A Travellerspoint blog

Valencia

sunny 14 °C

Valencia

We rented a car from Granada to drive to Valencia. It took us about 5 hours. The train would have taken us 8 hours and unfortunately the train doesn't run on a saturday; And flying was just ridiculous expensive, so driving was pretty much the only option we had. We stopped at a petrol station for a pizza which was from the freezer, but they had a microwave and oven to cook them- so cool. We returned the car at the Valencia airport without too much hassle and caught a taxi to the apartment. The drive wasn't too bad once we got out of the city. We decided not to get the GPS and google maps got us to a dead end. We just drove on big looking roads in sort of the right direction and found our way onto the main roads. Driving in Spain was far easier than France and Italy (Italy is just mad) so don't stress if you need to drive somewhere...

We dropped off the car at the airport and got a taxi to the apartment but unfortunately the driver couldn't find the street our apartment is on. He pulled out an ancient map book but didn't have his glasses so I (Blake) had to point out where we were and where we were going! We went round and round in circles and we still got dropped off on the wrong street. It wasn't a long walk though so it was no big deal. This was followed by a good 30 minutes wait for the apartment lady to check us in.. and when she got there, we were told the apartment they put us in is on another street 5 minutes away. Lucky the apartment turned out much newer than the one we thought we were staying in and it looks like they didn't charge us the full price (fingers crossed).

We noticed that the streets of Valencia were a lot dirtier than the other cities in Andalusia (south of Spain) and there was lots of dogs around leaving smells and deposits around the outer part of the old town. Our walking tour guide told us that it only rains 18days a year in Valencia so I guess that'd wash it all away.

After we checked in we walked around looking for food for nearly 2 hours but it was between lunch and dinner service so we didn't have much luck.. We went home and chilled out for a bit then headed back into the centre of the old town. We were starving and ended up settling on some mega touristy spanish food cooked by Chinese, right by the main square. At least it was cheap! We had swordfish and roast chicken and some other less than memorable dishes. Michelle tried the Valencian paella (with chicken & snails) which was probably the best dish of the night. That night we headed back to the apartment and polished off a bottle of red and had a good old chat.

Day 2

We started our morning with a walking tour around the old town. They had a Valentines Day special price of €5 per person, which would have been how much we would normally pay for a free walking tour so we jumped on that. There was no one else but us on the tour so it was like a private tour. The tour guide was excellent and showed that Valencia has a lot of interesting history.

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Tour guide recommended we try Palace Fesol for the best traditional Paella (Paella started in Valencia and was with rabbit, beans & snails). We were really lucky to get into this place as it was a sunday afternoon and it was right in the middle of lunch time. The Paella tasted very different to the seafood one, but it was delicious. We were served enough for 8people and took the rest home for later :). The waitress that served us had lived in Australia for 5 years and married a kiwi and it was great for us (and probably her) to hear some familiar accents and for someone to finally be able to understand Aussie accent. She didn't quite have an Aussie accent but at least we could all talk naturally without slowing down or pronouncing our words correctly (Europeans can understand Michelle but have no chance with my slurring Aussie drawl).

We had a siesta after lunch while Blake's parents went out exploring and got lost but somehow managed to find their way back to the apartment.

We were still full from our lunch paella, so instead of having a proper dinner we just stroll the streets and had the most expensive cake & coffee for dinner in Plaza la Reina (Which was all buildings until they pulled them all down so there was space for a royal wedding, according to our local guide) .

Day 3

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We started the morning with a stroll to the central market just down the road from our apartment. We had a lot planned for the day but got off to a bit of a slow start. The markets were huge, lots of jamon, fruit/veg; dried fruit and nuts; meats.. any kind of food you want you can find it there. They also had a flea market outside selling clothes, bags, household goods. Mum and Michelle bought a handbag each, whilst Dad and I bought a couple of leather belts each. We got the guy at the stall to swap some buckles over and shorten them... Custom fit!

