Spain is a flourish of colour, noise and shape. While the modern world exists outside the narrow cobbled alleyways of the old town, it is easy to get lost in time. Brightly painted tiles adorn the walls, floors, ceilings and even rooves of many of the buildings. Painted with flowers, words and arranged as mosaics, they remind you of a bygone era that still exudes romance. This the Spanish are not afraid to show either, as couples in the streets embrace and display very french affection for each other! Music from a guitar or accordian floats past on the breeze to accompany these lovers. To top off this very romantic feel are the horse-drawn carriages that clip-clop along the cobbled streets in the dusk.
To disturb this idyllic and sentimental feeling you now have, I jump to the bathrooms, which indeed you will need to visit often if partaking in the beverages of Spain. The bathrooms of old town apartments reflect the streets, a little smelly and very narrow. Beware! To use a bathroom , firstly make sure that you step into the shower so you can close the door. Then keep your elbows by your side to avoid hitting the shower door and the hand basin. Next, and most importantly, keep your back straight and head up, don´t lean forward or you will smash your face on either the mirror, a shelf or the wall in front. Lastly, make sure to hold your knees to the side so as to avoid meeting the wall and sit down gracefully upon the porcelain throne! (NB. To stand up, simply follow the directions in reverse).
Once you have mastered the bathroom (which we did quite quickly) it is essential to learn the art of ordering. Whilst many an hour can be spent pouring over menus and guessing as to the contents of the dishes, it is best to simply order a range of tapas (small morsels of a dish to help keep the sangria flowing) and a jug of sangria (an exact measurement of red wine, fruit juice and fruit served up chilly). You won’t go wrong! Ham, cheese, chorizo, croquettes and paella are common specialties and were delicious with sangria. Acually the ham seemed to be so reverred in the south-east that we would often find seating positioned directly beneath giant hocks of ham hanging from the ceiling!
Then there is the architecture. As Tiina and I spent our time in Spain in the south-east (Sevilla, Granada and Malaga) we managed to find some of Spains best examples. Romans, Moors and Spaniards lent a hand to creating the stunningly ornate buildings that appear suddenly around most corners or peek across roof tops. (Yes, I know I hear you ask where are the photos to back up all my ramblings, but unfortunately I can’t support my claims until I reach African shores. But I know you will be waiting with baited breath!). The most stunning architecture we found was the Alhambra. After getting up at 5.30am, waiting around in the cold, dark morning with hundreds of others in a vigile-like trance hoping that the ticket office might open before its designated 8am opening hour, we were lucky enough to secure tickets to see the palace.
The Alhambra sits atop one of Granada’s hills in the south east of Spain, consisting of a palace, gardens and castle. It is a Moorish castle and famous as it one of the best and last examples of this era. (Sorry about the lack of detail in its history but you will need to consult with Tiina about that! We actually had a great time there as Tiina was the history buff and I was the recorder, well photographer in any case). The palace is like a jewel in the sun. It is so intricate and detailed, with ponds, streams, fountains glittering in the sunlight. Its walls carved as far as the eye can see and mosaiced tiled floors and ceilings. The age of this art is quite astounding, when they talk about hundreds and thousands of years, an Australian has to rethink time. We are not used to thinking of the built landscape in these terms, as Indigenous Australians did not feel the need to leave behind large monuments to themselves.
The most enjoyment Tiina and I got from Spain was a day spent cycling along the Mediterranean Sea, swimming in its icy blue waters, collecting stones and sea glass from its brown sandy beaches and eating sardines and drinking sangria spiked with vodka (made for an interesting ride home)!
Next… Bull and more bull!
Back to Portugal, adios amigos!