5 great things to do in Cordoba, Spain

It’s Friday – here in Spain anyway. So here’s our Five for Friday great things to do in the beautiful city of Cordoba (and on your travels, wherever you are in the world).


la-furgo-1Don’t walk past La Furgo on Calle Ronda de Isasa! We found it by accident (or divine intervention) and knew we had stumbled upon foodie heaven.

Chef Manuel Morilla is passionate about creating innovative food and it shows – so be ready for divine flavours, great wine and service with attitude (in a good way).

We just had to go back for lunch the next day and Manuel invited us to taste-test a new dish. I’m a pescatarian but this could convert even me. Stunning.

And yes, there are delicious choices for vegetarians (I think I tried them all!).



© Louise Creely 2016Immerse yourself in history and tranquility at the Hammam Al Andalus Arab Baths.

Once a vital part of Islamic hygiene and public health, the hammam was also a meeting place where people could relax and socialise.

When we were in Ronda, it was the weekend so the hammam was fully booked. But we booked in early at the Cordoba bathhouse – and we weren’t disappointed.

There were a few tourists unfamiliar with the routine in the bathhouse and a little anxious about what they should do.

So be prepared to go with the flow – from that first icy plunge, to the tingling lukewarm soak, on to the hot bath, then the steam room.

Along the way there is time to relax with a massage, mint tea and cool water. Perfection right there.


Like Japanese Onsens, photos aren’t allowed in the bathhouse…


Okay, these aren’t exactly playmates – but they are fun to watch. This was another unplanned visit (because we like to discover stuff along the way), but so worth it!

I’ll let the pictures do the talking with these cute and sometimes crazy creatures…



Be sure to get out on the streets at dusk and into the night. It’s safe, beautiful – and you never know who you’ll meet out there!



2016-10-11-18-17-17It’s too easy to just tick off all the tourist attractions – and to get caught up in the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out).

I’m sure we’ve missed so much along the way – but we’ve also discovered amazing places, met great local people, and had exceptional experiences.

So wherever you are in the world, be there.

It’s the difference between being a traveller on this planet – or a tourist.

Happy travels!





What’s so great about Ronda?

So what’s at Ronda? EB asks as we train our way to another Spanish town. I shrug. I know it’s unique and incredible but I can’t remember why.

And then we get there. Oh.



Perhaps it’s because it’s perched on the edge of a cliff that plunges over 100 metres to the river below. With so many places to stand on the very edge of the abyss, it takes your breath away…



The mineshaft, which was about mining water not minerals, looks almost apologetic for being so deep

Perhaps it’s all those terraces and winding alleyways that involve endless incline and stair climbing.

Wait, there’s a bonus ancient Islamic mine with a million stairs (well, it felt like a million!).

And EB has spotted a path down the cliff, so his eyes are glazing over as he plans tomorrow’s walking adventure…


Or perhaps it’s being at a tapas and wine bar in the town square people-watching.

It seems like the entire community comes out at dusk (around 7.30) to hang out together.

From the very old to the very young they are there… running, jumping, chatting, laughing, flirting or just watching and remembering their younger crazier days.


No huddling around the goggle-box with dinner perched on laps for them. This is full-on, multi-generational socialising at it’s most inspiring.

Can’t wait to explore this incredible place.

Ah, Seville, Granada, now Ronda. I’m feeling deeply shallow as each place steals a piece of my heart… but how can you not love this Spanish life?

Off-piste in Granada

I know what you’re thinking… but I’m not talking about Granada’s legendary nightlife. Although I’m told there are 60,000 students at the university here. And they didn’t just come for the studying bit (but don’t tell their parents!).

This is about getting off the tourist trail, high up in the ‘hills’ above Granada, where a network of precarious tracks meander around the steep edges of slopes – and making way for mountain bikers (jealous!) and trail runners is an interesting balancing act.

