An open-ended adventure by Joel
  • Day1

    Day 1: The Longest Day

    February 16, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    Possibly the longest day ever of travelling! Finished a few last minute bits of packing in Thirroul before getting a lift to the station from Harvey. Train at 10:50am up to Sydney, arriving at Redfern around midday. Met mum and Sean for lunch at a local cafe before mum drove us to the airport, arriving at 1:45pm. Breezed through the check-in process and emigration, before staking a good spot in the business class lounge. We'd gotten free access thanks to the credit cards that I'd cancelled the day before - definitely worth it! Lots of free booze and food, pretty good quality stuff too.

    Finally time for boarding just after 4pm. Hard to believe this is actually the first time I've flown Qantas internationally! The A380 was good, though the interior wasn't quite as good and well-done as the upgraded Emirates planes we'd flown on before. Screen a little older and lower-resolution, and the seats not quite as large. I had the window seat and Shandos the middle seat, luckily for us nobody was in the aisle seat so we had a free space for our rubbish and sundry items. Plane only about 3/4 full which was nice.

    I'd pre-booked my meal of lamb which wasn't too bad - good size pieces and not chewy. Spent the next 14 hours doing various things, watching a few docos and shows on the TV screen, played games on my phone for a while, and then dozed for the last probably 4 hours of the flight.

    Arrived in Dubai just after midnight local time, wandered the terminal for a little while before finding a pair of recliner seats that were reasonably comfortable for sleeping. I'd hoped we might stay in the in-airport hotel, but given it was a few hundred dollars we decided not to. Managed to get probably 3 hours of sleep in the lounger at the airport, before properly waking up again at about 4am local time. Felt peckish so grabbed a cheeseburger at McDonalds because everything else was ridiculously overpriced ($15 for a muffin and coffee, I don't think so!).

    Killed time reading and listening until it was finally time to board our flight to Madrid at 7am. Day flight this time so no sleeping for me, just watching TV shows and a couple of movies. Flight a little bumpy unlike the Sydney -> Dubai leg which was very smooth. Food was actually really good, I had a chicken breast which was cooked really well, and quite tasty. And as noted earlier the screen and entertainment system on-board was much better than the Qantas one.

    Touched down in Madrid 8 hours later at about 12:30pm local time, went through immigration quickly but then lots of walking and a train ride before arriving at the luggage rack. Luggage took ages to arrive, and Schnitzel's bag was literally the last one off the plane, so it was nearly 2pm by the time we boarded a train for central Madrid.

    Not much to report, the train was fairly quick and we transferred to the metro with no issues and found the hotel quite quickly. Weather is chilly but not super-cold, around 12 degrees. I'm definitely the only person in shorts though!

    Hotel is quite nice, in an old building but with modern fittings and furnishings. Showered and changed as we'd been in our clothes for close to 36 hours now! Headed out for a brief wander and look around, though we weren't sure what time Schnitzel was getting dropped off so we didn't go too far.

    Stopped and had a quick drink at a tapas bar next door to our hotel; red wine and a beer for just 5 euros! Also grabbed a couple of empanadas (large samosa-like pastries) to eat since we felt peckish. Struggled to stay awake back in the room for the next hour or so before the phone rang - Schnitzel was finally here!!

    Front desk dropped him off to our room and he was extremely happy to see us! Took a minute to get him out of the crate since it was locked with cable ties, and he was pretty unhappy with that! But we got him out and lots of licks and tail wags ensued. He smelt a bit of pee since he'd relieved himself in the crate (just a small one), but seemed otherwise OK. We washed his feet to get the pee smell off, then took him outside for a comfort stop.

    He got about 10 metres from the hotel front door before he crouched for the longest pee I've ever seen him do - well over 30 seconds!! He made it another 50 metres before crouching for a poo, though only a fairly small one thankfully. Wandered around a little while to stretch his legs, but we were feeling tired as well so headed back to the room around 7:30pm. Fed him his dinner and then crashed into bed. He barked a little bit at people in the corridor outside, but thankfully quietened down fairly quickly.

    Hugely long day, but looking forward to heading down to Seville tomorrow!
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    Joel Baldwin

    Qantas lounge

    2/18/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Schnitzel ready for his journey!

    2/18/17Reply
    Peter Baldwin

    My strongest memory of tapas bars in Spain is that people drop their wrappers on the floor and the bar never seemed to clean it up.

