A Travellerspoint blog

Chapter 65: Sunny Synopsis of Seville

sunny 16 °C

We were lucky to use Pedriana's phone to secure a cheap (half of a bus ticket) ride via BlaBla Car! (Rideshare app) We even offered to pay for the full car due to our large bags (usually a problem for these small european cars) but the driver was so happy to have anyone apply she declined our offer :) We got into Seville in record timing (under 3hrs) and she dropped us off a block away from our hostel. Once we set up we went off looking for a restuarant a friend had recommended but everything was closing!!! So much for Spaniards eating late! We also had forgotten Portugal is an hour ahead but it still felt weird how quiet the city was. We eventually found a little donar place and called it a night

Off to the walking tour! En route we ran into our guest Joanna with little Henry (her adorable pet prairie dog)! They were making big money sitting along the shop district with a sign indicating they were going to Mexico. We made plans to meet up later and found our tour along the Seville Cathedral; worlds largest Gothic cathedral and 3rd largest internationally.
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Highlights of the tour included:
Debates as to the real resting place of Christopher Columbus: Body moved from Spain to Portugal to Cuba and back to Spain and now either in main Cathedral or perhaps in a smaller cloister...or maybe in a jar over someones fireplace...he made a lot of friends but a lot of enemies over the years...
Walked thru the retired Tobacco factory (also the inspiration of Carmen as gypsy women mainly worked there with their tiny hands) which has been transformed into a university. On the other side was an old ditch to protect the coveted tobacco from annual floods (now controlled by modern tech) now inhabited by an adorable family of cats!
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Further on was the massive park packed with beautiful buildings from Spain's attempt to draw crowds during the Ibero-Amercian Exo of '29. Unfortunately this fell upon the economic crisis and the crowds never came and the structure was abandoned until later and now is in its full splendor and even used for movie sets such as Star Wars.
Once the tour ended we were invited to lunch with the group. Ariel tried the summer drink of wine with lemonaid and we all laughed along with the Hong Kong visitor who struggled to figure out how to eat his fish.

We liked the plaza so much that we actually went back for a better look. All of the states of Spain are represented with a beautiful mosiac and map and people were relaxing and paddling with kids thru the tini canal.
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We decided we had enough time to check out the inside of the Cathedral and we squeezed just enough time before closing. We were amazed by the epically huge dual organs and massive grave of “Columbus”. We trekked up the sloped spiral walkway of the ex miniret (all churches in Spain used to be Mosques during the Moorish reign and Muslum prayers are 5x a day so to save the prayer singer his lungs a donkey walked him to the top, hence the lack of stairs...only 17 total!) and were rewarded by a spectacular view of the city.
Tired but happy we dropped off our stuff and met Joanna and Henry for dinner. The waiter was very surprised to have a such a strange visitor at his patio.
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Following day we met up with a friend we made in Belgium, Alejandro, and Joanna and Henry. We had heard about a local market that brought locals jewels and junk to the streets. Our local friend Alejandra had never been so it was new for us all. Kev found a cheap sweater for the road trip and Henry was getting attention left right and centre! People were leaving their stalls to figure out what this creature was and all Joanna could translate was his Spanish name so Alejandro did some translating until he got hidden in his bag so we could explore in peace.
Once we got out of the crowds we found the “worlds largest wooden sculpture” which was a huge mushroom-esque modern structure built atop of (more) Roman ruins. Henry was allowed to roam on his leash and we wandered back into the smaller streets where more people left their work to gawk and question us. Such a celebrity! Eventually he got a little cranky and Joanna had to buy him a new bag as he had chewed thru the old one. A break for beers calmed him down and we wandered along the river and across to the other side of the city where life was more relaxed.
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That evening we prepared to embark on our next crazy adventure which was...

