Spain: 6/18 -6/24

Seville >>> Cordoba >>> Malaga

6/18 – Explore Sevilla: Real Alcazar and Flamenco Show
6/19 – Sevilla Bike Tour and the Cathedral
6/20 – Arrive in Cordoba and explore the Mezquita
6/21 – Arrive in Granada and enjoy the free tapas!
6/22 – Rest and Planning Day in Granada
6/23 – Visit the Alhambra and Travel to Malaga
6/24 – Walk the Cliffs of Caminto del Rey

Explore Sevilla: Real Alcazar and Flamenco Show
+ Corey woke up earlier than Liz but used the free time to lounge around in the surprisingly quiet dorm room and play on his phone. It was nice to have times like these to watch YouTube videos and browse Facebook and just relax (and not be trip planning, writing the blog, or working on the to do list).
+ For lunch we went to a popular spot near the famous cathedral to get some tapas, Bodega Santa Cruz. It was extremely crowded and were hungry so we went next door to a small pizza place and each got a slice. That way we weren’t starving when we finally ordered and received our food at the tapas place. Afterwards we went back and tried 4 of their dishes, including their 2 most famous. While all were good, they were extremely salty and left us chugging our water afterwards.
+ One thing we’ve noticed here in Europe so far is how common it is for people to day drink, starting as early as 9/10 am. It seemed like we were the only ones not drinking beer, wine, or sangria at the tapas place (or our hostel when we left).
+ The main tourist sight on our agenda today was the Real Alcazar of Sevilla, a large palace that old Kings and Queens used to stay at (and still do even today!) that is surrounded by beautiful gardens. The castle itself has many grand rooms filled with historic tapestries and unique architecture. It was originally a Moorish palace (Moors=Africa= Muslim architecture similar to Morocco) but each catholic King of Spain added their own section or redid a large area of the palace. It was very interesting to see the blending of Catholicism and Moorish culture.
+ We later found out this palaces is where they shoot the scenes in Dorn on Game of Thrones!
+ We paid for the little audio tour guide to learn more about the importance and history behind each room, fountain and artifact and then walked around the whole place for a few hours. Liz’s favorite sight though wasn’t an old painting or giant flower wall, but a mother peacock followed by her 3 baby peacocks. While cute, they looked just like every other baby bird to Corey.
+ Liz was craving another cheeseburger (her favorite food) from The Good Burger so we went to a different location and hung out there for a bit enjoying the unlimited soda and using their wifi.
+ A walk through the city followed and we got to see a lot of different buildings and sites. Then we bought our tickets for a flamenco show that night that was to be held at a historic building where they’d been having flamenco shows for many decades. Since we had a couple of hours until the show we went back to the hostel and hung out for a bit.
+ At Casa de Memoria, the flamenco room was 2 stories tall and only held about 100 people, and we were packed in there like sardines. Despite arriving about 30 minutes before the show started, we had almost the worst seats in the house on the very far side. Still, we were only about 15-20 feet from the performers. It was definite an “intimate theater” as the staff has described it.
+ The flamenco show itself was interesting and a different style of dancing and singing than we’d seen before. There was usually one (or two) Flamenco dancers that would improvise what dance they were doing and how they moved to the music. Then the vocalist and acoustic guitar player would carefully watch the dancers feet and body movements and feed off of/match the rhythm with the music. It was very unique. Both the guy and girl dancers were very talented and the whole show lasted a little over an hour.
+ We were very hungry when we got out (since we hadn’t eaten dinner and it was now almost midnight) and almost every restaurant we tried was closed. So although we didn’t want to, we ate at McDonald’s yet again. We tried Burger King first but the menu was stupid and the staff unhelpful so we bailed on that. Although it was fast food, it was a little different than other countries and still cheap!
+ At the hostel we pretty much just played on our phones and messaged friends before bed since we had an early excursion the next day!

