After seeing the Al Hambra in Granada we continued on our way around the South of Spain to Portugal via the following places:
As we were almost at our destination, the road was closed off… So we turned around and tried (with all the one way streets) to go counterclockwise from where we were to get into the city to the hotel. That did not work… Then we tried clockwise and while crossing the river and crossing it again a bit further, we finally got (again) close to where the hotel was. But now a moving pole from the ground was blocking our way… The only way to at least try to get into the city was just to press a button next to an intercom-pole and say: ‘Hola, erm, we stay at Hostal El Triunfo…!?’ And as if by a miracle, the pole started moving earthwards… We quickly drove over it and we were in! Wow! Soon we found El Triunfo and we parked the car in front of the hotel (where no stopping was allowed of course…). Brad quickly went inside to ask where the official parking was and the receptionist was really surprised that we actually got into the closed part of the city… Hahaha! After taking the luggage to the room, Brad took the car to the official parking of the hotel and then we could go and do our sightseeing of Cordoba. As our hotel was straight in front of the Mezquita (mosque) we started there of course. The huge building took a while to walk all the way around. When we found the entrance, we decided it wasn’t worth it for us to check the whole interior as well and we walked off into the little streets that we had tried to drive through earlier. Without a car it was so much better in those streets. Only if there was a car approaching, we had to press ourselves against the walls, and then still get a side-mirror against our butts sometimes… Luckily we found a few doorways to hide in as well when there was a car coming. After the little streets of the old town, we walked over to Alcazar, the old town wall and fortress. From there we went to the bridge that gave us a great view of the Mezquita by sunset. Under one of the gates of the bridge a lovely couple was playing beautiful music on various instruments (much better than the two guys we saw on the bridge a bit earlier). We decided to buy one of their cds and now we’re driving regularly to the lovely sounds of original songs performed by Lucha and Leticia!
After a short stop at our hotel we walked around to find a nice place to have dinner. To save money we were eating prepackaged salads and potato-tortilla’s etc., but we decided to go for a ‘real’ meal this evening. And a real meal we got! In a fancy restaurant next to our hotel Brad had a great steak and Maaike had a lamb stew with almonds and plums (Berber-style). Especially the latter one was such a delight, that we could live on the taste of it for a couple of more weeks! Then we went for another round around the Mezquita to digest our food a bit before heading to the hotel room.
The following morning, Maaike took advantage of having a good internet-connection in our room on a Saturday-morning, and had a Skype-chat with her sister Rosan and her 2-year old niece, Yara. And what fun that was! Yara showed her lantern that she made for St Maarten (the Dutch Trick or Treat, on the 11th of November) and sang the song that came with it. Or actually, it was 3 songs mixed into one… Sounded cute either way! Maaike had to show she was barefoot (toes in the camera) and Yara showed her white socks. The only thing that Yara couldn’t quite understand, was that her Aunty Maaike couldn’t put her hairpin back into Yara’s hair through the webcam… And Yara also couldn’t put the pin in Maaike’s hair? She then found it quite strange, this video-camming… hihihi!
After Cordoba we moved on to Sevilla, a crazy city to drive around in. For several left turns you have to turn right first, make a curve to the left, cross the road you just drove on and then you are in the street you want to be in. Pity we didn’t always see those right-turn-lanes on time, so several U-turns were made. For Brad we drove from our hotel to Skydive Spain, which was further from Sevilla than we thought. We drove via various towns and dirt-roads to get there. Brad signed up and went for a sunset-jump there, which was beautiful.
The following day we spent time walking around in Sevilla. So we went along the cathedral, some gardens, Plaza de España and the little streets of the Santa Cruz area. To get out of Sevilla again the next day, our lovely Navi drove us crazy… ‘Turn right, keep left’ Okay, but there is only one lane to turn right on? Anyway, we drive on the right lane and turn off. Navi: ‘Recalculating…’ Noooooo… It took a whole left-turn-right-turn-turnaround-and-do-a-somersault-with-the-car to get back to where we went wrong. Then Maaike tried to follow the exact purple line on the navi…. Stayed in the 2nd lane from the right, went to thát turn-off, then we had to keep left again, and we were back on the road we were driving on the whole time before we had the ‘turn right, keep left’… GRMBL…. Ah well, afterwards you can laugh about this kind of hiccups and the navi has helped us big time in many other places…
We drove from Sevilla to Ronda, just to see the cliffs on which the city was built, but as we got there, the weather was terrible. Lightning struck all around us and there was lots of rain, so not really weather to get out of the nice, dry and comfortable car to snap a few photos. We did have lunch in Ronda, in our car on the side of the road.
