Seville to Granada

We changed our bus to an earlier one from Seville to Granada as we had done most of what we wanted there. Luckily it was an easy exercise. 
In Granada we had booked a really cute hostel which was more like a BnB. Decorated modernly, a lift (thank god) and an awesome view with a great location. 

We checked out the area, grabbed some tapas for lunch then hit the Hammam, an Arabic spa right in Granada. For 40€ we had a 2hr soak and 15 minute massage. There’s a lot of tradition in the baths, you don’t wear shoes, drink tea and shower before you get in. You start in the medium temp pool before moving to the hot, really hot, steam room, throw cool water over yourself from a bowl then jump in the ice bath and start all over again. 

It was really like stepping back in time. Stunning rooms, like being in an underground cave with strategic patterns on the roof to let in a small amount of mood lighting to compliment the candles everywhere. There’s tea in many corners, pepperminty and sweet. I felt a little like a roman princess. 

I felt completely relaxed and blissed out. I chose pomegranate oil for my massage and the lady soothed away my aches and pains. Highly recommend if you’re in the area. I had to take pics from Google, you can’t use your phone in there. 

We did some shopping, had a snack of ceviche (amazing to have fresh, raw food again) then went back to get ready for our Flamenco booking.

Venta El Gallo picked us up, took us out to a the caves where the gypsies live and led us in. Inside we had a beverage and watched 3 beautiful flamenco dancers, two singers and a guitarist dance/ sing / play with passion and emotion. Very cool experience. 

We stopped at the bar outside our hotel and that the most fantastic food. Gemma had a smoked salmon salad, I had a tuna tataki salad and we shared some exceptionally tender beef. Beautiful meal washed down with a few wines. 

A lovely man bought us a rose each and made some light convo in Spanish / English before returning to his smoke. 

Back up in our room we ripped off some of the petals and threw them around like true romantics – ha!


Seville 

We made it inside the Cathedral, the 3rd biggest in the world after St Peters and St Pauls (of which I’ve visited both), another beautiful piece of architecture. We looked around with our audio guides (which were very thorough / boring) and walked up to the top tower to the lookout. Gem nearly crapped herself when one of the giant bells went off over her head! The crown there has the second largest pearl in the world.

From there we got lost walking to Plaza de España, where Star Wars was filmed. It’s a big U shaped building with stunning mosaics all around. I was exhausted and in a silly mood, we took some funny pics around the place! 

Lunch time on the river (decidedly average tapas) then into the bull ring! Unfortunately there was no bull fighting on for another month, I would have loved to visit. We signed up for the next guided tour and was taken around the stadium which is the oldest in the world still in use. It’s privately owned and absolutely stunning. There’s a hospital, a museum and the grounds are the brightest yellow/ orange sand you’ve seen!

We learnt about the history of bullfighting and the toros (Bulls), little things like the ear of a bull is cut off as a trophy if the fight goes well and if it goes really well both the ears and tail are cut! Also the best ending for a bull fight is when there is a great bull and fighter who put on an incredible show and the judges wave a yellow flag, signalling to finish the fight with no death. The bull is then taken off to make little toros and treated like a king and the fighter is held in highest regard. Everyone wins. 

Interestingly the Bulls only ever fight once and when they die, their meat goes to the local restaurants to be made into yummy tapas. Lots of the restaurants have bull heads on their walls, I wish I could have visited a stud farm.

From there, more gelato then out for dinner at a place where there was no English menu (clearly a local joint finally) and we had a lovely tapas dinner. 


Lagos to Seville

We grabbed snacks for the 8.30am bus to Seville, where I promptly fell back to sleep. 

Arrived in Seville around 2.30pm, found our hostel and thank god, it was a nice one. Really nice actually. Lovely private room with a big balcony, aircon, all the works. Black Swan Hostel. 

It was very quiet when we ventured out and we soon realised it was siesta time. We found our bearings and headed to the shops. I bought a few souvenirs, no luck finding nice leather goods as yet. 

Found this awesome place that had dairy free gelato that made the gelato into a rose shape! Addicted. I’m going to miss gelato. 

We wandered around the cathedral and went to Alcázar Castle (more Game of Thrones) looking at the mosaic, pottery and gardens. Beautiful place. Luckily for us from 6-7pm on Mondays it was free – win! 
We found a lovely spot for tapas and then went to a local flamenco spot. La Carboneria. It wasn’t easy to find, just a guard out the front. The food is shite, don’t eat there but the drinks and good and the flamenco is fantatsic. The singer was so passionate and strong, you could hear the emotion pouring out. 

