A Travellerspoint blog

When days turn into weeks

all seasons in one day

With great intentions I updated our travel blog after a few short weeks of neglect, and then somehow our travels went into overdrive with too much to see and no time for blogging! so I will try to catch up once again
After our stop in Granada, we had originally planned to stop at Valencia on our way up to Barcelona. What we didnt realise is that the MotoGP was on at the time, so all accomodation was booked out (completly booked out!) so next option was a 12 hour train (either all day or overnight) to Barcelona, during the booking process our bank card wouldnt work (for the 140euro tickets, thats each!) so we ran up the road to get out some cash instead, with the last few tickets on hold as this was sold out as well, but our card didnt work at the ATM either, seeing it as a sign we gave up and planned to think about it again tomorrow! After a quick rethink, we bought flights direct to Barcelona for 140euro for the two of us, A much better option!

We had now been to Barcelona quite a few times, (4 times in the past year alone) so for a change of pace we rented an apartment for a week and Rishi enrolled in a weeks intensive spanish course, while I opted to lounge around all day and see some less known sights
Our apartment was great, and was a bit of a splurge
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We ended up in the less touristy port end of the Gothic Quarter, which was a great central location

The week went too fast, and Rishi loved her Spanish course (a lot a lot a lot a lot!!!! - Rishi)

Next stop was somewhere we missed on our last trip, Amsterdam

You always get mixed reviews from people who have been, and we were now keen to see it for ourselves

Accomodation is the hardest part about Amsterdam, you can pay 90euro a night for two people to sleep on an old boat where you would struggle to find the room to swing a cat! We found a great Guesthouse just across from the main city centre (10 mins walk) which worked out great

The first thing you see when you arrive at Central Station is bikes everywhere, and it was cold, about 4degrees and people were everywhere on bikes

This was the worlds first(and only?) multi storey bike storage out the front of the train station
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Being just outside town, what better way to get around so we hired bikes for our entire four day stay!
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We had great clear (but cold) weather for the entire time, most days we just picked an area and cruised through on our bikes stopping wherever we liked, There are some fantastic museums and gallerys

Including Rembrandthaus, Rembrandts original house which had an exhibition that ran through his life and included the most extensive collection of his etchings along with the original etching plates

Unfortunatly the Rembrandt-poppen-haus wouldnt fit in my bag!
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We also got to the Rijksmuseum which had a fantastic collection of everything and anything (their version of the Lourve, and almost as big) which also had the Contreversal Damien Hirst diamond skull on display

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Which was intresting, but definatly all hype

But we spent most of the time admiring the canals, the bikes and the people riding them and trying to find somewhere to lock our bikes

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The food was up and down, and varied, we ordered a beer snack here which was described as ox sausage, it tasted better than it looked!
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And of course we strolled the red light district at night, which was more tourist parade than anything else, but it definatly a more sleazy feel over the weekend
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Next we jumped on a train to Berlin, were we didnt want to leave 2 years ago

We spent 7 nights here 2 years ago, and had dreamt of living and working here, so we were intrested to see after all this time how it has changed

Things have definatly moved on, and the areas we liked last time have pushed further out as the city has developed, but the feeling of the city is still there

We revisited some places, like the Reichstag, great by day or night (no snow this time either!)
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Karl Marx Allee, Communist housing development
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Berliner Dom, I took this exact photo last time!
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There was a building here last time we visited, and they decided to knock it down after all (apparently due to an asbestos problem!)
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And the TV tower is visible from everywhere
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We managed to meet up with a friend of Rishis from Sydney, Hannah who is now living and working in Berlin, something we talked to her about after our first trip, and hers two years ago
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She took us to a new restaurant run by one of her room mates from Paris, which was a great night out
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We read some tourist magazine and spotted an unusual event, a Parkour demonstration at a big indoor skatepark in Friedrichshain which we checked out, Parkour is a french invented sport where you basically just jump all over everything (very hard to explain) but it is certainly big in Germany
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Retro Rishi
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We sampled many Curry Wurst, this one is apparently famous, not too sure why!
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And we even managed some culture, at the uniquely named Hamburger Bahnhoff Gallery, which unknown to us was 12euro entry (just dont convert it to AUD we told ourselves!)

