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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)

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