Persistency pays off, almost every time, and we did find a room in a hotel, although it was close to midnight. Bargain of the year it was not, yet neither was it outlandishly expensive. It had air-con and included a buffet breakfast. And....it was close to the action. After checking in, we had a quick shower, settled into our very comfortable bed, and promptly visited la-la land.
Bar-thelona, as it is pronounced in Spain (c's and z's are pronounced with a lisp in Spain), is the capital of a region called Catalunya, which also has its own regional language called Catalan. Whilst the Catalunyans are fiercely patriotic, they do also speak Spanish. There is no doubt that whilst huge, Barcelona is full of treasures, some found easily and others hidden. Although now so very cosmopolitan, with streets that would easily rival Milan's designer avenues, it is also full of Gothic, Romanesque and modernist splashes.......welcome to this vibrant city.
We do not do this often, but another day we took a "tourist" bus all over the enormous town, and I must say that due to its enormity, we were able to see much more than we would have been able to alone. This included the Barcelona Soccer Club Stadium, Poble Espanyol (let's say the Barcelona version of Ballarat's Sovereign Hill), the Olympic Stadium, Port Vell (Barcelona's port area) and the Gothic part of the city (with its winding, narrow, and sometimes dead end streets, which looked as if they had been lifted directly out of medieval Europe).
Another thing we do not normally do, but did in this buzzing city, was treat ourselves to a buffet dinner and flamenco concert. The dinner was average, but the concert was phenomenal. The most intoxicating part was watching the speed at which the dancers' feet moved......I wish!
Another day, we simply walked around, and just soaked up the people, places and the culture. For this you must be prepared to wander and get lost. Getting "lost" gets you off the tourist track, and helps you to stumble onto places where the real people live. We also checked out Barcelona's beach.......I know that I will sound arrogant here, but is was pretty bush league. C'mon give me a break here, I am an Aussie, and we all know that we have some of the best beaches in the world!
After umm-ing and aah-ing we decided that we would go to Granada next, to see the renowned Alhambra, one of the greatest achievements of Islamic art and architecture. We ended up getting a bus, as all the trains were fully booked out. Or should I say, we had to book in advance. Advance....are you kidding, we do not know what we are doing from one day to the next. We are the king and queen of wingin' it! July in Spain is a nightmare, it is hot and busy, and full of travellers. If I had a month's holiday, I would NEVER choose to do it in summer. As they say, horses for courses!
Beautiful Granada....nestled at the foot of the snow-clad Nevada Mountains, on the Mediterranean Coast, close to the Strait of Gibraltar, it seems like a world away from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona. Here things are more tranquil, as you walk around in a place that has a distinctive bygone era feel about it. Granada is unique as it was once a haven for Muslims, after the fall of Cordoba. The result is a place that has a distinctively Islamic or Arabic feel about it. The serenity felt so normal, and I wondered at what point the two cultures began to compete instead of living together side by side.
The Alhambra is simply stunning. Sitting on a hilly promontory, about a 20 minute walk or so from the city centre, it was once the residence of the Muslim Kings of Granada.The Alcazaba, the Alhambra's fortress, dates from the 11th and 13th centuries, and the state of preservation is excellent. It is a place full of palaces, patios, gardens and even a museum, but the piece de resistance is without a doubt the Palacio Nazaries ( Nasrid Palace). Its splendour may be attributed to its patios with outstanding mosaic work as well as the intricacy of its stuccoes and woodwork. This is the type of place you could do in an hour, or 5 or 6. We opted for the latter...scrutinising the mosaics, marvelling at the woodwork, and relaxing in the gardens. With the temperature hovering at above 40 degrees celsius, relaxing in the shade of the trees in the many gardens was virtually compulsory.
I must also add that we had some fairly decent food in Granada, including some ice-cream that rivals Italy's. OK Italy, you are still the King of Gelati, but some of your neighbours are catching up!
It was finally time to make our way to Morocco, so after sifting through the information of a new travel friend (thanks Greg), doing some on-line research ourselves, and asking around, we decided on the one hour ferry from Algeciras ( on the southern tip of Spain, near the straight of Gibraltar) to Tangier, almost the northernmost tip of Morocco. So, we woke up nice and early (must say, at this point we are both a little bit over nice and early!), caught a bus to Algeciras (which also served as a clothes dryer), and then walked the short distance to the port, where we bought a ferry ticket to Tangier. The ride was short and sweet, and before we knew it we had almost completed the 14 kilometre ride between the two points, and in the distance.....there she was........Morocco......another lifelong dream about to come true. What exactly would await us there?
"It is not so important to know everything as to appreciate what we learn." - Hannah More.
(Photos: 1.- Street artist, on a dunny break, La Rambla, Barcelona. 2.- Market fare, of La Rambla. 3.- In the winding alleys of central Barcelona. 4.- La Sagrada Familia...still under construction. 5.- The chimeneas on top of Gaudi´s Casa Batllo. 6&7.- Flamenco show. 8.- The Alhambra, as seen from one of its many gardens, Granada. 9.- An example of the Alhambra´s fine workmanship. 10.- Clothes dryer....on the bus to Algeciras. 11.- Which one´s Ombi? Still having fun after 11 months on the road.)