Monday, September 17, 2012

Barcelona : Seafood and the beach.

There were two reasons why I decided to pin Barcelona on my travel map. And it's not because of men. It's because on the fifth day, God made living creatures in the sea, and of course a few days before that he created the sea. As simple as it is, yes, it's the beach and the seafood. 

For I have lived in Germany for 4 years now and it's not really the best place for sea, beach and seafood, something that I pledge myself to live for. Well we do have snow here, and I'm nearby the Alps and such, but to me nothing beats seafood. So lo and behold, the place that has it in abundance!

On one afternoon, we decided to go to the Boqueria Market. Its a town market in La Rambla (main street). Obviously I am a fan of markets because during most of my travels I will visit a market or a bazaar. Another thing I am really fond of is fresh juices and fruits. This market is one that has it all. 

Fresh juices, fresh fruits (at very cheap prices!). And don't buy at the entrace, because it's 1€ more expansive than those sold inside. That day, we had fruits for tea break. From mangoes, strawberries, nectars, raspberries to watermelon, we each had our own share of fresh squeezed juices. We were stuffed. And almost as greedy as I was, I'm glad I didn't buy another cup of juice.

Fresh fruits and vege, we bought nectar for less than 1€. And it's four huge ones. This is what you can call 'terbaik dari ladang'.

Spain is also famous for cured meat, and it differs from each region. The one below is like a tasting platter, and it's 1€. It has prosciutto, some cut up sausages and salami.

More prosciutto and salamis. Some costs up to 400€. Being in the Mediterranean, Spain never misses out on its olives. And it's not one or two kinds, you can choose lots of types.

Below is a feast to the eye. Seafood from octopus to clams, oysters, snails, bamboo clams (which is 3 times the size of what we have back home), fish, lobsters. This place makes me faint. I was so excited, it was beyond words. Everything was fresh and some still alive. In my head was owh.. grilled, masak sambal, wow, masak curry *salivating*

And being a fanatic that I am, I only ate seafood in Spain, apart from a few meat tapas. It was like in Istanbul where I ate lamb for every meal.

This is our Lobster Paella, which was suppose to feed two people. Happy tummy. 

This is our seafood platter from Toc de Mar, a restaurant by the beach. Also suppose to feed two people. Glad it fed four. And my plate was with the most shell.


On ur last day, we just spent the day on mar Bella beach. There are a few beaches around. One was right by the city, the Barceloneta beach, which was really crowded and dirty. We were glad our appartment host advised us to visit this one. We got our parasol from the appartment. 

It was a really hot day, but by the time we had a dip, everything felt good. Jumping the waves, the guys were crashing the waves, laying under the sun, everything felt so right. Now it's getting cold here. With four hours under the sun, I came home red with a really bad sunburn that carrying my backpack was a pain. But it was worth it.

This Tapas Bar/Restaurant, Orio BCN was one that caught our eye. At first we were pulled in by its oysters. We sat for our last dinner in Barcelona and had a really pleasent meal. Some had the best tuna steaks were had tried in our life *shivers*. It's also a Michelin Star restaurant. Maybe that explains the bursting fireworks in our mouth.

In conclusion, it was one of the best holiday I've had. Not a lot of pictures, but the company was the cherry on top (actually it was because we were busy talking, got lost a few times). Treasured memories.

Barcelona : Gaudi, Gothic and then there's Football

BArcelona is one of those places, which stands beside London, Paris and New York. Maybe its because of the Spainish men that attract people or the culture of the city, but for me it has always been the beaches. So here I am, summer of 2012 in Barcelona. There are lots of this to see and do, and eat in Barcelona. Its generally very touristic and most of the time, foreigneers are everywhere. In general, Spain and Italy are Summer capitals for the europeans.

Casa Mila, by Gaudi

 In Barcelona, you shall never miss a sight of Gaudis artwork. 
Our first stop was to see what Gaudi has to offer up upon the hills of Parc Güell. But before that, was the climb up the hill. Under 36°c heat. To get to Parc Güell, there are to Metro stops. It either the Lesseps stop or the Vallcarca stop. And we were smart enough to take the Vallcarca stop, which was a bit higher than the Lesseps stop. This meant we enter the Parc from the back part, which was not as chaotic as the main entrance. 

