A Travellerspoint blog

Travel Day

Good weather, but very windy!

semi-overcast 18 °C
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As I mentioned I might ... I didn’t go to bed on Saturday night. The celebrations outside continued into the wee and not so wee hours of Sunday morning! Although I couldn’t tell from inside my flat, as it was at the back of the building away from the street noise. It was very quiet there.

I headed down through town about 3:30 in the morning! I wanted to take one last walk through this beautiful, and now familiar, area of Malaga. I’d definitely like to come back here. I thought I would be walking alone through deserted streets and alleys — the thought of which made me a little nervous, however, my worries were for nought. I was definitely not alone! There were party stragglers everywhere. Not as many as earlier in the evening when we were walking around after dinner, but still quite a few! I arrived at my designated taxi stand and headed for the airport.

I flew from Malaga to Lisbon and then from there to Barcelona. I’m now writing this from my small hotel room in Barcelona! It has been a long and tiring day. I thought I would get on the Hop On Hop Off bus in Barcelona, to see this city that I’ve never been to before. I got settled in my room, however, and then proceeded to fall asleep! I had slept on the second flight, but not restfully - so I suppose I was overdue for a long nap. It was late afternoon when I woke up. I guess these sleepless nights and busy days have finally caught up with me. I decided to stay closer to the hotel (near the airport) and take it easy. Tomorrow will be another long day of travelling, to Tel Aviv.

Posted by Laura Walking 00:35 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Malaga - Picasso Museum

Last full day :(

sunny 22 °C
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We decided to do the Hop On Hop Off bus journey today. We were thinking about doing it yesterday, however our plans changed.

So sometime in the middle of the day, we found ourselves at the Information booth in the Plaza de Merced — just down the road from our respective apartments — to buy our tickets, get a map of the route, and find the bus stop.

For those of you not familiar with this service, Hop On Hop Off bus tours are a bit of a staple in many large European cities where there are a lot of tourists. The bus takes a circuitous route through the city, whichever city you happen to be in, with notable museums, art galleries, universities, and other places of interest at the various stops. With your ticket, (which may be valid for 24 or 48 hours, 3 days or 7 days, or whatever time frame you purchased), you are able to Hop Off to see the sights you are interested in. When you’re done, you can Hop right back On the next bus that arrives and continue. You can get off at every stop, or you can simply stay on these double decker buses and just ride the whole circuit. You can ride the entire circuit once and then get off the second time around, or whatever you like! I’ve taken advantage of these bus tours in several cities: Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Isle of Bute (Scotland), and Inverness. I think I did one in Lisbon too, (not this time), and possibly Porto, I can’t remember ... and now Malaga! It’s really a great way to see the highlights of a city, particularly if you’ve never been there before, and/or if you have limited time in that location. You are often taken to areas that you might not ordinarily see or go to, but where there happens to be some compelling point of interest. It’s always a fun thing to do.

So we started off at the bus stop just beside the Plaza de Merced. We got our earphones and plugged them in, to listen to the commentary in English. There are several channels (languages) available. It was again a beautiful, sunny day, and perhaps the hottest day we’ve had. Maybe around 22*C. It felt hot, anyway ... and sitting up there on the upper deck of the bus, I was wishing I had brought a hat. We wound our way around the city of Malaga. Thus far, what I had seen of Malaga was apparently only a very small part of this city of 600,000! I was very surprised when I heard the voice in my ear mention the population! We drove past a beach area where there were a few people playing on the sand and in the water. This weekend is some sort of festival or carnival, and has been noticeably busier than when we first arrived. There is a lighthouse down by this harbour area. The bus drove right by the place where we had caught our boat tour around the harbour a couple of days ago. In fact that boat tour is one of the options you can take when you disembark at this “stop”. There were also many high-rise condominium-sort of buildings near this beach area - with lots of windows and shaded balconies! Perhaps some of them are time-shares! There were cafes and restaurants and bars spread out on the ground floor, with outside eating areas everywhere. This would be a beautiful area to stay in.
The bus continued on, through an area where some very large older homes had been restored. They were painted beautiful bright colours with white shutters and big porches. In another area, on our way up the very steep road to the Castillo that I walked up to the other day (!) (different road though!), we saw still other newer homes had been built in long white rows on the side of several hills. They must have fantastic views over the harbour and water area! The circuit took about 80 minutes, and as we approached the Plaza de Merced, where we had started, the stop before it was the place of Picasso’s birth. They have made his home into a small museum, and a place where students can study art. In addition to that, in Malaga, there is a large Picasso Museum displaying many of his works, with an audio guide to accompany you on your walk through his paintings and sculptures.