Sevilla Bike Tour and the Cathedral
+ Today we got to go on a bike tour of Seville and even better, it was free! Corey had entered a contest a few months ago and won so we had 2 free tickets for this 3 hour bike tour! So after grabbing some breakfast food from the mini market, we got to the Tour agency at 9:45 and started our tour.
+ Some of the places we went to we had walked through the previous day, but most of everything was new. And even the places we had been already we still learned more interesting info that we didn’t know before. Our guide was from the Netherlands and had to say everything in Dutch to most members of the group, and had to repeat it in English for only 2 others besides us.
+ The most interesting place that Liz saw was an old building that had extremely detailed designs, creatures, humans, and other objects sculpted around the outside. This special type of architecture requires that every facade and detail be different: no repeating patterns. But the entire outside decoration wasn’t finished because during the construction, the architect died and the workers didn’t know how to finish his masterpiece. So they simply left it blank.
+ Corey’s favorite was the Plaza de Espana due to it’s grand display of fountains, towers, and intricate tiled images depicting every province of Spain (of which there are 48!). It also was surrounded by a moat where tourists could pay to row a boat around and have a romantic (and extremely hot) paddle.
+ After the tour ended we stopped by the hostel to post our pictures recreating the famous Barber of Seville cartoon where Bugs Bunny gave Elmer Fudd a nice head massage before planting flowers on his head, lol. We do lots of mature adult stuff like that in our travels.
+ For lunch we went to a place that had been recommended, but it looked fancy, expensive, and we couldn’t even find anything on the menu we wanted. So instead we found a cafe nearby and grabbed some sandwiches and a salad and paid probably half or less than we would’ve.
+ Now we were going to visit our last tourist site of Seville, the famous Cathedral! It is the largest Gothic cathedral in the entire world (and 3rd largest overall). Despite the incredibly long line to get in and the crazy hot sun beating down on everyone (about 95 degrees), we decided to go anyway. So after 30 minutes of inevitably getting sunburned, we finally entered the gates!
+ The Cathedral lived up to the hype and was a massive, elaborate sight to behold. For about 2 hours we wandered through it admiring it’s many different chapels, statues, and Gothic architecture. It also contained 2 humongous organs in the middle of the Cathedral, surrounded by 108 unique choir stalls made from wood. We climbed 9 floors up the clock/bell tower to take in some spectacular views of the city. The place was so overrun with tourists and children running around that we weren’t able to fully enjoy it. There was no space for moments of solitude and reflection which is what it deserved. Still, we enjoyed our visit and we’re glad we got to see this important symbol of history.
+ Tonight our hostel, Black Swan, was hosting a sangria and paella night for the guests to get together and make the dinner while mingling. We were happy to try this uniquely regional flavor and joined about 13 other travelers as a staff member walked everyone through the process. First everyone chopped up all the fruits (for the sangria) and vegetables (paella) needed for the recipe and then sat around talking and drinking while our expert chef combined everything and illustrated the process. Our reward at the end was a big plate of paella and some new friends we’d gotten to know. Although it was interesting to learn, we felt it lacked flavor and were still a little hungry.
+ So after working on our phones for a bit, we headed out with some of our new friends, Sam and Brian from Nashville, to grab some pizza from a hole in the wall around the corner.
+ Afterwards we did some more trip planning for our upcoming cities and then hit the hay.

Arrive in Cordoba and explore the Mezquita
+ Corey was now on another odd sleep schedule, except this time it involved waking up at 7 am and unable to go back to sleep. Some people may call this becoming an adult or just getting older, but since he’s still such a wild young buck, that’s impossible. So after he was unable to fall back asleep he watched a movie and did some travel research until waking up Liz around 10:30.
+ When we checked out Black Swan we lounged around a bit on the couches and then headed to the bus station. Unable to find a quick and cheap meal along the way, we ended up eating at McDonald’s again. Although we didn’t want to eat fast food so often, the fact it cost about 1/3 of what we’d pay at these restaurants kept persuading us.
+ Our bus ride to Córdoba was about 2.5 hours and passed through a surprising amount of farm land. All sorts of different crops and trees included fields and fields of sunflowers covering rolling hills for as far as the eye could see. When we arrived, it was a relaxed 20 minute walk through town and a pretty park to reach our hostel, Hospederia Luis de Gongora.
+ After we relieved ourselves of our heavy bags, we soaked in the A/C for a few minutes before heading to our destination for the day- the famous Mosque-Cathedral also known as the Mezquita.
+ Upon first glance it seemed remarkably similar to the Seville Cathedral from yesterday, but as we toured through the different sections and chambers we noticed more and more differences. One of the most glaring was how this place had been built into and expanded numerous times over many centuries by many different rulers. This resulted in different architecture and designs every direction you looked. It was also much less crowded than the other which caused us to feel more connected and peaceful as we admired the many different paintings, arched prayer-rooms, and the artifacts and treasures on display. It also had giant organs and amazingly intricate choir stalls and columns to study and although we spent about 2 hours doing so, we felt as if we’d barely scratched the surface.
+ When we left we walked through the popular Juderia district and it’s many different shops and restaurants. Very similar maze-like alleys like there had been in Lisbon and Lagos. Our destination was a brewery that was supposed to be the best of the Andalucian area here in Spain. Their beers were delicious and we even got some free chips to go along with them.
+ For dinner we window shopped a few restaurants but as usual found them out of our price range so we ended up eating at Subway, which was more than ok with Corey. He absolutely loves their Chipotle salsa and since we weren’t super hungry, we just got 1 sub to go and split it back in our room.
+ The rest of the night was uneventful and involved doing some research and showering before lying down to sleep. Corey passed out first and Liz read one of her favorite books (which she hadn’t read in about 14 years)- The Poisonwood Bible.

