Monthly Archives: May 2018

Spain, Seville – the Cathedral and the Giralda Tower

One of the top places to visit in Seville is the cathedral and this is for good reason. It is the largest Gothic style cathedral in the world and third overall for size only to the Vatican and St Paul’s. Apparently the mandate was “let’s build the biggest cathedral in the world and everyone will think we are crazy to try”! You get the idea – it is impressive both from the outside and the inside (if you enjoy a dose of OTT) .

I also climbed the Giralda Tower – 37 floors – well probably only half that as they were half floors but I was glad it was an upward slope and not stairs. The view from the top was wonderful although a bit ear shattering when the bells started ringing.

Here are the exteriors including the Tower

A selection of views from the top of the Giralda Tower and also at various mid points where I was stopping to see what it looked like outside – yeah right – I mean stopping to get my breath back!


The interiors also include art by Murillo as well as a lot of gold and silver.

I liked this room the best – I think it was the Chapter Room just before you get to the exit.

Spain, Seville – A Tapas Crawl

An important highlight for me in visiting Seville was the chance to get stuck into some really good tapas. I have not been disappointed and particularly enjoyed my tapas food tour earlier today.

Tapas translates as “top” and originally they were invented as a means to put something on top of a glass or wine or beer to stop the bugs getting in to your drink. instead of being boring and using a coaster they started to make small food items that could sit on top of your glass and so tapas was born.

The variety of tapas bars in Seville is legendary and it is worth getting someone who knows the place to give you some ideas of where to eat. Most tapas bars offer a wide range of items including specialities in season but most also have one dish they are especially famous for so it is not uncommon to “tapas crawl” to your favourite spots. Some of the bars themselves are interesting in their own right.

And here are some of the items I have indulged in (so far).

Iced gazpacho, marinated anchovies and potatoes, croquettes and pardon peppers and somehow a very delish hot chocolate snuck in there?

And black pudding, fritters of cod in a bechamel sauce, Iberian ham (black pigs eating certain acorns only) served traditionally on top of the glass and then you sip your sherry wine through a gap in the ham to get the aroma of both and chicharrones (probably spelled wrong but high end port scratchings is the closest I can describe it)

You will see below that a traditional way of eating

Spain, Seville – sidebars. The Santa Cruz (Jewish Quarter) old town; the Juderia de Sevilla; Flamenco and The “Mushroom”; Marie Louisa Park

Seville is a special place to wander around so this post is some of the places I’ve seen outside and in on my wanderings.

Firstly the old town or Jewish Quarter or Santa Cruz as it is known is the place to hang out day and night for lovely narrow lanes, tapas bars and people watching.

I visited the Museo de Juderia which i stumbled on in this area as my family have Spanish Jewish origins. It is a tiny place and a bit pricy to get in but for those interested in this topic, worth a visit. I especially liked reading about this lady who had a mysterious story as you can see and then they tell you three different versions of what she really did – you will have to visit to find out what they are. She is a very arresting looking woman

I always do an open topped bus tour at the start of a visit to a new place (sorry Emma!) – it helps me get my bearings and figure out where I want to go back to for a closer look. Below is a selection of monuments along the way.

A much more recent monument is the Mushroom for obvious reasons. A bit like Federation Square in Melbourne it violently split opinion when it opened but also like Fed Square people seem to have become used to it. I think it is pretty cool – especially at night.

In Seville the two traditional things to do are visit a bullfight and a flamenco. I restricted my bullfight viewing to the outside of the massive bullring but I did enjoy an evening of flamenco – that is to say the dancing is amazing but I do not like the songs that go with it – too screechlike for me after the nice tones of Fado in Portugal. But to watch those feet move at the speed they do is something that has to be seen to be believed. And yes that is Mozart below – think he must have lived in or liked Seville? Well who wouldn’t?

I am staying near the stunning Maria Louisa Park – and I walk through it every day ato get into town – perfect start to the day. I am also obsessed with jacaranda trees which are in full bloom at the moment.

Spain, Seville – the Alcazar Palace

Even though I am not a fan of Game of Thrones I was very much looking forward to visiting the Alcazar Palace in the centre of Seville. It is as spectacular as I expected and as I am very fond of moorish architecture and it gives the Alhambra a run for its money. It takes about two hours to do it justice and once you are in you can wander around (with audio guide) to enjoy the interiors and the Palace Gardens. Unfortunately everyone else has discovered this place so i strongly recommend you either book ahead online or get there at 9.30 when it opens. Queues to get in were horrendous by the time |I left. If you want to see the Upper Palace – definitely book ahead. It was sold out for the full week when I visited and it is not even June yet!

Here are my personal highlights:

The interiors

The architecture

The tiles – was missing those from Lisbon! What is that lady thinking?

