We took slightly longer than a week to fit in 3 different stops in the Andalusia region of Spain . We flew from our local East Midlands Airport on yet another discount carrier (Jet2) to Málaga (F). We then took a bus (coach) to Granada (B, 2 hrs) where we stayed two nights. From there, we took another bus to Sevilla (E, 3 hrs) for 5 nights. While there, we did a day trip to Córdoba (D, 45 mins) before returning back to Málaga (2 hrs) for 2 nights.
One of the main draws to the area for me is lasting Moorish influence in the area. Spain was occupied by the Romans for 7-800 years until the fall of the Roman Empire around 400 AD or so. The Visigoths came in for awhile until 711 when the Moors from N. Africa took over (we were told that they were invited to help settle a squabble between two kingdoms and decided to stay). The Moors, and their Muslim influence, were in control for over 700 years until the Catholic Reconquest finally defeated them in Granada in 1492. Fortunately, the Moorish influence is still prevalent in the area. As a result, one gets a unique mix of Moorish history and architecture and Spanish culture all rolled into one trip.
The area is also known for it good weather (though quite hot in the summer) and nearby Costa del Sol beaches and White Hill towns. However, we stuck to the historical cities for this trip.
link), we decided to check out Granada. Here's the very large cathedral (we saved touring for another day). Recall that Granada was the last Moorish city and the Catholics wanted to make a big statement so they knocked down the mosque and built on top of it.
Now walking along Plaza Nueva and Paseo de los Tristes; this is the Church of Santa Anna. We stuck our heads in and, oops, wedding. Can you top that Tara?
snapped this one on our way back -- the happy bride
a bridge along Paseo de los Tristes and the Darro River -- that's my small family there
there they are
another church and a peek at part of the Alhambra
looking up at Alhambra -- more views to come and a visit the next day
We also made a stop to the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) next to the Cathedral. (no photos). Here the bodies of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs of the Reconquista rest. Interesting site.
Sunday -- the Alhambra
"The last and greatest Moorish Palace". Limited tickets are available to the Alhambra (or more specifically to the Palacios Nazaries inside) and advance purchase is highly recommended. We had a "morning" slot with a 12:00 entry to the Palacios so we got to the complex around 10:00 to look at the other, un-timed, sites.
Garden shot (the grounds are huge). Nice weather as you can see.
this was an entrance to an old Moorish bath -- the rounded (horseshoe) archway is typical Moorish architecture
a view of the Alcazar (fort) at the far end of the complex (towards the city)
and looking down to Granada and the large cathedral
a bigger version in one of the rooms -- this one still had a bit of color left
Courtyard of the Myrtles
the kids and Myrtle
Courtyard of the Lions -- a rare chance with few people in the shot
the Lions -- these used to be set to tell the time every hour
in case you thought I was getting too cultured -- I couldn't pass up this "rear" view of a group photo
I think this is the "living room" or the Hall of Abencerrajes
more tantalizing artwork
I was a bit confused about which sites required tickets and had to be accessed before our "morning" slot was over at 2 pm. (This caused a bit of tension with my other half). So, after a quick sandwich, we decided to hightail it to the opposite end of the complex and the Generalife Gardens.
but first, more wedding photos
peaceful fountains and flowers
After our touring, we decided to partake in a Spanish tradition: the siesta. We were due for a break. Afterwards, we caught another mini-bus to the old town (Albayzín) for a quick stroll around.
We ate dinner elsewhere. I'll save the bulk of the food photos for the end.
We had a chance to walk around a bit before our bus to Sevilla so we took advantage.
One of the better buskers. Always good to get a dog involved.
We had a chance for a quick tour of the cathedral as well.
Impressive organ, though it made me think of the trumpeters in Monty Python's Holy Grail.
Entrance to the Corral del Corbón, a protected place for merchants in ye olde times
and inside -- dates back to the 14th century
tick one off Alex's list -- a plate full of churros and a hidden cup of chocolate
We like walking tours (Kuk in particular) so we tend to look for ones when visiting a city. The timing didn't work out for Granada, but we wanted to make sure we did one in Sevilla. We were very happy with Sevilla Walking Tours (link). We took their 2-hour city tour and liked it so much we signed up for their 1-hr tours of the Alcázar and the Cathedral.