After getting off the bus, we found our way to the Museo de Picasso, and spent easily a couple of hours there. I was surprised at the number of his works. I don’t know why, exactly. I suppose in the general media, we see, or are shown repeatedly, the pieces the public are most familiar with. The pieces that are most associated with him. I must say, that I was completely unaware of much of his other work - and I had no idea he sculpted a little as well. It was a great visit. The audio guide makes a huge difference in what you are able to learn and understand about what you are seeing ... and about Picasso’s life and art. A quick trip through the gift shop and we were done!

Although the crowds, as I mentioned, have multiplied “downtown” in the shopping/ entertainment/ and dining district, there are still lots of quieter corners where you are able to enjoy watching the crowds and the parade and the people in costumes pass by, without being among them, nor trampled by them! We found such a corner, at another Italian restaurant, and had a wonderful dinner — all the while listening to the loud music and drumming of various groups and floats in a parade that was passing by us. Ron was back and forth taking pictures of the very colourful and imaginative people-powered floats passing by. All ages participated in the parade activities, floats, costumes and celebrations.

After dinner and our “walk around”, sadly, it was time to say goodbye. I had such a great time here with Carol and Ron. It was so much fun! This week has gone by so fast I can hardly believe it! My travel plans have changed. Instead of heading up to Madrid and then over to Barcelona by high-speed train, (I could not find a seat on the train from Madrid to Barcelona), my only other option - in order to catch the plane from Barcelona to Tel Aviv - is to fly. Perhaps it’s because of this festival week, that things are so busy. The flight takes me west back to Lisbon to fly east to Barcelona. (Like flying to Vancouver (from Edmonton) to get to Toronto! It doesn’t seem to make sense, but that’s what I’m doing!). Unfortunately the flight leaves from Malaga at 6:40 in the morning, which means a very early trip to the airport! I may not go to bed!

Tomorrow is a travel day. Flying to Lisbon, then to Barcelona.
Overnight in Barcelona, then to Tel Aviv from Barcelona on Mar 2.
Remember to switch from the Malaga blog to the Israel blog on Mar 2.

Posted by Laura Walking 16:14 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Malaga - Rest day

We’re wearing ourselves out!

sunny 17 °C
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Last night after dinner, as we parted ways ... we had made tentative plans to meet at a certain time in the morning.

This morning as that meeting time approached, and we started texting ... we decided that we needed a down day. A bit of a “catch up” day!
It was a really good idea and a welcome rest. Yesterday was a long, busy and tiring day. Four hours on a bus; two each, there and back. Plus the very early time schedule. Although not too extraordinary, my Fitbit said I had walked just over 8 km at the Alhambra, however there was a lot of standing time too, which can be very tiring. There were not very many benches where you could sit down to rest.

So today, I did some laundry (by hand), re-packed my suitcase and worked on my blog for several hours! It was nice to have the time to do that.
Ron and Carol and I met up for dinner later on and went to an Italian place. That has become a bit of a trend! I had a wonderful mushroom ravioli dish with a creamy sauce. It was really good! I even had profiteroles for dessert, and finished up with a cafe con leche! We have definitely not been suffering in the food department! The food here has been excellent! There are hundreds of restaurants here, lining almost every one of these pedestrian-only streets. All with eating areas outside! It’s wonderful! Certainly more restaurants than you could ever try in a month! Several nights ago I had a mushroom and truffle risotto at another place, which was also superb!

