Please dial 9 for an outside line….

I’m not a fan of audio guides when going round museums or houses. I find them unfriendly, ugly and rarely useful. I’d sooner have a plan and read about the exhibits when I get to a certain point. So, I was particularly displeased when we visited the Alcazar today and we were presented with an item about the same size and weight as a first generation mobile phone. It lasted until we got to #1, where it persisted in a condescending tone to inform me about #3. It remained in my pocket for the rest of the visit, ready to assault any tourist who dared to cross my path.

We’d begun our day at Pan Y Pui 2, as I’m calling their new branch, with pain aux chocolate, orange juice and coffee. Thus refreshed, we waited in the apartment until we deemed it time to try and join the ‘pre booked’ queue outside the Alcazar entrance. Watching from the sidelines it seemed to diminish quite quickly and Susie asked the attendant when we could line up ourselves for the noon entrance. No sooner did she ask than we were whisked through the metal detector, given the dreaded audio guides and off we went. To say the Alcazar is wonderful is rather an understatement. In some ways I prefer it to the Alhambra. It’s smaller and more intimate in a way.

The Moorish detailing on each arch, stone and tile was superb. The later additions by Spanish monarchs were impressive but a little too ornate and fussy for my taste. I found myself drawn to recording small details, close ups of relief work and door carvings.

We ended the tour with a walk round the ornamental gardens which were largely laid out to Moorish designs of fountains and flowing water. It was all quite magical. We handed the guides back in at the exit, pleased to be rid of them. I tried to order a pizza on mine but sadly it didn’t work..

We had lunch at a very touristy tapas bar, where the drinks and cutlery were thrown on the table and made our way back to the apartment. It rained for a while and then we had a quick meal at Bar Europa…which reminds me, European Football. England beat Spain  3 – 2 tonight….We’ll be keeping our native tongue to the minimum tomorrow methinks..

Three Lions on the shirt….

No, I haven’t gone mad, well no more mad than usual. Watching a streamed version of Sky News tonight I heard Gareth Southgate (the England soccer team manager) talking about Englands forthcoming match with Spain….tomorrow…..here in Seville. This would explain the peculiar sight of a young guy in a Newcastle away shirt passing me tonight. Luckily, the game is being held at the home stadium of Real Betis, a few kilometres south of Seville city centre. I like football but not enough to disrupt a holiday…

Anyway, back to normal programming as it were…

We walked up to Pan Y Pui as planned for breakfast and were welcomed as old friends. It’s nice when people remember you, we even got our coffees free. We’d had some thunder earlier this morning and couldn’t really luxuriate on our rooftop terrace as the cushions were soaking. It was warm and sunny when we left though and we wandered up to Calle Cuna, where they’ve opened a second branch of Pan Y Pui. It may be our second breakfast spot, though they were equally as busy and offer a full English (not to our particular taste) including ‘scumble egg’ or so the blackboard in the window announced. We strolled on, recognising some places from last year and walked down towards the cathederal.

Susie had researched a small plaza situated slightly off the tourist trail which she wanted to see. Of course we couldn’t find it and had to stand in a queue for 15 minutes at a tourist information office, only to be told it was just along the street and through an arch. It was really lovely, a collecters fair was taking place with coin, stamp and other dealers selling and buying. It can’t be that much off the tour trail, as a walking tour arrived while we sat at the central fountain and they all dutifully handed in their headsets and then set off again. Obviously the next part was either uninteresting or could be conducted at normal speech levels. Either way, off they went following a lady with a fan topped extended car aerial. I’d still like to carry an umbrella and hold it aloft while walking down the street, just to see how many people follow me.

We walked across to the Alkazar to see how bad the queues were, as we have prebooked tickets for tomorrow. Even the prebooked line was lengthy and the tourist information lady wasn’t too helpful by telling us that we could turn up five minutes before our entry time. Obviously she was too busy to take much notice of the queues standing outside her door.

Now in search of lunch we found a tapas bar which was ok but not super. It was interestingly decorated though, with hats and old photographs. At this point we returned to the apartment and called it a day. Another full day tomorrow..I might even find an England scarf to wear. Maybe not, unless I want to go round the Alkazar on my own…

 

In for a penny, in for a kilo..

This morning we had quite a bit of time to kill. We had to be out of the apartment before noon, the train to Seville wasn’t till 13:30 and we thought we’d mooch around for an hour or so. The luggage was left at the apartment letting companies offices and we walked up to the far end of Cadiz and back, buying a thermos type of water bottle on the way. We do neglect to hydrate….

It was very hot when we made our way to the station. It turned out that our train was only stopping in Seville and was onward bound for Madrid. We had booked first class and the journey was very pleasant, though having to join a long queue, get your tickets checked, then walk halfway to Seville before getting on the train is less so..

