A Travellerspoint blog

Cádiz and Jerez de la Frontera and Amsterdam - Oh My!

From Vermouth to Sherry to...


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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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CÁDIZ

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.
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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!large_IMG_1183.JPGlarge_IMG_1167.JPGlarge_IMG_1188.JPG

The other fortress is open to tour and was pretty good.
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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.
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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.
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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. large_IMG_1265.JPGlarge_IMG_1272.JPG

And our place had a nice view of the plaza.
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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.
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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.
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So we wandered around and saw the partially restored Alcazaba and the Cathedral before settling into a cafe for the afternoon.
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We have come to a conclusion about ourselves. We do "cafeism" much better than "tourism"!

AMSTERDAM

It was finally time to say goodbye to Spain.
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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.
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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!

MARKETS
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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.
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MUIDERSLOT CASTLE
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.
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The town is very quant as well and has a working lock on the canal.
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But back to Amsterdam!

OH THE CANALS!
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Proost to the canals! And to all the little bars along them!
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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.
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And then the grand architecture of the fabulous palaces, train stations, and civic buildings.
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The Van Loon house was really special for its internal courtyard garden leading back to the intact carriage house.
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And some have sayings that sum it all up!
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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.
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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.

Posted by mrb430 05:56 Archived in Spain Tagged amsterdam Comments (0)

Last Days in Málaga

Finally Saw the Sights!


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WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON

Just a short update this morning as we prepare to leave Málaga tomorrow. We've spent our last two weeks mainly just chilling. Unfortunately, I was sick for a week with a cold so that slowed us down. That's when it's nice that we rent houses and can just relax at home. Catching a cold happens and dealing with it in a foreign country is all part of life on the road. I would give a shout out to our healthcare company CIGNA world travel plan. They are awesome in having doctors by phone, assistance in finding direct charge clinics, and they call and email to follow up on how the care was. They really provide excellent service - in English!.

Otherwise, we've been having fun! We tried out scooters on our trip to the Gibralfaro Castle. They were definitely fun but they are expensive compared to the bikes and even to just taking a cab. We did another bike ride to the beach and had a great beach day.
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I even got to finally have Sardines Espito! Grilled on an open wood fire outside the Chiringuita (restaurant) on the beach, seasoned with lemon and sea salt, they are amazing! You just pick them up and eat them with your fingers (not the bones or head!)
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And we've been sampling the local Vermut (vermouth) with tapas. Yes, that's a giant sardine in the last picture!
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The variety of locally made Vermut is amazing and so very good. I had no idea it was anything other than a martini ingredient before we came here.

We also finally got around to going to the cathedral, castle, and palace.

CATEDRAL DE LA ENCARNACIÓN DE MÁLAGA
One of the most interesting features of this cathedral is that they never finished it and now they think it's whimsical not to so they never will. There are towers on one side that were literally stopped as if the workers just set their tools down one day and walked away. One whole side is unadorned. There are niches for gargoyles and statuary that never came, pediments with no friezes, pillars with nothing on top of them.

The inside however, is beautiful and mainly complete. One portion does have simple stained glass instead of painted but this does not detract. The highlight is the ceiling, intricately carved in Gothic and Renaissance styles, and the columns that are constructed in two parts and are so fascinating.
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ALCAZABA DE MÁLAGA
Constructed on the ruins of a Roman fortification around 756-780 AD, the Alcazaba's original purpose was as a defense against pirates. It became, however, both a fortification and a residence, similar to the more famous ones in Seville and Granada. Built 300 years before those, it is smaller, more intimate, and in many ways more beautiful for that. It has not been maintained in the same way and so has lost much of it's original tile-work and plasterwork but the ceilings, walls, and most importantly the doorways remain.
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And they had the water running for all the pools and fountains and the little channels between them, which was special since the one in Seville did not.
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I really loved this place.

GIBRALFARO CASTLE
Built in 929 AD and in use until 1925, the castle today is mainly notable for it's huge walls and the walkways along the tops of these that give amazing views in all directions. It was built as a secondary defense above and after the Alcazaba. The climb to the top is not for sissies but you can take a taxi or the bus if you need.
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Here's a view looking down the fortified path that connected the castle and the Alcazaba, seen in the distance down below.
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It was really fun to be a tourist for a day!

WHAT'S CHANGED

We're one month into our European summer and Central America seems a long way away, in time and reality. In reflecting on the changes, here's the top things we've noticed.