After dropping off the shopping at the apartment, we went to the Cathedral to see Holy Grail- the only one recognised by the Vatican. I couldn't decide whether to sing Hunters & Collectors or whether I should hire somebody to bang coconuts behind me whilst hoping I don't run into the dreaded Knights of Ni.
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Once we left the church.. we made our way to the Valencia Arts & Science Park. It was designed for Valencia by the famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrva, as a present to his home city. Calatrava's vision is that of the space age, inspired by animal skeletons, hence the futuristic architectures. This place consists of the opera house, IMAX theatre, Marine Park (Oceanarium), the greenhouse and the science museum. The entrance fee is ridiculously expensive. We chose the science museum and oceanarium package which still cost a bomb. There was lots to see in the science museum but it was kinda boring.. At least we made our moneys worth, spending a good 2 and a half hours in there. I think we spent more time in there than we should have considering how boring it was.

Blake if and when he is fat..; Trying to do surgery- it was sooo hard!!
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We followed this up with a quick dash to the Oceanarium before it shut for the day. It is apparently the largest one in Europe. We saw giant crabs humping; made it just in time for the dolphin show; saw some crazy looking fish, beluga whales, sea lions- check out that huge bull... We also saw sharks and lots more. Michelle said this place wasn't that good, she was comparing it to the Seaworld in San Diego (where she saw the real free willy) and the one in gold coast. A place can be the largest but not necessarily the best..
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Our tour guide from the walking tour asked us to tried Algua de Valencia- a local drink. So we bought a bottle home to try- one word to describe it= DISGUSTING!! But.. Michelle was game enough to try it again at a tapas bar when we went out for dinner- it was made from scratch and it taste sooo much better. From memory it was vodka, cava, gin and orange juice.

We had the left over paella from yesterday for dinner then decided to head out for a drink and some tapas for the last time in Valencia before we head off to Barcelona. It turned out to be quite a enjoyable night. We had one of the best tasting green olives, some patata braves, chorizos and anchovies in vinegarette which Dave absolutely loves.

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 11:34 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Granada

sunny 11 °C

Granada

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A 3 hour train ride and we were out of Seville and in Granada. After checking in to our hotel, we filled our bellies with some tapas (mussels, anchovies with vinegar, tortilla, pimentos) and a large plate of salad.. Yum!! We're constantly amazed how good salad actually seems to taste after so much rich and oily food. We strolled around the city, chilled out at the hotel then we went out for drinks & free tapas for dinner. Bars in Granada give out free tapas with every drink. The only other city we've been to that does this consistantly is Leon.

Day 2: Valentines Day

We had organised tickets for the Alhambra a few weeks earlier, as we were told that it would be hard to get tickets on the day at the door. The main reason we came to Granada is to see the Alhambra. Unfortunately I (Michelle) had a date with the toilet bowl the night before and all day on Valentines Day, so i was tucked in bed at the hotel to vomit my guts out while everyone went to check out the Alhambra. But i did get lots of reflexology foot massage and a narrated video of the Alhambra to make me feel a bit better. Still.. a pretty average way to spend Valentines day...

The Alhambra
The Alhambra was a Moorish royal palace back in the 14th century and is going to take up at least half of your day! We arrived at 11am and didn't leave till 4pm and that was moving through pretty quick. We pre purchased our tickets with a reserved our Nasrid palace entry time so all I (Blake) had to do was swipe my credit card on the machine and out they popped. Far better than standing in the queue for half an hour! The three of us got audio guides and started our treck. The Nasrid Palaces were definitely the highlight along with the Alcazaba and the Generalife palace.

Nasrid Palace
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view from the lookout tower in the Alcazaba
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The Generalife gardens an Palace
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Day 3

Thank goodness I was feeling much better today, because we had booked in for a bath session in the Arab bath house. I missed out on the Alhambra but at least i had a photo with it.

