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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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More beautiful gothic architecture! Just gorgeous.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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??

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!


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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.

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We arrived at Málaga station!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Ronda, Spain

Ronda, city number three, was really the only place I was anxious to see during our trip. I had looked up pictures of each city online before we started, and Ronda stood out among the rest. It sits on top of a huge cliff and overlooks El Tajo, a 328 feet deep canyon, and it has a gorgeous bridge called Puente Nuevo.

We had breakfast at the Córdoba train station; I had the usual toast with jam, and Casey tried a toasted sandwich with jamón and an egg. The fresh-squeezed orange juice all over Spain is just delicious. Sometimes it’s sweet, other times it’s more sour, but it’s always good. We really got spoiled with that. We plan to squeeze our own juice more often when we get back home now and treat ourselves.

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We took a relatively slow train this time and leisurely weaved our way through the hills and up the mountain to our destination. I posted a similar picture earlier, but here’s another shot of this completely white town and a tiny castle perched on top of the hill. Quite adorable actually.

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Dark clouds were starting to roll in, so we knew we’d get some rain later on in the day. It reminded us of being in Washington again with all the greenery and overcast skies.

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We finally arrived in Ronda and Casey unloaded our bikes! This was the smallest city we visited on our trip, and the tiny train platform confirmed it. We were used to bigger, covered stations, but this was quite cute. You can see the train conductor, or whatever he’s called, in the hat with a red stick. He makes sure that everyone is off or on before the train leaves again. A lot of stops are extremely quick (2-3 minutes), so you have to be ready and on the ball to get off the train in time.

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As usual, we didn’t know what the town had to offer or really where anything was located. Casey found the hotel on his phone and we rode there in style.

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Upon arriving at the hotel, they asked to see our passports so we could check in. Every hotel asks to see your passport, and some ask to see your credit/debit card. We prepaid for all of our rooms online, but they usually want a copy of the card just in case. Fortunately, this hotel in Ronda did not ask to see our debit card… because we lost it! In fact, we lost the whole wallet! (Remember the cute little wallet Casey bought me in Córdoba? That was it.) We went up to our room and unpacked all of our things to see if we had it, but to no avail. It was lost. We backtracked in our minds to try and think where it could be. I deduced that it was probably still on the train in the overhead compartment, and it had fallen out of the backpack when Casey unzipped a pocket. We had a moment of silence filled with anger, frustration, worry, and sadness. Then we decided that the only thing to do was go back to the train station, tell them what happened, and see what they could do for us.

We rode our bikes there and talked to a man on duty. Luckily, our Spanish was decent enough to describe what had happened. We told him which train we were on so he could look up where that train was at the time. He understood our problem and made some phone calls to the next station. He told us to wait a few minutes for the station to call him back. Casey and I kept going over and over what could have happened, just in case it wasn’t on the train. We had a good amount of cash in the wallet, but that could always be replaced. We were more upset at losing my debit card because that’s what we used to withdraw money in the first place. And we were also very sad about losing the wallet itself! We anxiously waited about ten minutes, and finally the man called us back over to his desk and said that they found it! It was still in the overhead bin, exactly where we thought it would be! Yayyyy! We felt a huge rush of relief. He said that the train would be back in Ronda in about two hours, so we had to come back then to retrieve it.

We left the station with smiles on our faces and thankful hearts. Since the town was so small, we could ride around the city and back to our hotel with plenty of time to spare before we needed to be back at the station. We decided to get some lunch and relax in the meantime. We found a wonderful bakery in the center of town where we got some sandwiches and drinks. Casey ordered a deli sandwich filled with jamón, tomato, cucumber, and lettuce, as well as a super thick and creamy mocha frappuccino dolloped with a heavy dose of whipped cream. That was like a mocha mousse more than a frappuccino. I ordered a simpler pastry filled with tomato sauce and cheese (like a pizza Hot Pocket) with more fresh orange juice. Mmm. Needless to say, we were happy and relieved.

