We have lots to tell since we’ve been city-tripping for quite a bit, so we divided it in paragraphs to make it easier for you to read.🙂
The last time we blogged, we were in Empuriabrava, which has lots of beautiful canals with wonderful houses along it. It is the biggest residential marina in Europe they say, and we believe them. It is also the biggest skydiving drop zone in Europe. So of course Brad went skydiving, (no, Maaike is still freaking out just thinking about it…) and of course all went well with him. After a few days there we decided to leave and apparently we did that just in time, because on the day we left there was too much wind for Brad to even jump and not much later there was rain predicted. We also went for a boat trip along the canals of Empuria. We actually wanted an electric boat, but the guy gave us a motor boat and we didn’t want to bother changing it again. The whole hour we sat in the stench of the engine when we went with the wind, which was not so nice… Near Empuria is the town of Figueres, where we went to see the Dali museum. We didn’t get to see the well known paintings like Elastic Time, but there was a lot of his other works and also a few replicas. Definitely an interesting museum to see! On the day that we left to drive to Andorra we drove via Cadaques, a beautiful little beach town. It reminded us a bit of Greece with its houses on the Mediterranean painted white with blue. A pretty sight indeed!
Via France (so we did a bit of backtracking) we drove to Andorra, just because we could…🙂 It was very interesting to see when we drove into the little country that it was so different compared to its surrounding countries Spain and France. It really is its own country. The country side was beautiful to see, with dramatic mountains and high houses, but the capital, Andorra de Vela, was just a big city with bright lights. In Andorra the shopping is tax free, so there were lots of shops and not much more special to see. As we were driving around in the city we couldn’t find a good place to stay for us, so after filling up with very cheap petrol (€1,20 per liter!) and a check of our boot by the border control if we had bought too many cigarettes (erm, no, zero…), we drove back into Spain and found a place to spend the night there.
Where to stay in a city like Barcelona when you have a car to park… Well, an Etap in one of the outskirts, with free parking and public transport in front of the door, was ideal. It was maybe a bit of a long drive with the public bus into the city, but very cheap to stay there. The total for transport + accommodation + parking for 2 nights was only €90 instead of €160! Sometimes you have to chose budget over comfort…😉 (though the Etap-hotels are very comfortable, just out of the city centers) The first day (when we arrived) we took the bus to Plaza España and walked over to Montjuïc where we walked around in the parks. As we found a little zip-line we couldn’t resist and had to slide with it. Whoohoo! The whole park was very nice and relaxed and there were barely any other tourists around there. Then we took a trip with the cable car over the harbour and had a little walk on the beach. A short stop for a café con leche (milk coffee) and then we made our way back again. The second day we planned to go see Sagrada Familia, the world famous cathedral by Gaudi. We wonder if we go back in 40 years time, how far it will be finished then! Then we kept on walking through the city, past La Pedrera (the Gaudi-museum) and Casa Batilò and of course snapped a couple of photos, couldn’t resist… To go up to Park Guëll we took a bus and walked around the park and the buildings there. Gaudi’s buildings are just so very fascinating, you just keep on looking… But of course we had to move on, and Valencia was the next stop on this trip. We took the sightseeing route via Sitges and Deltebre, the former a beach town that wasn’t as impressive as the guide book told us, and the second a nature park which was just huge paddies everywhere with a couple of birds here and there. The promised flamingo’s where unfortunately nowhere in sight!