We've got a lot going on at the moment with "challenging" situations at work and preparing to move back to the US. As such, I didn't quite do the detail planning that I normally do. One thing I assumed was that it was going to be sunny and warm the entire time. Oops. Most of our 5 nights in Sevilla had some rain. We had light rain coats, but I did buy a couple of crappy, disposable umbrellas as penance. Oh well. At least the rain held off for the city tour.
another courtyard shot with some orange trees in the mix
a quick shot of some flamenco dresses (a big deal here)
the Cathedral's Bell Tower (only the photographer is leaning)
a little more of this huge cathedral from the outside
another view of the Cathedral
After a quick lunch (tapas, naturally), we were ready for the afternoon tour of the Alcazár (fort).
After having seen the Alhambra, I was prepared for a letdown of this Moorish Alcázar. However, it turned out to be a really pleasant and interesting afternoon.
From Rick Steves:
. . . originally a 10th-century palace built for governors of the local Moorish state, this building still functions as a royal palace -- the oldest in use in Europe. The core of the palace features an extensive 14th-century rebuild, done by Muslim workmen for the Christian King, Pedro I (1334-1369). Pedro's palace embraces both cultural traditions.
Sevilla was reconquered in 1248 so this was quite unusual/shocking to build in this Moorish influence at the time.
the patio before the formal entrance
a peek at some of the Moorish architecture
inside the main courtyard
there's our trusty guide Alfonso who was with us for all 3 tours -- he was great; loved his sense of humor too
Additional photos of the palace, etc. below. We really enjoyed it, perhaps even more than the Alhambra??
night time shot of the Cathedral
We started the day by heading to the Plaza de la Encarnación. Home of the big mushroom or waffle:
The city is split on this bold statement. I kinda like it. It's named the Metropol Parasol and is made of wood and glue (supposedly).
Underneath, they have some Roman ruins (an antiquarium) and they were well worth a look.
including a Medusa Mosaic -- it was a nice little exhibit
Of course we had to go up to the top of the Parasol/mushroom to get a closer look
along with nice view of the city
The pallbearers represent the four kingdoms of Catile, Aragon, León and Navaree. Note the mural of St. Christopher from 1584 in the background.
this one is of the bullring which we visit later in the week
Thursday was the day for our day trip to Córdoba. I had pre-purchased tickets on the high speed AVE train which made for a quick 45-minute trip each way. Córdoba's claim to fame is the Mezquita, a former mosque with a 16th century church built inside. Another very impressive site.
another courtyard shot
the Mihrab -- a mosque equivalent of the high altar
back inside the undisturbed mosque
in the middle of this vast mosque is an imposing Cathedral jutting upwards; this was added in the 1500s
Although I didn't inundate you with photos, we all really liked the uniqueness of the Mezquita.
A quick rest in front of the Alcázar before heading to lunch. We did not go in.
More walking after lunch. Alongside the old city walls here.
interesting door knocker
Alex taking a rest in a courtyard while Kuk looked in some shops.
We enjoyed the Mezquita, had a nice lunch and enjoyed the parks so we were glad to have made the trip to Córdoba for the day. The city itself didn't grab me like Sevilla so I'm glad we didn't stay over night. It also had a bit of a funk by the river. Overall it was a little grittier, at least the parts we saw.
Last day in Sevilla. Fortunately, we had a few more sites on our list. We probably could have squeezed it down a day but it was nice to talk things leisurely on this trip.
The first order of the day was to visit the bullring. It's the offseason but they still give guided tours (the only way to see it) and it turned out to be really enjoyable. Not sure I'd want to attend the event, particularly with the family, but this tour was a nice cultural lesson.
Royal box or perhaps just the VIP box.
our trusty guide -- loved the traditional outfit. Very good bilingual tour and great disposition.
here). In the vast majority of the cases, the bull loses (dies). I think there have been 2 instances in Sevilla where it did not.
a final shot inside the stadium corridors
another courtyard shot
some death is going to get us all art inside the church
another example -- this is the freeing of St. Peter
Sevilla was probably our favorite stop and we were glad we gave it the longest time. It had a very safe and comfortable feel to it. We stayed in an apartment in the Barrio Santa Cruz (old Jewish quarter) and it was an excellent location. Easy to get to the sites and there were numerous dining options (tapas, etc.).
