Andalucia, Spain

January - March 2024
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
— Saint Augustine
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  • Dedication Page

    December 1, 2023 in Canada ⋅ 🌧 1 °C

    This book is dedicated to our two amazing daughters, Amy and Caitlin, their husbands, Matt and Tim, and our three amazing grandchildren, Audrey (11), Cal (10), and Nathan (almost 7) who bring us endless joy and love. We know that they would love being with us as we embark on this new journey. Maybe next year…
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  • Preamble regarding our trip to Spain

    December 14, 2023 in Canada ⋅ 🌬 5 °C

    Spain has been on our bucket list since we visited neighbouring Portugal four years ago. My brother and his wife have been to Spain several times, friends Rob and Karen were there last Fall, our friend Janet went to university in Barcelona, our Bellingham friends were there several years ago. It is now out turn and we have a wealth of information to draw from. Lucky us!

    Spain seems to offer something for everyone. It has a rich cultural past, amazing food we hear, colourful festivals with giant puppets, historic site and incredible museums. Planning a two month trip was a challenge for me because there are so many interesting places to visit. Every area in this spread out country has thing we wanted to see. But we decided that since we are going in the winter we would focus our journey in the warmer area of Andalucia. The north will have to be on another bucket list…

    Once again, we will stay in a variety of accommodations with an eye out for clean, budget conscious hostals, hotels, bnbs and apartments in good locations. A bonus would include hearty breakfasts. Mainly, I used Booking.com to find good places. We’ll mainly be relying on public transportation, buses and trains, but will also rent cars in more rural areas. International drivers licenses are asked for, when renting in Spain.

    Even though we are going off season, we have pre-booked some key sights like the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell in Barcelona, Granada’s Alhambra, Seville’s cathedral and Alcazar, and Madrid’s Prado Museum. I have discovered that there are discounted seniors’ prices if you look for them.

    As usual, we are packing light. I have a small tear in my rotator cuff tendon and don’t want to aggravate it with a heavy bag!

    And yes, we know that Barcelona is the pickpocket capital of the world. Wish us luck!
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  • A Three Month Rough Itinerary

    December 20, 2023 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 2 °C

    This year’s trip has taken a fair bit of work while thinking of where we wanted to go in Spain and then making accommodations, booking flights and car rentals here and there. We decided to focus on the Andalucia area in Spain as it will be warmer than the northern areas during the winter months. And we are all about warm and sunny. When we go to the Azores in March, we will be visiting several islands that we did not visit when we were there four years ago.

    We will take a Red Car from Fergus to Toronto International airport and then fly to Barcelona via a 24 hour stopover in the Azores. Sweet.

    January 4 - PONTA DELGADA, Sao Miguel, Azores - Talisman Hotel

    January 5 - 10 - BARCELONA - Ronda House Hotel

    January 10 - 11 - MONSERRAT - Hostel Guillemes

    January 11-13 - VILANOVA- Solvi Hotel

    January 13-15 - PENISCOLA - Chiki

    January 15-20 - VALENCIA - Design and Relax Air BnB

    Fly to Palma, Mallorca Island
    Pick up a rental car - Wilber

    January 20-26 - SOLER, Mallorca - Casa Margarita

    Fly to Malaga
    Pick up a rental car - Wilber

    January 26-29 - MALAGA - Fresh, Relax and Sun

    January 29 - February 1 - GRANADA - Casa de Reyes

    February 1-15 - ANTEQUERA - Vera Apartment
    Return the rental car

    February 15-21 - JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA - Sherry Flat

    February 21-28 - SEVILLE - Hotel Cervantes

    February 28 - March 2 - CORDOBA - Hesperia Cordoba

    March 2-9 - MADRID - Hostal Dulcinea changed to Air BnB Sol

    Fly to Terceira Island, Azores

    March 9-11 - TERCEIRA - Hostal da Palmeira

    Fly to Horta Island, Faial. Pick up the rental car.

    March 11-14 - FAIAL - House Fifteen

    Take the ferry to Pico Island

    March 14-17 - PICO - Joe’ s Place

    Take the ferry back to Horta.

    March 17-18 - FAIAL -

    Return the car. Fly to Terceira Island. Pick up a car.

    March 18-25 - TERCEIRA - Quinta do Esperitu

    Return the car and fly to Sao Miguel. Pick up another rental car.