It was a really high high, as the plane was very steep. For the people who thought of those escalators, I thank you very much. Made our day.

Parc Güell, a garden that grows desert vegetation with whimsical Architechture that makes you feel like you've just entered Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory. What look like dragon caves, with nests build with rocks and clay, buildings with funky designs galored with colorful mosaics. There were people climbing and sitting inside 'nests' which was actually quite funny. 

Gaudi was a Spanich architect well known throughout Barcelona. His works are very hard to miss for sure. They just outstand everything else. So far this park belongs to the State, theres no entrance fee charged to visitors and I do hope they stay that way since most of the other buildings he designed requires an entrance fee.

Colonnaded pathway 

At the entrance of this park, you're welcomed by colorful 

Park entrance

This is the Dragon / Lizard that represents Gaudi in the modern age. Everyone just crowds around it touching it for luck. Its actually a small fountain with a little stream. Trying to go through the crowd was really something.

Mosaic details on ceilings

This two gingerbread looking houses stand on the entrance, and you can't help but put a smile on your face. If I'm not mistaken, the blue one has a souvenir shop in it. I just managed to take a peek, and didn't dare to enter looking at the swarm of humans in it.

The La Rambla, a very famous street crowed by the world, is about 1.2m long, filled with cafes, florists, souvenir stalls, street buskers, fast food outlets, you name it. The heat is on. On one side of the street is the Gothic quarter, where the architecture of the buildings are mostly of the Gothic influence. 

Honestly, I didn't take a lot of photos. We were just jumping around happily, not having a care for lots of snaps. 

This is the Sagrada Familia Church, which was designed by Gaudi. On the main facade is a story of the Passion, done in squarish sculptures. On the back side of the church is suppose to be the story of the Nativity. The construction of this church, sadly, was never finished. Hopefully the next time I get to go to Barcelona, the place would be done beautifully.

Standing on this spot, when you look up, if it's a nice day with lots of moving clouds, you'll feel like the church is almost falling on you. I'm not sure if it happens always or its d way the building is constructed, but I was surprise and amazed at the same time. It was as if the church was leaning very fast towards your direction.

Owh and this was at Camp Nou, which housed the FC Barcelona Stadium. The night before watch the El Classico match, Barcelona against Real Madrid. We just went to watch it at a tapas bar because the tickets were really expensive. They do sell tickets on the day itself, and the price started from 240€ if I'm not mistaken. That night, everyone was in jerseys, the whole city was happening. 
The next day we decided to go visit the Stadium site. Which was also full!! The merchandize store was packed until you can't feel the air-conditioning. The line for the stadium tour was also long. So we just went and walk around.

This is generally an overview of Barcelona. Next post will be on the main reason why we visited Barcelona. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Granada : Andalusian Heart

The Kingdom of Granada once stood strong for 250 years in Europe, and under the ruling of Muhammad I, Sultan of Arjona, Granada was the capital of their Kingdom (the Nasrid teritory).

To enter the Nasrid Palaces, a time slot is given. Limited visitors are allowed in here and only a time frame of 30 minutes is allowed to go through the palaces. Time slots should be booked in advance on the ticket website, and it goes really fast. Missing your visiting time would mean you can't enter the grounds. 

The view of Granada from the palace entrance

Our slot was at 5pm. And there was already a long que waiting to enter those place doors.

Architecture which consists of carvings on wood and stone. 
Each and every corner of the palace was carved specifically and is still preserved till now. Every ceiling, wall and pillars. All this was made out of humble maetrials such as timber, plaster and tiles. Surprisingly no cobwebs were found stuck in the bits of carved holes. They did a good job preserving this palace. 

Patio del Mexuar, a court used by the Sultans to hold meetings with the ministers.

Using the elements of space, light, water and intricate decoration, this place was suppose to represent paradise on earth, and was built by the caliphs during the Nasrid Dynasty. Nonetheless, this place does make you fall in love again and again. Blue skies, green water topped with stunning facades.

