From Barcelona to Figueres to Valence to Nimes to Marseille to Nice

Barcelona to Nice. On a map it looks simple, just slide along the coast for a while and you’re there. This was another case where appearances were deceiving. We had originally planned for three nights in Barcelona, but changed that to two when we were told that there were no possible train combinations that could get us there on the day we wanted. Moving the trip up a day meant we could get there in a quick 10 hours making only two transfers. So that’s what we went for – Barcelona -> Figueres -> Valence -> Nice, leaving around 8am and getting into Nice at 6ish.

The day started easily enough with a metro ride to the Barcelona train station where we found our seats for the short trip across the French border to Figueres. We had a bit of a layover in Figueres before we caught the second train to Valence. There is where we would have to switch to another train for our last leg to Nice.

We found the platform, a train pulled up and we got on. Right after it pulled away Steve looked at his watch and knew we’d made a mistake. The train to Nice wasn’t supposed to leave for almost another 15 minutes, and most trains, unlike air travel, leave exactly on time. They don’t check tickets before you get on (sometimes not at all), our train wasn’t labeled on the inside and there were no announcements about its destination, but we knew we were on the wrong one. We spent the next few minutes looking at a rail map trying to figure out which train we might be on, where it might be stopping, and just how much of a pain in the ass we had just caused ourselves.

After what seemed like forever watching the scenery whip by at high speeds, the train slowed and we saw the sign for Nimes. Instead of getting on the eastbound train to Nice, we’d stepped on the one leaving moments before that was westbound for Montpellier. Rather than go further in the wrong direction, we jumped off and made our way to the ticket desk to see what we could do.

It could have been worse. They had a regional train to Marseille leaving in a couple hours, with another train from Marseille to Nice leaving shortly after that. We would get into Nice at just after 11pm instead of before 6 as originally planned. We walked out of the Nimes station to get a beer while we waited before getting on what we made sure was the correct train to Marseille. The final train to Nice was late in the evening and a horde of drunken kids got on for the final leg at Cannes. Listening to noisy booze-babbling after 15 hours of traveling wasn’t the highlight of our day…

Finally making it to Nice, we then had to go pick up the key for our apartment in one location before finding the apartment somewhere else. Getting the key wasn’t a problem, but trying to find an apartment in old town Nice after midnight, carrying all our junk, and with streets full of people eating and drinking was. We did laps around the area trying to make sense of a small cell phone map, poorly labeled streets, and the vague directions given by our host. After 45 minutes we finally found the obscure entrance between a restaurant and a tattoo shop. Needless to say, we went up to the room and promptly collapsed.

July 15th

Nice was a city where both of us didn’t really care to see anything at all. We woke up late and made our way out of the old town to find a big grocery store. We were in line for too long behind a large, hairy, and horribly smelly woman buying nothing but a piece of pizza. We made it out of the store a few minutes later to see her sitting on the curb chowing down on her purchase. She didn’t smell any better outside…  (Pizza lady had become a regular reference since then. We swear, we’re not bad people. If this were a smell-o-blog you’d understand.)

Later in the day we walked around town, eventually finding our way to the boardwalk by the beach. The long strip of ocean in Nice has alternating public and private beach areas. For 10 euros and up you can buy your way into one of the private beaches where you might get a chair, umbrella, and the privilege of buying drinks from their bar. The public beaches probably didn’t have bathrooms quite as nice, but we were only five minutes from the apartment anyway. We bought a big beach umbrella so Steve could sit outside for more than eight seconds without bursting into flames. That evening we went into all out party mode and got a pizza (delicious sicilian style with anchovies), some ice cream, and went back to the room to eat while watching the Simpsons.

The beach

The beach

Restaurants everywhere

Restaurants everywhere

Our apartment was a short walk from the Palace of Justice

Our apartment was a short walk from the Palace of Justice

The next two days can be described as sleep late, spend time on a rocky beach, get dinner, bed. Around noon we’d make our way out of the apartment, stop by a small grocery for snacks on the way to the beach, find an open spot on the rocks, set up our umbrella, and hang out for a few hours. The beaches are all rocks and can be uncomfortable until you finally get them aligned with your spine. They’re also impossible to walk on when they get wet, so going into the water really means falling into the water, and coming out means crawling out on all fours.

Rocks on the beach

Rocks on the beach

The public beach

The public beach

View of Nice

View of Nice

There are restaurants everywhere by the beach and in the old town, which makes eating for an indecisive couple a chore. They’ll post daily menus on boards that would be difficult to decipher even if you could read French. After settling on a place, Jenny got a pot full of mussels and Steve got a plate full of squid. On the 17th for Jenny’s birthday we went to an Italian restaurant with decent food, but service so slow that we were ready for bed before dessert came out.

"Yes, I'd like to order section IV, paragraph 2, line 16a."

“Yes, I’d like to order section IV, paragraph 2, line 16a.”

Italian eating italian in France the day before we go to Italy.

Italian eating italian in France the day before we go to Italy.

Once we finally got there, Nice was a great place to spend a few days breaking the “walk around the city for six hours a day” cycle we’d been on. We couldn’t get Jenny to Italy for her birthday, but the French Riviera wasn’t too bad at all.

 

Barcelona

If you’ve been following the blog, you’re probably asking “Hey, what happened to Pamplona?”  Well, that one is going to take a long time to write and we’re kinda lazy, so here’s a quick post about our two days in Barcelona.

It was an easy train ride from Pamplona to Barcelona on the morning of July 12th. The train station connected to the Metro so we hopped on a line going in the direction of our apartment in the gothic quarter. We got off the subway at Liceau on Las Ramblas, a long pedestrian shopping street full of restaurants and cheesy tourist stuff.  Our apartment was a clean, modern place on the 4th floor of an old building that had a bike rental shop on the ground floor. The powerful AC was a pleasant change after three sweaty nights in Pamplona.

As usual, we went right out and found a grocery store to stock up on cheap eats for the next couple of days. On our way back we made a pit stop at a little greek shop for some gyros and spanakopita. We snacked in the room with some beers and went back out to explore.

The gothic quarter is a collection of narrow streets full of shops and restaurants that is great for aimless walking. Pick a direction and go. When you hit a big street with cars, turn around and go a different direction. We zigzagged for a while before finding the path to the beach. One of the cool things about Barcelona is that one second you’re lost in medieval European streets, and the next you’re walking along in a modern beach town full of bicycles and street performers.