    3/15/17Reply
     
  • Day2

    Day 2: South to Seville

    February 17, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Restless night due to jetlag and Schnitzel barking at lots of sounds from the corridor. We couldn't hear anyone else in other rooms, so hopefully he didn't disturb anyone else. Awake fairly early, particularly by Spanish standards, so after taking the dog out for his business we went looking fairly unsuccessfully for some breakfast. Only place open was Starbucks, so a pair of pastries would have to do.

    Did a bit more wandering and watching the city wake up, marvelling at the sight of my own breath in the chilly morning air as it's something I haven't seen for a long time! Temperature was somewhere under 5 degrees - not frigid, but definitely the coldest we've been in a long time. Madrid is fairly cold by Spain standards since it's in the middle of the arid plains, a long way from the ocean, and about 1800 feet above sea level.

    Wandering completed, we headed back to the hotel around 10am and packed everything up, ready for our train trip south to Seville where we'd be staying for the next week. Caught a metro train to the main train station; was a little difficult considering I had a heavy backpack, lighter day-pack, plus I was lugging Schnitzel in his large crate but we managed OK. People stare a bit at the bright yellow crate, but most take no notice. He behaved himself very well in the crate on the metro, no barking or anything! Probably a bit scary for him, even though we're right there.

    We'd arrived an hour early for our midday train (deliberately), so I found some seats and waited with our luggage while Shandos searched for packed lunches. Heavy security at the station as well, and a memorial plaque reminded me that this was the location of the Madrid train bombings in 2004 which I'd forgotten about entirely (though it was obviously big news at the time). Schnitzel got a bit restless with sitting around in his crate, and took a dislike to wheely suitcases bumping over those visual-aid strips on the ground and creating a racket, so he did a bit more barking.

    Finally we got on the train which was fairly crowded, but thankfully with reserved seats. My large backpack and Schnitzel sat in the luggage rack at the carriage entrance, while our smaller bags went in the overhead lockers. Unfortunately for Schnitzel he had to stay in his crate for the journey, so I left him out there while we sat inside. He was a good boy and didn't bark at all, though I imagine again he was probably quite scared.

    The train trip itself was quite nice - comfortable seats and a great view of the Spanish countryside. Lots of arid semi-farmland, rolling hills, small villages, classic villa style houses with white stucco paint and orange terracotta roofs, and even a couple of old stone castles. Not sure what speed we got up to, but the journey was all over in 2 1/2 hours so I imagine we spent most of that at around 200km/h!

    Arrived in Seville on schedule at 2:30pm, and had a little difficulty finding our way to the hotel. Shandos thought there was light rail but we couldn't see any evidence of it, plus there was no wifi in the building and neither of us had data available on our phones yet. So we settled for an old-fashioned way - asking a local for help in broken Spanish. It turns out the light rail doesn't go to the train station, so we were better off getting a taxi, which we did!

    We met our host Pedro outside the apartment, and he showed us the ropes. Apartment is a good size, with a separate lounge-room, dining table, kitchen and bathroom as well as the bedroom. And it's ideally situated just a minute or so's walk from Seville Cathedral and all of the other sights in the Old Town.

    We did a bit of relaxing for an hour or so before heading out for a wander. Most things here are walking distance for us, so after a brief look at the outside of the cathedral we wandered past the Real Alcazar (old royal palace, as featured on Game of Thrones), down to the Plaza de Espana and the large park nearby. The park turned out to be a hidden gem! A huge size, with lots of different areas, landscaping, fountains and other water features, sculpture, and of course lots of orange trees that the city is famous for. We spent a good few hours just wandering around, and sitting to enjoy the ambience and warm weather (it was about 23 degrees in the sun - still a little crisp but much warmer than Madrid).

    Schnitzel was enjoying himself and mostly behaving, though there were lots of horse & carts around which upset him - he's never encountered them before so he barked quite a bit at first before gradually calming down. It's the loud clip-clop of the hoofs that he doesn't like.

    Went back to the Plaza de Espana for another look around, but decided to wait for later in the week to have a proper look as we were all feeling a bit tired. Stopped at a bodega (bar) just near our apartment and had a couple of small tapas plates (spiced potatoes, and Iberian ham), plus a drink each. Schnitzel spent most of it asleep on our laps! It felt quite strange, since we were in the middle of the bar and restaurant area, but everywhere seemed closed! Very odd for a Friday night.

