The Andalucia region is about as Spanish as it gets. The south of Spain is known for flamenco, bullfights, churros, sweltering heat and an amazing history of African/Moorish/Muslim influence. This can be felt (and we felt it!) throughout its grand monuments, the very buildings on every street, the dancing lights and rowdy passionate music well into the early mornings, and in the people themselves.
Poor Pammy was a little ill for the start of our Andalucia trip, so it was up to me to capture the first day’s/night’s festivities in Sevilla. I even managed to get amazingly lost looking for a pharmacy to get anti-dehydration stuff for Pam.
The Catedral in Sevilla is the largest (in terms of internal space) in the world.
The Alcazar is also gorgeous, and had gardens in a very organic Moorish style in which I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost.
We managed to catch the Feria in Sevilla – a flamenco festival that’s been going on for decades. It was a huge row of tents and music stages down by the glittering river.
The tents were bars, and every so often we’d be lucky enough to catch some live music and SPONTANEOUS FLAMENCO (*bliss!*)! Enjoyed two nights by the riverfront with our hostel buddies.
Thank you for the friends, music and flamenco Sevilla!
We knew it was going to be insane – it was that and more!
Before going, I had looked up things like ‘hidden secrets’ and ‘off the beaten track’ Ibiza things to do and see, thinking I’d want to party at night and explore in the daytime. It didn’t happen. Ibiza daytimes are for sleeping and beaching (and partying in the afternoon at Bora Bora).
Phil had organised an apartment for 8 of us right on Playa D’en Bossa (beach) – perfect location.
Tue 21st July: SPACE – Carl Cox’s birthday (Join the Revolution)
Hardcore shuffle/jump dancing til daybreak with Phil & Amy – not a lyric in the music all night!
As soon as we got back to the apartments (Space was just down the road) we jumped into the ocean and were joined by newfound friends (a girl who’d been working/partying in Ibiza since May and was starting to get headaches/fainting spells), and a bunch of incomprehensible Scots (one of whom had the most amazing blue eyes I’ve ever seen).
After all the grime, sweat, smoke, black feet and alchohol I was covered in, wading into the gorgeously warm clear water felt like a baptism! It was so amazingly cleansing.
Wed 22nd: AMNESIA – Foam Party!
Insanity, absolutely. This time we were joined by Nick, Dani and Pam as well. The music/dancing up til about 5.45am was great but not amazing like the previous night. There were however a plethora of hot half naked dancers, a hot saxophonist (reminded me of Cargo in Sydney, only MUCH better haha) and a violinist accompanying the house DJs. Got a good shoulder dance from the tallest guy there (6ft 6 possibly?)
When the foam came on, all bets were off *_*
I didn’t bring any cameras, phones etc for a reason!
It shot out of cannons on the balcony – the dance floor was filled with foam! At some points, I was almost drowning, especially when it came up above my head level (I’m not tall!) – so we went off to the side for a bit, and then rejoined the frivolity.
Violence, shoving, slippery, circle of death with guys ramming eachother (made a new mate Brett who helped Phil ‘protect’ us in the foam)…and it felt like Amy and I were the only 2 girls on the dance floor! Even got another shoulder dance during the water showers inbetween foam, from a buff Brazillian spongebob squarepants – wicked awesome 🙂
It was all crazy but amazing FUN!
Of course, a morning ocean dip ensued – still magic.
Thu 23rd: PACHA – David Guetta & Laidback Luke
This time we were joined by Brett and his mates from Perth. From our crew it was the usual Phil, Amy and me + Raf.
Great cavernous venue, awesome beats (albeit a little commercial), naked pole dancers and the same giant robot astronaut man who was everywhere!
Another amazing night – followed by another magical morning swim.
And all of this on my usual minimal alchohol! Love of the dance!
My daytimes were full of sleep and beach.
Ibiza is NOT for lovers, but it definitely = love for me!
(Algarve Coast, south coast region of Portugal)
Lagos was described to me as a black hole: People who come here keep trying to leave, but never seem to be able to. Pam and I managed just fine though, however it was very tempting to stay for good.
The shiny uneven stones in the street were everywhere here, just like they were in Lisbon. Lagos is in fact quite big, but we only saw (lived, beached, ate, drank and danced) the ‘old town’ (a very small corner of the whole city) and glistening Marina. So for me, Lagos will always be the pretty, romantic and very lazy beachside trap with low buildings, crumbling churches with peeling paint, young travellers, sleepy days and rowdy nights.
- This is the first place I’ve been to where I feel like I’m ignoring the historical and cultural significance of everything around me, and am just cruising along eating/drinking/dancing/beaching – then again, it’s the same with like every traveller here (and possibly even also the locals)
- The water is freezing!