Into the sea

Into the sea

The sun was setting as we plopped down on the sand to open another San Miguel. Jenny ran into the water to take her first steps in the Mediterranean. After dark we walked back to the room along Las Ramblas, a much changed street in the evening with prostitutes hanging around outside sex shops and more than one offer for drugs…

The next day we rode the subway up to see the Sagrada Familia, probably the most famous church in the city. It’s still under construction (since 1882…) and defies any notion of what a catholic church should look like. You could go inside and climb some of the towers, but that didn’t sound like fun on a day pushing 100 degrees.

Detail of La Sagrada Familia

Detail of La Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

We made the long walk back from the church so we could see more of the city. Along the way we ran into another park with one of the most impressive fountains we’ve seen on the trip.

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That afternoon we walked down a street full of restaurants near our apartment and found a place serving delicious looking seafood paella. After questioning whether people in Europe ate vegetables other than potatoes, we finally got a salad before our paella.

Yum

Yum

Later in the evening we wandered around some more, going by the other main churches in the area, around the Picasso museum, and a few major squares. We snacked on pizza and ice cream and went back to pack up for what we knew would be a long trip to Nice the next day.

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Actual Duff beer! (Not actually licensed by the Simpsons)

Actual Duff beer! (Not actually licensed by the Simpsons)

 

Run, Fight, Bulls

We left Madrid on the morning of July 9th and used our Eurail passes for the first time in three weeks. The train was a comfortable high speed line where we were served wine and snacks during the three hour trip to into northern Spain. We arrived around 12:30 and walked for 15 minutes or so until we found the apartment we rented. Pamplona is normally a fairly small town, but it explodes during the eight days of the festival every July. The room we rented for three nights in a shared apartment was one of the most expensive of our trip, and it was at least a mile outside of the main part of town.

Our post-apocalyptic apartment complex

Our post-apocalyptic apartment complex

We were supposed to stay with a lady and her son, but the lady decided to take a last minute trip to Seville, much like how people in New Orleans leave town during Mardi Gras. The son was also away, leaving her 38 year old daughter to greet us and watch the place. This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but with the normal residents gone, there was some miscommunication about who got to take which keys, and they didn’t have an extra set for us when we got in. So basically – the daughter had to stay there the entire time to open the door when we got in. She grew up in the U.S. so spoke perfect English and was good to talk to, but I’m sure having to sit around to open the door for us sucked.

We didn’t waste much time before heading out to check out the town. We were getting in on the third day of the festival, so we had some catching up to do. First things to do – get into town, replenish our cash supply, get appropriate festival clothing, and find some sangria.  The route from our apartment into town took us back past the train station, across a small river, and alongside a park filled with improvised campsites and passed out festival goers, before finally arriving at the base of the cliff that separates the old and new parts of town. Here there was a small carnival with rides and games set up on one side, just opposite of the holding pen where the bulls awaited their turn for the next day’s events.  Heading toward the cliff there’s a split in the road, the left taking you up the steep hill that the bulls would take at the start of the run, the right taking you up a different (but still steep) hill that led into town. We climbed up and into the historic part of Pamplona.

Holding pens where the bulls await their fate

Holding pens where the bulls await their fate

View from the top of the hill

View from the top of the hill

The cheap rooms for the festival

The cheap rooms for the festival

The city was much like many other old towns that existed before modern urban planning – with the streets built to fit the terrain rather the terrain changed to accommodate a sensible map.

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We found our way to the main town square, a large area filled with people and bordered by shops, restaurants, and overpriced hotels named after Hemingway. Not having the traditional white shirts and pants, and red bandanas and sashes, we found a little store that was more than happy to outfit us, and soon we blended in with the other festival goers.

On the original list of main things we wanted to see on the trip was a bullfight, so we found our way to the arena ticket window to get seats for the following morning’s fights. I should say we found our way to the line – because a very long line it was. We waited and waited within the crowds and under the hot Spanish sun. Other people in line were getting impatient and eventually a scuffle broke out between a couple of men a little ways in front of us. Too much drink, too much sun, too much waiting, and these things happen…

Steve doing his Hemingway impression

Steve doing his Hemingway impression

Fights in line for bullfights

Fights in line for bullfights

After getting the tickets we kept wandering the town on foot. During this festival, the normally quite town was a writhing mass of people  – drinking, dancing, playing music, sleeping (or passed out) on benches, buying knockoff goods from Africans, throwing coins into the hats of traveling street performers. The end of each day is celebrated with a fireworks show along the river. We sat in the grass while screaming kids jumped around us and colorful explosions lit up the sky.

Groups dancing in the town square

Groups dancing in the town square

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Lots. Of. People.

Lots. Of. People.

Jenny considering buying some jerseys

Jenny considering buying some jerseys

*whistle *boom *sparkle

*whistle *boom *sparkle

July 10th – We were up “early,” got our festival clothes on, and raced out the door so we could see the day’s running of the bulls. We vastly underestimated just how early we would need to get to the fences along the route to actually see anything. The bulls themselves get released at 8am, and getting there at 7:30 meant this was our view…

Amazing!

Amazing!

Several layers deep, all along the course.

Several layers deep, all along the course.

So much for seeing the bulls. But we had the morning to walk the town and see it in a different way than during the night. Families were out and crews were busy scrubbing the evidence of last night’s partying from the streets. Traditional parades featuring giant costumes roamed the roads. We took in some of this before going back to the apartment area for lunch. We sat down at a table at one restaurant and waited for the waiter to come by. He saw us. He was serving other tables. He never came over. Weird. So we went to another place down the street and splurged on good food and wine.

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In the evening it was time for the bull fight. The tradition is controversial, and after seeing it in person we can understand why. Yet, it’s a famous piece of the culture, and we had to see it while we were there. The stadium itself is a big circle, and tickets are bought for either la sombra or el sol – the shade or the sun. The shade side of the stadium is where the old people and anybody actually wanting to see the fights go. The sun is cheaper, hot and sweaty. It’s full of brass bands erupting into song while crews of people shower themselves and everybody else in sangria.

We sat in the shade.

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Where's Waldo?

Where’s Waldo?

