Monthly Archives: May 2016

Spain in May, Day 8 Exploring Cordoba on our own

Today we had a free day to explore Cordoba. The medieval neighbourhood is a warren of narrow streets surrounding the Mezquita. The streets of the old Jewish Quarter stretch out from here leading to quiet plazas decorated with splendid floral arrangements.
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This is our lucky day, the local residents are opening their doors for the Tour of the Patios. From the outside of the homes you would never imagine the oasis you find inside. Lovely sitting areas with colourful flower pots and many of the walls have decorative hanging pots filled with flowers.  Beautiful!

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There are lovely little bodegas and traditional handicraft shops selling leather goods, silverwork and pottery. The ladies had fun shopping for treasures.
Cordoba 1It’s another rainy day but luckily while we were touring the patios and exploring the shops the rain held off.  We found a lovely restaurant for our lunch stop and just in time, it started to rain.  We relaxed and enjoyed our lunch as we waited for the rain to stop.

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This was a lovely day. I think everyone had a good time exploring the interesting shops, colourful patios, art galleries, beautiful doorways and it’s magical view by night. Certainly a city to be included on a trip to Spain.

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Spain in May, Day 7 travel to Cordoba

This morning we met our new guide Victoria and drive Javier and set off by coach south to the heart of Andalucia. We’re staying for three nights in Cordoba, a delightful small town to explore on foot. Our accommodation is the charming Hotel Hesperia.  

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This afternoon we visited the magnificent Mezquita, a 16th century cathedral built into a lustrous 8th century mosque. The building’s architectural uniqueness is notable as is its remarkably peaceful interior.

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It was sprinkling as we walked to the old city, once we left the Mezquita the rain had stopped. We took some time to visit some of the local shops. Cordoba is such a charming city with narrow winding streets and interesting shops.

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There’s so much history in this city. Cordoba was originally founded by Romans and it’s quite evident with the impressive bridge leading into the ancient city. The tower was built by the Muslims in the 8th century and the water wheel by the Moors in the 12th century.

P1120758 P1120756 P1120760 This evening’s we enjoyed a delectable dinner at the hotel. Thankfully we didn’t have to walk anywhere. It’s raining again. Let’s hope the sun is shining tomorrow

Spain in May, Day 6 Toledo

Toledo’s old town is a treasure chest of churches, museums, synagogues and mosques set in a labyrinth of narrow streets, plazas and interior courtyards. We spent the day here, visiting the Cathedral and the Mujedar and Renaissance buildings, the Sinagoga del Transito, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz and the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes.Unfortunately it’s another rainy day but we made the most of it.  When it rained we made sure we were inside. Our first stop was the Parador of Toledo, located across the river Tagus with incredible views of the city.

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The ancient walls of the city depict the Moorish architecture, one of the many different cultures visible in this city. Our first stop was the mosque and leading into the doorway you can see an ancient Roman pathway.  This structure was a mosque and later turned into a church.

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We continued our stroll uphill along the narrow, winding, cobblestone streets admiring the architecture depicting the various cultures that made this city what it is. Dating back to 711 AD with Romans, then Visigoth, Moors and Christians. Toledo is the religious capital of Spain.

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Our next stop was the impressive Gothic Cathedral was built over a mosque, which was built on a Visigoth cathedral which was built on on a Roman foundation..  The structure is quite austere from the outside and incredibly opulent inside with magnificent stained glassed windows, alters covered in gold, intricate wood carvings, beautiful frescoes on the walls and ceilings and exquisite art work from the Spanish masters.

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P1120700 P1120702It was pouring rain when we exited the cathedral. We joined the masses and quickly made our way down from the city centre and took cover in a charming restaurant. The lunch was delicious and they served baked Alaska for dessert.  When we left the restaurant the rain had ended and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds.  We headed back up the hilly windy streets to continue discovering the ancient city. Our last stop was the impressive Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, the 15th-century Franciscan monastery and  church.

P1120708 P1120712 P1120717 P1120719 P1120714 P1120722 P1120731 P1120733 P1120735Dinner this evening was at Casa Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. The meal was delicious and the Spanish wine fabulous.

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Spain in May, Day 5 Prado and Reina Museums

It’s a rainy day in Madrid. Change of plans from a walk through the Retiro Park to a driving tour to view the sights of the city. it’s unfortunate we had to miss a stroll through the magnificent 350 acre park, Situated on the edge of the city centre it offers a tranquil area with beautiful gardens, statues and a lake and social events such as art exhibitions and book fairs.  After a quick photo stop we continued our drive past the Gateway of Alcala which is Madrid’s Arc de Triumph and the bull fighting ring.  This controversial sport is still very popular here.