    Back to our apartment where we both crashed pretty quickly, despite purchasing a bottle of red and a baguette to have with the olive oil Pedro had left us (he works for an olive oil company apparently). We only had a glass each and the bread before falling asleep on the lounge! Schnitzel woke us up around 11:30pm with a few barks; I realised he hadn't been out for his business so I took him out. While waiting, I noticed that all of the bars and restaurants were open again and doing brisk trade! I knew they liked to eat late here, but I'd forgotten just how late!
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    Joel Baldwin

    Main building of Plaza de España

    2/18/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Rosé and very tired Schnitzel

    2/18/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    When your dog won't cooperate with photos

    2/18/17Reply
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  • Day3

    Day 3: Unwinding and Settling In

    February 18, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    After yesterday's big move, we decided that we'd have a relaxed day today and just explore things at our own pace. We've got a week here in Seville so we're not in a major hurry to see the main tourist sights just yet. First order of the day was waiting for the supermarket to open so that we could buy some supplies - eventually it opened at 9am and we wandered over. Spent about 20 euros on a couple of baguettes, some beers, a bottle of wine, pasta and sauce, milk, spiced ham and a 2L coke. All the key food groups. Also grabbed some breakfast pastries as the city was starting to wake up.

    After breakfast we went out for a walk with Schnitzel, with no real destination in mind. We just wandered around, marvelling at the buildings and the ambience. There are a lot of tourists here but it doesn't feel particularly touristy, if that makes sense, it still feels reasonably like a functioning city. And although we're staying in the older area of the city, they don't seem to be super strict about preserving it. There aren't any garish modern buildings, thankfully, but the newer buildings are built to match the style of existing ones. So it's difficult to tell if a building is several hundred years old, or just several years old!

    Had lunch at a tapas place we'd been recommended by a friend of Shandos's - excellent food! I had pork cheek in gravy topped with a bit of cheese sauce, while Shandos had pork ribs. We both ordered the "media" size which is medium, but had plenty to eat! And of course the obligatory glass of sangria on the side. Schnitzel was a bit bored by now and started to bark (though it was a very difficult environment for him - wheely suitcases on cobblestones, horses, and dogs walking past), so we beat a hasty retreat.

    I stopped by a Vodafone outlet and picked up a Spanish SIM card so that I can keep using my phone while out and about, then we headed back to the apartment. Shandos took the opportunity to have a siesta, while I did some writing, played a few games and listened to music.

    By the time Shandos resurfaced it was 8pm, so we freshened up and headed back out. A little more wandering before we settled on a cervezeria (pub) a block or so away from our hotel. I had a red wine and Shandos a white, and we shared a tapas plate of stewed meatballs while sitting outside next to a fireplace and watching the locals go about their Saturday nights. Once you get used to eating later, it's a pretty comfortable way of existing!
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    Joel Baldwin

    Rear entrance of the Cathedral (and the main tower)

    2/19/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Typical streetscape

    2/19/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    La Giralda (the belltower)

    2/19/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Another streetscape

    2/19/17Reply
     
  • Day4

    Day 4: Archive & Seville Cathedral

    February 19, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Busier day of sightseeing today, as we settle in to our new location and Schnitzel gets more comfortable with the place as well. First stop this morning after breakfast was the General Archive of the Indies, just a short walk from our apartment. This is a large library where the archives from Spain's colonial era are all stored. Unfortunately not a lot is actually on show for the public, but it's still a very impressive building.

    Originally built as the merchant hall for the golden era of trade in the 15th century, it fell into disuse when the trade routes moved south to Cadiz, and from the was turned into the archive building and museum that it is now. Some of the stuff we saw included the journal of Christopher Columbus for his journey to the new world in 1492, and the Treaty of Torsedillas which divided the globe between Spanish and Portuguese possessions. Also lots of colonial era maps of Spanish settlements in the Americas, and some artworks by Goya.

    After lunch and a brief Skype session with mum, we headed out for a walk with Schnitzel and kept him busy. He was very well behaved and didn't bark at any of the horses - finally he's getting used to them!

    Schnitzel exhausted, we dropped him back off at the apartment and headed to the Cathedral, one of the finest in the world. It's apparently the third-largest cathedral in the world by volume (behind only St Peter's in the Vatican and St Paul's in London), and was built by partially demolishing a mosque that already occupied the site. Remember that at this point in history (14th century), Spain was gradually being reconquered by Catholics from the Moors (north African Muslims), so there was a lot of Muslim influence still in evidence.

