San Sebastian/Donostia

 

It wasn’t the first, nor the longest stop on our holiday but it just might have been our favourite. I didn’t know a lot about it when I chose it as a stop off, and it doesn’t have masses of “must see” sights*, it’s simply a lovely place to be. It was quite astoundingly beautiful, surrounded by mountains, full of attractive buildings and fringed by golden beaches.

city and mountains

It might have been the gorgeous weather, or relief at having parked the car after a fairly relentless  drive. You might equate Biarritz with Belle-Epoque splendour and surfer hip but to me it’s a mass of giant lorries hurtling their cargo  to Spain and Portugal. Obviously we didn’t actually visit Biarritz, or Bayonne,  or straddling the border Irun; but their names flashed past as I gripped the wheel and followed the SatNav. Then when we reached San Sebastian a road close  to our hotel was closed forcing us to navigate old school style.  I was so pleased to have arrived that I didn’t even baulk at driving into the underground garage. Well not that much.

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after a quick wash and brush up at our hotel this was our lunchtime view

The previous few days in France MrS had been recovering from a lurgy so it was lovely to sit,  soak up the sun, relax  and enjoy lunch.

 

san sebastian starters

our starters at   La Perla

Two important lessons from that first lunch: one,  Spanish restaurants are not generally dog friendly,  and two, some “menu del dia” include a bottle rather than a glass of wine*.* Actually the last one could be a northern thing as I’ve never come across it on other visits.

We did find one dog friendly*** restaurant in San Sebastian, Kaxilda was a few blocks inland from our hotel and a little hard to find but very friendly and with some  nice vegetarian options.

With all that eating we had  lots of calories to walk off,  luckily San Sebastian is perfect for that, we walked along the paseo de la concha, headed east through the fringes of the old town and were amazed by the waves on the Rio Urumea,  surfers rode even bigger ones on Playa de Zurriola.

Next day we had a slightly more strenuous walk up to Monte Urgull

looking down from the top

beer with a view

and a little light refreshment

 

sun puddling

while DogS did some serious sun puddling

You can see from the pictures that there’s something for everyone, gorgeous sandy beaches, including one for surfers, grand shopping streets, the old town crowded around the port and delicious food. We didn’t get to try out any of San Sebastian’s Michelin stars and with DogS it was hard to fully experience the  pinxtos bars but we ate very well.

 

 

this little dog taking advantage of the spillages

tired B snoozing

meanwhile it’s all zzz from Dog S,  must have been a good walk

 

At the western continuation of Playa de la Concha, (Playa de Ondaretta)  you can board the  funicular which climbs up Monte Igueldo

from funicular

view from the funicular 

There’s a small funfair at the top, which was closed for the season. As well as the roundabouts and dodgems there was  a wooden roller which on first glance seemed  very tame, but then I looked at how closely it hugged the cliff and decided I was glad it was shut. There’s not a lot else up at the top but the views are gorgeous and it’s a popular spot in the early evening.

We took the beach  back into town, in the evening dogs are allowed to run free.

“it’s my ball”

And after that, it was time for a sundowner.

Salud! Osasun!

 

Until next time

Marina x

*there are good museums and cultural centres, just not as well known as the Guggenheim, Bilbao.

**we actually started to avoid “drinks included” menus

***by dog friendly I mean places where dogs can join their owners indoors, most places allowed dogs on the terrace.

(still) being European

Don’t misunderstand, I’ve nothing against the other continents, I’m just delighted that we’ve got a little reprieve and still belong to the EU and all the benefits that brings. We’re just back from a three week trip through France, Northern Spain and Portugal, taking advantage of DogStarke’s pet passport for what may be its last outing.

DogStarke on tour

(and a couple of friends she made along the way)

 

We all did lots of walking, and MrS and I did lots* of eating and drinking.

 

Discovered that we’d planned much of our journey along the ancient pilgrim routes

And visited lots of Cathedrals…..

 

I’d intended to blog as we travelled but we all know what happens to good intentions on holiday.

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Now I’m trying to get back into blog mode.

So this is just a taster,

Until next time.

 

 

                    Marina x

 

 

*too much in my case.

Alicante

It’s been a  bit dreich* today and so I ditched my plans to visit a local garden and remembered sunny times in  April instead. (Caught up on the ironing too)

Alicante.  Probably most travellers fly there to  reach  the  resorts of the Costa Blanca but that’s a shame. Our previous visit to Spain had been Seville,  a major tourist city full of world famous attractions but Alicante had plenty to occupy us.  We climbed up to the Santa Barbara castle, explored colourful streets,  ate and drank well. And even though  I didn’t brave a sea swim I enjoyed a paddle from El Postiguet beach.

