Madrid & Barcelona

Our last week in Spain involved covering a lot of ground along with a bit of a whistle stop tour of Madrid and Barcelona. The 400km or so between Granada and Madrid was a bit of an education… the middle of Spain is not a flat desert it’s full of olive trees and quite hilly!

unadjustednonraw_thumb_1882

On the road again...

After figuring out Madrid’s metro we headed into town to check out the nightlife. In the end we stumbled upon a sherry bar. Turns out we still don’t like dry sherry that much but the surroundings were pretty cool.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_19e5

Our favourite bar, they even allow photos!

The day after with slightly fuzzy heads, we went on a free walking tour, hosted by a very English bloke called Will, who was full of interesting stories and good food recommendations so that set up our mission for the afternoon; try a Bocadillo Calamares, get hold of some of the local spirit, Madrono, and of course churros con chocolate! Luckily we’d done a lot of walking…

unadjustednonraw_thumb_1a00

Trev getting into the statue poses

unadjustednonraw_thumb_196e

Yes it's a squid sandwich!

unadjustednonraw_thumb_1994

Charlie Dimmock eat your heart out on this water feature!

unadjustednonraw_thumb_1972

This one is for Kelly 🙂

It lashed rain on what was supposed to be our last day in Madrid so we ditched our sight seeing plans and decided to stock up on a few last bits of winter gear and hit the road to Barcelona instead.

It turns out it’s a bit of a haul, about 600km, so the rain worked out for the best in the end, meaning we had less ground to cover the following two days.

En route, we stopped at a little town called Calatayud which had a lot of old buildings with dodgy foundations, forgot to take pics! And Lleida, a city that has suffered from being on the wrong side of the war of succession and the civil war apparently but has a very scenic river side and an impressive fort and cathedral overlooking the old town.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_199c

Does anyone know what makes nests like this??!

unadjustednonraw_thumb_19a1

Lleida Cathedrale

We always seemed to have the sun in our rear view mirror and rain up ahead over those few days but eventually we made it to Barcelona and the clouds cleared. We parked up on Montjuic near the Olympic stadium and headed off on an epic walk around the city.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_19ab

Even skater dudes love Gaudi

unadjustednonraw_thumb_19b9

Trev found a new camera setting....

The following day we strolled around Montjuic before our slot to get inside the Sagrada Familia. Tips: there’s a discount for under 30’s after 4pm and theres a big exhibition about Gaudi’s design process, models etc underneath that they don’t really advertise. Trev was impressed!

unadjustednonraw_thumb_1a0f

Still under construction since 1883

unadjustednonraw_thumb_19d5

Impressive!!

So, besides a quick surf at Masnou, it was time to say ‘adios’ to Spain and hit the road back to France to stock up on Christmas wine and saucisson!

Andalusia

Our first stop back in Spain was Seville. We were keen to tuck into some tapas so we made tracks to Bodega Santa Cruz which is in all the guide books but was still stuffed with locals and very good (+ cheap).

Second item on the list was Flamenco. We managed to catch a little show at La Carboneria, a back street venue (also in all the guide books). Just enough to whet Cathy’s appetite to hunt down some more in Madrid.

Of course we also strolled round town and took in the sights, randomly, it was tapas week and we came across these guys doing a talk/demonstration on something alcoholic….never ones to turn down free booze we sat there for at least half an hour not understanding a word before eventually getting a free glass of what turned out to be dry sherry *puke*….the guy had some pouring skills though we have to admit!

wine-stuff

Look at my f**king red trousers.com

Before leaving for Cordoba we managed to make time for some Sunday morning Tostadas (smashed up tomato on toast – yum!) and for a stroll around the Metropol Parasol i.e. ‘The Mushrooms’ which is apparently the biggest timber structure in Europe and definitely has great views.

plaza-de-espana

Plaza de Espana

cathy-matador

El Plumero - Dorset's most famous matador

view-from-the-mushrooms

View from the mushrooms

We seriously lucked out again with our parking spot in Cordoba, right across the river from La Mezquita which was very impressive in the sunset and lit up at night.

mesquita-from-rusticus

Sweet curtains, I mean nice view!

La Mezquita is free before 10am, good encouragement to get up early and save a few pennies. It’s hard to describe what it’s like inside, the pictures will have to speak for themselves. Suffice to say there was a good reason the Christians decided not to thrash the place when they defeated the Moors. It was kinda weird to see how they’d grafted a cathedral onto a mosque instead.

mesquita

Mind Bending

mosque-to-cathedral

Mosque -> Cathedral

After checking out the other sights and finally trying a few ‘free’ oranges (they were really good) we got the bikes out and had a bit of an adventure through olive growing country passing a mini shanty town and a guy grazing his sheep before moving on to Granada the following day.

cordoba-sheeps

The locals

Granada was capital of Moorish Spain after Cordoba (or so we gathered) and is home to the very impressive Alhambra which you can see from pretty much everywhere in the city. We got our tickets the day before rather than getting up ridiculously early like all the guide books tell you to (people turn up at 5am apparently), we were pretty smug when we rocked up in the afternoon.

alhambra_bummy

Palacios Nazaries

ummmmm

Looks like the sultan might have had a few...

tilework-2-0

These lads knew how to lay tiles!

alhambra

And they weren't too bad at plastering either...

alhambra-sunset

Sunset

This thing has it all: crazy tiles, intricate plasterwork, ponds, fountains, a couple of palaces, a castle, gardens, a town, amazing views – it is well worth a visit!

alhambra_snow

Snow!!!!!

They say Andalusia is home to all the stereotypes of Spain – we can confirm that this definitely isn’t a lie.