A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Nirvana

(Not the band)

Nirvana (for now)
In our last post, I expressed some disappointment in the lack of culture and history in the coastal area south of Malaga - though we were both happy with some of the comforting modern amenities that were available. Taking that line of thinking one step further, it follows that if we could find modern resort facilities in an historic setting we would be happy. Eureka! We have found it! We are at the Hipotels Gran Conil in the very small but cute and old town of Conil de la Frontera. You probably can't find it on the map. It is about 30 miles south of Cadiz on a beach that stretches forever.
The drive from Benalmadena was beautiful. Down the Costa del Sol and through the coastal range overlooking Gibraltar where you can see two oceans and two continents all at once. It was sunny, windy and beautiful.
On the way here, we stopped at Gibraltar. We had planned to hike to the top, but alas, you could not go past a certain checkpoint in a rental car as Gibraltar actually belongs to The U.K.! C'mon Spain! How did that happen? Anyway we did get out and I rocked my Blazer gear under the Rock of Gibraltar. We also stopped at a tiny roadside restaurant where we thought we would get some very authentic Spanish food. We did, but you can probably find the picture of the plate Cathy was not tasting.
The town of Conil is a cool spot. No big cathedrals or plazas with big fountains or statues. Seems like a simple Spanish beach town. There is a small church, many restaurants and those quaint, CCB677C90F5D6DB52A7B01092D5F57A3.jpgCCB7B5B5B52777887A5A59FDDDCC3703.jpgCCB8DE299CFA0217E170BA173DA2400A.jpgCCB9EAD9FCECD8BCFDC254A043A671EE.jpgCCBB96FDB72E201DF0A8D1F65FDB1868.jpgCCBCD8F70728FBEA4ED3CE2CF94E96B1.jpgCCBE05EAE2E28152B7C7AD72FC26A8B8.jpgCCC01751F6CF2C83C0C0003E16474A41.jpgCCC133A5E503C2C5660B7CB43C2CD0FD.jpgCCC208B8D73F51B41CF1F1A54B3E4A68.jpgCCC2D8DAD5EDAE21A55819832AB564A9.jpgCCC3F83FE80D41734218E86CEAB86EA4.jpgCCC4C2AAE9406A125D5C91B0F5DA5FE7.jpgCCC63BCA9736A9D537E894178FECA26D.jpgCCBF18A3AB34B02942D99A16C571EAE0.jpgCCC72035B18038BE5B139B4F5D9685FA.jpgwinding streets. Since we were there on a Sunday, it was interesting that literally everything was closed. However we found that - like the smaller towns in Italy, Sunday is a special day and all of the families come out together and stroll along the promenade - young, old, couples, friends, families. It seemed like we were the only tourists and we joined in.
The Gran Conil Hotel is an unbelievable 5 Star resort with full spa facilities, 3 restaurants and 2 large pools. We soaked up the experience as we know soon we will be back to the old city hotels and apartments. We are here 3 nights and may add a 4th.
Next stop is either Cadiz, Jerez or Los Arcos for 3 nights before heading to Seville for a week.
On a side note, I think CYSA just held its 33rd or 34th Classical Cabaret fundraiser. Remembering the supreme effort involved, I'm thankful for the hard work of the staff, volunteers and students, but secretly - I'm glad we are here.
One more thing....the weather...blue sky, 74 degrees and rising.