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Today we are exploring the famous Museum Triangle. First stop was the Reina Sofia Museum located in an spectacular 18th century building, formerly a hospital built by Charles III. We viewed a treasure-trove of contemporary and modern art including Picasso’s “Women in Blue”, Juan Gris cubism “Violin and Guitar” , Dali’s “Girl from the Back” and “Face of the Great Masturbator”, We also viewed Picasso’s famous “Guernica”, unfortunately no photos allowed.P1120592

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Our lunch stop was at Harina Bakery to enjoy their fabulous soups and tasty sandwiches served on freshly baked baguettes.  The ladies really enjoyed their delicious meal and delectable carrot and hummingbird cake. I think everyone bought some of their tasty sweet treats. This afternoon we visited the Prado, one of the world’s greatest art museums with its collection of works by major Spanish and other European artists. Unfortunately camera’s were not permitted.  We viewed classic masterpieces; “Las Minas” by Velaquez, “La Maja” by Francisco de Goya, “The Cardinal” by Raphael and Bosch’s “Garden of Eden”.  We returned to the hotel by 5:30pm which gave the ladies a few hours to visit the local stores to shop the spring sales. This evening we enjoyed delectable Tapas and fine Spanish wines at Los Galayos Restaurant.

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Spain in May, Day 4 train to Madrid & afternoon walking tour

After breakfast we transferred to the train station to take the AVE fast train to Madrid (three hours, ten minutes).The train travels at 310 kilometres per hour. It was a smooth relaxing ride.

P1120507P1120521We arrived and transfered to the city centre to check in to Hotel Posada Leon De Oro, located in the heart of the Latin Quarter.  The 12th century foundation of the hotel is visible through the glass floor in the restaurant and bar area.  Our rooms are spacious, bright and comfortable. My room had a great view of the old roof tops. The street that our hotel on is a lively one, this area is frequented by the locals and on this Saturday afternoon the local taverns are bustling as the locals enjoy tapas while watching soccer.  We enjoyed a fabulous tapas lunch while the hotel staff transferred the luggage to our rooms.

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After freshening up we met Teresa and began our exploration of Madrid with a walking tour in the Austrian Quarter, the old centre of the city built during the Hapsburg reign. We walked past beautiful buildings, spacious squares and took a stroll through colourful Jardine del Principe Anglona where the roses were in full bloom.



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We viewed the modern 20th century El Almundena Cathedral, in English this means The Lady of the City Walls.  This is the only European cathedral founded by a pope. Continuing on we passed the Palace built by King Philip. The construction began in 1738 and took 50 years to build. The architecture is typical of the Hapsburg constructed from marble and stone. Ferdinand, son of Philip finished the palace and built another larger palace with ornate gardens. This certainly was an era of opulence.

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We viewed the oldest church in Mardrid, Iglesia de San Nicolas de los Servitas. The spire is 17th century and the ancient brick tower at one time was a mosque tower.  The Moors (muslims) inhabited the city until the late 1500’s when they lost ground to the Christian Kingdoms. The Muslims left a lasting legacy for Spain, evident in the cities of Madrid, Toledo, Granada and many more.


Next stop was the most historical square with 3 centuries of buildings here, 15th century Gothic, 16th century Renaissance and a 17th century building depicting the typical Hapsburg architecture. The statue in the square is the commander in chief of the battle of 1571 when he stopped the Turks from taking over western Europe, The wooden door is the oldest in Madrid dating back to the 15th century.  P1120556 P1120558 P1120559 P1120561 P1120562

We stopped at the church of the secluded nuns. The baroque building has a very plain façade on the outside and an ornate chapel inside.


We ended our tour at the Plaza Mayor, built during Phillip III’s reign (1598–1621) and is the central  plaza in the city surrounded by three-story residential buildings with ornate balconies facing the Plaza.P1120567

This evening we enjoyed dinner and a flamenco show at Casa Patas Restaurant. The dinner was excellent and the show amazing!P1120572P1120574

Spain in May, Day 3 Montserrat and free time in Barcelona


This morning we travelled out of town to the Montserrat mountains. After driving through the misty mountains we arrived at the magnificent setting of the Royal Basilica of Montserrat, one of Spain’s most important pilgrimage sites devoted to the 12th century carving of the Black Virgin. This is a very important part of the St James Path. It is a very busy place as many people come to view and touch the Black Madonna. As we approached the Basilica the bells rang calling all to prayer. When we entered the impressive church the service was already in progress.  It was one of those magical moments in life as we sat and listened to the choir of monks singing their prayers.

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Down near the parking area we visited the shops where some ladies enjoyed tasting the local liquors. There was an outdoor market areas where the local farmers were offering tastings of their fine cheeses, nuts and honey.  I think a few suitcases are going home a little heavier.

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This afternoon we returned to Barcelona and enjoyed the rest of the day exploring on our own. Some went to lunch at Origins Restaurant, recommended by our tour guide Susanna. It was a great little find tucked away in the Latin Quarter. Afterwards we split up and some shopped, some walked along the water front to gaze at the multi million dollar yachts and some enjoyed a cappuccino and pastry at a local coffee shop.

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Dinner this evening was at Mussol Casp Restaurant. The food  was great and the service excellent.  Everyone is enjoying the great Spanish wines and some have taken a liking to sangria.