    March 25-28 - SAO MIGUEL - Monte Ingles

    March 28 - Return the car and Fly to TORONTO

    March 28 - Red Car home to Fergus

    Plans most probably will change, but that’s the fun of travelling!
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  • Before Heading to Spain and the Azores

    December 28, 2023 in Canada ⋅ 🌫 6 °C

    Christmas with our daughters and their families was once again celebrated at our condo on the day of the Fergus Santa Claus parade, December 2. A traditional charcuterie lunch, a walk across the river to watch the Santa Claus parade, back to open Christmas stockings, time for tea and talk and playing games (including arm wrestling!), a roast beef dinner, then gifts and dessert. A great day for all of us. We all love this day and best of all no one was sick on this special day. Cal proudly beat Amy in arm wrestling, hands down.

    We had lots of time to figure out what we were taking on our trip - a whole month! The Schengen countries only allow us to stay in those countries for 3 months without applying for a visa so we decided to leave on January 3 this year and stay in Spain and the Azores until the end of March.

    We are packing lightly, but have to considered a range of temperatures and weather. In Barcelona and possibly Madrid, it will be cool in January. Andalucia will be warmer but who knows about the Azores where you get all the seasons in one day! Since we are in Europe, we can buy anything that we may need. Layers will work as always.

    So what will go in our trusty ebag backpacks? We are taking 1 pair of lightweight pants plus leggings/track pants, a pair of shorts/capris/skirt, 4 short sleeved T- shirts, a couple of long sleeved shirts, a light weight sweater, a bathing suit, pajama bottoms, underwear and socks, Isotoner slippers (cold tile floors in winter), a scarf/Buffs, hat, toiletries and electronics. We’ll buy sandals/flipflops if we need to.

    We are both taking our phones, iPads, a power charger and an universal travel adapter. We’ll get SIM cards at the Ponta Delgada airport.

    Also, we will each take a small daypack. Mine will be packed away. Good for laundry as most of our accommodations have washing machine.

    Both of us have a small travellers purse/murse for items we need at hand like a first aid kit, snacks, toothpicks, a guidebook, my travel notes and passports.

    On the plane we will wear comfortable pants, a short sleeved T-shirt, a fleece, our favourite ON trail shoes and a jacket. Chris is taking a puffer jacket and I’m taken my Patagonia jacket and a puffer vest. Our flight to Ponta Delgada is overnight.

    We have used a TRTL neck pillow for flights but our puffer jackets will work just fine so we are not hauling them around.

    Red Car is, as usual, picking us up and taking us to the airport.

    Our flight from Toronto to Ponta Delgada, Azores leaves at 9:05 pm and we get in at 6:50 a.m. 5 1/2 hours. We have a great 24 hour layover before the 3 hour flight to Barcelona the next morning. We are looking forward to spending a night at the Talisman Hotel and walking to the beautiful botanical garden while we are in P.D.
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  • Day 2–3

    And Here We Go Again - Ponta Delgada!

    January 4 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    After a Red Car trip from Fergus to the Toronto airport, we took an overnight flight (5 hours) to Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. All went well, but of course little sleep on the plane.

    Arriving in the Ponta Delgada airport at 7 a.m, was a treat - a tiny airport with friendly people and a quick entry through immigration. In the main lobby, we were able to get Portugal/Spain phone chips for a month and we felt like we were well taken care of. Outside the airport, it was easy to get a taxi as everything for travellers is well organized and stress free.

    We had a short ride to our hotel, The Talisman Hotel. It is a gem of a place in a good location. Knowing that we would be arriving early, I booked the hotel for 2 nights. When we arrived, everything was ready for us, including a huge breakfast buffet in the restaurant.

    The room is lovely and the view outside the window is of a well-manicured garden. On the rooftop, there is a heated pool, a gym and 360 degree views of the city.

    We had a nap after breakfast and then walked to the Jardim António Borges. This public and free botanical garden has to be one of the most beautiful places in Ponta Delgada and is set in the heart of the city. It was founded in the 19th century by António Borges who was an Azorean businessman and politician. Inside the gates to the garden, it is a feast for the senses. There are numerous exotic plants as well as caves, ponds, grottos, winding paths and a fantastic ancient tree with huge roots in the centre of the park.

    We explored the park and had a Tapenade/salad snack and drinks in the park’s tea house while watching the antics of the many free ducks, geese, chickens and doves.

    Then we left the park to just wander through the centre of the city. Four years ago, we spent a fair bit of time visiting the city so this time, we enjoyed revisiting places that we had been to. Lots of lit Christmas decorations are still up. We ended up having a traditional two o’clock expresso in a square and people watching.

    The weather changes in minutes here. When we started out, it was so hot that we were happy to walk in the shade. Then shortly afterwards, we wished we had brought our jackets. A little later, it started to drizzle, then the sun came out. You have to be ready for any weather here. Four seasons in a day!

