A Walk in Ikeja [video]

A couple weeks ago, Casey and I went to Goodies Market for lunch and grocery shopping. We ended up walking back to the hotel because our usual method of transportation, a small three-wheeled vehicle called a keke, was not allowed to pass on a certain road. (Since it was the holiday season, the police wouldn’t let them pass for some reason.) We decided to take a video of the walk to show you all what it looks like around our side. Unfortunately we didn’t think of it early enough, so the video starts during the middle of our walk, but you still get to see a good amount of the neighborhood. Casey was holding the camera, and he was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, so the camera shakes from time to time. If we decide to take another video, we’ll try to do a better job! But enjoy this one for now!



Granada, Spain

Our last city to visit was the infamous Granada. It seems fitting that we ended our trip in such a well-known place. This was a spur of the moment decision, since we had previously decided to go back to Valencia after Málaga. We rode our bikes to the bus station, boarded the charter bus, and were there within two hours. The ride was smooth and comfortable. I was anxious to see the Spanish countryside, but it was quite similar to Southern California.  You could hardly tell the difference at times.


We rode our bikes to the hotel, as usual. Even in the daytime, the weather was already much colder than it had been in Málaga, since Granada is inland quite a bit. We knew it would be really cold at night, as it had been in Ronda.


Our hotel was really nice; one of the best we stayed at during our whole trip. We settled in, then left to get something to eat. Afterwards, we ventured out into the city to get the lay of the land. Admittedly, both of us were already disappointed because we expected Granada to be a small city, like Ronda. I don’t know why we thought that though. After experiencing Ronda, then having culture shock in the big city of Málaga, we were looking forward to being in another cozy town again. Alas. Granada wasn’t quite as big and busy as Málaga or Valencia, but it still had the city vibe and wasn’t as quaint as we were hoping for. We rode our bikes around the downtown area and then chose random alleyways to go down to get out of the traffic. Without foresight, we came upon a very, very steep pathway that led up to the most famous site in Granada – the Alhambra.

We went up the path, which looked just like any nature path in a park, and found ourselves at the entrance to the Alhambra. Unfortunately, we arrived at the exact moment that the complex closed, so we didn’t get to see it that day. Instead, we walked further up the hill and found a dirt path leading to a lovely viewpoint overlooking the city. The sun had just set so it was getting quite cold, but we stopped to take some pictures anyway.


There were beautiful snow-capped mountains behind us which turned out to be the Sierra Nevada Mountains! After living near the Sierra Nevadas in the US, it was nice to see the original mountains in Spain.


It was absolutely freezing (to me, of course) by that time. We rode our bikes down a very long hill with the wind in our face and went back to the hotel. We thawed in the room and then did some more laundry in the sink. We ordered dinner in since neither of us felt like heading out again.


Before we went to sleep, I did some research to find out if visiting the Alhambra was worth it. It’s highly touristy and the number one spot in Granada, but we wanted to be sure. In the end, we decided that we might as well see it since we were there, so we bought tickets online to have them ahead of time. We found out that you can visit it at anytime during their business hours, but there was one section (the Nasrid Palaces) that could only be accessed at a specific time. Apparently this spot was so popular that they had to give you a designated time, and then you were only allowed to be there for one hour! If you missed your slot, then you had to buy another reservation. We chose a time later in the day so we could see the city a bit in the morning and then finish up at the Alhambra.

We started out with a morning walk through the city. I love my dad’s new nickname for Casey: the Jumping Bean! It’s so perfect.


We saw a hilarious little carousel with kids riding horses made from rubber tires. The guy in charge of the ride was pedaling on a bicycle in order to spin the kids around. Pretty clever and really funny!


This sign made us laugh. What does it mean? I can think of a number of interpretations.


More beautiful gothic architecture! Just gorgeous.


This cathedral was just amazing from the outside. The curvature is such a neat design.


