting for the mobs of Asian tourists to make clearings so that we could squeeze in too! “I WANT TO SEE!!!”  iphone update 1714

 

We made our way down somewhat quickly, trying to get away from the crowds in the spacious hallways of ramps leading from the top to bottom and vice versa, and found our way back out of the cathedral. The weather seemed to be changing from sunny to partly cloudy to cloudy as the day went on. It didn’t seem like their was a chance of rain so we made our way toward Plaza de España.

iphone update 1719Plaza de España is an incredibly beautiful structure near a park. The rounded building is one truly captivating. We enjoyed promenading around the center, as we felt the wind pick up the mist and dust it over us. We loved watching the horse drawn carriages circle the fountain and exit the grounds as we tried to snap photos with them as they quickly passed by. As we were getting photos of one of the bridges, the rain began… It was light rain that pushed many people onto the veranda of the building. We parked ourselves on the floor against the wall so that we could overlook the grounds and watch as the rain gently fell.  After about 10 minutes, it stopped.

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We headed back out under the cloudy sky to try and get some great photos of the stunning architecture. The task was achieve shortly before and after snapping a couple photos for other tourists like ourselves. As we were leaving the park it began to sprinkle again and the sprinkle began to turn into rain. Neither of us were prepared for the weather, so we moved as quickly as possible & then took cover in the bar of Restaurante Oriza where we ordered some hot beverages to help take away our cold. iphone update 1748We removed our damp outer layers, but the moisture had seeped into our skin, and warmth eluded us. As I drank my hot tea, I felt as though I would never get warm. The cold from outside had made its way indoors, and the hot cup in my hands wasn’t enough to heat back up. We finished our drinks, and waited for the on and off again rain to finally steady itself into a tame mist before we headed back out onto the streets.

 

We were freezing, and had no choice, but to head back to the hotel to grab a couple more layers. We wound ourselves back a new direction, and found ourselves back in our room adding additional layers for warmth, and grabbing our umbrellas just in case… (Turns out, we didn’t need them… the umbrellas that is.) With dinner on our minds and coming up quick we decided to explore the older part of the city. We posed for pictures in front of the Alcázar, and snapped photos of the Cathedral glowing in the warm city lights. We continued wandering through somewhat aimlessly looking for dinner.

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iphone update 1762I don’t know which direction we headed or where we ate specifically, but I recall sitting on the patio in the freezing cold, under a heater & ordering a lasagna and pizza while being serenaded by a local woman with an very raspy voice. Though cold, the ambiance was perfect! It was a long meal, we considered moving  in doors at one point, but didn’t want to be the high-maintenance Americans, so we just stuck it out. I followed up my meal with some Nutella flavored gelato (i know, it was too cold for gelato), only to find out that it had an orange flavor to it which I was not keen on.  I ate it anyways while Erica finished off her glass of wine. We grabbed our check, and decided to take the long route back to the hotel. We called it an early night because the next morning we had a long drive & early start.  We were going to Morocco…

…to be continued…

 

Spain: The Córdoba Edition.

Day 23 continued:

ipad update 2798We continued our road trip from Ronda to Córdoba. It was another 2 hours and 15 minutes into the city, and finally we made our way in before the sun had set. We were trying to find our way through the small city side streets in an attempt to drop our bags off at the hostel, Hospederia Luis de Góngora, and hopefully find street side parking. As we tried to navigate the tedious and maze-like one way streets we kept ending up going in circles around the same few couple of square kilometers.

At this point the sun was nearly down and we were beginning lose our nerve, when out of the corner of my eye, another car came grinding up on our rented Alfa Romeo.  We were caught off guard & completely unsure of what to do… I did the only thing that I know to do, as an American citizen… I put on my flashing hazard lights, and pulled over into the far the left lane & came to a halt. Within a couple of seconds a dark and curly haired woman, maybe in her fifties, pulled over in front of me, got out of her car, & began yelling at me in Spanish. I obviously did not understand what she was saying. We examined each others cars, but she kept yelling as I told her “no comprendo” & “no hablo español”. Next thing I knew, she was climbing back into her car & driving off. Erica & I were at a total loss. We were “lost” in a foreign city, just experienced a hit & run, and had no clue what else could possibly go wrong on this trip. We did the best thing we could think to do: headed to the underground parking closest to our hotel, and just walk because that is pretty hard to screw up. Finally, our car was parked safely in an underground garage. We surveyed the car damage created by the crazed local, and my sister came up with the idea that maybe a magic eraser would work…

We saved this task for another day, our first order of business was checking in to our hostel. Erica navigated our way, with bags in tow,  to the hostel. As we walked,  we realized there was no way in hell we would have made it there easily in the car let alone been able to park… There was no room! Thank God, for easy underground parking; if only we would have just parked in the first place!

