A Travellerspoint blog

Getting our Moroccan on... in Granada

sunny 30 °C
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"Leave me in Granada in the middle of paradise where my soul wells with poetry" - Jose Zorrilla

Foodie moment

Figuring that Granada was the closest to Morocco we were going to get in this trip, we decided to have a Moroccan meal. We went to Restaurante Arrayanes and had a delicious chicken cous cous and meatball tagine (although Mark thinks my tagines are better). Our livers had a rest for the night due to no alcohol allowed, so Mark enjoyed a home made mint lemonade.

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Cultural moment

The Arabic influences from the time that the Moors lived in Granada is still very evident today. Big fragrant and colourful stalls sell any kind of spice or tea you might dream of, and small alleys look like middle eastern market bazaars.

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Wow moment

The biggest selling point of hostel Polaroid Siesta was its amazing rooftop balcony, and it didn't disappoint. Stunning views of the red rooftops of Granada with the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains towering above it all.

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What we learnt today

Many of the houses of Granada look normal enough but in fact they are what they call caves. They are houses that bury into the side of the mountain both for protection in the old days and also for relief from Granada's hot sun.

Posted by travellinglise 08:53 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Sultans, Sangria and Hot Hot Sun in Seville

all seasons in one day 26 °C
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"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Portugal any more"

Foodie moment

Hyped as the oldest tapas bar in Seville, El Rinconcillo is quite the experience. The bar is manned by perhaps the oldest waiters in Seville who don't seem to have much patience for tourists. Regardless, you stand at a barrel or the bar, guess what you want from the menu, it appears quickly and your waiter chalks the tally of the bill on the bar in front of you. Noisy, atmospheric, tasty but not the best tapas we have had so far.

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Our trip to Coloniales tapas bar was the start of an annoying tradition of us finding our favourite restaurants, on our last night in the city! The prices were cheap, the portions were huge and the food amazing. We had beef in port wine sauce, Quail eggs with pesto and Stuffed eggplant with cheese. We highly recommend this one!

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Cultural moment

After being in Portugal, it was a bit of a shock to return to Spain and find an unwillingness to make an effort to communicate with us in English. This is particularly the case with bus drivers, old man waiters and any shop keepers in general! It was hard to get used to not being able to rely on English as a backup again.

Seville have an interesting way of designating bike lanes. The use silver disks on the footpaths to create a path, safer for the bikes, but be careful if you're a pedestrian!

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Wow moment

The Real Alcazar is truly the highlight of Seville sightseeing. It is a royal palace built during the tenth century and is the oldest royal palace in Europe still in use. Many highlights of Spanish history have taken place here, and the amazing mixture of architectural styles is amazing to see. With a large focus on Arabic designs, tiling and scripture it was unlike anything we have seen.

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Plaza de Espania was much more impressive than we were expecting, it is a large square that features towering buildings surrounding a man made lake that flows around the outside of the square. It has tiled murals with mosaic designs of each region of Spain. There are neat little bridges that cross the lake at points. The whole place is very symmetrically laid out. You can hire row boats for the lake as some teenagers did and we watched them mistake them for dodgem cars with each other.

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What we learnt today

Although much of history focuses on the conflict between the Moors and the Spanish, in fact the times of peace and even mutual respect were much longer. There are many traces of Moorish culture which can still be found in Spanish culture.

Posted by travellinglise 10:48 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Lazy day in Lagos

sunny 28 °C
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"Subheadings are overrated" - Mark

Foodie moment

Another Lonely Planet recommendation, A Forja. The line at the door almost scared Mark off but as we came out late (9.30pm) all the early diners were finishing up so we were in pretty quickly. Once again we were tempted with the (not complemetary) starters and gave into our hunger just as our food arrived :( (Don't worry, in typical Lisa fashion I fashioned a doggy bag out of a napkin and we took the unfinished stuff away for lunch the nxt day! Hey we had paid for it!). The mains were huge pieces of grilled salmon and Portuguese chicken (not peri peri!)

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Cultural moment

As with any touristy beach destination, party drinking boat cruises are anything but rare in Lagos. We had the funny opportunity of witnessing more than a few girls being dragged back home down the streets to their hotels by their embarrassed partners. To say they were drunk would be an understatement, paralytic would be a better word!

Wow moment

Pinhao beach is another beach in Lagos that we spent the majority of the second day sunbathing at. We met up with our friend Jelise again and just chilled in the sun and relaxed (when we weren't being told to be quiet from a hypocritical snoring lady!). The beach itself is surounded by tall sandy cliffs and has some cool caves to explore. It was a stunningly beautiful day!

