A Travellerspoint blog

Sevilla

sunny 45 °C

One of the first things you notice about Sevilla is the smell. The citrus trees line most streets and when we were here most had plenty of fruit giving off a sweet orange/lime fragrance. The second thing you notice about Sevilla in Summer is the heat. P1050508

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Man it is hot! It can easily reach 45degrees and does so most days. This city has got the siesta down to a fine art. Nearly everything close for at least three hours during the hottest part of the day so a sleep under air con or a fan is mandatory. P1050423

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The only people stupid enough to be out are tourists who look like they've been in a game of hidey-go -seek and lost everyone, slowly peering around corners to find empty streets. P1050425

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The city seems to have a stretch and yawn about six pm and life returns to its streets filling the place with music from Tapas bars and buskers. At first it is very easy to get lost in the maze that seems to be common with Spanish cities. There is no such thing as a grid pattern so suddenly finding yourself being twisted and turned where you honestly feel that you may actually run into your own back is a real possibility. After a period where you get lost and found a few times the streets slowly start to become known and familiar and suddenly you can take them on like a local. The kids that grow up in these narrow streets must have fantastic games of tiggy(tag). We were fortunate enough to have a week in Sevilla and wandering the streets and parks during early morning and evening was a real pleasure. Again the buskers seem to be professional musicians and sitting on the steps of the famous Sevilla Cathedral with a crowd of at least one hundred listening to musicians is a memory that will last for a long time. P1050464

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The streets seem to be completely safe and the real action doesn't really start until midnight.
Pat and I had a couple of nice afternoons whiling away time in a tapas bar. The beer was ice cold and was cheaper than water and the tapas were sensational. "dos cervezas por favor, dos tapas por favor" keep saying this all afternoon until you can't pronounce it anymore without giggling and then you know its time to walk back to the hotel in 45 degree heat, get lost in this bloody maze and fall into bed about 5pm for a nana nap. What a great afternoon. AndiamoP1050444

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Posted by mike1967 12:12 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Algeciras/Gibraltar

sunny 38 °C

What started out as best laid plans ended up as a bit of a holy stuff up... literally. We had booked accommodation and bus tickets down the coast to Algeciras where it was going to be a small hop across the water to Morocco. P1050411

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We were then planning a couple of weeks down there but at the last moment we were told it was going to be Ramadan for a month while we would be there. Normally something like that wouldn't bother us but the facts soon added up to a decision that ultimately made us turn around. We were advised by a very reliable source ( Moroccan barman at Nerja) that most of the shops and bars/coffee houses and restaurants would be closed during sunlight hours and since it doesn't get dark until 10pm, life can be pretty dreary for a normally otherwise vibrant place. I know purists might say we have taken the weak option but we said at the start we were touring for a good time and not seeing a country at its best may have tainted our spirits for another visit... so next time it is. Our first impressions of Algeciras were not that flattering. the only thing that made it better for us was the hotel we stayed in had the best shower in the world and we had a great view of Gibraltar off the patio. P1050409

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The trip wasn't wasted as we wanted to see the rock anyway.

Gibraltar was probably what I was expecting in regards to a British outpost. The buildings and streets are similar to old England but naturally with a Spanish tilt. The locals look Spanish but speak a pidgeon English that is apparently all their own. The tourism industry seems to be the thing that keeps them going with 200 cruise liners coming to shore every year and the day we visited it felt like every one of them was there that day.P1050385

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Funny thing, found myself whinging like mad as soon as i stepped foot on the place...Can't figure out why? For me the best thing about Gibraltar was the views from the top of the rock and the monkeys. P1050387

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Individual monkeys are well known to staff and although not vicious they look the part. All in all not a bad day but it was too hot, too many people, bag was too heavy etc etc etc.... AndiamoP1050391

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Posted by mike1967 11:26 Archived in Gibraltar Comments (1)