Because of our little detour on the way to Valencia we arrived around 18.00h, so it was difficult to find a place to stay. The first places we asked cost about €100 a night… but were not worth it. Maybe the navi could help us out? We tried to find a few hotels close together, and hopefully would find something there? First we drove straight through the city, with all the rushhour traffic, but we couldn’t find a place with parking nearby. Luckily when we went close to Las Arenas beach we found a nice hotel for €50, so we could get a good night’s sleep. On the first full Valencia-day we went to Ciudad de las Artes y Las Ciencias, the city of Art and Science. And instead of parking at the crazy expensive parking of the Ciudad itself, we found a parking spot close by for free. The Science museum was of course very fascinating, with a lot of try-it-yourself stuff. We also went into space with the Space Academy and watched the IMAX movie Hubble in the Hemispheric-dome. The second day we walked around in the center of the city and made our way over to the park (the former Turia River bed). Just before we went through the gates to go to the park, we had a nice cup of café con leche in a lovely little place. The day began with lots of rain, but later it got much better. We even had lunch in the sunshine in the park on a bench! Since the park lead us to the Ciudad again we decided to watch another IMAX movie in the Hemispheric, Sea Monsters in 3D. Then we went back to our hotel again, and walked past the apartment where my sister Rosan lived when she studied here a couple of years ago. The following morning we left for Alicante, but not after a little walk on the huge beach Las Arenas.
We arrived around 15.00h in Alicante, so we had enough daylight left to go to see the beach Playa de El Postiguet and Castello del Santa Barbara. We dropped off our stuff in our hotelroom and took off to go do the sightseeing. After driving wrong a few times, we finally found a parking spot, but then we didn’t know where to pay. Maaike asked the parking police, who barely spoke English. In her ‘goodest’ Spanish she found out it costs €1,20 per day, but she still couldn’t figure out where to pay? Then a guy who was about to drive off gave Maaike his ticket, so no problemo anymore to find the machine and we got the parking for free. Always nice! The parking police didn’t even care she got a ‘used’ ticket. We walked a bit on beach and then took the lift up to Castello de Santa Barbara. As it was about to be sunset, the view was really beautiful, colouring Alicante in the soft light of a sun going down. So beautiful!
Granada – Alhambra
An old saying goes: ‘If you have died without seeing the Alhambra, you have not lived’. We sure didn’t want to risk that, so we drove a long long way from Alicante to Granada. We went to the nearest Etap hotel again and booked a ticket for Alhambra for the following day, because the receptionist told us to do so. Luckily we did, because as we phoned, we heard there were only a few available tickets for 08.30am, the rest was already sold out! In the summer it is probably sold out months ahead, so if you have plans to go to Granada, book your ticket to Alhambra well in advance, you don’t want to miss it! Because our tickettime was so early (this has to do with the admission time to go into the Alcázar-Palace, the rest you can visit anytime during your ticket-day), we had to be at the main gate at 07.30am… Alarmclock an hour and a half before that, so yes, it was a very early morning for us! As we stood in front of the main gate at exactly 7.30, we were waiting and waiting and waiting… We started to doubt: why did we have to be here so early when the gates are still closed? At exactly 08.02 the gate opened so we could get our ticket. Well, ready to go in, we assumed. Erm, no, wait for another 15 minutes please, since the staff wasn’t in place yet. The guard finally let us in after that, but we walked over to the Alcázar-Palace alongside all the staff who apparently just arrived… Manaña-manaña-style we think…? At 08.35 we went into the Alcázar and were amazed by all the intrinsic details of the Palace. So beautiful decorated and preserved, just stunning! After that Palace the rest was a bit boring to see, but nevertheless an amazing place to see. We did our best to see everything we could, so we can say we have seen the Alhambra before we die! Always a good thing, of course…
We then took the car to drive into the city center and parked in a narrow-way underground parking, without any scratch on the car, pretty impressive… From the parking we walked to the huge Cathedral of Granada, that unfortunately is so packed into the houses around it, that you can’t really see it. From there we walked around to the Albayzin, a fascinating old Arab quarter with little streets to get lost in. Halfway the walk we found a nice little restaurant and stopped there for a nice tapas-lunch, yum!! Refreshed and revived we walked all the way up to Iglesia (church) de San Nicolás to get thé great view of Alhambra and the snowcapped (luckily in town it is 23 degrees Celcius…) Sierra Nevada mountains behind it, simply stunning…
As we’re leaving the Alhambra behind, tomorrow we will drive on to Córdoba, to see the Mezquita (Mosque) there. Probably very beautiful too! We’re looking forward to it! And we’ll keep you posted!
Lots of love,
Maaike and Brad