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After lunch, we went back to the hotel and rested for a while. Both of us didn’t feel like venturing out into the city just yet. We wanted to get the wallet back in our possession before we could roam and be tourists again. When we returned to the station, the train pulled up, and an employee stepped out with our cute little wallet in hand. We felt like parents picking up their child who has spent a semester abroad. (I held the wallet in my jacket pocket for the rest of the day as well.)

With the deal done, we set out to explore the city in our rain pants and raincoats. The storm clouds had gradually settled over the town, so there was now a soft drizzle of rain coming down. Unbeknownst to us, we had left the lovely climate of Córdoba and come to the extremely cold Ronda. And I do mean it was COLD! I can’t remember exactly, but I guess it was in the low-40’s that day. Casey would tell you it was just cold, since he stays much warmer than I do, but to me it was COLD. Anyway.

We rode our bikes through Old Town to get the lay of the land, as usual. This took us straight to the Puente Nuevo, the New Bridge, that is the most popular photo spot in Ronda. It also gave us a great view of El Tajo, the huge canyon below. These pictures were taken looking out into the countryside from the main side of the bridge. There is a small river below called the Guadalevin River too.

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Then we crossed to the other side of the bridge where we could see more houses and the rest of the town. And one side of the massive bridge, of course! It was just amazing to see how the buildings are built so close to the edge of the cliffs. The deep green foliage really stands out against the rock face.

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Casey was all dolled up in his rain gear as well. He looked like a spy in all his black, minus the bright blue shoes. Even our bike bag wore its neon green rain cover.

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In this Old Town section, the streets were so narrow, hardly big enough for two cars, and most of the sidewalks were even narrower! Two people could not pass each other without one moving out of the way. The roads were also extremely hilly. That coupled with the narrow roads and drizzle of rain made me decide to walk my bike out of town instead of riding it.

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We left the touristy section and found ourselves by a staircase that went down to a street which led out of town. Casey wanted to check it out, and he offered to carry both bikes down the stairs, so I agreed to that proposition. The clouds were also starting to break up and let some light through, so that was a nice sign in the sky.

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There was a large stone fortress to our right that was used for military purposes since it had a vantage point of the whole south-western side of the city. It looked formidable against the stormy sky and dim lighting, but the sheep grazing in the field toned it down. Casey “bahhhed” a few times and got them to look up at us with curiosity.

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I was still COLD, and the road was really steep, so I decided not to ride any further. The cobblestone road also made it more uncomfortable to ride since the bike vibrates so much compared to being on a smooth surface. I stayed behind while Casey rode on for a little just to see what was around the bend in the road.

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I noticed that I was standing by a haystack… a horseback riding rental place (“Horse Riding Tours”)… and three horses. They all turned their heads to look back as Casey was riding up the hill. PC033692PC033697PC033702PC033709

One of them even came closer as Casey was coming up. The white one was definitely a horse, but the black one could have been a donkey. Which means this brown one below might be a mule. (I had to do some research to figure that out.) Either way, it looked at us very seriously and curiously. PC033713

Casey was hot after riding his bike up a crazy steep hill (I walked), so he took his jacket off and then carried our bikes up the stairs again. What a guy. The bikes look kind of small in comparison to him huh!

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This church was pretty against the dusty blue sky and the bright, white moon. The cross almost looks like it’s hovering above the building rather than being attached to it.

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On our way back to the hotel, we caught a glimpse of the beautiful, white town on the other side of the bridge as well. I love how strikingly white these buildings are, up close and from afar. We ventured down into that area of town on the next day, so you’ll see those pictures in a bit.

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Once we got back to the hotel, we changed out of our rain pants to go to dinner. I was still holding onto that wallet for dear life. We didn’t know where dinner would be, so we bought a loaf of bread to nibble on while we walked around looking for a restaurant. It’s so convenient and tasty to buy fresh bread every day. I think I will also incorporate that into my “new” life back in the US. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and fresh bread. Yum. Who wouldn’t love that? We ended up at an Italian restaurant that, all-in-all, was not very good. They tried with the food, but we’ve certainly had better. We were simply not having good luck with the food in these towns! Oh well. We finished up with a slice of ice cream before going back to the hotel and getting a good night’s sleep.PC033729PC033733PC033734PC033737

The next day was a bit sunnier, a bit warmer, and a bit more exciting than the first day had been. Our usual breakfast of toast, juice, and coffee was on the menu. Then we walked through the main street of shops towards a park overlooking the countryside. All of these Spanish towns decorate their streets with lights and Christmas decorations. It’s really lovely.

