Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December in Andalusia, Spain...this adventure begins.

Join us for the next ten weeks as our European adventure begins. I am keeping details of places we visited and thoughts for myself and for those who like to travel via this blog. From time to time will be words from Ricardo as well (see below). 

This trip began in San Miguel and the travel was 3 legs which included two buses a plane and two trains with the destination of Seville, Spain which is located in the south in the area called Andalusia. We are traveling a bit differently this time - much less advance planning and staying in Airbnbs when possible as it gives us a chance to feel "at home" and have a kitchen so we can cook at home rather than eating out all the time. (Note: I am also going to be keeping up the vegan food adventure travel blog so will keep the food details for that one - just know that this is a country that so far has been very easy for this plant based eater.)

So, we began with a walking tour in Sevilla to get the lay of the land and found the city to be SO very walker friendly that we spent hours walking in various neighborhoods and seeing the usual sights - Cathedral, Alcazar, etc. We discovered (via internet) that some of the places we were thinking about going to where filling up fast for the two weeks of Christmas and New Years that we had to sit down and spend some time making a few plans so we did so and are set now until Jan 4th.
Silver alter in Seville Cathedral

Cathedral tower-used to be where the Muslim
call to prayers was held. We walked to the top for
an incredible view.

Typical street in Seville

Another street scene of Seville


View of Seville from Triana side of the river
Palace de Espana (from the 1929 Exposicion)
On Wednesday, Dec 16th we left for the little village of Aracena which was 1.5 hours away from Sevilla by bus. This was a small but beautiful spot with a ruined moorish castle and church at the top of the town - made for a nice walk and view of everything. Amazingly we found delicious vegan paella (with tofu) in a little tapas restaurant in the middle of this town. The town is famous for its underground caves called La Gruta de las Maravillas. This was used for filming famous films including "Journey to the Center of the Earth". The next day included a 10K hike to and from Lineras de la Sierra, a smaller village and then the following day another 10K hike to and from Cortoconcepcion before getting our bus back to Sevilla. 
A view of Aracena from Castle ruins
Coming into Aracena
Dec 16th - my mother's birthday.
Lighting candles to honor our mothers

Gruta de las maravillas

Gruta de las maravillas

Linares de la Sierra

Red pottery of this small village

Every house in the town had its
different design in front of its door

Along the way were many local farms

First time with our jackets off while hiking

We are in the country of "Ham".
These Seranno pigs feed on acorns.
(If that is all, they must eat a WHOLE lot)

Linares de la Sierra

We returned to Seville at night to stay this time at the Nomad Hostel, recommended by our friends Stan and Marcia who had visited several years ago. A fun place with lots of young people in the very lively center of town. Saturday we walked to the neighborhood of Triana and Santa Cruz and at night went to a Flamenco Show of 2 dancers, a singer and guitarist at the Casa de Flamenco - a very rewarding experience.
After the Flamenco show - photos
not allowed during the show

Some of the many holiday lights in Seville

Mercado de Triana

Mercado de Triana - mushrooms
On Sunday, Dec. 20th we came to Granada where we will be until Dec 26th. We are now much farther south in Spain and the Muslim influence is much more prevalent here. Since we decided not to go to Morocco this year, I am happy to be able to feel this and to see the amazing artisan crafts and taste some of the foods and teas that we might have experienced. On the train from Seville we met a lovely Australian family and have had fun with them over the last several days.

In the Palace (of the kings)
Monday was the day for the Alhambra. This is the most visited spot in Granada and worth every moment. It would be fun to return in a different season to see the gardens and greenery in a different view. Here you will see many photos but they cannot do justice to the real experience of this amazing World Heritage Site. Remember these buildings were built in the 1300s.
Amazing tile work and carving in every room

Notice all the detailed carvings

Many rooms were situated with beautiful views
of gardens outside

The Generalife, the recreation area of  the
Alhambra for the kings

A view of the Alhambra from the Albacin
area of Granada at sunset

"graffiti of the times" These names were
written on the walls to advertise people
who had finished their studies and were
ready to begin their careers (a resume
or CV of sorts)

Granada Cathedral against a very blue sky

Cloistered nuns who never leave their
little church in Albacin area. They take
2 hour shifts to sit and sing praises and open
to the public to come and meditate and listen
to their beautiful voices.

We did not go to Morocco as we had originally
planned but have the chance to feel
the feelings and see sights similar to what
we might have seen there. This is a restaurant
and teteria - a place to experience the Moroccan
mint tea.

Pouring mint tea

As we wrap up our first two weeks in Spain my observations include: The Spanish people seem happy and friendly and like to enjoy life. The food is good for us but there are many local delicacies that we are not including in our days. Cannot help but notice the square toilet seats everywhere - why???  Most of the cities as well as small towns are white with red roofs - beautiful geometric designs. (BTW, in San Miguel I recently took a geometry class and realize that mostly what I look at when I walk around is the shape and designs of structures, tiles, fabric, etc from a geometric point of view. I am not sure that everyone sees things the same as I do which always gets me thinking that none of us really know how anyone else thinks or sees....hmmmm.) 

Now we are getting ready for two days of doing our own Christmas celebrating - to include a visit on the Eve to the Hammam Al Andalus for a BaƱo, Masaje + Kessa Tradicional  (Hot baths of 4 temperatures, massage and body scrub. These are the traditional (though remodeled) Arabic baths. Seems like a great way to spend the holidays. Our plans for Christmas day are to watch the whole current series of Downton Abbey that we brought with us from Mexico.

And now some thoughts from Ricardo....

In the "halo" of the Alhambra
Sometimes when you travel you hear a word or two and then you hear it again and again.  I don't really know if this describes a culture or just a form of speech and nothing more. We have traveled now to different parts of southern Spain and these two words keep on coming up.  The first one us VALE which most people will say after a statement or a question.  It translates into WORTH literally but means OK or "you know" in English.  The second word most used here is CHULO which is translated to cute but means cool or awesome.  I find that when I have a opportunity to use these words people will smile as if I am one of them.  I have gotten this same response for certain words that I have learned in Mexico.  Another interesting thing about language is finishing the word or adding words together or just changing the ending.  I am sure that I do this when I am in New York talking fast, for example, saying "FORGETABOUTIT as one word.  When we went for some hikes outside of Sevilla in a town called Aracena which is like going to the country people often chose not to complete the endings of words and why should they if we all agree with what they are trying to say.  I like language and in learning Spanish I have come to understand the language of my birth better. This is just an observation and nothing more.

Another observation is food.  People here in Spain eat small meals called TAPAS. They also seem to be able to spend more time in groups just being together, often late at night. Most businesses open by 10 or 11 in the morning and close from 2 to 5 just to reopen again until 10 or midnight.  This is very interesting way of life and very different to my New York upbringing where time is a commodity and time is money.  I don't want to make  a judgement but maybe they know something that we don't.  As far as being vegetarians here it hasn't  been a problem especially in Granada where so much of the food is Arabic and meatless.

On a personal note Susan and I have become gypsies without borders.  We have seen so many people living here from other countries, without a strong sense of homeland.  This lets me think more about the U.S.  We also are a country of immigrants where our fore fathers came in search of a better life and to raise their families. So what does it mean to have a border especially when the immigrants are providing a source of profound energy like the life blood running through each of us.  We all more or less want the same thing which is a strong sense of security, food to nourish our bodies, a roof over our heads and respect to believe what one chooses to believe.  I think that in our differences, life offers so much more pleasure. So in traveling we are able to multiply this pleasure and it just makes me feel so lucky to have a great partner to share all of this with.

Thank you for following our travels and we are sending love.

Ricardo and Susanita