Pam, Jeff (who we met on the bus) and I set out along the coast just West of Lagos old town, to discover the famous cliffs and beaches of the Algarve Coast. The paths were windy and sandy, surrounded by dry spiky brush and hugging steep drops down sandstone cliffs into azure seas. You could navigate your way up paths to nowhere (but amazing vistas) and climb down to hidden coves and beaches. It was a substantial trek out to the Western point – good to get some exercise and soak up those views!
All the scenic photos are Pam’s (I didn’t take my camera). Legend, thanks Pam!
Nights were full of al fresco dining, happy (and then drunken) revellers, dancing like no one was watching, and being lured to an out of the way bar by a bubbly adorable Pommy staff member with a natural flair for marketing – this was his 2nd season in Lagos, working at a bar, drinking/beaching all the time, and living in some old decadent mansion for only 10 Euro a night. He made me want to stay!
The next day Pam and I had originally planned to head East to Tavira (another coastal town), but decided our time was better spent relaxing on another long flat sandy strip of beach.
Lazy in Lagos indeed!
I’ve said or thought this about pretty much every place I’ve been to so far, but…
Lisbon is for lovers!
(Well, not every town. Santiago isn’t for lovers. Santiago is for pilgrims. Wouldn’t want to be ‘christening’ any holy places with secret trysts – blasphemy!)
I fell in love with this city (more like a town) as soon as we emerged from the metro station and I was hit by the perfect sun-lit sky, reflected off the shining uneven black & white stones patterning every path and road, the colourfully tiled external walls, the al fresco café umbrellas, more wrought iron balconies… *swoon* !!!
Our hostel is super awesome. It’s totally artist-designed and major kitsch 😀 Pammy and I the photo nerds were lucky enough to be put in a room called “Lomography” – with graffiti on the door “Don’t think. Just shoot!” It’s a sign Pam! Get your Holga out!
Can I please open a place like this in Syd? Better yet – HK?
Had home-cooked hostel dinner, by the fun all-knowing all-Lisbon-loving Antonio. Felt so good to have a wholesome healthy meal. Went exploring at night with one of our roomies Brenna. Every few streets there’d be another gorgeous plaza!
Lisbon is for plazas?
Wandered up into Bairro Alto, the nightlife district, which is a network of steep tiny laneways where the party spills out onto the street. Funky jazz places, gorgeous grotto-looking bars = love!
However, by the end of the night (and over the next few nights elsewhere), I felt like screaming:
YES, I AM ASIAN! GET OVER IT!
I got about 6 Asian-related comments/cat-calls just walking around (the average number per night). A few ‘konitchiwa’s, a few bows, a few ‘ni hao’s, and other forms of “I like Chinese girls” openers from the nightlife revellers. No malicious intent – just a mixture of ignorance and a place that is racially aware and distinctly lacking Asians?
– Granted, I got about 1 per day in San Sebastian –
Amusing at first, but got a bit grating by the end of the night. Of course, none of it’s meant in harm or malie, it’s just weird to get attention by virtue of my race – unwanted extra attention (DON’T FREAK OUT Mum & Dad – it’s FINE :p )
Went to the Regaleria estate (name could be wrong?) in Sintra near Lisbon – mansion and convoluted gardens of a wealthy family, which is now a World Heritage site. It’s all designed to be some magical fairytale – and it was! The mansion itself is fairytale…
…but the gardens! Pan’s Labyrinth! They went on forever!!! They had so many paths, hidden grottos and creepy caves, fountains and fortresses, and a whole network of FREAKY underground tunnels – pitch black – no way I was going near them!
But the most amazing thing was a giant UNDERGROUND TOWER – meant to represent the ascent from darkness to light/earth to heaven/descent into hell, etc.
For something so grand, it was totally hidden from ‘ground’ level – we had walked right past it and didn’t notice, even though we were trying to find it! We were total wimps and didn’t make it all the way to the bottom bc it got way too dark and creepy – then we bolted back up to the light!
Lisbon is for labyrinths?
For me, Lisbon will still be for lovers.
Was it as good for you as it was for me?
Santiago de Compostela is coined as being ‘the most beautiful city in Spain’.
We were sceptical but hopeful, and luck was on our side! The entire place is a maze of medieval laneways and amazing religious relics or monuments at every turn. The place is saturated with them!..
Also, our hostal was a gorgeous little apartment with twin balconies over a stunning medieval laneway! Run by the cutest old couple who spoke nothing but Spanish. LOVE.
Ok, so the story behind Santiago:
– The remains of St. James the apostle of Jesus was discovered here over 1000 years ago
– A city was built around the crypt
– Pilgrims have been making the journey here, to the very West coast of Spain (in the middle of nowhere!) since then
– It’s the 3rd most important religious sepulchre site outside of Jerusalem and the Vatican
– It has the highest concentration of artwork per square metre in Spain (or Europe?)