    Many people wear layers, jeans, a sweater or a light puffer jacket as it feels for the most part like Spring. Some carry umbrellas. It’s all pretty casual though.

    After a good day of walking (8 km), we returned to the hotel and had a small nap before visiting the big farmers market. That was followed by a spaghetti dinner at the hotel and a night time city viewing on the rooftop terrace.

    It was a full day, actually too much to write about. The hotel packed us a breakfast/lunch for tomorrow as we are missing the included breakfast and a taxi driver is picking us up tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. for our flight to Barcelona.

    It has been great. We will be back!
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  • Day 3–8

    Ponta Delgada to Barcelona

    January 5 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    Right on schedule Jose, our taxi driver from yesterday, picked us up at 6 a.m. to take us to the airport, 8 km away.

    We quickly went through security and then had to wait for a couple of hours to board as there was a thick fog and the plane was delayed. At 9 a.m., we were off and in a short 2 hours we landed in Barcelona.

    We were somewhat confused when we went through the airport to the exit, as there wasn’t an immigration lineup anywhere. Just the exit door to the outside. Then we discovered that because we had had our passports stamped in Portugal, we didn’t need to have it done again. Both countries are part of the 27 countries in the European Union/Schengen Zone.

    Exiting, we easily found the Aerobus to Universitat that took us to within 700m of our hotel, the Ronda House Hotel. So easy, comfortable and safe!

    We once again lucked out with the Ronda House. It is a very clean and organized hostal/hotel in a great location. We can walk to all the main sights from here as we are just a couple of streets away from the big walking street La Rambla. The metro station is a short block away and there are lots of restaurants close by as well as the big Antoni Market. The marina isn’t far away either.

    Our room is a ‘penthouse’ room, very quiet and on the 7th floor of the building overlooking the neighbourhood. In the morning we will get a buffet breakfast and in the evening, we could get a 2 euro glass of wine or a beer at their little bar. The concierge gave us a kettle and mugs to make tea or coffee and told us that the Three Kings/Wise Men Parade was going to take place a block away, at 6 pm. Fun.

    We walked to the big indoor market, hoping to eat there but it was closing down In preparation for the Epiphany holiday tomorrow.

    So we grabbed a bite to eat in a small restaurant and went to a road on the parade route. The parade ended up starting very late and then it started to pour rain on the hundreds of patient and excited families that came to look out for the three kings. These wise men arrive by boat in the harbour before walking up the street. They bring toys and gifts for the children tomorrow morning if the kids have been good.

    Umbrellas came up and everyone got wet. After about 2 hours of waiting, we decided that we would go back to the hotel and watch the parade on T.V. By that time, the crowd was about 20 people deep and even though everyone was in a good mood, it was maybe not the best place to be. And it was cold, 11C.

    Anyways, the day was a very good one and we’re happily tired. We should sleep well tonight.
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  • Day 4

    Our First Full Day in Barcelona

    January 6 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Last night after the Three Kings Parade, children went home, put out water for the kings’ camels and went to bed early, after being told that if they didn’t, they wouldn’t get any presents in the morning. We went to bed early too and woke up to a lovely gift of a sunny day!

    In order to travel lighter, we didn’t take any full guidebooks but I did take torn out pages from Rick Steves guidebook of some of the places we are going to visit in Spain. The pages for Barcelona include guided walking tours that we thought were appropriate.

    We woke up at 9:30 a.m., Barcelona time, and had a great breakfast buffet downstairs in the hotel. Breakfasts are included in the price of the room. Btw, I noticed that the price of the room has increased by almost half since I booked it!

    It is located in the El Raval neighbourhood that at one time was nicknamed the Barri Xines - the worlds only Chinatown with no Chinese in or around it. It was a prejudiced term applied to any foreigner, poor Spanish, North African or Roma people (gypsies). Today it is rapidly gentrifying so it feels very safe to us.

    Today is a holiday and it’s sunny, so we expected lots of people to be out and about. Since Barcelona is known as ‘the pickpocket capital of the world’, we prepared ourselves appropriately. We left our passports and money in the hotel safe and just took our phones and a Visa card. Chris put his things in an inner pockets and I used my small Lululemon crossbody bag. Today is planned to be a scoping-out the city by foot day.

    We started out by walking to the Catalunya Plaza that is in Barcelona’s centre. Fountains, statues and hundreds of pigeons fill this 12 acre square. It seems to be between Barcelona’s old narrow streets and the wide streets of the newer part of the city. Four grand streets radiate from here.