Posted by Catnchas 12:42 Comments (2)

Radio Espana National Interview

Radio Publically Espana Interview:
I was recently interviewed by the famous Spanish talk show host Revus Believus on his show "Lo Que En El Enfierno Se Esta Pensando? (What in the Hell Were You Thinking?)
(Translated)
Revus: You have now been in Espana for almost three weeks. What do you think about many things - such as driving here?
Me (Carlos Creighz): Well, driving here has been OK. You Spaniards are only half-crazy - not like the Italiano's who are full loco en la cabasa crazy. You have good roads outside of the cities, but once you are inside the old cities "forgetaboutit" - you are screwed with ultra narrow winding one way maze like roads with no way out - and what's with all these damn traffic circles? You have traffic circles every 50 feet - often for no reason. The city of Corvallis would be in total revolution.
Revus: so, how do you find your way?
Me: Well Revus, I have two sexy women in the car - one who screams "watch-out!" and the other who calmly gives me directions on my I-phone...she is quite good, although sometimes I think she is stuck in a loop "At the traffic circle, turn....." again and again. Truthfully though, they have both been life savers.
Revus: OK, enough about driving. What about the food, wine and restaurants?
Me: Revus, you have asked me something very close to my heart - my stomach! Keep in mind that we have mostly been on the Mediterranean coast - where the diet revolves around the sea - and every damn thing in or under it. That has tested our nerves and sometimes makes us feel like we are on the Bizarre Foods show with Andrew Zimmern. If it swims and there are no squigglies...we will probably try it. Our biggest challenge is what to order. We point at an item on the all Spanish menu and ask the waiter "What is this?" He then talks very rapidly in Spanish. We have no idea what he said, so we look at each other and say "OK, sounds good, we will take one". This had worked out beautifully 25% of the time. It is much easier when we are at a tapas bar and we can see the items first - although even then it seems like you Spaniards love to take something that seems near perfect and then garnish it with something disgusting.
The wine - once you digest the fact that you can buy many wines under one or two euros, you then discover you can't actually drink them so the novelty vanishes. However, when you start visiting the wine shops rather than the Supermercado, things improve dramatically. I find that spending between 8-12 euros for a nice Ribera or 5-7eu for an Albariño or Verdejo gets us a nice bottle as well as some astonished looks from the locals who seem to be saying "That rich gringo actually spent 10 euros for our grape juice - amazing!"
The quesa (cheese) is all very good and very inexpensive as in a pound of aged Manchego for under 3eu. Lots of interesting varieties as well.
Revus: I see, well you will be here in Spain for another 3 weeks, so perhaps you will grow more familiar with our food and wine as you go - especially when you visit the Basque region near San Sebastián.
Me: We hope so.
Revus: So...What about the hotels and accomodations?
Me: Golly Revus, that has been the most amazing part of our journey so far. Since we are in Europe for 10 weeks, we needed to keep somewhat of a handle on our lodging expenses so we set a budget of $100 per night - which would be average 3 star hotels in the U.S. (Except NYC - which would perhaps buy you a spot on the curb). Anyway, to our amazement we have not been able to find a place yet that charges that much! Our average cost per night has been around $60eu ($65-67 dollars), Our splurge at the 5 star Gran Conil was $78 inc tax. Having accumulated rewards points from Starwoods, Chase and IHG also help keep our expenses low as we don't expect this trend to continue in France. Our stays are often alternating between 3-4 nights in a hotel and then 3-4 nights in an apartment with cooking facilities.
Revus: that sounds reasonable. What do you think of the shopping here?
Me: I hate to shop - except for wine. Señora Cathy loves to shop, so she has my blessing. She says everything is much cheaper in Spain. I think that is excellent as currently the US stock market is kicking me in the el trasero and it is no muy Bueno right now.
Revus: Well, Mr. Creighz, it has been a pleasure having such a distinguished and good looking hombre on our show. Do you have any last words for our audience?
Me: Si, viva El Portland Trailblazers and viva El OSU Beavers! Thanks for having me.

