Last Day …..then Home

And so this fantastic trip has come to an end. We rose early, and jumped into our car waiting to take us to the airport for the flight home. This might be a good time to mention motor vehicles here in Abu Dhabi..the car to the airport was a 7 series BMW, one of many here. When we arrived here I made the comment to Fi that in the first one hour in Abu Dhabi I had seen more Porsches than I had in my whole life to that time!!! Bentley Continental GT’s, Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, Maserati’s, Aston Martin’s, Audi’s, Merc’s, BMW’s and …Holden Commodore’s!

We checked in for our 14 hour flight home and we had been upgraded to Business Class…wooohooo! Thru customs and into the lounge, breakfast and onto the plane for the flight home. The flight was great, we were able to get some reasonable sleep, were well fed and watered and touched down in Sydney around 7.10 am on Saturday morning. Off the plane, thru customs, collected our bags, out and into a cab and home all within 45 minutes, a world record!

LIFE’S GOOD!

Abu Dhabi

Well here we are, the final day of our holiday and my birthday and awake bright and early to make the most of the day ๐Ÿ™‚

Abu Dhabi has been a great place to stop over on our way home. We spent the first 2 nights at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, an amazing resort in the Liwa Desert about 2 hours from the city. There’s lots to do there but we chose not to and spent our time relaxing by the pool, eating nice food and drinking a cocktail or 2 ๐Ÿ™‚ this is a really beautiful hotel, service, facilities – everything was spot on and we enjoyed it all immensely. The most energetic we got was to climb to the top of a huge sand dune near the hotel to take photos at sunset, well worth the effort, so beautiful and peaceful and the views were just breathtaking.

The hotel limo took us from the resort back to the city yesterday and along the way we passed by a car museum. The driver explained that this was a private collection owned by a sheik and that he didn’t mind stopping for us to go inside to see. We didn’t actually have enough local currency with us to pay and he lent this to us, so nice!

I copied the article below from Time Out Dubai as it gives a great overview of what the ‘museum’ is like:

……..The title โ€˜museumโ€™ is something of a misnomer here: there is no information. No plaques. No audio guides. No brochures. There are no set exhibits because everything must be free to move at a momentโ€™s notice lest the owner โ€“ Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, colloquially known as the Rainbow Sheikh (he acquired this nickname from the insignia emblazoned across many of his motors) โ€“ wishes to drive one of his collection. It is no coincidence that the path around the displays is marked like a road. Only the occasional bench signals that company is welcome. This is less a museum and more a shrine to one manโ€™s passion.You may need to find an attendant to open the museum, but once inside, the hangar-like size of the place will become apparent. Rows of vehicles fan out to either side. Directly ahead, in a cage of its own, sits the first mass-produced automobile; a glistening black 1908 Model T Ford. Down one row is a Rolls Royce used by Queen Elizabeth II of the UK, another reveals a rare Lamborghini 4×4, a third, a bizarre moon buggy designed for a future where disco is decidedly not dead. Here, the extraordinary (an 1875 steam-powered carriage) mixes with the mundane (a rather grim set of Range Rovers).

Possibly the most impressive sight, however, is the 5m-high replica of a 50s Dodge Power Wagon, custom built in Abu Dhabi to a scale of 64:1. Its wheels came from an oil rig transporter, its wipers from an ocean liner. Inside is a full apartment with bedrooms, bathrooms, a meeting area and a kitchen. Incredibly it can actually drive โ€“ it had to in order to enter the Guinness Book Of World Records. Take a step back and between its front wheels sits an ordinary-sized Dodge, and in front of that, a knee-high radio controlled model. Anywhere else this might be considered unusual โ€“ here, it makes an odd kind of sense.

So then onto Abu Dhabi and checked in at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers our luxurious home for the last days of our holiday ๐Ÿ™‚ I do think we’re pretty good at spoiling ourselves! Our room here is on the 59th floor with amazing views of the city and coastline. We didn’t do a great deal in the afternoon, a late lunch and then went to the adjoining tower to the 74th floor to check out the 360 degree views from there. A nice quiet night last night and now looking forward to our last day ๐Ÿ™‚

The day started with a magnificent breakfast, again…then we jumped in a cab to visit the ‘Grand Mosque the mosque is one of the worlds largest which can accommodate 41,000 worshippers!!! There are 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns and gold covered chandeliers and the worlds largest hand woven carpet…ok get the feeling it is impressive?? The mosque is open for all religions to visit as long as you wear appropriate clothing….(cover ups are available for the ladies).