Tomorrow is my last full day here. I am really sad to be leaving ... I cannot believe it has gone by so quickly! I have had such a good time with Ron and Carol, it’s been really fun! I think we may try the Hop On Hop off bus and perhaps go to a Museum. We’ll see.

Posted by Laura Walking 14:14 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Malaga to Granada - Day trip

Viewing the famous Alhambra

sunny 19 °C
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Earlier in the week , we had arranged for a taxi to meet us at a certain taxi stop at 6:10 am on Thursday morning. The day BEFORE we needed it — the taxi driver called Ron (who was sound asleep!) at 5:50 am on his cell phone and said, “So are you coming?” There had obviously been something lost in translation! Not only the wrong day, but the wrong time as well! Yikes!
Later that day Ron checked with the fellow at the agency where he had booked this taxi, and was assured all was well and correct for the next day! We had many conversations, the three of us, about what contingency plans, if any, we should make should the taxi not show up at all the next morning ...

I have not been sleeping very well - just a time adjustment thing - so I was awake about 4:30 this morning! I was to meet Carol and Ron in the Plaza at sometime around 6 am, as the aforementioned taxi was to be there at 6:10. It would take us to the bus station on the other side of town where we would catch the bus to Granada. Everything was arranged. The Plaza where we were meeting was just steps from my flat, and only a few more from theirs. I was standing in the meeting spot at about 10 minutes to six, with my lunch, some snacks, and water, in a backpack. It was mild out, a light fleece was all one needed. I was alone in the Plaza and looking around. It was not yet light. A few birds were waking up and chirping loudly from the trees around the Plaza. A few more were flying around, trying to find breakfast. There was not a taxi in sight. Not very many cars at all. A few young people in a group silently walked by me - the most intimidating of them (I thought), in a hooded sweatshirt, smiled warmly and said, “Hello” as he passed. I returned both the smile and the greeting. I checked down the street and could see two figures moving toward me. They were too far away for me to see who they were, but I was hoping it was Carol and Ron. It was! Now it was around 6 am. Still not a taxi in sight.
Our pick-up time was approaching and our taxi had not arrived, (there were a couple of taxis that had driven by, already occupied). At 6:10 a taxi came around the corner and slowed down. We thought for sure this was for us. When Ron spoke to the driver, however, he didn't seem to know about our “reservation”. At that point it didn’t really matter! We all got in and he drove us to the bus station. We were early, so had coffee.

The bus left on time. It was about a two hour ride, a lot of which I don’t remember. We chatted and dozed and looked out the window. It was neat to see the sun come up over the hills. There were some serious hills (mountains?) we drove through on the way! Once in Granada, we got a taxi to take us to the foot of the Alhambra, which was where we were supposed to meet our tour group. We had booked a tour in English.

Our guide was Jaime. His English was very good and very understandable. We were each given a small headset gadget with an earphone. This helped tremendously, so that you didn’t always have to be within earshot of Jaime, you had his voice in your ear! I found, however that I had to be able to see him, as if he was too far away, my earphone was just a mass of static. I think mine was a bit faulty anyway, as I missed quite a lot of what he was telling us because of the staticky noise in my ear! Several other people mentioned this too - and although we eventually switched channels on the receiver, unfortunately mine didn’t seem to improve too much. There were a lot of stone walls and so on, causing interference with the signal, so that may have been a factor too. Regardless of those technological challenges, which had nothing to do with him ... Jaime was an excellent guide, extremely knowledgeable and patient. He would entertain any question or comment, answer patiently and completely, then turn to the next person’s question. He seemed very relaxed and obviously experienced at this sort of interaction. I never felt as though we were wasting time, nor going too quickly. He is actually from Granada, so he was at home working in his hometown.