When we got to the front desk, we got our room assigned, and inquired with the gentleman there about what he thought we should do about our car… Basically, after his uncertain advice, we decided we would call Mom. haha…. (Mom’s just always have sound wisdom in tough situations.)

As we bundled up to head out, we called our mom… who’s advice was “call your credit card company and see what they say in regards to the insurance”… (Seriously…. always great advice from Mom.) She always agreed that we should try the magic eraser, and see what happens… We were hungry, and just needed a mental break so we headed to dinner. We headed back through the one way roads, across the main road, and made our way inside Mercado Victoria… a gastro market. FUN FACT: It was the first in Andalusia.

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LOL. Mozzarella sticks…. they don’t belong here!

We made our way around, checking out all of the different stalls serving all sorts of cuisine from around the world. I settled on Mexican, as I needed a taste of home. Erica, on the other hand went a little further south, with Argentinian empanadas.  We divided to order and then met back up on the over-sized and enclosed outdoor patio. Thankfully, it wasn’t too chilly, and it didn’t have the over-amplified noise that was inside. I feasted on a plate of simple nachos, that I think I only enjoyed because of the jalapeños. Meanwhile my sister worked on finishing off her massive and delicious empanadas. Clearly, her eyes were bigger than her stomach. We sat, relaxed, and discussed, but were both exhausted from our trying day… This trip had been more of a challenge than we anticipated, but it was definitely worth it. We made our way back to the hostel, with the intent to climb right into bed.

Day 24:

We woke eager. We were so excited for what the city of Córdoba might have in store for us. We were still on the hunt for street art, and wanted to see some of the fabulous iconic sights the city had in store for us.

iphone update 1693.jpgOnce we were ready, we headed out in search of breakfast. We found our way down the small narrow cobblestone roads, and ended up in a touristy section with shops filled with souvenirs to remind visitors of Flamenco, toros, and the beautiful city. We ended up inside Gourmet Iberico Patio Romano, a fun cafe with an indoor patio! We ordered what I call an English Breakfast: eggs, toast, beans, and bacon, and finished it off with a couple pain au chocolat that were quite delicious. We paid our tab, and headed back on the street toward the Mosque–Cathedral. The exterior of the structure was almost as exquisite as the inside. We found our way into the beautiful courtyard, and wandered to the ticket counter and made our purchase. From there, we looped around over the entry, where they tore our tickets and let us pass.

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iphone update 1695I knew what to expect, but I also didn’t… I didn’t realize it was going to be such a beautiful blend of a Cathedral & a Mosque, nor did I expect the number of columns! It was incredible. The dimly lit archways were truly something to be rivaled. This place had mystique. I was captivated by the beauty and the things that had happened here. It was unique & beautiful. How does a mosque become a cathedral so gracefully?

We spent over an hour wandering through, trying to get great photos without tourists, which was a bigger challenge than anticipated. The details were so incredibly beautiful. TIP: I would definitely recommend the visit if you are in Córdoba as it is now one of my favorite churches to see! 

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SHOP THIS PRINT

Once we headed out, we wanted to head toward the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. Our direction was first toward the bridge in order to get our bearings, but we were immediately sidetracked by an artist. He sat there painting away, as has wife attempted to communicate with us as we expressed interest in his work. The pricing was very good. I think they sold his work for fun, not necessarily for a living. My sister, made her purchase, but I wanted to think on it. She told us that they would be there until about 1:30 PM.