From there we went to the ‘Gold Souks‘ to see what we could find for Fi. The market was on the lower level of a shopping centre and was a little difficult to find…but worth the search as there were lots of shops all vying for your money and willing to barter to seal the deal. Fi settled on a very nice bracelet and we headed back to the hotel. We had drinks in the bar, and an awesome dinner on the terrace overlooking the pool to finish of our last night on what has been an absolutely fabulous six weeks away from home. Can’t close without mentioning the truly outstanding staff at the hotel, every single person was keen to have a chat, ask if we were ok, needed any help, they genuinely wanted to see that we were having a good time.

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Marrakech

We spent a total of 4 nights in Marrakech, the first the night before our tour and then the last 3 when we got back. We did realise it would be a bit of a culture shock, which was pretty spot on. We stayed in the Medina which is the old area of the city, in a Riad, which is a traditional type of Moroccan hotel. The Riad advise to eat in house the first night you arrive which is a great tip as the initial impression you get of the Medina is fairly daunting. We booked a taxi through the Riad to pick us up from the airport, another great idea, as the place you’re staying in isn’t always accessible by car. Our taxi phoned ahead and we were met by the Riad owner and a guy with a pull along cart on wheels for our luggage, we then followed both through a maze of lane ways, full of people, rubbish and cats……makes you wonder exactly where you’re being taken! The beauty of the Riad’s is that the style of building has no exterior windows but is built around and opens onto a courtyard, so as soon the door is opened and you enter inside it’s like being in a beautiful calm oasis and the noise and craziness of the Medina is left behind.

Once we ventured out into the Medina it really wasn’t as bad as we’d first thought, although very full on and can be dirty and smelly in places. The thing you soon realise here is that tourism is the main source of income and everyone wants your money, from hustlers and beggars to people wanting to take your photo or give you directions, or the many many stall or store owners wanting you to buy the local handicrafts, it all comes at a cost. To put that into context tho, half of the Moroccan population is under 25 and a massive 44% of those people are unemployed, so life can be terribly tough, you then understand why everyone is after a piece of you. The basic monthly wage here is only around 240 Aussie dollars.

Not wanting to paint a bleak or bad picture here, the Moroccan people are lovely, very respectful and friendly with a great sense of humour. Even the first night we arrived we were following the taxi driver through the car park loaded up with our 4 big suitcases and he stopped at the smallest car in the parking lot and indicated it was ours, he had a huge laugh at the shocked look on our faces! We usually don’t go for souvenir’s when we travel or even the local handicrafts, but there’s lots of great things to buy here, ceramics, Tajine’s, spices, beautiful lanterns and amazing handmade rugs are just some, and yes we have a few small things packed in our bags to bring home. Larry and Rhona have headed off home with a Tajine in their back pack which cost all of $5 as well as some amazing spices from the guy that had the spice stall just outside of our Riad. The food here is also awesome, with salads, kebabs, Tajine’s and many types of pastries being the main traditional choices.

We spent our days wandering with no real plan, the sun shone each day and we didn’t need to wear our jackets until the evening, a nice change from Shap ๐Ÿ™‚ Being a Muslim country alcohol isn’t always available, when you walk past the square’s and cafe’s everyone is drinking water or mint tea, which is the local speciality. We actually got our driver to make a special stop at a supermarket before we went to the desert so we could have a wine (or 2) with our meal. We did find a bar in the Medina tho that was set on a terrace with lovely comfy lounges, maybe a bit embarrassing that we became regulars in the space of 2 days, with the staff recognising us as we came in the door ๐Ÿ™‚ we all treated ourselves to a Hammam one afternoon, very different to the one in Seville, but really great. We relaxed in a steam room and were then scrubbed clean with a loofah and a traditional black soap, then covered in a clay mask and left to sweat, followed by a massage – so good ๐Ÿ™‚

The first night we ate away from the Riad we went to the local market that’s set up in the main square and full of stall holders all wanting your business, extremely full on and very busy, we finally chose one and had a great meal – Rhona was taking a pic of the man behind the stall that was cooking a whole heap of Tajine’s and the waiters got her up (and then me) to get her photo taken with the cook – lots of laughs and fun.

