Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Granada, Spain: Plaza de Bib-Rambla and Afternoon Tapas

The Bib-Rimbla, a pretty square ringed with beautiful buildings and tapas bars & restaurants with terraces is the heart of Granada. The name means ‘gate of the river’ because the square originally stood on a sandy river bank.

This central square is actually very important and has served Granada’s annals of history very well. Festivals and jousts were held on the plaza during the Moorish times, bloody bullfights during the Christian era and during the Spanish Acquisition, it was used as a tribunal—those found guilty were burned on the spot. Now, that is a mottled, colourful and turbulent historic square right there.

Restaurant terraces on the square.

Shameless self-promotion of course.

Pretty windows and balconies again that I found on the side streets of the square.

The square and the beautiful characteristic facade details of the buildings surrounding it.

We had our afternoon tapas on the square at Il Caffe de Roma. Dutchman was hungry so he ordered his usual favorite fare—anything pasta. That would be too heavy for me so I settled for a tapas mix but when it arrived I was surprised of the serving. It was huge! I had to solicit help from the Dutchman to finish the plate. On the tapas platter: french bread with butter, torta de patatas (potato omelette), empanada de atun (baked tuna pie), manchego cheese and smoked ham drenched in olive oil.

My unexpected afternoon tapas and a glass of sangria.

I was really surprised with the tapas as I was expecting to be served with a mix of nibbles instead of bigger portions, but they were good. 4 stars out of 5.

Travel Period: August 2010
Destination: Granada (Andalucia), Spain

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Stunning facades along Gran Via de Colon in Granada, Spain

So we’ve found a strategic underground parking in the center of Granada near Puerta Real (Royal Gate) on Calle de Recogidas, very easy to walk to the heart of Granada, Bib-Rambla where we had our afternoon tapas, but before we got there, we went for a nice stroll along Gran Via de Colon, the main street of the city, home to many stately buildings. The architectural styles of the imposing mansions are a divine synthesis of Spanish Rococo, Mudejar and Art Nouveau.

Beautiful facade details of windows and balconies of a building along Gran Via de Colon, they remind me of the buildings along Erzsébet, Budapest and the difference here is the Spaniards maintain their buildings well while the Hungarians they let theirs rot.

Stunning facades!

Me having a souvenir foto at Puerta Real (Royal Gate) just before Gran Via de Colon. I did not even know the area is the Royal Gate, just thought it was a pretty street!

Gran Via is not just lovely, it is grand, imperial and stunning. I was awed with its beautifully designed buildings, its unconventional colours and the stunning characteristic details on the windows, they are really a work of art. I can stare at them for a loooong time! Glad the Dutchman have his music on his ears, he didn’t mind waiting for me at end of each block, haha. Sigh—it can be a sore when traveling with someone who’s suffered art and architecture overdose; they can’t seem to appreciate it anymore.

Anyway, we spent sometime walking and snapping fotos and didn’t realize that the Tourist Office closes early on Sunday at 15:00, and because of this we were not able to get a map which was a pity because the not-gadget-girl like me didn’t know how to use the walking OVI maps on my Nokia Mini. I also don’t have the patience to learn the trick so what we did was to trust our instincts, and I of course relied on asking people for directions as well.

In summary, a stroll along Gran Via is a must, if you love art and architecture.

Stunning, lovely window and balcony details, and a door.

Church on Gran Via and another building with lovely facade details, Mudejar style.

Foto on the right is not on Gran Via but in a busy shopping street nearby.

Biker in action.

Travel Period: August 2010
Destination: Granada (Andalucia), Spain

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Let’s go for a ride with OVI Maps in Spain

To gorgeous Granada!!! So we’ve just collected our rental car that was special delivered to us at our hotel, and now we are on the road! I was actually getting worried when all the rent-a-car shops we’ve visited didn’t have a car available for us until we hit our luck. August is a terrible month to rent cars because most cars are taken, its high season obviously and the agency we’ve hit our luck with says he blames it on the Italians.

On the road, we see for the first time the exquisite countryside views of Andalusia. It reminds me of Crete, Greece for its rolling valleys of olive tree plantations and white-washed villages and Nevada, USA as well for the dessert-like expanse and the rock mountains.

Now, to help us get to our destination (Granada) in time we have my trusted ‘Free’ OVI Maps on my Nokia Mini N97 mobile phone. No need to buy or rent a GPS with the car when traveling, it’s on my Nokia phone! I can drive or walk to my set destination, there is a canned version of Lonely Planet and Michelin, as well as handy apps like weather and events. I am not a gadget geek so I have yet to really tinker around on these functionalities; so far I mainly use the ‘drive to destination’ thing.

So my OVI review:

(1) I used Route66 with my defunct Nokia Navigator phone so I had to get used to with the OVI Maps layout.

(2) Very easy to set a destination if going to a place. No need for a ‘specific’ address like in Route66, I just write—Granada and the GPS automatically picks it up leading me to the core center of the city.

