Gracias Seville

After our short stint in Morocco we landed back in Seville for a few days. The weather was hot, but I'm pretty sure we were the only people in the country applying sunscreen. Our hostel was on a great walking street full of bustling people frozen yogurt, croissants, and espresso. Seville was the city where our trip started to turn from very packed days full of handfuls of stops to a more relaxing kind of vacation, thank goodness we were getting tired. :)
We walked a ton the first day and toured the Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and third largest church cathedral in the world period. The spires all loom over the walls and poke up toward the sky in a way that would be totally creepy if it wasn't a sunny blue sky. It was a stunning structure and the ramped walk up to the bell tower afforded some lovely views over the whole city.

Then we wandered the Plaza de Espana until we were too hot to continue so we had some kebabs and giant glasses of sangria at a streetside café under a luscious shady umbrella. I'm pretty sure we rounded out the afternoon with frozen yogurt with sprinkles and a nap.

The next day we roamed the Royal Alcazars of Seville which was originally a Moorish fort turned palace. Words aren't enough for this space. The rooms are flooded with elegant hand made tiles and patterns from floor to ceiling where they meet hand carved wood domes and carved ornate arches. There are a myriad of courtyards peppered throughout with themes and reflection ponds and landscaping. The influence of the Middle East starts to appear in places and add depth to the design. It all opens to a giant outdoor park with large shady trees and little forests of orange and lemon trees, we even saw some orange trees with lemon branches spliced on pretty cool. It came complete with giant fountains and a hedge maze to wander. One of the most beautiful places we saw hands down and such a peaceful visit, love the off season.


That night we went to the top of the Metropol Parasol for only 3 euros each. It's a wooden structure in a plaza that from the ground appears as mushrooms reaching to the sky. We went up to watch the sunset over the city which was so beautiful. I love the skies colors against all the white buildings, it transforms the whole city! Then we grabbed a drink underneath it while it's blue lights began to create it's glow. That night we found some Indian food that blew our minds and sat outside drinking beer until we were ready for bed.


We ended the trip the next morning stopping at San Leandro Convent where you can get yemas- egg cookies from the convent to help keep it alive. We walked into it's entryway rung a buzzer, a small voice appeared, we said 1/2 kilo yemas, we put the money in the wooden lazy susan and spun it around, she spun it back with a wooden box of yemas. If you can't tell by the photo, I was beyond excited to do this. You never see the woman and you get to walk away with authentic and a very passed down recipe Spanish cookies.

Then we hopped the train and headed off to Madrid!


Shukran Morroco!

We took a train from Lisbon to Faro, a little beach town, where we whittled away 3 hours wandering, drinking coffee and taking a nap on the docks. We also had an extra person with us, a guy from Germany wanted to get to Seville so he grabbed the same tickets as us and we got to all travel together for the day. Then we took a bus from Faro to Seville, at this point it was about 10:30pm. Then we made our way to the train station to pick up our rental car and drive down to Tarifa, Spain which is a tiny costal town. We were quite tired at this point so the drive included a 10 minute power nap on the side of the road to safely continue. We finally arrived in Tarifa at around 1am and our hostel was no longer open. Therefore we drove to any hotel or hostel and they were all closed, finally rang a buzzer at one and a man speaking only Spanish answered. He was so nice, he had gotten out of bed for us and gave us a room with a hand written recipt and the hotel was cheap luckily, but also covered in beautiful tile with a balcony, we were so happy to see that bed!
Next morning we woke up around 8:20 and headed to catch our ferry over to Tanger, Morocco! We got stamps in our passport for AFRICA! Needless to say we were pretty stoked and on a ferry with mostly retired UK residents in tour groups and a few older Spanish women. After getting off we were barraged with offers to tour us and kids following you for blocks to try to offer you help of any kind. Making it past that barrier we went to exchange money for dihram and tried to exchange $20 and they man said no no don't need more than $10 for the day, turns out he was right ha!
We walked through the winding streets with tall brightly colored buildings leaning in on all sides while the city woke up. It was quite lovely to see the people that lived their opening shop windows and sweeping and children playing soccer in the corridors. At first we were a little nervous, we are very white and obviously stuck out, but we quickly realized they were cool with that and most Moroccans seemed happy to practice some English with us.
We walked to the Kasbah, palace, first which had beautiful intricate mosaics and overly elaborate carved wood ceilings, we paid $1 each to enter. There was also a beautiful overgrown garden courtyard with views back to the Strait of Gibraltar. Since it was so early and we were the first ferry over we had the whole place to rock out in ourselves.