Advice in Morocco, being a Muslim country is to not show too much skin, so shirts with sleeves and shorts or skirts below the knee. For our last night we wanted to dine somewhere special and asked the advice of the Riad manager – he told us about a restaurant located in the ‘new’ part of the city where the food was traditional and there was music and belly dancers – sounded good to us, so he made a booking and arranged a taxi to take us there and return us to the Riad when we were done. Other than driving from the Airport and out of the city on our tour we hadn’t seen much of the new part of the city. So, picture this …….. we walk from the Riad to where our taxi is waiting, down the lane way past the local stall holders, women wearing burka’s, sitting on a crate selling bread and of course the odd stray cat or 2. Into the cab, leaving the Medina behind we drive down avenues lined with palm trees and fancy hotels and pull up at the entrance to the restaurant where the doorman opens our door and ushers us inside. We go upstairs and are shown our table, the restaurant is plush, low lighting, a DJ spinning some tunes in the background. There’s not a Burka in sight and the women are dressed to impress, tiny short skirts, cleavage and sequins everywhere you look, and lots of older guys with very young lovely girls! So bizarre!! We had a great night the food was awesome and the belly dancers sensational, some were balancing silver trays with tea pots and lit candelabras on their head while they danced, very talented ladies!

So now, we’ve left that behind us and are slowly heading towards home, on our Royal Air Maroc flight to Paris for an overnight stop and the onto Abu Dhabi for our final few days. As always, we’ve had an awesome time with Rhona and Larry, so special to be able to spend Christmas together and to be here to celebrate Rhona’s birthday, I did have tears leaving her behind ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

We’re hooked on Morocco and will come back, but next time will stay longer and travel much further ๐Ÿ™‚

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The Atlas Mountains, Berber Villages and the Desert

Crowded roads, traditional dress, tajines, small children, donkeys, goats, mosques, beggars, Kasbahs, camels, rocks, rubbish and sand……

A driver collected us in the square close to our Riad and we began the drive up and over the high Atlas Mountains. Another sunny day with lots of clear blue sky, and people on the same route as us. The drive was spectacular, the mountain road winds it way precariously, continually climbing up over this rocky steep snow capped terrain. We had stops along the way to digest the natural beauty and harshness of the country the Moroccan people call home. We stopped in the tiny village of Telouet where we had lunch and wandered through an ancient Kasbah with a local guide. A short drive after lunch to our overnight stay at Ait Benhaddou passing the most spectacular scenery along the way. Berber villages built from a red mud brick made from a mixture of mud, straw and stones blending in to the red landscape. The Berbers live a simple life, animals are their wealth, donkey’s for transport, goats for milk and chickens for eggs and food. Some Berbers are still nomads and live between the desert and the mountains as the seasons change. There’s a Unesco protected Kasbah built in the 11th century in Ait Benhaddou, of course built on top of hill which we explored the following morning. This has been used as a location for films including Lawrence of Arabia, Prince of Persia, Gladiator and many more.

Our driver is Hamaal a 6ft 5in Berber dressed traditionally in a Jellaba, (an ankle length robe with a pointy hood) an imposing figure, he chatted along the way on our drive, telling stories and explaining the history and culture of the Berber people and stopping the car so we could jump out and take photos.

We stayed the next night in Tinghir and celebrated New Years Eve and Rhona’s 50th with other ‘Morocco Explored’ travellers. The tour manager had arranged a dinner and celebrations at the hotel where we stayed. Probably 30 or so tourists, locals and musicians all together to see in the new year and party loud and long! We had a great night, eating, drinking, singing, dancing and generally celebrating together. Fi had arranged a birthday cake for Rhona and everyone joined in to sing happy birthday and celebrate her special day!

