Stop 10: Spain travel notes and photos

Spain, Barcelona and Marbella (by way of Alicante)

Saturday, November 3:  Arrived in Barcelona and were more than pleasantly surprised by the apartment.  It is definitely my favorite apartment by far.  It is very well equipped as far as the “comforts of home” are concerned, the location is great, high ceilings and original mosaic floors in every room.

Master

Tomorrow, we are planning to take the Fat Tire Bike Tour.  More to come tomorrow.

Thanks for reading. Miss you all.

Sunday, November 4:  We took a Fat Tire Bike Tour today.

We started our tour – on foot in Plaza Sant Jaume which is located at the center of the original Roman settlement of Barcino, this plaza is home to the Ajuntament, (City Hall) and the Palau de la Generalitat (seat of the Catalan regional government).  On our way back into town, there was a small demonstration of Catalonians waving their flags.

One of our first stops along the tour was in the Gothic Quarter and was the Palau Reial.  Our guide told us an interesting story about the history of the square which is that this preserved medieval courtyard is where Ferdinand and Isabella (King and Queen of Spain at the time) were supposed to have received Columbus on his return from the New World.

Our next stop was La Catedral which is an impressive Catalan Gothic church. It was begun in 1298 and is built on the site of a Roman temple and houses the tomb of Saint Eulàlia, the first patron saint of Barcelona.  Supposedly, when Christiandom was not very popular, some mean people tried to murder this young girl (Eulalia) who was a devout Christian.  They tried to “do her in” 12 times (not successfully) and upon the 13th time, they succeeded.  Then, as time passed and Christianity became popular and widespread, they felt kind of bad about what they had done to this young girl so in an effort to soothe their conscience they sainted her and built a church in her memory.  You would have thought they knew they were behaving badly before all this happened.  Hmmm….

  • barcelona - cathedral

    Palau de la Musica Catalana

    We then traveled on a bit to the Palau de la Musica Catalana.  This is supposed to be one of the most amazing concert halls in all of Europe.  Built in the neo -modernism style, it is a wonderful example of the architecture that dominates many of the buildings in Barcelona.

    The next stop is one of the most famous sites in all of Barcelona – the Sagrada Familia which means “Sacred Family”.  Construction on this church began in  1882 and was designed mainly by Antoni Gaudí, who worked on the church until his death in 1926.  Funny story about his death – not funny really but weird.  Toward the end of this life, Gaudi spent his last 15 years “working for God” so he essentially became a recluse and did not leave the cathedral for 15 years – he grew a long beard, wore dirty clothes smattered in paint and plaster – this was all a bit odd.  Apparently, one Sunday in 1926 he left the Sagrada Familia and walked to his preferred church at the time.  He was hit by a streetcar and left in the street bleeding and injured from his wounds for over 3 hours.  Though he achieved tremendous fame and wealth during his lifetime, his last 15 years he was a recluse so when he was injured and lying in the street, people did not come to his aid.  Finally, a “good Samaritan” came to help.  This person supposedly took him to the public hospital and because no one knew who he was, he laid waiting for treatment for 24 hours.  He died in that hospital.

La Sagrada Familia is not being restored — it is the world’s longest running constructoin sites. The cathedral has been in the process of being built for over 135 years!  They estimate another 15-30 years to completion.

barcelona - sagrada familia 2
After this, we made our way to the Parc de la Ciutadella.  After the War of the Spanish Succession ended in 1714, a large fort was constructed on this site to “keep the city in line.”  The fortress was demolished in 1869 and redesigned as a park containing a zoo, a boating lake, gardens and a large fountain worked on by the young Gaudí.  Most people think the fountain below is a Gaudi however, he was only an apprentice on this work.  Beautiful, nonetheless.
After cruising around  a little longer, we made our way to the beach.  Little did I know that the beach below is fairly new.  Before the Olympics here in 1992, there was no sandy beach.  They brought in a bunch of sand from Saudi Arabia and a bunch of palm trees and voila.  According to our guide, Barcelona is one city in the history of Olympic host cities that changes the most profoundly because of the Olympic Games coming to their part of the world.  Good for the city and good for the people.