There was a superb exhibition of treasures from Persia (modern day Iran)

And a fascinating municipal museum of Fogueres fantastic sculptures built by neighbourhood organisations then burnt in a festival of bonfires each June

I even managed to find a dress for a wedding next month.

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no this isn’t my dress but some topical branded whisky I found in El Cortes Ingles foodhall                           (wonder which one sells best………)

Before MrS retired  we did a certain amount of travelling for his work, often to places we wouldn’t have otherwise chosen, and because of that I’ve been lucky to visit some amazing places. This trip was a little like that, determined by time and available flights, but we had a really great time.

 

And the flight home was pretty spectacular

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Until next time,

Marina x

 

We stayed at the lovely Hospes Amerigo  

*Scottish word meaning wet and grey

Sevilla

Or as you may know it, Seville.  Fourth largest city in Spain, known (according to MrS) as El Sarten – the frying pan, due to its hot climate. Summer runs from May to October so we enjoyed a change from the wet and wind of home. Mmmmm, temperatures of 30 degrees, bright sunshine and warm nights, sandals, summer dresses and restaurants gently misting their outside terraces.

MrS even sat out on our terrace in shorts!

legs

they don’t come out very often!

It really was a short break but a predawn flight from Edinburgh helped  maximise our time. Mind you we didn’t feel so chirpy about that getting up at 4am.

It had been a while since we’d been to such a major tourist city so the queue for the Cathedral and the crowds inside were a bit disconcerting. Especially when you consider that it’s the biggest Gothic Cathedral in the world.  It was only after we’d visited that we read the guide book recommendation to avoid the worst of the queues outside by buying the joint visit ticket from St Salvador church, oops!

catherdarl 2

Cathedral with a tiny bit of the Giralda tower peeking out

 

So, magnificent though it is,  it wasn’t my favourite visit and we ended up giving the other “must see” site a miss; when we  arrived at the Real Alcazar we couldn’t face the queue winding around the block.

But we found some absolutely wonderful places to visit which were all but empty.

The Ceramics Museum in the Triana district, across the river from the Cathedral and Palace was once home to the ceramics industry and one former factory is now a beautiful museum.

 

The industry may have gone but tiles are still all around.

Another quieter but definitely worth visiting place was the Museum of Popular Arts and Culture it’s free to EU citizens  so our timing was good for that one.

Of course food and drink featured prominently

Seville was the home of the artist Murillo , we were able to have a close up view of two of his masterpieces* at the Caridad Hospital

the patio of the Caridad Hospital

On our last morning we admired more of Murillo and his great inspiration  Zurbaran at the Fine Arts Museum

 

Then we continued our “tradition”** of a last day long lunch at Taberna de la Albardero

 

…..followed by a visit to the church of St Salvador where we should have started out.

Three busy days and nights and plenty more to go back for.

nightscape

Marina X

 

*Murillo Close up – “The miracle of the loaves and fishes” and “Moses drawing water from the rock”

**we’ve done it once, maybe twice before

 

We stayed at the Hotel Inglaterra which has a great central position on Plaza Nueva, and our room had a fabulous terrace with views (breakfast pic)

We loved our first lunch at El Pinton in the Santa Cruz district and I would recommend the amazing tempura egg. (next to breakfast pic)

Cartagena

We sneaked away from the Easter snows and enjoyed a few days in the city of Cartagena. The one in Spain, though I’d like to visit the Colombian one too. What a fascinating place, inhabited for nearly three thousand years,  layers peel away,  almost literally in some cases* to display its history.

Now  MrS is the historian so I may get this wrong but New Carthage** has been Punic, Phoenician, Roman, Moorish and now Spanish. There are lots of museums where you can discover all this history or you can simply wander around the streets.

We did quite a bit of both…..

Here’s the Roman theatre where I practised my voice projection

roman theatre

“Can you hear me at the back MrS?”

And he could, those Romans knew a thing or two about acoustics.  Lots of money has been spent, and well spent, on interpreting Cartagena’s rich history.   I found the Roman

remains the easiest to understand of any I’ve visited. All around the city you can come across vestiges of the past,  Roman roads peeking through a square, villas hidden under a  modern street, temples, baths and workshops. Many reused over the centuries and then emerging again, the theatre once lay under the Cathedral, which was itself destroyed during the Civil War.