Lagos

We had all great intentions to get up early and make the most of the day… I woke up at 10.30. It was the best sleep is had in a LONG time. I hadn’t even had a coughing fit during the night! We went in search of a kayak tour, so glad we did! A big boat took us and our kayaks out of the marina to where the island begin. A short course in ocean kayaking around boats and waves and we were in. 

Gem and I were in a double, me in the front. What an incredible experience. We went around all the beaches and inside secret grottos and caves. The rocks or islands are huge and magnificent, all different colours. The earthquake in the 70’s changed their shapes a bit and there’s different animals you can look out for that they resemble now. 
The water is clear, a warm 26 degrees and exceptionally salty. Much saltier than other years they informed us. The salt makes patterns as it dries on my tanned skin and makes my eyebrows look like they belong to Santa Claus. Let’s not even start on what it does to your hair. It does cleanse your skin though, sanitise your wounds and clear out your sinuses though! My skin feels very soft after a swim. 

The crew were hilarious, we had a great time with them. One in particular was very cheeky, you’ll see in a selfie in our life jackets, he’s actually peeking out from in between us! He also threw me overboard twice during the swimming. 

After kayaking we got some gelato and walked around the different beaches. It’s a steep incline and then, massive sets of stairs (my legs don’t even seem to be looking any shapelier yet which is beyond me) down to the beach. We relaxed at a couple and I took some pics for my friend who has an underwear company, BiaBoro – check them out, that doubles as bikini bottoms. 
We walked back down the hills, having seriously packed our afternoon and evening after a less productive morning, to find a spot for dinner Gem had read about. A fave with locals, we ordered the clams with garlic bread (oh my life, we soaked up every last drop of that butter and garlic sauce) to start then their version of the seafood rice. We did not guess how big or wonderful the meal would be. We shouldn’t have eaten all that bread after all! 
Evening ensued more walking around the shops and markets before retiring home to bed around midnight. Off to Seville for two nights tomorrow! 
Only less than a week left. Sad face. 

Lisbon to Lagos 

I did my first ever free walking tour in the morning in Lisbon. Gemma had raved about them but I was still feeling pretty shite and worried I couldn’t keep up. Sweating bullets before we even left! 
Wild Walkers I believe the company is called, they work off tips at the end of the tour and the guy was great. Full of information about the city and insights into the minds of the Portuguese. 

That lasted about 2.5 hours, we were starving by the time we were done. The guy had told us about menu’s of the day at the restaurants, they were much cheaper and fresh each day. Luckily what we wanted to eat was on the menu of the day at the restaurant we stopped at! For just 13€ we had a starter, main, dessert and drink. 

We took a cab (no crazy driver this time unfortunately) to the bus station and just missed our 4pm bus so had to wait another hour. We thought we got in at 8 but it wasn’t until about 10pm we got into Lagos. We then had to walk for 15mins (which I wasn’t happy about) with all our luggage, across the pebbly paths which were full of people to get to our hostel. My hands were aching and I was hangry. 

The hostel… Hmmm, I felt like I had walked into a high school stoner flat. My bad, I’d booked the hostel (Hutch Hostel, please find a better one when you stay) and luckily we had a private room and didn’t intend on being around much. In the end it wasn’t that bad but I was really put off at first. 

Straight out the door for dinner we stopped at Gilberto’s restaurant and had some really average dinner. Seafood rice (meant to be a Portuguese specialty) was very liquidy, thank goodness we had already filled up on starters. Poor service too, don’t go there. 

We checked out the markets and shops in the main plaza (everything is open late in Europe) then back to our hostel ready for sleep. 

Barcelona to Lisbon 

Gem and I went in search of a fresh breakfast (my waistline is seriously expanding) after seeing a market on Las Ramblas a few days before. 
I got a beautiful little tray of berries. Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and a fresh green juice. 

We wandered the streets and I bought some new pjs and a taco & tequila top. 