I didn’t know most of this til after we’d left – good one being an ignorant ‘oh that’s so pretty!’ tourist Ange!
Humbling? Definitely. Even without knowing the complete history or significance, the mood captured in the architecture of the main Catedral is amazing. The dedication over centuries behind building a city full of these religious relics is awesome.
The whole place is full of pilgrims, which is awesome. Young to old, equipped with their hiking gear, backpacks and walking sticks. They have to walk a minimum of 100km – the whole Camina (road) to Santiago is like 400km long! The mood is holy but festive, with music and good food aplenty. Had amazing muscles in vinegar here 🙂
Personally I enjoyed seeing these young pilgrims, unshaven for weeks and evidently road-weary, laying on the stones in front of the mighty Catedral, chilling with their beers.
That, and the old ladies and old men running an early morning market against ancient church walls.
Many more details, but I wouldn’t do it justice. Look up the place if you like.
Toros! Toros! Toros!
(Pamplona/Iruna San Fermin Festival – Running of the Bulls 2009)
First of all, a huge
to Jase, Mesiti and Para for doing the run. Way to go guys! Pam, Szemei and I cheered on in spectatorial and photographic support 🙂
…but more on that later.
Days were spent lazing around the gorgeous beach town of San Sebastian. I stayed in an amazing hostel called David Quinn, which was more like a guy’s apartment – super chilled and run by great people, and always with a fun crew of travellers!
Pam, my travel buddy and fellow St.Joey’s (primary school) girl joined me here. Hi Pam!
I was literally a stone’s throw from the beach and promenade, where I spent a lot of time…
The Old Town/Latin Quarter/Parte Viaje was beautiful, and full of great pinxto/tapas bars (as well as hidden surprise churches)…
The views from the hilltop Jesus (statue), the ancient fairground up the top of the ‘mountain’, and other piers were also beautiful!
People here live and breathe the beach, everyone is so tanned and weathered!
Of course, the Saturday Sangria Party and crowded bars also added to the experience 😀
Also, I don’t want to eat for another week!
Pamplona – San Fermin!
A sea of red, white and pink (for those covered in Sangria).
What a vibe! From the tiniest baby to elderly couples, and all inbetween – everyone got into the spirit of San Fermin!
It was wicked to share the fun with mates from Sydney 😀
We were going to be there for the last bull run on the morning of July 14th. The night before, like every night, was one huge street party. Pam and I had many a fun run-in with the friendly locals while the guys got some much-needed rest!
Unlike many, we weren’t relegated to crashing in some freezing park. Thank you guys for the hotel room floor!
In the morning, the guys awoke to prepare themselves for the daunting task ahead, while Szemei, Pam and I set out to find the best vantage point. Good luck guys!
We ended up upstairs in the stadium, where we stood outside with a view of the runners and bulls entering the stadium. The atmosphere was electric!
A few minutes past 8am, we saw runners start to trickle in, then more and more running with more panic! Szemei even managed to catch Para and Mesiti on her camera! Then came the crowd of huge bulls running in a pack.
As soon as they entered the stadium, we ran inside to the ringside seats, where we could watch the release of the baby bulls on the crowd of runners. Jase, Para and Mesiti were all in the ring, but had enough brains to stay out of the line of fire!
The guys said that the scariest part was waiting for the gun to go. The anticipation, not knowing what was going on or where the bulls were, the panic on everyone’s faces as they started bolting…intense!
Again, awesome work guys! You’ve done it now!!!
Struggling to make myself sit down and write – but dammit I will!
Madrid was a sweltering humid 34 degrees when I landed at like…6pm
Fact: The sun doesnt go down here until like 10pm?! And everyone’s out all night. AWESOME. My kind of place.
The view from my dorm room balcony is gorgeous. Observe:
Began my wander at about 10pm. Plaza Mayor is stunning. The stones on the ground are warm and smooth. I sat in the middle of the plaza for ages and let everything sink in. The buskers, the people, the kids and ball games, the music…*sigh*
More solo wanderings led me to the Palacio Real, which revealed itself in front of me after various laneways of gorgeous balcony’d (yes, it’s a word now) buildings. Stunning lit up bright white at night. Once again, I found myself a patch of warm cement to sit on and chill.
Impromptu music jam
I returned to Plaza Mayor after my wander down to the Palacio Real.
Most of the tourists and cafe crowds had filtered out by now. There was a crowd clapping in syncopated rhythms around a guy playing Spanish guitar. I ambled over to observe. They would clap and sway and pass the guitar around, and pretty soon the air was filled with passionate voices, heated beats and even topless men stomping out the rhythm in the middle of the circle.
Loved the impromptu jam 🙂