Alfama Castelo Mouraria
A boring couples photo but the view from here were fantastic. Ask me about the periscope
It had been 9 years since Anita and I had travelled, in countries where English is the second language, relying on Public transport and the Lonely Planet, so it was with lashing of anxiety and trepidation that we headed to Gatwick airport bound for Lisbon, Portugal on the 21st April. We had originally booked two G.A.P trips; Highlights of Portugal and Spain and Ultimate Italy) back to back, but the first was cancelled as no one else had booked. I had already booked and paid for air flights (as you need to get in early to get the cheapies) into to Lisbon (£60) and from Barcelona to Rome (£70), so felt we were committed. So armed with a Spanish/Portugese phrase book,two bloody heavy Lonely Planets and a bank account that was not going to see another paypacket, for a long time, we set off to discover the countryside and magic between Lisbon and Barcelona.
Its funny how things pan out. I had wanted to get some experience in counselling, Anita to have a complete break from Corrections and we end up working a desk away from each other at Islington Probation for 7 months. But work in London is not
The Romans were evrywhere. An UNESCO heitage city, very pretty
as easy to obtain as it once was, the money was good and our main goal had always been to use London as a base to travel Europe. The bonus was the staff, we worked with some really neat people, they were helpful, kind and generous and gave us a really moving farewell. I've got to hand it to the Poms. I worked in two Probation Offices, St Albans and Islington, as a short term contract worker, I had not expected any type of farewell but at both offices, staff have give us warm, sincere farewells and gifts. We will never forget. Thanks to you all.
Anyway back to the travel. We arrived in Lisbon to blue skies and hot sunny weather, what a pleasant change, its funny how sunshine can lift your spirits. As usual we got a little lost getting from the bus terminal to our hostel. You know, for me that's the hardest part. Walking around a new town or city, carrying all your bags, trying to follow directions or a map, to find a hostel, to find the place tucked in a small unmarked lane or alleyway. The first mistake I make is by heading
It was great to be near the beach again, great food in Portugal.
the opposite way to which I'm meant to be heading, not good. I have learnt to ask the locals. Donde esta? and show them the address. It was never to bad but 10 minutes always feels like 30 when your not sure where you are going. A day after being there you wonder have you ever got lost. So in Portugal we went to Lisbon, Evora and Albufeira. Lisbon was great city, friendly and clean, Evora, a small historic town with a variety of ancient architecture (6 hours is plenty) and finally chilling at the beach on the Algarve coast.
Its funny, the bus ride to Albufeira was about 4 hours, our B&B about 3km from the terminal, so we decide to get a taxi (its about 28 degrees). The cab drops us at an address, but there is no sign of Aquavilla B&B. We ask directions from 3 people, no ones heard of it and we are walking around in circles. We see a young local man walking his dog, he's not sure but suggests we ask in the supermarket across the road, still no luck but the guy with the dog is still there, he is curious
Outside the oldest bull ring in Spain, Servlle was great
and offers to telephone the phone contact we have for the B&B. Sad story, the B&B closed 12 months ago. So here we are an hour after getting off the bus, appartments everywhere but no sign of hostel type accommodation, where to stay? Man with the dog says "I work in a small hotel/Pension I'll check if they have any rooms (yeah right). To cut a long story short he takes the dog home, comes back in his car, takes us to the pension. It was nice and cheaper than the B&B, 10 minutes walk from the beach, 15 minutes from resturants, perfecto.
From there we headed to Spain Serville (2 nights) Ronda (1) Granada (1), Alicante (4) and Barcelona (3 nights). I gotta say we were disappointed in the food but we loved the sights and people and its fun trying to communicate in a cross between Spanish and English. We loved Serville a beautiful city with an amazing Cathedral and the fragrant small of orange blossoms everywhere that lined nearly all the streets. Nearly got to a bullfight, missed out because of my values and out of budget ticket cost. There was also a festival on. A
Taken from a postcard but it show the beauty of Ronda
large area was set up with hundreds of tents for a week of eating, drinking and dancing. Ronda, was the most beautiful small town we visited, set on the edge of a cliff looking down over several gorges with go there were amazing views down the valley and it was easy to walk aound however weather wise it was easily the chillyest day we experienced over the whole month period. Granada was just to see Alhambra, an amazing examle of Islamic and architecture an art. Unfortunately, we had not booked beforehand to see the palace so we were restricted to visiting the huge gardens. We felt we got a general overview of the ancient city.
And so on to Alicante, where we stayed at the San Juan Hostel, right on the beach and not far from the once small fishing village of Il Campo, now a never ending complex of high rise apartments as was the whole coastline. Spoils it a bit but at least they are back from the beach unlike Surfers in the Gold Coast where the shadows take the sun from the beach. We enjoyed relaxing, catching up on washing, not viewing historic sights and just
This place in Granada was amazing
laying on the beach reading. It was only meant to be 3 days but because the day we were due to head to Barcelona was a public holiday. How did I miss that?. We were forced to stay and extra day and that turned out to be for the best. Our last nice at Mucha Vista was kinda special as we accidently came across and old blusey rock band jamming outside, at a small bar in Il Campo, it was nice to have a beer , listen to belt out old rock numbers with the crowd dancing and singing along, as the hot day turned to a pleasant evening. So on Monday the 4 May we caught the 5 hour train to Barcelona. Anita and I now have a preference for train travel, it is very relaxing , smooth and you really get to see the countryside.
Barcelona was a great city and for us, ranks up there with Rio, Paris has moved back a notch. Of course that it is sunny most of the time . That always helps. Like Rio it is vibrant and has a certain style about it, flair if you like. It is constantly
The view from our Pension, across the road to the beach
up grading and you get the feeling that the people feel generally good about themselves and there city. The modernistic works of Gaudi, the maze of dark streets in the Gothic quarter, the beach, the markets of La Rambla and the ease of getting around make it a fantastic city. As you can tell we were impressed and it was a fitting way to end our 16 days in Spain and Portugal. Well we had made it, hardly a hiccup. Although using public transport takes some of the stress from travelling I do miss not being able to get off the beaten path. I guess with a little over 2 weeks you don't get a chance to savour a country which ever way you travel. A bit like tapas really you get a taste/flavour of the place and hope to explore more fully next time.
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