Wow! This was an amazing place! There was a lot going on throughout the grounds. Jaime said that this was a nice tour day, not too crowded! To me, there were A LOT of people there! He said in the summer months when it is really busy, 8,000 people visit every day! Our tour lasted about three hours. We walked through the ruins of the Alcazaba, (like in Malaga), an area that housed the military soldiers. It had towers from which the soldiers could keep watch and defend its walls. There were amazing views from this vantage point, looking out over the river and the city of Granada. Most of us were taking a lot of pictures! Next we went through the very extensive Nasrid Palaces, each belonging to a different sultan. These date back to the 14th Century. There were rooms where the sultan would have meetings with military leaders. At other times it would be high-ranking officials of other communities that he would be conducting business with. I think there were still other rooms for entertaining. There were often several wives involved - I think I heard Jaime say, “sometimes 20 wives” who lived together in a harem within the palace. There were three main wives (for each of whom the sultan would build an identical house, so as not to show any favouritism). The remaining wives would reside on the second floor of the palace in a harem, and were not permitted to be seen by others outside the palace, although they were permitted to look out. There were special screens that disguised them so that only their silhouettes were visible. I may not be remembering this correctly ... I seem to remember only snippets of some of the things Jaime mentioned.

The extensive palaces, which were a veritable maze of hallways, big rooms, little rooms, stairways, outdoor patio areas and gardens ... had ornate tiling in the ceilings, floors, walls and archways. There was a rich blue tint in some of the wall and ceiling designs, which was rare and consequently expensive at that time. It was Lapus Lazuli that had been incorporated into these walls and ceilings.
After the Nasrid Palaces, we took a little break. We sat on a bench and ate our lunch, used bathrooms, etc. Immediately after the break we were taken into an area that looked like an arena. Like the Roman Coliseum, but on a slightly smaller scale. Perfectly round, and framed with 32 beautiful marble columns on both an upper tier and the lower ground floor, it was part of the Palace of Carlos V or Charles V. Each column weighs about 2 tons, so imagine the weight of the second floor on the first! I took many pictures of and in this magnificent structure. I don’t remember precisely what Jaime told us about it, however I believe it was used for large gatherings and meetings, as well as the latest cultural and sporting events of the day; even bull-fighting. Today it is used for music and dance competitions and performances.

After touring this spectacular structure, we headed toward the Generalife gardens. The building was formerly used as a summer home and recreational area for the Nasrid sultans, and also for agriculture. The gardens surrounding this building were extensive and well-kept. There were a few flowers blooming; the many irises in various spots on the grounds were blooming a deep vibrant purple. Even today these gardens are kept in the way they would have been, then. They are still watered with water that flows down from the mountains surrounding Granada.

Jamie gave us all kinds of information about everything we were seeing. I could not possibly remember all he said, nor even TRY to relate it all to you here! By this point, in the hot afternoon sun, the three of us were feeling quite depleted. Although it had started out quite chilly this morning, the sun had come out and was hitting us full force! As we finished our tour in the garden area, it had become quite warm, and Carol, Ron and I were all feeling thirsty and ready to sit down for a few minutes. We had done a lot of walking! We decided to have ice cream at the little cafe where we initially met Jaime, our guide and started the tour. It was delicious! We took turns going into the gift shop to look at what small souvenirs they had to purchase. There were some really nice things. Before climbing into a taxi to head back to the bus station, we sat in another little cafe and had cafe con leche! (Coffee with milk!). Made it to the bus station, and arranged an earlier bus than we had planned on. I slept most of the way back to Malaga! We were back by dinnertime and found a great restaurant on the way back up to our respective flats. I had chicken and vegetables on a skewer. It was delicious! It will be an early night tonight!

Posted by Laura Walking 02:29 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Malaga - the third day

Third day here ... it’s going by too fast!

sunny 21 °C
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Well today, another wonderfully warm, sunny day! About 21*C.

Last evening (Tues) after dinner, during our evening “walk-around-town” time, Ron, Carol and I noticed the office where one can book tickets to see a Flamenco show/dancer. We inquired about today’s (Wednesday’s) show and found out it started at 1:30 pm. We each had things to do in the morning, so arranged to meet around 12:30 to get down to the office again, get tickets and get good seats. We did, we did, and ... we did!

