Monday, 26 May 2014

The Patios of Córdoba

If there's one thing that Córdoba is famed for, it's it's patios. Every year the inner courtyards of the city's traditional andalusian homes burst in to bloom and open their doors to the thousands of visitors who pass through during festival time. The patios competition is fierce with almost 60 of the 65 open patios competing in various categories. So come, walk with me through some of my favourite patios.
Keep an eye out for the next in my 'One day in...' series to see what I got up to for the rest of my flying visit to Córdoba!

Friday, 23 May 2014

El Garlochi, The Semana Santa Themed Bar.

My first attempt at finding this bar was a complete and utter failure. Of I went, my lovely girls in tow, to the address Lonely Planet had down and found nothing but a residential building. Cursing that damn book for the umpteenth time, we abandoned our search in favour of tapas and sangria in the nearest bodega.

Determined, I searched the bar on Google, and who came up trumps? None other than ever faithful Trip Advisor! New address scribbled in a notebook, it was Richard's turn to come on the Garlochi goose chase.
But praise the lord, we found it and, as promised by the reviewers, it was WEIRD AS! On an unassuming back street of the Alfalfa district, THE area of town to be seen in after dark, El Garlochi is a true marvel as Seville's only Easter themed bar (as far as I'm aware, anyway!).

Semana Santa (or Holy Week) is the lifeblood of Seville. Having experienced the fervour of the Holy Week Parades first hand (read about it here), it was strange to be catapulted back in that world of pained and sorrowful icons, heavy musk of incense and the sounds of the bands striking up - it was even stranger that this time it was on a social level.
Styled entirely with reclaims from disused churches, all of these icons and oddities once graced an entirely more sanctified corner of Seville. From their new homes in the nooks, crannies and corners of this tiny bar, they watch over the drinkers. Their sorrowful faces almost look at you with distain, like they are disappointed with you for choosing this path over something more holy. 
You would think that a place like this would be an exclusively tourist affair but we found entirely the opposite to be true. We got strange looks in the dim light not only from the statues but from the locals who prop up the bar and frequent the low slung tables, deep in hushed incense and spirit laced conversation (the liquor kind, not the holy kind!).
Jesus presiding over Richards neat vodka's right shoulder.

The drinks menu is limited to spirits or beer. There are two house special cocktails, the constituent ingredients of which are whisky and vodka, and are aptly named Christ's Blood and Water of Seville. Not wanting to stagger back to the bus, I opted for a CruzCampo, but do regret not giving one of the two concoctions a go. I also regret not asking for Jesus to turn some tap water in to a glass of wine for me - what's the point in him being in a bar if he's not going to show us his party trick?!

All in all, not the kind of place I would go for an evening drinking session, or even a quiet one to be honest. Would I return? Most probably not. Whilst it has its charms, it felt like we were treading on the regulars toes a little. A strange atmosphere with an even stranger decor - its one of the oddest places I've been in a long time, though, to my mind, there is no other city in the world where this bar would 'work' like it does.

Seeing is believing, a must visit if you're ever in town.

El Garlochi
26 Calle Boteros

Monday, 19 May 2014

One Day in Málaga.

When Rich came to visit, he flew to Málaga. Not only were flights more regular than those to Seville, the route was available from his local airport (Bristol) and the tickets were cheaper - an all round win! He arrived on a Wednesday night and I got the last bus to Málaga after work to meet him. With Thursday being a national holiday (weird I know), we decided to take advantage of my day off to explore the city before I introduced him to my new home town.

After a late night for both, we slept until we woke up - alarms are not for holiday!! Our bed in the Juanita Inn was particularly comfy, so by the time we ventured the 10 paces to the main shopping area we were just in time for an early lunch...whoops! Not a great start if you're packing a whole town in to a day. But perturbed we were not! We made a pit stop at the tourist office for maps and attraction opening times, before settling in a bar just around the corner. Deciding it was heresy to order anything but seafood whilst by the seaside, this was the resulting order.
So a garlicky chicken kebab might have snuck its way in too!

Over lunch, I said that we should set out a plan for the day. Richard automatically replied 'where are we going then?' Any one who knows me or has been on holiday with me knows that I'm a serial planner. Daily itineraries, down to where to eat and what time we should get the restaurant (I know, such a loser!!). However, as Rich had ridiculed my planning when I'd asked him about where he wanted to visit in Seville a few weeks earlier, I had made a conscious effort not to. When Rich clocked that I hadn't even looked at what there was to see in Málaga, he was slightly taken aback. Full of surprises me!

Paying the bill we wandered off in the direction of the cathedral which towered above a pretty restaurant lined, befountained square (I know its not a word, but now I've made it a word, SO THERE!).  
 'I think it must be this way..'
 In all its sunlit glory

Before we managed to find the entrance, we got side tracked by Málaga's finger painting maestro who positions himself right out side the gates.
...intrigued?! Check out my post on him here.