    After a wait we finally got inside the cathedral and it didn't disappoint! Soaring high ceilings, ornate decorations, gold everywhere, and lots of artwork. Christopher Columbus's tomb is also in here for some reason, along with a small chapel where he, Magellan, de Gama and Cortes all prayed before setting off on their history-making voyages.

    After thoroughly inspecting the cathedral we ascended the main belltower, known as La Giralda. It was originally a minaret from the mosque, but was retained during the cathedral conversion. Long climb to the top - 34 ramps of 1:7 gradient (fairly steep), eventually emerging about 50 metres above the city. Got some good photos as usual, just like everyone else was doing!

    Back downstairs and hung around in the courtyard for a while, enjoying the ambience under the orange trees and chuckling at tourists from A Country That Won't Be Named tripping over themselves, as the ground was uneven and people couldn't tear themselves away from their phones!

    Late afternoon by now, so we retreated to the apartment where Shandos had a siesta and I watched the Man United FA cup game on TV. Nice that I'm in a time-zone where football isn't on in the middle of the night! Will take some getting used to, I'm sure. Good game and a good result!

    Headed out around 9pm for dinner - there was a tapas restaurant a couple of blocks away we'd spotted the previous night that looked quite interesting, but alas it was closed! Sunday night and the vibe was noticeably quieter than the previous two nights, with more restaurants closed than usual. Apparently Seville has more bars per capita than anywhere else in Europe, and I can believe it! We opted for another one nearby that had looked promising, and it was also quite good! Shared oxtail croquettes, honey-baked cheese, and an eggplant/tomato/bocconcini stack. All tapas sizes, plus a pair of drinks for about 15 euros. Back home around 11 - not too late for me but Shandos was starting to struggle, despite her siesta. Looking forward to visiting the Royal Alcazar tomorrow!
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    Joel Baldwin

    Inside the Archive

    2/20/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Columbus's tomb

    2/20/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Inside the Cathedral

    2/20/17Reply
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  • Day5

    Day 5: Real Alcazar

    February 20, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Up a bit earlier today for our visit to the Real Alcazar (royal palace). It's the oldest royal palace in the world still in use, and the original parts of the building go back to the Muslim caliphs of the 13th century. After Spain was reconquered by the Catholic monarchs it was converted into palaces for their use, and is still technically in use today, though I don't think they're around that often.

    We'd booked entrance tickets for 10am (opening time), and then a guided audio-tour of the upper apartments at 11:30, so we arrived right on 10. A bit of a line to get in but thankfully not too long. We busied ourselves poking around various areas, and boy was there a lot to see. The architecture is all very impressive, lots of archways and cavernous spaces, along with broad courtyards and perfectly manicured gardens. One particularly impressive area was the Ambassador's Hall, which was used as a throne room and reception room for visiting dignitaries in centuries gone by - very high ceiling with an intricately carved dome.

    Was also quite interesting spotting various bits of the palace that had been used in Game of Thrones - scenes from Dorne were shot here for seasons 4, 5 and 6. It sort of comes full circle, because the Dornish culture from the books is heavily inspired by southern Spain (Moorish influences and so on), and the Water Gardens from the book were apparently inspired by the Alcazar! Interesting that the show completed the circle by heading direct to the source.

    Soon it was time for our tour, so we headed to the entrance of the upper apartments. These were all much later additions, usually around the Renaissance era when an entire extra storey was built onto the palace. The rooms were used by the Spanish royal family as recently as the turn of the millennium, and as I said they're technically "still in use" though I don't think they actually utilise them often. Definitely worth the price of admission to see the fantastic artworks, chandeliers and enormous tapestries hanging around the place though.

    After our audio-tour we headed out into the large gardens, having seen most of the interiors by now. The gardens are heavily Arabic-inspired, with lots of geometry, water features, reflecting pools and so on. Great to look at, explore and take photos. There was even a section towards the back called the English Garden, which looked like a small country wood. A couple of peacocks wandering around as well! Only problem we had was that the weather was cloudy - no chance of rain, just high white cloud that stops your photos from turning out really nicely. Alas. We might have to come back in a few days when the sun's out and take some really good photos.