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We had some spare time before the baths so we decided to stroll around and get a proper look at the Alhambra from Mirador de San Cristobal. There were musicians singing & old ladies flamenco dancing in the square and the sun was out which gave the place a great vibe. We had lunch at the nearby square then made our way back down the hill, ready for our Bath session.
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Hamman time: We sort of forgot that Aileen (Blake's mum) is claustrophobic.. but she managed to stay in the bath the whole time, and we're glad she did. This bath house is way better than the one we went to in Seville. Less people in the session and the baths were a lot nicer. Blake, Aileen and I had the traditional exfoliating scrub + massage while Dave had the 30 minute massage. We came out feeling so clean, and our skins were as smooth as the proverbial baby's bottom :).
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We finished off our trip to Granada with more tapas for dinner: tapas; salad; trifle cake dessert. We also had grilled squid which was very nice, and Blake had lots of free jamon
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xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 09:51 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Seville

Filled with oranges you can't eat!

sunny 18 °C

Seville

A 2.5hours train ride on the fast train from Madrid and we were in Seville. Everyone we've talked to has said that Spain is meant to be cheap. Haven't they been wrong!! Train tickets especially are a killer. Our train ticket from Madrid to Seville cost €85 each one way: that's $110!! Our other 5 hour trips have cost us over €50 each!! So much for Spain being a cheap place to go for holiday. We arrived at our apartment for the week which happened to be the old Swiss Embassy building. It was really beautiful inside and by the time we had to leave it felt like a shame to go. We'd found our local bodegas and tapas joints and the local churros joint so we were set.

Day 2

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We did a bit of sightseeing today. We started at the Cathedral then just strolled around for the rest of the day, taking in the atmosphere. Fortunately for us it was much warmer (and drier) here than in Bilbao so we were loving the warm sunshine. After lunch we made our way to Plaza Salvador to find it packed with people. It is a saturday.. and there was about 200 people standing around (right in front of Salvador church) having a drink at 2pm. Since our Cathedral ticket included a visit to the Salvador church, we popped in to have a look. Apparently it has the grandest interior of any church in Seville. It was also built on one of the muslim world's holiest sites (mosque of Ibn Addabas).

Cathedral of Seville
This cathedral is the 4th largest in the world and you can tell. It took us 10minutes to work out how to get into the thing! In the 12th century it was Seville's main mosque which was built by the Moors. 300years later, after the christians reconquered spain they turned it into a Cathedral . The Giralda (the bell tower) was later added on in the 1500s. Apparently it resembles the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech (Morocco). We paid our dues (still not sure of the religious logic of the church charging people to enter...) and made our way in. The church itself is beautiful but we've seen quite a few recently so the magic didn't really capture us this time. We did find Christopher Columbus' tomb (not that it was lost I guess...). Seems like he travelled around the world as much after as before his death! He died in Spain, then had his body moved to the Dominican Republic, then Cuba then Seville. We hadn't realised but it looks like he didn't acknowledge that he had actually discovered the Americas. He just kept insisting till his death that he'd made it to the East Indies.

This church had its own square tower (the Giralda), so we made our way up the ramps to the top. The view of the city was beautiful, and we were lucky that the bells didn't ring as we would have come out deaf. We made our way back down and we sat in the orange grove in the could It was really nice to sit in the orange grove in the church courtyard and look up at the Giralda tower.

Blake at Christopher Columbus's tomb; Giralda tower & Blake at the top of Giralda tower
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fried baby squid; salmorejo for lunch. Salmorejo is a new favourite for us. It's similar to gazpacho and goes down a treat with a nice cold beer!
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Cathedral of Salvador:
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The sight outside the Salvador church on a Saturday afternoon:
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Michelle had written a small walking tour for us but we got a bit bored halfway through (after the 7th church) after we somehow managed to end up at a 'mushroom' looking plaza. We decided to call it quits and pulled out the map to work out how to get home. Turns out we were staying only one block away :).