We flew to Lisbon and checked into our hostel. Ha! I forgot the taxi driver. So we get this taxi driver from the airport to the hostel and he’s speaking rapidly in Portuguese to which I’m just replying to what I think he’s saying. Holy shite he drove fast! True crazy European driver. Flat foot and zig zagging around all the cars, beeping when they weren’t going fast enough for him and nearly causing multiple accidents. You’ve never heard so much beeping! Kept turning around and giving us little smiles and shrugging when I giggled at his actions as if to say ‘these other people driving terribly huh?!’ Hilarious. 

Now I’m not a fan of hostels, but this one was fantastic. Very cool fit-out and atmosphere. It’s in a railway station but you’d never know it. It’s lush and green and the dorms were lovely and clean. Right in the heart of Lisbon. I was very impressed. 

We attempted to get Tram 28 which takes you around all the city that the tourists want to see. Unfortunately, so did all the other tourists that day. Hangry, I left Gem in line and went in search of food. Came back with custard tarts (local special) and a choc croissant. Gave up on the line and paid a tuk tuk (you’d be half mistaken for thinking you were in Thailand) to take us to old town. 

Old town was bustling and beautiful. The Lisbon streets are gorgeous. All tiny pavers on the ground and mosaic apartments. As always, with sheets and washing hanging out the windows. We wandered around exploring, marvelling at the architecture and graffiti. We later learned the graffiti was a big part of Lisbon, with many areas provided by the government to be creative on. 

Unfortunately we ended up in the main tourist area for dinner. We sat in the middle of the street and people watched as we waited for our meals. We both had the grilled cod. What they didn’t mention was how the Portuguese prepare their cod. They rub it in salt and cure it then leave it to sit in salt water before grilling it. So it’s pretty salty. I wasn’t entirely impressed. 

Thankfully our roommates didn’t get in till about 5am as I had a terrible night coughing up a storm. I wound up having tea in the common area from 3-4am trying to curb it. 


Barcelona 

We awoke to our AirBnB host, Mario, making us breakfast in the kitchen, croissants, cake and toast galore. Sweet touch. The girls set off on a walking tour I had also planned to go on but I’d really gone downhill over night and was ready to get some antibiotics and rest. Best laid plans always go astray! 

Turns out the pharmacies (which are everywhere) don’t sell antibiotics over the counter. Dammit. They recommended a doctors and I jumped in a cab as I was feeling pretty fragile. 

As it turned out the docs was the public hospital. And it was full. I took my ticket number and awaited my turn, trying to understand some of the Spanish. It was full of your usual public hospital characters… 

Anyway my ticket comes up and the man says that as I’m kiwi I have to pay…. At another area. Following the yellow line I go, a man yells at me in Spanish, which I didn’t realise was at me, then came out to see why I hadn’t answered. 
€65 later and I was up to the sixth floor to see the doc. I needed to blow my nose and noticed a lack of soap and hand towels in the bathroom, along with no toilet paper. I had a sudden wave of gratefulness wash over me, realising once again how lucky I am to live where I do. 

Finally I’m called in and a jovial young male doc and his younger female apprentice (I think?) examined me thoroughly. Two stethoscopes on my chest, my back, two looks in my mouth, two blood pressure readings and much discussion between them. I was quite amused and they were engrossed with me. 
The male doc explained through broken English that I had a chest infection (no surprises) and he would issue me with antibiotics. He confirmed my fear that I couldn’t drink. Dammit! In Spain, the land of sangria and wine and I can’t taste the local offerings. 
Three hours later, and none of sleep which I had intended to do, I arrived back at the apartment to climb the stairs to relax. 

The girls had messaged where to meet them for lunch and after finishing my consulting I was straight over to meet them. 
La Paradeta is one of the best places I have eaten so far. A seafood restaurant favoured by locals (recommended by a guide), you go in and choose your fresh seafood and how you want it cooked. They weigh it and send it off to the kitchen in front of you. The seafood varieties were wide and I could barely choose! The lobsters were still alive, it was all so fresh and I was really excited to try it. We choose the prawns in garlic, baby octopus grilled, mussels in marinara, fried calamari and some raw oysters for a grand total of €40, including wine for the girls! One of our cheaper meals and one of the most fresh and delicious. 

We savoured the food (oh and get the garlic sauce) and I sipped my sparkling water, smashing antibiotics, trying to feel better in time for Sagrada Familia, the famed Gaudi cathedral. 

The cathedral itself is just breathtaking from the outside and even more so inside. I could talk for a long time on the meanings and learnings, but know this, if you’re in Spain, go there. It’s spectacular and one of the best things we did on the trip hands down. I was absolutely awestruck by Gaudi’s brilliant mind, the intricacies of the design and the sheer scale of the cathedral. 

