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Category: spain

Espana–Barcelona

Some days-weeks-months ago yours truly along with a couple of other gentlemen embarked upon a tour of Espana. This is what happened.

The ride from Seville to Barcelona was by the AVE which took approximately five hours. Pro-tip: Make sure you eat. The food on the AVE is horrendously expensive and overpriced.

Barcelona is a big city. We did not stay anywhere near the center. However, it has excellent public transport. The phrase I remember most from Spanish is proxima parada Monumental – approaching station Monumental which is where we had to get off.

After pizza for lunch we set off westwards.

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some dude on a horse

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the spanish arc de triomphe

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a postbox in Espana is yellow. if you want to send a postcard it takes one stamp of 0.85 euro that can be purchased at any tobaco vendor.

a bird perched upon the head of a charioteer

skyline

Kissing Ass

they love to get up close and personal!


The Barcelona waterfront, the beach is perhaps the most glorious beach in the world. It is full of expensive places to eat in. It is full of people. There is buzz, hulchul, activity. Be wary though, we were accosted by fake police claiming to be Passport Control and wanting to take our passports and then blackmail us. Stay on the main roads.

that is the Hilton (I think) in the background

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the marina

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the rest of the night was spent eating and drinking!


The next day we did the touristy bs.

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The Sagrada Familia – a cathedral that is being built only with donations. The lines were incredibly long so we ditched this – if you want to go book online.

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a fountain with flowers. infact this is The fountain with flowers. there is one big fountain – this is it.

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another one of those cathedral thingies. when it gets hot outside and there is no Sangria around I would totally suggest getting into one of these. It’s usually quite cool inside.

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walk around – there is cool stuff everywhere

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the museum of chocolate. I might have gone overboard here but I did like this place.

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I thought that would be a world-class photograph, the statue in the gap between the branches with the sun shining through the top. It wasn’t.


The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent at some place with multiple pitchers of Sangria.

Montjuiic – the musical fountains. must see. even if you’ve walked the soles off your feet, drunk litres of Sangria and simply want to crash

tl:dr;

  • Walk La Rambla
  • Walk the beach
  • Drink Sangria
  • Take the train
  • Watch Flamenco
  • Walk Seville’s waterfront at night
  • Visit the Alhambra
  • Visit St. Nichols
  • Eat breakfast and drink lots of orange juice
  • Eat everything, from batatas bravas to championes to pizza to kebabs
  • Relax

Espana–Seville

Some days-weeks-months ago yours truly along with a couple of other gentlemen embarked upon a tour of Espana. This is what happened.

If Granada is beautiful then Seville has duende.

We took the local train from Granada to Seville. It was slower than the AVE but still left on time and the journey was smooth and pleasant. In general, the trains in Spain are mainly in the plains. We plomped at the Seville train station, known as Santa Justa, the J in Justa is pronounced like the J in Junta and not the J in Juarez where the Juarez is the Juarez in Gene Juarez. Our hotel, Alcantara, was so in a road (Xiemenes de something) where there were no pedestrians allowed – infact the old part of Seville is all like that – little alleys and small cobblestone roads and cafe’s


Walking around we ate perhaps the best ice-cream ever of which I have no photo which in itself is very surprising. We then walked over to Seville’s main cathedral and roamed around in it – it is also awe-inspiring etc.

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I think I have a thing for these stained glass windows


The cathedral also has a tower (Giralda bell tower per my journal) which you reach by climbing a set of ramps (that are more fun going down than they are going up) followed by 17 steps at the very end. It is remarkable that I remember that and usually here I would on most occasions tend to ruminate and then ramble on upon the remarkability of the ability to remember redundant information but today being not most occasions, it is infact a Wednesday I will cease and desist and hold off on this tendency which can be quite irritating.

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Do climb the tower. You get nearly unobstructed views of all of Seville. And the bells are ringable – much to the surprise of other old-lady visitors.


Seville is a great place to go walkabout. Orange trees (trees that bear the fruit – orange and not trees coloured orange – for those of you who are inebriated as they read these) flank the roads with fresh oranges about to fall. There are café’s everywhere with waiters who invite you in.

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boulevards

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fountain with two ducks

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the ducks approached – very fastly fastly – in haste haste

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they maneuvered past us, turning adroitly

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there was a little butt-sniffing going on there – ducks do this in a competitive environment

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I looked away. When I turned back there was a third duck from somewhere. I assume it teleported in.

I forget this place but remember that a heated debate about Heisenburg was put on hold at this point

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RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINBOW. Sometimes I get confused with where to put the emphasis. Perhaps it should have been RAINBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW ….