Pation de Arrayanes

Court of the Lions, the main court of the Palace.
This court represents the architectural materialization of Paradise. The gardens, the water, and the columns form a conceptual and physical unity. On 12 marble lions rests a fountain.

Jardin de Lindaraja, a garden created by the King as a gift to his wife. Up on the balcony, a view of the city, once which they all conqured.

Palcio del Partal, the tower and arched patio which remains the oldest of the Alhambra. 

This ends our visit to the Alhambra. We then had to walk back uphill to return the electronic guides, and since none of us want to 'smartly' walk back down to town, we took a bus from the entrance, which costed 1.20€ one way, back to town. It dropped us at the cathedral and from there, we walked back to our place. 

That night, we booked a ticket to watch a Flamenco show which was 20€, with a drink and Tapas. Before the show we went to have dinner, which was dead cheap for four people, including drinks. And we all got to have seafood tapas. It was a nice little Cantina with big portions of tapas (and cheap!). We then took a cab to the restaurant where the show was held. It was high up in the mountains, a small open garden with fresh air and sounds of spanish guitar in d mindst of strong feet stomping. 

Jardines de Zoraya Flamenco Show.

That night, we became happy people with Andalusia at heart. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Granada : Going to see Alhambra ¿no?

London Gatwick Airport - Malaga Airport - Granada

Granada has stopped budget airlines from flying in, and most direct flights to Granada are costly. When you want to travel, you've got to do it right. And thank God I choose the right people to travel with. We took a flight from London to Malaga, and a bus to Granada which took 1 hour 45 minutes. Busses from Malaga to Granada is quite frequent and costs around 10€. We arrived Granada at around 10pm and got a nice comfy pension which was reasonably cheap. Best part of our 3 day 2 nights in Granada was that we only spent around 50€ each. Total win!

Basilica de San Juan de Dios

We spent our nights in a Pension in front of this Basilica. The church bell was different from what I'm used to hearing, it sounds more old school. Granada is just a little town and not everyone speaks english. We just nodded our heads most of the time. When you wake up early in Spain, you would'nt know exactly what to do. Most places open around noon, so before that, the streets are quite quiet. We had brunch in a cafe that we weren't even sure was open. 

After brunch we went around the town to see what it has to offer. I find Granada to be a pretty place. Everything seems to be crafted really well. Things are cheap and the tapas, really cheap! I've read that people go to Granada to have free tapas while just ordering drinks. Too bad we didn't have a chance to try that out.

Being a part of Andalucia, everything went around Flamenco and Bull fighting. The souvenir shops sells Flamenco dresses to fans to mosaic tiles. 

Our main reason to go to Granada was to visit the Alhambra. Different from other parts of Europe, southern Spain, specifically Granada was a Kingdom under the Islamic Nasrid Dynasty, which lead to the building of his palace up on the hills with very intricate carvings. That was more than 600 years ago, and by the look of this place, it is still stunning although the kingdom has once been overthrown by the Catholics who also erected a Cathedral on the grounds. When you purchase a Daytime General Visit ticket, you get to enter Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Palace of Charles V and Generalife.

My suggestion would be to take a bus up to the main entrance. We were silly enough to hike up and got lost in the scorching hot sun. We did two rounds before we finally found the main entrance which was all the way up the hill. The line is long and if your'e not a fan of waiting in line under the Spanish sun, do book a ticket online. There are booking collection (for tickets paid with credit cards) machines which is quietly hidden behind the official souvenir shop. No line waiting for you. You might just miss the machines. 

Upon entrance, you get to choose which place you would like to enter first, nearest to the entrance is the Generalife. Lush gardens, blooming flowers, grapes hanging from their vines and water features ready to make you feel happy inside. People back in the days do know their taste in landscaping.

Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel or Water-Garden Courtyard)

Seeing the place in real life is even better than seeing the photos. The afternoon sun was no more a nuisance. Maybe it was because of the greenery surrounding the place and the water fountains add even more pleasure to the eyes. 

After a round in Generalife, we moved downhill towards the Palace. The place is amazingly huge but very worth it to visit. Will write about it more in the next post.