    Finally wandered out around 2:30pm, feeling content and happy that we'd thoroughly explored one of the main sights of Seville. Time for a late lunch, which we had at the same restaurant we'd eaten at a couple of days earlier. Food not quite as good this time, sadly - paella was tasty, but my pork fillets were quite plain and unseasoned. Not bad, just unexciting. I guess the take-out is "Menu of the Day" is the trap - tapas options are usually better.

    Headed back to the apartment for a rest, where Shandos ending up having a multi-hour siesta. I did some typing, reading and gaming, before we headed out again in the evening for a long walk with Schnitzel. Feeling tired, we ended up staying in for the evening and cooking the spaghetti we'd bought a few days earlier.
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    Joel Baldwin

    Front entrance gate

    2/22/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Front facade with Arabic text and faint green Latin around it

    2/22/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    A central courtyard garden

    2/22/17Reply
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  • Day6

    Day 6: Relaxing & Metropol Parasol

    February 21, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Not a whole lot to report today. After a few reasonably full days of sight-seeing, we decided to take it easy for a day and just relax. Spent a bit of the day planning out our next moves, as today's Tuesday and we need to vacate this apartment on Friday for a few days before heading to our house-sit. After researching a few different options, we decided we'll get the train to Cordoba (another classic city about an hour to the north-east), stay there in an apartment for a few days then rent a car for our house-sit and drive down there.

    I wandered over to the Vodafone store as my SIM card had stopped working and I couldn't diagnose the problem. After a 10 minute wait, it turned out the card hadn't been activated properly. I guess it comes preloaded with 10MB of data or something, hence why it worked when I left the shop but stopped working not long after. Oh well, working again at least.

    Bought some delicious pastries on the way back, and also had a brief stickybeak at a protest happening in front of the town hall. Not a whole lot happening, just guys in hi-viz outfits with flags surrounded by police, but it seemed pretty civil thankfully. Not sure what it was about, though I'd guess the guys were unionists of some sort or another.

    Late in the day we went for a walk north to the Metropol Parasol, a strange wooden mushroom-shaped building. I'm a bit hazy as to why it was constructed, and our AirBNB host Pedro didn't recommend it since it was just a tourist gimmick, but we thought we'd check it out anyway. He was kind of right, though there was a nice view of the city from the top! It's apparently the world's largest wooden structure, go figure. And our 3 euro entry came with a free drink, so it was basically a drink for going up to the top which we were happy to do.

    Had dinner on the way back at a burger restaurant called The Good Burger, not sure why it was named in English rather than Spanish! Great burgers and we shared a side of wedges, again very tasty. Entertained ourselves watching the music video channel which played "none of the new stuff, just classics", and was having a "guess the year" competition for each song. We did surprisingly well!
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    Joel Baldwin

    Metropole Parasol

    2/23/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    On the top

    2/23/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Seville city, the cathedral and La Giralda are rear left

    2/23/17Reply
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  • Day7

    Day 7: Walking & Flamenco

    February 22, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Another relaxed day today. Didn't do anything in the morning beyond a brief walk with Schnitzel, and some home-made pasta for lunch. Nicer weather today so in the afternoon we decided to walk back down to Plaza de Espana, since we'd only briefly checked it out earlier in the week.

    It was originally built for a World's Fair-type exposition in 1929, and the facade of the building has a mural+map+heraldry done in mosaic tiles for every single province in Spain. We wandered around the giant courtyard and admired the artistry, discovering along the way some of the provinces we'd never heard about before. Nice to look at, though it was quite warm in the sun.

    Afterwards we wandered into the Jewish quarter and found a tiny little bar down an alleyway, shaded by orange trees and whitewashed houses. Sat here and had a couple of local wines as we watched people clatter over the cobblestones - lovely environment!

    Back to the apartment for another rest before heading out around 7pm. Dinner at one of the restaurants we'd been to earlier in the week with fantastic tapas, one of the best rated in Seville apparently! This time I had oxtail meatballs with cauliflower and carrot cream, while Shandos had the pork cheeks in red wine sauce that I'd had earlier. The city was quite noisy at the moment, as a lot of English football fans were in town for a game - Leicester City were playing Sevilla FC in the Champions League knockout stages (the game ended 2-1 to Sevilla).

    After dinner we wandered down another maze of narrow streets to the Flamenco Museum, the only one of its kind in the world! We had tickets for a flamenco show at 8:45 which had been recommended to us by our AirBnB host as one of the most authentic in the city. Happy to report that the performance was brilliant!

