Work finally begins
when the fear of doing
nothing at all
trumps the terror
of doing it badly
Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton
… because if you’re anything like me, you’re doing this right now!
Don’t keep putting things off, waiting for 12 doves to fly
over your house in the sign of the cross before you begin.
Just start. Jack Canfield
While I’m not a huge fan of hop-on|hop-off buses, it’s worth taking one when you arrive in Valencia, on Spain’s southeastern coast, for a snapshot of the city. But you’ll need to get off the bus and take to the streets to really get a feel for this amazing (and dramatic) place…
Science, technology, art and nature merge perfectly in Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences – and it’s no surprise this is one of the 12 Treasures of Spain.
Futuristic buildings house an IMAX theatre complex, a science museum, an arts palace, and the largest aquarium in Europe. To be here is to be awestruck.
Wait, did someone say aquarium? I’m in! There are hundreds of aquatic and marine species at the Oceanogràfic, some in massive underwater towers that represent the major ecosystems of the planet.
But we can’t stay here forever watching those cruising sharks and graceful manta rays, or the cheeky sea lions and sassy penguins… or can we?
What could top the underwater wonders of Oceanogràfic? A walk on the wild side at Bioparc Valencia of course.
This has to be one of the best zoos you will ever visit. It’s so carefully and cleverly designed that the animals seem less hemmed in and more relaxed in their environment.
And you feel like you’re right there with them in the forests of Madagascar, the savannah and equatorial Africa. I could go on (and on), but they speak for themselves really……
Back streets, cobblestone alleys, abandoned buildings – the urban canvas inspires edgy and incredible artwork. It’s definitely my gallery of choice – and here in Valencia I’m in street art heaven. Here’s two of my favourites (more coming soon).
It’s hard to miss Estación del Norte when you’re leaving Valencia by train – but this is one gorgeous station. Opened in 1917, the original porcelain tiles, carved woodwork and lamps instantly transport you to a time when train travel was fresh, exciting – and slower!
It’s a fitting end to our visit, and we leave feeling we have barely scraped the surface of this delightful city. Adiós y gracias, Valencia.
Autumn has arrived in Spain – and with it the rain. But nothing can put a damper on the arty, colourful city of Cuenca.
To say we are blown away is an understatement. From colourful apartment buildings, to hanging houses that look like they will topple off the cliff at any moment…
…to incredible art in contemporary art museums, on the streets and in ruins we stumbled across on one of the many walking trails around the mountains (and yes, EB found them all – including those endless stairs!).
Everywhere you look, there are pops of colour – even tulips growing among the weeds.
And then there is our hotel, Parador de Cuenca, suspended on a cliff opposite the city, overlooking the River Huecar.
It was originally the Convent of San Pablo, built in 1523 in stunning late Gothic style.
Access to the city is across a long suspended bridge that spans the ravine. I know right? Heaven can wait…
Okay, I’m running out of adjectives here. And EB is hopping from foot to foot. There are trails to walk (or run!). And a slight downpour isn’t about to stop us!
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).
Don’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!).
Immerse 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.
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!
It’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.
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…
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?
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.
A 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.
In 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).
And 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!
You’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
Eternally 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!