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With timing in mind, we pressed on fervently in search of the Alcazar. It wasn’t even a full kilometer & took less than 10 minutes to walk to. The outside was fabulous. Tall tan brick gave it a bit of simple & rustic feel, which translated to the interior perfectly. The structure itself was fairly small. We explored the interior for nearly  20 to 30 minutes, and the most challenging part was navigating the stairs as other tourists were coming back and forth. We were able to take in some great city views from the top, and noticed the stunning gardens below. We quickly realized that the reason to go to the Alcazar in Cordoba is the gardens. They are incredibly lush, full of vivid flowers and fragrant orange trees. FUN FACT: The Valencia oranges which can be found through out Andalusia are inedible (Erica can verify), they are far to sour for eating. Their only purpose for planting is the scent they give off. Erica & I enjoyed wandering the gardens, and we had a great time goofing off. We came up with a great book idea called Where’s Natalie?… A “find me” game that I wanted to gift to my husband, but we never really followed through. But we were cracking up as I ducked behind shrubberies, and peered out shyly only exposing my forehead and eyes.

We were watching the clock, as we realized that I was running out of time to get back to the artist by the bridge. When we arrived, the original painting I liked was gone, which I took as a sign that it wasn’t the one. Instead, I left with three others. Two for me, and one for our mom. They were such beautiful pieces of work, that I couldn’t resist.

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ipad update 2904Once the deal was made, and everything was wrapped up, we headed across the Roman bridge.  It was a perfect day to be strolling the city, cool and cloudy but not cold. The walk was refreshing, and I enjoyed walking among my fellow visitors to the other side to take in the old city view.

As we began crossing back over, we both realized that we could use a bench… Our backs were sore from all the exploration. We took a seat for a little while, and then decided that it might be a good idea to actually rest at a cafe. So we headed inward a little bit, and stumbled on an outdoor cafe where we were able to order a few drinks to caffeinate and relax, and we were also able to get some more pain au chocolate because you can never have too many in a day, right?

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SHOP THIS PRINT
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A beautiful building along the way!

After maybe an hour, we headed back toward the hostel to drop off our artwork, and plan our next move. We were still in need of magic erasers, so we decided to head toward a market. Somehow we ended up at a grocery store several blocks away, where we proceeded to buy a 6-pack of two liter water bottles, and a pack of off-brand magic erasers. The walk back was longer because we somehow ended up taking a different route. We switched off carrying the large case of water since it was heavy, and finally found ourselves in the parking garage, next to our sweet Alfa Romeo. We dropped off the majority of the water in the back seat, and unpacked a couple of magic erasers & soaked it with some of our water. Erica did most of the work as we attempted to scrub off the paint from the other car… We made quite a bit of progress, but we also had an issue with some denting. We decided that it was a good start, and to revisit it later. We just wanted to eat. We dropped off our remaining water bottles, and headed to grab any essentials we might want for dinner, which were far and few between.

We promptly headed back out in search of a restaurant. We ended up at a great small restaurant, El Choto,  where we ordered a fantastic dish of vegetable Paella on the quaint & dimly lit patio. It was so good that we practically finished off the pan. We were happy little clams, enjoying a warm meal on a cool evening outside.

With full bellies, we wandered aimlessly for a little while before deciding to head back to our room. FACT: Wandering in a dark strange city isn’t always wise… Stay vigilant. When we got there, we did our best to get things in order for the next morning. We were going to be departing, and wanted to get a jump start on the day.

Our heads hit the pillow at a reasonable hour, and we were soon asleep.

Day 25:

We were up bright and early, and ready for the next jourey ahead. We took our showers, and finished packing before we headed to checkout. We carried our luggage back down the spiral staircase, and quickly were at the door and headed to the car. We lugged our luggage the quick distance back to the parking garage, and did our best to load up the car and get it organized quickly.

We wanted to grab breakfast on our way out of town, as it was an hour and a half drive to Sevilla, and we were hungry (we are always hungry).  We decided to stop at a McDonald’s for convenience. We ate our meal somewhat rapidly, and refreshed our directions with the complimentary wifi (Thanks McD!). In a jiff we were back on the road!

…to be continued…

Spain: The Ronda Edition.

Day 23 continued:

iphone update 1674We made our 2 hour (roughly) drive through the Spanish country side toward the mountainside town of Ronda. Ronda is home to the Puente Nuevo Bridge & free-flowing wine, or so we thought.