    We walked up to see the outsides of two of Gaudi’s amazing creations - Casa Batllo, La Pedrera (Casa Mina) as well as the Casa Amatlier. Tours in Barcelona are expensive so we are picking and choosing what we want to spend money and time on. Most insides of places can be viewed online.

    Casa Battlo has an amazing dragon-inspired rooftop and the outside is full of interesting shapes and colours. Apparently the inside is over the top and funky. We may come back to check out the interior.

    Next door is the Casa Amatlier built for the Amatlier chocolate- making family in the 1800s. We were able to go inside without a tour to see the stained glass door and ceiling and a beautiful staircase. Past the foyer, there is a cafe where we bought a recommended cup of melted chocolate and toast. Delicious!

    Across the road, was one of Gaudi’s trademark works, Casa Mila, built between 1906 and 1912. The outside has a jagged, rocky exterior and stands out from the buildings around it.
    Lots of fun to look at.

    As we walked back to the Plaza Catalunya, we stopped at a busy restaurant, Cerveseria Catalona for our first tapas lunch and a beer. Mmmn.

    Moving on, we decided to walk down Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s old town main boulevard. We went from the Plaza de Catalunya gently downhill to the waterfront. It took about an hour and there were lots of historic things to see on the way. The big Boqueria Market was closed today but we will enjoy visiting it another day. The produce sold here focus on Spanish specialties - olives, saffron, small green peppers, ham, sausages, and seafood.

    We walked further down to the harbour where a 200’ column honours Christopher Columbus who came to Barcelona in 1493.

    We were starting to get tired after walking 10.6 km so walked home through the Gothic quarter. This is Barcelona’s birthplace where ancient Romans built a city, Christians built a cathedral, where Jews gathered together and where Barcelonians lived within a walled city until the 1950s when the city expanded. Definitely, we will love exploring this area more throughly in the coming days. It is very close to our hotel.

    Dinner was at a great restaurant called Honest Greens. Healthy, tasty and filling and a good price. We will probably return tomorrow night. Happy that we discovered it.
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  • Day 5

    The First Sunday of the Month

    January 7 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Today is the first Sunday of the month and all of the museums have free admission. We decided to take advantage of this offer but what museum should we see? There are more than 80 museums in Barcelona! We decided to go to the Montjuic (Mount of the Jews) Park. There is a fortress there, set atop Barcelona’s highest point (173m), with great views.

    First, I should tell you that today is sunny but there is a cold wind blowing. We put our layers on and they didn’t come off at all today.

    Very close to our hotel is the Sant Antoni metro/subway stop. A couple we met recommended that we buy 10 metro tickets and use them to go anywhere in the city by metro or bus. So we did.

    We took the Green Line metro to the Paral-lel stop and then transferred to the Montjuic funicular tram that is included in the metro ticket. The funicular is a little cable car that runs up a steep slope.

    Then we had a choice of walking up a steep path to the castle or taking a pleasant ride on the Montjuic cable car. We opted to go by the cable car, just for fun and the excellent views. When we got to the top, we had to cross a drawbridge over a moat that has been converted into a garden. Entry was free today but we still had to wait in a small line to get in.

    The castle, which is pretty empty, was worthwhile to see because of the great city and harbour views from its ramparts. It was built in the 18th century and used to watch the city as well as to imprison, torture and execute political prisoners. Not a nice history but now it is a park with lovely gardens.

    There were several things to see on our way down but we chose to go into the National Museum of Catalan Art. This huge museum showcases Catalan art from the 10th to mid-20th century. The art is housed in the grand National Palace that also has great views over Barcelona.

    The museum is huge and was easy to get lost in! Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and more modern art from village churches in a remote valley in the Pyrenees. As time went on, the place started filling up and we left to walk back to the hotel.

    We were pretty tired and cold but stopped in at a little restaurant for a Menu del Dia, meal of the day. Lots of places were closed due to it being a holiday weekend and Sunday.
    Chris picked up a few little treats to eat for later tonight and we both enjoyed a hot shower when we got back.

    Tomorrow, we are booked in to see the Sagrada Familia cathedral.
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  • Day 6

    Barcalona’s Sagrada Familia. Wow!

    January 8 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    I woke up with a cold! It’s not bad though. A runny nose and a bit of a cough. Not enough discomfort to stop us from doing things.

    When planning what to do in a Barcelona, I realized that one could spend a lot of money visiting this city. It is full of interesting places,most, at a cost. We are travelling for 3 months so we have to make choices about what we want to see and do. The Sagrada Familia was one of the places that called out to us. There is a reason why it is the most visited place in Spain, boasting almost 4 million visitors a year and we were not disappointed.