Posted by Kev n' Ariel 03:42 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Chapter 64: Faro, Portugal (Workaway #2)

sunny

We arrived in the tiny city of Faro, the capital city of the Algarve region by bus and were warmly greeted by our new family. We could instantly tell we were going to enjoy working for Cristiana and Pedro. They were incredibly friendly, trusting, chatty and a little goofy. They also wanted to make sure that we were staying over Xmas so they could leave their “baby” with us! Diogo, one of their few paid staff and local student was also eager to show us the ropes and 5 other workaways invited us into the mix and gossip of the hostel. Mikel from France was leaving the next day but had started the hostel veggie garden; Jasmir and Vanessa from Austria had another week and had huge smiles; Martina from Italy was with us 2wks and was very outgoing and our life saver many times as she was the only worker/helper (Cristiana preferred this term) who spoke any Portuguese! And Anni from Finland. Anni arrived the same evening we did and despite saying she would only stay a few weeks stayed the whole month with us! We had a blast together and survived all the craziness of the hostel. But it was really hostels...4! Pedriana (as we liked to call the hosts) had taken over the 4 buildings only a few years ago and taken on workaway helpers just recently so they were always game for feedback and ideas for how to improve the houses. The main hostel where we slept and worked reception most days was just steps from the bus station which also provided us with many walk-ins. The houses were old but decently furnished and only suffered water cuts once in a while. We were also around the corner from the harbour and the town centre. It got to the point that whenever we left the main house, we would run into someone we knew.
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One of our first and ongoing jobs was painting. There was an awful orange colour someone had painted the hostel and it had to go. So did the mold in the bathrooms. Long-term fixes didn't seem a priority for Pedriana as they had bigger plans of buying a nicer, single building around the corner. So convincing the health inspectors we were mold free was fixed with water based bulk bins of paint. Not ideal for the non-ventilated rooms.

Another was reception. A little daunting at times as many guests were Portuguese and not all handy with english...during our stay it became apparent that the locals are not always pleased when visitors do not know their language. Juggling the 4 buildings with ongoing projects and demanding guests was also an interesting task at times but we always found a solution. Otherwise it was a very slow if not a boring job. Most times we were stuck entertaining the few long-term guests. Our most colourful guest, Cesar 1, was the most feared. He was hated by all the workaways whom he was usually rude or offensive towards and paid EVERY morning for the next night. He especially loved arriving when Anni was working reception and tell her he had “important plans” he had to attend. Otherwise lots of tea, reading or browsing the internet was available.

Cleaning and making beds was sometimes our responsibility. Was a bit hectic sometimes when keys were not labelled properly or missing. Most annoying was when it rained! With no dryer it made it very hard to get fresh dish towels etc.

These minor complications or annoyances were always overwhelmed by so many great interactions, and family dinners. We met many friendly guests, mostly from Europe and were extremely lucky to have eager friends at the hostel who were eager to cook, especially a long term guest, Cesar 2, a chef and overall handy-man who made KILLER bacalao.

The rooftop had a pretty decent view but it only had a few plastic chairs, a few couches and rolled up fake turf. We knew it had potential and made it our mission to make it a hang-out spot. It took forever, being dragged away by reception and guests etc, but we managed to strip 1 couch and apply pieces of pallets to it. Kev made a full coffee table and side table out of pallets too! We were able to mostly pin town the turf and were quit pleased with the results. If we had more time we were tempted to install a mini golf course, but I guess we had to leave something for the next workaways.

