Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

City of Gaudi

Barcelona

After leaving Marbella, we headed straight for Barcelona. We spent three nights there, and right away we knew that it wasn’t enough. As Meg touched on in her last post, we’ve booked a major journey from Athens to Signapore which leaves at the end of November. As a result, we are limited in how much time we spend in each place we visit, so Barcelona got three days. We tried to make the most of them.

Priority number one for anyone visiting Barcelona, especially with a background in architecture, has to be Gaudi. Not that this is hard — in fact, it’s nearly impossible to turn your head and not see Gaudi’s influence or name in the city. I’ve never seen a city that has so completely adopted an architect as their pride and joy. Our hostel was just down the street from Casa Batll√≥, and a few blocks away from Casa Mila. Unfortunately, the price of entry to each was rather steep, and since we’re on a tight budget, we had to enjoy them from the street. We were saving our euros for entry into the true Gaudi masterpiece…

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Gorge-ous Ronda

View from Ronda

We’ve spent the last week near Marbella, Spain, which is on the Costa del Sol. We are staying in an apartment resort which was booked for us as a birthday gift to Meghan by her parents. It’s been like a vacation from our travels, and a great chance for us to recharge and take care of some much-needed planning that we’ve been putting off. But even though we have spent most of the week sleeping in and cooking our own meals, we couldn’t resist the urge to take a day trip to Ronda.

We drove from the coast up into the heart of the mountains in only an hour and a half, and were treated to some great panoramic views from the windy road as we climbed. It’s really hard to take a drive to a town called Ronda without singing “help me Ronda, help, help me Ronda” the whole way up. We did this. I don’t even like that song. Meg does.

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Photos: Bilbao and Granada

Two new albums are up on our photos page, from Bilbao and Granada in Spain.

On the peak of Veleta

We managed to make it out for some hiking during our stay in Granada. We caught a morning bus up to the Sierra Nevada mountains, with the intention of hiking up Veleta peak, the second highest in the range. There is a large ski resort built on the same mountain, so the bus was able to drop us off about 4 km from the top, making the hike do-able in one day. On the bus, we met a handful of other travelers with the same plan, and decided to hike it together.

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La Alhambra

La Alhambra

Today we visited Spain’s number one tourist attraction – la Alhambra. At first, hearing that it was Spain’s number one tourist attraction was a turn off for us. Perhaps we have a slightly haughty view of ourselves, since we like to call ourselves travelers rather than tourists, but that’s just a surface way to deal with the negative connotations of the word. We are tourists in the places we visit, like it or not. And tourists visit tourist attractions. So we went.

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Walking around
in Granada

Textures of Granada

We arrived in Granada late in the evening, and after a bit of meandering through narrow pedestrian streets, we found our way to Oasis Hostel for the night. While this hostel doesn’t have private rooms (dorm style only), we were happy to discover that it was in a wonderful old building in the heart of the city, and was full of friendly and interesting staff and travelers. But the best surprise came in the morning, when we joined the free walking tour that leaves from the hostel every morning at 11 (plenty of time to eat breakfast first).

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Bilbao ka-pow

Bilbao elevator

The obvious draw to Bilbao is the Guggenheim. I’ll let Mark talk about his Guggenheim experience and I’ll try to speak of the rest of the city. It’s difficult in some ways to separate the two because it seems that so much of the city and its’ tourism now surrounds the museum. The city seems to be going through an interesting transition from old industrial port city to a modern metropolis. There are loads of new shiny buildings popping up amidst the old spanish colonial/neoclassical (?) buildings. Did the Guggenheim initiate this radical transition shift? Or was it the Calatrava bridge that did it? Is it making for a better city? They’ve got a groovy new Lord Foster metro system and a tram that runs over grass! The waterfront is great — parks on both sides of the rivers and plenty of pedestrian bridges. Even with all of this, I think our favourite part was the Old Quarter. It might have been a novelty because it’s our first city visited in Spain, but we loved the narrow, windy pedestrian streets you could get lost in and love being lost in. Also, more Basque tapas, or pinxos. So far the best tapas in Spain. We found one place we enjoyed so much we went back 3 times (It was called Zuga, in case you’re headed there).

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The Guggenheim Bilbao

The Guggenheim Bilbao

Today we visited the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a building famously designed by Frank Gehry. When I’d first seen photos of the museum, back in my student days at Carleton, I remember thinking that it was a building I had to see in person at some point in my life. Walking towards it along the river was a special experience, because this memory came back to me, and I realized that I was actually fulfilling it. There it was, rising above the river on a beautiful sunny day in Spain. There we were, in person, taking it in. It was a surreal moment for me.

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In the land of tapas

Mmmmm, tapas

We arrived in Bilbao by train and bus this afternoon. It was a beautiful bus ride through steep valleys. We checked in to Hotel Bilbi, and were pleasantly surprised. Our room is clean and has a nice modern bathroom, and we have a big window that opens to let in fresh air. Perhaps we’ve lowered our standards a little since the QM2, but compared to some of the places we’ve seen, it’s heaven.

After settling in, we went for tapas. Ahh, tapas! What a great way to eat! We had dinner at two different bars, along with some delicious wine. They put the tapas out on display along the bar, and you simply pick and choose which ones you’d like to try. At the end of the meal, you just tell the bartender how many you had, and he charges you accordingly. We had tapas ranging from tuna and salmon to omelette to ham, all mixed together in interesting combinations and presented in appetizer-sized portions. It definitely won’t be our last Spanish tapas outing.