Sunday 24 October 2010

Around Southern and Central Spain

We have just got back from an epic adventure to the Moorish lands. Having mid terms meant a week off from work, so we got cheap Ryanair tickets to Ciudad Real in Spain. We arrived in late to Ciudad Real but that didn't seem to matter too much, as our host was amazing. We had a very nice typical Spanish meal, and went out for a walk around his small village of Argamasilla de Calatrava. Saw a ruin of the Inquisition, and the "river".  A good sleep, and then the next morning we were off.

Cordoba was the first official stop of our trip. Our primary target was the mesquite, which is the 3rd biggest mosque in the world, that was converted into a church (although apart from the paintings it still looks like a mosque) after the Spainish Christians took Cordoba back from the invading moors. This place was amazingly cool (temperature) and looked fantastic. The painted arches and detail in the marble was spectacular. Took quite a while to walk around this place before we headed off to explore the rest of Cordoba which was equally nice with the mixture of Moorish, spanish and roman architectural remains present everywhere. Had the worst lunch of the trip and then we headed off to the lake district north in another province. Was very pretty and remote area! Afterwards headed to our host for the night in Villanueva de Cordoba. Here we had a great time walking through the country village and having a typical Spanish bar experience.

The next day after a lovely breakfast we were off to explore the national park north of Seville. The road here was crazy, it was obviously only built to access a mine that used to be in the middle and hasn't been repaired or worked on since, so it was very slow going, but very nice scenery. Saw some birds doing some weird swarming technique (like vultures over a carcass but with at least 50+ birds), no idea what they were. And saw some deer which was impressive as it is rutting season in Spain. Next stop was Italica, just a few mins north of Seville, which has the 3rd largest preserved Roman ampithitheatre. The ampitheatre was a clear winner for the best thing of this preserved Roman village, as it was very interesting to see the construction and at one point where it had fallen in. Down to Seville where we met our hosts and sorted out a Flamenco show for the night. Explored the riverside and saw some great buildings. The best thing was <span>Plaza de EspaƱa</span> which has a little marble display from every province/major area in Spain. It was also used in the Star Wars 2 (new ones) movie. Went to a very good flamenco show (at least dancing wise) there was this one guy who was mad crazy fast with his feet, so amazing. However their body language didn't exude the feeling I had expected.

 The next day we headed off south, firstly to Cadiz, which is actually an island of the south western coast of Spain. It had some interesting architecture and a fort stuck out at sea which reminded us of the white mosque in Mumbai, India. But sadly the view over the southern coast of spain was marred by something and we couldn't see all the way down to tarifa. Took ages to get out, but finally were on the road again to Bolonia which is a fantastic beach just north of Tarifa. It was amazing how this one place has great kite surfing (fun to watch), massive sand dunes, great beach, and a large Roman village!!! The village was very cool with  a theatre and mostly preserved forum. Could also walk on the old roads, as well as, see the remains of  the tombs of the dead outside of the city. Didn't end up stopping in Tarifa as we could see all the kite surfing as we were driving along, and just plowed onto Gibraltar (with a side stop in Algeciras to check out the parking of the next morning). We arrived at the perfect time into Gibraltar as there were no lines to get through customs.

See Gibraltar
See Morocco

 After our amazing trip to Morocco we headed north to the beach town of Nerja. Here the beaches are surrounded by cliffs and have a dramatic look to them. Good lunch then off for a swim in what was quite cold, but clear, water. Was the first time I been swimming in the ocean in a year (despite living by the seaside, Southend isn't a place you go to the beach, every swim gives you a 1/10 chance of a eye, ear, throat infection, yummy Thames/ocean area). Really enjoyed the fresh feeling of salt water. Headed off to Granada to see Alhambra. From the outside this place doesn't quite do anything for anyone, but once you are inside the incredible artistry and craftsmanship of each piece of the wall, floor and amazing ceilings, is breathtaking. Loved the marble carvings throughout the palace. After here headed to our host in Orgiva which is on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada foothills. Had a great night.

Off to a great town Capileira which is up high (1500m) in the mountains.  A great view over the surrounding valleys and interesting chimneys (they have a unique design in this area). Was quite cold as the weather was changing so we didn't stay long and headed back down hill to head to Jaen. Sadly the weather ruined the day a bit and we couldnt' see as well as we should have, but saw the castle and enjoyed the town of Jaen before heading to Baeza which is a UNESCO town, and actually probably shouldn't be one. There wasn't that much there to look at, and the smell from the factory in the valley below was enough to force you to stay in your car. Off to  Mancha Real to stay the night where we had a feast of local seafood and great times.
 Next morning headed to Banos de la Encina, which has one of the oldest castles in Europe. It was amazing how well preserved it was. On route to Toledo we saw the very famous 12 white windmills of Consuerga (from Don Quixote ). It was so windy a top the hill here that I was almost blown over at one point. thanks to the wind we could also hear the sounds of the fiesta for Halloween from the village below. Toledo was great fun and the viewpoint we firstly had over the city was amazing. It is a cliff top town surrounded by rivers with very old majestic buildings. Had a decent lunch here and explored a bit before head sadly to our late flight back.

The airport at Ciudad Real is worth a mention, as its the first privately built airport in Spain and usually has at most 1 flight a day, despite the fact it is capable of having 4 flights coming and going at once. It felt very sad to be in this fancy nice new airport and being the only flight there.

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