After a quick siesta we decided to head out to a 300year old tapas bar called El Rinconcillo and have a quick tapas and our first Manzilla before dinner. We went really early (about 7pm) so the place was pretty empty but the taste of the dry sherry (Manzilla) and the tapas gave us plenty of reason to stay. They tasted way better than they looked- spinach & chickpeas (the bar's speciality) + bacalao (cod fish) with tomato:
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Day 3

We had a sleep in. Then went to Santa Cruz area for some tapas for lunch. Yummy yum yum.. some fried whole anchovies (boquerones) , pork in whiskey sauce, meatballs and Blake scoffed his face with some semi-melted goats cheese.
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We made a quick stop at the Bullring while walking along the river. Unfortunately the season hasn't started so we could only tour the museum and look through the arena. The tour guide mentioned that the bull fights a group of matadors and if it has fought bravely the crowd or the matadors can petition the president for a pardon. If the bull is awarded this it goes back to the ranch it came from and is put out to stud (not a bad reward!)... The guide also said that the meat from the bulls that are killed is used to feed the homeless or dogs (not really the same thing?!?!) so It doesn't go to waste. I'm sure that won't satisfy any of the hardcore animal rights crowd but at least nothing goes to waste...

Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza: Bullring
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The royal box (Prince's Balcony)- used by the royal family; The mother of the bull that killed the most famous Spanish bullfighter in Cordoba; Bullfighter's costume; The fighter's entrance into the arena..
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Day 4

We spent the morning chilling out in a traditional Turkish bath house (Hammam)!! Blake had organised this surprise a couple of days before.. Thanks Blake. We had a 30 minute massage and a 90 minute session in the baths.. We couldn't take any photos inside but the whole complex was underground and the main room was a large room with a cold, warm and hot bath. A room with a spa, a salt bath and a steam room that smelt like mint. The cold bath literally had ice in it. What a way to spend the morning.. :) :) After that we slid out of the hammam and tucked into some tapas.

Our yummy tapas after our bath session:
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Hanging out in the gardens near Santa Cruz. Feeling all relaxed after our 'Bath & massage':
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And to finish the day.. some churros before dinner :):
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Day trip to Jerez

We caught the train to Jerez. It took an hour to get there which wasn't bad. We usually have problems trying to find the tourist information centre, but this time round we were smarter.. we had it all mapped out on our phone. So when we got there we went straight to the info centre. We'd read that we could fit in a visit to Jerez and Cadiz in the same day but I'm glad we didn't as we ended up spending about 7hours there! It wasn't the most interesting place around but it had a nice atmosphere and wasn't too busy. The lady at the tourist information centre was really interested that we are Australians and said that not many come by which was a real change. Unfortunately as it was winter the hours for a lot of the tours had been reduced so that pretty much all of them kicked off between 11am and 2pm. We managed to squeeze in the Alcazar and the Gonzalez Byass tour (the makers of the "famous" Tio Pepe dry sherry) so we were quietly happy with ourselves...

We started at the Alcazar de Jerez. Followed by the camera obscura (which was in Spanish only at the time we wanted to visit)- we pretended we understood Spain.. at least we got to see the 360 degrees view of the city. It went on far longer than we thought and we missed our 1pm sherry tour by 5minutes!
Blake trying to pray in the mosque:
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Luckily there was a 2pm English tour at Tio Pepe which went on till 3.30pm. We missed our 4.15pm train back to Seville (wasting the money we spent on that ticket) and just chilled out with a coffee. Anyhow.. at least we could enjoy our 4 sherries and tapas without rushing.

