Saved by Seville

We caught the bus into town, unaware of the absolute treat that was in store for us. Stepping off into a bustling street with cars and scooters flying about, in a daze we wander down the road a little and notice most people are making their way through a very elegant arched doorway. We presume it must be a free museum, or a least a good starting point to our city adventure. Verity hangs back preparing her camera, and I wander off unsupervised. I clamber up a few steps and round a central pillar that blocks the view from the entrance, and I’m stopped dead in my tracks. I can’t quite take in what I’m seeing, it’s too much if you’re not expecting it. We’ve stumbled into a side entrance for the Plaza de Espana, as my eyes adjust from the shaded dim light of the entrance I’m hit with full spectrum of light as I emerge into this:

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Also used in the filming of Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the clones. This building is ridiculous, and we wandered around in awe for about an hour. The rest of Seville is great too. In the same vein as cities in North Spain, ancient buildings keep jumping out at you with every corner.  Take a peaceful walk along the other side of the river and there’s a really cool motorbike cafe. They have a brand new KTM Duke 1290, and a Royal Enfield Continental GT just sat in the windows. Moving on – as I know this doesn’t interest most people, Seville is a city that you can just wander around, and you can easily spend two days here.

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We treated ourselves to a menu of the day again at one of the restaurants in the centre, and a Spanish chap started belting out some Gypsy Kings type of music. He was really good, and was the cherry on the cake of our perfect day exploring.

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We stayed at the Villsom campsite, and we can recommend this as a good site to stay at. The pool is really nice, and the facilities are really clean. We paid 21 Euros per night, which is a bit too expensive if you ask me, but it enabled us to see Seville knowing the van was safe. The bus to the centre was really easy from this site, and you will get all the info from the helpful reception.

Catalonians Vote for Independence

Spain’s kickin off at the minute. The Spanish government are doing all in their power to stop the Catalan people having a referendum to gain independence from Spain. The Spanish government are playing dirty, so there’s loads of protests being held to ensure the people get their democratic right on the 1st October 2017.

We came across the start of a protest in Granada, and were quickly diverted by the police away from the area. We’ve also seen a lot of banners for the support of their right to vote as we’ve travelled through all parts of Spain, not just in Catalonia.

Good on them. Catalonia has been repressed in the past, and it has also been a criminal offence to speak Catalan under the Franco regime. With lots of their history dismissed and literature scrapped they’re fighting back. Similar to the Basque Country, we’ve found people are very proud of their heritage, and are taking steps to keep the traditions and languages alive.

Cordoba

While trying to remain positive about this region, we are getting increasingly more attracted to Portugal, and driving straight through the south of Spain altogether.

If you read the guide books you will likely hear a load of guff about how you should visit the Alhambra in Granada and the Meqzuita-Catedral de Cordoba.

I’ve never been one for tourist attractions, and I’ve also never been one for throwing money away. These two cities are basically set up to sting tourists who have read in guide books that you simply must visit these attractions. I’m sure they’re wonderful for a day trip, and they even feature highly on world heritage site lists. I take exception to the whole city taking advantage of this, and cashing in. Local, very tired looking, campsites are 30 Euros per night and in addition the locals try to short change you, car theft is extremely high and you have to drive to the arse end of nowhere to try and see them. There’s nothing else worth mentioning in either of these cities, basically just avoid them altogether. I just wish there were more honest reviews that I could read, so we could have just avoided the south of Spain altogether. I think people don’t want to lose face in saying their holidays to these places were rubbish, but I wish they would be honest and save others the pain of finding this out for themselves.

Anyway, this is my honest review, and a lot of the negativity is from driving for hours in extremely hot temperatures through arid wastelands to be rewarded with less than genuine people trying to make a quick buck from me. I would suggest if you wish to see attractions such as these, go to Morocco, and get the genuine experience. On principle we decided not to spend our time and money in this area. In an attempt to displace ourselves we listened to some Sherlock holmes stories on our drive, and to be honest this was the best part of the last few days.

In comparison, Barcelona was 18 Euros per night for a campsite on the beach, that was modern, had a good mix of interesting people and right next to a metro line to the city. The city itself is inspiring. Everywhere you look you are rewarded with stunning architecture, you can feel the life and the buzz. Valencia was the  chilled out version of Barcelona, and this was 12 Euros per night. We had a fantastic time in both, and we’re looking to continue that high.

We’re now in a nice campsite in Seville. We were going to persist with Cordoba, but funnily enough we we’re driving away from the wrongly named “El Brilliante” campsite, because it was tired and overpriced, and en route to the next campsite we actually saw a signpost with Seville on it. We both looked at each other, and quickly agreed, lets just get out of here. We’ve ended the day with a lovely swim, a nice shower and cooked a crackin dinner. It’s the simple pleasures that make all the difference, but also not having to pay inflated prices for it.

 

 

Andalucia

So far, we’re not very impressed with this region. Lots of dusty nothingness and when you do eventually get somewhere you find it’s just another retirement town. Leather skinned OAP’s promenading in a range of, dodgy to down right obscene, swimwear.

