Saturday, June 29, 2013


So, after our lovely week at the villa, we packed up all our stuff, including Brad's bike, and drove back to Malaga where we would drop off the cars (and bike) and catch the train to Sevilla. We had the route back to the train station/car drop off point all mapped out, and we were doing very well, until we missed a crucial turn-off in Malaga, which thew all of our well-laid plans into disaray. We pulled both cars over and had a consult. Maps were check, there was some humming and hawing, and in the end, we decided it would probably be best to ask someone familiar with the city. A short time before, we had spotted a gas station/convenience store, so we made our way back there where the attendant, thankfully, knew how to get to the train station and she spoke some English. Bonus!! Following her directions, we carefully made our way to our destination. We parked the cars in the underground parking lot, dropped of the keys, and Brad took his bike back. This time in the Malaga train station, we felt like pros. We knew where the washrooms were, where to get a quick bite to eat, and where to go to catch our train to Sevilla. Soon enough, we were on our train bound for the capital of Andalucia! It was about a 3-hour trip, then there we were at the Santa Justa train station in Sevilla. Brad turned on his internal GPS and, following his lead, we and our suitcases clackitty clacked through the wending streets and alleys to our 3 bedroom, 3 bath apartment in the heart of the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, which is the city's old Jewish quarter. The pleasant agent met us at the door, led us through the place, gave us our keys, and bid us adieu. The apartment was nice, but not as nice as it had looked in the pictures on the Internet. We were on the second floor and the main rooms consisted of a small kitchen, a large living area/dining room, a powder room, and one bedroom, which also had its own bathroom. It was decided that Shaun and Mary would take that bedroom. Don and Marlene and Brad and I had bedrooms off a corridor overlooking the inner courtyard. One floor up, there were also two large roof-top terraces, which were apparently shared with other apartments in the building, though we saw no one else there during our 4-day stay. The terraces were really quite nice and we spent a lot of time up there, dining al fresco several nights.

After settling in a little, we went to a tapas restaurant just down the street for some lunch. We sat outside under an umbrella to shade us from the sun. I forget what everyone else had, but I had a whisky tortilla of some sort. You couldn't taste much whisky, but boy was there a LOT of garlic in it! Tons of it! Gooy, sticky, roasted garlic! My favourite! Brad looked mortified... He knew he'd have to sleep in the same room as me that night! The others caught on fairly quickly as well, and generally kept their distance from me for the rest of the day! (Just kidding, though the following day, Mary told me that I still stinked of garlic!)

Sevilla was a great spot and we enjoyed our time there. We ate out several times and cooked at the apartment as well. Mary even had pig cheeks!! The first meat she had eaten in like 17 years! She liked 'em too! One afternoon, we did a walking tour with an English ex-pat living in the city. He was nice, it was informative, and we got to know our way around a bit more. It was he who told us about the tapas restaurant where we had the pig cheeks. Underneath the mushroom-like structure you see in the pics below was a market. We picked up vittels for dinner there, including a shark steak, which looked very good, but none of us knew what it was until I looked in my menu decoder back at the apartment. Was the first time I had had shark, and it was very tasty, though I wouldn't make a habit of eating it because sharks are very intelligent and basically at the top of their food chain. The kind of icky-looking things in one of the pics from the market are snails, which the Spanish are mad for. Didn't try thiose, I'm afraid.

As a day trip, we all (except for Brad) hopped on a train to Jerez. Our main goal was to do some Serry tasting, and that we at at the Sandeman Bogeda.It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a lot of fun. I didn't take the camera, so no pics unfortunately. But it is definitely a city I would return to for a couple of days.

Back in Sevilla, I bought a colourful ceramic sugar dish to replace a small square tupperware dish that we've used to sugar for the past 20-odd years, and a nice ceramic jug as well, which, unfortunately, I've since discovered, doesn't pour very well. Oh well. It looks pretty!

After 4 nights, we again packed up our belongings and headed back to Madrid for one final night. I'll have a wrap-up of that in my next post. Stay tuned and enjoy the pics below. :)

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Villa (continued)

Just a few more pics from the villa. Sevilla is up next!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Spain! (part 2 - the villa)