We did a tour up the top tower for some extra views around Barcelona before coming back down the stairs. It’s a freaking long way. So many stairs everywhere in Europe! 

We went to Gaudi’s Park next but there was a 2.5hr wait and the walk up there (stairs, so many more) had exhausted me so I left the girls and went back to rest. 

Thought I’d try find a massage first though… What a mess! Couldn’t find any so kept venturing further. Found a lady on the street with a massage sign, she took me up many sets of stairs where a man told me (surround by men in the waiting room) that there was only a ‘couples massage for 45 mins left’ when I was obviously alone. Yup, I had sure as hell walked into a men’s only massage parlour. The next one I saw was no different and I was quite far away and tried to wing the back roads home… Bla bla… Made it home with only half an hour to rest before I met the girls. Again, best laid plans always go astray! 

I met the girls downstairs from the apartment and took them back to where I’d wandered through trying to get back. It was quite a cool area and we choose a restaurant for tapas and paella. Unfortunately we were seated next to some young Aussies who talked in what I would call, bogan accents about their latest conquests and who was ‘slaying’ who. They tried briefly to engage us but that was never going to happen. 

Home to bed around midnight ready for our flights the next day, Asti to Singapore and Gem and I to Portugal.


Croatia to Barcelona

We left the boat early in the morning, everyone feeling pretty average. Asti has booked a hotel the night before to try sleep off her illness in comfort, the rest of us were a pack of coughing, hungover humans quite happy to be getting off the rocking boat. 
We took the bus straight to the airport. Packed in like sardines, we had to stand up in the alley and the motion sickness combined with my hangover had me repeating ‘you will not spew on the bus’ over and over. I made it there, and made it through check in… But then ran to the bathroom and spewed my guts out. Felt heaps better after that! 

In Barcelona we found our AirBnB apartment with ease and Mario, was the ever enthusiastic host. He carried my bag up the ‘four’ flights (read six) of stairs to his apartment where the three of us were uber excited to have real beds and showers and space after the boat. 

By this time my cough and sweats had set in and he also translated the instructions for the medication I had picked up. 

We explored Las Ramblas where we were staying (awesome place to be based), grabbed a snack and set out across the city. We walked to the waterfront, the gothic quarter and Arc De Triomf before returning to Las Ramblas for dinner. Big mistake. Do not eat on Las Ramblas! Staff couldn’t give a flying f*ck, prices were inflated and well, the staff really made it a terrible experience. We couldn’t even leave for ages because he wouldn’t get us the bill. 

I was beginning to feel really unwell and Asti was still recovering so we had an early night in. 


Island Hopping, Part 2, Croatia

Days 4-7 were just more drunken debauchery with a side of site seeing. 
Thank goodness the day after Carpe Diem was a rest day, tanning on top of the boat. We docked at Stari Grad, wandered the small town and ended up at a dirty beach with a number of topless sunbathers. 

All the beaches are pebble beaches and as well as uncomfortable to lie on, hot as hell under your feet. 

We took a charter bus to a winery where we were treated to four wines and a 8hr slow cooked feast. Beautiful views and all organic food sourced from their own farm. The tomatoes were incredibly flavoursome. 

The next morning after a swim stop we arrived in Makarska, a beautiful city on the mainland, surrounded by huge rocky mountains.

I went for a big walk on my own, around the actual town itself (not just the touristy waterfront) and found a beautiful boutique food store where I bought some tasty jambon (smoked ham) and made puppy dog eyes at the truffle cheese. 

Bumped into Gemma at a store and we found some of the other girls and went for some drinks. We were soon joined by some of the guys and were well on our merry way before dinner. 

Dinner was at a typical Croatian restaurant in the square, half the group got parmigiana’ to my surprise. I had my fave, grilled squid. We had group races to the bottom of 1l sex on the beach cocktails, getting us prepped for the pirate party! 

Everyone was well prepared and in the mood for the pirate party. Another ‘happy hour’ on the boat followed by another bar and finally the ‘rave cave’ or Deep as it is more commonly known. Deep was just packed full of pirates and loose Australians. Didn’t stay there long! 