    Despite my impression of flamenco being focused on female dancers, the male lead stole the show with a ridiculously energetic performance, though the lady was also quite good. Fantastic guitar work as well, though I wasn't hugely fussed about the singer. The vocal style is very different from what we're used to in western culture, and it's also in Spanish which doesn't help - my rudimentary Spanish can't keep up until she sings "te amor" 10 times in a row! Still very talented though, and we stumbled out into the chilly night both impressed and buzzed from the performance.

    Long walk back to the apartment, broken up slightly by the purchase of a delicious gelato - tarte queso (cheesecake) and Mars for me, dulce de leche for Shandos.
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    Joel Baldwin

    Main building at Plaza de Espana

    2/23/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Up close

    2/23/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Archways

    2/23/17Reply
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  • Day8

    Day 8: A Spot of Shopping

    February 23, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    Not much to report today, as it was raining. Raining! In Spain! I'll skip the obvious joke.

    We bummed around at home mainly, and had bocadillos (toasted baguettes with filling) for lunch from a nearby cafe. In the afternoon it finally stopped raining and I headed out to a pet store on the edge of town. We were still using Schnitzel's giant airline crate and it was clear from the Madrid -> Seville trip that it wasn't very practical or easy to transport (particularly when carrying a large backpack and small daypack).

    So I found a large pet supply store on the edge of town that sold small fabric carriers along with a few other bits and pieces, and off I went. It was a 50 minute walk or a 49 minute journey via two buses, so I had the genius idea of hiring a bike from a nearby shop at the bargain price of 4 euros per hour. Thankfully Seville is very flat and has lots of bike lanes, so the 20 minute ride wasn't too difficult. The outer areas of the city are much less nice than the central area where we'd been staying. Not too bad, just uninteresting I guess. Lots of medium-height apartment blocks, none of them new. It's when you get out into these areas that you realise Spain isn't the strongest economy (it's noted for very high unemployment, particularly amongst young people), and there isn't a whole lot of money going around.

    Purchased the carrier, along with a bag of dog food, some poo bags and a car harness before heading back. Not much else to report for the day! Had pizzas from the shop downstairs for dinner - BBQ meatlovers and a cuatro queso y jamon (4 cheese & ham) which were both delicious but enormous! Leftovers for breakfast I imagine.
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    Trish Forrester

    I'm picturing you balancing your purchases on the bike on the way back 😋

    2/25/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    I had the foresight to take my small backpack!

    2/25/17Reply
    Trish Forrester

    💡

    2/25/17Reply
     
  • Day9

    Day 9: Off to Cordoba

    February 24, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    No great rush today, our train to Cordoba was at 12:50 so we planned to leave the apartment around 11:45. Had our leftover pizza for breakfast and then spent a couple of hours packing up and getting ready. Schnitzel got quite restless and barky as he realised we were leaving, and I think he was getting a bit stressed we might leave him behind. Silly dog!

    Out the door just on time, after saying a fond farewell! It's been a great spot to stay, right in the heart of everything and with plenty of food & beverage options around. Not to mention good walking and relief options for Schnitzel. Walked down the block and grabbed a cab to the station - only 7 euros this time (half the price) because we started outside the heavily-taxed old town zone. Spent some time waiting at the station and eating a quick McDonalds lunch before boarding the train.

    The train itself was pretty empty, not more than a third full I wouldn't have thought. Schnitzel was very well behaved in his new carrier bag, despite it being much smaller than his old crate. This one is at least small and light enough that I can have it on my lap with no dramas, which makes him more comfortable I think.

    Couldn't see much out of the train as we zipped along at 220km/h, since our seat didn't line up with a window! At least it was only a short trip, and we arrived in Cordoba just 40 minutes later. 5 minute taxi ride to our apartment in the centre of town, and found it with no troubles, though the housekeeper was still in the process of finishing cleaning and tidying. We went out for a quick wander and came back 20 minutes later, after bumping into another dachshund! The man spoke a bit of English and said that he'd been travelling the world with his dog as well, very cute!

    Our apartment here is a top-floor terrace on the main shopping street, again an old building but renovated. It's nice, though the owner apparently has a cat which was driving Schnitzel crazy as he hunted around for it with no luck. It's also a "smoker-friendly" apartment, and though you're only supposed to smoke out on the terrace, the living room which opens out to the terrace also stinks of cigarettes which is a bit of a shame. The other rooms are mostly OK though.

