Archive for June, 2010

21 Jun 2010

Vamos A Madrid

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Blanca and Paul – icecream monsters

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Raymond and Gill in Toledo

 

The further south we drove, the better the weather. When we woke the next morning in Madrid, the sun was shining and by the time I surfaced, Blanca was waiting downstairs with a big smile and kisses all around.

We strolled for a while (it’s a Spanish thing – if you have nothing better to do, go for a stroll), checking out El Rastro Markets and stopping to buy lots of presents for everyone (just joking – wanted to see if you were all paying attention). After a big lunch with lots of wine and Sangria and post-lunch helados (icecream) we said our goodbyes. Sidenote: icecream – another Spanish thing! It is not uncommon to see hundreds of people walking around licking various multi-coloured icecreams. The wail of a crying child standing alonsgide a spilt blob of icecream on the pavement is also common.

In the evening we met Raymond and Lesley and Les at the rooftop bar of the swanky Madrid hotel they were staying in for a few drinks and later a meal.

The next day the three of us + Raymond (sans Les/Lesley’s) hopped on a train bound for Toledo. We walked tirelessly past scores of shops selling nothing but knifes and swords and full metal medieval armour, resisting the temptation to purchase. We marvelled at old buildings, stopped in at a bar or two, and returned on a high-speed train to Madrid, weary in our legs.

16 Jun 2010

Help Me I’m Shrinking

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After a long train ride from Portugal to Leon we were met by Sarah in her tiny rental. We drove north to the Asturias to be greeted by the worst rainfall in 48 years. It was not all bad – we checked into a sweet little hotel in the tiny fishing village of Cudillero. A couple of days later, I am sure everyone in town knew two Aussies, an Alpaca and a Texan had hit town. We sat in bars and learned the subtle local art of the cider pour where you stand with a bottle in your arm held at full length and attempt to pour cider into a glass without so much as a sideways glance – later in our hotel room we put it to practice.

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The next morning we were given directions and recommendations to the best viewpoints, beaches and restaurants, and drove out on a drizzly day in search of sun and food. The sun was elusive and at some points the wind and rain was so strong we snapped photos through the windscreen rather than braving the elements. We found the recommended lunch spot, portside in Luarca and struggled through an excellent typical Asturian menu of the day (ie: leaving more than we ate).

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11 Jun 2010

It’s So Quiet In Portugal

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Bright painted framework and tiled frontages typical of Porto houses

 

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Our bus arrived silently and without fuss into Porto. We caught a taxi with a softly spoken driver to our hotel. Our Hotel is the new “opened last month” Teatro Hotel – the staff is so quiet, almost mouse-like, and considerate. They will not allow us to take our own bags up to our room, which is good because the hotel is themed on an classical theatre, with soft mood lighting, thick draped curtains and dark carpets – we have to pad our way carefully and QUIETLY down the darkened corridors.

We step out into the street and cars noiselessly draw to a halt to let us pass at pedestrian crossings – how novel! In a restaurant later that evening we speak in subdued tones, afraid to bother our fellow patrons.

Porto is nice … and ever so tranquil! It has lots of steep streets – a good workout for our calves. We groan internally. For a port city even the seagulls are mysteriously silent. The buildings have lovely colourfully tiled facades where people peer wordlessly from upper floor windows.

And of course, there is the seafood which is good, plentiful and cheap and definitely worth shouting about.

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10 Jun 2010

Wedding Bells and Decibels

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There are more beautiful buildings in Salamanca than any one city deserves. There is also the Plaza Mayor in the centre of town, which at night when it is all lit up, is simply spectacular. It is crowded, full of tourists, locals and students, and very noisy, but somehow still appealing. It is impossible to walk down the street and not be awe-inspired at the architecture. Looking up has its pitfalls though, for you will miss the myriad of weddings, bizarre Spanish-style stag parties and hen’s nights going on all around.

Back at our hotel, we spent the evening picking the confetti out of our hair, planning our next destination and waiting for the cacophony of noise coming from the restaurants and bars downstairs to die down. At 4.00 am there was an unnatural silence as the last of the crowds disappeared, and then at 4.30 am the garbage trucks and street sweepers arrived … and all hell broke loose!

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Beware the confetti

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Where all the cool people hang – Bar in Salamanca

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Stag party – Spanish style

09 Jun 2010

Merida On The Other Hand Is A Bit Of A Ruin

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Unlike Zafra, the town centre of Merida is nothing to write home about. In fact much of Merida is in ruins – Roman ruins that is!

Modern day Merida is on situated on top of the old Emperor Augustus founded Roman capital of Lusitania. Twenty steps from our Hostal, the streetscape has been excavated away to reveal an old Roman forum. Further up the road, at the former edge of town, is the large Roman amphitheatre and also the theatre. These are the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy and they are impressive. Standing in the tiers of the ancient amphitheatre, sadly talk eventually turned to Russell Crowe and his gladiatorial days. On that note, it was mutually decided our knowledge of ancient Roman history probably needed a bit of a refresher, so we visited the excellent Roman Art Museum in the centre of town.

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