Looks sticky

Looks sticky

The fights themselves are well orchestrated events – or that’s the goal anyway. The six bulls that ran up the hill in the morning get to face off against different matadors. It sounds romantic – a man facing off against a giant, ferocious beast, and triumphing with style. In truth, by the time the matador goes on foot against the animal, it has already been worn down and speared by men on armored horses and by others aiming javelins at it’s massive neck to weaken the muscles. The matador’s job is to get the bull, by this point already bleeding significantly, to run after him, making him bleed faster and weaken to the point that he can go in for a kill. Ideally, the final blow is delivered by a well placed thrust of the sword over the head and through the heart. That’s easier said than done. We stayed for four of the fights, and three of them involved the matador missing the spot repeatedly, prolonging the bull’s suffering, getting booed, and having another team come in with daggers to finish the job. The clean strike we saw killed the bull instantly. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart or the hardcore animal lover. It’s not something I’d care to see again. But it was worth witnessing in person.

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July 11th – I think Jenny knew it was coming. I hadn’t actually talked about running with the bulls myself for the first couple days, but after seeing it in person, and knowing I’d probably never be there again, I had to do it. And I think she knew she wouldn’t be able to talk me out of it. So that morning we got up early, for real early this time. We got to the course by 6:30am and found a nice spot with a fence to sit on, and made camp. We sat together for a while as the workers put the rest of the fencing up that keeps the bulls on the path. The crowds started filling in. I assured her I’d be fine and headed off to find a good spot to wait until the run began.

The course for the run is something like 835 meters long, and you can start anywhere you want – at the very beginning where the bulls come out, at the end right before they enter the stadium, or anywhere in between. I picked a spot in a small square and huddled with some other American and Australian guys and waited for the rockets to go off that announce the release of the bulls. For how stupid of an activity it is (Yes, I fully admit that putting yourself in the path of frightened/angry bulls isn’t a smart thing to do) the course was heavily monitored by police and emergency workers doing their best to make things “safe.” The police controlled the gates into the course, checking for alcohol, cameras, and overly intoxicated daredevils. The emergency workers jumped to action to help with the inevitable trips, falls, tramples, and worst case, gorings.

I heard the rockets go off and started moving with the crowd. Adrenaline starts pumping pretty heavily at that point as now there’s no turning back. You wouldn’t want to turn back because there are a bunch of pointy-horned bulls behind you. We rounded a corner into a long straightaway. The street was wide enough that I could stay to the side and keep a person or two between me and the animals as they passed. There’s a buildup of anticipation as more time passes between the rockets and the present, as you know the bulls are closer and closer but even looking back you can’t see through the crowd to exactly where they are. Halfway up the street, the runners behind us start sprinting and shouting and pushing us forward. I could hear the cowbells clanging and then the bulls start going by. The truth is that you don’t really run “with” the bulls, so much as you run away from them, and they’re so much faster than you that you’re only near them for about 15 seconds. I was alongside them for a few seconds before a half dozen people fell down in a pile in front of me and I stopped short before going down myself. And just like that, the bulls were out of sight. A dozen steer follow the bulls down the course, so they came soon after, chased by wild men swatting at them with rolled up magazines.

The run itself goes straight into the bullfight arena. Going through the gates and emerging into a stadium full of people as the morning sun poured over cheering runners was a surreal experience. I stood and soaked it all in for a few minutes before strolling back out to find Jenny.

She had been perched on the fence taking pictures of the craziness, and had no idea where I was. With everybody in the same clothing, it’s hard to pick out individuals as they’re running, but I knew where she was, so I had raised my arms trying to get her attention. She didn’t actually notice me as I passed, but looking through the pictures, she managed to get one with me in it! Cameras weren’t allowed on the run itself, so luckily she was there to get proof of me doing stupid things.

"I'm smiling, but I'll kill you if you get hurt."

“I’m smiling, but I’ll kill you if you get hurt.”

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"Hey! Hey! Look at me!"

“Hey! Hey! Look at me!”

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Still euphoric after running from big animals

Still euphoric after running from big animals

We had the rest of the day to explore and relax and did nothing of note in comparison to what we’d already done. The next morning we watched the bull run on TV with our host. It had been a fairly injury-free festival through the day I ran. The day after was a different story. Gorings happened, and did happen that day. But we also watched live on TV as a freak mishap with the arena gates took place. The large wooden gates themselves make up a wall of the arena when closed, and open outward into the tunnel that makes up the entrance for the bulls and runners. Somehow, with the mass of runners flooding in, they started getting behind one of the open gates, slowly pushing it closed as more people filled in. With only one gate open, it wasn’t nearly enough room for everybody to get through, so a wall of people got stuck together, getting clogged and slowly forced through. To make matter worse, the dozen steer that follow the bulls down the course arrived at the gate and started pushing the mass from behind. Luckily the bulls had already gone through, because if they had gotten stuck in that mess, it could have been terrible. People were getting crushed and dragged from the pile passed out. Jenny and I were both glad I picked the day I did to run and not the day after!

Run with the bulls in Pamplona – checked off my list of crazy things in this world that I just had to do.

Madrid

Morocco was amazing in so many ways, but we were both relieved when we landed back on Spanish soil. A painless RyanAir flight and two metro transfers later and we were at the gate of the apartment building where we would be staying for the next five nights. And this is as good a time as any to digress about one of our biggest foes on this trip – doors.

You can plan for all sorts of travel problems, but it’s hard to image before leaving on a long trip that you’d encounter so many times when you just felt like a total moron because you couldn’t figure out how to open a door. Let’s see here – In Paris, the apartment building had a series of doors you passed through to exit. We spent a few minutes stuck behind one of these doors before we figure out that you had to push on the lock to open it.

In Bordeaux, the layout of the building we were staying in left us totally baffled as to how to get out. Leaving the kitchen took you to a courtyard with six doors and we could not remember which door we came in though. Were these other doors other peoples’ apartments? We spent a good amount of time staring stupidly at each other, trying to muster up the courage to just open random doors. One door was a bathroom, one was a staircase leading to a basement, two wouldn’t open, one was the kitchen we came from, so by the process of elimination we found our way out. Later we’d learn that our host couple had the entire first level.

In Tarifa, the room we had at our hostel was locked from the outside with a small padlock – a padlock that was missing when we arrived so the guy at the desk probably spent half an hour looking for a replacement. When the door was padlocked with the windows open, the horrible winds blew so hard that it made the door pound against its frame. One time Steve went to the bathroom (outside the room) and put the lock on the door with Jenny inside. The wind pounded against the door so much that other people in the hostel pulled the lock off thinking that Jenny was trying to get out.