Sun is great, and there’s bucket loads of the stuff down here, but we’re also after some life. I want to see bustling towns with street life, feel a buzz, and generally be intoxicated by a place. We’ve felt a real lack of everything since we ventured south of Valencia. We’ve both started saying things like, well we should just go and see this place, then we can leave. We’re travelling at the minute, feeling a sense of duty that we should see these places – as we’re here.

We’re holding out for Cordoba and Seville.

 

 

Valencia

Your first day in Valencia will basically involve walking around in big circles. The old town is simply stunning, with cathedrals or similarly ‘spired’ buildings popping out at you with every turn. You definitely need a map for this city, as all the roads within the main circle go off in completely random directions, even trying to follow a straight path through the city is difficult.

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Valencia has quite a traditional Spanish feel, it doesn’t have the super modern edge that Barcelona has, but it holds its own with a really great feature that runs alongside the old town. They have a dried out river bed that has been converted to green parks with water features used to symbolise the old river Turia. The river used to flood the city terribly, so in 1957, the Spanish Government decided to re-route the river, by-passing the city, and commissioned Catalan Architect Ricardo Bofill to develop the 120 hectares of river bed that remained.

If you follow the old river towards the sea you will reach the Opera House (Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia). I’m just going to throw this out there – I think they tried to copy the one in Sydney, but changed the design slightly to call it their own.

(My disapproval is shown below)

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It’s part of a set of buildings, combined with the Hemispheric IMAX, and the Science museum, they do look great all together and give the feel of a future utopian world when you walk around them.

We happened to be walking past a bicycle tour of the city, the guide had stopped outside the Oceanarium and was delivering his usual spiel to his group of tourists. I happened to overhear part of it, which led me to believe he came to be a tour guide in the same fashion as the two boys did in Slumdog Millionaire. He said, “this is a fish zoo” referring to the Oceanarium. I hope they didn’t pay very much for this tour. Although, a bicycle is a very good idea in this city, cycling along the river bed on a sunny day would be lovely.

Restaurants in Spain usually offer the menu of the day between the usual lunch hours. We’ve found this to be a really good deal. Three courses for around 10 Euros, with a coffee, bargain! We found a superb Restuarant on Carrer de Mendoza (Restaurant Taberna)you may not get quite what you ordered, but the waiters were really great, so you don’t mind a little mild chaos and confusion. We treated ourselves to a three course lunch with a chilled bottle of rosé, on one particularly lazy afternoon, before toodling off to do a little sight seeing, “fabulous darling”. Valencia has a nice chilled vibe, and as you meander your way through the little side alleys and squares you won’t need to spend much money, you can simply take in the scenery and architecture that’s all around you.

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Campsites are a little scarce around Valencia, and anything south of the city is to be avoided. Believe me, save yourself the few hours driving around trying to find somewhere habitable. Popping into a campsite, and asking to have a look around before you commit, then having to return to reception, thinking ‘I wouldn’t let my dog sleep here’, and awkwardly saying “we’ll try somewhere else”.

We had to get on Google again, and we eventually found Valencia Camper Park near Bétera, to the north west of the city. This turned out to be a great find. 12 Euros per night and it was very clean, and quite busy. We’ve found that it’s nice to have a busy campsite, watching people scurry around you setting up their camps, and I like seeing all the converted vans and how people utilise their different vehicles.

The site is also a  two minute walk from a Metro line, and it costs 1.5 Euros each way in and out of the city. You can buy a prepaid card from the campsite reception, and then your set. Just a note, this campsite has been the most informative and helpful site we’ve stayed at, I would highly recommend it, even if there were other habitable options available.

 

 

Deliverance 2

From the success of the last time, where we picked a big expanse of green next to the beach and drove there, we tried this method again. This should have been a non-starter because the road quickly ended and we started driving along an unpaved track that was getting progressively worse (Parc Naturel de la Serra d’Irta). We kept going slowly, and ended up at a little secluded beach with a big white building next to it. It was all locked up and bars covered every door and every window. There were a few motorhomes in the car park and it looked ideal for one night, although I did get a strange vibe from the moment we arrived. I voiced this uneasy feeling to Verity immediately and we quickly dismissed it as being silly. As dusk started to fall, one by one, all the cars and even all the motorhomes left. We found ourselves alone, in a small car park, nowhere near any civilisation. It was pitch black except for the white building, still deserted, but now lit up inside. It looked creepy as, and I felt an overwhelming urge to get the hell out of there. We were halfway through cooking dinner at this point, so leaving would have been inconvenient. We braved it through dinner and clearing up, but the uneasy feeling kept growing, and something didn’t feel right. Not wanting to play the star role in Deliverance 2, I made the decision that we were leaving. We quickly packed up, ready to drive, and continued down the twisty coastal track hoping to pop out the other end. We made it out, and neither of us had to squeal like a pig, so it was a success. Something didn’t feel right about that place, or maybe I’m just being a big whoopsy, but I trust my gut feeling and I think we did the right thing.

 

I would avoid this place because of the road condition alone, but also the beach and the view didn’t really justify the hassle of getting there.  Maybe it’s just tainted in my mind and it’s really a lovely place, but I think you could skip this area completely without missing out on anything, and your van would thank you for it too.