Friday, February 17, 2017

Day trip to Cordoba

After a delicious almond croissant and some coffees at Torch Coffee Roasters, we took the train to the small town of Cordoba.  

We walked around the town, and poked around the small Christmas market they had set up in the square.

After wandering around the market a bit, we went to the Califa brewery.  We had a delicious flatbread for lunch and tried a few of their beers.  They were all pretty good! 

Not only did they have several of their own, but bottles from other breweries around Spain.  

We walked around the town a bit more, and headed over to the main attraction, La Mezquita.

This unique and stunning former mosque was built in the 10th century, and was the center of Western Islam.

It was just beautiful - these photos don't even do it justice.  So peaceful and serene. 

And then, you turn the corner and you're standing in the center of a massive cathedral.  When the Christians took control of the town in 1236, they built this cathedral in the center of the mosque.  

They are completely intertwined.  The huge bell tower enclosed where the minaret once stood. 

It was so interesting to be in this space where both of these cultures and religions seem to peacefully coexist.  While I know it wasn't a peaceful time, and there are so many challenges and conflicts between the 2 religions today, it was encouraging to spend time in this amazing space.

Once we felt like we had soaked up enough of the Mezquita, we headed back outside to wander the town a little more.

The market was still teaming with people, buying food, toys, Christmas gifts, and more.

The massive Christmas displays were just incredible.

One final stop before heading back - Churros Bar Marta!  This place was mobbed, and the churros and chocolate were delicious!

Great end to our fun day exploring Cordoba. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sevilla, part 1

We bused and trained through more olive trees than I could have ever imagined on our way to Sevilla.  As far as you could see, for hours, were olive tree groves. 

When we arrived at the train station, the owner of our AirBnB, Nacho, was there to pick us up and drive us to our apartment for the week.  It was nice not to have to worry about finding our way there.   We were on the ground floor, the white door and windows on the right.  

The apartment had 1 bedroom and a loft, and 1 bath.  It was big, and nice to spread out!  Even with no true windows to an outside street, the little patio/courtyards allowed for natural light.  

We were starving, so after we got settled, we headed off for a quick lunch. 

We grabbed sandwiches at 100 Montaditos, which we ended up seeing all over the city the rest of our time there. 

We set off on the Rick Steves Barrio Santa Cruz walking tour to check out parts of the city.  It's the old Jewish quarter of the medeival city.  

The beautiful Sevilla Cathedral is right in the heart of the city.  It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world.  

The Plaza Virgen de los Reyes is where the cathedral is, and it's a main tourist hub in the city - lots of tour guides, carriage rides, and the like. 

The Jewish quarter was just beautiful.  

All over the city were these massive orange trees.  There are more than 14,000 in the city.  While the oranges usually aren't ready until December or January, lots of trees had dozens already on them.  Then in the spring, the trees blossom, and it's supposed to smell amazing.  The bitter oranges are harvested and made into marmalade for Britain. 

Narrow streets!

After our tour, we were both craving a delicious gin and tonic like the ones we'd discovered in Granada.  

This little place near our AirBnB was packed, so we ducked in and found a spot at the bar for an afternoon cocktail.

That evening, we took the Tapas, Taverns and History of Seville tour with Devour Seville.  Our tour guide, Maria, was fantastic.  We were lucky, and it was just us on the tour.  This was perfect as so many of the places she took us to were tiny, so it was nice to not have a big group trying to squeeze into places.  

The tour was really great - and we discovered that they drink sweet vermouth on it's own!  It was delicious.  As was the orange wine that is original to this tiny bar in Seville.  I highly recommend this tour - request Maria!

Bar with the orange wine, just up from the cathedral.
The next morning we had a bike tour scheduled with Seebybike, and we met them at the Mercado del Arenal.

The rest of the group was late arriving, so we had time to poke around the market a bit.  There wasn't much to see, but the little birds that still had their feathers were quite interesting!

We finally set off on our tour.  We love riding bikes when we travel, it's a great way to see a lot more ground that just walking.  

The Plaza de Espana was just beautiful.  It was one of my favorite places in Sevilla. 

After the tour we were starving, so we marched up to the Mercado de Feria, which is the oldest market in Seville - from tourist central to completely the opposite.  

You went to one window, ordered tickets essentially, then went to the center to order your tapas.  

We got the Spanish lasagna, the 'beef bomb' and one of the paellas, which we ended up getting 2 orders of - everything was deeeelicious!  There was no English spoken, so it was a little tricky, but I was able to stumble through.

Walking back towards the main part of town, we grabbed a coffee at Virgin Coffee, and stopped by the Setas de Seville, or the Metropol Parasol... or the big mushroom.  It's a massive wooden structure that's quite controversial, but really cool.  You can even go up on top!

It was completed in April 2011 by a German architect, and is 85ft high.  It's said to be the largest wooden structure in the world.  

Even in the clouds, the views were pretty awesome. 

Walking back through the beautiful squares to our hotel, there were several musicians set up and playing.  It was really lovely. 

That evening, we made another visit to the orange wine bar before going to the Casa del Flamenco show.  The bar is teeny - you squeeze in, pay your couple Euros for your wine, and squeeze out to stand on the street.  

The Flamenco show was pretty cool.  About an hour long, they sang and danced, and we were really close to the stage as it's in a tiny little room.  While it wasn't a spontaneous show in a bar somewhere in Seville, I'm glad we were able to see a show, and the performers were great.

Back down near where our bike tour was, we had dinner at Septimo Wine Bar.  It was really good - we got several different small plates to share, and a great bottle of Spanish wine.  The perfect ending to a busy Seville day!