Somewhere in Spain
It was finally back to being just us four temporary nomads. And, after the stern warning from the Portuguese border control, we decided to spend our last few days in Europe in one of our favorite countries: Spain. We were first headed to Seville, the city where Adam and I got engaged. We had told Katie and Justin all about it, and they were excited to see why this city is so special. We were also planning a day trip to Cordoba. After taking a long break to relax and get back into our old rhythm, we were going to spend one night in Algeciras, at the southern tip of the country in order to prepare ourselves for the ferry crossing to Africa. We could think of no better place to end the European part of our trip!
What We Did
Day 107 (11/6/16): After eating a few more nata for breakfast in Lisbon, we said goodbye to Portugal and boarded our bus to Seville. The bus was 100% full, making it a bit hot and uncomfortable. However, we knew what we were in for when we booked the seven-hour drive the prior day. We arrived at the Seville bus station later in the evening, and navigated our way to our apartment, where we would spend the next eight days. We were pretty exhausted, only staying awake long enough to find a pizza joint and get some dinner before returning and passing out.
Day 108 (11/7/16): After a good rest, we were ready for a full day of sight-seeing in Seville. We first made a brief stop at the Seville Cathedral, just around the corner from our apartment. Then we decided to visit the royal palace called the Alcazar of Seville. We spent several hours touring the inner rooms and the gardens, admiring the Moorish architecture and playing an intense game of tag in the hedge maze. We left the palace grounds, passing the monument to Christopher Columbus monument and headed for my favorite place in Seville, the Plaza de Espana. We took some time walking around the bridges and soaking up some sun there. Our further wanderings for the day took us past the Torre del Oro on the river, and the Metropol Parasol, or “the mushrooms”, which we all were torn between finding them obnoxious or interesting. After busting our step goals for the day, we returned to the apartment. We decided to get dinner at a tapas place called La Bodega de la Alfalfa. that was recommended by our host. We stuffed ourselves with delicious food, including an incredible grilled steak before heading home for the night.
Day 109 (11/8/16): Today we packed a picnic and went to the park next to the Plaza de Espana. We sat in the sun playing euchre and eating sandwiches. Later in the afternoon we joined in on a free walking tour around Seville focused on the old Jewish quarter. The tour explored the area’s history and legends. We learned of a mysterious child snatcher, the Streets of Life and Death, and a tragic love story. We also learned the humorous reason why Jews used to put crosses on the outside of their houses (it involves lude acts of public indecency by Christians). After the tour, we made our own discovery that delighted the boys to no end: Taco Bell. With Adam and Justin pledging to return later, we went back to the apartments, made dinner, and chilled some more.
Day 110 (11/9/16): With more to see in Seville, we left the apartment and headed for the Puente de Isabel II bridge. We were on our way to the monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas on the other side of the river. When we arrived, we discovered that the buildings and grounds housed the city’s Contemporary Arts Center. We wandered in through what we believed to be the entrance and found the place nearly deserted. We explored the area, including several large kilns, before entering a serene hanging garden area, where we took a short break. We continued on through a couple of exhibits before exiting. Justin had read about an “American Park”. Online, so we made that our next destination. Again, we found it nearly deserted. But, not to be deterred, we carried on walking through town, back across the river again. The boys were determined to get their Taco Bell fix before we returned to our apartment. Over three months without it had apparently taken its toll. After eating we went back to the apartment to relax, finalize some plans, and do more laundry. We had a lighter dinner of cheese, cured meats, bread, and wine before heading to a Flamenco show at the cultural center. We got there early and ended up with the best seats in the house. The show was very cool, and way louder than I was anticipating. I would not want to live below one of those dancers, that’s for sure. Tired, we returned to the apartment to get some shut eye.
Day 111 (11/10/16): This morning we headed to the airport to pick up our rental car for our big day trip to Cordoba. Due to limited availability, we ended up driving a giant van to the city. We started our trip there by crossing the Roman Bridge and entering through the Puerta del Puente. Afterwards, we made our way to the Mosque of Cordoba. It was a strange, and beautiful structure. At one time is was one of the largest mosques in Europe, and it still retains its Moorish detailing throughout. However, it was eventually taken over by the Catholic Church, and the bishop commissioned a huge renovation be done to the center to make it look more traditional. So, what they ended up with is a giant Mosque with a traditional catholic church right smack in the middle. It was a sight to behold, and a little strange that is still called a mosque, despite the fact that people are not allowed to practice Islam there. After we had explored every corner of it, we headed for the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. It took us a while to arrive, as we missed the entrance and ended up walking around the wall the circled the whole grounds before finding our way inside. While the interior was updated and not super impressive, the grounds were beautiful and filled with flowers and large, manicured hedges. We spent time exploring them, and playing an impromptu game of hide-and-seek with Katie and Justin. After leaving, we went for lunch at a tapas restaurant called 101 Tapas. If you are ever in town, the ham and cheese croquettes are to die for. Now full, we walked down to the Cordoba Synagogue and the Plaza de las Tendillas, which was actually quite disappointing, despite the positive Trip Advisor reviews. We walked back to the van along the river and across the bridge, ready to head back to Seville.