Monday, November 5: Today, we were back to homeschooling and then off to the local “fresh market” to buy produce and fish.

After a quick lunch, we walked less than 10 minutes to La Sagrada Familia.  Now we had a chance to see the inside of he church that Gaudi designed!

Wow! Once inside, it was unlike any church or any building i have ever seen.  It was very surreal.  Almost “Dr-Seuss-ish” in  a way.

ceiling

One of the beautiful stained glass windows

After we toured the church, Charlie made us a do a crazy forced march toward the Park Guell, designed by Gaudi.  It was worth the long walk – up hill.

Beautiful views over Barcelona

The photo does not do this justice.

Tomorrow, we are driving from Barcelona to Alicante (about half way from Barcelona to Marbella). Our trip is about 500 or so km so it will be a long day.  Wednesday am, we will finish our trek to Marbella.

Thanks for reading. Miss you all.

Wednesday, October 7: Arrived in Alicante yesterday afternoon. Rainy and a dreary day but we arrived here without a hitch.  Got to the Hospes Hotel in Alicante and were pleased to hear they upgraded us to a really great suite.  This place is awesome!  Too bad we are only staying one night.  Onward…

Finishing up our 2,941 km journey today.

Friday, November 9: Cloudy day in Marbella yesterday and the forecast calls for rain again today.  On a brighter note, they say it is supposed to clear up tomorrow and will be beautiful the next week.  Fingers crossed.  We have lots of day trips planned:

Morocco

La Ronda

Seville

El Torcal de Antequeras

El Chorro

Aventura Amazonia – kids are particularly jazzed about this one.

Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading. Miss you all.

Saturday, November 10:  day started out rainy and yucky but cleared late in the afternoon.  We went to Ronda Spain – about an hour from Marbella.

Little town square in Ronda

\The place was suggested to us by Matt, Charlie’s friend who lives here.  The drive over the mountains was incredible.  Crazy high mountain peaks with lush vegetation and turn a corner, and it looks like the landscape of the moon – grey and desolate.

Drove into the town of Ronda.  We visited the bull fighting ring which we learned, is still used for weekly bull fights.

Outside Ronda’s Bull Fighting Museum

Inside the stadium – feels like the Colosseum

2001 poster for their bull fights

Current – 2012 poster

After we toured the town, we walked to the Puente Nuevo for “New Bridge”.  The bridge was built in 1751 and took a total of 42 years to build. During its initial construction, 50 people lost their lives.  There is a chamber beneath the central arch that was used for a variety of purposes, including as a prison. During the civil war (1936 to 1939), both sides allegedly used the prison as a torture chamber for captured opponents, killing some by throwing them from the windows to the rocks below at the bottom of the El Tajo gorge. Not nice.

Looking down into the crevasse from the top of the bridge

After we toured the museum and the bridge we tore ourselves away to go to Pileta’s Cave just outside of Ronda. This cave was discovered in 1905 and declared National Monument in 1924. It contains an important number of cave’s paintings representing goats, horses, fish, shaman, etc.    They say the paintings are between 30 – 35,000 years old.  It’s crazy to think that people lived in these caves that long ago.  There are also human and animal bones and petrified pottery found in the cave.  The only drawback was that the tour was led by a very old gentleman who did not speak much English and there were two young Spaniards on our tour with us who were really interested in cave paintings so we would stand by one painting for 10-15 minutes with water dripping on our heads and not understand more than a handful of words being said. I am sure the other people got a lot of the tour.  Regardless, it was very cool to see such old cave paintings.  We were not allowed to take photos inside the cave so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Got home about 7 and joined Matt and his family (Pino, his wife and two kids, Lance and Andrea) for a late dinner of pizza and tapas at a local restaurant.

Getting ready to go into the cave

Inside the cave looking out

Saturday, November 10: What a beautiful day!  Sunny and perfect!  Got up and walked to the grocery store for a few provisions.  Came back, had a nice breakfast and took the kids to the beach.  Henry and I walked and looked for sea glass for a while and found quite a bit.  The day could not have been any more perfect.