Back at the gate in Madrid, it appeared to be locked because it wouldn’t open any way we tried. We sat outside staring at the building like “what do we do now?” until an old lady that worked in the building came out to ask what we were doing. She finally opened the gate by lifting a small latch on the top (it wasn’t locked…). The next day we got stuck trying to leave a bookstore through what looked like automatic doors (they weren’t).

Later in Pamplona, the host decided to go on vacation while we were there, leaving her daughter there, but not leaving an extra key. If the daughter left without telling us, we’d just be stuck outside. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

We won’t even start with the number of times we’ve run into barriers at metro stations. You get the point. We can reliably navigate our way from airports and train stations to anywhere in any random city, but we might not be able to operate the door when we get there.

Back to Madrid

We finally got in and made it to the apartment. Still worn down from our time in Morocco, the only thing we did the first night was make our way to a grocery store to buy supplies for the rest of the stay. We walked 10 minutes away to the closest store shown on Google maps, and on the way back walked by an identical store that was literally on the bottom level of our apartment building. Thanks Google…

July 5th – Steve’s birthday!

We went wandering around the city during the day, making stops at a few bookstores to look for some English reading options (getting stuck by an evil door at one of them). We walked by some of the sites – the royal palace, a small plaza de espana (nothing like the one in Seville), a couple of parks. After a few hours in near 100 degree heat, we went back to the room to relax before heading out to a flamenco show in the evening.

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Gardens around the palace

Gardens around the palace

Hedge maze - that was closed...

Hedge maze – that was closed…

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana

Lots of paintings like this on garage doors

Lots of paintings like this on garage doors

Covered pedestrian street

Covered pedestrian street

Happy 29th!

Happy 29th!

We found a restaurant with flamenco shows that was only a minute walk away from our apartment, so we went down there before the first show started to see if we could get in without reservations. They had one table open for us, so we got in for some sangria and food just before the lights went down. We’d definitely recommend seeing one of these shows if you go to Spain. It’s powerful music with powerful dancers that make you want to walk out clapping your hands and stomping your feet.

Inside of the restaurant

Inside of the restaurant

Olives, meats, and sangria

Olives, meats, and sangria

Music starting

Music starting

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On July 6th we stayed in during the heat of the day and went out in the evening to witness what was apparently the biggest LGBT event in Europe. We had no idea that this was going on, but did some research after seeing what seemed like way too many rainbow cupcakes being sold. There was an insane number of people out on the streets. People were out selling drinks on the sidewalks, running with rainbow flag capes, squirting water guns at crowds that seemed to be 30 people deep on both sides of the road. It definitely beat the pants off of any parade we’ve seen in terms of number of people, but New Orleans still wins hands down for best costumes.

People EVERYWHERE

People EVERYWHERE

EV-ER-Y-WHERE

EV-ER-Y-WHERE

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The following day we decided to start indoors. Madrid is known for several great art museums. The biggest is probably the Prado, but we passed on that to visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum just down the road. This museum is an amazing collection of artwork from the 14th to 20th centuries, all amassed by a couple generations of one family. Apparently during the great depression, a lot of people were offloading artwork and these guys bought up a ton of it. It didn’t have the number of old masters that the Prado probably did, but basically any more recent painter imaginable was represented. The collection was laid out well and wasn’t busy so it was one of our favorite museums so far. (No pictures though – Steve had to leave his camera in his bag at coat check).

After the museum we took a stroll through the Parque de Retiro, a large park full of trees, gardens, fountains, and an endless number of ice cream vendors.

Fountain in the park

Fountain in the park

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On July 8th we satisfied Jenny’s craving to see her favorite Picasso work by going to the Reina Sofia museum. In addition to housing Picasso’s Guernica, there was a temporary Dali exhibit set up which gave an interesting look into the work and mind of a famous surrealist.

Inside the Reina Sofia

Inside the Reina Sofia

Covert shot of Picasso's Guernica

Covert shot of Picasso’s Guernica

We stopped out for some traditional spanish food on the way back.

Spanish, Chinese, whatever.

Spanish, Chinese, whatever.

On the 9th, we got up early, packed our bags, and left for the next leg of the trip.

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Six nights in Morocco

The distance from Tarifa to Tangier is only 20 miles or so, but the cultures are worlds apart. That becomes immediately apparent after docking when the Moroccan border guards come aboard the ferry to check passports and immigration cards. Steve wrote “photographer” as his occupation and got a stern look and was asked what newspaper he worked for. “Not press, weddings mostly.” The guards said something, laughed, and handed over the passport. After walking off the ferry there was another guard to check that the passports had been properly stamped.

If you do any advance reading about Morocco, you’ll certainly hear about how people are going to approach you try to “help” you or “guide” you or be your friend and then expect money for it. Well that’s all dead on. Before we were even outside the port building we were getting approached by men asking us where we were going, what we were doing, did we need to exchange money, would we like a tour of Tangier, and everything else you could imagine. We approached a row of taxis and had an old man lead us to his unmarked car where he opened the door and beckoned us in. …No thanks, we’ll at least get into a marked cab.

We only had a few minutes to get to the train station if we wanted to be on the early train leaving for Fes. The taxi driver was initially insistent on going slow and pointing out the sites as we went along, trying to get us to bite on a longer tour of Tangier, guided by him, of course. After the third “no thanks, just the train station” he finally gave up on that and spent the remaining five minutes of the ride offering to exchange money for me. It’s illegal to take much Moroccan currency out of the country, so you can’t get it ahead of time. He seemed genuinely sad that we knew we could get a better exchange rate at the train station’s ATM. He tried one more “you won’t make the train, take my Tangier tour” before we paid him. Ten minutes later we were in our compartment on the train ready to start the five hour trip to Fes.

The countryside passing on the way to Fes was striking, in both good and bad ways. There were lots of great landscapes full of hills and cropland, but much of the infrastructure was in horrible shape. Maybe we should have expected that, after all, we were going to Fes, which was founded in 859. Things are bound to get run down in a country that old. The age of things can be understood, but what stood out to both of us was the garbage. It was everywhere. Maybe we take modern landfills for granted, things which maybe they didn’t have. It’s as if the norm in every little town we passed was to take the garbage and just dump it in piles at the edge of town. Morocco – land of rustic desert landscapes and garbage piles.

The train ride passed without issue and we emerged out of the Fes station to be bombarded with another row of taxi drivers. We found a driver who must have smelled that we just got into the country because he took us to our destination and charged us easily four times what the fare should have been. Note to other people – do a little research beforehand, or just be insistent on finding a driver that will use the meter, even though most will outright lie (meter is broken, we don’t use meters here, meter doesn’t get used before 2pm, etc.). Granted, getting ripped off meant we paid about six dollars for our cab ride.