About 90 minutes later we disembarked at Santa Justa, Sevilles main train station. I managed to get hold of our contact for the apartment here, we popped into a taxi and ten minutes later here we were. Our keyholder (and there are three sets of keys) arrived within five minutes, let us in and gave us a brief tour. Last year we had a place just a few metres down the road. It was nice but an old property and the noise from the road was uncomfortable during the night. This place is more modern, has double glazing and the most magnificent roof terrace…

We managed to get quickly sorted, despite a problem with the wifi, and after a short siesta headed off to a favourite tapas bar that we’d discovered last year, Bar Europa. Their tapas are a little different to the norm and we were bowled over by a salad, containing lambs lettuce, chopped almonds and raisins, orange blossom ice cream and an orange dressing. You’d have to have it to realise how delicious it was….

Strolling back we remembered how lovely Seville can be, warm nights, friendly people and well, it’s cozy..I think an early night is in order, tomorrow we reaquaint ourselves with breakfast at Pan Y Piu…

An ocean, a beach, a wedding and an indoor BBQ…

I eat too much. When we are on holiday especially. Today was no exception.

Intending to locate the Roman theatre we walked to the sea wall which faces the Atlantic. A few metres along the coastline there’s a rather dilapidated fenced off area which contains the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. It all looked rather sad. No doubt it’s waiting for funding to be properly developed into an ‘attraction’.

If you walk further east along the sea wall, you come to the first proper beach, which had a fair proportion of surfers, body boarders and people falling in the sea. Neither of us had bothered to pack swimwear so unfortunately we couldn’t try to ‘catch a wave’. We wandered back through the Barrio Del Populo, along narrow streets with some of the houses showing blue plaques indicating where famous flamenco artists or matadors had been born. Soon we found ourselves back near the port and chanced upon a wedding. I don’t know what the collective noun for a gathering of large hats is, but we certainly had one this morning. There was a vintage Rolls Royce to whisk the bride and groom away, but not before they had been serenaded by a traditional Andalucian folk group. We crept off before the hat wearers began a whose brim is the biggest contest. It was about lunch time and we found an Argentinian place to sate our hunger pangs. A sharing pork dish took our eye and we ordered that, some berenjenas and potatoes (which turned out to be chips). The waitress turned up with a large charcoal burner containing a sizzling array of pork bits. I say ‘bits’ advisedly as some were not readily identifiable.

We really should have tried to walk the meal off but a much needed siesta was probably more important so we got back to the apartment before falling asleep on a park bench and attracting the attention of the ‘gaurdia civil.’

I’m not sure what the length of a Spanish siesta is, but we woke up some time later and around 8pm decided to mark our last evening in Cadiz with yet another meal. It must be said that being able to walk around of an evening in the middle of October without a jacket is very agreeable. A few hundred other couples thought so too. However, locating a place to eat that was open before 9pm was problematic. Close to where the wedding had taken place we found a restaurant that was actually serving food. Oh dear, we ordered too much, no perhaps I ordered too much. The waitress placed my cutlery on the table ready for the ‘pork on a skewer’ so far apart you could have reversed an open top tourist bus into the space she left. When the pork arrived it would have been less of a chore to eat said tourist bus and half the tourists too. Susie’s salad choice looked small in comparison.

After wading my way through the skewered ingredients we were serenaded by a young guitarist who we rewarded with all of our loose change, about €1.50. Manfully I had an additional lemon sorbet and drank my coffee before we waddled off back through the crowds to the apartment.

Tomorrow we leave for Seville and we’ll be sad to say goodbye to Cadiz. It’s a place we’d both like to visit again….though next time avoiding the large pork dishes..

Fresh fish and Phoenicians….

This morning we awoke to a dawn filled by thunder and driving rain. A cruise liner had tied up in the harbour and it’s deck lights twinkled in the showers as they scudded across the headland. We dressed in those waterproofs that I’d forgotten to leave in the car in Bilbao and walked the short distance to La Vaca Atada for breakfast. We found the only empty table and ordered toast, butter, marmalade, orange juice and coffee. The staff here are lovely, the atmosphere warm and the food excellent. It’s become our go to place. The sun had appeared by the time we’d finished so we dropped off the waterproofs at the apartment and set off map in hand.

Today we wanted to visit the Puppet Theatre, not for a performance but the archaeological remains which lie under it. An English tour didn’t begin till noon so we took in a quick walk round the fish market and a cup of coffee in a ‘French’ cafe. They had an impressive display of gateaux, one of which looked a lot like a Bakewell tart but was confusingly labelled, ‘pudding’.

Our tour under the theatre began promptly and we were shown a short film that explained (with English subtitles) how they had determined that the skeleton and buildings that had been uncovered actually predated the Roman occupation and were from a Phoenician settlement dating back to almost 1,000BC. In an effort to make the short introduction more interesting, they’d used a male and female actor who seemed to have leading roles in CSI Cadiz, complete with computer displays thrown into the air by hand. Nevertheless it was informative. We were then left to wander round the remains via a glass walkway. It was a little strange to be walking on top of three thousand year old walls but fascinating and unique all the same.