Had lunch here at the apartment and then headed into Old Town Marbella.  What a cool part of town.  Narrow, winding streets, cafes, lined with orange trees, great shops…Another suggestion from our friend Matt. Thanks.

Had a great dinner at a local restaurant called DaBruno and called it a day.

Sunday, November 11: Easy Sunday morning.  Henry and I scoured the beach for more seaglass.  He has quite an impressive collection.  😉

After breakfast, we got together with Matt, Pino, Andrea and Lance at their place.  Kids became fast friends the other evening over pizza so they were very excited to get together.  We drove about 45 minutes into the mountains for a lunch.  Everyone had a good time –  girls drove in the car with Matt and Pino and the boys rode with us.

Afterwards, the plan was to head to the beach but a rain shower changed our plans so we hung out and talked while the kids played in their respective rooms – girls in one and boys in another.

All in all, a great day except that the Falcons ruined their undefeated streak.

Monday, November 12: Drove to the El Chorro Gourge after we learned that the Amazonia Park was not open today.  It was a little over an hour drive from the coast and Marbella.  The ride took us again into the mountains of Southern Spain which are so beautiful.  We finally, found our way and it was well worth the frustration in getting lost – I say that now. 🙂

Family at top — with the self-timer

Beautiful view of valley below

Alright, so on our way – the first time – to what we thought was the viewing spot on top, we encountered a giant herd of sheep being herded by two dogs down the road to another pasture.  Never before have I seen so many sheep in one place and of course, standing in front of our car.  It was surreal and very laughable.

You could not make this stuff up. 🙂

Sheep jam

Tomorrow at about 7:30 am – we leave for the Port of Tarifa where we will board a high speed ferry to Morocco.  We have hired  a private guide for the day because this is not the kind of place I feel comfortable wandering about in all of our “American-ness”.  Our guide is going to meet us at the ferry stop, show us around, take us to the Kasbah, the Hercules Caves, to a traditional Moroccan restaurant for lunch and then to ride camels on the beach.  All of this will be wrapped up by a trip to the spice markets.

More to come tomorrow.

Thanks for reading. Miss you all.

Tuesday, November 13:  What a great day! We got up early and drove to the Port of Tarifa where we caught the 10 am ferry to Morroco (Port of Tangier).  The ferry was terrific. Very clean, big, had snack bars and restrooms.  The entire trip took about 35 minutes.  When we arrived in Morocco we met up with our tour guide – a man named Said.  I found his name on TripAdvisor and he has only excellent reviews and his web site showed him touring Sting and Bruce Springsteen to Marrakesh so I figured if he was good enough for them, then good enough for us.

Moroccan flag

The port was built up more than we would have imagined. There were a lot of apartment buildings and commercial activity in the port area.

I learned a lot of things about Morocco that I had never known before, like…

  • 56 years ago, Morocco gained its independence from France. All of the signage in the city is written in both French and Arabic.  All students are required to learn both French and Arabic and by the time they reach high school, they have to add another language – which is usually English. So, most of the people in Morocco are fluent in at least two languages – their own and French and most also know English.  This is a lot more than our US students can claim.
  • Morocco gained a new king about 12 years ago and people here love the new king.  He has put a lot of measures in place to try and make the country more progressive. For example, in the past only men could choose to divorce their wives.  Women had no say whatsoever — men could also have up to four wives.  Seriously, that seems crazy to me. Looking at in the opposite way – who would want four husbands?  Can you imagine?  I digress. Now, the divorce  law is such that women can initiate and file for divorce and if there are no kids – she gets 50%. If there are any kids, she gets everything.  Sounds pretty progressive to me. 🙂
  • 16% of their electricity is generated by windmills.
  • Phosphorus (fertilizer) is the chief export.  Comprises 35% of total exports.