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It was a glorious day, can’t you tell? :) In the picture below, the Puente Nuevo is directly to the left in between those two cliff faces. You can’t see it, but that’s where we were standing the day before looking down into the canyon and out into the valley. The building on the left is a hotel, so you can just imagine how expensive those rooms are with a view like that! It must be nice to be a farmer in these parts and be able to look up at Ronda every day as well.

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I liked the gazebo and the single, pink rose that was still blooming as winter drew near. We noticed well after the fact that we took all those pictures above while standing on a very thin platform! Look at that! We had no idea that it stuck out into the valley all on its own. I don’t know if I would have walked on it had I known how thin it actually was. Eek! Also, the foliage is something to note because there was a really interesting mix of plants in Ronda. There were dark green evergreen-like plants, but there were also plenty of cacti. I didn’t know that cacti liked cold, rainy climates. They certainly do here though. All of those light green plants below are cacti.

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There was a path leading down to the river which provided a great view of the Puente Nuevo, so we continued on and tried to find it. I knew without a doubt that I’d have to get a good picture of that bridge! That metal sign says “Warning! Way In Poor Condition” and looks about as old as the town itself. The nicer, tiled sign says “City of Ronda, Door of the Mills.” Apparently there used to be many flour mills below the bridge, so that is what that means.

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Yes, I was still COLD, even though the sun was shining and there was no rain. We didn’t think it’d be so bitterly cold in Southern Spain, so we didn’t bring our thermals, gloves, or hats. I bought some cheap gloves that morning though because my hands were still freezing, and I had to take pictures today! It was only cold and windy in certain parts of the city though, so it got much better once we descended the wide, cobblestone path and emerged into the glistening sun.

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Everywhere we looked, there were old stone relics, crumbled buildings, and piles of rock from years past. Who knew how long ago they had been built. I think this door/archway could be one of the “doors of the mills” that they were talking about. It stands alone now.

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We followed that quail-like bird up some very steep steps to reach a lookout point. I wriggled into what I imagine is an archer slit used during the days of conflict and invasions. Tiny space! Maybe it wasn’t used for that purpose after all. We took a great photo of us overlooking the valley! And then we got to the goods… the breathtaking Puente Nuevo!!

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These pictures just don’t do it adequate justice, although they are still pretty. It was huge and truly magnificent. I took many good-quality photos, so I’ll try to edit those and blow them up into large, printable sizes. Maybe you’ll want one? Hehe.

I know I posted this picture earlier, but Casey is just too cute: all blissed out, extremely happy, and warm! Lucky him.

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We kept walking on the path and went underneath the bridge to this old powerhouse of sorts. I think they used to take the water from the river here and used it to run the flour mills. Just a guess. The river was very slow here and pretty deep too. Keeping in line with the foliage discussions, there were incredibly tiny, green plants on the side of the building. I took some up-close pictures of them.

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The sun was already ever-so-slightly starting to go down, so we hiked back up the path and into the city. It was time for a snack by now, so we wandered into a sleepy café and ordered a coffee and a raspberry tart. (In case you were wondering, I don’t like coffee, so Casey is the only one partaking in all of these frothy beverages.)

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After having such a fun time at the Puente Nuevo, we decided to try and find the Puente Viejo, or Old Bridge. We went back to the hotel to get a new battery for the camera, and somehow night had fallen by the time we arrived in this side of town. The dark blue sky was just beautiful with the golden, twinkling lights!

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I took two pictures of this curvy road: one on its own and one with Casey.