Spain in May, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia


Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral is an incredible work still in progress. I’ve never seen anything like it.  The façade is decorated with interesting features; brightly coloured fruits and a large green cyprus tree. The intricate design of this magnificent structure was started in the late 1800’s. Gaudi dedicated 43 years of his life building this incredible architectural masterpiece. They are still constructing from his master plan and expect to be finished in the year 2026.

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Inside we are immediately mesmerised by the whimsicalness; smooth flowing white walls lit up by the colour streaming in through the stained glass windows.  Antonio Gaudí made great use of light to endow his architecture with expressivity and grandeur. Sunlight glistens on the pinnacles of the towers and windows.

P1120447 P1120448 P1120449 P1120450 P1120451 P1120452 P1120453 P1120454 This evening’s dinner Tapas dinner was at El Guindilla Restaurant. The food was good, service quick at the beginning of the evening. As they got busy the service slowed down considerable. Overall, the dining experience was a pleasant one.

Spain in May, Day 2 Barcelona city sightseeing tour

The city of Barcelona is linked to the fantastical architecture of Gaudi and the Modernist period.  This morning we began with a walking tour through the narrow cobbled streets of the Gothic Quarter, taking in the magnificent architecture including the palace of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Nearby is a museum which contains the remains of a Roman City in the basement of the building. It’s quite amazing to see the layer upon layer of history in this city.P1120297 P1120304

We continued through the maze of charming streets until we came upon the Barcelona’s Cathedral of Saint Eulalia built in the early 1500’s.. The ornate design inside and out is stunning.  Our guide Susanna gave us the royal treatment and took us into the impressive choir area. The misery seats were intricately carved and we were surprised to learn the men spent hours standing at their seats, hence the name misery seats. Fortunately there was a small seat that folded down allowing them to rest against it, giving the appearance they were still standing.  King Charles the IV’s coronation took place at this cathedral. His coronation was considered to be the first united nations as people from all over the world gathered here to witness the ceremony.  At one of the stations of the cross you will find the cross that King Charles carried into battle in the 1500’s.  The cloister area is home to 13 large geese which symbolizes the spirit of Saint Eulalia.


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After leaving the cathedral we continued our walk past spacious squares and an interesting building decorated by Picasso.  We arrived at the  world famous Las Ramblas Boulevard. The street was teeming with people and the road way bustling with traffic.  Here we took time to visit the local market. What a sight for the eyes, colourful fruit displays, meat shops with large Iberian hams hanging above the counter, fish stands, chocolates, pastries and a great variety of foods for purchase.  I picked up some slices of Iberian ham and sheep cheese, a fresh fruit cup and a bag of delectable macaroons to share with the ladies. Lynn bravely tried sangria gelato and said it was delightful.  P1120351











We walked along Las Ramblas to meet our waiting bus and continued our driving tour, passing by a bull fighting arena that has been converted to a department store. Bull fighting is no longer a popular activity in Barcelona.  Our next stop was Poble Espanyol, a small village built in 1929 for the world fair.  There were replica houses depicting the type of architecture found in the various regions of Spain. We had a short walking tour of this charming area, including a stop to watch craftsmen creating glass figurines. We had some free time to explore on our own, take time for a leisurely lunch or to visit the shops.  A few of us enjoyed a refreshing sangria and paella.

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We continued past the stadium used in the 1992 olympic games and on to a lookout point to take in the magnificent view of the busy harbour and the sprawling city of Barcelona. The impressive Sagrida Familia towers above the surrounding buildings.  Continuing our tour we drove along Avenue Passeidge Garcia, the most expensive street in Barcelona with dozens of the top designer shops and the famous Mila House designed by Gaudi.  It’s such an interesting building and very different from any others in the area.

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We left the bus and walked to Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia Church.  WOW!
I will post this sightseeing experience in a separate blog. Stay tuned!

Spain in May, Day 1 Barcelona

We arrived Barcelona this morning and transferred to Hotel Colonial, our home for the next 3 nights.  We’re staying in the ‘Ciutat Vella’, the old city, with narrow streets filled with interesting little shops and cafes, beautiful squares and exquisite Gothic buildings. There’s a lot to explore here.The hotel is a nice moderate hotel in a good location.  After our speedy check in we walked to a local restaurant for a Tapas lunch. Delicious!


We didn’t waste any time, this afternoon we started off with a brief bus tour through the various areas of Barcelona ending up at the magnificent Park Guell. The grounds and houses are incredible works of art by Guadi. Everything is created with free flowing lines as you would see in nature. The mosaics benches and tiles on the houses are colourful with intricate designs. In spite of our jet lag everyone enjoyed strolling through the gardens to take in this incredible sight.  The sky is blue, the sun is shining and its a comfortable 22 degrees.

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This evening we enjoyed a typical tapas style dinner at Asador de Aranda Restaurant. We enjoyed an array of appetizers: smoked red peppers, cecina from leon (smoked beef) drizzled with olive oil, marinated chicken and legumes and a main course choice of roast lamb, grilled cod fish or roasted chicken. They served fabulous Spanish wines and the the dessert was millefeuille pastry with chantilly cream.  Delicious!

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