Our front desk clerk at the hotel told us to go to a certain lookout point where you had a great view of the Alhambra high up on hill. We followed a map and eventually found it. It was packed with people! But it did offer a great view. The only downside was that everyone was just lingering and loitering, sitting on the low wall, so that you couldn’t get close enough to take a decent picture of the view. Or you had to stand right next to people and hover over them to take a picture. Meh.


We left after a few minutes since there was no place to sit, and I was getting mad that people wouldn’t move out of the way. There was a small café where we got a snack.


It was almost time to venture to the Alhambra. We had walked all the way up to the viewpoint (which was a long ways up), so we took a bus down the hill, and then took another bus back up another hill to the Alhambra entrance.

At this point, the blog lends itself more to photos than writing, but I’ll give you some background first. The Alhambra is made up of five general sections: the Generalife gardens, the Alcazaba, the Towers, the Nasrid Palaces, and the Charles V Palace. We weren’t able to see everything that day, unfortunately. Casey didn’t want to spend all day there, so we didn’t go early enough to see everything. I would have gone earlier, but I admit that we were both getting a little tired of seeing the same type of old, Spanish buildings. Of course they were all different, but they were all similar in a way. Maybe if we had come to Granada first, we would have gone earlier and seen the whole Alhambra complex. But it was what it was. We only got to see the Generalife gardens and the Nasrid Palaces, so that is what you’ll be seeing today as well.

Many different rulers resided there and contributed to building the Alhambra, either by adding onto it or destroying parts of it. The Generalife gardens were built as a sort of sanctuary for the residents to stroll around and relax. It was a nice place. It seemed like it would have been quiet and tranquil hundreds of years ago. Since the gardens are on the highest part of the hill, there was a great view of the city and of the rest of the Alhambra.


It was now almost time to see the Nasrid Palaces! Remember, they give you a specific time, so we didn’t want to be late. We had to walk about ten minutes across the whole complex to get there though, so it was quite the trek. On the way, we saw tree-lined paths, a little building called “Hotel America,” and the outside of Charles V Palace. We also briefly went inside an old, Arabic bath house. There were lovely star-shapes cut into the ceiling to let in light, so I took a quick picture of that. Then we stood in line to enter the Nasrid Palaces and finally went in.


Honestly, I don’t know why the Nasrid Palaces are so popular that they need timeslots to accommodate people. It’s basically a palace with lots of rooms, patios, and courtyards. I’m probably dumbing that down completely, but that’s essentially what it was. The main thing that struck us, and everyone else around, was the immense DETAIL in the architecture. The walls, ceilings, columns, floors, everything was completely covered in detailed tilework or incredibly intricate carvings. We had seen beautiful detailed work in other buildings, in other cities, during our trip. But I guess this was the ultimate in detail and design. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular. Anyway, on to some photos!


While walking through the rooms, I noticed how cold it was in there without any breeze at all. I could just imagine how wonderfully cool it would be in the hot summer.


I read online that a lot (maybe all) of these carvings are actually poems! Isn’t that cool?


Here are couple more of those built-in shelves, if you will. Still adorable! You might not be able to tell, but they mimic the room that they are built in. Meaning that they look like a miniature version of the room that we were standing in. It was so cute.


The ceiling in this next room was just gorgeous. Well, the whole room was gorgeous since it was completely covered in tile and carvings. Not one inch was bare. Casey and I kept wondering how long it took them to carve these intricate details into the walls.


This next room was extremely unique. The ceiling rose up into a huge, star pattern and looked like it was dripping with stalactites. It’s called “mocárabe, honeycomb work, or stalactite work.” It consists of multiple layers of vertical prisms slowly rising up into an apex of tiny arches. The tiny windows at the very top also let in strategic angles of light in order to see the dozens of honeycomb curves.


This ceiling was really built at an angle (like a rhombus). It wasn’t me taking a picture at an angle.


