Sunday, 15 August 2010

European adventures - Spain

I got back on Saturday from two very enjoyable weeks in Spain; a jaunt that took in Barcelona, Seville, Madrid and Valencia (the sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed that's not the Spanish flag to the left, but the Valencian one instead - most suitable photo I had!). The Spaniards are very proud of their regional identities.

My sole visit to Spain prior to this trip had been a very brief visit to Seville over a decade ago, so when it came to planning a summer holiday this year I figured it was high time I spent some time exploring Spain.

I won't bore you with all the details; it will suffice to say that I had a great time in this wonderful country. The weather was amazing, the people were warm and friendly, and the tapas was sublime. The cities themselves were wonderful as well; I saw some terrific sights over the two weeks.

I thought I'd share a few of my photos with you all.

First up, Barcelona - an intoxicating city that is both vibrant and elegant. I loved the twisting old medieval quarter.

Orange trees in a hidden courtyard, deep in Barcelona's medieval quarter

The impressive centre-piece of Barcelona's lovely park

My favourite plaza, can't remember the name but a great place to go for tapas

An archway in the winding, medieval quarter

The lush, cloistered courtyard of the cathedral

View from the cathedral roof

Barcelona's impressive triumphal arch

Next up, Seville. Beautiful place, though the heat was brutal while I was there - most days it was hitting 40 degrees. Some wonderful sights though - the old medieval streets are fantastic, as is the cathedral and the royal palace. Definitely worth a visit. 

A section of the old wall inside Real Alcazar, the royal palace in Seville

Interior courtyard at Real Alcazar - note the gorgeous Moorish arches

Some of the scenic palace gardens

The stunning main tower on Seville cathedral...

...and the equally stunning main entrance

The grand tomb of Christopher Colombus, though only a small part of his remains are stored inside

The view from the top of the cathedral

Part of the ancient city walls

The imposing Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), built to protect the river entrance. A similar tower once stood on the river's other side, and a huge chain would be raised between them to prevent entry upstream - remind anyone of an event from GRRM's A Clash of Kings? The tower's name is thought to derive from the hoards of gold that were brought back from the Americas and stored here, though the tower has served many purposes over the years...

Next up, Madrid. I liked the city's buzz and verve, though did feel it lacks the historical charm and interest of the likes of Seville and Valencia, and it's not quite as picturesque as Barcelona - hence only two photos here (though of course I took more). But it's still a fun place to visit. 

Madrid's famous Gran Via

The equally famous statue of Cybele, Phrygian goddess of fertility

And finally Valencia, which turned out to be my favourite of the four cities I visited. I almost crossed it off my itinerary as I didn't think I could fit it in, but I'm so glad I made it there - it's a wonderful city, with a gorgeous old centre and tons of history. 

The old centre, with the cathedral on the left. Wonderful place at all times of the day, but especially at night.

Another view of the cathedral

The cathedral's marvellous entrance

A wonderfully-preserved medieval fortification that once guarded an entrance into the city; only two remain (the other has taken a bit of a battering), though I think there were 12 at one time. I climbed right to the top, taking care to avoid the murder holes that were covered with dubious-looking plastic...

Detail from the above fortification's interior

The stunning entrance hall to La Llonja, the medieval silk exchange

The impressive, futuristic 'City of Arts and Sciences', which includes a large aquarium. Naturally I spent plenty of time gawping at the sharks.

No, that's not my bag. This little chap is Paul - he's a cuddly toy version of the psychic octopus that predicted Spain would win the football world cup. Now a national hero, there are cuddly versions of Paul everywhere. I picked my Paul up in Madrid. He's a cheeky little fellow, as you can see. He'll also offer psychic predictions...

...but only if you bribe him first with ice cream.

So anyway, that was the whistle-stop tour of my trip around Spain. I've not even been back 48 hours, yet am already thinking about my next trip...


Iain said...

Keeping with the Med you should go to Greece next.

Athens, Delphi, the Peloponnese and a bit of island hopping. Simply magical.

For reading -- anything by Mary Renault.

Gabriele C. said...

Aww, I like Paul. :)

Great photos. I should visit Spain some day, but not when it's 40°C. Anything about 25 kills me.