That night a storm came through and we had to skip our scheduled stop and instead arrived at Split a day early, which quite suited me. The rocking on the bot had been shocking the last few days and I’d started swaying even when I was off the boat. Add to that the whole boat coming down with some kind of mad cough and I was happy to be somewhere I could spend more time on land. 

The first day we did a walking tour and had our Captains dinner on the boat. The others went out, I finished my consulting work for the QOC and had an early night. Lucky I did as I would need it for the next night! 

We visited Krka during the day, beautiful scenic waterfalls about 1.5hrs away. Stunning views and a very refreshing swim. Shite food, take your own if you’re going. 

Back in town we went for dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Fife on the waterfront, I highly recommend it. Croatian food, cheap prices and great service. I had another black squid ink risotto (a national dish) as it was our last night. I also had many red wines and a few vodkas and sodas which were much more vodka than soda.

Needless to say, my quiet night turned larger quickly! We danced the night away at an open air bar and met up with a group from Contiki who we had seen a few nights back. Lots of drama ensued with various ‘couples’ and it was all very entertaining. 

Got home around 3am, fries in hand and ready to hop off the boat the next day and get to Spain. 




Island Hopping, Croatia

I’d love to tell you the names of the places we have been visiting… But I really don’t recall! Apart from Hvar, that’s an easy one to remember. The others were smaller and not well known. 
Days 2-4, we covered The islands of Mljet, Korcula and Hvar. Each day we leave about 5am, arrive mid morning for a swim stop in the ocean for an hour on our floaties then travel in to dock around lunch. Lunch is a 3 course meal everyday and each day I try to eat everything (overeating continues in Croatia) then we explore the island, head out for dinner then party. 

Mljet is a stunning national park, with two big salt lakes. We swam around and got massive surprises when the fish are our feet. Kind of like Thailand, but much more surprising in the middle of the lake when you haven’t paid any baht for it! On the way back I grabbed a smoothie, there’s not much fruit or veg on the boat. 

Korcula was a party night, we did a quick look around town, had cocktails at a bar that pulls your drinks up to the 4th level on a pulley system and has zero OSH standards, bought souvenirs at Marco Polo and had a group dinner with our sister boat (they have 13 touring.) I ordered what I thought was gnocchi in a red sauce with beef but was just meat. Like a casserole. Me no Likey. 

Party started at Dos Loco, there were stripper poles and terrible music followed by many shots. Around midnight we all got on a bus with the other boats (usually Contiki, Top Deck & Sail Croatia will end up docked together) and headed to Boogie Jungle. 

Boogie Jungle was fun, spew everywhere in the toilets but the hamburgers on the way out (around 2am) are a must! 

I met a guy from Welly and we drank on the helm of the boat talking shite until 4am. He and another guy then pretended to be Miley Cyrus on the floats that separate our boats – it was hilarious at the time. 

The next day and we slept most of it, (no surprise) which was fine as we were on the ocean most of the time until we took the water taxi to Hvar as we couldn’t dock yet. We explored the markets and went up to the fortress to look around, stunning view. 

Hvar lived up to its name, a playground for super yachts and the biggest and most luxurious was right next to us. It was as much of as an attraction as the fortress! Although, I don’t really see what’s there for them. The restaurants (as far as I know) were no different to anywhere else and little shopping. 

We went to the bar with everyone and I wasn’t really in the mood. A few cocktails and shots later and I could bare the terrible 90s music everyone else was digging. I even had the shot where you wear an army helmet and they smack you around with a large glass of tequila and soda. 

I quickly got sick of how crowded it was and Gem, Asti and I left to find another place. We partied for a while, Asti got her crazy dance moves on and was quite the star! We had shots then on to the hotel sky bar. We made friends and had cocktails and shots on the house with them the suddenly we were on our way to Carpe Diem. 

Carpe Diem is a fancy club on another island, you pay 200 Kuna (40aud) which covers your entry and boat ride there and back. It’s opens at 12.30am. We made our way over at 1.30am with some guys from Miami that the girls had met. Problem is, boats make me sleepy. I was ready to go to bed by the time we got there. It has everything you need there and is a day club too with cabanas etc. Friday (when we went) was quiet, apparently Thursdays and Saturdays are better. We or tied for a bit, Gem went for a swim and then we got pizza and the boat back. Another 4am evening / morning. 

In between all this, we lie on the roof of the boat, nap and drink. Mainly sunbathe. I’m getting a decent tan and we have a great group.