Arrive in Granada and enjoy the free tapas!
+ Corey continued the trend of waking up by 7 and frustratingly not being able to sleep again. But with much research still needing to be done he did trip planning for France for a few hours before waking up Liz.
+ We enjoyed the A/C, private room, and big comfortable bed for as long as we could and the hostel was nice enough to allow us to stay an extra hour past check out time.
+ With some time to kill we headed to a restaurant recommended by the hostel owner that was outside of the touristy area and there we finally found the long sought after cheap and filing lunch! The legendary “Menu del Dia” was in fact real and despite not being able to read the menu or know what we were ordering, we plunged in head first and ended up with decently tasty 3 course meals (drink included). Most importantly, we were full!
+ We then walked to the bus station taking a different route than we’d come to catch new sights and then booked a 3 hour bus to our next stop: Granada. The bus ride was very similar to yesterday and involved endless hills and crop fields. Although it was getting more and more mountainous as we approached Spain’s mountain range on it’s eastern border.
+ Finally we made it to our 5th stop in Europe so far and had to figure out transportation to the hostel, which was a good 40 minute walk away. After staring at the very confusing city map and bus schedule, we opted to just grab a taxi instead. It probably cost about 5 more euros than it would’ve otherwise, but we got there way faster and with no stress.
+ After dropping our bags in the 2-person dorm room we’d booked (so basically a private) at Alhambra Zoom hostel, we hit the town walking through the Alhambra district and it’s many different shops and restaurants.
+ Although it was too late to visit any attractions, the sun still wasn’t even close to setting (we absolutely love this after 10 pm sunset thing! It fits our night owl lifestyle perfectly!). So we headed to a lookout point called Saint Nicholas mirador to get a view over the Alhambra. While the view was nice, it wasn’t even facing the right direction for sunset so we decided to move on.
+ The thing to do here is to bar hop and order a drink at each place, which comes with a free tapa. So that’s exactly what we did. While the beer is almost always the same brand and price, the tapa you receive is always different. Sometimes you got to choose the one you wanted from a set menu, but most of the time they’d just bring you some mystery tapa. They were always delicious though and a good budget option, especially for Europe!
+ So after 3 or 4 stops we headed back to our hostel only to find that although the A/C was blowing strongly, the air wasn’t remotely cold and our room was actually about 10 degrees hotter than the hall or outside. And since the staff had just left the reception desk for the night, there was no one to tell and nothing we could do.
+ We then watched Game of Thrones and tried to not move so as not to sweat, but we were still overheating anyway. So afterwards we just passed out and suffered through the hot night.

Rest and Planning in Granada
+ We were originally going to try and go to the Alhambra today, but in the morning we felt so miserable and tired from the awful sleep we decided to skip it today and keep sleeping.
+ We told the hostel about the problem and they tried to fix it but couldn’t and we got them to agree to move us to another room, which had 4 bunk beds but we were assured would still be a private room just for us and would have A/C.
+ We spent the early afternoon watching YouTube videos and just relaxing and then left to go buy tickets for Alhambra the next day. On the way we bought some ice cream for the 2nd day in a row, lol!
+ Then Liz spotted one of her favorite stores- H&M and proceeded to go on a marathon shopping session! It was a tough predicament though because although there were a lot of things she wanted, our backpacks only had so much room and were almost overflowing as they were. But when you wear the same few outfits for 6 months, you start to get tired of them and crave something new. So in the end we settled on 1 new pair of shorts for Liz and 1 new shirt for Corey.
+ It was tapa time again so we wandered through the alleyways looking for new restaurants to try and the first one we stopped at was right outside a nice botanical garden. It provided great people/pet watching while we enjoyed our wine and beer. After another 2 stops we were still a little hungry and decided to just grab a falafel and kebab from a fast food Shwarma joint and go back to the hostel.
+ We wanted to do some work and travel planning, but found the Internet to be horrendous. So after 30 minutes of frustration we gave up and watched 4 episodes of Archer instead and headed back to the room.
+ To our surprise there were 2 other people in our “private” room now, and we had left out a lot of valuables and stuff thinking it wouldn’t matter since it was our room. Not only that but the room was again very hot and the A/C was not working. We immediately headed to reception but just like yesterday, they’d just closed down and left. We were really mad that not only had we been lied to and had other people put in our room, but now we wouldn’t be able to talk, pack our bags for the next day, or even move around with the lights on like we would’ve normally. So this was definitely not our favorite hostel experience since they’d failed 2 days in a row.

