A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012

The Alhambra and Valencia

By Hannah

semi-overcast 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

We travelled from Granada to Valencia today, looking forward to three nights in the same place instead of just one. Abby and I awoke to find our parents talking to our grandparents this morning, and found out that my grandpa had been scheduled for surgery today. We wish him all the best.

038 Granada La Alhambra (64)

038 Granada La Alhambra (64)

Before we got the main journey underway, we went to visit the Alhambra, an intricate Islamic palace that was constructed during the 10th century and expanded for hundreds of years after even after the Moors were evicted in the 15th century. It's currently the most visited site in Spain, drawing approximately three million visitors a year. It seemed like every inch was covered in carvings or mosaics. My mom read a book called Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature which explains that there are 17 types of symmetry. Each type can be found in the Alhambra, though we definitely didn't find all of them. We spent a long time in each room, admiring the Arabic script and elaborate designs. There were a few fountains too, as well as some pretty gardens that again made us question whether it really was that close to winter. We even found a koi pond. There was a small museum as well, but it was slightly underwhelming compared to what we had just seen. The area it was located in was more impressive, a sort of arena framed with columns and balconies. It made you think of gladiators. Eventually, though, we decided that it was time to head off to our next destination.

Our Valencia Apartment

Our Valencia Apartment

After the tour we ate lunch on the hood of the car, and then started on the five hour long drive to Valencia. We didn't stop once, so we got there around quarter after six, but that's not when we arrived at our apartment. We ended up wandering the streets for a bit, trying to locate address 28 on the correct street next to the correct restaurant. After about half an hour, we finally succeeded, and were let in by a friendly cleaner, who showed us to our apartment. It's enormous. When we first entered, I thought that each door in the hallway led to a separate apartment. Turns out those were just the bedrooms and bathrooms. There's enough hallway to start at a jog, get up to speed, and slow down again without hitting the wall at the other end. After a debate about who got which room (my parents got the one of their choice, as usual, but we don't complain as they're kind of paying for the place) and a coin toss, we settled in. My room's bigger and has a closet, while Abby's has its own TV. There's even an extra room with two single beds, just in case Abby and I decide that we prefer sharing. I doubt this will happen. Dinner was soup, which we always keep on hand since our night in Les Brulins (dedicated readers will know what I'm talking about), and bread with oil and vinegar. Abby had bought Dad what she thought was Spanish "turron", or nougat, with almonds, as we got nougat with peanuts last time. It turned out to be a sort of fudgy, chocolately bar with crisped rice instead. Delicious nonetheless. Dad and I went out for a quick emergency grocery shop, and then settled down for the evening in the apartment we will call home for the next few days. I think that we'll be visiting Valencia's aquarium while we're here. It'll be quite the change from the museums, castles and markets of late.

Posted by KZFamily 09:04 Archived in Spain Tagged alhambra granada valencia symmetry Comments (2)

Gibraltar Rocks

By Ben

sunny 21 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar

After our Moroccan holiday we feel we can tackle anything, so why not tackle another “country” in just five hours. Gibraltar is not technically a country but it is like a quick trip to Britain without the need to cross the channel. “The Rock” is less than an hour from Tarifa and it is bit to Spaniards like Point Roberts is to Canada: a cheap place to get gas and hard liquor. When Gibraltar came into view from the highway we instantly could recognize why it is of such strategic significance. It is a huge rock promintory that seems to rise out of nowhere and commands the land and the sea.

The car line up into Gibraltar is astonishingly long; we hear it is often a 2 hour wait to cross the border. For a piece of land that is less than 7 square kilometers its 30,000 inhabitants love their vehicles. We chose to park our car and walk over the border to explore what we could on foot. Today we were not in the mood for museums or too much in terms of the historical. We were mostly interested in a good hike, a good view and a peek at the apes.

An interesting quirk of walking or driving into Gibraltar is that within a couple of hundred meters your path is interrupted by the Gibraltar’s airport runway. The gates came down to block the road and our pathway to allow an Airbus airplane to take off. Once the plane took off the gate came up and we literally walked across the runway to enter into the rest of the territory (no wasted space here).

Gibraltar: Abby feels at home

Gibraltar: Abby feels at home

The densely inhabited portions of Gibraltar has the iconic British telephone boxes and its fair share of pubs but isn’t quite England in microcosm or even as British looking as Victoria for that matter. It definitely is stretched for liveable space and seems to have devoted a large portion of its territory to a pretty active port. The real neat stuff is higher up on the rock itself which is riddled with 30 miles of tunnels, numerous old gun emplacements and some fairly narrow cliff face roads.

Gibraltar: Barbary apes

Gibraltar: Barbary apes

We walked nearly the length of the rock and were more than two-thirds of the way up its elevation. We were on the lookout for the Barbary Macaques (often referred to as Apes but really are tailless monkeys) and it didn’t take us too long to find them. They are very tame and curious and made for a lot of viewing fun. Legend has it that when the Barbary Apes leave so will the British. During World War II, Churchill ordered that measures be taken to make sure the population of apes was well-fed and maintained to prevent any possible exodus of these guardians of the British realm. The special care continues to this day to make sure the Barbary Macaques population is well-fed and continues to breed for the good of all Gibraltar citizens.