After paying our entrance fee (£5 for adults and a fairly sizable discount for students), we were greeted by some fairly fabulous plaster work, ornate icons and beautiful carvings in the choir area. Though many trip advisor reviewers complain about the entrance fee (some leave reviews to moan without even being inside) I think its vital to help preserve what you have to pleasure of viewing on your visit. That's what your entrance fee does people, so stop your whinging!!
We took a little stroll in the Cathedral garden afterwards which is home to a mix of fairly traditional sculptures with some modern installations. 
Next stop was the Alcazaba. Visit Málaga dubs it the most emblematic monument of the city and who were we to argue? It seemed like a solid enough recommendation to us. 

Right in the city centre, elevated on a series of levels, the Alcazaba was built before the Battle of Hastings even began! Testament to the Moorish past of Andalusia, the Alcazaba was built primarily for the protection of the city but secondly as an Arabic palace. With many tranquil patios to explore, walls to climb and unrivalled city views to capture on film, the Alcazaba makes for a nice afternoon wander. At only 2.20€ for regular entrance and only 60cents for students, the bottle of water that will be a much needed companion in the afternoon heat will cost you more than the wander!!
After a good couple of hours scaling the fortress, a beer was more than in order (mainly because we forgot the bottle of water for the hike!!). We stumbled upon a rather bustling bar on the nearest corner to the Roman theatre, being the only one with a free shady spot, we settled in for a quick drink. Then this guy came along:
Robert, the bar owner, who wouldn't stop talking long enough for the photo to be taken. 

A one man whirlwind, this guy is willing to give you his opinion after knowing you ten seconds...conversation gets deep and personal in a matter of seconds but his 'I've been there done that got the t-shirt and have the answer to everything but I'm not cocky' style made him instantly likeable. One pint turned in to two (hindsight tells us we should have gone for the 10€ beer jug) - You should defo pop in for some life lessons if you're around!

Next and last on the agenda was Picasso. Born in Málaga, he left when the city was a young man and never returned, though his work (in a purpose built museum no less!) and his childhood home stand as proud reminders of his seaside Andalusian roots! 
As a huge Picasso fan, the museum with its hall after hall of works was a treasure trove. Rich mainly went to appease me I think! We ended up playing a fun game of 'Name that painting'. Anyone who is familiar with Picasso will tell you that its often hard to distinguish what the hell it was supposed to be in the first place (no disrespect of course!). The names of works in the museum are mostly descriptions of the subjects so it was hilarious trying to identify them without looking at the tag first. Could be a game translated to many modern art galleries around the world. Whilst the art museum was a wonderful place, I found Picasso's family home and the exhibition hall attached a bore to put it nicely - stick with the main event and you won't be disappointed.

After another (slightly disappointing) fishy dinner which took us past sunset, we decided that we should probably see the ocean, as we hadn't set foot near the water all day. So off to the marina we went. 
 After circling the marina, lusting over the multimillion pound yachts and rolling our eyes at the horrendously overpriced restaurants, we turned the corner at the lighthouse to find ourselves at a near deserted Málaga beach.
 After sitting on the sand, listening to the crash of the waves and watching the cruise ships and fishing boats bob along, we decided it would be heresy not to order the famous BBQd sardines with and ice cold CruzCampo.
 Followed by a 1€ cornetto and a feast...
A round of drinks at 'Gin Tonic' bar formed the end of a perfect if packed day in the city. 10 guesses what this bar's principle tipple is. 
The bar staff are certainly gin experts, from the different low notes of the gin, to which is the best kind of tonic to put with it - they sure can teach you a thing or two! Word of warning...they don't speak a word of English! Best pointing fingers at the ready!


Saturday, 10 May 2014


Essential equipment for Feria, CHECK.
Now how the hell do I get that flower and comb to stay in my hair...?!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Malaga's Finger Painting Maestro

On our one and only day in Malaga, we crammed in a good many sights but for us none of those will ever be as memorable as this guy.
This is Malaga's finger painting maestro and he spends his day outside Malaga cathedral.
He paints with oils on glass and, for 10 euros, he will do you three finger paintings in three minutes. But these are not that kind of finger paintings that grace the fridges of many a proud parent or act as gifts to the nursery school teachers of the world, these, believe it or not, are master pieces.

He draws quite a crowd, sucked in, as we were, by his nature scenes that he creates in seconds.

Let the master show you how its done as he paints the pictures that now add a bit of magic to my desk.

And here are our finished masterpieces, soon to grace Richard's bathroom walls:
Aren't they gorgeous? 
The little bird in each of them is the symbol of the artist, like a signature I guess.
 Such a shame the little moon smudged!

We loved this guy - he does something different and has a genuine talent! Watching him paint our pictures will be something we remember for a very long time - one for the memory bank indeed. Definitely a highlight of our day!

To see the best of the rest, stick around, coming up soon will be our tips for making the most out of ONE day in Málaga.

Ciao for now,
With Love
From Andalusia!

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