Monday, March 27, 2017

Andalusia Trip Summary

We had an awesome week in Spain.  This was my first time in Andalusia and found it to be brilliant.

We stayed in Málaga which was great.  There's so much to see and do here.  It's also makes a great home base for several day trips.

Plus it's on the Costa del Sol and it felt so good to be at the beach.

In Málaga, we saw people preparing for the Holy Week celebration.  The processions will start on Palm Sunday and continue until Easter Sunday just as they have here for more than 500 years.

Our first day trip was to Tangier which was my first time in Africa.  It was a long day and gave us a quick feel for the city.  There are still places I want to visit in Morocco but I don't have a burning desire to go back to Tangier.  But I did ride a camel.
Our next day trip was to Granada and a visit to La Alhambra.  Granada seemed like such a great place that we really want to stay here next time.  Perhaps combining it with visits to Córdoba and Sevilla.

We really enjoyed our tour to Gibraltar.  Not sure I would want to stay here a week but perhaps for a long weekend.

No visit here is complete without seeing the macaques.  I made sure to pick up a toy monkey souvenir for Tünde.  It makes loud monkey noises so I'm sure she'll love it; Claudia probably not so much but my job as godfather is to spoil her.

In Málaga

I grew up in California and part of my family is Mexican so I grew up with people speaking Latin American Spanish, or our version of it called Spanglish.  Normally my biggest challenge is Latin American Spanish vs. European Spanish.

Breakfast hot chocolate and churros
This week I found my Czech messing up my Spanish.  In Czech, jo means "yes" or "yeah" which sounds just like yo which in Spanish means "I".  So I found myself wanting to say "yes, yes" and felt bloody stupid saying "I, I".  Very much like my Czech messing with my Greek in Crete and Cyprus.  I guess on the bright side Czech is becoming more and more second nature.

The food this week was a definite highlight.  Everything was so fresh, especially the seafood.

Seafood paella
Dinner in Spain is served late as most restaurants don't even open until 8 PM, and that's kind of early. Things start to get busy around 10 PM.

One thing I had never tried before were boquerones, fried anchovies.  They were surprising good.

So a fabulous week in Spain, plus Morocco and Gibraltar.  Even a quick stop in Zürich.  The 23℃ (73℉) weather was a welcome break from the cold in Brno and I'm looking forward to my next trip to Spain.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Quick Stop in Zürich

On the way back from Málaga I had a four hour layover in Zürich.

So rather than just hang out at the airport I took a train in to the city to send off a couple of postcards, grab a quick bite to eat, and pick up some Swiss chocolate for my niece and nephew's holiday care packages.

If nothing else it was a good way to break up the layover.  And I'm sure that Emme & Kai will like the sweets.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tour to Gibraltar

Yesterday we took a tour to Gibraltar which is about 137 km (85 miles) from Málaga.
Overall it's pretty tiny as it only covers 6,7 km² (2,6 sq miles) and 40% of the land area has been declared a nature reserve since 1993.

Gibraltar has a 1,2 km (0,75 mile) land border with Spain.  As it's part of the UK, which isn't in Schengen, you have to go through passport control to enter when coming from Andalusia.  We knew we were in the UK because as soon as we arrived it started to rain.  Fortunately it didn't last. 

The Rock of Gibraltar is 426 metres (1,398 feet) high and is made out of Jurassic limestone.  The rock has lots of tunnelled roads but most are closed to the public as they are used by the military.

Europa Point is Gibraltar's southernmost point and on a clear day you can can see Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar.  The lighthouse began operating in 1841.

The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque was a gift from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.  It cost around £5 million and opened in 1997.

The Great Siege Tunnels were dug out by the British at the end of the 18th century during the Great Siege of Gibraltar.  They were used during WWII and tours are available.

St. Michael's Cave is a network of over 150 limestone caves about 300 metres (980 feet) above sea level.  Cathedral Cave is the largest chamber and was converted to an auditorium.

The cable car was built in 1966.  It takes people from the base to midway up the rock, the the Ape's Den, in about six minutes.

The most famous residents on the rock are the 300 Barbary macaques.  They aren't scared of people and will get in to a bit of mischief if you aren't careful.

Main Street is the main business and shopping district.  It's only 1 km (0,6 mile) so it's quite an easy stroll.

The Convent was once a convent of Franciscan friars built in 1531.  Since 1728 it has been the official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar.

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment overseas defence.  The unit was formed in 1958.

Built in 1817, and previously used as a library, the building was reopened in 1969 as the House of Assembly.  In 2006 the House of Assembly was renamed parliament.

Here's Gibraltar's city hall.  The building was originally a private mansion built in 1819.

The Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned was consecrated in 1462.  It is Gibraltar's oldest Roman Catholic church.