Spain

Madrid

sunny 35 °C

The first thing that hit us when we landed in Madrid was the lovely heat. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the heat felt like home. We had been in dreary weather for almost a month and really needed the sun to give us a boost. It worked almost instantly. Spirits in the camp were high as we jumped the bus for the city centre.
Once we were in the city we had to walk about a kilometre to the hotel up Gran Via, the main street through Madrid. We liked this city immediately. The architecture is interesting and the buildings are very ornate and clean. Small balconies seem to be on most buildings giving it a real French feel. We arrived at about two pm and although there were plenty of people around it seemed most Spaniards were on Siesta. Madrid was full of tourists mostly shopping. It was great to be back in shorts and thongs. After dropping our bags off we decided on a little siesta ourselves and eventually headed out for dinner around nine. Madrid was just starting to come to life and by about eleven the place was teeming with people walking, eating, drinking, busking, and selling. The Tapas bars were jam packed and the streets and squares were filled with people. Madrid is an amazing city at night.
Not far from our hotel was a group of boulevards all heading to a square. These boulevards hold everything from shops to restaurants, prostitutes and probably the best buskers I have ever seen. The busking standard is tremendous with full bands playing, or acts that you would see in a circus. There are clowns and magic acts, strong men with chains and the best puppet acts I’ve ever seen performed on the street. They seem well supported with most of the acts getting money but it has to be the cheapest entertainment going and its on every night of the week.

There is a massive park in the middle of the city which is a great place to get away from the hussle and bussle of city life. It is full of beautiful shaded areas and paths that encircle a massive pond with row boats. Again the park has buskers so the sounds of music seem to be everywhere in this city. We had a nice afternoon before siesta and dinner at about ten! Still can’t get used to it being light at ten o’clock at night. We’ve slipped into the lifestyle too easily. I saw a sign offering early bird breakfast from 10:30am until 12:30pm. Outrageous. But then again if you don’t have a job to go to.
Patti and I were craving a bit of Spanish food so we ended up in a Tapas bar and had six of their best. I thought I was going to burst by the end of it but it all just tasted so good. I’m supposed to be getting myself fit for New York but it seems like it will be an impossible task.
We are now in a place on the Costa Del Sol on the Southern coast of Spain called Nerja. It is a coastal town that is just outside Malaga. We came here because it promised to be less a tourist attraction than Malaga which looks a bit like the Gold Coast. Nerja is crammed full of little villas owned by expats but is nice all the same. Not quite the experience we were after but it seems everywhere in Europe is crowded. We’re in villa that’s not too far from the beach and has everything we need, a pool, restaurants close by and a supermarket. We have been scorching ourselves in the heat and spending the days reading or swimming. Bed time doesn’t seem to be until about one am because it is so bloody hot.
We will head further down the coast to Gibraltar before heading to Morocco. We are looking for a bit of a culture change so hopefully Marrakesh or Fez will fit the bill. We may end up in Essouira which is a surf beach for a bit more fun for the boys

Posted by mike1967 11:58 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

London

overcast 19 °C

We flew into London feeling a little flat after Dublin and it seemed like none of us were much in the mood for anything. What we needed was a smack on the arse and a good lie down. The train and underground took longer to get to our hotel than the actual flight and when we finally arrived we were less than impressed by our $260 a night accommodation. Worse than some hostels we’ve stayed in. It was the most we have ever paid to stay somewhere and the good reasons for coming to London were fast evaporating. We needed a lift so after a family conference we decided that we had better make the most of it and do some site seeing. London itself hadn’t changed that much since last we were here but the sheer amount of people that now call it home is unbelievable. I reckon there would be more people in London than in Hong Kong or Beijing. Just moving around the place leaves you exhausted from constantly dodging and weaving through the throngs. We walked a lot and visited most of the tourist sites. The Palace, Tower of London, Picadilly, Tower bridge, Hyde Park, a couple of museums and the National Art Gallery. There is a lot to see in London but we only had about two full days so seeing it all was going to be impossible. We managed to squeeze in a West End show called Blood Brothers. We all really enjoyed that. If I visit London again it would be for a much longer time and it would probably be just Patti and I. We would see a different show every night and visit markets and look for the locals London, but that will have to be next time. It is a vibrant city but ridiculously expensive for visitors which can take a little of the shine off. I think the boys are over visiting the sites of big cities and are more interested in experiencing different culture rather than trying to be cultured. The promise of sunbathing and time at the beach is really pulling us to Spain so the next stop is Madrid.