The drive was fairly simple. We passed over bodies of water, through rolling hills, and made one emergency bathroom stop for my sister, where I picked up a pack of Pringles to much on along the way.  We were there fairly quickly, and navigated our way through the town towards the main road which thankfully was also home to a parking garage.

iphone update 1672With our car parked, we headed out on another adventure. We began our walk toward the beautiful bridge, but were distracted by the bull fighting arena, that was quite petite in size. We don’t have an interest in bull fighting, so a tour was simply out of the question, but it was fun to walk around the exterior, and snap pictures of the statues & each other. From here we stopped at a very small park line with sweet trees adorned in pastel pink flowers where we were able to take in the spectacular views of the town below the cliff. Despite the little bit of haze in the air, we could see for miles. It was amazing!

We headed back toward the main road, and made our way onto the tourist filled bridge. We grabbed a couple photos of the outlying views, and then followed the road toward the trail that headed down the cliff. From here we were able to grab a bunch of gorgeous photos of Puente Nuevo. IT was a fairly steep climb down, and I was dreading the inevitable drudge up. However, we took our time wandering the cliff side with the other tourists. We climbed up on boulders and walls, and down small pathways. It was very enjoyable, and the weather made it quite tolerable.

As I followed my little sister’s lead up the mountainside, we decided that it was a good time to grab lunch so we stopped at the first place we found, Cafe de Ronda. iphone update 1683We both went with simpler choices, and were not overly impressed, but it was enough to get us through to our next stop.

Neither of us were ready to go, we still had to find the free-flowing wine, and I wanted to stop in a shop that was right across the way. They had a bowl on display that I had been eyeing all through lunch.  After our check was paid, and bathroom break had, we headed across the way. I decided to hold out on the bowl because I anticipated finding many more ceramics along our journey.

ipad update 2656Meanwhile, my sister was trying to find her way to the wine. She inquired with the shop keeper, but she didn’t know. Next, we headed into a hotel just off the bridge, and the concierge directed us toward Parroquia Santa Maria la Mayor…. We searched, but found no wine. So, Erica popped into another shop using her best Spanish, but the man had no clue what she was talking about. We decided to back toward the newer part of the city, in hopes that it was there, but on our way we decided to stop at a small shop that appeared to be full of delightful treasures. I do not know the name, but here is the address: 2 Plaza Duquesa de Parcent. I got a beautiful piece of pottery here, and the shop owners were very friendly, and the man spoke great english! With that said, he informed us that there was no free-flowing wine in the city, and that it was probably part of a wine tasting at one of the vineyards in the area. It was safe to say that Erica was incredibly disappointed, as that was a major part of why she wanted to visit… So, it is safe to say that Pinterest can be misleading.

iphone update 1685With one heavy heart & one joyous heart, we began our light trek back toward the car. We crossed the tourist filled bridge, once again, and popped into another shop that we noticed had oil paintings, we sifted through the large the pile, and my sister ended up purchasing two beautiful pieces. Ironically, the two that I would have picked. We had fun looking at all of their woven baskets and wall art, but knew we had all we needed.

We made one last bathroom stop before starting the car, and paying for parking. Navigating our way out the town was far more difficult than finding our way in, but one way streets can do that.

We back tracked a little ways through the hills and over the water before beginning our journey north to Cordoba.

…to be continued…

Spain: The Granada Edition.

Day 21 continued:

We arrived in Granada as the sun was setting, but still had to make it into the city center to find our hotel. This was my first time driving in Europe, and I felt like it was a good place to be initiated. I had to take on massive roundabouts as my sister directed me towards our hotel. As we got closer, we realized that we had no clue where to park, as parking on the street was not an option. Instead, I took us down extremely narrow one way/ one car cobblestone roads that were constantly plagued with people blocking the way. We were laughing out of discomfort at one point because we had no clue what to do. We found a parking garage that was nearby, but it was full so we had to move on. We opted for a new plan. I dropped my sister off in front of the hotel, so that she could inquire about our options. I continued to drive around.

Progress was made. Shortly after my solo drive around the town, my sister was standing on the street corner and directed me to the recently vacated parking spot just outside the hotel. From there, one of the hotel receptionist took our keys and our car and parked it for us. We had to pay extra for parking then, but it was worth it since we didn’t have to deal with it any longer.

We got checked in, and dragged our pile of luggage to the escalator, and to our room. We needed to go grab some dinner, but first we had to layer up. It was very chilly outside, and neither of us were prepared. After a quick prep session, we were down on the streets in search of food. We ended up at La Antigualla III, a tapas restaurant and bar. At this point, I was pretty worn down, and the overwhelming sounds from the surrounding crowd (it was packed), were enough to put me over the edge. I just wanted to eat and get out of there. Meanwhile, my lively little sister was loving it!  We proceeded to order a few things, and I will say that I had the best spring rolls of my life here! They were so good, that I ordered two rounds.