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You can barely see the Puente Nuevo in this picture below. It’s the bright yellow spot far away from us. We were a good distance away from it. The Puente Viejo is the second picture below, which you can see is a much smaller bridge than the popular, new bridge near the entrance of town. This old bridge is kind of tucked away.

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I spotted this tree and just had to take a picture of it! I loved the little grassy plot it was in, and I loved the bright moon behind it. For some reason, the whole scene reminded me of Halloween. It took us forever to figure out what kind of tree this was too. It looked like oranges, but we really didn’t think oranges would grow here in such a frigid climate. Finally, a few days later and in another city, we realized that it is a persimmon tree! Cool!

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At this point, it was nighttime, we had done our sightseeing, and it was nearly dinnertime. So we wandered back toward town with no idea of where to go, as usual. We got lost at one point and found ourselves in a dead-end courtyard full of cats. There were at least six cats, if not more. They were running around, chasing each other, or having brief cat fights. Adorable in their own way.

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Casey pretended to drink out of this seriously old drinking fountain. We did read that the water is safe to drink from these things though. And the final picture of the night was this church or school or office building, I’m not sure. It was pretty and peaceful.

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As you might be able to imagine, we didn’t find any Spanish food that caught our eye that night. After all things were considered, we ended up at McDonald’s for a familiar meal. We might not speak highly of fast-food in the US, but it really fills the void when you’re in a foreign country with unfamiliar foods, and your mouth craves a bite of something comforting and understandable. That could be one of the hardest things about travel: not knowing what to expect from your food (or hotel room). There is something to be said about knowing how food is going to taste and knowing what you’re going to receive when you order it.

Well that was Ronda! We really enjoyed being there for the beauty, but we would have preferred to go when the weather was a bit warmer. It was definitely one of the most unique cities we’ve ever been to though, so we really loved that aspect of it. We were halfway through our trip at this point and having lots of fun! I have two cities left to tell you about, so stay tuned!


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Córdoba, Spain

And we’re back!

The second city we visited during our Southern Spain Trip was Córdoba. We took the train from Sevilla and, in only an hour, we were there! The trains really are a wonderful thing. They have all different types of trains, so sometimes we got high-speed trains, other times medium-distance trains, and other times the slow trains, but they were all very convenient and at relatively good prices. We would gladly travel by train any day, and we would highly recommend it to anyone traveling through Europe. I would imagine that the train systems in other countries function just as well as in Spain, although I can’t say definitively.

Anywho, we rode our bikes from the Córdoba train station to our hotel, which wasn’t far away. We settled in and relaxed for a while and then decided to explore. We pretty much didn’t do any research about any city before we arrived there. I think I would have liked to know a little bit about a city and its hot spots before arriving if I did it over again, but this way worked out decently for us. We always got a colorful map of the city from the hotel, and they pointed out the touristy spots. The maps actually looked like Disneyland maps with colorful drawings of the city and numbers indicating the name of each building.

We rode toward downtown and stopped along the way whenever we wanted to take a pretty picture. Amidst new buildings and modern architecture, we came across this random section of ancient Roman ruins just sitting in the middle of the city like it’s no big deal. I don’t even think there was a plaque describing what it was, but the fact that it was walled off made us think it was ancient and important. I loved the columns; I just wish I knew more about it. After a quick photo, we rode on.

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We made our way through the narrow and curvy streets to this amazing sight! The gorgeous clouds stopped us in our tracks, and we just had to take a picture of this bell tower against the beautiful sky. Little did we know that this was the outer wall of the Mezquita-Catedral, which means Mosque-Cathedral, but I’ll get to that later. I snapped Casey standing in front of an altar of sorts, and he took a picture of the bell tower with the moon in the background. It was a lovely sight.

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This is the other side of the complex, as you can see the bell tower on the left. I loved the curved arches on the right side of the building with the yellow light shining through. The dark blue sky really sets it off beautifully. In fact, look at how much the sky had changed in a matter of minutes! We were on the other side of the wall with bright pink clouds, then the sky was light blue, and then dark blue. Gorgeous.

