It's been a little quiet on the blog lately! This year has been a busy one, but I haven't been writing as much. I thought I'd drop in and write about the trip Lou and I took to Spain in April of this year. This was a special trip in honor of Lou's birthday! We started our journey in Cartajima and ended in Granada.
Cartajima & Ronda
We caught a ride to our hostel courtesy of Botz, our gracious host. His house is in a small village situated in the mountains. It's a great place for hiking and bouldering, but sadly we did not partake in this due to the rain! :( This is a theme throughout the story -- we picked a very rainy week to visit Andalusia! Everywhere we went, people talked about how unusual the rain was for that time of year. We caught some glorious days of sun in Cordoba and Sevilla, but I'll get to those in a bit.
We walked around the village a bit and I got photos of these flowers.
We also spotted some mountain goats scaling the cliffs on the drive up to the hostel. The locals don't eat them, but they do milk them every so often and send the milk on to the cheese factories. The goats had little tags on their droopy ears.
Cartajima is SUPER quiet. It's a bit removed from the town of Ronda, about half an hour away. It's not a place for nightlife, but that's okay by me!
Botz made us a DELICIOUS dinner of some chili with sausage, bacon, beans, and yellow rice on the side. Plus some homemade guacamole. We were hungry and man, that dinner hit the spot. We had a little Spanish wine (Syrah) and chatted for hours about all sorts of things. He's got an ex girlfriend who is well known in the production and film world. She knows a lot of famous people in the industry (like Weeknd and George Harrison and others I hadn't heard of). Botz also mentioned that the hostel business has suffered with the rise of Airbnb. Plus there's a hostel in Ronda close to town so most people stay there instead. But he enjoys running the business nonetheless!
The next morning we slept in, head some bread, eggs and bacon and then got a ride from Botz to the Ronda bus station. From there we found our way to Ponta Nuevo, which was really lovely! I'd say don't pay the 2.5 euros to go down to the lower viewpoint, it's not worth it! It's much nicer to admire the cliffs from above.
We also took a stroll around the town. I got a few photos.
We caught a bus from Ronda to Sevilla that morning. I love bus rides, particularly when they are through the countryside. As we drove, the rain subsides and we began to see patches of sunshine!
From Sevilla bus station, we walked to our hostel near the center of town. It was still a bit wet and chilly. Our hostel did a free group dinner every night, and it was awesome! We chatted with guests from all over the world and the dinners were delightfully healthy. First night was carrot soup topped chopped mint, second night was curried potatoes with spinach, tomatoes and onions.
On our first day in Sevilla, we wandered about town with no agenda and got a little lost (the best way to explore a new place!).
After finding out way back to center of town, we returned to the hostel for dinner and joined a pub crawl. There were about seven of us, and everyone got along really well! I remember speaking a mix of English and the little bit of Spanish I remember to one of the guys who came with us. He was in the opposite boat -- he knew a tiny bit of English and was fluent in Spanish. Believe it or not, we managed to understand each other! So, even if you just know a little bit of a language, try anyway! You might make a new friend :) First bar was okay, we danced to some early 2000s hits (Beyonce's Crazy in Love, that 8 Mile Eminem song, 50 Cent, Mr. Brightside, etc). It wasn't the best dancing music, but it sure was nostalgic. Ahh, middle school.
Next we tried getting into a "secret" bar called Bicicleteria. It's only open on weekdays, and the door looks very unsuspecting to a passerby (it looks like a mural with a fist painted on it). But, if you look closer, there's a small buzzer on the wall, and if you press it, the bouncer will open the door. hHe asked us some questions to see if we were worthy of letting in (We let our Spanish speaking companions do the talking).
After the exciting night out, we returned to the hostel (at 4am!) and ate leftover carrot soup from dinner! All the excitement really woke up our appetites.
Despite being out so late, we were up early the next morning for a free walking tour of Sevilla! Plus, it was a SUNNY day! Like I've said many times, walking is my favorite way to explore a town. We walked around the outside of the Cathedral and the Alcazar (you have to pay to go in to both of these places), along the river separating Triana and Sevilla, visited a few monuments, and ended at the Plaza de Espana. The Plaza is HUGE and it's quite a sight to behold! I took a few photos, but they don't do it justice!
I learned that:
- People from Triana do not consider themselves to be from Sevilla (according to our tour guide, Triana was a city made up of all the rejects that the "Christians" chased out of Sevilla hundreds of years ago [Muslims, Gypsies originally from India and Jews I think?]. As a result, they have their own unique culture!
- There is a debate as to where flamenco started: Sevilla, Triana, or a third place I forgot!
- The Cathedral was originally a mosque, but the Catholics/Christians built around it after the fact.
- The University in Sevilla used to be a tobacco factory
In hindsight, I would have visited Triana or the Jewish neighborhood in town.
We also went on a tapas tour which was great! I had dogfish for the first time (pretty tasty!) and ate way too many croquettes. Botz insisted that when we get tapas, we try them with two different wines: Fino and Marzarella. Both are quite dry, but I enjoyed them! Luoise ordered one and I got the other, so we'd swap glasses every so often.
After eating, we went to the Alcazar, which requires tickets for entry. To skip the long queue, we got tickets online ahead of time. I wish I'd brought my student ID card -- I could have entered for 4 euros instead of 12! :( Oh well.
The Alcazar is BIG and we took our time looking around! The gardens are lovely and there's some really pretty flowers. I also loved snapping photos of the Spanish tile.
More soon about the second half of our trip: Cordoba (my favorite!) and Granada!
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