It’s not just land based history, there are museums of the sea, one the fascinating Museum of Underwater Archeology explores the objects lost overboard or otherwise to the sea over the centuries.  And you can also visit the one of the  first submarines at The Naval Museum although that’s one we had to leave for  another  visit.

We spent most of our time wandering around the city, it’s very walkable, but did take a morning out on the Feve train to Los Nietos on the Mar Menor.  I’d thought of having a swim or perhaps lunch beside this inland sea, Europe’s largest.

 

But.  It was closed. Well not completely, the yacht club, a restaurant  and one other bar was open, but the resort had a desolate air with houses shut up for the season and perhaps permanently? People must visit, the marina was full of boats, many of them very smart motor cruisers;  the beach was clean and being cleaned, we saw  a couple of women settling down for some sun there,  and there were others like us enjoying a stroll along the promenade.  But where was everyone else?  Over on the La Manga strip perhaps?  I don’t know, but we decided to head  back to Cartagena for lunch.

Ah lunch…..We stayed at The NH hotel Cartagena it was comfortable, very central and we had a terrace with a view of the Port. But we stayed on a room only basis so there was none of that filling up on breakfast to see you through the day. Instead we ate breakfast at cafes***

 

……….and had a stop for lunch in the early afternoon;  useful as shops etc tended to close over lunch time.  Lunch became progressively longer and more elaborate as the week went on…

Culminating in a  three hour lunch at La Marquesita  on Friday before leaving for the airport. Excellent food and great people watching too.

That lunch was superb but our best meal was dinner at Magoga.  The Blue Cheesecake being one of my top three puds EVER.

 

The dish on the right? Pork and smoked sardine, sounds odd, looks a bit brown? Tasted amazing.

Four days and we didn’t see everything, though we did our best to eat everything!

Until next time

Marina x

Version 3

 

 

 

 

 

*many historic 19th and early 20th century facades have been preserved, shored up, behind them empty lots waiting to be rebuilt or perhaps to reveal their pasts.

**those Carthaginians weren’t very imaginative when it came to names.

***actually that coffee in a glass, Cafe Asiatico, a Carthagenian speciality, was an afternoon treat, though we saw it consumed at breakfast.

 

We also visited Muram Cartagena’s museum of modern art in a beautiful modernist mansion the Palacio Aguirre.

Wondering about that spaceship like yacht? Sailing Yacht A

 

Las Islas Canarias

Well the ones I’ve been to anyway.

Last Christmas (2016) we flew off to Lanzarote to escape our renovation works at home. There we discovered the delights of mojo, wrinkly potatoes and its unique volcanic landscape.

 

This year (2017) we spent Christmas and New Year at home, having fun with lots of family and friends.

So after all the festivities we were ready for some sunshine, sightseeing, relaxation  and perhaps the odd night out…….

 

We were based in Garachico, in the gorgeous Hotel San Roque  

 

There was plenty of good food and drink

 

 

But we managed a few little strolls.

Walk sign

Some traditions are familiar

But presents come with The Kings on January 5th.

 

It was strange seeing these seasonal favourites growing outside

Poinsettia

 

And it wasn’t all sunshine

But it always came back

lily pond

 

We saw lots but there’s still more to explore.

map

And other islands too

graciosa form mirador

Until next time

Marina x

 

Tote bag in wine glass photo by Cara Morris at  CaraPrintsThings

We ate at :  Ardeola

Tasca del Vino

Canada de Garachico Espacio Gastronomico

Aristides

all in Garachico, and the

Cofradia de Pescadores

in Puerto de la Cruz. We also enjoyed meals at our hotel, high up in Teno mountains and indulged in cake and ice cream in La Laguna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lanzarote, part II

Around and about Arrecife

 

We’ve had cold and windy weather in Scotland and today it’s sleety too. So it’s no surprise that I’m looking back over my holiday snaps for a diversion. And is it a coincidence that while January thoughts so often turn to abstinence and diets,  many of my photos are of food?  And drink.

We started off on a high note at Lilium which fronts onto the new marina in Arrecife.

 

It was fun to have sunshine and warmth (even if a bit windy) at Christmas. We could have morning coffee outside, and on Christmas Day had a lovely long walk along the seafront. We needed it with all that food.

 

Of course we tried to eat healthily

healthy-brekkie

With varying success………….

 

And we did manage to squeeze in some culture…..

sightseeing

And one last lunch

 

Marina x

Places we liked:

Restaurante Lilium

Estrella del Charco

Bar Andalucia

The Altamar restaurant at the Gran Hotel

Casa Amarilla museum

The Contemporary Art museum at Castillo San Jose