In the morning we walked through the palm grove then headed out to our desert adventure. Again the drive was a tour through different landscapes, continually changing and always interesting. Off the bitumen and onto the sandy desert track, travelling on tracks in the rocky, sandy plain toward the hotel on the edge of the Sahara Desert.

After a quick lunch we were ready to climb onto our camels for the trek into the desert, the four of us were ushered to our awaiting camels, each sitting on the ground, groaning…one in particular groaning lots and foaming from the mouth…..this one ended up being Rhona’s ride…One by one we mounted our camels, me first on the camel at the end of the queue, then Fiona, then Rhona,( on the frothing one)…..and finally Larry at the front. You know something is going to happen..and sure enough Rhona’s frothing noisy one slobbered on Larry’s back…….Not a pretty sight…but a good laugh at Larry’s expense. And so we set off with the camel trek guide walking ahead and our camel train following…(Larry’s on the lead camel,his black coat covered in slobber).

The camels took us out over high dunes, travelling for about an hour and a half, taking in the spectacular sunset along the way before we, along with three other groups of camel trekkers, arrived at our camp. The camps are semi permanent tents grouped together with a central fire where the nights music, singing and dancing took place. We were shown to our tents, dropped our back packs and all met at the centre of the camp to get to know each other. The guides lit a campfire and prepared dinner whilst we sat around the fire talking. Night fell and the air cooled. Awesome tajines were served for dinner accompanied by red wine we bought into the desert with us (excellent planning on our part). After dinner we all moved back around the fire, the music started..bongo drums?…the guides were good musicians as well, and they had a great sense of humour. Solo performances were expected from everyone, and lots of fun was had.

Well fed and exhausted from camel riding, singing and dancing we slept the night away under a magnificent star filled sky. The return trip in the morning gave us the chance to see the sunrise over the dunes…a great experience for us all and well worth the early start.

We spent the remainder of the day driving back to Marrakech, our guide, Sala, providing interesting information along the way. Back over the High Atlas Mountains, treacherous narrow winding roads shared with pedestrians, buses, donkeys, motor bikes and hawkers, what a fabulous place! We all had a good laugh recounting New Year’s Eve party stories, camel trek stories and general catch up reflecting on the past few days.

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Morocco Explored

We travel from Manchester to Marrakech tomorrow and on Sunday morning will head off on our tour with Morocco Explored. Interesting getting our head around the culture in Morocco, it’ll no doubt be unlike any other place we’ve been to. We received a 6 page info pack with the itinerary you can see below, I’ve copied just the tipping advice section from the info pack, we’ve made a bit of a cheat sheet from this as a reminder to ourselves, we so don’t want to offend anyone along the way!

Lots of fun to come, as well as some sunshine and warmer weather ๐Ÿ™‚

December 30
Your driver will meet you at your Marrakech riad or hotel at 8am, take you to the vehicle and transport over the High Atlas mountains Tichka pass. You’ll have time to stop for coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice and enjoy impressive landscapes. We’ll pass through Ouarzazate, and many Berber villages clustered with kasbahs (fortified dwellings that house many families and their livestock). Stay in Dades valley auberge (small country inn), overlooking the valley gorge and gardens. Includes dinner and breakfast.

December 31
You’ll have a short drive to Tinehir, and you can wander with a guide* through Todra Gorge: a massive fault dividing the High Atlas mountains, rising to 300 m in a narrow valley thick with palmeries and Berber villages for a close look at traditional Berber ways of life. By mid-afternoon take time to settle into your room, before New Years celebrations and dinner. 8pm the fun begins, New Years buffet dinner includes traditional whole roasted lamb (Meschui) with all the trimmings and live music.

January 1
After breakfast, transport further into the desert to our auberge 29 km from Merzouga. Afternoon you will meet your camel guide* and ride at sunset into the Erg Chebbi dunes to our carpeted desert camp and sleep in traditional Nomad tents. A tagine dinner will be served under the stars in this beautiful setting, afterward learn to drum or dance by the fire in the traditional style of the Sahara.