After our hike and a quick ice cream (the temperature was above 21 degrees) we got back in our car and drove three hours to Granada. We are staying in a motel/campground which provides the very basics in accommodation for more than what we paid in Luz, nevertheless we are quite happy to be putting our feet up. The camp host speks excellent English and is a dead ringer for an Aussie but Muriel found out he was a native of Granada and has spent just enough time in Australia to learn English (the accent and Aussie slang just seemed to be a bonus).
In the morning we will visit the Alhambra, the most visited historic site in Spain.

Posted by KZFamily 14:12 Archived in Gibraltar Tagged granada gibraltar Comments (11)

Morocco Day 2 (Part 2)

By Muriel

rain 16 °C
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Tangier: Old town main square

Tangier: Old town main square

During the church service, it was interesting to be in the minority. Aside from us, there were a handful of British people, with the remaining 50 - 60 people appearing to be from some other African nation; Ben and I surmised their original home may have been Somali or the Sudan. The quiet of the church service contrasted sharply with the sounds of the street market just outside the gates of the church. It felt like a refuge for us in more ways than one! And certainly this time around in Morocco, I felt like I needed more places of refuge. In many ways, it was more safe than twenty years ago and we didn't get ourselves into any situations like we had back then (ask me for the story sometime); however, I found I didn't enjoy it as much this time. After a couple of hours in the medina, I really needed to escape from the shop keepers and hustlers. Always having to be acutely aware of your belongings, facing two or three vendors at once and knowing that you're being subjected to an inflated price (even after haggling substantially) took its toll on my usual good nature. The great majority of times when we were approached in a friendly manner, asked about our country and enquired of whether we were enjoying Morocco were conversation starters for sales opportunities. In two or three instances, it was only after the person had left that we realized it had been an honest conversation and one we could enjoy in retrospect. I'm glad we went to Morocco so the girls could experience it for themselves but settling back into our 'home' in the Spanish countryside this evening has been a much-needed balm. (I'm also quite worn out due to the stressful experience of being bested by Abby.)

Posted by KZFamily 11:05 Archived in Morocco Tagged morocco tangier Comments (3)

Morocco Day 2 (Part 1)

by Abby

rain 16 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Tangier: Hotel Continental Breakfast Room

Tangier: Hotel Continental Breakfast Room

On our leaving day from Morocco we woke at 8, or at least I did. My mom and dad were complaining about the call to prayers that woke them up in the earlier hours of the morning. But it was a reasonably relaxed start, and we went down to breakfast in a timely fashion. For breakfast we were served a variety of small pastries in a well decorated and ornate room. There was only one couple there when we arrived, and they were the only ones there when we left. I enjoyed the warm bun I was given, on which I spread French butter and jam, but the other pastries were not very much to my liking. Hannah was the same, but enjoyed a circular flat flakey thing with raisins... I opted not to try mine. But my dad was more than willing to eat our discards.

After breakfast we went back to our room and packed up our bags for departure. Because the only ferries running that day were at 9AM, 2PM and 6PM, we planned some more venturing of the city. Our parents had told us the day before that they had seen a flyer for an Anglican service that was at 11AM on Sunday. Hannah and I were also told that it would only take 20 minutes to walk there. This turned out to, unfortunately, be an inaccurate estimation. The route we took to the church actually took us an hour, and we ended up walking about 3 kilometers in the muggy rain, instead of the 1.6 kilometers we had planned. Although the streets have names, there are no signs of any sort that display the names of any of the streets, which makes it quite difficult to find your way around an unknown part of the city. We asked a few locals the way as well as some helpful police officers. In the end we were only 20 minutes late to the service, but weren't the last to show up.

I enjoyed the time we spent at the church, and was especially happy to find out that our theory of the vicar being Canadian (which we gathered from his accent) was true. He told us after the service that he was originally from Ottawa, but lives in Washington, DC, and recently bought a house in New Brunswick. He says he keeps a foot in each place, although I didn't see how this was possible, as he only has two feet and both were in Morocco at the time.

Tangier

Tangier

After the service we went back into the rain and my dad led us around to try and find the Kasbah, but unfortunately, had to settle for a mosque that we didn't know the background of. But after looking at our watches and seeing that it was already half past twelve, we decided that we should try to hightail it back to our hotel, at which my dad's bag was stored. We ended up taking a taxi, as we still didn't exactly know the way back. I enjoyed the taxi ride, as I hadn't seen the mayhem of the streets from that view before. He had to slowly drive down the one way streets that were packed with people and shopkeepers. At one point a car came at us from the other direction, and we had to pull over beside a car that was centimeters away, while the other car passed us, with centimeters to spare on her side as well. But in the end we made it safely back to the hotel, and gave our driver 50, well deserved, dihram, instead of the 40 he had previously asked for. But just as we started jogging towards the ferry port, we realised we still had over 200dihram left, which we would only be able to exchange in Morocco. But my dad was unable to get it exchanged back into Euros, so he settled for buying some items from a shopkeeper, which consisted of a pipe and two small metal boxes. But we were happy, especially once we were on the ferry, after having been held up in customs for an extended amount of time. But the wait was not our fault, just the people in front of us... we are perfectly good people with perfectly good intentions...

On the ferry, Hannah and I were treated to a sandwich, a bag of chips and a drink, which we inhaled gratefully, as it was already after 2, and we hadn't eaten anything since our small breakfast that morning. And the ferry ride went fast, as we played Quiddler, and even though I didn't win, it was the first time I had ever scored higher than my mother in a word game.

Score 1 for Abby.
Score 2,903,943,939,840,293 for Mom.

Posted by KZFamily 11:05 Archived in Morocco Tagged morocco tangier Comments (2)

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