Algeciras, Seville & Granada
26.03.2014 - 02.04.2014 12 °C
Arrived in Algeciras around 9pm, very tired mostly from sitting and waiting so long for the ferry. Thankfully our hotel there Reina Cristina was amazing, felt and looked like a 5 star with great staff.
Not much to see in Algciras itself. The next day we wandered through the main part of town and the small but comprehensive market there with the huge variety of jamon, cheeses, fruit and vege normal and a necessity for all parts of Spain! The Tourist office was bare but the man inside very helpful, we had gone in just before to find out about buses to Gibraltar. We caught a local bus 30 mins to La Linea which neighbours Gib in Spanish territory. Gibraltar was a UK navel base and is still a UK Territory. It is a tiny piece of land on very South East tip of Spain. Most of it’s land is taken up by a huge rock with a nature reserve at the top . Loooots of tourists here, UK & Spanish making up the majority. Taking a picture of the rock from the Spanish side was a mistake – it had the border crossing in front and a Spanish border officer approached me very angrily, told me off in Spanish and made me delete the picture from my camera! (no ‘prohibited’ signs displayed until right on the border posts further up). As we continued toward the UK border gate a passer-by commented that it happens all the time but we could take all the pictures we wanted from the UK side because it’s a democracy there hhahaha.
It has it’s own airport (you actually have to walk across the runway to get to the main part) and everything there is so British it’s become almost a novelty – red telephone and post boxes, pubs advertising fish & chips and pie & peas etc. Even British bobbies (policeman) with woodentops!! Prices are quoted in pounds stirling but everyone accepts Euros, using their own extortionate exchange rate of course !! It has a port too but apart from fishing I’m not sure what the main industry would be after tourism! Definitely worth a day-trip for the 360 degree views from the top of the rock (you can see over the strait to Morocco and back over Spain) and the change of scenery.
The next day it was off to Seville by bus. The buses are a really great way to travel in Spain, frequent, comfortable and a good network. Some even have free wifi onboard and the one we are on at the moment is a ‘premium’ service with meal trays, tv and refreshments.
Seville (pronounced Se-vee-ya) was lovely, reasonably big but still easy to get around on foot if you like walking. Has a lot of history and big cathedral and very good infrastructure as they hosted the world expo in 1992 (Same year as Barcelona Olympics).
We went into the cathedral and I climbed to the tower to the top to find gorgeous old bells on each of the 4 faces. The interesting thing about this cathedral is it was built over an Islamic mosque some of which remains and the tower has ramps virtually all the way to the top instead of stairs. This is because as the Muslims pray 5 times per day somebody had to climb the tower 5 times for the ‘call to prayer’ so they built ramps to ride horses up! Clever.
The south of Spain has Arabic/Muslim history so a lot of the architecture, mosaic tiling and painting and building styles remain. I noticed a lot of buildings that were similar to the riad style of Morocco. It creates a really wonderful atmosphere in these town and cities of Andalusia.
The highlight for me was some good tapa – spinach and chickpeas - and the Camera Oscura, a special contraption which was a precursor to the camera. The concept was originally designed by Aristotle and functions like a periscope. We went up to the top of a 47m high tower into a dark room. The operator (a guy who clearly loves his job, I think it was his hobby and his life) uses ropes to open a small hole in the roof, and manipulate mirrors to project onto a desk-high dish in front of us images of what is happening on the streets of the city in that moment. It was very very cool. He could focus on images kilometres away and make them as sharp as a tv screen so we could see people walking down the street and hanging out their washing hahaha. As he commented it’s the original ‘big brother’.
Again just 2 nights in Seville then bus to Granada! Now this is my favourite city in Spain so far this trip. I think I rate it over Barcelona even, the people are laid back and friendly, while there’s a lot of tourist there also nobody treats you like one because the locals mix in. It has the most stunning landscape, somewhat flat newer part of the city, an area called the Albaycin which is a mainly residential hill covered in laneways and providing a fabulous view of the Alhambra (old palace). Behind that further up the hill is Sacramento, where people used caves in the hillside as home and gypsys from all over Europe congregate as the Government and residents there don’t bother them.
Granada has another great tapas culture and many bars you go to you buy a drink and get a tapa free, whatever is going. We had great seafood here, and also ran into one of the guys from our Morocco tour!
The main attraction in Granada is the Alhambra, a summer residence of an Arab Sultan from the 900’s that was hidden in the 1500’s then re-discovered 1829 and completely renovated. I didn’t actually go inside… I chose to explore the city instead and take time out to relax without an itinerary. Travelling every second day is taxing so we’ll start doing 3 nights in towns I think! 3 nights I Granada and I could have spent another. Mum did a half day trip to Capaliera in the nearby Sierra Nevada mountain range for walking and there’s more activities like in the area plus skiing when there’s enough snow.
In fact we were told this morning they were expecting it to snow in the mountains today!
So I have the luxury of finally getting up to date, we are now on the bus heading to Madrid. It is pissing down with rain and I reckon will be about 12 degrees when we pull in at 1.30pm. But I’m enjoying anyway ?