We’d decided to do a ‘recce’ of the bus station this afternoon, as we were going to travel to Seville on Saturday by coach. However, it’s round the rear of the train station and an executive decision was made to go by train instead. First class travel was booked and we called into Vaca Atada for a chicken salad, a chicken wrap and a couple of cakes to take away.

Tomorrow we go in search of a Roman Theatre…without puppets..

Tonight, we were Torte a lesson..

It’s become our habit, whilst on holiday, to forgo a self catered breakfast and locate an establishment that will supply us with cereals, croissants and hot beverages. So this morning we found ourselves in search of such a place. Our first choice La Vaca Atada was full and we settled for coffee and toast somewhere else, however La Vaca will appear later.

Although there were threatening skies we were determined to walk round the outer limits of Cadiz, the sea walls that are pounded by the Atlantic and then the beaches lapped by the kinder waves of the Bay of Cadiz. As we processed along the promenade, dark clouds began to gather and curtains of rain could be seen falling from them in the distance.  By the time we’d reached the headland and ‘Playa de la Caieta’ a fuel stop for coffee was required. It was here that the heavens opened and customers who’d been sat outside rushed into the small cafe, which became overburdened with clientele. Five minutes later it was over, sodden bills presented and paid for and we continued, trying to find our way past puddles.

We wandered through a charming park with wonderful flowers, intricate topiary and water features that were there before the rains came. Rounding the northern corner of Cadiz we decided that our explorations should turn inland and we went in search of lunch. Cutting across town is relatively easy and at Plaza San Antonio we stopped to quench our thirst and top up our expanding waistlines.

In what was now warm sunshine we walked back to the apartment, where we rested legs and stomachs before venturing out this evening for a light dinner. We tried our first choice breakfast venue again and found it to be relatively empty. We chose two salads from the menu, congratulating ourselves on the healthy selections we’d made. They were delicious and quite filling. However, the waiter tempted us by asking if we’d like desserts. Oh, how easily we are led…..

We ordered two chocolate mousses but the waiter’s shift ended without our order appearing and we had to choose again. Unfortunately one of the cakes on offer was sachertorte and our good intentions fell by the wayside. In our defence there was a small piece of fresh fruit on top of the chocolate. We compounded our gluttony with two glass beakers of coffee with chocolate in the bottom, topped with aerated milk and a squirt of chocolated sauce. The healthy salads were but a distant memory……

 

Nire aerolabangailua aingirez beteta dago…

Yes, I know it looks odd. The more astute of my readers may have already ascertained that it’s the famous phrase, ‘My hovercraft is full of eels’ of Monty Python fame. The reason it’s here goes back to this morning and breakfast at our hotel in Mutriku.

Mutriku is in the Basque region. Many locals speak Basque as well as (or in preference to) Spanish. Susie chatted to the owners wife who told her that Basque was taught in all the schools. It’s a strange language to look at on the page, with words containing many X’s and Z’s. Apparently there are a few Arabic words in there too, a throwback to the Moorish invasion of the 8th Century, which reached as far as Pamplona and the foothills of the Pyrenees….breakfast was excellent too, with croissants hot from the bakery.

Our flight to Jerez didn’t leave till early afternoon, so we decided to stroll round the harbour in Mutriku. The dull, drizzle of yesterday had gone and we were treated to warm sunshine. Mutriku is delightful and we’ve put it down for a second visit…

(The feral cats are especially for Iwona, our Polish friend).

Returning to the car we drove to Bilbao Airport (via the motorway!!). We’d arranged to have the car collected by a private parking company and were a little nervous about what sort of operation they were. However, a quick telephone call after we parked up near the airport and an employee was dropped off to collect the car. Smartly dressed and armed with a clipboard he noted the kilometre reading, checked our details for the return and even gave us a receipt. I don’t think it was a bill of sale…..

The flight to Jerez was not full and only took just over an hour. Despite meaning to leave two waterproofs in the car, I neglected to remove them from the backpack, so we’re now stuck with them until we return to Bilbao…oh well, they may keep the rain away. We were collected by Jorge, from the apartment rental company who dropped us off at the apartment rental company. They took a scan of my passport and after signing some paperwork, we got into our 4th floor apartment. There was no password for the wifi so a little stroll back to office was called for. We got lost on the way back, which admittedly was after a mojito and a beer, though we found our way to an Art Nouveau tapas bar. A five minute stroll with the aid of a larger scale map brought us back here.

Tomorrow we’ll explore further and do battle with the 5,000 tourists that Jorge delighted in telling us were expected from two cruise ships docking early on Wednesday….