Our desert camp is far from the crowds coming from Merzouga. It consists of a circle of five nomad tents that each sleep about 4 people but they are very rarely full. They are equipped with carpets, foam mattresses, warm wool blankets, freshly washed cotton sheets and pillows – camp also has solar lighting and nice pit toilets, kitchen tent and dining tent, and carpeting around the fire pit. All camel guides are local nomads working to support their families, and our very friendly camels love to have their ears scratched.

January 2
Return by camel at sunrise to the auberge for breakfast and shower. The remainder of the day is spent driving back to Ouarzazate where youโ€™ll stop for lunch and visit the old Glaoui Kasbah Taouirt. Then we cross the High Atlas once more, down the Tichka pass. Arrival evening in Marrakech at approximately 6pm

Tipping
For great service and going-the-extra-mile itโ€™s traditional to tip in the travel industry. Any one who devotes their time with you will appreciate his/her services well rewarded. Even though they do receive a daily wage, mountain guides, camel drivers, mule handlers and drivers fall into this category. Please tip individuals if they deserve it!

You can decide if you want to tip as a group or as individuals. Present a tip using your right hand. The tip will be discreetly tucked away, with barely a thank you.

General tipping rates
Any guides you hire for anything – beyond the ones we have pre-arranged – should be paid (tipped) at minimum 100 dirhams an hour or more. Guides do not earn a wage at all, your payment is their only wage. Generally a local city or site guide will expect to be given 400 dirhams or more for a days work equal to 3-4 hours; or 100 dirhams or more per hour from your group as a whole. If your group is larger than 4 people, please increase the recommended amount to 200 dirhams per hour.

Any guides we have pre-arranged and listed in your itinerary Whats Included: will be paid by us – you can tip them extra dirhams if you like their work but anything under a 100 dirham tip is considered an insult – its better to not tip at all. If you want to tip, give a meaningful amount.

Drivers are not guides. They are paid for their work, but also rely on tipping to make a good living at what they do.
For any of your drivers you can tip:
– for a daytrip at least 200 dirhams or more if you like him.
– for an extended journey like your desert tour at minimum 100 or more dirhams for each day he works with you, up to a max of your choice.

For camel trek guides each person should give 50 dirhams or more. Tipping waiters in restaurants is appreciated at the normal 10% to 15%. Cafรฉ waiters can be tipped a five to ten dirhams.

Asking for money for just about anything seems to be on the rise in Marrakech, most notably in the square where, if taking pictures, they will ask for 100 dirhams. It used to be 10 – not sure where this is coming from but perhaps packaged tourism is cultivating some kind of greed factor. Ignore their demands and give them 10 โ€“ 20 dirhams with a big smile.

Christmas in Shap

Leaving sunny Barcelona behind us we didn’t have high expectations for our arrival into London Luton and we weren’t disappointed … it was extremely cold and very wet! Nice timing that we’d decided to treat ourselves and had a car booked to pick us up and take us straight to Leamington Spa. Had a lovely couple of days catching up with Rhona and Larry and on Saturday headed north to Shap a tiny village on the edge of the Lake District. Our digs here is Brackenber Lodge a beautiful cottage built in 1877, very comfortable with good heating …. very important ๐Ÿ™‚ The countryside is very green, undulating fields separated by dry stacked walls and running streams, the weather is quite fresh ๐Ÿ˜‰ but has been wet so the only snow to be seen is on the mountain tops.

We had dinner in the pub on the first night, a short walk from our cottage..it was very cosy in front of the fire and we all ate extremely well. We also did a trip to Glasgow on Monday for Rhona to check out a venue for a function in January, an easy day trip on the train.

Christmas Day started with a beautiful breakfast of Eggs Benedict and champagne, what an awesome combo…. and to be honest the rest of the day was spent eating and drinking, a 3 course lunch prepared by Larry and Rhona that took from early afternoon to the evening to consume, the best of food & wine and Larry’s selection of Christmas songs, finished off with a cheeseboard and port in the evening.