Despite it's size, Faro had some gems. First the food: There was a drool-inducing burger place right behind us as well as a killer allyoucaneat sushi joint. Around another corner from us was the “yellow house”. Weird to explain to guests as it literally had no name but as it was painted yellow was the best name for it. Cheap Portuguese food, and only open for dinners it was a popular place to eat and drink big pitchers of sangria! In the same square was our favourite place for live music, Diatura. They always had great local music and really knew how to fill up a wine glass!
It was quiet impressive on the weekends how busy it got at night. If you started dinner around even 8pm though you were incredibly early. But by midnight the bars would be packed, mostly with Erasmus students.
Activities in Faro: Our favourite spot by far was Fabrica dos Sentidos, or the Factory of Feelings. In a small industrial zone across the train tracks a building had been taken over and re-made by artists. Now run by performance artist Matos, it was an open gallery/studio/bar/book share/used clothing/dj room! Ceiling to floor was used and the cheap drinks and cool people kept us coming back. O Castello, a swankier restaurant, hosted free Fado's on mondays which we attended and joined a hilarious group of travellers one night.
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Christmas holidays was crazy! We thought our days running the hostel with only Anni would be pretty relaxing but they were busy! We had a few guests in and out (many people flying out of the city) and a few long-term guests so we had to sweep thru the 4 buildings and someone always had to be covering reception. Most guests we had staying in the main hostel but then on x-mas eve, eve the main kitchen wall lost electricity...ergo the hot water boiler, fridge and microwave. We were able to re-arrange the fridge and micro but was another week until we could get hot water again. X-mas eve was still a success though! We had the holiday off and we decided to make it a beach day and try hunting for clams with Anni. Our poor fisherman skills did not pay off. We were too late for the tide and opted for beach beers and pretzels. We got back and started to cook and drink (sans clams). Afterwards we had heard of a potential pre-party at our favourite venue, the Fabrica. As always Matos was at the door to let us in but there was only 1 light and 1 guest there- our guest! Big kiwi Warrick. We had a great few hours chatting and having more drinks as Matos let us use the bar and we eventually left for some more lively entertainment. We found the bar behind the hostel with an ecletic band and a handful of guests but we weren't keen to stay long. Anni was determined to keep up as the 24th is much more celebrated in Finland. We woke up and made a nice breaky, dragging zombie Anni with us. We let her go back to sleep and started to cook for dinner and skyping home. Kevin was set on making stuffing (sans turkey) and it turned out great! Anni tried making a Finnish version of mulled wine, Groggi, but she was very upset with the results. Carlos arrived with a Brazilian chicken veg/fruit/mayo/ salad dish and Warrick made a nice salad with beetroot. 20151218_162119.jpg
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Days off: One was spent exploring the neighbouring town of Loule with Anni. Only an hour away on bus, Loule was a sleepy town with tons of cork stores and old crumbly buildings. Wasn't the most spectacular town but we were entertained by their tiny “dried fruit” museum.
Another few days were spent wandering around Faro Beach watching surfers or taking a ton of photos for holidays cards.

New Years Eve was full of beaches and drinks! We spent the day going out with Anni and Warrick to the Desert Island a short ferry ride away. It is uninhabited except for a restaurant that is operated nearly in the mdidle of the island. The beaches are long and filled with oodles of seashell treasures. Anni and Ariel were stopping every few steps to pick up and examine a new one. We enjoyed a picnic on a sand dune before heading back for a quick nap. Once awake we had our regulars and Pedriana over for a big dinner :) We got out a few minutes before the countdown and followed the music of a 80s cover band. We squeezed into the crowd of what seemed the entire population of Faro and we almost ran out of time to unwrap our champagne in time to pop it at midnight! After lots of hugs and dancing we found the rest on top of the roof and shared more champagne. We ended up back in Fabrica which was filled with music and friends.

We were sad to see Anni leave a few days before we did but it gave us the time to finish the roof! By the time we left the hostel was very quiet and Pedriana were expecting another large group of workaways. We still hear from them and they miss us all so much as the new group is not as they don't “click” as well or have big family meals. It was time to move on though and embark on our next adventure...
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 01:57 Archived in Portugal Comments (1)

Chapter 63: Caves

overcast 12 °C

Next day we were keen to learn about the many cave dwellers just outside the city we had spied from our walks. En route we found our breakfast in front of a church...local xmas treats!
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We found another free tour and our guide was very passionate and also enjoyed telling us old myths on the walk up. Such as the old man who lives under the bridge and gives away wishes ever 100yrs, or the original guide of Granada who wore traditional outfits and had many literature written after him. Once higher up he started to point out many well established “caves”. You would never tell from the outside as these many houses and restaurants looked very secure and large. Higher up, the caves became more obvious and around the curve of the mountain a more communal lifestyle emerged. Originally settled by slaves after the Christian conquest, then developed by journeying gypsy groups, it is now an amalgamation of people who wish to escape to a more basic lifestyle. However, if you take a holiday you may find someone has moved into your cave while you were away! Unfortunately, being “off-grid” means this community has had an ongoing battle with the city. Each year the police have dragged people out of their homes and walled them up. However, everyone moves back in and now the police have started to become more lenient of their peaceful lifestyle. The only major threat now is landslides...thus the planting of cacti is very popular to secure the soil. We waved at people eating their meals amongst their gardens and children with cats.
Once the tour ended we enjoyed more beer and tapas with our small group and swapped travel stories and horrors.