We started in the historic centre and walked up past Alhambra, one of the most visited monuments in Europe. We thought we’d take a little wander up the dusty track to check out the mountain biking trails.

Three hours later, we’d wound our way up and down steep hills on some breathtaking trails – and discovered the ancient water channel above the Rio Darro.

Built by the original Arab settlers, the network of channels carried a fresh water supply down to irrigate the extensive Generalife orchards and gardens, through to the Alhambra palaces and back into the river system.

2016-10-06-12-21-29-hdrWe followed the water channel for a while, until it came to a private olive grove – with a full-on sprinkler system going.

After running the gauntlet of water jets turning the steep track to a slippery slide, we decided to head back up and find a drier way down the slope.

This involved a bit of scrambling and, of course, a rather inelegant butt slide by moi.

But we finally found our way back down to civilisation, a well-earned snack… and a drink or three.

…because going off-piste is thirsty work.

Something fishy in Portugal


productsSimple, cheap and tasty, tinned sardinha is a favourite across Portugal, for the poor and the wealthy alike – as a healthy basic, fast food or gourmet cuisine.

The riches of the sea have long sustained the Portuguese, so it’s no wonder the humble sardine has become a bit of an icon around here.


Forget those three flying ducks on the wall at grandma’s place. Here, it’s ceramic sardines up there.

The ubiquitous fish also features in paintings, accessories, homewares and every imaginable type of souvenir.

There are even street art fish (although sardines have a bit of competition here).



2016-09-16-03-39-32Of course, bacalhau (salted cod, right) is another staple – but I’m guessing it missed out on the fishy audition because it’s not quite as sleek as sardines.

Surprisingly, we saw very few fish in the rivers and close to the coast – except mullet slithering all over themselves in the rivers.

Where do you catch the sardines, we ask a local.


The fish that met the pescatarian… and lost

Out there, he says pointing way out to sea.

There are a lot out there, he adds with a grin.

Considering tinned sardines are exported to about 70 countries around the world, I believe him.

Later, as we crossed the border into Spain, the words of Douglas Adams were circling in my head:

So long and thanks for all the fish.



Night moves in Seville

It’s been a few years (um, decades) since we’ve been out on the streets past midnight – but Seville does that to you.

This city literally comes to life at about eight o’clock at night. And by ten, the locals come out to move from bar to bar with friends, enjoying one tapas and one drink at each place (well, that’s the idea anyway).

It takes bar crawls to a whole civilised and delicious new level – and it’s a way of eating, drinking and socialising that fits us perfectly.

Even the late nights feel early, perhaps because the sun stays up late too.

And there’s always those ‘recovery’ sleep-ins, because nobody emerges until at least ten in the morning. Except a few of the keen tourists of course.

More about this fabulous city later. It’s getting late – which means it’s time for us to hit the streets… adiós for now!


Tasty tip: We went on the excellent Seville Gourmet Wine and Tapas Tour with Manuel from Pancho Tours (booked with Viator). A great way to get familiar with the tapas scene and hang out with like-minded vino and food lovers.

Turning on the Autumn heat in Lagos

If you love water sports and beach chill time then Lagos, in the beautiful Algarve region of Portugal, is the perfect place to hang out. Especially when the Autumn temperature feels a lot like summer.

First on the list for us was a Days of Adventure cruisy kayaking trip, where a catamaran took us to the kayaking spot… no hardcore paddling involved (poor EB!).

We paddled along the coastline, past the most stunning beaches and into eerie grottos and sea caves.


2016-09-27-12-47-12Along the way, we passed towering cliffs that looked like they would completely crumble at the slightest puff of wind, and rock stacks crafted by tides and time into shapes like elephants, camels and even the Titanic.

The perfect end to the trip for me was diving off the boat into the deep, chilly aqua-blue waters.

It was sheer bliss to swim away from the boat, relax in the water… and not have the theme music to Jaws playing in my head.