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And of course, we sampled most of Berlins beers on offer, including a selection in an old fashioned beer hole in Mitte

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Posted by Rish_n_Ben 08:31 Archived in Spain Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Medinas, Mesquitas and the Moops in Espana

sunny 26 °C

Next in Spain it was onto the Former Muslim centre of Europe, first stop was Cordoba one of the most important citys of Western Europe in the 10th Century. The main building left here is the Mesquita (Mosque) which was converted by the Christians when the city was recaptured in 1236. At the time of the Muslim rule this mosque was the second largest in the world.

Parts of the original walls also remained
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But the Mequita was the real highlight
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The Christians basically just modified the existing building, and built a number of cathedrals inside the original mosque
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It was amazing just walking through the arches, and seeing how the light changed

Other than the Mosque there wasnt much left of the Muslim city, but the street layout was definatly based on the original Muslim city.
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Cordoba felt as though it was really based around the tourists, but there were still some great local places to be found. This Fino bar specialised in Montilla-Moriles a type of Fino, a glass out of the chilled barrel was only about €1.20 not the best tasting stuff though!
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The food here was a little dissapointing after Seville, but we did find a great Tortilla place (which is basically a potato frittata) and when its good its great!
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We stayed just outside the old town in Cordoba, and just on the corner was this bar on top of a new multi-storey carpark, this must be were all the locals go because it was pretty busy for a Monday night, and had a great view of the old Roman Bridge
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Next was onto Granada, home to the Moops(according to George or Moors, according to the Bubble boy in Seinfeld)

With the obvious highlight here being the Alhambra
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A good solid day was required to see the Alhambra, and even in low season the pre-book tickets were sold out 24 hours before the day, so that meant we had to get there for the on the day sale tickets at 8am with entry at 9am. The entire day felt like cattle through the saleyards, but it really is one of the most amazing places in the world
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The famous Lions courtyard was under maintenance, and all the Lions had been taken away for remodelling (just imagine a series of 7 giant lions squirting water into a central fountain)
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But the main courtyard more than made up for it.
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The view back over the Albycin was impressive as well (this is the old muslim medina)
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Then there was the Generalife (the Architects Gardern) where the average tourist seemed to go crazy, I had to take a photo of this Brady bunch Family who decided to get a photo of them all jumping out from behind the columns and you will notice that the last two people are not even part of the family they just decided to join in
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It was a long enjoyable day
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After some great Tapas in Seville, and some good finds in Cordoba, we had high hopes for Granada. But this stop seemed to be the end of our Tapas meals. Every place we found seemed to adopt the more of less is better angle, and it was about getting free stuff, which the American tourists seemed to love

But we still found some intresting places, this place was suposed to be mexican but they served huge Montaditos (which were free)
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And I am definatly not sure how the knights fitted into the theme
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Another day we setout to explore the Albycin, We had read some bad stories about this area. And there have been quite a few violent muggings so we really had our wits about us, and quite a few times we walked down a narrow street to see some very dodgy characters just hanging around trying to look like they were meant to be there, and after a few hours walking around we booth had the heeby jeebys, but it felt very Arabic and we could have easily been back in Morroco
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Until we found these guys at one of the lookouts, very Spanish!
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Posted by Rish_n_Ben 04:17 Archived in Spain Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Second Chance in Seville

sunny 26 °C

Our first stop back in Espana was Seville, we had been here on our first Europe trip 3 years ago now. We left with bad feelings after arriving with no accomodation booked and walking around without a map for 3 hours before we found a very overpriced room with only a bed for €40 a night. We ended up staying 1 night that time! So we thought we should try Seville again, and this time we booked some accomodation. It happened to be the weekend, so there wasnt actually much left to choose from, so we ended up with a double room for €46 a night in a Hostel. If you have read our earlier blogs, this one definatly fell into the cave room description. But it was the weekend so, we were not planning on staying in the room much.
Seville is a beautiful city, but completly overun with tourists.