Casey spotted this pretty stained glass ceiling. It was roped off so no one could see it, but he leaned over and found it. After that, many people after us also leaned over and took a picture.


What is this, a llama? I don’t know, but we saw this guy numerous times around the Alhambra. I think he’s the mascot or something.


And then it was over. It was almost closing time, so they pushed us out into the night again. We ended our tour in a little garden, and then had to find our way out. We wanted to go back to the main entrance, but the gate was locked and we ended up feeling locked in for quite a while. We walked back and forth trying to find a way out, and it took some time to spot the pedestrian path leading back down the hill. We were tempted to just spend the night at the Alhambra and see more of it the next day. After all, they locked us in, right?


There were more persimmon trees here, just like we saw in Ronda. I loved them quite a bit. They still remind me of Halloween for some reason. I wonder if they would grow in Washington??


This is Charles V Palace. Apparently he demolished a huge section of the Alhambra to build his palace. On the way out, I saw a teeny tiny little sign noting the “Alhambra.” The sign was about six inches across and three inches tall. You’d think such a huge, popular place would have a bigger sign!


We descended the steep path and walked through the park, through the city, into the night, back to our hotel. We saw some interesting graffiti and murals as well.


And that was it. That was the Alhambra. That was Granada. The next day was uneventful. We went on a walk, found a science museum, and took pictures with Albert Einstein. Both of us didn’t feel like doing anything special. We were honestly worn out from sightseeing, if that can be possible.


We did find a cute bakery where we treated ourselves to a croissant filled with whipped cream. Mmm. We also tried a Spanish specialty called pionono. It’s a small cylinder of sponge cake that you can eat in two bites. It’s really tiny. We had no idea what they would taste like, so we ordered an original pionono with a crème brulee cream topping and another one with a mandarin orange cream topping. WOW! That’s all I could say. As tradition dictates, sponge cake is generally always soaked or brushed with some type of liquid to moisten it. These cakes had been completely soaked in something so it was 100% moist and soggy. Personally, I couldn’t eat it. The soggy texture was way too strong for me. Casey didn’t mind the texture as much, but they weren’t his new favorites either. We’re glad we tried them though. I loved their menu  with pictures of all the desserts and clear prices for all of them. Great idea.


The day slowly passed and we took the night train back to Valencia. I wrote about this in depth already in a previous post: Back to Our Home Away from Home.

I guess in my conclusion I should state that we had a really wonderful time. We are so glad that we chose to go on this trip and see new cities in Spain. Next time, I think we both might plan a little more ahead of time so we know what each city has to offer. On the other hand, we really had a good time just doing it live and seeing what we wanted when we wanted. We both love to explore cities like locals and just enjoy whatever our feet or our bikes lead us to at the time. So who knows what we’ll do next time.

Well, I’m done! You’re done! That was our Southern Spain Trip! I thoroughly hope you enjoyed reading about it and seeing our pictures. I’m going to put the rest of them on our photography website so you can browse through all of our photos if you want to. Since it was hard to insert galleries into each post (like I did for the post on Sevilla), I think this will be the easiest way.  I’ll let you know when they are all uploaded and ready for viewing. Thanks for reading!!


Málaga, Spain

I hope you’re enjoying the posts and pictures about our Southern Spain Trip. Only two more cities to go!

After being in the tiny town of Ronda, we both felt a sort of culture shock when we arrived in Málaga. It was back to the big city for us! There were department stores, larger crowds, much more traffic, and the complete big-city vibe. We arrived later than usual since the train ride was longer and we had to stop and change trains. In the photo below, our luggage and bikes were standing by while we waited for the second train. We traveled so light! It was great.


We arrived at Málaga station!


By then it was well-past lunch, and we needed to eat somewhere. We decided to go to the mall, El Corte Inglés, for a fairly quick and familiar meal. We’ve eaten at this mall quite a few times so we knew what to expect.