  1. It's really pleasant to have better infrastructure and fewer buildings in disrepair. Not having to worry about falling into holes tripping over uneven surfaces is a serious plus.
  2. We've gotten rid of worn out shorts and tank tops to make room for the clothes we bought here and it's bittersweet. It's nice to have nice things to wear but we miss just throwing on a bathing suit and tank top and not worrying about appearances.
  3. Public transit is easier here. There are routes, schedules, tickets, and multiple options from buses to trains to bikes to scooters.
  4. Cell phone and internet is much better. It's definitely one of the major factors in our consideration of places like Roatan where service was absolutely abysmal.
  5. This area is dry! It's taken a lot of getting used to...I haven't drunk this much water...well maybe ever in my life. It is green, which is nice, as there are lots of plants acclimatized to it like in Baja but there are days we miss the humidity and lushness.
  6. The schedule of life here suits us, although it's completely different. In beach mode, we get up pretty early, start cocktail hour pretty early, and go to bed pretty early. Here, it's all moved back about four hours. It's been fun to actually be awake to see the younger people out and about and to participate in the late night fun.

WHAT'S NEXT

We've changed up our plans a bit after realizing that Scott's one year anniversary of not smoking is coming up. To celebrate, we're going to Amsterdam for four days! Scott's been talking about Amsterdam for months, trying to figure out when we could fit it in. Well, no time like the present!

So from here we will drive a rental car across the peninsula to Cadíz and spend the night and the next day there. On the way, we'll stop off at some more white villages and Ronda. We had planned to spend more time in Cadíz, but after talking with a friend that had been there and judging it would be much like Málaga, we cut back. From there we will spend two nights in Jerez de la Frontera, mainly to fulfill my bucket list items of seeing the horses perform at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art and going to a sherry tasting!
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Then we fly from Seville, a short train ride from Jerez, to Amsterdam and, after four days, back to Lisbon.

After that, we continue with our regularly scheduled programing. No, not the most efficient but that isn't the goal! Just wait until you see what we plan to do later this year. Since learning that Courtney will graduate in December, we've changed our plans and now have two, maybe three, trips scheduled back to the US between September and May, 2020. But that's the beauty of this life - plans are just placeholders and can be changed to accommodate life!

Don't forget to follow us @Arrradventures on Instagram for more frequent updates.

Posted by mrb430 06:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Exploring Southern Andalusia and Seville


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Málaga may be the stepchild in Andalusia after the "Big Three" of Seville, Cordoba, and Granada but it is the southernmost large city in Europe and positioned perfectly on the Costa del Sol with a ton of history, culture, and ambiance all it's own AND ABOUT A THIRD OF THE TOURISTS! We've been trying to balance just enjoying the city and the beaches here with day trips. Our eldest daughter Morgan was here this past week so that gave us an excuse for a few more than normal.

LA CONCEPCÍON HISTORICAL-BOTANICAL GARDENS

Málaga is surrounded on three sides by the Montes de Málaga, low green hills. There is some development in them but mostly are still untamed. One exception is the botanic gardens that were the created in the mid-1800's. From their website:

The origins of La Concepcion Estate can be traced back to the joining together of several smaller estates along the banks of the River Guadalmedina to the north of the city of Malaga. Used for agricultural purposes, they were home to cereal crops, olive and almond trees, vines, and, most notably, citrus trees. The garden was created by the Marquis and Marchioness of the House of Loring, Jorge Loring Oyarzabal and Amalia Heredia Livermore, both of whom were born to well-known businessmen who came to the city to make their fortunes. According to the jurist Rodriguez de Berlanga, the idea for the garden originally came to them after they had visited a series of palaces, villas, parks, estates, and botanical gardens during their honeymoon in Europe seven years earlier. To bring it to life, they enlisted the services of a French gardener, Jacinto Chamoussent, whose skilled selection and acclimatisation of exotic plants was subsequently rewarded with numerous prizes.

It's a beautiful garden with many different zones, from desert to tropic, and lovely overlooks of the city. Easy to get to by bus and a short walk, it makes a great outing from the city.
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There are water courses, water falls and pools throughout and a hundred year old olive tree!
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Of course after that hot day, it was time for cocktails and complementary tapas, this time watermelon on ice and some papas.
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Birding
You may notice I had my binoculars out at the gardens. All in all, so far, birding here has been a disappointment. We did see four new birds in the gardens including this one.
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The other thing that's fun is there are a ton of parakeets in the palm trees here. Although not native, and very noisy, they sure are pretty.
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There is an estuary south of Málaga where the Guadalhorce River empties into the Med, and yes it actually still flows, so I'm hoping to see more birds there!