EB all at sea…

In Australia, the whole shark thing always lurks in the back of your mind (or the front, if you’re a tiny bit neurotic like me), but here you just go with the flow…

Are you up for dolphin watching, snorkelling, surfing lessons or paddle boarding? There’s so many options for getting wet or awestruck here and all easily booked in town or at the marina.

Soaking up the sun at the beach is also de rigueur here – with not a sun-smart slip, slop, slap routine in sight.

Of course, people-watching is endlessly entertaining too.

streets-of-lagos-1All that activity definitely works up an appetite (and a thirst).

It’s time to stop at one of the beach or marina restaurants, or head to the historic town centre.

Inside the town’s ancient Moorish walls you can meander along narrow streets passed a charming patchwork of crumbling, life-worn and revamped buildings and some incredible street art, to chill at one of the many great eating places and bars there.


The Garden

We loved The Garden, a bohemian-style bar and restaurant with delicious barbequed meat (EB assures me) and great choices for pescatarians and pure veggos.

A short stroll away is the fascinating Mar D’Estórias, where it’s easy to get caught up in the arty retail area and galleries as you wind up each narrow staircase until you reach the Terraço Bar.


Quick snap from the Terraco Bar

Here you’ll find great food and wine, a relaxed atmosphere and views stretching along historic streets to the ocean.

With only one more day here, we’re off explore more of this delightful town – which will possibly involve me annoying EB as I stop to take more photos of street art.

Assim é a vida.



To Portugal with love

2016-09-23-19-18-18A local station attendant, who was helping us buy train tickets from S.Pedro to Cascais today, asked us what we liked about Portugal the most.

“A gastronomia? O vinho? A  música?”

All of that but mostly the people, we said.

He was pretty-much blown away and was high-fiving us all over the place (we nearly missed the train!).

But that’s the Portuguese.

Take the beach culture. There is nothing uptight about the Portuguese. And I’m not talking about flashing bits here.

2016-09-24-11-11-04In this region, the locals are just comfortable in their own skin. Well, if there are any body image issues, I’m not seeing it.

Yes, there’s Zumba on the boardwalk (and it’s a hoot!). Yes, there are women running (but not an ‘I believe’ tee-shirt or flashy tights among them). Yes there are fit blokes hanging about (but not a muscle-man to be seen).

2016-09-23-12-39-57And down on beach, women of all shapes, ages and sizes (and I mean ALL) are rocking their bikinis. Eat your heart out Botticelli.

Away from beaches and bikinis… more than one local Portuguese creative on our journey from Porto to Lisbon has told us they are good at what they do – but they suck at marketing themselves.

I agree. These people are (mostly) warm and wonderful and creative and talented (and, of course, they make exceptional port and wine).

No, I’m not talking about more tourist buses arriving at monuments (even though there are a lot and they are remarkable).


I’m talking about who they are and what they create. Time the world sat up and paid attention! Cheers to that!


Attitude is everything

old-lady-street-artYou’ve got to have a least one of those (travelling) days, don’t you? Well, today was ours. 

After a few days in Porto (a story for another time), we picked up our hire car from Europcar … and that’s where it all began to unravel.

The portable GPS they gave us (at €8 a day) was clearly set up at around the time of the Ark.*

Seriously, it didn’t even register the oldest streets (or the casino) at our destination three hours away in Estoril, near Cascais in Portugal.

Oh, but we did have a dodgy map to show us the way (also an archeological find I’m sure).

Eventually, we muddle our way to our destination.

Our travel agent has booked us into ‘apartment’ for eight days… inside someone’s house. It’s kind-of cutesy, but does a toaster oven count as self-contained? Hmmm

mp900438569Eternally optimistic, we head off to find the Tourist Information Centre to get a map of the area. Except it closed 12 months ago.

At least we located a nice red.

Ah, First World problems. When it comes to travelling, attitude is everything.

And tomorrow’s another day.