The Alcazar was a real highlight, we didnt see it last time
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There were heaps of wedding photos getting taken everywhere we went, which sort of dictated where you went in the Alcazar as they would turn up somewhere and take over the entire area with cameras etc. But I would hate to imagine what they are charged for the privelige!
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We did get to Plaza de Espana last time, but we were hoping the canals would have water in them this time, but we had no luck I am not sure when they fill them if at all. But this was the main site for the 1929 Spanish-American Exhibition (Basically the world expo at the time)
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The Hostel had a great roof terrace which was great for a drink in the evening, our room actually had a window onto the terrace. Luckily we didnt want any early nights as it was quite noisy until the early morning
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Seville really came alive at night time, with heaps of tourists, but also plenty of locals as well

The south of Spain is famous for there food, and Tapas in particular, we tried quite a few places and were mostly impressed here. Bar Europa was definatly the highlight though with my pick the Montadito
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It was easy to spend quite a bit of time wandering between the tapas bars, so with a full stomach at around midnight we checked out a Flamenco bar. We didnt expect much at a free show (Although the drinks made up for it) and the dancing wasnt great but its suprising how many locals go to these things, so the atmosphere was worth it.
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Rishi was ready to ride her bike home by then
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Overall our revist of Seville was much more enjoyable than the first, and we looked forward to the rest of southern Spain

Posted by Rish_n_Ben 03:40 Archived in Spain Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lucky in Lisbon

sunny 24 °C

After our luck with Hostels in Porto, and our bad experience in Lisbon last time round 3 years ago (where our hotel appeared to be swaying in the wind 8 floors up) we booked a very well reviewed hostel in the centre of Lisbon

Our room
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And the view
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We now measure all other hostels against this place! It was basically a luxury share apartment! Our room was great, we had a full kitchen, we had free internet on brand new computers, we had a tv room with Cable, and a DVD library, the manager Marco, invited everyone out for drinks every night at his local bars, and the highlight, you got a cooked breakfast every morning of either eggs on toast, or crepes with Nutella! We were in Heaven!

We had been to Lisbon before, so we had down most of the tourist sights which is great so we could really explore the city

We went out to the great Gulbenkian Museum, was actually 3 parts, Museum which included various pieces from the founder Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian personal collection over the years from egyptian art b.c. to art novuea jewelrey
There was a very impressive section on Roman/Greek gods in Coins

And we loved the René Lalique jewelery
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Then there was the next building with Modern Art, with a very impressive permenant collection and a few good exhibitions including "Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection"
This was an intresting piece which was a series of Compasses which would react to each either in a random chain pattern
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The real highlight of Lisbon is just walking the back streets and exploring, we really loved the Barrio Alto area but we could never find the start of this Elevador Bica
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So we spent the next few days, exploring Lisbon and relaxing in our Hostel

Lisbon, like Porto is built into a very steep area, which makes for some great view points, we visted quite a few and somehow ended up with a lot of photos of Rishi in front of them!
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Finally after 4 nights, it was time to move on. Changing our plans again due to transport problems we caught the train down to Faro in the Algarve in the south of Portugal where we would catch a bus through to Seville in Spain
Somehow I managed to find this great Skate store, with a in store mini ramp, which the guy let me us for free. Photos didnt work so well with the massive fan casting moving shadows over the ramp, but you get the idea!
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Then back to Espana!

Posted by Rish_n_Ben 02:12 Archived in Portugal Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Powering through Portugal

sunny 26 °C

Well, time has really passed and we have really let the blog go! We have uploaded photos along the way but have been stopping in quite a few small places in Portugal with lots to do a little time!

Portugal is really a completly unique country, and travelling in the north has been completly different from anywhere else we have been.

Our next stop was Guimarães, now a small town but known as the founding capital of Portugal.
The historic centre was beautiful, with plenty of winding streets. The highlight though was a steep walk up a hill where there was a historic mirador and cathedral.
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We definatly needed a beer once we got to the top
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Rather than walking down the slippery paths, we took the Telerifico
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Then we were on to our next major stop since Santiago, Porto
As soon as you arrive you can see how beautiful the city is, based around the Douro River the city climbs up steeply from the river creating a very picturesque city

We had found a brand new hostel online and decided to turn up and try for a room, this would be our first hostel for the trip and we were looking forward to having access to a kitchen!