Posted by Catnchas 15:19 Archived in Spain Tagged national interview rafio Comments (1)

Jerez de la Frontera

Days 16-19

Jerez de la Frontera:
I think Rick Steves missed this one. He said Jerez was good for a half-day stop - see the horses and taste the Sherry. We have been here for three days and wish we could stay a couple more. We need to drop our car off in Seville tomorrow and our pre-paid apartment in Seville is waiting. On the way to Jerez, we stopped off at La Barrosa Beach in Chiclana, south of Cadiz. It is hailed as one of the best beaches in all of Europe and we could not disagree.
Jerez is a nice mix of old and new. It is not "touristy" at all. We visited Bodegas, took a Sherry tour, drove 45 min to the white hill town of Arcos and generally had a good time walking (mucho!) around the old parts of the city, getting lost on the winding narrow streets, visiting their cathedral, finding good tapas and restaurants - and continuing our efforts to fit in the local scene. I took a couple pics of the nearby Supermercado wine shelf so you could see that I was not lying about the prices. The bottles one of the pics are actually .59 cents, not 59 Eu.
We rented this awesome loft at the edge of the old city. The loft was formally a Bodega (winery) that the owner Javier bought and redesigned it as a gorgeous 1500 sq ft artist's loft. It is above our pay grade, but good fortune shined again.
We are looking forward to our full week in Seville. At one time it was one of the capital cities of Europe and one of the richest cities in history. It is famous as the home of Flamenco, so I'm working on my moves.
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Posted by Catnchas 11:13 Comments (1)

El Matador

Blazers knock out da Bull(s)

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Posted by Catnchas 11:18 Comments (1)

Viva Vibrant Seville!

This City is Alive!

sunny 20 °F

3AC3493298A2ED3486FB5EE5C3DF5608.jpg3AC438449260FC8EBE3F36048AD1E57D.jpg3AC50276C9B846B84DA2ED5CD2B73C9F.jpg3AC5A434078FD4B619D0BA7878E2B863.jpg3AC626FA903BB96ABB71EE888360DB1E.jpg3AC69854F7F69339D13819280F98595E.jpg3AC70FDDE84ECC0873C1C187209CBA8B.jpg3AC784DFC09E5EBE9EB0EF295C501091.jpgViva Seville!
Seville is the most alive city I have ever been in. Everywhere there are parties, music, dancing and happy people on the streets. For two days we have wandered through the maze of very narrow streets - often having to suck in your stomach with your back to the wall as a car buzzes by. Yesterday we walked to the Cathedral - which is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. We did not go inside as it was Saturday and is a popular tourist destination. We will go on Monday when the crowds have thinned. We also saw the Alcazar, Plaza Nueva and the Jewish quarter. All were amazing, but the greatest sight so far was Plaza Espana - with the Moorish towers and huge open plaza - just so, so beautiful. After two days, my first description of the city would be "Vibrant". Last night as we were walking, we came across two different marching bands, crowds of people following them through the tiny streets. Tonight we saw more signs of the people preparing for Semana Santa - The Holy Week before Easter - which is a huge city wide celebration of tradition and rituals. In addition to the brass bands, tonight we saw what must have been a practice run. Imagine a gold/brass float maybe 20 feet long, 10 feet high and 6 feet wide - perhaps weighing 3000 lbs carried through the streets by 20 men. It was also followed by several hundred people. Apparently the tradition is that each parish has a float like this that tells of their own parish history - and they carry this huge float to the Cathedral for Easter. It's quite a sight! I took a few quick pictures - again with my back to the wall and in amazement that this would precariously fit down the narrow street.
The following pictures show our walk through the streets to the Cathedral, the amazing buildings, the Moorish Plaza Espana, restaurants and our encounter with the preparations for Semana Santa. This is just the beginning as we are here for another five days.
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Posted by Catnchas 14:53 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Seville Cathedral

A feeling of humbleness....

The only words I can say are I wish I had a better camera and more photo skills so I could show the grandeur, size and magnificent architecture of this great achievement. It really is way better than the pictures. The second largest Cathedral in the world after Notre Dame.