So... Now that I have your attention... After we arrived in Malaga, we picked up the cars and bike and drove to our beautiful villa, which was about 50 minutes away, close to the small town of Salobrena. We made our way down the tiny narrow street to the villa. Malcolm, the caretaker, was there to greet us and show us around. It was a HUGE property. Three bedrooms, three baths, large dining room, adequate kitchen (minus the very low fan over the stove, which everyone kept banging their heads on), and an amazing garden, multiple decks, and, of course, the swimming pool. There were a few bugs to get worked out as we were apparently the first guests of the season and the owners, who had been there the week previous, had switched EVERYTHING off before they left, i.e., the toilet for my and Brad's room and a few other necessities. Malcolm had done his best to get everything back up and running, but for the first few days we had no hot water in the kitchen (or dishwasher), and there was limited hot water upstairs and down. In the end, everything got worked out and we had a lovely time there, cooking at home every night. From here we went to Grenada for the day and visited the Alhambra, which was amazing. Don and Mary did an amazing job driving - with the exeption of Mary almost backing over an embankment/hill (?) in one of the small towns we visited. Yikes! That was quite the moment. Unfortunately, no one thought to take a pic of our car dangling over the precipice. Thankfully, there were a couple of nice Spanish dudes hanging about who, after some deliberation, helped us push the car up and over the edge. Just another drive in the country, according to Mary! Ha! I saw my life flash before me! LOL! Just kidding, but I was very relieved once we were back on the road and headed back to our villa overlooking the Med. The only downside was that it was here that we learned of Oliver's passing. That was very hard for us, especially for Brad. He was very, very close to returning to Canada the next Tuesday. Thankfully, he decided to stay, but there will always be a very sad part on the south coast of Spain where dear old dogs go to die. (Cue the tears here - sorry.)
Here are some pics:


Sunday, June 09, 2013

SPAIN! (part one)

Well, finally. Here's a little on our recent trip to Spain! We very nearly didn't make it, as our flight from Bangor to Philadelphia was delayed by approximately 1 hour. We had just taxied away from the gate when the captain announced that there was a stop on all flights into Philly, apparently owing to some wind storm or something. So there was sat, on the runway, for just about an hour. That was bad news for us, as we only had about an hour and a half in Philly to make our connection on to Madrid! We all hoped and prayed that no flights were leaving from there as well. We finally took off and, after an uneventful flight, arrived in Philly, which was sunny and warm with a very modest breeze. Go figure. We arrived at the F terminal, I believe, and had to go all the way to the A terminal by bus. Thankfully, we didn't have to go through security again. When we arrived at the A terminal, we all started running, Brad and Marlene in front and me a short ways behind them. We ran for what seemed like forever and finally made it to our departure gate where they were holding the flight just for us! They knew we were on our way, as we had been issued our boarding passes for Madrid in Bangor. At last, we all made it onto the plane (hot and sweaty and with everyone else looking a little peeved at us for causing the delay), they shut the door and off we went! Phew! We had made it! And a good thing, too, as one of the flight attendants said he was so glad we had boarded as the flights to Madrid for the next few days were booked solid! After a very smooth 7.5 hour flight, we landed in Madrid. We had all just packed carry-ons, so we breezed through through Spanish Customs, took the subway into Madrid, and with Brad's internal GPS working well, we were at our apartment in no time. Since no one had been staying there the night before, we were able to check in upon arrival, around 1:00 p.m. or so. The place was very well appointed: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths with a large dining room and living room and an ample deck. Shaun promptly fell asleep in one of the comfortable chairs and I was a bit tired and jet-lagged, so Brad, Mary and Don and Marlene went off to find a grocery store to pick up food for dinner and breakfast the next morning and some wine! Shaun continued to sleep and I took a shower. Ahhh. Soon enough, the four others were back with plenty of food and drink. We then all went out and walked around a bit to get our bearings and then it was back to the apartment for a great meal and a fairly early night. After a good night's sleep, we were all ready to start our one-day exploration of Spain's capital! It was cool (as in see your breath cool!). Brad and I had decided that we were going to check out the new Dali exhibition at the Reina Sophia museum, while the rest of the gang went to The Prado. After waiting in line for over an hour to get tickets for the Dali exhibition, we got to the ticket booth just as they changed the time for the viewing from 3:00 p.m. to 3:30, which was when we had arranged to hook up with the others. Crap! We decided to just visit the part of the remainder of the museum and forgo Dali. By this time it had started to rain, so we spent an hour or so wandering around the museum before we made our way back to The Prado. We explored the area a bit as we did so, and a gal from a tapas restaurant stopped us on the street and told us about their specials. We promised to return, as so we did, in the pouring rain and with everyone in tow. We had a cheese plate, fried potatoes with a mayo sauce, and calamari (I think). Everything was very good and we had a chance to dry off before going out to explore more of Madrid. The rain had stopped and we walked around and finally made our way to the Retiero Park, which is a huge and gorgeous park in the middle of the capital. After one more night in our beautiful apartment, we arose fairly early the next morning to take the subway to the train station where we boarded our fast train to Malaga, which took us there in just over 3 hours. Once there, Brad went off to pick up his rented bike and Don and Mary (as our designated drivers) sorted out our car rentals. Before too long, we were wending our way out of Malaga en route to our villa, close to Salobrena. More on that soon! In the meantime, here are some pics of our digs in Madrid. Those umbrellas there by the doorway sure would have come in handy if any of us had thought to take them along during our museum day! Oh, and that narrow table with the lamp on it in the hallway - I walked smack dab into it, knocking over the lamp (which thankfully didn't break), during a nightime, no-lights visit to the bathroom. The air turned a very hushed shade of blue, as I was trying not to wake up everyone else in the building! Hasta pronto!