The Tapestries

The Palace Gardens

Portugal, Algarve, Portimão

Spent the day in Portimão which is about 40 minutes from Salema. It is of course a much busier place and where cruise ship terminals dock. We really enjoyed visiting the ten year old Portimão Museum which is by the waterfront. It is an old converted fish canning factory which takes you through the story of how the fish (mostly sardines) came in each day and was processed into cans. Really interesting and well done.

Then a walk along what looks like a new seafront and into the town which has a lot of apartments but also an impressive beach. In fact there are many beautiful beaches very close by.

And then a final dinner by the beach in Salema where we had fun watching the truck tow out the fishing boats.

Portugal, Salema – great walks, sea views and good food

The area around Salema is blessed with some wonderful walks and we did one yesterday that took us through forests with both skinny petrified like trees and then masses of lush green trees with wild flowers everywhere.

Then we ended up at a terrific view points with beaches in both directions. Perfect for surfing and you can make out all the surfers in the bottom left hand pic. Reminds me a bit of the Australian coast in parts – especially WA?

Such strenuous exercise meant we had to eat lunch at a nice restaurant – check out the size of these oysters – six for 10 Euros! And then the local speciality of cataplana which I shared with Daphne – prawns, port, chorizo, onions, peppers in a tomato based soup sauce. As for the two s’tuffed people”- they were at the supermarket and are all around the town we were in – kind of the Portuguese equivalent of the painted cows I think?

Portugal, Algarve, Salema

From Mykonos to the Algarve to stay with good Canadian friends Daphne and Mark and Marion and Gregg at a lovely villa they have rented on and off over the last few years. It is in a gorgeous spot overlooking the village of Salema and the sea. We started our first night with an excellent bbq (well done Mark and Gregg who also picked my up from the airport which meant I got to see a donkey and cart on the motorway!)

Daphne and Marion took me on an easy walk for my first morning – scenery and wild flowers were great and it didn’t rain.

In the evening we walked down to the village and ate traditional salt encrusted bream and sea bass right by the sea. And ok a few desserts too! Delish

Salema is a very small village although apparently getting busier. It is lovely to see the moored and immaculately kept fishing boats as the evening sun starts to wane.

Greece, Mykonos

It has been 30 years since I was last in Mykonos so I was interested to see how much it had changed. Obviously it’s busier but the charm of the place still remains. Wandering around the back streets is a must especially behind the harbour side. There is even a Louis Vuitton! Quietest time of day to walk around seems to be the afternoon but it starts buzzing from 7pm and most shops are open until 10pm and in summer midnight and beyond. The harbor side is exactly what you expect of an island in the Cyclades and everything feels “fresh” in May and the weather is perfect – not too hot at around 25 degrees but lots of sun.

I’m still a fan.

Stayed at a great hotel – My Aktis which had wonderful views over the top of Super Paradise Beach.

And an excellent meal at Kastros in Mykonos Tow

Crete, Knossos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Excited to visit Knossos which is between 3000 and 4000 years old. It was discovered by a Brit archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans in 1900 (using his own money) and he dug all this up (no doubt with some help from his friends) in four years. In those days they didn’t just preserve they also restored using modern materials – this would not be done these days. As a result some areas look much better than they were when found but equally some are a bit fanciful in respect of how he designed them and what he thought they were for. With the exception of the word Knossos which has definitely existed since the start all other names and references (even “Minoan”) reflect words that Arthur Evans chose to use. It takes about 90 minutes to walk around and strongly recommend you hire a guide for an in-depth understanding of what you are seeing.


Interiors including the throne Room and the Queen’s chambers (dolphins of course!). She also had the first ever flushing toilet system

Then on to the Archeological Museum where we kept the same guide. This is where you see more of the originals and it gives more context to what you’ve seen at Knossos. The museum was refurbed and reopened two years ago so is modern, well lit and easy to understand. The Minoans were very into bulls so I took some pics of different bull antiquities especially for my Taurean birthday pal Barbara – she said she was grateful for the bullocks!

I was very impressed with their ability to make trinkets that are so realistic. They were so creative in a time when you have to wonder how they knew how to make these kinds of jewellery and pots and sculptures. They are lovely.

Then we saw an original fresco of the bull jumping sport that existed then – a male leaps over the bull in a somersault from its head to its tail. What the??? And also a squished skeleton because they put the in jars before rigor mortis set in!

Finally some original frescoes including “La Parisienne” so named by Arthur Evans because she looked like the French ladies of his time. Of course she is not French!

Greece, Crete, Spinalonga

Went down to the waterside of our local village Plaka and took the ferry over to Spinalonga – all of ten minutes.

We then walked around the island which was first a Venetian fortress and more recently used as a leper colony until 1915. The colony was paid for by the Greek government and people appear to have been well looked after but they were isolated from their families and friends although it seems people did marry and have children on the island during those dark times. It is a very photogenic place from just about every angle.

Lots of opportunities for a bit of posing too:). And great to be spending time with my mate Emma