We got dropped off at Ain Azlitten, a “car park” at one of the entrances to the Fes medina. Fes is basically divided into the medina and the new town. The medina is the ancient walled city with a maze of pedestrian streets that cars can’t enter. We were staying just inside. At Ain Azlitten, a “security guard” walked with us to a cafe where we were to get help finding the place we were staying. The people at the cafe made sure we paid the guard for his security services. We were offered some traditional mint tea while we waited for another guide to lead us to Dar el Ma, the riad we would be staying in for the next four nights.

Mint tea - like liquid mint gum.

Mint tea – like liquid mint gum.

A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard or garden. Ours was a place that an English couple bought and put a ton of work into restoring, so it was a beautiful mix of old and new that we had all to ourselves. There was a housekeeper that would come in every morning to make us breakfast and we had dinner on the terrace. Of all the places we booked, this was one we had been looking forward to.

Looking across the courtyard

Looking across the courtyard

Looking down into the courtyard

Looking down into the courtyard

Kitchen

Kitchen

View from our terrace

View from our terrace

In the evening we ventured back out to the Cafe Khmissa, the same cafe where we first had tea. They had a rooftop dining area where we ate chicken tagine and turkey skewers and had a small bottle of Moroccan wine. We were still new in country so we didn’t argue when they charged us what seemed like more than the menu prices had stated. Over the next couple days, we quickly learned that inside the medina, you haggle for everything, including things that on the surface have fixed prices. Everything.

June 29

We got up slowly and heard Houda, the housekeeper downstairs preparing breakfast. She gave us a tray of Moroccan food that we can’t name – a crepe-like roll, a bread made from semolina, and a fried egg (ok, we knew what the egg was). The owners kept a photo album and notebook near the breakfast table, the album showing the extent of the renovation process, and the notebook full of messages from previous guests from such far away places as Dayton, Ohio.

After eating we made our first foray into the medina. We thought Seville was difficult to navigate, but Fes was downright labyrinthine. A long series of winding, hilly streets, branching every which way with unexpected dead ends. We didn’t have a map and don’t really think it would’ve been of much help as if the streets were marked (many were not) then they were often marked in worn down signs written in arabic. We did our best to follow a series of red and brown signs pointing in the direction of the major entrance and exit of the medina and even then, we still got turned around a number of times.

The smell of mule crap was a major part of the atmosphere in some areas.

The smell of mule crap was a major part of the atmosphere in some areas.

Adding to the confusion of the streets is the sheer number of people passing through. These are not sleepy neighborhoods, they’re lively and crowded, bordered on all sides with souqs (little shops) selling anything and everything you can imagine. If you stop to try to figure out where you are, you’re likely to get run over, by people or donkeys hauling leather to one of the tanneries. That or have some friendly person approach you and offer to guide you out, for a small fee (or a large one, depending on how well you negotiate).

Apart from always feeling lost (we’ve done that in plenty of cities) the atmosphere inside was so different than anything we’ve ever experienced. It was a people watcher’s dream. Never have we seen such a collection of interesting characters amassed in one spot. Old people in pristine white clothing struggling up the slopes. Women’s clothing ranging from what we might expect as typically attire, all the way to the fully covered garb that leaves only the eyes visible. All manner of infirm and disabled squatted in the streets waiting for alms. Little kids walked hand in hand dodging the regular piles of mule droppings… and occasionally not dodging them. A thousand faces leaned forward over stacks of books or spices or leather goods, as much eyeing us foreigners as we were eyeing them.

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The souqs seemed loosely arranged by the sort of product they were selling. One street had modern consumer goods such as cell phones and electronic gadgets. Other streets focused on metal work, with many of the shops having tools for vendors to make their goods right then and there. There were streets selling nothing but shoes, others selling nothing but carpets, some with meat and produce, others just selling leather goods. There’s surely a way to figure out where you are just by noting what “district” you’re in, but it’d probably take a while to learn that “hey, I’m in the yellow shoe block, I should go left past the book sellers and through the meat market to get to the clothiers.”

Spice seller

Spice seller

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Souqs

Souqs

Morning bread

Morning bread

One unfortunate thing was that people were generally not friendly to cameras. If you did take pictures, they wanted money. It was too crowded and busy to sit and people watch with a long lens, so most of the images taking inside the medina were shot from the hip (i.e. with the camera hanging on its strap and without looking through the viewfinder).  So despite all of the interesting people and sights, it just wasn’t worth the headache of having people hassle you for coins if you have a camera with you.

The tanneries of the medina were supposedly one of the things to see while in the medina, so we followed signs toward that. As you get closer the number of guys on the street trying to coax you into some terrace for a view increases dramatically. A whole row of men tried to get us up onto one rooftop or another. We made a turn down a street that led straight to the main tannery and quickly realized that it was a regular roadway for the mules that carry hides in and out for processing, because the whole street was covered in waste and was full of little alcoves where they dropped off fly covered skins. We turned back before long to get out of the smell and the filth. That was a little too authentic of an experience…

Piles of hides headed for a tannery.

Piles of hides headed for a tannery.

This mule was really fighting going down the steep street to the tannery.

This mule was really fighting going down the steep street to the tannery.

We eventually made our way out of the north end of the medina, stood and admired the view of the town from the outside for a moment, then headed back the way we came. It doesn’t really get any easier the second time through. More trying to follow loosely labeled signs through throngs of people without getting separated or run over. After about two hours on the streets, we went back to the room.

Phew…. The medina is not for the faint of heart.

After a little break, we decided to trek out to one of the several modern grocery stores in the city. We walked back out to Ain Azlitten with hopes of catching a taxi, but apparently it’s not that regular of a stop. We waited there for a few minutes before walking out to the end of the street outside the car park where we waited again. Eventually a cab pulled up and stopped. There was a tan but Caucasian looking man in the front seat that we looked over as Steve tried to say the name of the supermarket we were trying to get to. While the driver understood that we were trying to go to a grocery store, we didn’t understand that there were more than one, some closer than others to town.

