From Vermouth to Sherry to...
06.04.2019 - 06.11.2019
Lots has happened since we left Málaga! As I write I am sitting in a cafe in Sintra, Portugal but before we get to that, let's catch up a bit.
RONDA, SETENIL de las BODEGAS, and ARCOS de la FRONTERA - THE WHITE VILLAGES
To travel across the Andalusian peninsula from the eastern Málaga to the western Cádiz, we rented a car so that we could stop at some of the famous white villages of Andalusia. Our first stop was RONDA, home to the famous Puente Nuevo ("new bridge" actually finished in 1793) that crosses the deep gorge El Tajo. It is 390 feet above the canyon floor. Ronda is a beautiful town, even filled with bus loads of tourists.
Having seen the gorge, we opted to go on and, hopefully, escape the hordes. Our next stop was SETENIL de las BODEGAS. Famous as most likely having started out with cave-dwelling societies 25,000 years ago, it has been continuously inhabited since at least the 1200 AD. The houses and stores are built directly into the rock overhangs, caves, with many having the rock wall as their back interior wall. It is a fascinating place to explore, built up each side of the river gorge.
We wandered upon and down the stairs and streets, sat at a cafe, and totally enjoyed this much less touristed town.
The landscape of this area is amazingly beautiful. Filled with row after row of olive trees interspersed with fields of sunflowers and punctuated by the white villages that show in the distance from miles away. The road winds and curves up and down gorges and through vast open fields with the mountains as a backdrop.
By the time we got to ARCOS de la FRONTERA, we were ready to be out of the car and into Cádiz so we just did a "drive by" of the castle.
Cádiz claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe and it is definitely among the top five, founded around 1100 BC by the Phoenicians. It is at a strategic point at the mouth of the Strait of Gibraltar. It has many beautiful little streets in its old town and a few nice plazas and cathedrals. There is an old Roman Theatre that is really amazing as you can walk through the tunnels beneath it. The most interesting parts are the layers and layers of history built on top of each other from Roman walls, to Gothic and Romantic churches and homes. And the fact that it's surrounded by water.
Also, in the harbor, there are two fortifications that have stood for centuries guarding the port. To one, there is a long walkway out that's a fun place but very windy! Actually Cádiz as a whole is very windy. Like the winds in southern France, they say it makes people crazy and suicidal - yikes!
The other fortress is open to tour and was pretty good.
All in all though, it seemed a poorer cousin to Málaga and we were glad we didn't stay too long - just long enough for one more glass of Vermouth before we moved onto the Sherry capitol of the world.
JEREZ de la FRONTERA
Jerez is a sprawling, large city. We took the train up, just an hour ride to Jerez's beautiful train station.
Mainly we came here for two reasons, the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts and the Sherry. This was definitely a "Marcy spot" but Scott humored me and persevered! It does have a historic center with good plazas and restaurants and also a great Flamenco bar that is truly a gem. The stage is tiny and the bar is stocked with all varieties of Sherry for amazingly low prices.
And our place had a nice view of the plaza.
Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts
The highlight for me was seeing the performance of the Andalusian horses and riders. Alas, no pictures allowed during the performance so we had to make do with pictures of the fabulous palace, performance arena, and a practice session in the outdoor ring.
After the performance, we attempted visits to some of the Sherry Bodegas of the famous producers but they wanted ridiculous sums for a short tour and a couple of glasses of Sherry, and after having paid 1-2 Euros per glass the night before at the bar, we opted out.
So we wandered around and saw the partially restored Alcazaba and the Cathedral before settling into a cafe for the afternoon.
We have come to a conclusion about ourselves. We do "cafeism" much better than "tourism"!
It was finally time to say goodbye to Spain.
We took the 6:15 am train to Seville Airport and flew to Amsterdam. Amsterdam was a last minute addition to our travels after we realized Scott has been a year free of smoking cigarettes (YAY!) and we needed to celebrate. He has been trying to fit a visit to Amsterdam into our plans for months now so I knew it was the place we needed to go! So glad we did. He has always loved it - he says it's his New York City - and I am glad to have gone with him and seen his interest and excitement to be back. Technically, I have been to Amsterdam once before but it was my nineteenth birthday and, well, let's just say I don't remember much.
We arrived and found our cute little house in the Jordaan neighborhood.
Turns out we serendipitously picked the coolest neighborhood. More local than tourist, it was filled with canals and cafes. We spent the first day just walking the streets and stopping in cafes every time the weather got bad. It was a cold, cloudy, rainy day and we actually bought hats and gloves! But we walked eight miles by the end of the day and saw the flower market, the Albert Cuyp Market, the Nieuwmarkt (New Market), and most of central Amsterdam in between. The next day was beautiful, warm, and sunny. We took the train out to Muiderslot Castle and admired the countryside and this quintessential moated castle and beautiful gardens. We got back into town and grabbed a last minute canal boat ride before dinner. Our last day, we had tickets to the Van Gogh museum, which is definitely worth the admission. It tells the story of his artistic development really well and has so many paintings of his as well as those other artists that inspired him. We also visited the Museum Van Loon, a historic house museum. But mainly, we visited tons of bars and cafes. Each one has its own beer list of draft beers, a variety of sherrys and ports, and Genever, the locally made version of gin. Oh, and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese!
The new market is around the De Waag, which was originally St. Anthony's Gate, and was a major entry point to the city before the old city walls were torn down.
The castle is so well preserved it almost looks new or fake. It's really cool because you can walk all through the house, which was last inhabited in the 16th century, by P.C. Hooft (1581-1647), an author, poet and historian who took over sheriff and bailiff duties for the area. After that, it fell into neglect until the late 1800's but, thankfully, was then restored (hence the newness) and refurnished with period furnishings.
The town is very quant as well and has a working lock on the canal.
But back to Amsterdam!
OH THE CANALS!
Proost to the canals! And to all the little bars along them!
AND THE BUILDINGS!
There are so many different periods of architecture in Amsterdam but of course our favorites are the oldest ones. They tilt and lean, some on purpose some not.
And then the grand architecture of the fabulous palaces, train stations, and civic buildings.
The Van Loon house was really special for its internal courtyard garden leading back to the intact carriage house.
And some have sayings that sum it all up!
AND OF COURSE - THE BIKES!
Bikes and Amsterdam of course go hand in hand but until you are here you really don't realize how crazy it is. There are as many bikes as people in Amsterdam, literally almost a million. They are parked everywhere and the Dutch have perfected the bicycle parking garage concept - some are even double decker.
Scott is already trying to figure out where to stay when we go back next year for a month (maybe)! We've definitely found another maybe place. Of course, not for the full year but maybe a few months here and there. We're still not doing winter!
Next up, we're in Portugal for the rest of June. Stay tuned and don't forget to follow us @arrradventures on Instagram.