Tag Archives: Life

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).

Eat…

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!).

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Bathe…

© 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.

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

Play…

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…

zoo-animals

Walk…

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!

walk-the-streets

Be…

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.

ronda-city

Breathtaking

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…

Breathless

mine

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…

Breathe

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.

townsquare

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?


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!

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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.


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).

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

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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! 


Switzerland: we are here

 

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Street view at Interlaken…

From urban edgy to outdoor rec heaven, from the steamy heat and energy of a city jammed with people to the crisp alpine air of a town nestled between two lakes – flying from Tokyo to Zurich and jumping on a train to Interlaken in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland feels like intergalactic travel…

Yet both Japan and Switzerland have much in common, including their love of sticking to the rules, their stunning scenery, their strong connection to culture – and how they seem to come alive at night.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Switzerland is definitely a walking culture!

In the evening in the village of Interlaken, everyone is out promenading, eating, drinking, chatting and lapping up the long days before winter sets in.

And when the sun comes up, out they come in their walking gear, with their hiking poles and backpacks…

On our first day here, we join them on Europe’s highest train ride. Along the way, some jump off to walk between alpine villages.

But we’re going all the way – through tunnels chiselled in the mountains, on a railway that is an impressive feat of engineering, up to Jungfraujoch… 3454 metres above sea level.

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While I’m busy taking photos, EB is powering up the slope…

Here the scenery is epic – but there’s no time to get comfortable. EB has spotted a snowy trail disappearing off in the distance.

So off we go, slipping and sliding in the snow. Apparently there’s a café up there somewhere, but it’s way out of sight right now.

This reminds me of our trek in Nepal where the sherpas would smile and say ‘bistaarai, bistaarai’ (slowly, slowly).

With the altitude affecting us a little, we’re taking that advice here… and we definitely lap up the beer and soup in the café that really is there (that’s what I love about Switzerland – you can get food just about anywhere).

As we head back down the slippery slope towards the impressive station at the top of Europe, it’s hard to believe that just a couple of days ago we were bathed in sweat as we walked the streets of Tokyo – and that two countries we never had on our bucket list have managed to capture our hearts.

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Perfect pause in Hakone…

Hakone (箱根) is in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, not far from Tokyo. It’s famous for hot springs, the stunning landscape and views of Mt Fuji (when she chooses to show herself).

We’re staying in a traditional hotel with a spa, called an onsen. Onsens are a big favourite in Japan. They’re super healthy and revitalising, but negotiating the bathing etiquette and searing water temperatures can be quite daunting.

Onsen rules

washing before onsenAnd there’s the sticking point. Tattoos are associated with the underworld here in Japan, and flashing them in bathhouses is a definite no-no.

So we took our tatts back for a traditional onsen experience in the privacy of our room. And we (mostly) stuck to the rules:

  1. Leave your shoes at the door
  2. Sit on the small stool and get all in a lather, then shower off so you’re clean and fresh for the soaking
  3. Frank with towel on headForget the selfie stick – taking photos in an onsen is a faux pas (except when it’s in your room of course)
  4. When you’re bathing, pop your small towel on your head where it’s easily accessible to mop up the sweat. But NEVER dip it in the water and wring it out
  5. After your bath, take time to relax.

Wait, I’m with the Energiser Bunny (EB).

Translation: get dressed, put on your walking shoes and head off…

Can’t you just feel the serenity?

 


On the go in Tokyo

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

From the old-fashioned manners to modern madness, from the understated to the wild and whacky, Tokyo is a pulsing city with a calm energy that will take you by surprise.

Arriving in Tokyo, we are immediately thrust out of our comfort zone. For a start, getting our bearings is almost impossible – and then there’s the language barrier.

Losing yourself in a strange city is all part of the adventure – and quite complicated in a city like this. But we soon discover the locals are always willing to show you the way – even if you don’t ask (looking confused is a dead giveaway, apparently).

Japanese people are helpful, respectful and always up for a laugh, so overcoming the language barrier wasn’t as hard as we thought either.

It just takes some ‘interpretive dance’ and Pictionary-style illustration skills (like explaining you’d like a fish fillet if possible, rather than a whole fish!). Being able to laugh at yourself is also quite useful!

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016The most astonishing thing for me is how everyone negotiates the city streets with absolute calm. It’s like a school of fish out of sync, but still not banging into each other.

We’ve been walking the city streets for two days now (yes constantly, thanks EB!) and we haven’t even been lightly bumped by anyone yet.

In the wide brown land we call home, you can’t walk down a 2m-wide footpath without being shoulder-charged (and I have the path rage to prove it!).

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

Meanwhile in Omoide Yokocho, also known as piss alley (now they tell me), the alleyways are lined with steamy eateries full of locals. We join them on stools at the bar, drawn in by the delicious sizzling aromas…

After taste-testing local favourites like yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles), raw fish and something on skewers, we pass a steak bar where all the patrons are standing at benches, wearing bibs and hoeing into succulent cuts.

What’s not to love about Tokyo?

Vending machine heavenYou can get just about anything out of a vending machine here – even beer and spirits. Back home, the whole machine would be tossed in the back of a ute and disappear in a blink.

By 8 o’clock (which feels like midnight) we’re back in our 3.5m x 1.5m room drinking a nice Bordeaux red bought from the local 7-eleven.

Those comfort zones we stay in? Definitely over-rated, I reckon.

Copyright: Louise Creely 2016

 


Taking flight… soon

In a few days we’ll be literally on the flight path as we take off on our 10 week trip to Portugal and Spain, with stops along the way in Japan, Switzerland, Morocco and Singapore.

And, of course, the pre-travel madness has set in.

What is it about travel that makes you get everything done before you go? Talk about emptying the in-tray. Sheesh.

I mean, all we’ve been doing these past few weeks is renovating our house (at least it’s lockable now!), closing EB’s business (after 30 years, because he’s over it… wait, that happened 29 years ago), getting my own work projects wrapped up before I go, and all the usual family dramas (mostly the mother/granny-lou-thing about leaving them for over 2 months).

I’m exhausted already.

And did I mention the packing dilemma? Our trip will involve lots of train hopping, so travelling light is the only way to go. Between us we have two cabin-size bags and a couple of small backpacks… and even that feels like too much!

So the countdown is on. Just a little bit excited now. See you on the flight path…


Take 5 for Friday

It’s easy to get caught up in capturing the right shot and having the perfect life (thank you, social media). At some point, you might just wonder where the pure childlike joy went.

It’s time to Take 5. So strap on those runners, grab your camera (or phone), and head out the door.

As you walk, take five photos of things that catch your eye, give you joy or just make you feel good.

Take 5 (Aug 10)

It’s not about about being arty. It’s not a competition. It’s about noticing the things that make you happy.

The most important part happens back at home. Look at your photos and write down what each one means to you. Why did it grab your attention? Why did it make you feel good?

Here’s what the pics I took mean to me:

  1. Pandanus palms withstand sea spray, wind and drought and still look great – what’s not to love about such resilience?
  2. IMG_1903This pelican made me smile because it held itself aloof from the other pelicans waiting for the fisherfolk to arrive and clean their daily catch – no begging for this cool customer! Just comfortable in its own – um – feathers
  3. The winter wind was chilly but the salty water was deliciously fresh
  4. You can’t help smiling at Pigface, a creeping succulent that’s a pop of colour among the rocks
  5. Aqua blue water you just want to sink into.

It’s all about taking a trip without leaving your suburb.

Sure, it helps if you live near the beach – but those moments can happen anywhere. Even in your own backyard. Here’s proof from my place…

backyard

Now it’s your turn… Let’s get happy!