Flamenco is the other thing that Seville is famous for (apart from all the artists you will find on the street selling their arts). There are no pictures and I will not bore you with the five page account of it that I have written down.


After Flamenco was spent walking around the harbour and the waterfront, stopping in at watering holes for Tapas and Beverages of a refreshmental-nature. I apologize for the quality of these, the cool night breeze made my hands shiver and hence the photos are a little blurred  …

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the river and the bridges

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I do not remember what this was or why this even exists but there are a series of photographs that show an attempt made to climb it for some unfathomable reason.

To sum up (or tl;dr) Seville is a place where life is composed and peaceful. I would say, get a hotel with air conditioning. Wake up in the morning. Get breakfast. Take a powernap. Get ice-cream. Afternoon siesta. Wake up at 5. Go out, watch flamenco, see the sights the sounds and the smells. Look at the artists on the street paint. Get dinner and then walk the waterfront, enjoying the cool breeze, the infinite food and drink and the people not bustling about.

Espana–Castille-La Mancha

Some days-weeks-months ago yours truly along with a couple of other gentlemen embarked upon a tour of Espana. This is what happened.

At some point, we left Madrid for Toledo. We took the AVE train (there are a large number of them from Madrid to Toledo). These trains are amazing, modern, fast. The journey took about 40-50 minutes and was very luxurious. Buying tickets for this on the other hand was really painful – the Renfe (the company that runs the trains in Spain) website is atrocious and buying tickets at the station is complicated by the fact that it is not documented that different kiosks sell tickets for short versus long journeys.

kissing and breaking up …

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the train itself


Toledo is historic and beautiful. It was a fortress and has a new town built on one side of the river and the old town with the fortress on the other. Walk in Toledo, the old town is built for walking and get a hotel in the old town itself. You get a taste for what awaits when you disembark from the train

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the Toledo train station


All we did in Toledo was walk and see and walk some more. The grand cathedral of Toledo is a must-do-must-see place – and rent the audioguide here – the narration and the writing is superb and it tells you a lot more about the place.

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I forget what these are called but they are grand

Spain was very rich once, to have built these things. Stained glass windows, imposing cathedrals and monuments inlaid with real gold


Toledo is not all cathedrals though. There is a swordsmith who we met who lets you see his workshop. He had a few missing fingers, accidents he proclaimed when I asked him about those. There are vendors on the street selling trinkets and goods. There was a gentleman, Hector M (I forget his last name), a leathersmith (a tailor is more appropriate), with flowing white hair who had a small shop in a backalley from where he’d hung all the things he’d made last year. There are gardens and paths and alleys and walks with great views. Toledo at night is quiet, interrupted only by drunk tourists or local kids playing Soccer on the street with an empty plastic water bottle as they head home. Oh, and carry a map, it’s easy to get lost …

there was a significance to this picture with a sole tree that I forget

shoes.

bells atop a cathedral

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not all architecture is beautiful.

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across the river


The other thing about Toledo is the traffic lights in the old city center. At intersections there’s this pillar in the middle of the street that comes up when the light is red. When the light turns green this pillar retracts into the ground. This can have severe consequences for those trying to catch a green light.

The other other thing about Toledo is that there are a million museums, each with an entry fee of 3-5 euros and each boasting a masterpiece. You cannot do all, infact doing all is a bad idea anyway, you will just get bored.


We went ahead the next day, renting a car, at a place where the gentleman was more interested in his afternoon siesta than actually renting us the car. We ended up with a Skoda Fabia and drove south down the spine of Spain to Granada via La Mancha (Don Quixote country).

a castle in the distance

closer

closest

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Somewhere in La Mancha we found the windmills that Cervantes’ Don Quixote had charged. It was a blistering hot day and we’d driven for a few hours through highways, smaller highways and then a little town which was asleep.

Don Quixote!

the sleepy town had a glorious football field though!

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and those who realize the significance of this will smile

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we dined at a very posh elite restaurant just off the highway (there is no sarcasm there). The food was not very delicious, well perhaps our palates were not accustomed to it but the place was very posh. And yes, that is a ridiculously bad picture and I do apologize.

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that was again, beautifully presented, carefully prepared and totally orthogonal to the papdi-chaat loving desi

though that dessert was so heavenly that my dear friend bent his head and raised his coffee cup in appreciation

Espana–Madrid

Some days-weeks-months ago yours truly along with a couple of other gentlemen embarked upon a tour of Espana. This is what happened.

We flew from the Americas to Madrid on some of the worst flights ever. C’est la vie, let us not dilly-dally on such things and get this cracking …

The view from the bus that ferries one from the airport to the city. It is not rather impressive but the thing to note is that it was bright and sunny and coming from Seattle it was a refreshing change.