We took a couple of walks during the day, getting fresh air, checking out our surroundings and stretching our legs. Many calls throughout the day to keep in touch with the family. So good to be able to stay in touch and see everyone whilst we are travelling.

On boxing day Larry went to Carlisle and bought Liam and Matthew back to the cottage to spend time with everyone. A bit more walking exploring the walking tracks, all rugged up…and a quiet night playing cards.

Our week here has been great, catching up, resting & relaxing along with, of course lovely meals and many bottles of great wine ๐Ÿ™‚ time to start thinking about the next part of our journey now, Morocco may be a bit of a culture shock?

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Gaudi’s Barcelona……

It is difficult to find words to properly describe the effect of seeing Gaudi’s architecture. Immediately you see it is different to anything else. When we stood outside Casa Batllo, the house he renovated for a local family, we just paused in admiration it is uniqueness and very distinctive style.

His architectural style is greatly influenced by nature and this house really does look and feel like it is alive and has a pulse. There are no straight lines, every wall, door, window, chair, table is curved. The doors to each room are brilliantly crafted, the door handles are uniquely designed to fit your hand, this is also a building that you can’t resist touching and running your hands over. He used curved stones, twisted cast iron and ceramics in organic like forms.

The other immediate impression is that the building is colourful, and inside and out colour is everywhere. The house is covered with coloured tiles arranged in mosaic patterns.

So it is the combination of the unique design, the curved stonework, and colours that create a very memorable visual experience for us.

From here we went to see Casa Mila, an apartment block he designed and constructed. Again it is uniquely Gaudi…we went to the rooftop and wandered around the many chimney stacks on the curved, undulating roof. Inside the apartments the same curved walls, doors, windows and individually designed door handles were everywhere.

Two more Gaudi visits…Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia. At the top of Gรผell park is a terraced area where we got a great view of the park and of Barcelona City. There is seating around the terrace, curved and swirling of course, covered with multi-coloured tiled mosaics, brilliant and beautiful!

La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudรญ’s most famous works in Barcelona, a huge Basilica that has been under construction since 1882 and it’s not expected to be completed till 2026. Yes, that’s right…144 years to construct! Ok so, it’s BIG…it is awesome, it’s a construction site, it’s gobsmackingly brilliant! It was only 15% complete when Gaudi died, he knew he would not be alive to see its completion when he designed it, he never drew complete plans, just made plaster models and gave direction to the workers on how to build it. Unfortunately his original drawings were lost when the basilica was damaged during the Spanish civil war. The construction relies on private donations one of the reasons for its slow progress.

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Barcelona

An early flight out of Seville and on to Barcelona until the 20th. We have received lots of good advice about Barcelona, it has a great reputation as a party town, full on hustle and bustling crowds, great shopping and good entertainment and of course the brilliant architecture of Gaudi….lets see!

The hotel we’re staying at is the Casa Camper, a great hotel in the is right in the centre Raval area of course it is in the old part of the city, lots of lane ways and little streets to wander and get lost in…little bars and restaurants everywhere, small shops, big shops…places everywhere to spend your money! There are of course many great places to eat here, just a couple that stood out for us were Rita Rouge, nice and close to our hotel with a great cocktail list and the 4Gats, an iconic restaurant that’s been around since 1897. Pablo Picasso used to frequent this restaurant when he was only 17 and actually designed a poster that was used as the front page of the menu at the time.

It is also the home of FC Barcelona and this football mad city houses the third largest stadium in the world, seating 110,000 fans. We went to the stadium to see Barca as the locals call it, play Athletico Madrid. Wonderful experience, huge crowd, stirring rendition of the local anthem with flags flying and everyone on their feet. FCB 4 def AM 1

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Our choices of places to stay when we travel are B&B’s or small boutique hotels. Our hotel in Barca is the Casa Camper, our number 1 pick of the places we’ve stayed in so far, a great hotel with lots of neat initiatives. Almost like they designed the hotel with travellers in mind, how unusual! We have our own sitting room across the corridor from our bedroom with a comfy sofa and hammock, our bedroom looks out onto a vertical garden which lets in lots of light but is totally private, the lounge area downstairs is stocked with food and open 24 hours and all the staff are young, enthusiastic and extremely helpful, we loved it here!