SEVILLE

Our big trip with Morgan was an overnight to Seville, one of the big three and the largest city in Andalusia. I had an ulterior motive for the trip in that my great friend Tania was visiting also with her boyfriend. We had drinks in the afternoon and had a chance to catch up. It was so awesome to see her on this side of the pond and I'm grateful she made time for me.
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Seville is an ancient city with a ton of history and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I won't recount it here as it's all in Wikipedia for your enjoyment. I was there almost 30 years ago and remember it fondly but this time after comparing it with Málaga I was less impressed. It was overrun with tourists, even in mid-May, which makes it hard to enjoy. But wandering the ancient quarter and seeing the sites is still really great.

ALCAZÁR
One of the most impressive buildings I've ever seen is there - the Alcázar. It is a wonder of moorish craftsmanship.
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And it's where I fell in love with Spanish tile.
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Perhaps the highlight though are the magnificent gardens that surround it.
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Morgan and Scott got a table at the garden cafe so we could have some refreshments after the tour.
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CATHEDRAL OF SAINT MARY OF THE SEE AND THE GIRALDA TOWER
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, the third largest in the world, is truly gigantic and both the outside and inside feature incredible gothic ornamentation. The inside however, has been broken up with a great choir loft and organ and it is poorly lit so it's hard to appreciate how grand it is. There are 80 individual chapels in addition to a chapter house (small cathedral off to the side) that is bigger than many churches.
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It contains the remains of Christopher Columbus in a beautiful tomb borne by kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre.
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The highlight though are definitely the remains of the mosque that the cathedral replaced, the Patio de los Naranjos and the Giralda.
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After relaxing in the Patio of Oranges, we climbed the bell tower. It's different than climbing many towers in that you ascend on ramps that turn at 90 degree angles as they climb the square tower. There are views from the windows on the way up and then an open bell tower with views at the top.

Here's a view from afar to give you perspective.
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And from the way up.
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And from the top.
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LAS SETAS DE SEVILLE
Las Setas de Sevilla, otherwise known as the Metropol Parasol, is a bit off the beaten path and more modern than the other sights but well worth it. It is a huge wooden sculpture with a walkway on top that has great views of the city.

Here's a pic I stole off the internet to let you see the whole thing.
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And some of ours from the top.
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And of course, while in Seville, we took in a flamenco show. I was definitely more interested in it than Morgan or Scott but they were nice enough to indulge me!
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FRIGILIANA AND NERJA

On both Morgan's bucket list and mine was a trip to one of the white towns of Andalusia. Spread throughout the hills behind the coast, they are reminiscent of greek villages but actually date back to Moorish settlements. We picked Frigiliana, which is an easy bus trip from Málaga.

FRIGILIANA
The old town is amazingly picturesque with winding streets inlaid with stonework designs, tiny doors, beautiful flowers, and views back to the Med.
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And of course amazing outdoor cafes with views.
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Cold gazpacho, sangria, and sherry on a warm, sunny balcony. All the reasons we love Spain.

As I've said, living in Málaga has made me fall in love with the Costa del Sol. The idea of being able to straddle the best of the things we love - city culture, beaches, amazing food - all in one place is an awesome combination. As we travel up and down the coast, there is town after town, some small and some larger, that provide this mix. There are endless possibilities here. And then we saw these white villages and, for me, I was all in. Of course we expect to find the same feelings in Portugal and France so no "decisions" are being made but I can say this is a truly wonderful part of the world. Scott, I think, is holding out to find a more tropical place that fits the bill.