Arcos de la Frontera
As we arrived at a parking-place, a friendly old parking-guard showed us the way to a lovely little hotel called San Marcos. Of course he later got some free food there from the owner for bringing us there and we thought that he was her father or so, but it was a nice place to stay anyway. Also the food was good and very cheap! A grilled salmon with some chips and vegetables for only €6! Brad also went for a haircut at a one-man-barbershop in Arcos. The guy didn’t speak any English, but somehow we could tell him in our three words of Spanish how Brad’s hair should look (we showed him a passport-photo of Brad with a good haircut) and it worked!
‘You can drive in anytime you want, but you can never leave…’ is what we realized when we walked around in Arcos. It was once again one of those places that was difficult to drive into (as we’ve had on the way a few times before-towns built long before cars were invented), but as we walked around it later on, we realized that the way out would be even harder to find…? The lady at the tourist office gave us a few pointers and luckily for us, the following day it wasn’t a Hotel-California-song for us!
From Arcos we drove to Jerez to put our stuff in a hotel there and then we drove to Cadiz for some sightseeing. As we walked around the peninsula on which the oldest city in Europe is built, 3100 years old, we started to realize we have seen too many churches and cathedrals already… As we have done a lot of cities all with their own lovely old town and cathedral and twenty other churches, we got a bit over-run with them. So a cup of coffee here, a bit of window-shopping there, then a lunch at the beach and it was time for us to leave and spend only a few more hours walking around in Jerez’s old town.
Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez is the city of Sherry and Horses, but neither have our interest. So we just walked around in the city for some more ABC’s (Another Bloody Cathedral…). When we got back to our car we didn’t know we had to pay for parking from 17.00h onwards… Of course it was 17.30 and just 15 minutes earlier the parking-police had walked past…. Yes, under our windscreen-wiper a lovely little parking ticket was waving at us… €80! What!?! Yes a mighty eighty euros! SHIIIIIIT…. Or, as we read on the little envelope that was waving with it at us, pay €8,30 within the hour of when the ticket has been printed and you’re fine… no pun please… So we quickly went to the pay-place and paid the amount into the machine with the Cancellation-statement… Well, paying 8 or 80 – a big difference! Ah well, something to remember Jerez by: a slip of the fine-cancellation…
And so on Wednesday the 16th of November we arrived in Alvor, a small town close to Portimão, where Skydive Algarve is located. We first drove to Camping Alvor (the only place where we planned to camp on the trip) and after asking for prices there we went to the apartment-complex of Quinta Nova (now called Clube Brisamar) and asked for the prices there. €7,50 for camping or €26 for a complete apartment… After weighing all the options we decided to go for the bit more expensive option of an apartment… It just looked much more comfortable! As we wanted to book the place, the receptionist quietly gave us a little tip if we had a credit card: go to booking.com and make a booking reservation via there… So we went online and looked up the place… only €15 per night! A complete apartment, with own bathroom, kitchen, washing machine, lounge, two balconies, heating, everything! Wow, what a deal! Done! For two weeks please! From here, Brad can do skydives at Skydive Algarve and we can do sightseeing of the Algarve, so it is a perfect place to stay for a bit!
Of course by now Brad has done some skydives already. There weren’t many people at the drop zone, as there was a boogie (a gathering of skydivers) last weekend, but still enough to fill the little Cessna 182 to go up and jump. For a change Brad was the most experienced in the sky (usually there’s always somebody with at least thousands of jumps) and the other guys enjoyed hearing all his tips and so.
Yesterday we did our first sightseeing trip of the Algarve: a daytrip to Ilha da Tariva (Island of Tariva). We had a nice lunch in Tariva after our hour-drive to get there, and enjoyed the fish and shrimps. Around 14.00h we took a boat to get the ‘ilha’. The weather was supposed to be rainy the whole day, but luckily we could walk on the little sand-island in front of the Algarve-coast in dry weather. We drove back via a coastal route, but not all the little villages were nice to see. Olhão for instance was just a scruffy harbor-town. As we drove further back, a huge dark sky came towards us and we were home just in time before it broke loose.
Today there was lots of rain in the morning, so we decided to stay in for the day. No skydiving or sightseeing weather! In the afternoon sky started to look much better and we enjoyed some nice relaxing on the balcony in the sunshine. Tonight we’re going to have dinner and ten pin bowling with a bunch of skydivers. Gonna be fun!!!
Lots of love, Maaike and Brad