Serene and Colourful Córdoba

Friday 21 April

A very early start today as we had a train to catch before 8am. The hotel made us up a picnic each as breakfast is only served from 8am. We thought that was very decent of them. We caught our first taxi as it was still dark, the wind was gusty, and the case-dragging walk to the station would have been uphill taking about 30 minutes.

A short train trip while we enjoyed our picnic and the marvellous country side. We could not take our eyes off it. About an hour to Antequera, where we changed trains, and then only 30 minutes to Córdoba. We missed the second train as ours was a little late getting in and we only had 10 minutes to change platforms. As we discovered once before, in Spain if you miss your booked train you have to buy another ticket – even if it’s not really your fault!  They would argue that 10 minutes is not a long enough time to for us to leave for changing trains when we booked! Anyway, there was another in about 40 minutes and it only cost us 4 euros each.

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Ravishing Ronda

Monday 19 April

Up at 7am for breakfast and a 9am bus to Ronda, fortunately less than 10 minutes to the bus station. We are so impressed with the trains, and now buses. They are so efficient, always leave on time, everyone in the business is helpful. They simply work superbly and although I started off a bit nervous, with all sorts of ‘what ifs’ in my mind, I now have every confidence in the system.

The bus to Ronda took 3 hours, and held our interest the entire time. Neither of us did anything other than look out the window. The bus called at many small villages – probably about 10. They have to go into the village even if there is no one to pick up as people pay when they get on without booking, so it is really just like a suburban bus. The second half of the journey was so scenic, with long views across hills of olives, strawberry beds, wheat fields, and very high rugged mountains. It is a journey worth doing by bus, not train, as you get to see the country side just that much better.

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Cadiz – the oldest settlement in Europe

Monday 17 April

A walk to the Seville station mid-morning for the 11.09 to Cadiz. We noticed that kids were going to school – no Easter Monday holiday when the country takes the pre-Easter Holy Week (Semana Santa) off for multiple daily processions!  We met Jill and Dave on the station – they were off on a train to Malaga at the same time where they are to spend a couple of days before flying back to London. Only a 2 hour trip to Cadiz, and a 10 minute walk to our accommodation. Our first back packer place ever. It is called Casa Caracol. We are very impressed with the set up. It is clean, well appointed, a shared sitting room and a shared kitchen and dining room, with breakfast provided. No wonder it gets such accolades in Lonely Planet. Of course everyone is 50 to 60 years younger than us. But they are all very friendly and the staff are incredibly helpful. They had suggestions for places to visit and for food and we have tried them very successfully.

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Easter Saturday in Sevilla

The Alcazar

Today, the 15th, we had booked tickets for 10.00am for The Alcazar. It is the oldest Royal Palace still in use in Europe. As far as we could understand it is only used by the present King as his Seville base. Nothing of political import goes on there. We could have toured the royal apartments but the tours were booked out.
It originates from the 11th century and is now a world heritage site. It’s history is in line with that of Seville and there are still some parts of it which belong to the Islamic period. The Castilian conquest occurred in 13th century and they made changes to the purposes of the spaces but very largely left the Islamic architecture and decoration. As a result the Islamic nature of the building leaves the strongest impression on the visitor although the gothic changes are very clear.

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Seville

An early start today, Wednesday 12, on a 9.20am train to Seville via Madrid. A very long day, not getting to Seville until 7.30pm.  Although we were actually in a train for 5 hours to Madrid, then 2 1/2 to Seville, it was pleasant and relaxing. The second train was much newer, at times going as fast as 260 kph – the fastest we have travelled so far. We now begin our exploration of the south. We know we are going to find it quite different.

You may be a bit mystified by today’s feature image, but it is evidence of the place at which Christopher Columbus’s and our paths have finally crossed.

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Bilbao

We took 8 hours to reach Bilbao from Salamanca – on Sunday 9. We left Salamanca at midday and changed trains twice – once at Avila, and again at Palencia. It sounds a long time but it was really pleasant and we had a couple of hours waiting at the stations. We spent a great time looking out the window at constantly changing scenery – one of the good things about train travel. In the earlier part lots of olive plantations, vines, heavy cropping, wind farms, and fields of solar panels. The last hour into Bilbao was stunning with fantastic views each side as the train travelled through the mountains on a very twisting route. We had a compass and it was just amazing watching the way the train had to change direction 180 degrees a couple of times as the rail lines pushed through the rock. It is definitely one of those great train journeys of the world.

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