Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spain: Seville, Granada, Jaén, Cordoba...

Getting access to the internet is a little less easy than I had hoped, not so much for the availability but just the time; we are really moving across the continent quickly. I'll try to keep this updated at least once a week.

We caught the fast train from Madrid to Seville on 07 April, involving a brief scramble at the train station ten minutes before departure as Mai Li ran from counter to counter to get our railpasses validated before we could board.

Seville was beautiful, and is one of our favourite places thus far. The old city is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and lanes between four-storey buildings. It being Semana Santa, Holy Week, the town was crammed with tourists, all of whom (including ourselves) wandered around with maps looking lost. We had one overcast day and one warm and sunny Spring day there (in fact, much of our time in Spain the weather was overcast and rainy.) There was a bullfight on Easter Sunday, the first of the season and a big one, for which a scalper offered us tickets for €150 each—A$250! We said it was too expensive and he didn't bother to haggle, so obviously he can get that price.

All along we have been helped by the fact that people speak a little English, particularly in the hotels, but nevertheless I have been able to muster enough Spanish for us to get by. Indispensible are my French studies and my Lonely Planet phrase book.

Having recovered from my food poisoning, Mai Li was then struck with a strange, terrible cough, fever, chills and an aching back. I suspect strep throat. On our last night in Seville we went out to see some authentic local flamenco but could only stay for half an hour because Mai Li was too sick to stay.

We drove on to Granada the following day and visited the Alhambra, which on wise advice I pre-booked before we left Sydney, enabling us to saunter past the hours-long queues. The Moorish architecture and interiors are intricate and beautiful, and there are fountains and gardens throughout. The weather held out for our tour and was at times sunny and hot. Granada is a nice city with a bohemian community, but apart from the Alhambra, a fantastic seafood paella at the Méson Gallega, and a €30 extortion for laundry it wasn't the most memorable.

On our way to Cordoba we drove through Jaén and stayed a night in a 12th-century fortress converted into a 4-star hotel. Pleasant, but expensive.

Cordoba has a lot of character, and is considerably older than Granada. Apart from the obligatory visit to the Mezquita, we caught a great flamenco show with this one dancer in particular who tapped his feet so fast it sounded like a typewriter.

We are now in France, but we need to get moving, so that update will have to wait till next time....

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