Flamenco is quite an unusual type of dancing. We sat in a rather small venue, around three sides of a small stage or dancing platform. It was slightly raised above the floor, perhaps a foot, and was made of wood. Although painted black, it appeared to have been well-used. There were many scuffs and marks on it from what had likely been years of use. Before the show started, there was recorded music playing, which I am guessing was designed to set the mood. Soon after, it stopped, and a man and woman entered the room and stage area. The man was carrying a guitar, and the woman was dressed in a long, light-coloured dress with ruffles on it. They both sat in chairs already on the stage. The fellow started to play the guitar. This was my first introduction to Flamenco music, and to my unfamiliar ears, it seemed rather dissonant-sounding and quite melancholic. He played for a while and then the music changed a little and the woman started to sing. Similar to the music he was playing, the words to the song (in Spanish) also sounded distant and woeful ... heartbroken. She had a good voice, and performed well, clapping her hands in the unique rhythmic way the song demanded. During the second song, a dancer emerged from the back of the room and approached the stage. She wore a long, black, asymmetrically-cut dress with dark flowers on it. She danced in swirls, tapping and stomping her feet in rhythm. Her arms were graceful yet dramatic in their gesturing; all the while wearing a serious, almost pained expression on her face. Perhaps it was meant to be anger. It was certainly dramatic. These performances in Flamenco dancing apparently require that the performers never smile. The songs are primarily about love, loss, relationships and the passionate complexities involved therein. A second man joined the performance later on and sang two songs, once again accentuating the passion and drama of love and loss.
The show lasted about 45 minutes, and only near the end, (we were told), would we be permitted to take photos or record any part of the performance. I took a few pictures at that time, but since the dancers were moving around (both women danced a little bit at that time), most of my pictures were pretty blurry! It was a very interesting and worthwhile experience! A quick browse around the gift shop and we were on our way.

Last evening, while deciding on our plans for today, besides a Flamenco show, our other choice of activity was a boat cruise around the harbour!
So after the Flamenco show we wound our way down to the waterfront and found the Red Boat! Our timing could not have been better. The next cruise was leaving in a few minutes and was not full. We got our tickets and got on board!
It was a beautiful day - again! Fortunately, that seems to have been the trend ... so it was warm and really pleasant out on the water. We cruised out of the markers that indicated the harbour boundary and turned left, to go east along the coast a few miles. The water (Mediterranean Sea) was gently rippling against the boat, and was a beautiful, iridescent shade of blue/green. Seagulls circled overhead, watching and then diving into the sea for their next meal. It was a really beautiful, albeit too short, trip! There might have been 70 to 80 people aboard, I’m not sure. The entire trip took about an hour. It was easy to move about the boat, taking pictures and so on. It was very interesting to see Alcazaba Palace and the Castillo from the water, both of which tower over the city. It also gave one a different perspective on the city of Malaga.

Back on dry land, there was a Klimt art exhibition currently happening in a venue on the waterfront. We looked in to check hours and prices. It looked very interesting and well worth a visit. Some of his most famous and well-known paintings were on all the advertising and lots of items in the gift shop! Unfortunately however, when I walked into the venue, I noticed immediately that it was EXTREMELY heavily scented. (We couldn’t quite figure out what it was — nor why it was so incredibly strong). In any case, I’m not sure how big the exhibit itself was, but it quickly became apparent that I would not be able to see it. Other than a quick circuit around the gift venue, I left pretty quickly. As it was, it took a couple of hours to get rid of the headache that had immediately ensued. After leaving the Klimt venue, we saw a Hard Rock Cafe with a shaded patio, so we sat and had dinner there.

After dinner we wandered north, away from the waterfront, winding through some of the pedestrian-only streets on our way back up to our respective flats. There are many shops that catch your eye, and are very interesting to look in. We made it an early evening.
Tomorrow we are catching an early taxi (6:10 am) to catch our early bus (7:00 am) to Granada to see the Alhambra! Our pre-arranged Tickets and Tour of the Alhambra starts at 10 am. We’ll come back to Malaga on an afternoon bus.

Posted by Laura Walking 03:46 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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