(3) Sometimes the voice and map timing is delayed (maybe 5-10 seconds) with the actual driving position. It’s annoying when you are in an intersection and you don’t know if you should turn right, left or go straight!

(4) I love it when the GPS announces that I am driving above speed limit and especially when it’s warning me of a traffic camera ahead! (5) GPS loses satellite connection if driving on a street flanked with buildings (at least 8-storey and up buildings) on both sides. A problem in the cities with tall buildings side by side.

OK, we’ve just arrived in Granada, the city known for its hip nightlife and the infamous Alhambra, and now looking for parking. See you on next entry.

Travel Period: August 2010
Destination: Granada (Andalucia), Spain

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Live curious

I am not a TV or movie person and the only reason why I watch TV is because of Discovery Channel, National Geographic and all travel, documentary and news-related programs. This poem aired by National Geographic caught me this week, which I believe is one of their recycled advertisements, totally reflects what I live for.

If you are, you breathe.
If you breathe, you talk.
If you talk, you ask.
If you ask, you think.
If you think, you search.
If you search, you experience.
If you experience, you learn.
If you learn, you grow.
If you grow, you wish.
If you wish, you find.
If you find, you doubt.
If you doubt, you question.
If you question, you understand.
If you understand, you know.
If you know, you want to know more.
If you want to know more, you are alive.

To see the video, go here: IF – Live Curious by National Geographic

Of course a foto must go with the poem above and I choose this one taken in Bantayan Island, Cebu, Philippines last year, August 2009. I snapped this couple on their scooter with their proud dog looking like an experienced scooter rider as we overtook them, me strapped behind Dutchman on a (rental) scooter as well.

After my Spanish holiday entries, I will start posting our Bantayan Island holiday stories and beautiful fotos in Cebu, Philippines last year, a long overdue post due to fotos being lost in the camera-laptop-USB stick-laptop transfer process.

Bantayan! (which means in Tagalog—Abangan, and in English—Stay tuned)

Travel Period: August 2009
Destination: Bantanyan Island (Cebu - Visayas Region), The Philippines

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mijas: Pueblo Blanco in Malaga, Spain

Pueblo blanco means white village. I mentioned in my previous entry, ‘Donkey Trails and the Rock Shrine’ that Mijas is the most popular and most visited white-washed village in Andalucia. You would know when a village becomes exceptionally popular when: (a) tourist buses arrive by the droves (b) you see Japanese or Asian tourists (c) the center becomes a commercial strip lined up with souvenir shops one after the other (d) presence of café terraces on every corner (e) animals, like donkeys and horses had to earn a living.

A busy corner in Mijas and the most photographed street on the coast, the San Sebastian Street. The street is named after the San Sebastian Church built in the 17th century. In 1674 the church was rebuilt from ruins, thanks to charity.

Now that is the case with Mijas. It is the most popular ‘pueblo side tour’ offered by travel agencies and suggested by hotels to sun-beach holidaymakers in Costa del Sol.

View from the terrace of the Tourist Office and you can see the tourist buses below on the parking area.

If you come here on your own and you do not have a (rental) car, it’s better to take the bus. Public transportation in Malaga province is impressive, the infrastructure is great as well as the schedules are on a regular basis. The village sits on top of the Sierra de Mijas (Mijas Mountains) and buses from Malaga, Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Marbella go here every half an hour. Fare is dirt cheap, I think I paid €2,40 one-way from Torremolinos and it took about 40-something minutes to get here. We didn’t have our rental car yet and Dutchman is allergic to villages, so I went with the bus on my own.

Upon arriving in Mijas, I went to the tourist office right away to get a free map—with routes and important places of interest. I probably spent hours roaming around the village before I sat down for a glass of cold sangria. I especially love the immaculate white-washed alleys and very distinctive of Andalucian villages are the black grills on windows and balconies, and the flower pots and plants hanging on the walls as well. The grills I believe are not just for decorative purposes but for functional and security use—to guard against thefts.

Because Mijas is a mountain village, the houses sit on hilly pebbled streets.

A commercial street in the center of Mijas. Right foto is Plaza de la Constitution. The marble cutter Galiano made the present day fountain and benches from the marble rocks that were left from the flood of the 2nd November 1884.

A peek into a cozy little tapas and wine bar. There are many cafe terraces in Mijas during the summer.

More cafe terraces (this is across the San Sebastian Church) and more souvenir shops.

Church of the Immaculate Concepcion.

The patron saint of Mijas, Nuestra Senora dela Pena.

A chilled sangria is the order of the day =)

Due to Mijas charm, her great location, mild climate and of course her soaring popularity, foreigners were bitten. In no time, non-Spanish residents have increased; they have come to live in Mijas! Since then the town hall has a ‘Foreign Residents Department’, the first in Spain.

You can find all my Mijas fotos here: Mijas, Malaga, Andalucia – Spain
All information about Mijas village here: Ayuntamiento de Mijas (Mijas Town Council – click on English)

Travel Period: August 2010
Destination: Mijas (Malaga - Andalucia), Spain

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