Sunday, May 09, 2010

Hola España

It is indeed a very good place to visit. Even before landing there, the first thing that catches one's attention is the strange kind of farmland visible from the air. It consisted of unending rows of infinite length of bushy type trees arranged equidistant from one another. After due debate, we concluded that they must be olive trees. Yeah, welcome to Spain!

Landed in Madrid airport. It is huge. Well not as huge as Heathrow I guess, but huge nevertheless. The newest terminal and its sub-terminal are really long and can make you walk from one end to another if you are unlucky with your flight's boarding/arrival gate. The slightly unsettling aspect was that the when you get off the plane, you end up in the departures lounge! Anyway, took the underground/metro to the bus station and then a long 5 hour journey to Granada.

Granada: Situated amidst snow capped mountains, it is a very unique city. Unique in its looks- many roads are lined with orange trees lush with enticing oranges dangling from them and one of the main and busiest road has a very large pavement in the middle containing benches, life-like statues and fountains. Its culture is unique too, with an excellent North-African influence in the Moorish architecture. In fact, different styles of buildings can be seen in different localities. The most famous is the Alhambra with its palaces and gardens. Queues to buy its limited tickets for the day start at 6am (while it actually opens at 8) and can have around 300 people waiting in it. Of course, the nearby and slightly hidden ticket machines only have small queues of 25-30 people. That is the way to get in! Since we were there during the Easter week, we could witness the famous processions taking place. Another wonderful aspect of Granada is the free tapas that you get with your drinks in many of its bars. This means that you don't really need to buy dinner separately. And yeah, if you do, the food tends to be really good :). For souvenirs, the best place is the extremely colourful area next to the cathedral containing hundreds of small shops called Alcaciera.

Sevilla: Easter time is the time to be in Seville. Hence, we couldn't get any affordable accommodation. Yet, it is a must-visit city, so made a day tour from Granada by a train+bus journey of 2.5 hours each way. Large scale preparations for the evening processions were going on. These start from the various churches in the city to converge at the cathedral and then go back again. The cathedral there is definitely the biggest around, and contains a very tall tower. Ramps instead of stairs let one reach the top pretty easily to gaze at the whole of the beauty of Seville and identify the other famous monuments ;). One of these that we did visit was the bull-fighting arena. Learnt the history, the method and the madness behind it all. Didn't see a fight though, very gory and expensive it would have been! And once again, the bars and tapas around the cathedral are sufficient for some other needs ;) And how can I not mention the beautiful riverside, where we can lie down for eternity?

Barcelona: The city famous in so many ways and loved by so many. The main street- La Rambla has to the liveliest street I ever saw. Next to it was the old quarters with some majestic buildings, cathedral and many museums. We did go to the Picasso museum and finally, I now know about his life, somewhat about his art, especially when it transformed into being crazy ;). The other absolutely unconventional art that you can find in this city is the architecture of Gaudi. The most famous is the Sagrada Familia and is still under construction. Its look, from the outside itself, is amazing, the intricate statues and stories being told and the occasional colourful fruits is a unique combination! Some of his other buildings seem plucked out from some fantastical lands. Apart from these, there is the Plaza Catalunya with its majestic fountains, lights and people, parks and statues everywhere, the beach with its perfect blue waters, the irish bars alongside the tapas bars and the italian restaurants alongside the spanish ones. We also visited Camp Nou and admired the greatness of Barca F.C ;). Just outside the city, the background is filled again with mountains. The metro is very modern and the library of the university is very old. I was shown some books which were more than 500 years old! That was in between the two talks I gave on the same day, on the same topic, to different audiences :P. And most places are signposted in three languages- Catalan, Spanish and English, in that order.

Madrid: The capital, but nothing much to see other than the palace and an extremely modern -looking cathedral with a style very different from the general European ones. Lots of art museums as well, containing extremely expensive paintings from all regions and eras in Europe. Madrid is also the place for nightlife- lots of plazas, each of which is surrounded by bars and clubs. These clubs only start getting crowds after 2am or something! And again, many spanish style bars with free tapas.

Toledo: Just 30 minutes away from Madrid, on the superfast AVE trains, is this world heritage town. The old part is situated on a big hill, jam-packed with quaint buildings and very narrow, cobble-stoned roads. They are too narrow for cars but the cars still strive, inching forward slowly while the pedestrians flatten themselves alongside the walls to let them pass. The inclines are so high that, often, rooftops of buildings end up being next to other roads! This is a very nice place to visit and walk around, for half a day. A must visit if one is in or around Madrid. The different style and feel of the place makes it worthwhile. Each and every building looks good, old and fascinating.

Spanish food, as is known, contains a lot of meat based varieties. Nevertheless, the spanish omelettes are delicious and can be had anywhere, as a slice or as a whole. There are also several other different types of Tapas to satisfy all kinds of taste-buds ;). As for the drinks, Sangria and Mojitos are ubiquitous and often come with free tapas to munch on. Lots of American tourists will be found, much more than any other place in Europe that I have been to. British tourists, settlers and influences were expected anyway. To sign off, better not choose the overnight bus journey from Granada to Barcelona, some experiences are not worth having :D.

Gracias. Adios.


ShArK said...

"We also visited Camp Nou and admired the greatness of Barca F.C"

Huh. Show off

Su said...

Isnt granada a country?

thread said...

booooooring.. Please don't exceed a 100 word limit. And why no mention of extinct Spanish birds?

mythalez said...

@shark, what else is the point of my travels and my blog anyway? :P

@Su, Isnt 'bay area' err ... a bay? :P

@paccha, cause they are not extinct :P .. and btw, you should see them to rise up from your own ashes :P