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Seville take 2

We had a nice drive on Thursday morning from Cadiz, just taking a slight detour (on the bitumen) along the way to visit another pretty village (Arcos le Frontera) that’s perched on a hill on the banks of a river, once again just so picturesque. We then dropped the Panda off and grabbed a cab to our hotel in Seville.

Our home for 2 nights is the Suites Murillo, a gorgeous apartment right next door to the cathedral, lovely views from our balcony windows and the roof top terrace.

We are just so relaxed now and in no rush to do lots of things. We checked out the cathedral on Friday, again one of the worlds largest, completed in 1507. A mosque had originally stood on the site but was knocked down and converted to a church. La Giralda was the tower of the mosque and has stood on the site since the end of the 12th century, it’s over 90m high and we climbed to the top of tower by a series of 34 ramps, these were used rather than stairs so the guards could ride their horses to the top, great views of the city once we were there. The cathedral also contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

Finding the right the right place to eat can sometimes be a challenge, somedays we have a plan that doesn’t always work out and others we just stumble on a hidden gem. After the cathedral visit we walked past a Tapas bar called ON and could hear the crowd inside, so thought we should check it out, a funky little hole in the corner sort of place and the food was awesome! That evening we had a plan and attempted to follow directions to a restaurant that we’d read a review of and after 3 goes at following the map and about an hour of walking we finally found it, all good but not wonderful. The 2nd night we thought we’d just follow our instincts and after about an hours strolling and a stop in local bar, hung with more than the usual number Serrano hams, we stumbled on the Barrio De Santa Cruz great restaurant, felt like it was set in a cave, all dark and full of nooks and crannies, just beautiful!

Eating and drinking in Spain is easy on the pocket, just very challenging to the waist line. Gin is popular here, always served in a large wine glass and poured from the bottle at your table, where the waiter fills your glass at least half full. The first night in Seville we went to a bar that stocked over 100 gins – a hard decision when you get asked which you’d like ๐Ÿ™‚

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The coast & Cadiz

We started our day by giving Panda a drink and a much needed wash to get rid of the evidence of the misadventures from yesterday. We the drove 1/2 hour to the coast to the beautiful town of Motril, a white village perched on a hill overlooking the ocean. Breakfast there in the sunshine of toast and coffee and then headed west, hugging the coastline towards Cadiz.

Spain’s motorways are brilliant and pretty consistently 120kph speed limit, tunnels cut through the hills and massive bridges span the valleys. The scenery of quaint little villages didn’t last too long and quickly turned into a series overdeveloped coastal towns full of unit blocks and condos stacked on top of each other. Spain attracts 50 million tourists a year, most of them come in summer to the beaches and I guess they all need somewhere to stay!

We dropped into the town of Tarifa along the way, the most southern point in Spain and just a short ferry ride to Morocco which can be seen in the distance. The ferry crosses the Strait of Gibraltar and takes only 30 minutes and 20 euro.

Cadiz is the oldest continually occupied settlement in Europe located on a peninsula, surrounded on 3 sides by the Atlantic. The old town is a labyrinth of cobblestone lane ways and there’s plenty to explore here. The lane ways are decorated with Christmas lights so very pretty at night time.
There are a series of walks set up that follow coloured lines on the pavement, makes it very easy find your way around. We walked the perimeter of the town following the sea wall and then stopped for lunch at a little seafood restaurant, Taberna Casa Manteca. The cook came out and spoke to us gesturing towards the ocean, we obviously couldn’t understand a word he said so he went back into his kitchen and came back out with a fish on a plate and we gathered that it had been caught fresh that morning. So that ended up being our lunch, grilled whole it was just beautiful. The first night we ate at a restaurant recommended by the guy we rented the apartment from, the xxxx, a really great meal and the next night, once again in search of somewhere special we stumbled across La Candela Tapas Bar an awesome fusion menu of many and varied tapas.

We decided to stay here for 2 nights and are in a nice little studio apartment at Casa Palacio right in the middle of the old town. We’ll head back to Seville tomorrow.

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