The Tio Pepe Statue; Outdoor sherry cellar; Brandy (not sherry) ageing; The famous Tio Pepe logo
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Picasso's autograph; the original winemaker's room left untouched..
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It cost €5 to enter the Jerez Cathedral, so we just admired it from the outside. It sounded like it took a few hundred years to build so it has a bit of a mix of styles (or so we think as the guide was speaking spanish and we were guessing)
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Day 6

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Over the last week we'd noticed there was a LOT of rubbish piled up at every corner of the street. We figured that the south of Italy was a bit dirtier in places so maybe the south of Spain would be similar? Turns out the garbage collectors were on strike for the whole time we were there. Anyhow.. The northern part of Spain is still cleaner than the south.

Nothing much exciting happened today, just did some shopping and had some Japanese for lunch. It was kinda nice to do the non touristy thing (i.e. no churches, monuments or museums).

Day 7

We started the morning visiting the craft market at Plaza Duque- it was a lot smaller than we expected. But luckily the plaza is surrounded by Corte inglese department store buildings (its like Myers). So we went shopping... Michelle bought another handbag, think thats one for every day of the month now :).

Once we were done with shopping we headed to Triana (across the river) for some lunch: pork in whiskey sauce (Blake's fav food in Seville); spinach & chickpeas; fried baby octopus
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The view from Triana:
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In the evening we went and saw a Flamenco dance. Flamenco song/dance is from Andalusia, so it was only fitting that we saw it in it's capital. The guy was amazing good but the girl was slightly unfit unfortunately. The guitarist was amazing and the singer was very loud.. the song was very arabic (sounds like muslim prayers). But we still enjoyed the show, even if the girl was puffing and panting most of the way through.
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Day 8

We pretty much just shopped & chilled out at home.. and had more churros at our local cafe.

Day 9

After checking out of our apartment, we had to hang around in the morning before moving into another bigger apartment where Blake's parents joined up with us for a holiday. Blake was pretty excited about finally seeing his parents.. We were slightly worried they wouldn't show up because we haven't heard from them for days since they arrived in Spain, so when they showed up at the apartment we were pretty relived and Blake was very excited (like a little kid). We showed them around Seville since we've already been here for a week. We took them to the Plaza de Espana to chill out followed by a walk around town.
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We had Baby clams; fried anchovies for dinner.. Lovely start of their food journey with us in Spain..
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Day 10: Day trip to Cordoba

We were actually suppose to go to Cadiz today to check out the Cadiz Carnaval. But unfortunately there weren't any tickets at the last minute to Cadiz. So we had to settle with Cordoba- only a 50minute train ride away.

Cordoba cathedral/mosque: This is the mother church of the diocese (whatever that means..). This place is basically just a big competition between Christianity and Islam. Its been a church, then a mosque then a cathedral in a mosque. I guess it's kind of a compromise at the moment as it looks like both. After the cathedral we found a really busy place next door and got some patatas bravas, salmorejo (originated from Cordoba.. and tasted so different the rest we have tried.. and Yes it was very good) and tortilla with a beer to wash it down. The tortilla was bigger than my head!

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Inside the Cathedral:
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Looks like we didn't miss out on the 'Carnaval' festivities. Cordoba had a parade too.. The people in inflatable costumes were hilarious. They were about 10foot tall and when the person inside ran and stopped it looked like they were going to topple over!
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Lunch: Giant Tortilla (from the place near the cathedral); fried eggplant & patatas bravo (potatoes with spicy tomato sauce); Artichokes; bull's tail
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Alcazar
We nearly forgot about this place. The gardens and exterior were some of the best we'd seen and there was a water and light show on later but unfortunately we had to miss it to make our train! Dad got to see some massive Koi which he got really excited about... The rest of us just seemed to wonder what they might taste like.

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Finally a family photo... :) :)
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Had some dinner when we got home.. unfortunately what we ordered wasn't what we actually got served.. Instead of stewed mussels we got it fried; instead of anchovies in vinegar we got fried anchovies-pretty disappointing. So we decided to head to another place for a plate of Jamon & lots of cheese to make up for our disappointing dinner.

