Saturday, June 30, 2012

Barcelona & Figueres, Spain

Exploring Cataluna!

view from the top of Sagrada Familia
Amazing Artists: Gaudi & Dali……

We arrived in Barcelona central station and continued onto our accommodation to drop our bags off and start exploring the city. We booked into another AirBnB place as it was cheaper than the hostels. The place was very central, located unfortunately up a hill, but close to Alfons X metro station and within walking distance to Sagrada Familia – if you enjoy the nice long walks. We had a small room, all to ourselves, a kitchen, lounge area and bathroom that we shared with a group of 4-5 other travellers throughout our 3 night stay there.


Our first attraction of choice in Barcelona was of course, the Sagrada Familia – the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family. We walked down the straight road from our accommodation towards the grand church, you could spot it a mile away. Its creator and the brains behind the architectural genius is Antoni Gaudi. Construction of the building started in 1882, and still continues today. Your entry fees contribute towards the donations to complete the construction, and are well worth the money – even though they don’t accept credit cards at the door. Its three grand façades – nativity, passion and glory - are a wonder to marvel at while you walk around the exterior. But to go inside the church is a whole other world.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Valencia, Spain

Home of the Paella!

After our time in Seville, we took an early morning train back to Madrid, and another train across to Valencia. Valencia is known as where the Paella originated, but not the seafood type of paella that you see, instead the meaty paella.

We got to our accommodation and dropped off our bags and collected a map. We walked around the main historical centre, looking at all the beautiful architecture. Main attractions were the Valencia Cathedral and the Historic Central Market (Plaza del Mercado).  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Seville & Cadiz, Spain

Sun in Sevilla and Cadiz!

Flamenco, tapas and the beach :)
After our relaxing time in Cordoba, we headed south into Andalucia, to Seville. The sun was shinning bright, and we were so excited. We’d travelled around Europe during the winter months, starting in Norway with -7 degrees temperatures on average, and now we were in Spain, feeling like it was really summer. How amazing is that. Pity we had so much winter clothes, and not much summer clothes…

Anyway, after finding our hostel, which we’ve decided is the best hostel we’ve stayed at during our whole trip away; it’s called The Oasis Palace Backpackers Hostel at Calle Almirante Ulloa, 1 41001 Seville. The hostel is centrally located, very clean, facilities are amazing, and the atmosphere is electric. This particular hostel (as the Oasis Hostels have a few around Spain) is fairly new, so the mattresses are still comfortable, the bathrooms are modern and the décor is pretty good for a hostel, it really does look similar to a ‘palace’ as you enter with it’s grand staircase. They have free breakfast every morning, a functional kitchen (a tad small for the amount of people, but reasonable) and loads of activities on every day/night to meet new people and get involved in the Spanish culture. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cordoba, Spain

Heading south for some sunshine

Relaxation and some more tapas….

After Madrid we headed south to Cordoba for a couple of days of chilling out and to continue our exploration of the south of Spain. We dropped our bags off at the hostel, and then wandered off to find some food to fill our empty stomachs. By mid morning, the sun was shinning brightly and the sunglasses had finally come out.

We found a street of small tapas restaurants very close to our hostel. We picked one called the Muséo de la Tapas y el Vino (the Museum of Tapas and Vine). Prices were reasonable and they were open prior to the busy lunch rush. A more detailed post of this restaurant will come in the future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Madrid and Toledo, Spain

First impressions of  Espana…


Tapas, vino, blue skies, grand buildings and green parks

We arrived in Madrid close to midnight and took the metro to our hostel, The Mad Hostel. Surprisingly the metro was safe, unlike what we’d heard from some people that had visited before. But over the past year or two, the Spanish transportation system has improved dramatically and it’s safe and convenient to travel on the metro in Madrid and the local trains which connect the major cities together.

After a good night’s sleep we awoke and started planning our few days in the capital of Spain. First stop was Plaza Mayor, a grand square arcade in the centre of Madrid. It was still quite early so the plaza was empty, but it fills up as the sun starts shinning and the people start getting hungry.

Plaza Mayor

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pompeii & Amalfi Coast, Italy

Ruins, Rugged Coastline & Tiny Beach Towns

Pompeii Lives
We had heard a great deal of positive talk about the Italian Amalfi coast – rugged little coastal towns set against the back drop of beautiful ocean views.  Bendy and winding roads that take you from town to town perched on the edges of sheer cliff faces.  Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Well, couple that with the possibility of seeing the historical ruins of the town of Pompeii – yes, the town wiped off the map by Mt Vesuvius and its volcanic eruption – and a chance to visit an ongoing archaeological dig site.  A once lost Roman city still under the shadow of Vesuvius looming eerily in the background has a rather magnetic pull to the knowledge seeker within me.

Winnie and I planned a full day trip, leaving Rome very early in the morning with the view of seeing the ruins first, then the main towns of the Amalfi – in reverse, starting with the furthest destination and working them back (so we could marry up bus schedules). 

Our itinerary looked something like this:
Train: Rome to Naples
Train: Naples to Pompeii
Train: Pompeii to Sorrento
Bus: SorrentoSorrento (circular via the whole Amalfi coastline)
Train: Sorrento to Naples
Train: Naples to Rome

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rome, Italy

The grand capital of Italiano! 

We finally reached Rome, the capital of Italy. We’d heard great things about this city, and couldn’t wait to get out and explore it. After checking into our Hostel, the Yellow; we were ready with map in hand, the major sights circled and a route planned out.

First stop was the Colosseum, we made it there in about 20 minutes of walking, and saw the masses of tourists both hanging around the Colosseum and waiting in line to get in. There were loads of people dressed up as Roman Warriors & Gladiators, waiting for tourists to take photos with them. But I had heard the story of my brother and his girlfriend getting stung 40 euros for getting a photo taken with them when they visited Rome last year, so I was not about to make the same mistake.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre

Fabulous views and the tunnel of love!

On our second day in Pisa we headed on a short local train ride to the northern Cinque Terre town of Monterosso.  Cinque Terre is famous for its picture-book vistas and the five small remotely connected towns (hence the region’s name), but more to the point Cinque Terre is a Unesco World Heritage listed region.  I’ve seen pictures of the rugged cliff edges teetering on the edge of the Côte d’Azure, but nothing could have prepared me for what we found on our arrival.
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