NERJA AND FUENGIROLA
Nerja and Fuengirola are coastal towns, the first north and just below Frigiliana, and the second south, outside Málaga. They are first and foremost beach resort towns. They have the feel of a Miami Beach or Jersey Shore but with European flare and a bit of history. Filled with pedestrian-only shopping streets, tons of cafes and restaurants, and beach front esplanades, they are really vibrant and fun.
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Nerja's coastline is rocky with a great headland that has a lookout just off the center of the old town. It's beaches are smaller and darker.
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Fuengirola, on the other hand, has 8 km of beach stretched out along the city and it's "suburbs". The beaches are very nice and all along it there are restaurants and shops. But head back into the city and you find the beautiful churches and plazas with people gathering in the afternoon and the quintessential old men sitting together one benches.
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GIBRALTER

Everyone told us we needed to make time to get to Gibraltar and it turned out to be an easy day trip. Since Morgan was up for it, we did it with her.
It's about a two hour bus ride to the station in La Línea de la Concepción, which is on the Spanish side just adjacent to the border crossing. After walking across the border, you're in Great Britain!
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Then you walk across the airfield on which only flights from Great Britain land, and you're in the old town.
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We took a mini-bus tour of the main sights "on the rock" as it's either that or walking to the top. No cars or public buses are allowed.
The first stop is to view across the strait to North Africa and the other half of the Pillars of Hercules.
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Then it's on to the Cuevas de Gibralter, a large cavern with amazing geologic features. Unfortunately, they play a light show inside constantly that makes photography challenging.
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Next stop is to play with the Barbary Apes that colonize the rock. This is the highest point you can drive to and has amazing views of the front of the rock.
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And finally, the Great Siege Tunnels that were dug into the rock during the 1800's when the French joined with the Spanish to lay siege to the British. On the side of the rock facing Spain, it also had great views.
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After the tour we visited Europa Point for views of North Africa, the lighthouse, and the mosque from ground level. The spring flowers are out so I was especially happy!
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Then it was a stroll through the old town with an obligatory stop off at a pub for Shepard's Pie and their Sunday Carving.
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It was a great trip and definitely worth the effort.

Still on our bucket list are Cordoba, one of the big three, and maybe Ronda, another white town in the hills.

Make sure to follow us @arrradventures on Instagram for more frequent updates on Arrradventures!

Posted by mrb430 01:59 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Living Like a Local in Málaga


View 2019 on mrb430's travel map.

Well I promised a month of updates from Málaga and it's been close to three weeks since I posted! We've been busy!

Truly, I've had time here and there but in a weird way I've felt so at home here it hasn't felt like a vacation to report on. I've fallen in love with Málaga. It's the first place we've visited that we could (both) actually see ourselves living in or near. But before we get to that, let me show and tell.

SETTLING IN

Our first few days in Málaga were all about adjusting to Spanish culture and life. We rented a small duplex apartment that overlooks the Guadalmedina "River". I put river in quotes because in the 20's after a flood they dammed the river upstream and made a reservoir. So there is only ever water in the river when they have to allow overflow from the dam. We've seen it once with a small amount of water. Other wise it looks like this - a green oasis that mostly functions as a huge dog park and graffiti art showroom.
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There are hotels along it with the riverfront as a feature area for dining, etc. On Google Maps it shows it as a blue river. We often wonder how many people get here to say..."Where's the river?!"

HISTORIC CENTER

Málaga, like most coastal towns in Spain, has a very long history. From Wikipedia:

Málaga's history spans about 2,800 years, making it one of the oldest cities in Europe and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. According to most scholars, it was founded about 770 BC by the Phoenicians as Malaka. From the 6th century BC the city was under the hegemony of Ancient Carthage, and from 218 BC, it was ruled by the Roman Republic and then empire as Malaca (Latin). After the fall of the empire and the end of Visigothic rule, it was under Islamic rule as Mālaqah (Arabic: مالقة‎) for 800 years, but in 1487, the Crown of Castille gained control after the Reconquista.

The oldest remaining structure is a Roman Theatre from the 1st century BC, right in the center of town.
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There is also the Moorish Castle of Gibralfaro and the Alcazaba, both built in the 11th century. The Moors held out very long time in Málaga; it fell just five years before Granada when the Reconquest ended. You can see the bottom portions in the photos above.