    We spent a couple of hours relaxing and letting Schnitzel settle in, before deciding to head out for a walk around 4pm. We were staying in the main shopping district, about 10 minutes walk from the main tourist area which is the old town and also known as the Jewish Quarter. The entire town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since it's quite well preserved and has been for centuries.

    The main attraction here is a building called La Mezquita, which was a Visigoth Christian temple from 400-800 AD, knocked down for a mosque which lasted until the Reconquista in the 14th century, and now converted into a cathedral. Unfortunately due to the late hour we couldn't go inside (and no dogs permitted of course), so we just wandered around and marvelled at the walls with their Islamic flourishes and impressive buttresses.

    Further wandering found us down at the river, the same one that flows all the way from Seville. This is the site of an old Roman-era bridge which has been heavily restored, though the original stones are still standing in parts of it. The ancient road from Rome to the Atlantic port of Cadiz ran directly through here, and near Cordoba was one of the earliest Roman settlements in Spain.

    Wandered across the bridge and back, checking out the view of the city before going back and losing ourselves in the alleyways and narrow streets of the old town again. Growing dark we looked for some food, but in true Spanish style most of the non-tourist places didn't open their kitchens until 8:30pm! After a bit of frustration we ended up dropping Schnitzel off back at the apartment, sitting around for a little while then heading out at 8:30.

    First stopped at a bar across the road where a small beer and mini baguette with jamon was 1.80 euro, so we doubled-up on that! Further along was a small bodega which had been operating continuously since 1932. We ordered up on tapas, getting a plate of prawns, a plate of jamon, and a plate of potato & aioli plus two glasses of local wine for 10.50. All dishes were great!

    Very noisy evening as it was a Friday night, and ahead of a long weekend at that (it's Andalusia Day on Tuesday, where the region celebrates being granted autonomy from Spain). I'm not entirely sure how the political system works, but as far as I can tell "Spain" is basically just a collection of autonomous provincial governments, and the central "Spanish" government doesn't actually have much direct power over each state. Looking forward to exploring the rest of the city over the next two days!
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    Joel Baldwin

    One of the entrances to La Mezquita

    2/25/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    A shrine

    2/25/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Roman bridge and the cathedral-mosque in the background

    2/25/17Reply
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  • Day10

    Day 10: Exploring Cordoba

    February 25, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌫 12 °C

    First morning here in the new city. Up and out fairly early, since the main attraction in Cordoba (La Mezquita) is open for free between 8:30 and 9:30 on Saturday mornings. Lucky for us it was a Saturday morning, so down we went! We spent basically the full hour inside, exploring and gawping at the beautiful building. Not sure if I mentioned yesterday, but it's known as the Cathedral-Mosque, as it was originally a Visigoth-era Christian temple, demolished for a mosque in the 800s and then converted into a Catholic cathedral in the 14th century.

    Inside there are hundreds of white and red bricked archways which makes for a unique aspect, very unusual to look at and admire. And of course there's just a random corner with a soaring gothic cathedral ceiling, enormous organ and the usual Catholic paraphernalia (paintings of the stations of the cross etc). Also a small exhibition of the remains of the Visigoth temple that had been excavated from below the current building's floor.

    Once we were booted out of the cathedral-mosque at 9:30 (the organ started thundering so it was likely time for mass), we had a quick look around the gardens as well. There's a tall belltower as well which we considered heading up as it's the tallest point in the city, but the weather was once again gloomy and overcast so we decided to skip. Grabbed some pastries and coffee for breakfast and headed back to our apartment where we stayed for most of the rest of the day. When it's chilly and you aren't in a hurry to go anywhere, it's just so tempting to stay inside with the heater on!

    Later in the afternoon we went out for another long walk with Schnitzel. Nothing in particular, just looking at various buildings and squares, watching people enjoy life!

    Had dinner at an American diner restaurant nearby called Peggy Sue's, good burgers! Last stop for the evening was on Skype where we spoke to Shandos's niece Scarlett as it was her second birthday. She was very excited to see Schnitzel!
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    Joel Baldwin

    In the grounds of La Mezquita

    2/28/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    Archways

    2/28/17Reply
    Joel Baldwin

    The dome (square walls symbolise the earth, while the dome symbolises the heavens)

    2/28/17Reply
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