Sunday, 7 August 2011

Spain - or "Vacation 2011 - part 1"

Yes, I have finally returned back to Stavanger, after three weeks away on adventures in the sun. As I have promised friends and family I have made a short summary of what we've been up to, in the form of lists. I like lists. First, a little overview: Since having lovely, sunny weather during summer is not one of the things you can expect when living in Stavanger, we decided earlier this spring that we should book a trip to somewhere warm during our vacation. Flight-prices and the fact that neither of us have been there much made Spain the obvious choice. So a 10 day train-trip through this lovely country was arranged. We landed in Málaga, after a super early flight from Norway on a Tuesday morning...

Málaga - top 3 experiences
  • Just the loveliness about being able to walk all day in shorts and a tank top. Sun in my face and sandals on my feet. 
  • Restaurant Nineteen. Or diecinueve as I guess the real name for it would be. Besides having the first really tasty meal of our Spain-experience we also had really good service in the form of a slightly insecure, tall man and when his English did not suffice two tiny, tiny girls in giant chefs-hats helped. The cheese-plate starter was lovely!

  •  Our hotel. I think we were really lucky with this one. Modern and tasteful interior and best of all – the roof terrace with a pool. Heavenly.

Málaga - could live without:

  • The Gorki restaurant. Both our hotel and our Lonely Planet book recommended this place and we can for our lives not understand why. The most uncomfortable chairs imaginable, inattentive and bored personnel and seriously the worst food I’ve had in a restaurant. Boring, bland and blah. 
After two nights in Málaga we continued inland, and two hours on a train later we arrived in Seville.

Seville - top 3 experiences
  • I love the architecture of Gothic cathedrals, and the part Muslim minaret/bell tower at the Cathedral in Seville is pretty cool, but my favourite part of this structure is the enclosed garden with orange trees, also a left over from the Muslim era. 

  • East of the city centre there a huge's park, Parque Maria Luisa, the best place in town to go and hang out in the shade when it's too hot to wander in the city. Plaza de Esapnia just north of the park is also worth taking a look at. Bring a book and chill.
  • Sangria. Cooling, just a but spicy and very fruity. Best enjoyed under a parasol with a loved one.
Seville - could live without:
  • The heat. Yes, we should have known. And I thought I was prepared for it, but seeing the  + 40 degrees sign on a weather forecast and actually experience it live is two very different things. Next time I'll know, and I'll not take any hour long walks in the sun during those days. 
After another two nights in Seville we jumped on a train again and continued north. To the capital!

Madrid - top 3 experiences
  • The Prado Museum. I could not take any pictures there, but it was cool to see some of the amazing paintings I've only seen in photographs before. My favourite was The Garden of Earthly Delights made by Bosch - what an astonishing piece. Disturbing and fantastic. And Fra Angelico and Goya knew what they were doing too.
  • This is a big city. You can tell the difference between Madrid and Seville just a few minutes after arriving.There are more Spanish people than tourists for example, and that was nice for a change. 

  • The bread-head dance. Yes, we were so lucky as to catch a free folk dance festival/competition/show when we ate at Placa Mayor one evening, and in one of the dances there was bread involved. Very folksy. The food was bland, but at least I found the dancing kids really entertaining, but A was not so impressed. And very uninmpressed by the bagpipe orchestra.  

Madrid - could live without:
  • Before leaving for our trip non of us had neither had the energy or time to do any serious research for what we should do once in Spain. Maybe we should have taken the time, but instead we bought a Lonely Planet and it was a pretty good help. So when we arrived in Madrid on a Saturday evening and I read that they recommended a visit to the giant flea market on Sundays in El Rastro I became really excited. But it wasn't really all that fun. When I hear the words flea market I think of old stuff, not all good for sure, but old, weird and at least a little bit interesting. I don't think of millions of sun-glasses, cheap jewellery and booth after booth with iPhone cases, fake bags and useless toys. And that was 95 % of the huge El Rastro flea-market. Just so you have been warned.
The last three of our days in Spain we spend in Barcelona. And I think we saved the best thing for last.

Barcelona - top 3 experiences
  • Architecture. If I'd had just a tiny bit more energy I would have visited more of Gaudi's creations while in Barcelona, but at least we got the big one, La Sagrada Familia, after standing in a que for ages. I loved it. Can't wait to see what it'll look like when it's actually finished!
  • The beach. We only spent one day at the beach on our whole trip, but it was a good one. If you can ignore the thousands of beach vendors that walk screaming through the sand - and with the help of my iPod I can! A lunch in the shade just by the ocean is pretty great too.
  • I can't decide if the Aquarium or the Museum of Ideas and Inventions qualifies for the Barcelona top 3... I guess, the Aquarium suits children better then adults, but I really like looking at animals, and the MIBA was really very amusing, so it will just have to be a tie. At the musem I got to see two of my favourie fishes - a Moon fish and the sting-ray, but I was very careful not to look at the octopus, my arch-nemesis.

We ran across the Museum of Ideas and Inventions after a visit at the Picasso Museum (wich was OK). At the MIBA we got to see some insprinig invetions like the magnetic tea-towel (for easy storage on the door to the fridge) and the goatee-template (for easy grooming of that particular beard-style). This fun little place is definetly worth a visit if you're in Barcelona.

Barcelona - could live without 

Sun burn so bad you get paralysed for a whole evening. Need I say any more?

 That's all for now, stay tuned for the report the second part of my vacation - Swedish summer!

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