We finally were able to leave, and decided to head back to the hotel; not just because we were tired, but because it was freezing! When we got back to the room, each of us was trying our best to purchase tickets for Alhambra online. We were having no success so we decided that we wanted to be up early to try to get to the ticket office in hopes of getting potential spares.

Day 22:

iphone update 1620We were up bright and early. We did our best to get ready in a flash so that we could head out in search of tickets because we needed to be there a little before 8AM to beat any potential rush. We figured out where the ticket office was, but we arrived too early, seeing as no other ticket hunters were there. We walked up and down the street to kill time, until just a few minutes before. We had been told that the tickets sell out quickly, so we wanted to be the first ones in. We succeeded at that, but were caught off guard when we saw that tickets were completely sold out through May (we were there in March).

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We had no idea of what else to do, but we needed to get cleaned up first. We headed back to our hotel, and showered and primped. We were starving, and had no idea what to do with our day, so breakfast became the priority. We ended up at a small cafe where we proceeded to order paella and pizza. Some breakfast, right? I guess, eggs just didn’t sound very appealing.

iphone update 1643As we sat and discussed the possibilities of our day, we decided that we would wander the city and the markets.  …and so, we did just that. All day we wandered through the small city streets while exploring the market shops along the way, and stopping in and out of bars for drinks and snacks.  As the afternoon began to set in, we decided on getting henna from one of the gentlemen along the way. We had so much fun with it. It was my first time, and I fell in love with the beautiful design that was painted on my arm.  From here we did our best to let our arms sit and dry, but we were incredibly impatient. We  made our way into a small shop and found some lovely ceramic treasures here. We did our best to operate with our single bare arm and hand as we picked up our treasures, sifted through our money, and took our bags.

iphone update 1658Shortly after, we headed over to a bar where we got some delicious tapas and drinks… It was a great way to relax while our henna continued to dry. My sister was much better at not smudging hers. I smudged mine a bit in two spots, but it was hardly noticeable in the end.  With our stomachs full, in addition to our hands, we decided to head back to the hotel for a little bit to drop things off and relax. With our henna mostly dry we started to peel it off (which you aren’t supposed to do). We were in love with our results. It was so beautiful, and fun.

We rested for over an hour when our hunger began to take over once again. We needed food, and fast! We had heard about a take-away noodle joint in the city, and we made it our business to track it down while have intense conversations about family and life.

iphone update 1667Once we found PadThaiWok (yes, it is supposed to be all crammed together, like that). We took our noodle dishes to go in boxes, and made our way to a fountain on the main road. We sat just across the street, and watched as people and cars made their way around. The sound of the water and the glowing statue in the center of it made for quite the ambient setting. We were able to reset our bodies and minds before recommencing our evening stroll through the city. We found the beautiful Granada Cathedral, and had no problem making our way around.

With the extremely cold air setting in, we had no problem wrapping things up. We headed back to our room to get some R&R before our next day began.

Day 23:

iphone update 1668.jpgWe woke up quite early,  got showered, and packed everything up, just to leave it by the hotel room door. Our mission was to find breakfast, so we headed back out onto the city streets. It was so cold. I couldn’t help but think of how unprepared I was for the frigid weather.  We found our way into a small square just near the market we were planning to visit. From here we hopped over to Gran Cafe Bib-Rambla for a quick breakfast.  Eggs, toasts, bacon, tea & coffee made its way to our table while we watched the locals eating churros or tomato spread on bread… SO MUCH BREAD!!!  We did or best to eat quickly as the one man show (aka waiter) memorized orders, shouted them at the two ladies cooking, and acrobatically maneuvered stacks of food on to the waiting patrons.  It was more than just breakfast, it was an entertaining show.

With breakfast wrapped up, we headed out to the market, but most the shops were still closed, and most of what we were seeing at the few that had opened was what we had been seeing prior to that morning. We decided not to waste anymore time, but to head back to the hotel & begin our next journey.

We checked out, and had the concierge grab our car. Within 5 minutes we were loaded up, and back on the road.  We were headed to Rhonda, the beautiful small town tucked away in the mountains.

…to be continued…