After a back and forth with some hand gesturing leaving us at a point where we still didn’t understand each other, the man in the passenger seat said something to the driver who then gestured us into the car. We got in and the other passenger turned around and said “English?” in a thick accent. It turns out that he was a Parisian who came to Fes to retire. He apologized for his broken English, and asked us what we were looking for. “Wine.” He laughed and said that it would be a little difficult, but still possible to find because we were only a couple weeks away from the start of Ramadan, and then told us that there was another grocery store much closer than the one we knew of that would get us what we wanted. He told the driver the new destination, and we were on our way. We would joke about French people being rude or snooty, but once again, a French person helped us when we would have otherwise been stuck.

We bought some chicken and vegetables for dinner, a few snacks, and several bottles of cheap Moroccan wine before catching a taxi back to the house. Jenny cooked dinner that we ate on the terrace, accompanied by the resident rooftop cat that was desperate for some food. That evening we sat on top of the city with a bottle of wine, overlooking a vista full of crumbling and uneven rooftops.

We had both been impacted by just how different the day’s experience was from anything else we’d ever seen. The medina wasn’t some tourist attraction, it was every day life for a large number of people. It was hot and dirty and difficult and you could see it on the worn out faces of the older people that crowded the streets. We had come to Morocco to get something entirely different from the western European experience, and that we got.

The city at night

The city at night

Lower terrace

Lower terrace

The next morning is when it began. Steve started waking up early to go to the bathroom and Jenny followed. We knew that stomach problems and diarrhea were a possibility, but we thought we’d be ok by sticking to bottled water and fully cooked food. No such luck. Our second full day in Fes was spent in an aching, exhausted state, going between bed and bathroom. We stayed in for nearly the whole day. Only leaving in the evening because we knew we’d need to eat something, especially considering how…. empty…  we were.

Walking up the main street we found Café Clock, a place recommended to us by our French taxi companion. He told us it was owned by an Englishman and was a hangout for English speaking types. It was a three story building with dining on every level and a concert taking place at the bottom. We sat on the roof listening to the clattering music while we waited for our lamb and camel burgers. Steve at every bit of his, Jenny didn’t touch hers.

Delicious camel burger

Delicious camel burger

Musicians playing at the bottom of Cafe Clock

Musicians playing at the bottom of Cafe Clock

The next morning we still weren’t felling great, but the body aches had passed. We ate Jenny’s leftover lamb burger for lunch and went out for a short while to barter for a ring and a few postcards. And so went our time in Fes. We had hoped to hire a guide to take us around on one of those last two days, but the need to be within five minutes of a bathroom and constant stomach issues really hinders your willingness to go out.

Somebody's dinner

Somebody’s dinner

Getting scraps from the butcher

Getting scraps from the butcher

Vegetable seller

Vegetable seller

July 2nd.

We packed up and said goodbye to the lovely riad that was our home for four nights. An army of taxis awaited us outside the gate at Bab BouJloud, and before long we were at the train station getting tickets for the seven hour journey to Marrakesh.  We wish we could say that the ride was pleasant, but there was a problem with the air conditioning on the train. Problem being – there simply wasn’t any in the car we were in. We cooked in our compartment alongside a trio of French people and a Moroccan mother or grandmother trying to keep control of the young girl she shared a seat with. Marrakesh finally approached and we got out into a station that looked identical to the one in Fes.

There was another row of men waiting right outside the station jockeying for taxi passengers. We followed one of them to his cab where he opened the trunk and said 80 dirham. Had this been our first day in the country we probably would have been like “80 of your strange currency units? Super!” Seeing as we’d been dealing with people trying to rip us off for four days already, Steve asked the cabi to put on the meter. “We don’t use meter in Marrakesh” Bullshit. “Ok, 70 dirham.” No, put on the meter. “50 dirham?” Steve told the driver that we had paid 15 dirham for a longer ride in Fes this morning. At that point, the driver closed his trunk and said “taxi in Marrakesh too expensive for you. You take bus, 3 dirham.”

Immediately as we were walking away from the first driver’s taxi, another man walked up and asked for our destination. “Ok, 20 dirham together.” Good, take us there. If he had used the meter it probably would have been about 15, but 20 was at least a reasonable offer. A few minutes later we were dropped off at the Djemaa el fna square where we began our walk to Café France, which was the major landmark and start of the directions to our place.

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Steve had his phone out navigating with the instructions given on AirBnB and we were well on our way when a guy approached us and asked where we were going. We tried to brush him off but almost instinctively he seemed to know that we were looking for riad 38 and walked ahead of us in the direction we were already going. Without much choice but to “follow” him, we went in that direction and walked up to the door marked 38. Another kid on a bike came up and started asking for money. Steve pulled some change out of his pocket and they repeatedly asked for paper money. We Steve refused to give them anything besides the roughly $2 in change, the kid on the bike actually asked if he could have Steve’s sunglasses. Really? We didn’t want the first guy’s “help” and you didn’t do anything, get the hell out of here.

Eventually the housekeeper opened the door and guided us in to sit and wait for the guy who worked there. This place was basically a six room hostel with a nice courtyard area where you could sit and relax, a small pool in the center. Reduane, the hostel manager came out from his room wearing a long white robe with black wrap around sunglasses and greeted us with some of the most stoned speech imaginable. “You want beer, it’s possible. You want food sometime, it’s possible.” He asked Jenny if she was Spanish and said she had a Spanish looking face. “It’s very nice.” Then he grinned and showed us to our room. It was freshly painted with bright purple and orange, and despite not having air conditioning, a good bed made it one of the more comfortable rooms we’ve had.

We went out around dusk to see the spectacle that was the Djemaa el fna in the evening. Hordes of stalls set up to sell trinkets and food to tourists. Men with leashed monkeys would approach you offering to have the monkey sit on your shoulders (for a price). Groups of snake charmers set up areas with cobras and other snakes that men would let you hold (for a price). Groups with small acrobatic acts performed stunts in front of the restaurants around the square and came around for tips.

Tagine and couscous

Tagine and couscous

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In every way that Fes felt like an authentic experience, Marrakesh felt like a circus show. None of what was going on seemed real. The square was full of white girls in tank tops and shorts and guys trying to sell you orange juice or a photo op. We had dinner on the border of the square and watched all this happen for a while before heading back to the room to open the bottle of Moroccan wine that we had brought with us from Fes. Maybe it should have been obvious, but wine produced in a culture that doesn’t really drink was not good.

Snake charmers

Snake charmers

Fresh squeezed orange juice carts everywhere

Fresh squeezed orange juice carts everywhere

The mainstay of the Moroccan rooftop - the satellite dish.

The mainstay of the Moroccan rooftop – the satellite dish.

