S: Spain July 29 - August 8, 2011
BC: Happy Travels!!
FC: SPAIN July 29 - August 8, 2011
1: Barcelona July 30, 2011
2: A stroll down Las Ramblas, with a stop at the famed Mercat de Sant Josep. A quick peak at all of the sights and we were once again off to explore.
3: Our first (Saturday, July 29) and last nights in Spain were spent at the Barcelona Renaissance. It was a nice introduction to our adventure and allowed us to settle in in comfort and snack to our heart's content. The accommodations worked out well but for the shower that drained "out" instead of "in!"
4: Our first Parador, Malaga.
5: Our view while eating traditional tapas on our Parador's balcony restaurant, and interesting sights as we walked around the town.
6: The gorgeous La Rambla of Malaga city center. It set the stage for a wonderfully relaxing lunch and a view to the city's personality. It was a wonderful respite after touring the enormous fortress and exploring the town.
7: Each turn in our journey brought wonderful surprises, exquisite sights and varying sounds. In contrast to the simple lines and serenity of the Museo Picasso Malaga, the view outside of the third level was beautiful in its chaos. Walking brought us close to the scenery and allowed for endless exploration and lots of picutures!
8: Walking around the old Muslim Castillo de, Gibralfaro (929 AD) and the newer (1057 AD) Alcazaba fortress provided many picturesque views that contrasted with today's modern Malaga port.
9: Walking around the city of Malaga, we came across several shady parks for relaxing and hanging out with friends. | In the hot afternoon, when it was time for siesta, everything stopped, shops closed, and it was time to take a nap.
10: On August 1, after leaving Malaga, we took a detour to El Chorro Canyon to take pictures of the "The King's Walkway" that was built in 1901-1905 for the King of Spain. This narrow walkway was open to (incredibly crazy) tourists until the 1990's.
11: Lisa very wisely relaxed, ate, and drank at the quaint and picturesque bar that sat beside the canyon. Chuck on the other hand partook in a 75-minute mad scramble down the "impossible to trek" steeply sloped, rocky shoreline to take the full view picture on the previous page. Everyone was happy!
12: El Chorro Canyon area and surrounding hills were filled with olive trees. "C'mon Lisa, let's take a nice easy stroll along the shoreline!"
13: Our "second travel home," The Parador de Ronda, was once an auction house and town hall. We fortunately had two evenings to enjoy its breathtaking views. It was the most picturesque town of our Spain trip with its dramatic gorges, ancient Arab buildings and bath house, and the world's oldest purpose-made bull ring.
14: Parador de Ronda's pathways offered unbeatable views of the immense gorge with its 160M vertical drop. In the mood for sweets and a little local color, we visited the cloistered nuns. The order went somethng like this. Nun's response to Lisa's attempt to order in Spanish, "Are you sure you want enough goodies to feed all the folks in the plaza?" And Lisa's singular response whenever she didn't know what was being said, "Si." So we ended up with four large bags of cookies when we wanted four small treats. The 'error' served us well the remainder of our trip.
15: Simply for posterity, we each stood on the death-defying ledge overhanging the gorge to prove we could do it...if only for a few seconds.
16: Ronda's bullring and the bullpen deeply gouged by many angry horns. Matador Lisa in full uniform taking a coffee break to the amusement of the coffee shop workers.
17: The first bull fight in this ring took place in 1785, to which we simply say, "Ole!" A fledgling matador who, after a few seconds of intense training, makes her debut and unfortunately final appearance in the bullring.
18: The Arab Bridge (16th century), which led to the Moorish part of town. Walking on the City Wall and on paths built during the time of the Roman Empire.
19: The "New Bridge" built in the 1700's which connects the new town to the old Moorish town. The gorge is 360 feet down and 200 feet wide. Taking a short break while carefully hiking down the narrow walkway which brought us closer to the bottom of the gorge.
20: On our rooftop balcony at the Parador de Ronda. This is what happens when you travel with only one carry-on bag. Laundry day!!
22: Another view from the new bridge showing canyon walls covered with birds. Inside the Arab baths, built between the 13th and 14th century.
23: Picture perfect Ronda.
24: Our 3rd Parador in Arcos, August 3rd. The hottest of all our Spain locations, this town was built on the edge of a gorge, 330 feet above the Guadalete River. The Parador's balcony, overlooking the Castle, was rebuilt after "falling off" in the 1970's.
26: Arcos had some uniquely interesting buildings and sights. It was very hot and desolate, especially during the daily siesta.
27: Plaza view from our Parador room where we had a nice in-room picnic, live musical entertainment, watched cars barely make it through narrow road openings, and were serenaded by the church's bell ringer, who lived in the tower. Who needs Flamenco on Wednesday?
28: Pileta Caves, 14 miles from Ronda, offered Spain's most intimate look at Neolithic and Paleolithic paintings that were up to 25,000 years old. Discovered in 1905 by Senor Bullon and still run by the Bullon family. We drove through Benaojan on our way, the town we could not escape by car. "What time is the next tour? Are we ten minutes late or two hours early?"
29: We stopped in Sevilla for a quick morning visit on August 4th, prior to our return flight to Barcelona. Simply called the Cathedral, this immense structure is the world's largest gothic church, housing the tomb of Columbus.
30: The Cathedral. Looking under the Isabel II bridge over the Guadalquiver River at sunrise.
31: El Parador de Aiguablava, our 4th parador, was exquisite! The view was breathtaking and the perfect weather allowed for an incredibly chilly swim, people watching, and a nap (which most naturally occurred each time we took pause from our whirlwind tour)!
32: We could not have imagined that the evening view could be more beautiful than what we saw upon entering our Parador room on August 4th...but it was.
33: Tranquility at its best.
35: Each view seemed more stunning than the one before. The water really was turquoise! The morning before we left we took a double kayak out for a tranquil spin around the bay. We, of course, needed to go into open Mediterranean waters before heading to the small inlet on the other side of the Parador. To Chuck's repeated guidance, "Sweetie, we need to head into the (huge) waves rather than parallel them," Lisa simply replied, "Whoa!, whoa!, wa-hooooe!" The brief trip added a lifetime memory and we made it through smiling...and without tipping. Whoa!
36: El Parador de Aiguablava with spectacular views of the Mediterranean bay.
37: "Anchovies anyone?" A brief stop in the fishing village of L'Escala. Our first encounter with topless bathers and our typical encounter with impassable streets. Pedestrians rule.
38: Day trip to Figures to visit the Dali Theater Museum. The museum guide's first stop was Dali's famed Cadillac that rains on the inside (for 2 Euro).
39: We explored Dali's evocative art including the "Palace of the Wind" and "Homage to Mae West." Dali is buried inside the building in an unmarked crypt.
40: On August 6th, we stayed at the Dukes of Cardona, Parador, a castle built in the 10th and 11th centuries. This was our 5th and final parador. We "stepped through history" along the castle outer wall to get to the ancient town of Cardona.
41: Town plaza statue in Cardona and views from inside the castle compound.
42: Devil's Bridge was built over the Cardener river in the 15th century so pilgrims could make their way to Montserrat. I think we were taking pictures from someone's backyard!
43: Sights around Cardona including inside the 11th century church crypt.
44: Inside the Castle compound.
45: Barcelona, August 7th. Our self-guided modernista tour through the city included La Sagrada Familia, the unfinished church which began construction in 1882 (with completion not expected until after 2025), along with Casa Batllo, built in 1905-1907.
46: Casa Mila (La Pedrera) built by Gaudi in 1905-1910 as an apartment building. The rooftop is covered with sulptures, which are actually ventilation towers and chimneys.
47: "Don't Forget to Smile"