The hostel was great and was across the road from a historic theatre so was themed on Movies, we were lucky to get a huge double based on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
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Or so we thought, after going out all day and buying some food to cook for dinner, we got back to a very nervous hostel owner. His co-partner had accidently given us a room that was already booked, and they other guests turned up only 30 mins after we left for the day. So even though we had already paid they had moved our luggage into the only available room. Which happened to be a 4 bed dorm! With much appoligising they showed us the room which they had pushed the two bunks together in the middle of the room, which took up the entire room leaving pretty much no room the move around, after walking around all day we were suitably pissed off! We told them we would think about it as we had hoped to have the double room, 5 mins later the guy brings back our money and says we can have a full refund if we like, so we decide leave the place if we can get another place. So we walk around for 1 hour and every is booked out! In the end the decide to charge us the dorm price each but we get the room private, and we get the double room on the last night for the dorm price! It worked out well!

On our first day we climbed the tower of a Cathedral, which is actually the highest tower in Portugal, they view was fantastic and was a great way to get our bearings!
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Porto was predictably touristy, but as soon as you got away from the main sights you could find some great areas
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Everyone knows Porto for its Port, and it really is a great experience to tour the port houses across the river in Gaia
Rishi was very excited
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First off we went to Calem, its not as well known but we had read it had some great cellars
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The tour was very intresting and the old cellars were great to explore, then onto the tastings! Unfortunatly they give you the crap stuff! I think we had the Reserva Tawny which is only 5 years, it was smooth but had no real flavour, we then tried the white dry port, which was intresting but didnt have much flavour either. We did want to buy a bottle, but after they cheap stuff (the Reserva sold for only 4euro!) we were not convinced this was the one, but after much looking at shelves we asked if we could try some other ones, we had a few including the 10 year tawny which was much better! So we settled for one of the best tawnys a 40 year! I would hate to imagine how much it would cost in Australia! After quite a few tastings, we decided we needed some food with our next tasting, harder than we thought! After another tour at Croft port house, which was very intresting and included a big part about what food you can match with Port, we asked for some food with our port, they were confused, apparently you can´t get food with port. So after more tastings and a quite good basic Ruby port we decided no more port without food, after some looking around it was clear no port houses sold food, so we gave up and went to the Sandeman cafe, where a 10 year port was 8 euro! they sold it in the port house for 10 euro a bottle! so it was back to beer with a mixed plate of cheese and hams! we were done with port for the day!

The river really was beautiful
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We went out to the Casa de Musica to check out the Architecture, it really was an impressive building and is known as one of the best modern theatres in the world currently, until our Grand Canal Theatre opens (in Dublin)!
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Then it was onto the lively university town of Coimbra
A beautiful old town with a impressive new riverfront area, this was the view from the new pedestrian bridge back over town
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The Cathedral was impressive
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The university was the highlight of the city, with a beautiful library (no pictures allowed!) it was built by the current king in the 18th century to house a selection of 15th & 16th century books given to the university. Truly amazing with only small groups of up to 10 people allowed in per 30 minutes
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Next we moved on to a spur of the moment place, Peniche

Surfing capital of Portugal, and time for a bit of a break

We just missed a big swell, were they had 8ft surf for a few days but it was a realiable 4-5ft but a little messy so we didnt hire any boards but just relaxed and watched the germans on holiday dropping in on the few locals!

We hired bikes on our first day, and rode around the entire peninsular, which would be straight forward on a decent bike but on a 14" bike with 1 gear that works it was a struggle but you can complain for 5 euro!
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This was the main spot for surfing in Baleal, just 4k around the bay from the main town
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On our last day we checked out an old fort which was famously used as a civil war prision up until the 70´s the local town band made an appearance on our way out and entertained us and some other locals, apparently this is a usual sunday tradation that the local band marches through the streets!
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Posted by Rish_n_Ben 00:57 Archived in Portugal Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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