July 3rd

We were both tired. Tired of having stomach problems, tired of being approached by people for money or hissed at (a weird way of catcalling). We went out to the square to sit on the upper level of a pizza place for lunch, which actually ended up being fairly nice. We were the only people up there for a while and the pizza was decent. A tiny little restaurant cat kept us company while we ate.

So... we thought these would be smaller

So… we thought these would be smaller

After lunch we spent a good chunk of the day lounging around reading and down by the pool. We watched other travelers go in and out, some testing their bravery in the little swimming pool. Pools in Ohio get heated. I think this pool in Marrakesh was cooled because it was absolutely freezing. When first sitting down on a bench to read, we heard the sounds of a couple having sex. After it ended we saw Reduane come out and we assumed that some young lady would follow behind him. We could barely keep from laughing when we saw a giant, older looking woman(?) follow him out. We could only imagine that she was a working woman(?), because she certainly didn’t act or dress like your typical Moroccan lady.

In the evening we asked Reduane for a restaurant recommendation nearby and he directed us to Café Brahmin just a short walk away. This place had people on the street that had been trying to lure us in for the past day and a half and we finally did something beside ignore them. We got a window table upstairs in what was a really nice setting – candlelit with a pair of musicians playing quietly in the background. We got some very flavorful steak kabobs and chicken couscous that ended up being our favorite meal in the country.

July 4th.

After being woken by the 4:35am adhan (the first of five daily calls to prayer blasted over loudspeakers all over the city), we left our keys in the room and headed out to the main square to catch a cab to the airport. We purposely walked right by all the taxis waiting in the thick of the square to prey on departing tourists, and made our way to a busier area to catch a more reasonable ride. It was a short trip to Marrakesh’s small airport where we got in with enough time to spend our remaining dirham on sandwiches and coffee. Another series of RyanAir sales pitches later and we landed in Madrid.

The Windy City

It’s roughly a three hour bus ride from Seville to Tarifa, the southernmost tip of not only Spain, but all of Europe.  The town itself really has only two things – regular ferry service to Tangier, and wind. The stretch of beach going up the coast is a favorite location for kite surfers. As soon as we got off the bus, we understood why. The bags on our backs were big enough to act as sails and push us around when the wind gusted. After some staggered walking, we found our way to the Melting Pot hostel where we had a room for the night. Note to others – the location of the bus station on Google Maps isn’t where the bus station really is…

Tarifa is full of hostels due to the drifter/traveler/backpacker nature of its visitors. We’d stayed in private or shared residences through AirBnB for the entire trip up to this point, so this was the first hostel experience. It was nice to be in a place with some other people around. We checked in, dropped bags off, and the got word that the ferry service had shut down due to high winds. The guy at the front desk told us to call the port in the morning to see if ferries would be running again, but that it wasn’t looking promising.

Windy enough to destroy these flags...

Windy enough to destroy these flags…

So we wandered around for a bit. We’re not joking when we say this place is small. It was nice for a minute, realizing you could walk from one end of town to the other in about 15 minutes. But then you realize that there’s nothing there other than hostels and overpriced restaurants catering to the hostel guests. We found a couple of grocery stores that were both closed due to a power outage (most likely wind related) that we’d have to come back to for our usual cheap bottle of wine.

There are a few winding pedestrian shopping streets in town.

There are a few winding pedestrian shopping streets in town.

The tower of Guzman castle (13th century)

The tower of Guzman castle (13th century)

Guzman castle

Guzman castle

After an unimpressive meal we went back to the hostel for the night. We thought we’d try to be social and have our wine in the common area downstairs. Unfortunately, the common area consisted of a couch occupied by a sleeping man, one chair occupied by the resident sleeping cat, and a second chair with a guy reading a book. We ended the night watching the Hunger Games on Amazon and fell asleep to the wind wailing and knocking against the door.

View from our hostel

View from our hostel

June 27th

We got up early, showered, and were immediately given a look by the girl at the front desk like “What are you crazy? It’s way too windy for ferries to go anywhere today.” The port was closed for a second day due to even stronger “Levante” winds. So instead of catching the ferry and getting to Fes like we had planned, to be at the place we had booked, we were stuck trying to figure out what to do. The hostel we were at was booked solid for the night, so we had to check out, go up the street, and check into the Hostel Margaritas. We contacted the people in Fes we were supposed to stay with, and luckily they were kind enough to shift our reservation up by one day so we wouldn’t lose a night there. We’d just have to sacrifice a night in Marrakesh.

With logistical things taken care of, we were left with a full day in Tarifa. We had already explored the day before, so we went down to the beach, hoping to catch sight of some kite surfers. No luck. Walking along the beach here was like walking through the desert in a post apocalyptic movie. We don’t know if the wind was too powerful for kite surfing, but there wasn’t a soul on the beach. Pictures were impossible because the wind would have sandblasted and destroyed Steve’s lenses. The beach couldn’t be described as pleasant… just too windy to enjoy.  So we idled the day away; walking, looking at stuff in stores, the usual trip to the grocery store, an afternoon nap.

Some of the lovelier bits of town

Some of the lovelier bits of town

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Sorry Romeo, Juliet is out getting a tetanus shot.

Sorry Romeo, Juliet is out getting a tetanus shot.

We ventured outside at dusk to get some food and settled on falafel and kebab sold by a Nigerian turned Tarifan. We went to bed with the winds still howling.

June 28

All you can do is wake up hoping that you’ll get good news from the port. Steve got up early and went to the front desk of the hostel… which was empty. He made the 10 minute walk to the port to ask the people there if the ferries would be leaving as scheduled and got a shoulder shrug and a “maybe.” Checking out of another room, we hauled our bags to the port 45 minutes later and got good news. They were sending one ferry across in the morning and we could be on it.

The ferries are big pedestrian and vehicle transports that make the 45 minute trip across the straight to Tangier up to seven times a day. It was a comfortable ride and a relief to know that we wouldn’t be stuck in sleepy Tarifa for a third day. We had coffee and stuck up a conversation with a Canadian/Portuguese family and before long we were watching the approach of the sandy white buildings of Tangier.

Finally, Africa!

 

Out of France and into Spain

Wed, June 25th – We awoke early, locked the door to the garage of our Bordeaux home, and shoved the key under the door. It was a short dawn hike to a tram stop where we got to navigate another French ticket machine so we could buy some passes to the train station. Tickets in hand, we boarded the train with other early morning commuters and basically realized that we could’ve easily gotten away without having tickets anyway. Four stops later, and we were back at Gare St. Jean where we had started our time in Bordeaux. We wound our way to an information office where they directed us to the shuttle that would take us to the airport for our 9am flight to Seville.

