Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Seville, Alcazar

Seville Plaza D'Espana

Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral

Cordoba Street of Flowers

Alhambra Nazaries Palace

Alhambra Nazaries Palace

Alhambra Gardens
I am writing this while on a 24 hour ferry trip from Santander in the North of Spain to Portsmouth in England. I will post it after arriving at my hotel in London.

I have spent 10 days in Spain mainly in the south with 2 nights in Seville, 2 in Cordoba, 3 in Malaga with a day bus trip to Granada then 1 each in Madrid and Santander.

While there were some wonderful things to see, I am glad to be leaving Spain. Meals were a nightmare for a person who rises early and goes to bed early, usually finishing dinner by 7.30 pm at the latest.  In Seville and Cordoba I had to go out for breakfast and generally only found some orange juice, a bun or croissant with butter and a cafe express. Fortunately the other hotels had good breakfasts included.  Finding a light lunch around 1 pm was very hit and miss. The Spanish people seem to eat a large lunch about 2.30 pm. This then lasts them until they have a full dinner about 9 pm. How they sleep well on a full stomach I do not know. They spend the early evening either strolling or sitting drinking and eating tapas. These are not suitable activities when travelling alone.  It was pointless sitting in a restaurant and asking for a dinner menu before 8.30 pm at the earliest. I am afraid I had 3 fast food meals at a reasonable hour so they could digest and allow me to go to bed before 10 pm.

However some of the sightseeing was memorable. Fortunately I went to Granada and the Alhambra last as if you could just choose one city in Southern Spain this would be it.  I can see why they advise you to book ahead. However I cannot think which of the other cities I would want to miss.

It was very hot when I arrived in Seville which surprised me this early but I think it was an early summer burst. Cordoba was slightly cooler and it was comparatively cool with some rain in Malaga but fortunately fine for Granada and heating up again in Madrid.

Seville has one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, it is huge and a climb of the tower for a city view was worthwhile, The Alcazar (photo 1) had many nice rooms and lovely gardens, thankfully cool. I was recommended to visit the Plaza D’Espana (Photo 2) and it was also impressive. However I felt sorry for the hundreds of horses drawing carriages with tourists in the heat around the city.

Cordoba has the Mosque (Photo 3) which has been converted into a cathedral although I believe it was built on an even  earlier Christian church, the original pavement can be seen at one spot. This gives it some rather strange architecture.  It also has an Alcazar with lovely gardens. I liked wandering through the narrow streets and looking into courtyards with their gardens and painted tile walls. There was a street of Flowers (Photo 4) and the remains of a synagogue in this area. My hotel was located here so I am glad the owner gave me a map and circled the main spots to see. Even so, I got lost several times trying to get back to the hotel.  I spent an hour or so in a museum of earlier times built on the excavated foundations of a Roman Theatre. It was very well laid out and explained.

Malaga is a port with cruise ships and a beach. It is the stepping off point for the Costa del Sol. As stated it was thankfully much cooler but also rainy so the beach looked a bit forlorn. There is an extensive network of paved pedestrian streets and plazas. I climbed to the ruined castle on the hill above the city and then visited its Alcazar below. I guess these would be the least impressive of those visited. Similarly its cathedral although I do not know how anyone could worship looking at the very realistic painting of the martyrdom by beheading of St Paul. Due to the rain I also visited the Museum of Picasso. he was born in Malaga but left at age 19 never to return. However the city is proud of him and has a large collection of his works. He is not one of my favourite artists but some paintings do grow on you when studied carefully.

I spent one day travelling by bus from Malaga to Granada and return. It was one and half hours each way and that part was not so pleasant.  However the visit to the Alhambra was a highlight of my journey.  I had booked ahead and climbed up the hill from the city arriving about 1 pm. My entry was at 2 pm so I was fortunate to find a shop selling ham and cheese rolls and juice to eat in the park. They also give you a half hour time slot to visit the Nazaries Palace (Photos 5 & 6). This has perfectly proportioned rooms and courtyards, beautiful tiles and intricate moulding, wood and leather lined ceilings, pools and fountains. Unfortunately they are restoring the famous 12 lion fountains. The lions are completed and we saw them in a room waiting to be put back into the courtyard which is still being repaired along with the necessary plumbing.
After this palace, the other palaces at the site were less impressive but still worth visiting but the final hour was spent wandering in most beautiful gardens making use of flowers, especially roses, trees, some 700 year old cypresses and water to create a perfect end to the visit (Photo 7). I could have posted many photos on these gardens alone.

From Malaga I travelled by very fast train to Madrid.  It was local election weekend in Spain and there had been demonstrations in Malaga but a huge one in the main square of Madrid. I managed to avoid most of that and spent an afternoon in the Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza. This was once a private collection and is near the Prado which I had visited in 1980. I found this museum amazing as the paintings are arranged historically and I cannot think of a famous European painter from 14th century Italy to the present time who was not represented. There were some American painters as well Brueghel, Monet, Sisly, Gainsborough. Picasso, Canalleto, Munch, Constable, Van Gogh, Kandinsky are just some of the many names The list goes on and on. I spent 2 hours and could have learnt much more if my feet had not complained.

On Sunday morning I wandered in a nearby park before catching the afternoon train to Santander on the North coast of Spain. Another morning wandering in a pleasant town before boarding the ship to the UK. It has mainly elderly UK people returning from holidays in Spain. It was a rough night and we are delayed but thankfully has now calmed.

1 comment:

Fran said...

Spain is tough for a solo traveler with your schedule indeed. Although I traveled widely alone, I was always there with others and it matters at meal time.

I love the Thyssen-Bournemisza Museum, truly love it! I do love Spain and especially Andalucia. Some of your photos look like my photos of the same places!!