Posted by mike1967 11:56 Archived in England Comments (0)

Ireland

all seasons in one day 18 °C

We finally made it to Ireland and I would have to say "just in the nick of time". After the time in the camper we were a little tired and were looking forward to spending time with family. One thing about the Irish is you will always feel welcome. We knew this would be a special time for us and it certainly didn't disappoint. We were met at the airport and from the time we got into Dublin until the time we left we were made welcome everywhere we went. The boys were accepted into friendships that i'm sure will last a long time and it was a tonic that although was very tiring ( more than a few mornings sunrises were seen) It was needed for our sanity. P1050217

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Brenton reached a milestone in his life and turned eighteen while we were in Dublin. He celebrated by spending five days at a music festival ( Oxegen) with his cousin Karen and about 20 of her closest friends. Always keeping his cards close to his chest he returned after the five days looking like he'd spent the entire time awake and after much prodding he said " yeah, it was alright". After a few days the stories slowly began to emerge and I think his parents see him in a slightly different light now. P1050226

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He spent his time in Ireland going to a few parties and hanging out with kids his own age, playing a bit of football and generally enjoying the freedom of being eighteen. It is always a good sign on a holiday when you don't want to leave.

Matt spent his time doing all the things he missed the most from his normal everyday life like eating, sleeping and watching TV. He was in the city a fair bit and did the usual teenage boy things like movies, staring at girls and having his feet nibbled by these little Pirana fish that take all the scale off. He should have paid extra, size 11.5. He loved every minute of his time in Ireland and enjoyed the fuss they all made of him.

Patti enjoyed the shopping in Dublin. The Summer is so short here that Summer dresses and shoes are on sale almost immediately they are released. Unfortunately she can only carry so much and although she would love to become the next Imelda Marcos the old addage of " if you want to carry it, you can have it" came to the fro'. She may have had a small attack of the guilts' due to the fact that the men in the group are already taking some of her load. I think a few items are already on the slow boat home. We managed to squeeze in quite a bit whilst we were here without feeling rushed. We all went to a beautiful wedding and had a cracking time at the reception.P1050257

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Family weddings are the best and the day went off without a hitch. Patti and I managed to sneak off for a couple of days into the Irish countryside across to Galway and Dingle and taking in the Cliffs of Moher. P1050105

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It was a bit of a nostalgic tour for us as we had done a similar trip on our honeymoon twenty years ago. Once again we had a great time staying in B&B's and going to the pub at night to join in the Craic and enjoy the atmosphere. The Dingle Peninsula has to be one of the prettiest places in Ireland and we were blessed with good weather. P1050115

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My brother Brendan and his partner Donna joined us in Dublin aswell as my sister Audrey and my mum Lil'. It was Lil's 70th birthday so we all celebrated with a great night out at " WockyOkey" a chinese karoke restaurant. It was great fun with everyone getting up to sing and dance. I met a few cousins i hadn't met before and a few that I had and although it was twenty years ago no one had changed a bit. All kissing the Blarney stone i think.

Although all of the things mentioned so far were terrific I think the highlight for me was a day I spent with my cousins Johnny and Breda. They took me around the area where my parents were raised and into the pubs where my old dad used to go and where my grandparents used to go. I stood at the bar and had a Guinness for their memories and even managed to chat to a few old timers who knew them all.P1050023_face0

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It was very heartwarming to hear some old stories and to refresh some ghosts of memories I had wandering around in my mind. I went into the old Temple Bar and sang a few songs, wandered over the Halfpenny ( haypney) bridge crossing the Liffey and through the market streets of Henry, Grafton and O'connell. It was an odd feeling of somehow being connected but also of being a tourist. Our time here ended too quickly but that has to be a sign that we had a great time . Thanks to all who put us up and made us feel so welcome. Cheers

Posted by mike1967 12:06 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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