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The picture above shows a huge gateway to a pedestrian bridge. It was beautiful against the midnight blue sky with just a hint of the glistening silver moon shining through the clouds. (I’m saying everything is beautiful here, but it really was.) A wide but low river moved along slowly beneath us. I think there were two additional bridges for cars, but this one was specifically designated for pedestrians. What a great idea! There are so many pedestrians in this area, so it just makes sense to have a bridge for them. It was clean and had tall, rectangular lights at regular intervals. Quite lovely.

On the other side of the bridge was this watch-tower of some kind. I love the triangular tops of the columns. Casey was a good sport to pose for all these photos.

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He got in the spirit by taking some long exposure shots to capture the whole bridge and the cathedral in its essence. I zoomed in for the second shot. Majestic lighting, isn’t it?

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We continued riding our bikes well past the touristy area and into the regular city. We love to explore without a map like that and just see where it takes us. This particular route took us straight to a mall with a Toys R Us! We saw some lights in the distance and could only make out the colors. Casey turned to me and said, “That looks just like Toys R Us.” It’s funny how we know the logo so well that we could tell what it was from afar. We went inside to warm up and shared a cup of ice cream. That sounds a bit contradictory! But, as a self-proclaimed ice cream aficionado, ice cream is still wonderful in cold weather. Often even better than in the summer. Mmm.

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We moseyed around the mall for a bit but didn’t find anything interesting to look at. The most intriguing thing was that the mall was called El Arcangel, which means The Archangel. What an odd name for a mall. It was getting late anyway and nearly dinnertime, so we made our way back to the hotel. It might surprise you that with all the Spanish food around, we were craving Chinese! We’re both big fans of Asian cuisine. I often get a craving for Korean food, but it’s easier to find Chinese. Luckily, there is always some Chinese delivery service in nearly every city, so we didn’t have to look far. This place was right around the corner. We ordered our usual pair of lemon chicken for Casey and kung pao or any spicy chicken for me. I like a little crunch with my meal, so I try to order wontons if they have them. All Chinese restaurants in Spain seem to serve “Wan-Tun Frito” which is basically just a fried wonton skin with a microscopic amount of mystery meat. I swear they have to place this single bite of meat with a tweezer. It’s almost negligible to even add it. But it did suffice for the crunch I desired.  We enjoyed the food and enjoyed staying in for the night.

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The next day was a bit more adventurous. Since there are no continental breakfasts in Spain, Casey went out to buy something. We found a place in Valencia called “Panaria” and then realized it’s a chain all over Spain. It’s a little pricy, but the food is good. They have fresh bread, sandwiches, quiche, muffins, etc. Casey got a jamón bocadillo for a change, and I had my usual toast with jam. I took a picture of him walking back to the hotel with the goods.

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We ventured out into the world and simply walked around for quite some time. We enjoyed exploring on our bikes the day before, but now we wanted to slow down a bit and see things more closely. We had a better idea of the layout of the city, so we grabbed our things and headed downtown. I enjoyed taking some pictures of the tops of buildings with a great deal of sky. I’m not sure why.

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We ran into a cute candy shop in the middle of a courtyard. It was filled to the brim with candy, peanut brittles, roasted nuts, candied apples, popcorn, and cotton candy. A bright red candy apple struck us as being fun to try. I don’t remember ever having a candied apple; I always had caramel apples, so we bought one to give it a go.

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Casey held onto it and we kept walking through the maze of streets. We found the Calleja de Las Flores, or “Street of The Flowers,” which I mentioned in a previous post.

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I’ll admit that this street sounded much more glamorous online. It was literally just one, tiny alleyway and an incredibly small courtyard. It was pretty, don’t get me wrong, especially with the view of the cathedral in the background, but it was not at all what people have described. My guess is that this is THE street of the flowers, but there are other streets of flowers that people have found. If you go online, you’ll find pictures boasting of all the flowers and flower pots that can be found in Córdoba, and they will call it Calleja de Las Flores, but they aren’t at the official one. Alas. Outside a gift shop, I admired these pretty, mosaic mirrors (see Casey in one of them!).