* Here’s a tip for travellers: if you’re using a GPS, go to settings and select the country you’re travelling in (in our case, Portugal). Thanks to a tech-savvy Europcar lad in Cascais, our GPS was re-set and now gives us Portuguese streets instead of streets like Barcelona and Seville (go figure), and still gives directions in English. And we’re off! 

On the streets of Lisbon




Pigeon roosts…

Monuments and other tourist tick-off points are impressive, but our favourite thing to do is to take to the streets on foot. Apart from the odd slippery cobblestone, we inevitably stumble upon the unexpected and delightful.

A meeting place

The sign on the street says ‘gin lovers’. Yep that’s me. Besides, we’ve been walking for hours (and it’s hot) so this is the perfect place to stop.

Inside we know we’ve found somewhere special. This is Embaixada,  a unique Portuguese shopping gallery created in a XIX century Arabian Palace.

An ornate staircase draws our eyes upwards to the sensational murals and figurines, and beyond.



Meet Gina, with tonic, rosemary & lemon…mmm

In the palace rooms, national brands and recreated vintage clothing mix with the work of local artists and artisans.

Even a non-shopper like me can get blissed-out here (and I have the credit card hit to prove it).

Eventually, we stop at Gin Lovers Principe Real in the centre of this jaw-dropping building for a delicious gin & tonic (or three) from their extensive list – and some amazing food.

Like so many Portuguese people we’ve met here, everyone is friendly and enthusiastic. No wonder they call it ‘the meeting place’…

Urban edgy

2016-09-15-20-45-34When the street is your canvas, the possibilities are endless in Lisbon.

From commissioned to clandestine, and gaudy to subtle – street art is everywhere here.

I notice so many people don’t really ‘see’ it as they hurry past, but to me it says so much about the creative energy of a city…

Street art isn’t everyone’s thing, but it’s one of my passions. No doubt I’ll be banging on more about it some other 60 seconds. Meanwhile…


Gourmet moments

Portuguese people love their food and it shows (in a good way!).

There’s something to satisfy the foodies, the fuellers and everyone in between in the many small cafés and impressive restaurants and wine bars sprinkled liberally across the city.


Hugo concocting something fabulous at Cervejaria d0 Barrio

And the vino, port and spirits. Phew.

We soon redefine our perception of a ‘glass’ of wine. It ‘s more like a small carafe in a glass.

A ‘tasting’ can also be the entire glass filled to the brim. Per taste. Which makes pacing yourself pretty much impossible.

Then there’s the traditional sherry, Ginja. We’re told it’s taken as both an aperitif and an after-dinner drink.

I’m sure there are plenty of happy home chefs using Ginja too – and some of it might even make it into the cooking.

Perhaps it’s all that fabulous wine. Perhaps it’s just this place. The Portuguese may be struggling economically but they don’t let it affect their open and generous spirit.

So come to Lisbon, take to the streets and come alive here.

It’s impossible not to.



Lisbon wanderings…

As soon as we arrive in Lisbon, the city of the seven hills and capital of Portugal, we dump our bags in our hotel room and head out to explore the city’s ancient Arab district…


lisbon-tiles-1In Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest quarter, we lose ourselves in tangle of cobblestone alleys and narrow streets, where a vibrant energy gives you light feet while the breath of the past brushes your neck.

At every turn, there is something to surprise and delight.

In picture-postcard alleys, colourful tiled and sometimes crumbling buildings huddle together – and steep stairs beckon you up and around another corner.

There is street art and tile art and sculptures and galleries, and small shops selling kitsch and classy souvenirs, fashion, homewares and groceries.

lisbon-night-walk-in-old-townNearby there are 17th-century churches and an impressive cathedral – and up on the hill there are views to take your breath away.

At dusk, the old quarter comes alive.

Cafés and restaurants serve delicious traditional and international food and fabulous Portuguese wine and beer, while the sound of Fado music drifts out into the street.

There is so much more to this beautiful city, but for now here’s a glimpse of the old quarter…