Visit the Alhambra and Travel to Malaga
+ We had to wake up early today to make our entrance time window at Alhambra and after packing as quietly as we could, we stored the bags and headed off for the day.
+ Nearly 30 minutes of walking (mostly uphill) later, we reached the giant castle and started exploring. There were many different sections of this giant tourist attraction, ranging from beautiful gardens and fountains, to grand courtyards filled with impressive architecture, and even tall towers and castle walls built upon sheer cliffs. While we did enjoy our visit, we certainly weren’t wowed and felt it was definitely over hyped. We do think the fact we had already visited multiple other impressive places just days earlier (like the Mezquita, Real Alcazar, and Cathedral) had an impact and made everything less impressive. Corey’s favorite part though was playing hide and seek in the maze like gardens because he’s so immature!
+ When our 3 hour self-guided tour ended, we walked back to the hostel and grabbed the electronics and made a bee line for Pizza Hut! We chose here not only because it was gonna be delicious, but also because they’d have reliable wifi and unlimited soda!
+ With so many pressing things on our to do list, we spent a good few hours checking things off and planning upcoming travels.
+ After we’d each downed a gallon of that delicious sugary drink, we grabbed our bags from the hostel and caught a cab to the bus station. The 2 hour ride itself wasn’t really noteworthy and the scenery didn’t change much, but we did see some deer signs on the side of the road. This was the first time we’d seen those since the States and it was interesting to Corey because he always found it odd there were no deer signs in Central/South America.
+ It was already after 10 pm when we arrived in Malaga and we still had to meet up with our Air BnB host to get in our room. After gaining wifi and discovering there was no Uber in this part of the country, we took a cab to our place. Due to the apartment being situated in the middle of a giant plaza filled with restaurants/bars (and no roads), he dropped us off a few blocks away and on the walk we discovered that we were pretty much smack dab in the middle of everything!
+ So after finding our host and putting our bags down in our very tiny (and hot – again!) room, we discovered the wifi wasn’t working and headed out to find a bar that had it.
+ We ended up settling on one with €1 beers and were able to do some more work for a couple hours before ending our very long day by almost immediately passing out back in the room.

Walk the Caminito del Rey
+ We left the AirBnb with the intent to catch the once daily train to Caminito del Rey. Our host had told us it only took 15 minutes to walk to the train station, but on our morning walk we quickly discovered that was not correct and it was probably double that. So after a very brisk journey (sometimes jogging) we made it to the station only to be completely confused on what to do now and where to go. Eventually we figured it out in the nick of time and made it to our seats on the train with only 2 minutes to spare! Man, we must love these heart-pounding city escapes!
+ The landscape looked similar to Latin America, yet still different. It contained many more crops, fig trees, and seemed much drier and arid outside. And after only 45 minutes, we arrived in El Chorro, where we caught a shuttle bus through the mountains to the beginning point of our hike today on the Caminito del Rey!
+ This hike was along the sides of mountains on man-made platforms that traversed through canyons and river valleys, often with drops numbering in the hundreds of feet right below you. The path has been around since 1905 but just recently they built a larger, much sturdier and safer platform above the old one. This was due to the old one deteriorating and having large gaps that required tricky rock climbing skills to pass, and unfortunately a number of people had died. So although our hike wasn’t nearly as adrenaline pumping as it would’ve been 5 years ago, it was still quite a sight and unique experience to complete this walking trail. Our favorite parts were when we were able to view the emerald green river cutting through cliffs so high we had to crane our necks to even see the top, all while feeling the strong winds blowing through the valley.
+ When we finished traversing rock bridges and stepping onto see-through platforms, we hiked the half hour out to the train station and had some celebratory beers while waiting for our ride back to Malaga.
+ Back at the train station, we decided to grab some food and were excited to see a Taco Bell! We had such good times visiting in Costa Rica with Laura and Marius, we knew we had to eat there in their honor. Plus, they had wifi and since our hostel basically didn’t, we ended up spending a few hours there doing work and booking upcoming accommodation while enjoying delicious burritos!
+ Before leaving the mall, we did some grocery shopping and were surprised to find many cheaper than expected prices. While Spain had many items that were ridiculously expensive (like $3 for a can of soda or ferry tickets for €1/minute), they also had cheap things like beer for under a dollar, abottle of good wine for under $5, or a whole bag of salas for €1. Many items were cheaper than they’d been in Latin America, especially toiletries. Very surprising!
+ We decided to burn off some more of those soda calories and walk back to the hostel. But to make things interesting, we walked a different route and saw lots of fun restaurants and happening bars full of people celebrating the beginning of their weekend. Sometimes it took moments like these for us to remember how lucky we were that right now it’s as if everyday was our weekend!
+ After some much needed showers, we called it a night and tried to sleep as quickly as possible in our stuffy room.

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