Then we headed toward the Gran Socco which is a market full of everything you can imagine. If there was any open ground space women with colorful woven hats laid out cloths and peppered them with fresh greens and herbs. We had orange juice squeezed in front of us and chickpea flour bread to munch on as the stalls all opened up and began to teem with people bargaining and chatting. We started to bargain for a rug which was fun because the price goes down significantly the longer the conversation goes on, we didn't buy one but I was glad we got to try.

We sat down near a main square with a cute mosque in view and had kebabs with fries and a coke zero, no diet coke ha. The food was prepared by tow guys standing behind us with a cook top. Mostly I am extremely unaware of the cleanliness because no gloves, no barrier or sealed containers and I'm pretty sure he touched his friends pigeon while making our meal, but we can't deny that it was delicious :)
Although exhausting we are both so glad we went. It was fun to be transported somewhere entirely different than all the other cities we were exploring. We had nothing to do all day but wander around, talk to people, and eat street food. The sun was out and overall the day was amazing!
Stray cats everywhere, I had to strongly resist cuddling them all! We took the ferry back and then drove the car back up to Seville where we settled into our next room & passed out!


Sintra Day Trip

Sintra is only a short train ride from Lisbon so after being out until 4ish am we woke up around 9 and headed out. Forgoing the bus we walked a mile or so up some winding roads into the Moorish Castle. Since it was early it was fun to run along the top and climb all the little nooks alone. The sun was out in full force and the views back to the Atlantic ocean and countryside were really welcome after being inside big cites the last few days. They have a little café that we ate mozzarella & tomato sandwiches at while looking back up at the castle walls.
Next we took a path along the hillside that wound through a lush forest and spring flowers tucked into big rock faces. It ended at Pena Palace which is all candy colored goodness. The palace is full of whimsy and color and happiness. The tilework and things like carved stone coral made this stop a lot of fun. The way the views were framed with attention, gah, we hung out here for awhile

Then we went home an took a well deserved nap :)
Next we took a train, then a bus, then a car down to Tarifa, Spain.


Lisbon Rocks!


Our train ride from Porto brought us into the most beautiful train station, I won't force all the photos I took of the place upon you. Lisbon was really exciting for us because Joshua had been here a few times on his stints working in Evora, Portugal. It was fun to let go and have him know how to get places where to go and what wasn't worth the visit. Also we stayed at a hostel he had stayed at. I've never had a real hostel experience and he promised me one- and nailed it, more on that later.

After we roamed around and did shots of cherry liquor out of chocolate cups on the main square (legal to drink on the streets) we woke up and went to the Sao Jorge castle that stands above the city. You can wander it's outer walls, no railings, and stand in the overlooks and lean out the arrow shooting holes, technical term. The grounds were really beautiful with old tangled trees and roaming peacocks.

Next we headed back into the city and up a tower to get a look back up to the castle. Then we went into an old cathedral that had been victim to fire and earthquake but instead of restoring it they left its bones bare and turned it into an open air ancient ruins museum.

But oh those Lisbon nights, we always took a nap before dinner to gear up. Our hostel had two lovely people from the UK + Porto make us dinner with 6 other comrades of the hostel. We had a crowd of people from Madagascar, Netherlands, UK, Portugal + Spain, very luckily for us they all spoke English. Our UK cooks took us out for the night where we were handed light beers and fluorescent colored shots (they were very weak, promise :) We started a dance party at his DJ friends club, drank beers outside in the streets and ended the night with some live music and hitting bed around 4:30am. Honestly in no way could I have wished for a better group of people to spend a few days with. Hanging out with all of them made Lisbon our favorite stop.

To add to it the next night we were at a very cool market for dinner where we ran into a hostel mate and went to grab a drink with her after. Then we were headed back home when we ran into some people from our hostel out for the night and they swept us up and we did it all again the next night.

photo from one by our new friends

We also did a day trip to Sintra while in Lisbon...