Tag Archives: dogs

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 Zoo de Cordoba is so worth it!

I’ll let the pictures do the talking with these content, 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!

Saying goodbye to our kelpie…

Copyright: Louise Creely, 2015On Friday, our escape vehicle was packed and we were ready to head off on our 10-day ‘beat the silly season’ road trip.

Temperatures in Brisbane were soaring, so we were hesitating. Our daughters were looking after our 16 year-old kelpie, Buffy, and we were half-expecting a call…

Buffy’s respiratory issues had been ramping up dramatically over the past two weeks, and the heat always knocked her around.

The call came just as we were about to leave – so instead of heading south, we made a mad dash north to Brisbane.

It was time to say goodbye to our little ‘rarity’. She’d been with us since 2001 and had grown up with our kids.

She was our obsessive foodie, our fierce protector, our friend. And when the time came, she went so peacefully in our arms we didn’t even know she’d gone.

Goodbye beautiful Buffy. Our beach won’t be the same without you…

Copyright: Louise Creely, 2015


The Keepers of the Path

Saturday dawned hot and still in Brisbane. It may have been perfect beach weather, but we were staying in the city for silly season festivities with clients that night.

What’s the next best thing to surf and sand? A (very long, very hot) stroll in the bush of course.

So EB and I headed to Mt Coot-tha, where a network of trails crisscross the forest, up steep hills and into valleys, and it feels like you could walk forever and never find a way out (especially if you’re directionally-challenged like me!).

It’s a favourite place for intrepid travellers to train those walking legs for  their trekking adventures. We spent many challenging hours on these trails back in 2007 when we were preparing to walk the Annapurnas in Nepal.

the black dog

We couldn’t hit the trails without our black kelpie, who may be getting on in years but adores her bushwalks and doesn’t know how to give up (she gets it from EB, I’m sure!).

Let’s just say that when we arrived at the Simpson Falls after walking for a couple of hours, she dropped into a rock pool and wasn’t going anywhere…

But half an hour of water therapy does wonders and, with a little gentle persuasion (for me, not the dog), we were on our way again.

Soon we noticed that two crows were keeping an eye on us along the trail. They would perch in a tree to watch us pass, then their shadows would slide over us as they soared ahead to wait in another tree until we were a few metres past them, then they’d glide ahead of us again.

Occasionally, they’d koww koww and eh-aw to each other, as if chatting about these odd, dusty creatures below.

I vaguely recalled that crows were believed to be a bad omen, a warning of danger to come, shape-shifting creatures with evil intent, or vessels for restless spirits. And who hasn’t seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, where a terrified young socialite is observed and harassed by flocks of the black menaces and other winged avengers?

But being shadowed by these two crows was strangely comforting. It was as if we were being guided by the Keepers of the Path.

Back to reality. Perhaps they were curious about our four-legged companion, glistening black like them, but with no ability to fly? Or were they just tagging along in case we stopped for a picnic and they could swoop down to snatch up the leftovers?

About eight kilometres later and no picnic stops, they were still hanging in there. They arrived with us back at the car – waiting, watching, and clearly unimpressed with our pathetic attempts to bid them farewell in crow language.

It may be a bit spooky for some, but I’m going with the other myth that says two crows mean joy.

Because there is definitely something joyful about the distraction of two crows, when you’re out walking in the midday sun, your feet are sore and what you really need is a stiff drink…

The big chill – from St Boil to Cluny

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Day 3 dawns. Almost. Autumn’s chilly fingers extend across the landscape and smart people stay indoors, cranking up the central heating.

Cream-coloured beef cattle huddle in frost-powdered fields, watching with characteristic bovine disinterest as two crazy, blue-lipped cyclists pass by.

It doesn’t take much convincing to take a detour for a guided tour through the Chateau de Cormatin, a magnificently restored castle in Bourg.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Afterwards, we stop for a quick bite in the town, disturbing the grumpy old woman taking a ciggy-break behind the bar. She serves us with nicotine-stained fingers and a bad attitude.

We don’t hang around long – which is probably the intention.

As we begin the second half our our journey, the sun bursts through the hazy clouds. It’s one o’clock.

Who let the dogs out…?

We’re happy to arrive in Cluny, to stretch our legs, give our butts a rest…and gape at the lion-esque dogs that are out in force.

There’s a Leonberger club meet here this weekend and they are everywhere.

Yes, even at dinner in our posh hotel restaurant.

And it’s not like you can sneak these pooches through the door in your handbag.

I’m wishing they’d been here in time to share the first course of our ‘gastronomique toure de Bourgogne’. I’ve decided to live dangerously (for a vegetarian)…

In the candlelight, the dish looks harmless enough. Like something coated in neopolitan sauce. EB could have mentioned that shaved beef is actually raw beef – except he wouldn’t get the last laugh.

But in the absence of a Leonberger dinner companion, he has to eat mine so we don’t offend the chef. Ha! Who’s laughing now?

Raw victuals aside, the meal and the service are superb. Flawless presentation is one of the many things the French do so well.

So impressive. Which will be us tomorrow, cycling the last and longest chilly, hilly stage of our trip… Now, where’s that nurofen?

à demain

Along the voie verte…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Day 1: We’re up before the sun today. Not a huge feat in France, I’ll admit. The sun only makes a rather lackluster appearance sometime around eight o’clock.

We soon leave Beaune behind, as we peddle along the Vélor Route through mist-shrouded vineyards and villages.

Every village smells of freshly-crushed pinot grapes and the wine caves are awash with the post-pressing cleanup.

Copyright: Louise RalphTractors are being tucked away and even the horses, which are still used in the vineyards today, get a break from their hard labour.