It also was an important part of the Spanish Civil War, being a Republican hold out against Franco. It was shelled heavily from the sea and this shows in the lower parts of the old town, which have wider streets and "newer" buildings. The restoration was done so well though that it's very hard to tell the old from the new. It just has a more open feel than other ancient cities here in southern Spain, which in my opinion adds to it's allure. It's easier to get to know the streets and where you are than in, say, Seville. It also allowed for an updated port with a modern pedestrian mall and a beautiful garden along the main coastal road.
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GETTING AROUND

It's true, everyone walks everywhere. We have walked miles and miles each day just finding the markets, grocery stores, pharmacies, and sights. BUT...Malagueños LOVE standup scooters! They are everywhere and lots of people ride them. Often, you see a couple riding together on one. People also ride bikes and there are many bike lanes here but scooters are the thing!
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They have a bike share program and we decided to sign up for it. I know Spain isn't known for efficiency but this was a totally crazy experience. The website says that if you are foreign, you must sign up at the office. However, it does not say where that is or what the exact process is. So after about four hours of trying to find the bus company office to get our bus pass card (step 1) and then trying to find the bike share office to show our passports and put money on our card (step 2 although we could have done step 1 here as well!), we barely had time for a ride to the beach. But we did and it will be a fun way to get around now that we're set up.
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Grocery stores are plentiful and pretty well stocked. BUT finding the things you want can be a challenge. The arrangement and order of the stores is completely random, or so it feels to us. In addition, there are aisles and aisles of canned fish, shellfish, and meat, and entire aisle devoted to ham products, including hand carved ham from the leg. There are fruits and vegetables but the best place to buy those is at the fruit stands that are on almost every block. And there are three markets, the largest Mercado Central de Atarazanas has everything. But there is also a smaller one near us specializing in fish and shellfish and another a bit further we haven't been to yet. Of course the markets are my favorite with their colorful stalls and proud vendors. They take extreme care in presentation.
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PACE OF LIFE

Because we really never settled into this time zone in Barcelona, we were very well positioned for Málaga. We rarely go to bed before 1:00 AM and if we are out it's usually around 3:00 AM. Unless we have to get up for a day trip, we don't usually get up until 9:30-10:30 AM. If we have errands, we get them done early because most stores close in the afternoon for a few hours. Then it's either to a cafe, the beach, or back home to chill out until happy hour around 8:00 PM.
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Dinner is usually around 10:00. Even if we are at home, eating before 10:00 is rare. The sun doesn't set here until about 9:30 so it's really easy to be wide awake at 10:00 PM. Evening walks are the best! The streets and plazas are full of people and everything is open super late.
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WEATHER

The weather has been amazing. Málaga has, on average, 320 sunny days a year. The average monthly high temperature is never below 62 or above 87. In May, it's 76. The skies are almost always blue and there is usually a light breeze. I got an email today announcing "Best Summer Books" and had to laugh that back home summer is just starting with Memorial Day just around the corner.

FOOD

Lastly, I have to say a word about the food. Spanish cuisine has always been one of my favorites to cook and eat. And being here where everything is so fresh makes it even more so. Ironically, the fruit is fresher, more abundant, and more diverse than anywhere in Central America. I love Anchovies and Sardines, Scott not so much!, and being able to get them prepared in so many ways is amazing. Ham of every grade is everywhere and freshly cut off the leg, even in supermarkets.
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And food is generally very inexpensive. A bunch of bananas is a dollar, a tapas portion of Paella is four dollars...
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...a small Iberian ham and Manchego cheese sandwich is about 2-3 dollars. A glass of wine and a beer are both under $2. Olives are served with your cocktails on the house - what more could we want?

And the Vermouth and Sherry are amazingly good and the variety available is huge. Gin+Tonics are huge here as with other Spanish places we've been to and many bars have amazing mixologists.
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So, now that you've read this, maybe we don't have to explain further about why Málaga is "on the list". Being back in a city has been so refreshing! While we love the Caribbean and our island homes, especially Scott, having the diversity of life and experience a city offers checks more of our boxes. Make no mistake, Málaga is a beach destination. It's just also so much more than that.

Stay tuned for our next post with the amazing day trips we've taken so far and our awesome visit with Morgan.

And remember to follow us @arrradentures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 03:46 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

A Long, Strange Trip to Málaga


View 2019 on mrb430's travel map.

It's the start of our second full day in Málaga and we're sufficiently recovered from our adventure getting here to begin to feel normal again.

RECAPPING THE TRIP "OVER THE POND"

We had one of those "if it can go wrong, it will go wrong" trips. Really makes you appreciate when things go smoothly! I will say that I was proud of how we handled all of the misadventures. No panic, no arguing, and most importantly - no blame. At this point we know we will make mistakes, things will go wrong, and nothing is insurmountable. Of course it helps to have a credit card with a fairly high limit and some backup cash for when the budget gets crashed. The funniest part is never knowing exactly what immigration/customs will be like. I'll outline all the variations so you can see what I mean. If you just want to see pictures of Spain, skip this part.