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By now it was time to eat our candied apple and see what all the hype was about. The glossy exterior proved to have a desirable crunch, and a sweet, juicy apple (albiet slightly pithy) lurked underneath. The sticky candy was like glue on our teeth, but it quickly dissolved. Frankly, I enjoy caramel apples better. This crunch and soft apple wasn’t the best combo. I think chewy caramel pairs better with apples, but this was fun to try.

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At this point, we were back on the same street as the Mezquita-Catedral, so we decided to go inside the walls and take a look. The gardens were so lovely and fresh! The smell of orange blossoms was in the air, obviously from all the orange trees. (It smelled like the Atrium at the Mansion, actually.)

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Now I’ll tell you a little bit about the Mezquita-Catedral, or Mosque-Cathedral. It is exactly what it sounds like: half Muslim Mosque, half Christian Cathedral. Muslims occupied Spain for many, many years until Christians drove them out, so many buildings have references to both cultures. This is one of the definitive structures which showcases both architectural styles beautifully. This is also THE HOT SPOT of Córdoba. We figured that out the night before and decided that we better go take a look at it. Even though we’re not big museum people, we knew this was one touristy spot we couldn’t miss. You’ll soon see why.

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I don’t need to tell you that the interior was breathtaking! Arch after arch and column after column filled the hall. The two tiers of red and white striped arches were just something we had never seen before. No wonder this place is a must see!

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Percentagewise, most of the architecture is Muslim or Islamic in design with its rich browns, reds, and greys (it might be called Moorish architecture; the Muslims were called “Moors” for some reason). But then… then you have the striking white and gold juxtaposition of the Christian constructions. There is a huge altar with beautiful paintings and stained glass, as well as two enormous organs and a full Baroque choir.

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The next picture is one of my favorites because it shows both extremely contrasting styles right next to each other. They are notably exact opposites, yet they somehow work together in a strange and beautiful way.

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We reluctantly left the cool chambers of the Mosque-Cathedral and went back out into daylight. Casey is standing outside one of the doors to the building. Even the architecture on the outside is intricate in detail and color. We spotted these absolutely adorable mirrors at a gift shop too! I wanted one so badly! We packed so lightly though with only two bags that we didn’t have much space for souvenirs. On the bright side, the really pretty mirrors were the bigger ones (size 11×14 and up). Since I logically could not haul one of those around, I didn’t feel too badly about not buying it.

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We again found ourselves next to the pedestrian bridge, so we took some more pictures of it. It was still lovely in the light blue twilight.

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You probably didn’t know that there are stray cats everywhere in Spain! We saw them in every city that we visited. If you know me, then you know that I love cats! The Spanish cats we saw were always short-hair and very friendly. They would come up to us and rub against our legs. These two were particularly cute together. They let me get super close to them. And then, as I was crouched down to the ground, another cat came up to me and started rubbing against my arm. I managed to take a close up of him or her! Adorable!

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We pressed on with our evening tour of the city and had a little fun in the meantime.

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We found some delicious fruit candies in a window and proceeded to buy a few. They were the best, soft, jelly candies we ever had, and that’s saying something! The store clerk said they were sweetened with natural fruit juices and they tasted sooo good. The flavor was unlike any other candy. It was like drinking fruit juice in solid form. Yummy! We’d go back to Córdoba just for those.

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Oh, and for this. Without a heartbeat. Remember this glorious pastry? We do. I think we still have dreams about it. See Casey’s expression below? That was when he said, “Whaaatttt? How can something be SO GOOD?” He was amazed. Now I have to replicate it. I won’t mind trying.

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Casey bought me a sweet little wallet to hold my euros! Coins are used a lot more in Europe than in the US, since they have larger coins (1 and 2 euros) compared to quarters. It’s a hassle to dig through one pocket full of cash and coins, so we opted for this tiny wallet with two zippers. Casey saw a local using a wallet like this and immediately wanted one. It works really well! You fold the bills and put them in one pocket, and then the second pocket is strictly for coins. And the easiest way to sort through coins is to dump them in your hand. It works! (Remember this wallet because I have a story about it when we get to Ronda, Spain.)

