Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sierra De Gredos, Spain

Our final stop on our tour of Spain was Sierra de Gredos - after all the historic sights and monuments plus of course fabulous food and drink we were ready for a change of scene. Serious mountains, a basic cottage in a the scenic village of Hoyas del Espino was our destination. Challenge number one was find food on a Sunday in Spain - we drove way out of our way to a Carrefour that the mean internet said was open on Sunday only to find a 24hour petrol station alongside a completely shut supermarket. Andrew and Lee had picked up their own car in Merida so went off on a mission while we went to meet the cottage owner. She did not speak a word of English, didn't have her glasses to use google translate and I'm not even sure she spoke Spanish but she had a big smile, had filled the place with roses and cheerfully introduced us to the neighbours.

We had 5 days at Hoyas, did some fabulous walking and became quite at home in this village of only about 500 people; it got to the point that we knew who owned which cars. The old men of the village walked around the streets in the same route every night and often walked with flowers - Lee caught them on camera one night and they just loved it. There was a great bakery in someones house, several bars and a small supermarket but not much else. The nights were cool; we lit a fire one night; Andrew had to use a real BBQ. A perfect break before we headed back to Portugal. 

Plaza de Espana, Hoyas del Espino
Day 1 walking to a Moutain Lake

Laguna Grande with Almanzor behind at 2592m
Goat friend
Can I help you?
Patatas Revolconas
A real BBQ
We had this mountain all to ourselves
On top of Los Campanarios at 2,165 metres
These horses were taking beer to the mountain lodge

Beautiful river walk

Hoyas from across the valley

Busy outside our cottage

Heading back to Askari

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Merida Spain

Merida gets the smallest of mentions in most Spanish guide books, however it is the city with the most Roman ruins out of anywhere in Spain, as such it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We found it far less touristy than the other places we had visited on this trip and the ruins were so interesting.
Tour group photo at Temple of Diana Merida
You can't do a road trip in Spain without seeing many Toro's
My interesting fact of the day is these bulls (Toro's) were initially advertisements for brandy however they are now such a symbol of Spain and there are more in Andalusia than anywhere else in Spain.

 A lake on the way to Merida - made us think Bonnie Doon!
Roman Bridge in Merida - still in use
Alcazbar Merida
Acueducto de los Milagros - dates back to first century AD

Roman aquaduct Merida 
Roman Circus - used for chariot racing
Remains of Roman Amphitheatre - standing here you can try and imagine what gladiators would have been thinking

Gladiators would have entered this gate
Roman Theatre Merida
Roman theatre Merida

Roman Theatre - still in use today what a shame we didn't get to see a performance

View of Merida Square from our hotel - very Spainish

Beautiful Temple of Diana by night

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cordoba; Spain

It was less than 2 hours drive from Granada to Cordoba and with only one night booked in a hotel there we got up early, grabbed a coffee and tostada then hit the road. 

We literally dumped the car and bags and then set off to see the sights as soon as we arrived. We called into the tourist office for a map and being in a bit of a hurry I asked they guy if we only had time to see the Mezquita or the Alcazar which would he pick and he just gave me a look and said we have to see both with almost a tut- at the time I thought he was just being a bit parochial but oh yes he was right and I am now embarrassed to have asked such a question. 

First stop was Cordoba's famous Mosque Cathedral, otherwise known as the Mezquita and I have to say we were overwhelmed. It is huge and so beautiful; basically a mosque with a cathedral inside and the islamic and christian symbols just seem to work so beautifully together - maybe there's something the world should take note from this stunning piece of architecture. The original site was a church that was destroyed to build the Mosque, when Cordoba was the capital of the Moorish Kingdom of Al-Andulus and at that time this was one of the biggest mosques in the islamic world. Then when the Christians reconquered the area in the 13th century, the cathedral was built inside but the rest of the building was left - this was the age when Christians, Jews and Muslims lived side by side. 
Mezquita and Roman Bridge
Being silly - No wonder the tourist officer had no time for us!?! 
One of the many doors to the Mezquita

There are 856 columns inside Mezquita that remain from 1293 originally
This area shows both aspects side by side

Stunning double arches of the Mezquita -amazing engineering for that time

Cathedral area in the centre of Mezquita

Jewish quarter of Cordoba 

Roman ruins in Cordoba
Lovely tapas lunch before the next part of the tour
Next stop was the Alcazar of the Christian Kings, a castle which includes beautiful gardens which are moorish in design with ponds and fountains. We really enjoyed the gardens but the buildings were quite interesting too.
Alcaza de Cordoba gardens

Statues in the gardens of the Alcazar
We returned to the hotel exhausted and met Lee & Andrew for a cocktail on the roof terrace. We quickly all agreed this was the perfect place to relax and ordered burgers and wine with this view.....

View over Cordoba from the roof bar at our hotel - wow!
We had such a fun night without having to walk anywhere and were totally looked after by this fabulous bar man who invited Andrew behind the bar to select his own drinks.
Andrew is best friends with barmen all over the world