Leg 1: Roatán to San Pedro Sula
We got up early (4 am!!) to make it to the Roatán airport early after seeing the shit show it can turn into when we dropped Courtney off to go home. We arrived at 4:45 and...the airport was still closed! Ha! When it opened at 5 am, we were among the only people there.
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Needless to say no issues getting out of Roatán.
IMMIGRATION/CUSTOMS
1. Pay airport exit tax (oh but they didn't open until 6 am)
2. Passport control
3. Go back to stand in line to give lady at desk your receipt to review and stamp - no idea why you have to do this and no one tells you that you do until you're in the line for security
4. Passport control, again
5. Security screening (I had nothing confiscated this whole trip!)

Leg 2: San Pedro Sula to Orlando
After an on-time, relatively uneventful flight, we arrived in Orlando and the fun really began.

IMMIGRATION/CUSTOMS
1. Walk to Global Entry kiosk
2. Figure out how to use Global Entry kiosk
3. Get ticket and go directly to go - aka baggage claim. No passport stamp, no customs!

Ok, so we're ready to head to our airport hotel for the night and we grab a cab, give him the address, and proceed to learn that we booked a hotel at the other Orlando airport, which is an hour away and an $80 cab ride. Decline to embark on journey, lose cost of one night's hotel room, return to go. A little background here is important. Our Honduran phone plan ended the day before we left so we only had communications over wifi. Thankfully, the Orlando airport had free wifi! This will be even more important later! So we get online, and book another hotel closer to the airport - or so we thought! Being a little sleepy, our normal process of double-triple checking each other failed and we again booked a hotel about a half hour away. Ugh! But...it was at our favorite chain from the US, La Quinta. So we called and begged them to cancel that one so we could book another one closer and they relented and took mercy on us. The hotel shuttle picked us up, all was right in the world again. We ended the day with a great meal and a few cocktails. Scott got his beloved French Dip sandwich and I had a salad that I didn't have to worry would kill me! Yay, back to the land of drinking the water and flushing your toilet paper. Day 1, over.

Leg 3: Orlando to London Gatwick
Our flight to Orlando wasn't scheduled to leave until 5:40 pm and check out was at noon so we hung out in the hotel lobby for awhile and then headed over to the airport. But it was basically it was just a day of waiting around and it turned into a night of waiting, too. Our flight was delayed almost five hours! We finally boarded about 10:15 pm! Don eye mask and ear plugs and make the best of it, I said. But the flight crew felt the need to feed everyone even though it was the middle of the night so pretty soon the entire plain smelled like beef stroganoff - and not in a good way. 8 hours later, we landed in London. Now we knew we had to get over to Stansted Airport across London and this would involve the airport train from Gatwick to London, the Tube across London, and then the airport train out to Stansted. But we weren't worried because we had until 7:25 pm to get there and it was only noon or so when we got off the flight.

IMMIGRATION/CUSTOMS
1. Walk to immigration
2. Wait in line for an hour to get through immigration, during which you realize you each need to fill out an entry form
3. Fill out entry form - not customs, entry
3. No customs
4. Wait forever for baggage

Leg 4: London Gatwick to London Stansted and on to Barcelona
After this, we figured we'd get a bite to eat, have a real cup of coffee, and head out. So we did. We found our tickets for the trains and boarded. Alas, it was the local. As in, we were stopping every five minutes for five minutes. We started to worry. About this same time, it's now about 2:30, we realize we'd been looking at our arrival time and not our departure time, which was 4:10 pm. We were never going to make it! And here again, thank goodness that the trains in London have free wifi! We called Ryan Air on Skype and got no love. If we missed the flight, we were on our own. So we quickly scrambled to find a new flight and did but it was from Gatwick, where we had just left! So jump off train, get back on train going the other way. Of course this one is an express - can't win sometimes. Get back to the airport and our tickets won't let us out of the system because we're supposed to be in Stansted. Find attendant, fall on their mercy, get released from the train station. Check into new flight.

IMMIGRATION/CUSTOMS
1. No passport check except at check-in counter - until Brexit no need for a thorough check I guess
2. Security line was uneventful

So now we're leaving at 7:35 pm. We find somewhere to eat because we have another few hours. Burgers and fish and chips, and of course Guinness, it is. The bright green stuff is smashed peas? I guess it's a British thing.
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Wait for gate to be assigned. They don't assign it until 15 minutes prior to boarding?! Board plane, fly to Barcelona.