On a rail map, everything seems to connect. It’s a pretty series of colored lines spiderwebbing their way all over Europe. Pass sellers like Eurail give you these maps as if to say “you can get anywhere effortlessly.” What they don’t outright tell you is that to go a few inches on a map from say, Bordeaux to Madrid, involves a ridiculous number of train and station changes, and long trips on slow moving regional routes. France and Spain use different gauge track, so except for the high speed lines, nothing else really connects. That apparently simple trip from France to Spain would in reality take about 14 hours and untold amount of headache. So for a couple trying to get from Bordeaux to the south of Spain, Ryan Air steps in to save the day.

For those unfamiliar with RyanAir, it’s an Irish airline that is the epitome of budget airline. You can find $10 tickets, but they charge you for EVERYTHING you can imagine. It’s one big sales pitch for more luggage, in flight cell plans, travel insurance, food, scratch off lottery tickets, duty free junk, and whatever else you can think of. If you ignore all that, you can fly for half nothing.

Our goal was to get from Bordeaux to Tarifa, the southern tip of Spain just across from Morocco. With rail options being an enormous time drain, we booked a flight to Seville for $75, total, for two people. When we finally did the research on checking in for the flight, we realized that RyanAir offers cheap flights, but they get you when you assume that you get the same carry on baggage allowance as any normal airline. Both of our bags easily fit carry on restrictions in the U.S., but you get a tiny space and weight allowance on RyanAir, so…. Steve had to check his bag. Nooooo!!!!   At a mere $40, you get to check a bag up to 15kg, so we pack his bag full of all the non-essential stuff and left it at the mercy of the budget airline.  Thankfully, it was waiting for us in Seville.

Other than the annoyance of having to check a bag, the RyanAir experience wasn’t terrible. It was a short flight, they spoke English, and everything went smoothly. By 10:30am we had left cold, wet France and stepped out into the cloudless warmth of Andalucian Spain.

A short ride on a packed-to-the-brim bus trip from the airport took us to the Seville train station where we got off and walked the last 3/4 of a mile to Plaza Alfalfa to meet our first Spanish host.  After all the walking we’ve done, the distance is nothing, but doing it with heavy bags and in a heat that was entirely new to us, 3/4 of a mile seems like 10, and it makes you start to question the confidence in your directions when you end up on increasingly narrow, old city streets.

Eventually we found signs saying Alfalfa, and being half an hour early, we sat in the square and people watched. Surrounded by an interesting mix of what seemed to be American students, a group of wheelchair bound elderly, and an ever-changing group of soccer playing kids, we sat absorbing things, hoping that our contact would show up early… because we were sweaty and starving after a morning of travel.

After our meeting time came without sign of our guy, we started looking around and saw a man standing by himself, looking around and at his phone. For all the great things about AirBnB, one of the extra challenges it adds is that you have to arrange check-in times with most of the hosts. Just imagine trying to arrange a meeting in a place you’ve never been, with somebody you’ve never seen, hoping that your flight or train will be on time… and you don’t have a phone if something happens. You basically end up with both parties looking around a hot Spanish square at noon, hoping that one of the people there is the person they’re supposed to be meeting. At that point, you make a guess and walk up to the guy that’s by himself, looking around and at his phone, and approach him hoping that he’s Mario, your contact. This time, at least, you’ll be right.

The apartment was simple, but had all we needed for a single night’s stay. We did some laundry and used the “dryer.”

Our dryer - i.e. the sun

Our dryer – i.e. the sun

We wandered out of the apartment and went to a nearby restaurant that Mario had recommended. We were both instantly in love. Cheap tapas, cheap beer, and a team of pleasant waiters that Steve could half communicate with in choppy Spanish. We got shrimp, tuna and red peppers, mushrooms, chicken skewers, and some sort of pork with some sort of sauce that was baffling but delicious. Four San Miguels and five plates of fantastic tapas for roughly $20. Why oh why had we spent so much time in Paris???

After lunch we entered “wander the city” mode. The streets of old Seville are the non-sensical mess of narrow and winding pathways that you come to love in some European cities. You get a tourist map that doesn’t point north in a city where half the streets aren’t labeled, and learn to love being lost. We meandered our way to the Cathedral of St. Mary first of all.

Carriage rides in blazing sun

Carriage rides in blazing sun

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Past old walls and buildings mixed in with rows of men offering carriage rides from fly covered mules, we found the bus station we’d need to be at the next day for our trip to Tarifa. We went through the park and suddenly saw Plaza de Espana on our left.

Seville is the capital of Andalucia, one of the regions of Spain. The impressive Plaza de Espana was built in the early 1920’s and now houses some government offices.

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These tile images depict various scenes from Spanish history and surround the plaza

These tile images depict various scenes from Spanish history and surround the plaza

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Ceiling decorations at Plaza de Espana

Ceiling decorations at Plaza de Espana

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After getting our fill of the plaza and trying to get away from yet another native american pan-flute band, we bought some orange and lemon slushy drinks, walked along the Guadalquivir river, and got lost once or twice on our way back to to the apartment.

Covered shopping street

Covered shopping street

The Spanish siesta always seemed like an odd concept, but after seeing it first hand in Seville, it’s easy to understand the idea. Get up early, do some work. Take a break when it gets really hot out. Go back out at 9 or 10pm for dinner after the sun goes down and the weather is tolerable again. We thought we’d be able to find seating at on of the many restaurants around Plaza Alfalfa, but everything was packed at 10pm. We ended up getting some pizza and taking it back to the room to consume alongside the little six pack of San Miguel that we picked up at the grocery earlier in the day. We had pizza in France, why not in Spain?

San Miguel beer, or as our waiter referred to it - "vitaminas"

San Miguel beer, or as our waiter referred to it – “vitaminas”

The next morning we got up in time to get a full breakfast at a cafe on the square. Eggs, toast, and some of the iberian ham that they sell everywhere. Followed up with a chocolate covered donut of course (as every meal should be finished). From there, we left the room, loaded up the bags once again, and walked to the bus station to catch our ride to the southernmost tip of Spain.

Breakfast, with iberian ham

Breakfast, with iberian ham

iberian ham, which looks like this in stores...

iberian ham, which looks like this in stores…