Day 11

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Rest day.. just as well because Mum wasn't feeling too well. We checked out the Real Alcazar de Sevilla: built during the 10th century over the remains of the islamic quarter. It is one of the oldest royal palace of europe that is still in use. It was absolutely stunning inside!
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We went out for a 'tapas crawl' for dinner, just like how we were taught in Leon..
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Day 12: Day trip to Cadiz

Michelle's turn to get sick but still made it to Cadiz. We started of with a hop on/off bus around Cadiz. The view from the bus was great but nothing really jumped out at us so we just cruised around and listened to the audio tour. Once again it cost money to go inside the Cathedral, so we gave that a miss. We did see an old excavated house that dug down showing us the different layers of civilisations that had lived there. I think we were all a bit worn out that day but Cadiz looks like a place that might have been worth more of our time.
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xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 07:31 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Bilbao

Warning: You may be hungry after reading this blog...

sunny 14 °C

Bilbao

We (ie. Blake) originally decided to come to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim and a functioning transporter bridge and hopefully a city that wasn't packed full of tourists. However the best part of the city was by far the food! I'm sure everyone has heard of tapas in Spain, well up north in the Basque country they do Pinchos (or Pintxos) which are similar but usually come on a piece of bread.

We arrived on Sunday after a 5hour trip from Leon and were pretty worn out. We got a bottle of wine and had a vegetarian dinner that night consisting of fruit and wine (and the left over Jamon sandwich that Miguel packed for us). It was a great excuse to try out my (Blake) new bota which is a fancy wine flask made from goat skin and lined with pitch.

Day 1 & 2

Lucky us... We found a guide to Bilbao in our hotel room which gave us a good reason to head out and around town to see the sights first up. We walked through old town and Piazza Nuevo, down Grand Via, past the Guggenheim and back home. We were still pretty knackered after all the excitment of the last week so we had a big arvo nap and just chilled out watching tv shows for the rest of the evening after a brilliant dinner just around the corner.

Strolling through Gran Via..
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Our yummy dinner in Bilbao: pimentos (green peppers- like capsicum but with a bit of spice; prawn & mussels in filo; oxtail; beef cheeks; custard puff pastry with almonds & yummy berry ice cream
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Day trip to San Sebastian

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The next day we headed to San Sebastian which every man and his dog has told us its the best place in Spain. As far as we were concerned it was OK but we were only there for 5hours so I'd say we didn't give it enough of a chance. This place is like the Bali of Europe- where every corner you go, you can hear the Australian accents- and it is not even peak season! I guess it seemed like there are more Australians than there were after not having seen a single Aussie in Santiago de Compostela, Leon or Bilbao. Us Australians are nearly the easiest to pick out from the rest of the tourists- What a bunch of arrogant bogans, surfy blond hair and the strongest accent that everyone in Spain find it very hard to understand. I hope we don't stick out like these guys?? Mine you a white dude with blue eyes and a short asian girl surely can't stick out as typical Aussies eh?

The bus from Bilbao only took 1.5 hours (quicker than the train and half the cost). We got dropped off at the bus station which is a 30minutes walk into the town centre. Luckily the place is well signed with sign post directions to the tourist information centre. The weather here is slightly warmer than the weather we had in Leon & Santiago, which is a nice change.

We walked through the old town and up into the hill fortress nearby that had a massive Jesus (we think its Jesus) statue on the top looking down onto the city. On the way up we saw a few guys trying to climb some old artillery fortifications, not sure if they're loose from the funny farm or just hard up for a good place to rock climb...

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Massive Jesus looking statue on top of the castle on a hill:
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After taking in the beautiful view from the top we headed down and had a cheap 3 course 'daily menu' as they call it- which Michelle disliked so much she returned it to the restaurant (after she'd ate it if you get what I mean). We then headed to the beach and sat down to watch the surfers and the sunset for our last hour and a bit. We really enjoyed this part of San Sebastian and I bet it's a whole lot better in Summer (even though it was a toasty 16 °C).