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My grandma requested that I write more about food, so I plan to do just that! Unfortunately, our food choices in Córdoba were nothing spectacular. The Chinese food was better than these Spanish dishes you see below. Our plan was to go to a highly rated restaurant in the center of town. We got there, looked at the menu displayed outside, and realized that it was a little pricier than we wanted. There also weren’t too many dishes that sounded good. The reviews said they had great food, but we realized that it was all local fair. Both of us aren’t adventurous eaters unless we know it’s good. We’ll definitely try something if one of our friends recommends it to us, but we’re just not going to waltz in and order something foreign. The main delicacy in Córdoba was bull’s tail and, well, that just didn’t sound too good at the moment. So we wandered on and ended up at a cheaper place with tapas (small Spanish dishes or appetizers) that we could relate to. We had little meatballs, a tiny hamburger, and cheese cannelloni. Like I said, it was cheap and tasted so, but it filled the void.

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On the way back to the hotel, we found a place that served 100 different kinds of tiny pizzas. We ordered two dessert pizzas: one Oreo with white chocolate, and one with cream cheese and strawberry preserves. Casey enjoyed them enough, but I wasn’t impressed. They looked nothing like the pictures in the menu and they didn’t taste all that good. Alas. We tried.

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We made it back to the hotel and turned in for the night. Even though we didn’t have the best meals in this city, we thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the architecture. It was a fun two days. The next day we would take the train out of town and head into the hills to a gorgeous place called Ronda.

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Stay tuned. Yours truly,

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P.S. The full gallery of photos is having a hard time uploading due to the poor internet here in Lagos (and the fact that there are a lot of pictures). I’ll try and post them later on, and I’ll let you know when they’re up!


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Sevilla, Spain [Seville]

Now is the time to blog about our trip across Southern Spain! Casey and I have been taking it relatively easy the past few days, but I’ve been busy going through our photos and choosing the best ones. Yay! It’s a time-consuming process, I’ll be honest. It’s just wonderful to have so many pictures in the first place, but then you have to go through them, tag them, and edit them if you want. I meant to post this blog yesterday, but it took a lot longer than I expected. Anyway, let’s talk about the fun part.

We left our apartment in Valencia bright and early at 7:20 AM, although it was still pitch black at that hour. It was raining lightly and the rain made all the lights twinkle. We were prepared though with our raincoats and rain covers for our bags. Casey wanted to pack as lightly as possible so all we had was a backpack and a bike bag. Our packing situation worked out really well though since we traveled light but still had everything we needed. We rode our bikes to the bus stop and then took the bus to the train station!

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We timed it perfectly so all we had to do was fold up our bikes and check in. They have security screening at some train stations, but they are definitely not as serious about it as airports. There was always plenty of space on the trains to put our bikes; sometimes they fit in the luggage compartments and other times they had specific bike areas. Since our train ride was so early, Casey tried to get some sleep!

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The journey was about four hours long but it went by quickly. After we arrived in Sevilla, we rode our bikes to our hotel and checked in. I wouldn’t say that Spain is known for its bike lanes, but most of the bigger cities have them. We wished that more cities had better bike lanes though because they are really convenient and make riding a lot more comfortable. We always tried to stay on the bike lanes when able. Casey was very good at navigating on his phone, and he has a helpful phone mount on his bike so he can look at maps while we ride.

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We spent two days in each city, so the first day we usually just rode our bikes around town to get acquainted with the area and see the layout. It was a good plan since we could figure out what we wanted to see and then spend more time there during the second day. Sevilla was just beautiful. The air was crisp with the feeling of early winter in the air (and we both love fresh, crisp weather), and there was the pretty Guadalquivir River surrounding the city. They love designing cities around rivers here in Spain, but I imagine that that is the same in most of Europe. If I think about it, Portland, Oregon is also situated around the river just like Sevilla, so I guess it’s similar all over the world!