King's Chapel was built in the 1530s and given to the Church of England in 1704.

The Great Synagogue was founded in 1724.  It was the first synagogue on the Iberian Peninsula since Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal back in 1492 and 1497 respectively.

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was founded in 1838.  It belongs to the Church of England.

The Naval Monument was built by the Americans in 1937 as a WWI memorial commemorating the UK and USA's joint efforts during the war.  In 1998, a bronze plaque was added to commemorate the Allied invasion of North Africa in WWII.

King's Bastion used to defend Gibraltar during the Great Siege.  In 2008, it was repurposed as a leisure centre with cinemas, ice skating, bowling, and a fitness centre.

Gibraltar was a great day trip and highly recommended.  Although we did have a bit of a downpour when we first arrived, followed by heavy hail, it did clear up and turn out to be a beautiful day.  That fickle UK weather I guess.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tour to Granda, Spain

Yesterday we went on a guided tour to Granada which is 150 km (93 miles) northeast of Málaga.  Granda is in Andalusia, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and home to over 472,000 making it the 13th largest urban area in Spain.

Sierra Nevada mountains

Granada has been inhabited for at least 2500 years.  It's been home to the Greeks, the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Byzantine Empire.  The Moors took the city in 711 AD until the Reconquista ended Islamic rule in 1492.

Our tour was actually of the Alhambra with only about an hour for a whirlwind glimpse of the city.  What we saw of the city looked great.  Next time, I want to stay in Granada.

The Alhambra is the city's claim to fame.  In 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It started out as a small fortress in 889 AD that was built on top former Roman fortifications.  It was rebuilt in the mid 13th century and in 1333 it was converted into a royal palace.  It's a combination palace, citadel and fortress that overlooks the city.

In 1492, the King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabela, made it their home.  This is were Christopher Columbus asked for and received funding for his 1492 expedition.

The entire complex is quite impressive with lovely gardens.  It's quite interesting to see such Islamic architecture and design in Spain but then again the Moors were on the Iberian Peninsula for roughly 800 years.  

Here's a Rick Steven video I found on YouTube that talks about Alhambra.

©Rick Steves

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Málaga, Spain

Málaga is the biggest city on the Costa del Sol, the second largest in Andalusia and the sixth largest in Spain.  It is home to over 569,000 people making it also the biggest city in southwest Europe.  On the Mediterranean Sea, it is about 100 km (62 miles) from Gibraltar and 130 km (81 miles) from Africa.

Málaga is one of the oldest cities in the world.  The Phoenicians founded it around 770 BC.  Over the centuries it has been ruled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, and the Moors until the Christians took control in 1487 as part of the Reconquista.

Today it is a popular tourist destination with around 6 million visitors each year.

Since the 1970s there's been a increase in the number of Germans and Brits moving here.  I wonder what impact Brexit will have on that?

The Alcazaba is a Moorish castle on a hill in the middle of the city. The fort was built in the 11th century and it was largely restored in 1930.

The Castillo de Gibralfaro is another Moorish fort that was built in the 11th century.    It served as a military garrison from 1487 to 1925.  You can walk around the upper walls and there are great views of the city.

The Roman theatre dates back to the 1st century BC.  It was discovered in 1951.

The Cathedral was built from 1528 to 1782.  Only the façade is Baroque while the rest is in the Renaissance style.

The Cervantes Theatre opened in 1870.  It was restored and reopened in 1987 with additional conservation work carried out in 2016.

The Sacred Heart Church was built in 1920 by the Jesuits.

The Bullring was built in 1874.  The stadium can seat 14,000 people.

Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga so it makes sense that there's a Picasso museum.

The town hall was built between 1912 and 1919.

The Church of St. John the Baptist was built in the late 15th century.  The tower was rebuilt from 1869 to 1783 following an earthquake which demolished the previous tower.

The Monument for the Family Gálvez of Macharaviaya honours four brothers and one son who all important men of state.  The son, Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid led Spanish forces against Britain in the Revolutionary War helping the American 13 colonies gain independence.  He is one of only eight people to ever have been awarded honorary U.S. citizenship.

The Revello de Toro museum opened in 2010.  The museum houses a 142 piece collection of work by the sculptor.

The Centre Pompidou Málaga opened in 2015 as a branch of the Paris based Pompidou Centre.

The Collection of the Russian Museum Saint Petersburg opened in 2015.

The English Cemetery opened in 1831.  It is the oldest non-Roman Catholic Christian cemetery in Spain.

Malagueta is the closest beach.  A popular beach snack is espetos which are grilled sardines on a stick.

Free walking tour group

Málaga is awesome!  Plus the food is amazing and I've loved the 23℃ (73℉) weather right now.  I can so see coming back.