Sitting by the beach.. watching people attempt to surf...
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We hopped back on the bus to Bilbao and got into some pinchos on the way home at a couple of bars in Piazza Nuevo. The pinchos in Bilbao are a lot more 'sophisticated' as the Spanish puts it- ie. a lot more fancy, not just tin food on a piece of bread. These pinchos are cheap but delicious with so much variety! A glass of wine, a small beer and 4 pinchos was about 10€. We were sold after this point and decided that we would eat nothing else in Bilbao besides fruit (mainly mandarins) and pinchos!

The awesome pinchos we had in Bilbao- not exactly free like in Leon, but still quite cheap- some were only Euro 1 and it still taste so YUM!! (Paulyn & Jade: here are some ideas for our future tapas bar!! :))
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Day 4 in Bilbao

Puente Colgante (Transporter bridge)
I (Blake) really wanted to see this bridge as the one in Wales was closed for winter :(. We took the metro out to the bridge, spent 35c each to take a ride across the river and headed back to town. Not as exciting as I expected but far better than sitting at home doing nothing.
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The Guggenham museum:

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I (Blake) decided to give the Guggenheim museum a chance and Michelle read in a guidebook that it wasn't worth paying the Euro11 to visit this museum so she took the opportunity to partake in some more retail therapy. I walked into the museum and got an audio guide to help me understand all of this ground breaking artwork. One of the commentary was on a 'piece of art' that was a 1m high ashtray with cigarette butts in it. Luckily I had my trusty audioguide there to tell me its meaning or I would have been lost. The audioguide went something like this (in the voice of the artist): "I noticed the beauty of art in everyday items like cigarette butts, the way that they are rigid and bend differently each time you butt one out. I began collecting ciggarette butts at partys so I could study them at home...". I managed to stifle my laugh with a cough and continued on to the next piece (which was a table and chairs made of cardboard found on the streets of New York I think). Anyway, brilliant museum, if your into that kind of thing. Unfortunately I'm not.. And Michelle was right.. the museum wasn't worth visiting :(.

We spent our last night in Bilbao filling our now rather big bellies with more yummy pinchos. We were well and truly satisfied.. finally some good tapas/pinchos that is worth paying for :).

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 08:16 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Leon

Our spanish family experience

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Leon

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Another 5.5 hours train ride- this time from Santiago de Compostela to Leon. The train passed through some mountains where it had just snowed. It was amazing to see everything around you covered in white. It snowed the day before we arrived in Leon but unfortunately not while we were there :(. We had promised Belen at Jade's wedding that we will visit her in Leon when we are in Spain. So here we are. When we arrived at the train station, Belen (who incidentally looks just like Blake's mum- must be a long lost twin..) was waiting for us. She took us home and fed us like we hadn't eaten in days. She made a massive pot of lentil & bean soup. (Paulyn: you think eating a whole plate of beans was bad.. try 2 bowls of lentils & beans soup!!!) Poor Blake.. kept getting given more and more food (he is a growing boy apparently). After lunch Belen took us into town which is only 5 minutes walk from home, and pointed a few things out for us to see and do for the next few days. She left us at the hands of the tourist information centre lady and went back to work. We spent the rest of the afternoon, strolling the streets of Leon and walked along the old city walls and accidentally walked into a church service (we just wanted to see the church where the kings of Leon were buried, love their music!). So we just quietly tiptoed in and out of the church. We were exhausted from travelling, so really couldn't be bothered doing much at all. Once we picked Belen up from work, we went off for a night of tapas. Leon is one of the very few places in Spain (besides Granada) that serves free tapas when you order a drink. Finally.. the real tapas experience.

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In Spain, they eat lunch between 2-4pm. Have tapas after work around 8pm, then have dinner after around 10. We went out to 3 tapas bars.. So much food and drink.. and we didn't get home till midnight!! We were absolutely buggered..

