McCrights in Europe
we start in Portugal
Tuesday, June 25
Sandra, Maria and I flew from Des Moines to Newark. Sam flew from Cleveland to Newark. Sandra and I took Maria to Manhattan for her first visit to New Yrok. We walked from Penn Station to Macy's and up Broadway and 7th Avenue. After a snack we walked accross Central Park. The subway took us downtown to the former World Trade Center site.
Wednesday, June 26
We landed in Lisboa, Portugal - a new country for all four of us. I write Lisboa instead of Lisbon because that's how they write it in Portuguese. We took the subway from the airport to the suburban train station then found another train to our destination: Sintra. After a shower and short nap we started exploring. Sintra is not a large city so we were able to to find everything easily. We had three must-see sites: the Palacio Nacional, the Pena Palacio and the Moorish Castle. On Wednesday we went to the Palacio Nacional and found a new must-see destination: the Quinta de Regaleira, its palace and caves. We had the most fun walking, sometimes crouched over, through dark caves. The caves were between 25 and 50 yards long. We found a 90-foot deep tower - deep because it goes down rather than upward.
Thursday, June 27
Friday, June 28
Sevilla, Spain We started this day - quite literally - on a bus near the border between Portugal and Spain. Despite a nation-wide transit strike in Portugal, our bus to Sevilla, Spain, ran on time. The bus itself was large and comfy. The passengers, especially a group of young women who were flirting with the driver and/or his helper, were loud and obnoxious all night long. We slept very little. Then the bus arrived at 5:20 a.m. instead of 6:40 a.m. It was still dark and no one was at the bus station except for the half dozen or so passengers who disembarked with us. We hailed a taxi and got to our lodging way to early to check in. The person on duty allowed us to hang in the lobby/common area. Maria and I slept some. After a while Sam and I left and wandered and grabbed a cup of coffee. When a new person came on duty at the hostel she immediately woke Maria and told her the rules allowed no sleeping in the common areas. When Sam and I returned to the hostel we stored our luggage and the four of us started to explore Sevilla.
We walked through a neighborhood park and ended up at the Plaza de España. The building here is a large government building but the plaza is more of a monument to al of Spain's provinces. We started looking for a place to eat and found a neighborhood market recommended by Rick Steves. It was a huge disappointment. There were few vendors and they mainly sold seafood. We crossed the street and found a small neighborhood cafe and had a too-late breakfast.
By the time we got back to the hostel we were able to check in to our room. It had two sets of bunks beds and its own bathroom. Four showers after and we all took a nap. Sandra, Maria and I went walking after our nap and found a shopping area. Not a tourist shopping area. This was one used by residents of Sevilla. We also saw a wedding start in front of a church.
At a place where Maria found a souvenir fan to buy, the vendor told us about t2 more places to visit. One, the Mirador/mushrooms was nothing special. But he told us about the free Flamenco show not far from our hostel.
On the way back to the hostel we found a grocery store and bought making for supper. (The hostel had a kitchen for guests to use.) Walking back we got lost and had to ask for directions twice. Streets are narrow and not in any type of regular grid system and . . . My compass was way off.
We ended the day at a neighborhood bar that offers free Flamenco shows. The only cost was for the beer and wine - 2 Euros each.
Saturday, June 29: Sevilla, Spain. Today was our true full day in Sevilla and we had two goals: visit the Cathedral then the Alcazar. The Cathedral was build on the site where the Moors had a mosque. After the Catholics reconquered Sevilla, they decided to build the grandest church. It is the third largest cathedral in Europe. Inside is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The highlight of the visit to the Cathedral is the climb to the top of the tower - about 18 stories tall.
The Alcazar is the site where the Moorish leader lived and worked. Ornate in a Moorish way, it is a good introduction to this style of architecture.
Sunday, June 30: Sevilla - the Mediterranean Coast - Granada, Spain. I picked up the rental car about 9 am. We rented a VW Polo, a compact, manual transmission, 4 door vehicle. We left Sevilla and drove east on an autovia that crossed fields of sunflowers or hay. We tuned south and crossed the mountains to find the port city of Malaga. We took the coastal highway east and found a secluded beach near a park called Cerro Gordo. We were probably the only non-Spaniards there. The cold water was quite a relief from the heat we had been feeling since getting off the plane in Lisboa, Portugal.
From the coast we drove north, again across the mountains, to Granada. Driving in Granada is interesting. They restrict driving in the city center to residents, taxis, busses, and folks with reservations for lodging. They apparently take photos of drivers and their vehicles to levy fines on non-compliant drivers.
We had directions to our lodging coming from the west - Sevilla, not coming from the south. We got lost. Ever when the tourist police pulled up next to us - in that restricted area - and gave us directions, we still got lost. We finally parked in a 30-minute drop-off area, left Sam and Sandra with the car, and Maria and I took off by foot to find out lodging. 15 minutes later we stopped a police officer and he gave us a good map and great directions to get to our lodging. We returned to the car, drove through the restricted area again, and found our apartment.
We splurged a bit and rented a two-bedroom apartment with parking. The parking space requires that we drive into an elevator for small cars, descend 3 stories, and maneuver into a very small space - with a stick shift. The apartment has a great kitchen and Sandra prepared a couple of great meals for us - after we walked 10 minutes down the hill to a mini-grocery. This apartment has the fastest Wifi so far.
Monday, July 1: Granada, Spain. We started the day "early" by waking at 7 to hang up laundry, eat breakfast and walk about 20 minutes uphill to the Alhambra. We had tickets to enter the Nasrid Palace at 10:30. Having read that the hosts are strict about allowing visitors into this most special site ONLY during the half hour entry period indicated on the tickets, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to explore both before and after the scheduled part of our visit.
The Alhambra was the last stronghold of Moorish rule in Spain. The Muslim Moors ruled parts of Spain for hundreds of years before the Reconquista, or reconquest, by Catholics in/about 1492. The Moorish sites we have seen are architectural and artistic marvels. Carved stone inintricate designs and arches are the norm. Ceillings are decorated.
Links about Granada and the Alhambra:
Wednesday, July 3: Madrid, Spain. Prado.
Thursday, July 4: Madrid, Spain.
Thursday, July 4: Madrid, Spain.
Friday, July 5: Madrid, Spain
This morning we walked to the Palacio Real - the Royal Palace. People say it is the third biggest royal palace in Europe after the Versailles near Paris and ___. The ticket seller wouldn't sell the reduced price teacher ticket to me because my DMPS idenification cad did not identify me as a teacher. Sandra and I paid full price; Sam and Maria paid reduced price.
Saturday, July 6: driving from Madrid to Barcelona, Spain.