Our hotel was way out of the way and there were very few bike lanes here! We were surprised because it was such a big city; we just assumed that there would be better bike lanes. I think there may have been some that went around the city, but they certainly weren’t in the area that we needed them to be. Alas. We got to the hotel eventually and were too tired to go out and explore right away. We unpacked, settled in, and did a little laundry in the sink. Why not, right?


Night fell and dinnertime quickly approached. Casey searched for some restaurants on his phone, but when we walked past them, we weren’t that impressed with their menu. We kept walking and eventually found a little sports bar type of place whose menu looked decent. It turned out that we had the BEST cod fritters we’ve ever tried. They are called buñuelos de bacalao. The dough itself was flavorful enough, but then they drizzled a thin line of dark honey or molasses on top, and that really made them exceptional. There’s another dish I’ll have to try making at home. The other appetizers or tapas we ordered were alright, such as meatballs and croquetas (ham or chicken fritters, like hushpuppies), but the cod fritters really made the meal. Casey had a mug of tinto verano which is red wine mixed with either soda, carbonated water, or even carbonated lemonade. It’s very popular in Spain to mix wine or beer with something carbonated. Tinto verano is not as sweet as sangria (which is wine with fruit juice and chopped fruit), so it really retains its wine flavor.


We walked back to the hotel and enjoyed the ambient alleyways.


I’ve noticed that there is a LOT of graffiti in Spain, but no one seems to mind. There are also an equal number of beautiful murals on walls and doors, so maybe that balances it out. We stopped at a minimart to buy bottled water and treated ourselves to some ice cream. And, surprisingly, we found a 2010 remake of “Hawaii Five-0” on TV, so we watched that for a little bit (we changed the TV back to English so it was more enjoyable). Then we turned in for the night.


The next day was really our only day to explore in Málaga. We started with our usual breakfast. You know the drill. Then we made our way downtown.


By the time we got downtown, we wanted a little pastry. It was hard to find a breakfast pastry, so we settled on a nice slice of carrot cake. Not a bad compromise.


The place where we got the carrot cake was actually a bar, so I snapped a cool photo of the many bottles’ reflection on the stainless steel countertop. Casey said it’s an alcoholic’s desktop background. I’m inclined to agree.


There was a café called Breakfast at Tiffany’s, although we didn’t go inside. And there was a man controlling a Michael Jackson puppet dancing to the classics like “Billy Jean” and “Beat It.”


Well we started our tour at an ancient, outdoor Roman theater (Teatro Romano) where plays most likely took place hundreds of years ago. Then we walked through the Alcazaba (a palace/fortress) and finished up at the Gibralfaro Castle (basically another fortress/vantage point).

The theater must have been lovely in its hay day. I wonder if it used to be covered, or if it was always outdoors. Of course, there was an adorable cat walking around the theater. It was quite friendly too.


The theater was free to enter and sit on the steps, but we had to pay a small fee to see the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro Castle. Even though the Alcazaba was a fortress to guard the city and keep watch for pirates/enemies, it really looked more like a sanctuary of gardens. There were beautiful trees and lush flowers all around the cold stone, brick, and marble edifice.


I just loved the tiny doors that were everywhere. Leanna-size! Were people smaller in those days? Or did they just not want to use more materials to make larger doors? It seems like all the doors we saw were either super tiny, like you see below, or incredibly huge, standing at ten feet tall or more.


As my dad says, Casey is always jumping! It’s his favorite way to spice up a photo!


I love a nice picture with in-camera blur. The first one is clear and in focus, and the other two spiral out of focus. I take a lot of pictures that would make great background images, like on a computer or even for a calendar. This was a brick ceiling, by the way.


I feel like this post lends itself to less writing and to more photographs.


We think Casey is peering down into a dungeon or prison. I feel like I read somewhere that this pit was a place they kept prisoners, but I can’t remember where I read that. Regardless, it was very dark and appeared to be very deep. There was a lock on the gate as well, which probably means that it used to open up at one time.