IMMIGRATION/CUSTOMS
1. Wait in line for passport control - not too long (At first we thought it would be hours since there were a total of two agents for two large plane-loads of people but they added more and it went very quickly.)
2. No customs because we are within the EU (But seriously, what ever happened to customs? We never filled out a customs form on the whole journey and were never once asked if we were bringing in fruits and vegetables!)

Yay! We finally made it to Barcelona! It's about 11:15 pm. Day 2 over - almost!

After taking our cab to the hotel and checking in, we decided to celebrate our victory over circumstances and headed to the Irish Pub a few doors down from our hotel. We met some folks from Romania and proceeded to close the bar down at 3 am.
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You can see our partners in crime at the bar over Scott's shoulder. In our defense, it only felt like 9 pm to us. And thus started what would be a crazy few days in Barcelona.

All told, we were in transit for about 62 hours. We are gonna rethink how we cross the pond next time!

BARCELONA!

Our first day in Barcelona started about 12:30 pm when we finally woke up and got out of bed! It was a gray and rainy day - oh joy! And it was chilly! I donned my woolen leggings under my rain pants and a sweater and rain coat and we were on our way. We had tickets to see Sagrada Familia, Guadí's famous cathedral at 4:45 so we started out across town past the main cathedral - no ticket = no entry and their version of the Arc de Triomf. It was pretty dismal and I was disappointed because I wanted to see the setting sun through the stained glass and there was no sun to be seen.
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Nevertheless, after an hour or so of walking across town in the rain, we entered the line at our appointed time and...found out our tickets were for the next day. We were supposed to be at Parc Güell! Was there to be no end to our mistakes on this trip?! Guess it was okay in the end because the park would have been even worse in the rain.

Nothing to do but learn how to use the Metro and head back to the Gothic Quarter (old town where our hotel was). The beautiful market of Mercado de La Boqueria was just across La Rambla from our hotel so we headed there for refuge. The market is amazing and it's surrounded by tapas bars. Not a bad place to wait out the weather!
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Later, we found ourselves in another bar having gin+tonics, yep it's a thing here too just like in Medellín. Another night up until 2 am and another morning not up until 11 am. We were not settling into our new time zone very well. Although, it was working okay for us because nothing happens very early in Spain anyway. Dinner is at 9-10 pm for most people. Since that's our normal bedtime we had been worried. But with the jumpstart of six hours, we were right in the groove!

And we woke up to a beautiful day. Sunny and warmer. No Happy Pills needed!
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GAUDÍ
We went on another long walk through the city in search of the buildings designed by Gaudí. One was under wraps for a remodel but here are two others.
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And then it was on to the cathedral, again.
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What an amazing experience. I visited almost 30 years ago and remember a construction site. "Inside" you could see the sky and there was dirt under foot. It's come A LONG WAY in thirty years. It was breathtaking.
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And I got my wish to see the sun streaming in through the Passion windows.
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We also added the Towers on the Nativity facade to our tour and it was so worth it. The views of the city and the up close and personal views of some of the tower details were not to be missed. You get to ride an elevator up but must walk back down about 400 steps in a narrow, winding stairwell. There are view points and overlooks along the way.
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After the tour, we headed back to the Mercado for more tapas!
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Fried baby anchovies!

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We've learned it's not a proper tapas bar if there aren't legs of ham hanging from the rafters.
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We only skimmed the surface of Barcelona but it was enough to know we will come back someday, although maybe in true off-season (if we ever have a winter wardrobe again). Here are a few of our lasting impressions.
1. Barcelona was very crowded with tourists - even in early May. Lines were long and you needed tickets to get into everything - even the cathedral!
2. It is a British destination and the majority of tourists were British - of the drink lots of beer and scream at soccer matches variety. By late in the evening you could pick them out stumbling down the narrow streets.
3. The Gothic Quarter is a gem of pedestrian-only, winding streets that lead to amazingly old buildings at every turn. It's a wonderful place to "get lost".
4. The city at large is full of wide, tree-lined boulevards with amazing architecture and is well worthy of a few days just walking about.
5. The Metro is super easy to use and a great way to get back home after a long walk far afield.

We left the next morning for Málaga. Stay tuned for a month of updates from our new home in Spain! And don't forget to follow us @arrradventures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 01:53 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

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