This pair (pictured below) wait for their owner to pick up his baguette…

It’s impossible to capture the sensational landscape we cycle through, so I give up on the photography thing and revel in the pure bliss of it.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…on the baguette run

Then we hit the hills – those deadly endless slopes that rise slowly but surely, along with the burning in my thighs…

EB is riding rings around me. Literally.

We finally arrive in Chassay-la-Camp, and find our delightfully-retro hotel…and there are those pampered pooches again.

Guests are allowed to keep their dogs in their rooms – and bring them to the dining room.

One lady had her pug-faced dog with her for dinner and breakfast. And yes, dogs and their owners do look the same.

I desperately wanted to take a photo, but I was scared she might bite me. The lady, not the dog.

Day 2: We spend a lot of time trying to decipher directions, and even more time stopping for wine tasting and having a very long lunch in Mercurey.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

The long lunch wasn’t really our intention.

But, at the suggestion of the lovely wine-tasting guy, we soon found ourselves (in our bike duds) having a delicious silver-service, five-course lunch at the Hôtellerie du Val d’Or across the road.

For just €22 each! Incroyable…

I won’t go into the gruesome details of the remaining 40 or so kilometres we had yet to cycle (with our overfed bellies). Or the hills.

Let’s just say, I was seriously considering mainlining nurofen about 15 km into it…

Are we ready for Day 3? Bien sur.

But right now, we’re crashing. Bon nuit.

Faces of Beaune…

Copyright: Louise RalphIt’s Tuesday in downtown Beaune, which is pronounced like an Inspector Clouseau version of ‘bone’.

EB has gone for a massage and acupuncture for a cracked rib (long story, but I didn’t do it, I swear).

And I have two hours to shop, sans bloke. Sounds like a plan.


This is not something I do well at the best of times, even if I do want to take a bag full of cute French stuff back for my family.


It’s drizzly weather, and just hitting midday.

Shopping? Mais non. The two-hour lunch break has begun. The shops have closed, but the cafés are buzzing. Merde.

Time to visit the local Salon de thé and watch the world go by.

Stray or con-artist? Je ne sais pas…

So there I am, drinking verte de menthe (peppermint tea) and eating végétarien quiche, in the company of a cute taupe poodle – who may be a stray or just a con-artist.

We both sneak a look around, before I feed him the bits of jambon (ham) from my quiche. The French have an interesting interpretation of vegetarian, I’ve discovered.

Suddenly he scoots away, as two German tourists loom above me. Okay, the German tourist thing isn’t immediately apparent.

There are empty tables all around us, but it seems mine is in the preferred location.

Pardon. You want to sit…here? Ah, oui, bien sur, feel free. Move my bags? Par de problème. Pile your stuff in front of me? Pourquoi pas.

I sit, half-listening, to their vigorous conversation of which monument to visit next. The other part of me debates our cultural differences – or perhaps the fact that I resent feeling awkward. It’s all so un-Zen.

Tiring of my out-of-body experience, I stand up. Au revoir, they say. Au revoir, I reply. Smiling.

And the heavens open.

So do the shops. France is full of tiny miracles…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

One of the local door-dogs.

Fast-forward to dinner in a delightful back-street restaurant. EB and I sit down, trying not to make too much noise in this monastically-silent place.

You can hear a pin drop. Or, at least, my umbrella.

We peruse the menu, whispering interpretations to each other. It seems that quite a few other tourists have found their way here. Some are busily consulting their French phrasebook.

The waitress arrives at our table and grunts out avez-vous choisi?

Quel est vollaille fermière à la crème d’èspoisses? I ask (with abysmal pronunciation, I admit).

CHICKEN, she pretty-much shouts, shattering the silence. Now you can hear a pin drop.

EB and I burst out laughing, which is clearly not the appropriate response.

The food is some of the best I’ve had in France, but the frosty waitress is just too much hard work. C’est la vie.

That was yesterday. Today, we reach a milestone in our French adventure, swapping la voiture for le vèlo.

We are a little sad, but looking forward to a few days cycling through Burgundy (remind me I said this when my croissant-butt is in agony tomorrow…)

The first part of our cycling trip is rather mild. Dining at the Abbaye de Maizières.

It’s a little hard to find the entrance, until we see some people opening what appears to be a window, at waist-level, in the stone wall.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

C’est ne pas un moine (monk). C’est EB dans l’Abbaye de Maizieres – consulting the wine list, of course.

We follow them through and down some stone stairs into the most amazing ancient cave (cellar), with its low dramatically-buttressed ceilings, coated in centuries of mould.

Monks used to store their wine barrels here and make the wine in the adjacent room. No wonder this place has good energy.

Praying leads to wine-tasting, apparently.

We are greeted by the delightful host who treats us like royalty, even with our vaguely outdoor-recreation couture.

The food is great, the wine is superb, and the friendly service is refreshing.

And we have to admit, it’s not a bad way to begin a cycling adventure…

Perhaps the sun will shine on us tomorrow, after all?

Gone to the dogs…

I see so many shops called Le Chat this or that in France, but so far I’ve only seen three cats. Wild, bedraggled and very un-pampered.

Dogs, now that’s another story. They are everywhere. In shops, beside us in restaurants (yes, even the posh ones), at breakfast in the hotel. Wait… they are guests here?

Two take the lift to the second floor after breakfast this morning, leading their owners. This is taking “a man’s best friend” to a whole new level.

Perhaps it’s true. Somewhere on a distant planet in another galaxy, we are being observed by an alien dog race, intent on studying our behaviour, plotting to take over the Earth.

How else do you explain us brushing and pampering them, letting them sleep on our couch or in our beds, feeding them a gourmet diet – and picking up their poo?

Perhaps, someday, they’ll be taking us for walks and carrying black people-poo bags to clean up our indiscretions. Hmmm, somehow I think that might be beneath them.