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We rode on the outskirts of town and stopped at various places to take pictures. There were a lot of awesome buildings to admire!

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We ended up at a gorgeous park called Parque de Maria Luisa. It looked almost like an open-air museum because it was filled with fountains, statues, gazebos, ponds, orange trees, and flowers. On that note, I should mention that Sevilla itself is bursting with orange trees! I’m not exaggerating. They line almost every street in the whole city. The trees make the streets more enjoyable, and sometimes we could smell a faint fragrance of orange essence in the air. Mmm.

Anyway, getting back to the park… it was so beautiful and majestic. I felt like I was in someone’s private backyard garden. (Actually it was someone’s private property until the late 1800’s when the owner, Maria Luisa, donated it to the city.) There were benches with ornate vases propped next to them and arbors with vines creeping upward. There were numerous birds and ducks but we only saw one swan.

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There were two museums on the premises, but we didn’t go into them. We’re not big museum people, so you’ll notice that we didn’t go into very many along our trip. We prefer to see cities from a local’s perspective and find hidden gems that might not be on a tourist’s map. That being said, we did spend a lot of time in touristy sections and we did visit the most prominent sites because, well, we had to. We couldn’t quite visit a city and not see its most famous landmark!

While riding through the park, we came across the Plaza de España, one of the popular spots in Sevilla. It was built to mark the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair of 1929. It’s a HUGE semicircle with two large bell towers at either end and a main building at the very center. There is a moat in front of it, so you can only get to the buildings by crossing bridges. There is also a large fountain in the very center of the plaza. It was breathtaking to see, and we got there at the perfect time just as the sun was setting.

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The plaza is lovely in itself, but there are also very ornate, tiled alcoves all along the walls of the semicircle. Each alcove represents a different province of Spain. We were told that the tradition is to take a picture in your home province, so we did just that for Valencia!

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The sun set and we made our way to the downtown area to check out THE MAIN HOT SPOT: the Cathedral of Sevilla. It was impressive!! My pictures definitely do not do it justice since I couldn’t get a good vantage point for the life of me. We went back the next day to take more pictures, and I still could not find a good spot to photograph the cathedral in all its glory. Of course, there is a reason for this: it is the largest Gothic building in Europe and the third largest church in Europe. I just looked up the statistics online and some sites differ about its rank in the world, but regardless, it’s huge! Apparently it took 104 years to build! From 1402-1506. WOW! That’s crazy. I absolutely love Gothic architecture, so I was in awe the whole time. I love all the ornate details and immense decorations that it possesses. The details like flying buttresses, arches, spires, and towers are just glorious!

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Sigh. I really really wanted to get a better view, but we didn’t make time to climb the bell tower, which is called La Giralda. I read that if you go to the top, you could see a good amount of the cathedral from above. (Either that, or rent an airplane hehe.) I guess this gives us something to see again if we ever want to go back to Sevilla. We also didn’t go inside of the cathedral, so that is something else we could do. Also, take a good look at that photo above and you can see Casey among the crowd!

The rest of our second day was spent riding around town and taking pretty [and quirky] photos of the city and of each other. We didn’t find any more monuments that we wanted to see, so we mainly relaxed and just enjoyed the day.

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All-in-all, we really enjoyed Sevilla! It treated us well. I think it was one of my favorite cities just because of the Cathedral alone, but it also did have a nice vibe to it. The people were nice, it felt modern enough, but it also had a deep feeling of antiquity which some cities just have and others do not. It was a great start to our tour of Southern Spain!

I’ve decided to post a new blog about each city that we visited instead of combining it all into one post. That way it’s shorter, and it will be easier to differentiate between all of the cities (for you and for me). Normally I post all of my pictures in the blog, but I have way too many to post in this usual fashion. Therefore, I’m going to try something new and put all of our photos into a gallery at the end of each post. I only chose the best photos to actually showcase in the blog, but there are still many good ones in the gallery. Click on a picture and it will become larger. Then you can scroll through all of them and see bigger images. I also captioned some of the photos so you can read those descriptions if you click on a picture. Please do it! :) Enjoy!