Day 112 (11/11/16): Today we decided to have another picnic in the park. This trip had made us quite addicted to euchre. So, we packed chips, fruit, and sandwiches and headed out. The weather was perfect and we wanted to enjoy it. We laid out our blankets and relaxed for most of the day. Then we returned to the apartment, made dinner, and watched movies. Adam went out and got a haircut. He came back looking like a new man!
Day 113 (11/12/16): We had decided upon arriving in Spain to spend one day doing what Spanish people did. So, we woke up and headed out to a café, where we snacked on hot chocolate and churros. Then we went back to “work” (we spent time on the blog and making sure we had everything finalized and booked for our next continent). We then went out to a nice lunch, the biggest meal of the Spanish day complete with wine. We had multiple tapas and split paella. After a couple of glasses of wine, we began discussing tattoos. We decided we wanted to get compass tattoos to commemorate our year of travel. So, we decided to forgo afternoon tapas and found a highly-rated tattoo parlor. We found our designs and spent the next couple of hours watching each other get inked. Afterwards, we returned to the apartment to get ready to go out on the town. We picked up some beers and some food and started the night on the square watching everyone socialize. Once they began cleaning out the square we headed to a night club. Our first choice was overly crowded, with a massive line outside. So, we met up with this group of girls from a local hostel and went to a different place. After dancing, we went to a pub for another beer before getting kebabs and calling it a night.
Day 114 (11/13/16): Today we did nothing…….and it was glorious!
Day 115 (11/14/16): We awoke early, packed up our stuff and headed for the bus station. A few hours later we arrived in Algeciras and located our apartment for the evening. Since it was a little small, we decided to go out and find some food and get any last-minute supplies for our travels to Africa. We picked up kebabs, toiletries, pasta for dinner, and alcohol. We walked along the port and then returned to the apartment and made dinner. We were ready for our journey the next morning.
What We Learned
- There is not much life on the other side of the river. Although we stumbled upon the Contemporary Arts Center and it was free, there was really nobody there. The parks on the other side of the river also seem to receive less maintenance and upkeep than those on the side of the Cathedral and University. If you have time in Seville to visit it, it was a fun day still, but it is not a must-do if you are only in the city short-term.
- Pay attention to Spanish meal times, as they are different than in the US, and you may find places closed. In Spain, people eat breakfast around eight in the morning. They may also get a coffee or a snack between ten and eleven. Lunch usually happens between one and three, and like I said prior, it is the biggest meal of the day and lasts longer than a typical American lunch. Dinner is not generally eaten until after eight at night, and usually closer to nine, although some people will go out for a glass of wine or a tapa around five or six. If you go to a place with a tapas bar (where they are all made and laid out for your selection), pay special attention to these times, as if you are going during off hours, your tapas may not be as fresh or as varied.
- Day trips are easily done by renting a car, rather than paying for a tour. Cordoba was less than two hours away and the car rental was super cheap (like $40). You can also drive to Granada (about five hours) or other smaller towns if you wish. Tours to these places are usually at least $50 per person, so if you are with friends, it is usually better to go it alone.
- The nacho cheese at taco bell tastes super odd outside the US. And, they serve French fries with their meal deals. Mind blown.
- Hedge maze tag was one of the most fun things we did in Seville. In the palace gardens, there is a hedge maze where the hedges are about nipple height (J). We sprinted around the hedges, sometimes diving overtop of them to tag someone in another row. Some of the other visitors to the maze thought we were nuts, but I was having a ball. Adam took some pretty nasty spills in the corners where the water had not yet dried up, leaving slippery puddles of mud behind. I managed to tag Katie by ducking low and sneaking up behind her when she wasn’t looking. And Katie managed to tag Justin by pretending she had no idea who was “it” until he was close enough to tag. We were all panting and sweating when we left, but it was totally worth it.
- We found an American store right around the corner from us. It sold peanut butter, stuffing and gravy (since it was close to Thanksgiving), American cereal, popcorn, and so many more yummy goodies that I had not seen in ages. Being on a budget, I managed to restrain myself to popcorn, but it was tough.