The first meal in Spain was a Tortilla Espana, ordered at a café with great difficulty. Having no idea of what most of the words meant this was accomplished by looking at the items on display and pointing. Once pointed at fingers were used to indicate the quantity of items we wanted. The cashier first said out the total in Spanish and seeing the look of blank incomprehension at the faces of two Indian gentlemen who had been in airplanes for the last 20 odd hours was at a loss until I proffered my wallet. She took out a ten euro note and returned back four euros and change. I did know Café Con Leche – coffee with milk.

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the very first meal, tortilla espana or something which was basically a potato omlette. very nice, inexpensive and with a cup of coffee that was actually rather good.


The Royal Palace is definitely worth seeing. There are policemen on horses (which seems very antiquated), Spanish Mom’s trying to control their kids and chinese gentlemen selling foot massages (very insistently). The gist of one conversation with one of them (well, a conversation is too strong a word) was that I really needed a massage and I would do well to heed their advice and choose from a menu that was a set of illustrations on cardboard on the areas of my foot that would be impacted by a massage.

the royal palace. its slightly not-aligned to the horizon and the photographer is not at fault here

there are these chilled out artistes near the palace – they thrive on the ability of tourists such as us to be easily amused and want to take photos with them


Walking around Madrid is a great idea. Walking around any foreign city is a great idea. You never know what all you will see …

funky windmill

hamara bajaj

Autos espana

autos in Espana

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salmon on bread. to put it more eloquently, a salmon bocadillo


At night, we walked around Puerta Del Sol and the historic district of Madrid. This is when the city comes to life (it was either a Friday or a Saturday). There are people outside cafes, restaurants, sitting, chilling, eating, drinking. It’s cool, calm.

Lilac

An infusion of lilac

Fountain at night

the windows phone does take very good pictures

another fountain …

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there are people in Spain. You see hub-hub and activity …

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we ended the night at another café, eating churros dipped in chocolate (it’s not exactly a breadstick in chocolate but something like that)


The next day we drove to El Escoreal. Now, getting out of Madrid is not as simple as it looks. We rented a car with a GPS. Programmed El Escoreal into the GPS. It told us to take the A-<some number> which we proceeded to. The A-<some number> then became a tunnel under the city. Infact every big road in Madrid became a tunnel under the city. Upon entering this tunnel the GPS lost signal. We then proceeded to spend the next half hour roaming underground in Spain doing nothing. Finally surfaced we found where we had to go and then headed there.

The Valley of the Fallen is a monument to those who died in the Spanish Civil War. It is grand and imposing, a cross on a hillside visible from far away. I think it is remarkable that the Spanish have built such a memorial. Inside, is a basilica, hewn into the mountain itself, the entrance to which has gates that are three-of-me-tall. The tunnel that leads into the main hall has stories from Christianity inscribed on it’s walls, in between giant tapestries that hang from the ceiling to the floor.

El Escoreal itself is nothing much to write about.

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our ride, a Peugeot, the crappiest car I’ve ever driven, slow, very slow, the only car I’ve ever red-lined, this piece of goop only served to exacerbate a really bad ache in the neck.

in quiet contemplation … a severe neck-ache … at El Escoreal

the valley of the fallen

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to give you a better idea of the scale


Being jetlagged in Spain does mean that you get to eat some interesting breakfasts. The first morning in Spain I wandered down Puerta Del Sol and stepped into a café and ordered a sandwich. I also needed to buy glue which was a fairly interesting exercise in itself – pointing to a stamp and a postcard and trying to bring them together is not the best way to tell an old shopkeeper that you want to buy a fevistick.

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A spanish footlong!


The next day was a longer more involved brunch.

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Paella, something which I don’t very much care for, it’s a little on the sweet side which I think is weird for rice to be (unless it’s payasam or kheer)

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I forget what this is – but it sure looks good right now

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Oh and I’d had another sandwich

Contentment


We also went to the Reina Sofia – the modern art museum. Well, I had to drag my compatriots out there. It was an illuminating visit, I don’t think any of us grokked the hidden meaning behind any of the art. Don’t get me wrong, it was impressive, technically very difficult and it is possible for the layman to parse parts but it is not possible to understand the bigger picture.

Picasso’s Guernica deserves it’s own separate mention with a vague description (your narrator is not accountable to any standards of quality and can do as he pleases which is very liberating). It is huge. It is very interesting to read about. It cannot be photographed.

this one is very famous

these weren’t at the museum per se but we weren’t able to fathom their exact purpose