Once we were met by our guide, we jumped into a van and started touring the city.  We stopped at an overlook in town and then continued on to the stop below where we looking out onto the Atlantic and the Kasbah.  The Kasbah is an area of town where most of the city’s poorest people live – they all have satellite dishes as the government pays for satellite TV.

Overlooking the Kasbah

Lighthouse where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean Sea

Overlooking the meeting of the sea

After this stop, we traveled to my favorite part of the day! Though our ride was not too long, it was really great and a lot of fun.

Henry and Sabrina

Henry, Elsa, Mohammed (the guide) and Sabrina the Camel

After we rode the camels, our guides took us into the traditional Moroccan markets where saw spices, silks, baskets, clothing, jewelry, etc.  We even tasted Camel cheese — tastes like feta but a little drier.

spice market

Typical Moroccan fare for lunch

After we toured some of the more traditional markets, our guides took us into the fruits and vegetables markets.  It was amazing to see all the different varieties of fruits and veggies. Supposedly, all of it is grown in Morocco and is organic.

Fruit stands

baskets galore

Elsa is grossed out by the giant bags of live snails

After the oh-so-tame fruits and veggies, our guides took us to the meat market – let’s just say the kids and i kept our eyes to the ground and walked as quickly as we could through the area so as not to be scarred for life. GROSS.

Cat in the meat market ‘admiring’ a chicken snack

all in all, it was a really great day!  Our tour guides really showed us the way Moroccans lived – not just a tourist dog and pony show.

Thanks for reading. Miss you all.

Wednesday, November 14:  A true lazy day.  Homeschooled and then walked around Porto Banus which is a little area right down the road from Marbella and is loaded with luxury yachts, high-end shopping, etc.  The weather was beautiful so we walked around and enjoyed the day.
Since Spain was on a one-day strike, Pino and Matt’s kids were not going to swimming so they could join us for an early dinner.  We met up on the beach and let the kids play and then later went to dinner at an Argentinian restaurant –  Casa Nagueles – across the street from the apartment complex.

Lance, Andrea, Elsa and Hen

Pino and Matt

The whole crew at dinner

Thursday, November 15:  First and most importantly, Happy Birthday to my sister Martha!  I hope your birthday was terrific.

Today we took the kids at Aventura Amazonia – about a 15 min drive from the house.  It is this great place with a bunch of different ropes courses and  zip lines.  They have something for everyone. A kids course which is easier and not too far from the ground all the way up to what they called “Desportivo” which is advanced in terms of the course and the height.  Henry went along with Charlie and I on most of the courses and did great.  Elsa had a great time in the kids area.

All suited up

Henry in the trees

Friday, November 16: Leave Marbella and head to Granada for two nights and then Madrid for one and then fly home Monday am.

Saturday, November 17:  Arrived in Granada yesterday to the Hospes Palacio – right in the heart of downtown Granada.  Great hotel. used to be a summer residence of some fancy schmancy family. We loved it and would definitely recommend this hotel chain to anyone who is looking for something out of the ordinary.

It was a rainy day so we took the kids to their Science Museum which was amazing.  We only had time to see about half the exhibits but there was a lot of really cool exhibits.

Exhibit of the brain — very cool stuff

Interior stairs

Sunday, November 18:  Almost wimped out on our day because it was another gray and rainy day in Granada.  We had booked a tour of  the Alhambra for 9:30 and thought about canceling it.  We soldiered on and went ahead on the tour.

It was really terrific so we’re glad we went.  The Alhambra is an ancient fortress and palace built in the 9th century and has an interesting history that includes some 25 different sultans, a conquering by Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain and a host of gypsies who lived there and let in fall into disrepair.

View of Granada

Monday, November 19: Home sweet home. Thanks for reading. We appreciate all of your support during these past few months.

We leave for Buenos Aires / Bariloche Argentina on January 27th. Stay tuned.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all.

7 thoughts on “Stop 10: Spain travel notes and photos

  1. Pingback: Arrived safe and sound in Barcelona « The Moore Family's European and South / Central American Adventure, 2012

  2. Pingback: A beautiful day at the beach « The Moore Family's European and South / Central American Adventure, 2012

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