For our last 2 nights, we headed back to . . .
Given our early/mid afternoon arrival, we decided to just have a walk about on the first day.
really enjoyed the Paseo Parque near the wonderfront -- so many exotic trees and plants
Birds of Paradise -- one of our favorites
New city, so it is time for another walking tour. We chose welovemalaga and given that it was Sunday morning, had the guide to ourselves. It was a nice little walk but didn't quite measure up to Sevilla.
a church through the narrow alleyways
we got a nice little lesson on pata negra (wiki link), the special ham of the region
Sagrado Corazón -- Antonio Banderas' childhood church and one he still patronizes
quite elaborate artwork/costumes on the inside
a quick photo with Picasso, who was born in Málaga
a view of the Roman amphitheater and the Alcáczar
After the tour (and lunch) we decided how to spend the rest of our full day here. We'd seen cathedrals and alcázars so we didn't feel the need. We decided on something different: the Glass and Crystal Museum (actually the number one rated activity on Trip Advisor for what it is worth).
The museum is a restored 18th century house that is lived in by 3 colleagues who have inherited/collected glass and crystal from around the world. The museum is an escorted tour through the house by one of the owners. Very different!
This one is more of a comic book telling stories of the day.
some very early glass from about 2500 years ago
and one more stained glass
I know it sounds kinda weird, but we all actually enjoyed it. The old chap engaged the kids as we went around so we all left satisfied. Good choice!
We also visited the Picasso Museum (no photos) along with the rest of the city on the one free day of the month. I got my money's worth. <sorry> It's just wasn't for me. I like his Guernica piece in Madrid but this didn't to much for me. I did get a shock though. I was sitting there shaking my head at a painting of a 3-breasted women saying I don't get it and Alex (!) says "Don't you see that part of the painting she is lying on her back and the other part she's on her side and he's put them together." What just happened? Alex? That may be the highlight of the trip.
We had an early evening flight so we had some time to kill, so to speak, during the day. Many sites were closed anyway, but we continued our laid back approach and simply had another walk around.
Málaga was a fine stop at the end of the trip but it doesn't compare to the other cities in my opinion. That said, we did enjoy the leisurely strolls, good weather and the unique Glass museum.
Food, food, food
As you know, we love our food. We shared most nights whether it be tapas or full portions (we did both). The local style would be to do a tapas crawl from bar to bar but that doesn't rally suit us. The other advice is to find the most crowded bar and go there -- that's not us either! We often sat inside for a quieter affair in addition to eating "early" at 7:30 - 8:00. We enjoyed the variety and had a good culinary experience overall -- only one place really didn't measure up. Rome's probably our favorite for food but this is in the mix with our Normandy, Bruges/Amersterdam and Berlin trips.
an interesting way to have artichoke hearts
melon w/ ham from above -- worth a repeat
fried eggplant/aubergine -- also good but I have to limit the fried stuff
another melon con jamón -- we tried it when they had it
a local variation of gazpacho -- they called it salmorejo I believe; very tasty
For our last night in Sevilla we went to a "gourmet" tapas place that was good for a change of pace and we liked the variety. (Vinería San Telmo)
squid ink pasta!
a chicken, apricot tart with Moroccan spices
(different restaurant) -- a variant of the popular Russian (potato) salad
what, more melon and ham? ☺
seafood platter in Málaga -- they specialize in fried "anchovies" (sardines) which we tried but no photo. Tasty and worthy of a plate but I wouldn't want to eat them every day.
Finally, a typical house mixed salad; a welcome compliment to the fried food and tapas!
Despite the relaxing pace, it was still hard to fully detach from our work and move stresses but this was a nice trip and a good break. Back to the final push now -- 6 weeks until we move back. Plenty of hurdles between now and then, but we'll make it.
I'm quite pleased with our travel choices. Others have done more and some less but it was the right mix for us. We've certainly taken advantage of our opportunities (if I do say so myself). Sure, there are plenty of places that we didn't get to see (Greece, Turkey, parts of France, Spain, Italy, etc. etc.) but we can come back. It will just take a little longer.
Have a good week (or more!) everyone.