Day 2

Whilst everyone was at work, we decided to check out the Cathedral of Leon, and its amazing stained glass windows.
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We had a lunch date with Belen back at home with yummy empanadas and home made vegetable soup. Not sure how she manage to make all these food when she's busy at work. Belen went back to work after lunch and Miguel (Belen's husband) returned from Madrid. We have never met him before and he speaks NOT A SINGLE WORD of English. Our conversations were a bit awkward at the beginning, but once we threw in a few Italian words and hand signs we were best of mates.. everything was fine. We could probably only understand 30% of what Miguel is talking about but he is a really funny and jolly guy to be around.

He took us out for a walk to check out the river, and the Parador (like the one we stayed at in Santiago, but this one used to be prison and a barracks). We then picked Belen up from work and went out for Tapas AND dinner!!! We didn't get home till 1.30AM!! Not sure how they could get home so late and still get up early to go to work...

Cecina: beef slices (like jamon but beef); scrambled eggs with mushrooms, prawns & Angulas (baby eels, taste like fishy noodles)- YUM!!
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Day 3

We decided to check out the Parador de Leon during the day. We saw it at night last night, but we thought we check out the inside too. It is very similarly decorated as the one we stayed at in Santiago. But still it was really cool.
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We went back to check out the church in which Leon's kings were buried in. We didn't see any kings.. apparently they are in the museum next door. Oops..

Miguel & Belen came home for lunch and cooked up a feast for us. They both seem to work only for half the day of Fridays.. or maybe because we were there. But anyway, it was nice of them to come home and hang out with us.
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Marina (their daughter) came back from Galicia. She took us out to experience the Leon night life with her mate Hector (Jade: its not her bf!!). She made us try Morcilla which is pigs blood, rice, onions and spices (ie. blood pudding)- surprisingly it didn't taste too bad. We went to 5 tapas bar in the span of 3 hours. Everyone was pretty drunk by the time we got to the 4th bar. I suppose that's why they serve you tapas to sober you up. Hehhe.. We finished up at the discoteca.

Morcilla; YES.. that is rubbish on the floor!! Apparently it is normal for them to just throw their rubbish on the floor (only in bars though!!). It felt really strange throwing our rubbish on the floor, but kind of therapeutic..
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Day 4: Australia Day

We celebrated Australia Day in Spanish style with Pigs ears; Paella; & sea urchins. The pigs ears look fatty but it is actually all cartilage. It actually doesn't taste too bad. Paulyn: you made it sound soo bad!! It was actually quite tasty :).
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Every Spanish person will say that their mother cook the best paella. And i can say that Belen does cook THE BEST paella!! Unless of course Paulyn, you think yours is better (which incidentally is Belen's paella's recipe!! :)) Miguel went a little overbored with sea urchins- he bought 3 plates full of them. Blake wasn't a fan of it, but luckily Miguel loves it. Hahaha..
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That saturday night we went out with Marina to see her friends band at a bar. I (Blake) was told it was rock and roll but I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that they are a Led Zeppelin cover band (with a chick singer). The guitarist played his guitar with a violin bow, bassist played his base left handed and the singer was just wildly shaking her long hair around. We came out smelling of stale cigarettes and beer (as you should at a rock gig) and made our way home 'early' at 1am. When we decided to go to bed at 2am Belen and Miguel were still awake watching TV. Pretty bad when parents stay up later watching TV than we did partying :(

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We had an amazing time with Belen and the family. Belen got a little teary when she dropped us off the next day. She sent us off with a bag full of food that can last us days.. Miguel packed us his jamon and tomato sandwiches (which Blake absolutely loved so much that he ate my other half of the sandwich.. What a little piggy!!) and Belen even made us soup to before sending us off at the train station.. We were VERY well looked after during our stay and we definitely won't be hungry for the next few days. Plus we've managed to mould our rubbish Italian into even more rubbish spanish, enough to get basic ideas across anyway...

xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 13:34 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

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