    I was able to book online senior entry tickets ($40 Cdn each) with an audio guide on Booking.com. Expensive for 1 hour but we didn’t feel too badly as the money does go towards the upkeep and continued building of this wondrous creation.

    The end result was that both Chris and I were blown away by the genius of Antoni Gaudi. No wonder that the Sagrada Família is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, even though it still hasn’t been completed (started in 1882). It was supposed to be done in 2026 but Covid slowed things down. Now the completion date may be in 2030…

    Inside and outside, it is spectacular. You just have to see it to believe it. The u-shaped choir lofts can hold 1,000 singers!

    Gaudi wasn’t the original architect. Construction started under Francisco de Paula del Villar, who resigned in 1883, allowing the young 31 year old Gaudí to take over as chief architect.

    The Sagrada Família has been built entirely with donations and has not been backed by the church or the government. Construction today is still funded with entrance fees.

    To pay tribute to basilica workers, the builders’ faces were used as models and their images can be found sculpted in stone of the Portal of Mercy façade. In the on-site museum, you can see old photos of workers posing as models for the sculptures.

    Gaudí is buried here. He died (73) on June 10, 1926, after being hit by a tram on his way to visit the Sagrada Família. His tomb can be found in the El Carmen Virgin chapel.

    When you enter the basilica, you have to go through a security system similar to the ones in airports. Everything comes off and put on a tray to go through a scanner. Photo I.D. could be asked for. Spain wouldn’t want to lose this building to a terrorist!

    I didn’t have earphones to listen to the audio guide but Chris lent me his left hearing aid and as long as we stuck together, it worked!

    I am not going to write anymore, as whatever I write will not even begin to describe the splendour of being in this building. Neither will the photos… and I’m sure there are lots and lots of great articles and photos to check out online.

    Afterwards we walked one block from the basilica to the Rosellan Hotel that has a rooftop terrace with great closeup views of the spikes and turrets from a different perspective. No one was up there and we just sat on comfy chairs in the sun and enjoyed the 360 degree views.

    We returned to the hotel using our metro card and had a lunch of instant soup in a cup, an orange, and cookies and tea. Tonight’s dinner will be at the Honest Greens restaurant again, mmmn yum.

    *Note to Karen and Rob - Chris got a phone leash today! Handy!
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  • Day 7

    A Walk in Gaudi’s Park Güell

    January 9 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 2 °C

    We heard about a fairytale park with beautiful views of the city and with a World’s Heritage Site designation (1984). Being that Park Güell is another of Gaudi’s creations, we thought that a visit to that park would be a nice way to spend our last day in Barcelona.

    Once again, it was recommended that we prebook online seniors’ tickets to avoid lineups into Park Güell. That’s what we did but as today was the first day of school after Xmas holidays, the lineups weren’t bad. Up until lately, people could enter the park for free but now there is a fee to enter.

    The park is not that far away from where we are (5km) but up a steep hill. We used our metro pass to catch a bus (# 50) to Catalunya Square and then caught bus #24 to the park’s side entrance.

    We easily wandered for a couple of hours through Park Güell’s 17 hectares. It is one of the largest green spaces in Barcelona with large gardens and interesting architectural features. Something novel around every corner. We had fun trying to spot the green Monk Parrots and their nests in the palm trees,

    There are two sections - one is mainly green spaces and the other is the Monumental Zone which is where we ended up. We started in the green area and enjoyed listening to the echoes of buskers singing great old songs, like my dad’s favourite, The Autumn Leaves and our favourites like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and the Beatle’s Blackbird song.

    Park Guell is the size of 13 city blocks and has a viewing terrace with a magnificent panoramic view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. The balustrade with seats were built to fit your body. Apparently Gaudi had one of his workers drop his pants and make an impression of his rear end in order to create an ergonomic seat. They are comfy!

    Once again, lots to see - columns, colourful ceramics, a mosaic dragon, a market place and three crosses at the highest point.

    Park Guell was conceived in 1900 by the wealthy industrialist Eusebi Güell. His intention was to create a lavish, Utopian housing development in the middle of a park using the world’s most cutting-edge Barcelona architecture.

    Gaudi was asked to design 60 luxury homes for a planned community far away from Barcelona’s smoky factories – all with the latest technology and a touch of art. In the end, the houses didn’t sell and Park Güell construction was halted in 1914. Only two homes and the park were finished! Guell donated the park to the city in 1922.

    It was a cool but sunny day so we decided to leisurely walk back through the city, all downhill, to our hotel. All in all, we walked 10.5 km.

    Tomorrow, we are going to Monserrat, an old Benedictine monastery, in the mountains. A little planning is needed tonight.
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