Friday, February 24, 2012

Spain 2012: Tarifa

After our whirlwind day trip to Morocco we relaxed for the evening back in Spain in Tarifa. There aren't a lot of sights in Tarifa besides a cathedral and the remainder of the old walls and fort, but that was fine by us.  

St. Matthew's

The ceiling in the church

An interesting tidbit from Rick Steves:  

A visit to St. Matthew, the town's main church, offers a glimpse into Tarifa's history. A tiny square of an ancient Christian tombstone embedded in one of the church walls (dated March 30, 674) proves there was a functioning church here during Visigothic times, before the Moorish conquest. Some years later came the church's "door of pardons," dating back to the late 15th century, when Tarifa was on the edge of the Reconquista. During the period when the Spain's Catholic Kings were driving the Moors back to Africa, Tarifa was a dangerous place. To encourage people to live here, the Church offered a huge amount of forgiveness to anyone who stuck it out for a year. One year and one day after moving to Tarifa, they would have the privilege of passing through this special "door of pardons," and a Mass of thanksgiving would be held in that person's honor.

We finally settled in for a dinner of marinated dogfish (much better than it sounds!) and paella

The next morning we strolled through the streets and local markets, snuck into the old fort, and watched a few ships squeeze between Europe and Africa before heading to the beach and the bus station (for Seville!). 

{That's Africa!}

{We were pressed for time so that we didn't miss our bus, but dad insisted on sticking his hand in the water}

Next stop: Seville!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spain 2012: DETOUR--Tangier, Morocco

When I was planning my parents' trip to Spain I joked in front of my dad that I was thinking of taking them to Morocco for the day. I said it, like many things I say to him, to get a reaction. To my surprise all he said was, That might be ok

So there we had it! A trip to Tangier was added to the itinerary. We spent the evening before and after in Tarifa, Spain and took a fast ferry over to Morocco. It's a pretty easy deal, honestly. In an hour you have changed language, religion, currency and continent. The shock wasn't as jarring as when I first went to Moroccow--getting off a plane from Madrid to Casa Blanca--but it was still a fun change. 

I got to dig up a few words I still remembered in French and Arabic, eat a tagine, and got my dad to ride a camel. I'd call that a win. 

{A look at the North African coast}

{Foggy hillsides}

{The lighthouse marking the spot on the coast where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet}

{And what's a trip to Morocco without a camel ride?}

{Caves of Hercules--The opening of the cave is in the shape of Africa!} 

{One of the old gates to the city}

{The neighborhood's communal oven}

{At another one of the old gates}



By late afternoon we made our way back to the port. We got a couple stamps in our passports, got back on the ferry, and headed back to Europe. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spain 2012: Granada (Part Two!)

OK, I told you there was more to Granada than the Alhambra, and here is the proof! 

We started the day like any good day in Spain should--With churros y chocolate! Churreria Alhambra is supposedly *the place* to have them did not disappoint. 

Unfortunately I forgot to ask how many churros came in a portion before I asked for three orders. By the looks of the pyramid of churros they brought us you can see that was a mistake. 

{But hey, if ordering too many churros is your worst mistake, who is going to complain?}

The front of the massive cathedral {The main facade is based off of an arc de triumph--the cathedral was built on the ruins of a former mosque after the Reconquest}

The cathedral in Granada isn't Spain's largest--that comes up later in Seville--but to me it feels like the largest. 

Apparently the walls were all ordered to be whitewashed with lime during a bout of the plague. The locals liked the look, so the cathedral has stayed white ever since. 

The Royal Chapel (where Ferdinand and Isabel are buried) is also incredibly impressive. Unfortunately you will have to go look at it yourselves as they don't allow photography inside. 
(Or, you know, just google it.) 

We took the little bus up to the Albayzín at dusk to take in its view of the Alhambra at sunset:

{St. Nicolas Viewpoint}

Walking around in the old moorish quarter

Looking back towards Granada

The Alhambra all lit up

Significantly impressed with Granada, and ready for a little break from the bustling city, we headed from there down to Tarifa on the coast. With a long train ride to Algeciras and then a short bus ride past Gibraltar to Tarifa it was a long day on the road--but with a little flamenco music coming through my headphones and scenes like these rolling past--I didn't mind at all. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spain 2012: Granada (Part Alhambra)

After spending the morning wandering the Mezquita in Cordoba, the parents and I made our way over to Granada. The countryside and white towns we passed through were beautiful--and then there was Granada itself. There's more to Granada than the Alhambra complex, but come on. You come to Grandada for the Alhambra!

{The Alhambra was a Moorish fortress built in the 14th century. The complex includes the palace, a 9th century fort, huge gardens, a summer palace and a 16th century palace of Charles V}

In the Alhambra grounds looking toward the albayzín

Moorish carvings

{Unfortunately the Patio de los Leones was under renovation--Apparently they are still trying to figure out how the Moors and Jews got the 12 lions to spit water like a clock almost a century ago.}

{"stalactite" ceiling}

{Charles V's 16th century palace}

{Inside the fort}

{Stopping at the Parador to take in the coffee, fine china and spectacular terrace views!}

{Gardens and summer palace}

Overall, the Alhambra is always spectacular. But taking it in with the site almost to ourselves and without the wilting summer heat? Even better!