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What we learnt today

After spending most of our time each day at the last few places checking out must see tourist attractions, it was a nice change of pace not really having to worry about sights in Lagos, because there really wasn't any. So just having a few days of chilling out at the beach was some well welcome R & R.

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Posted by travellinglise 09:48 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Little Britain in Lagos

sunny 27 °C

"On the beach, you can live in bliss" - Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys

Foodie moment

Mark finally got to soothe his burger cravings at a tiny little hole in the wall place. Great value and very popular, we luckily popped in just after lunch and had the place to ourselves!

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The restaurant next door to our accomodation had a discount for guests of the guesthouse so we decided to head there for some food. We had crumbed squid (I was hoping it was going to be grilled on the bbq) and Piri Piri chicken (which we thought was traditional Portugese thanks to Nandos but in fact it is a dish introduced in Portugal for the tourists who expect Peri Peri chicken! Oops!) All was good though, and a huge caraf of house wine!

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Cultural moment

Enter the English! This was the first place in our trip where we ran into big crowds of English tourists. The accents echoed around every bend (sounding like we were holidaying with Michael Cane!), and suddenly the restaurants were full at 6pm!

Wow moment

Praia da Batata beach is the closest beach to the town center. A nice patch of sand but it gets very busy with tourists from all around the world working on their tans, or showing off their worked out bodies! We noticed a dramatic drop in topless sunbaking thanks to a tourist rather than local crowd!

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What we learnt today

Nearby to Lagos is a place called Sagres. Unfortunately we didn't get to go due to time restrictions, but it is the southern most tip of Europe. The Portugese call it the 'End of the World' as at one point in history they didn't know about Africa and the Americas so they literally thought it was 'The end of the World'.

Posted by travellinglise 11:23 Archived in Portugal Tagged lagos Comments (0)

Stunning Sintra in the Sunshine

sunny 25 °C

"Lo! Cintra's glorious Eden intervenes
In variegated maze of mount and glen.
Ah me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,
To follow half on which the eye dilates
Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken
Than those whereof such things the bard relates,
Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium's gates?" - Poem by Lord Byron about Sintra

Foodie moment

It seems that Portugal is the place for pastries, as once again we were told we had to try particular pastries, from a particular bakery, whilst in Sintra. Travesseiros are filled with egg yolk, sugar and almonds (long, pillowy ones), and Queijadas are Sintra cheesecakes made with local unsalted cottage cheese, fresh cheese and cinnamon (tart shaped ones). Both must be bought from Piriquita bakery, as they are the ones with the traditional, patented recipe!

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Another Lonely Planet recommended restaurant, Santo Antonio de Alfama. We tried the Pork ribs and Pork stew with Clams. Both were tasty but I really struggle with the saltiness of the food in Europe. Sorry for the awful pictures, the light was really bad and we didn't want to use flash!!!

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Cultural moment

As we ate our dinner tonight, we were treated with a performance of 'Fado'. Fado is a Portuguese music genre "characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia". Sounds depressing right? But as we didn't understand a word they were saying, we just saw a man singing passionately with his eyes shut, in a booming voice accompanied by some very 'Backstreet boys' type hand gestures. Great fun! Plus they did have some upbeat songs which a man and a women sang together, which Mark and I haven't been able to get out of our head since!

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Wow moment

Sintra is a town about 40 minutes by train from Lisbon. The hills and the surrounding area have been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, both for their cultural significance and for their outstanding natural beauty. And it is stunning! With a huge castle and palace balanced at the top of the hills overlooking the small town full of gardens, palaces and winding streets.

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We visited the Quinta da Regaleira, which is an estate featuring a palace and chapel, as well as a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells and fountains. Our favourite was clambouring through underground grottos and climbing up ancient wells, like an adults adventure playground!

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We also caught a bus up to the top of the hill to visit the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) which was not only breathtaking because of the amazing views along the castle walls, but also because it included a lot of uphill climbing! It was constructed in the 8th century during the period of Arab occupancy, and although it was used by Christian kings throughout history, it's Arabic roots are still strong as a flag flies above it featuring the word 'Sintra' in Arabic characters.

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What we learnt today

The Portuguese are a bit tricky when it comes to starters in a restaurant. Coming from Spain, the home of (sometimes) free tapas we were not particularly surprised tonight when a starter was put on our table without us having ordered it. Hungry as always we dug in. It was only at the end of the meal that we realised that each element on the starter (eg, Olives, Sardine pate, Bread, Butter) each had their own price tag, and whatever you have eaten when the plate is collected is added to your bill. Not a large amount but still not an expected cost! Very tricky!

Posted by travellinglise 10:38 Archived in Portugal Tagged sintra Comments (0)

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