There was very little interior space that we walked through. Most of it was outdoors, and the little that was indoors had huge windows and doorways to let in the sunlight and fresh air.


I absolutely loved these miniature carved arches set into the wall. They mimic the larger, full-size arches that you see above. I tried to make Casey’s head look like a bust, but it didn’t work out so well. Maybe they used to put vases or real busts into these display areas? It’s just so cute! I don’t know what to call them though. Built-in shelves? We saw more of these in the next city we went to as well.


The end of the Alcazaba treated us to views of the city, the ocean, and the Gibralfaro Castle at the very top of the hill. The walkway used to connect so you could walk inside the walls to get to each building, but they closed it off. Now you have to walk outside and around to reach each fortress separately. There are also busses that take you up and down the hill in case you don’t want to walk. We ended up taking a bus up the hill to the Castle, and then walked down afterwards in the sunset and cool evening air.


The tour of the Alcazaba is a one-way trip, so we had to turn around and walk back the way we came to the main entrance. We saw some new sights and architecture that we hadn’t seen on the way up though, so it was still entertaining. The details in the stone carvings and tilework are just magnificent.


We left the Alcazaba and wandered over towards the beach. On the way, we saw a nun, lots of palm trees, and a sidewalk filled to the brim with shops selling souvenirs.


You may not have known that Málaga is on the coast! It was wonderful to be back in warmer weather after our freezing cold experience in Ronda. We thoroughly enjoyed not having to layer our clothing and wear rain pants to stop the wind from chilling us to the bone, even when there was no wind. If we had more time, we may have spent awhile sitting on the beach or even walking through the water, but it was nice to see it and enjoy the blue skies at least.


In the photos above, I think you can sit under the umbrellas for free, but they charge you if you rent lounge chairs. I could be wrong and they might charge you for sitting under the umbrellas too, but that seems a bit stingy. The photos below show an outdoor BBQ with Málaga’s signature dish of sardines on a stick. I read that it’s a must-have in the summertime.


Like I said before, we took a bus up the curvy road and got off at the top of Gibralfaro Hill. There was a small café so we got a snack and visited with some more cute cats.


Then we toured the Gibralfaro Castle! I was honestly expecting it to be more of a traditional castle where you walk inside and see bedrooms and dining rooms and huge, dusty curtains. However, this castle was really just another fortress. Maybe there was an “inside,” but we never found it. We just walked around the perimeter along the high walls and admired the views of the city.


That’s an old cannon in the picture above. There was a small museum with a cute diorama of the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle. You can see the circle at the bottom of the hill which represents the bullfighting arena, and then you can see our own photograph of the actual place! Every city has its own bullfighting plaza, and I would love to go see a fight one day. That would be an epic experience since its so foreign to us.


And then we began our walk down the hill. It was long and steep and covered in flowers. And it offered a lovely view of the sunset.


Dinnertime! We found a great Italian place with yummy food and adorable Christmas décor! There were Santa hats everywhere, and my personal favorite was Santa’s clothesline! They decorated a little patio with his clothes. There are actually two clotheslines if you look closely. The one on top has bigger clothes, and then there is a tiny clothesline beneath the patio with tiny clothes! So cute! I’d love to recreate this somewhere in our house.


We roamed the crowded streets for a little while before taking the bus back to the hotel. We don’t know why the streets were so packed but, as you can see, they were wall to wall with people! We zigzagged through the maze of people and alleyways to find a better way out of downtown. This trash can made me laugh because it says “use me” in Spanish. Clever and concise.


Málaga was supposed to be the end of our trip, but we decided to go to one more city the next day – Granada! Before we went back to the hotel, we went to the train station to see what was available, and the attendant said that taking the bus was quicker and cheaper. So we walked across the street to the bus station and bought bus tickets for the following day! Up until then, we had only taken the train, so the prospect of riding a charter bus the next day to a historic and popular city like Granada really made the trip seem like a classic European adventure.