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Posted by Catnchas 10:35 Comments (0)

Food

Becoming a Spaniard

Food!
I'm getting the hang of the food thing. The trick, of course is "When in Spain, eat like a Spaniard".
The gradual improvement in our language skills as well as our search for higher quality restaurants has begun to make a big difference.
Typically, we eat a light breakfast of fruit and cereal at home, then around 10:30 or 11am we will head out four the day's adventures, stopping at a typical Spanish bar or Pandalaria for coffee con leche and a croissant or pastry, then around 2pm we will have lunch out - which is usually two courses, salad, soup or a tapa, followed by a larger plate - usually fish or pork, and a small cerveza. We will splurge for an afternoon coffee around 4-5 (perhaps with another pastry), go home and rest for two hours, open a bottle of wine, and then go out for dinner around 9pm.
Good thing we walk 5-6 miles every day!
Tapas (or small plates) seem to be of two varieties: The traditional 15-20 standard dishes served in every bar for $2-3 per tapa and then the "gastro-tapas" which are like Mediterranean fusion and not unlike the new flavor blending that is happening in Portland and other "hip" food cultures. These are a bit more expensive ($4), but well worth it for the creativity. For example - tonight I had three tapas. The first was a salmon tartar on a bed of sliced cucumbers with a lemon cream sauce garnished with poppy seeds and mint leaves. The second was a large shrimp with dried crispy onions topped with caviar in a raspberry cream with red grapes and iced kiwi slices. The third dish was a stewed oxtail with caramelized onions and prunes in a port wine sauce topped with blanched almonds over a bed of couscous and garbanzos? Not bad for $12! The following are pics of some of the dishes we have enjoyed as well as some that scared the BeJesus out of us. FWIW, the locals think I am loco en la cabasa for taking pictures of our food.
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Posted by Catnchas 16:03 Comments (1)

A Week in Seville

Our Favorite City So Far....

Seville may be our favorite city. So far, we have been in Seville longer than any other Spanish town (7 days). It has even rained two days so that probably makes it feel even more like home.
All across Spain, people have been wonderful, helpful and friendly. Even when there is a large crowd of men standing on the street corner drinking cerveza, you don't get any kind of threatening vibe.
Today I visited the Seville Conservatory of Music and was given a personal tour of the facility by the Director. We also visited the bull ring which was pretty awesome. Started in 1600 and finished 100 years later. We took a guided tour and Cathy kept asking the tour guide if the Bulls ever won and did they always die? Nope and yep (si).

Since we have put so many pictures of churches and cathedrals on this blog, I wanted to just have some pictures of the beautiful things of everyday life we have experienced here. Tomorrow, on to Evora.
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Posted by Catnchas 21:18 Archived in Spain Tagged seville Comments (2)

Hotel Convento Do Espinheiro in Evora, Portugal

You don't stay in a 14th century hotel everyday!

Hotel Convento Do Espinheiro in Evora, Portugal
Over the years We have been very lucky to stay in many great hotels. This one may be the most unique and perhaps the finest. The "Hotel" was build in 1453 and was a working monestary until late the 1800's. Oddly enough, it was bought by Starwoods Hotels in 2005 and to their credit, they carefully restored the existing buildings, including the church, updated the monks rooms and built a new wing. The gardens and much of the interior/exterior are exactly as they were nearly 600 years ago.
Pictures show the library area (which formally was the monk's dining room - note the small pulpit where one monk read scripture during the meal), the restaurant with the forever arches (which was the monk's wine cellar), the incredible church where the monks worshipped, the hotel wine tasting room (which was the cistern) as well as the gardens, the indoor and outdoor pool area, the bar and game room, our room and view. Since it is in the country, about a mile outside of Evora, there are many birds who also enjoy the monestary.

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Posted by Catnchas 19:46 Comments (1)

The Chapel of the Bones

A little creepy....

The Chapel of the Bones in Evora, Portugal.
Rather sobering display of the transitory nature of life. Quote on the entrance reads: "Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos" (“We bones that here are, for yours await"). However, to me that quote just says "Don't wait, do it now".
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Posted by Catnchas 01:03 Comments (1)

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