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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 10:59 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Chapter 62: Magical music and views

semi-overcast 12 °C

We were lucky enough to have Dorien and Wim drive us into Granada as they also had plans to visit friends there. We were dropped off at a campsite we had rented rooms in and we immediately hoped on the bus to explore the city which was bout 15min away.
Was a great day to walk around! Beautiful sunshine and an amazing city. We immediately found a bar that had a gypsy band playing up the street then up, up, up enjoying many different views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada's. We finally got hungry and, as the city is famous for, enjoyed beer with different free tapas! Once we walked back down, we got to the old retired bull ring and found more tapas! Wahoo! Finally full we eventually found our bus (no number, 1 stop?!) and went to bed.
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Next morning, while we waited for the bus outside the campsite, a nice older couple offered to drive us in the city, was perfect as we got a nice walk through a park on the way to the walking tour. As usual, we enjoyed another local explaining the history of the city. One of the last remaining Moorish cities in Spain, we started at it's centre, where it hosts a Catholic church across from a Moorish hammam, or bath house (ceiling still intact!). We also enjoyed entering an old Turkish house of a government official and a hostel that was built around one of the original city walls with amazing views.
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We kept climbing, seeing the many Moorish wells, and Carmens along the way (big gaited properties with gardens). We stopped at the top where a gypsy market was underway and a church stood across from the first modern mosque (took extra long to build as they found old ruins when they broke ground...typical european problems!). We ended our journey in one of the Carmens, a house complex offered to International Professors...lucky ducks.
Hungry again, we ventured into the Jewish Quarter tucked along the other side of Alhambra and enjoyed a list of tapas. Among the crowds musicians as well as flamenco performers. So much talent!
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 10:41 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Chapter 61: Working at Casa el Algorrobo

Workaway #1

We were extremely happy to have had Dorien and Wim accept us for our first workaway. For those who have not heard of workaway, it is an online membership to find volunteer work for ANYTHING and for the work you get accomodation and usually some meals provided. Kinda like WWOOFing.

From the beginning our new hosts were incredibly friendly, if not a bit crazy, by picking us up at the airport!
The work load varied, some days longer than others, but they were was always fair in how much time off they gave us. When we first arrived we actually stayed in the city of Malaga and got to explore and do some sanding in the very central apartment. A cute city with the cheapest pizza (1,50euro... per pizza, not per slice!), the home town of Picasso and Antonio Banderas! A very inspirational city for artists which was why during the terrifying reign of Franco it was continuously bombed even though he had won the city...thus many of the main buildings have been re-built. It also hosts a large beach and a new harbour. Unfortunately Malaga is also easily flooded as it only rains a few days in the year. They have a bridge that is still maintained by the Germans as the locals saved a ship of sailors who nearly all drowned after a huge storm!
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Once we got to the bnb we met their mostly Belgium guests, who were all very friendly and only there until the end of the week. For the next 3 weeks it was just us and the animals, with many trips to Malaga to work on the apartment (super old and in need of many renovations...fingers crossed they get their elevator installed as they are 8 flights up!!! The view is worth it though.).
We felt very comfortable at their b&b and also really enjoyed the company of their many pets. Lola, Iko (both adopted stray dogs) Dumpy the cat (dumped on their property and never left), 10 chickens and 6 donkeys (we forgot their names but 3 were driven from their old home in Belgium!) to be precise! They used to work in a bank but they tossed their suits and started their business in the much more relaxed setting of southern Spain. Their bnb has been very successful (making delicious meals and keeping the property in ship shape) and even won a Belgium bnb reality show competition!
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Since their b&b is in the campo (countryside), we were very happy to be offered accommodation at their apartment in Malaga on some of our days off. They also took us out to the bar in Riogordo (closest town) a few times and made sure that some things we ordered online got picked up there.

Two of our days off included a visit from our backpacking friends that we originally met in Prague! The first visit was Lauren and Matty who we shared many drinks with and sunset at the beach. We also walked around the old ruins of the Moorsish walls and castle of Alcazaba.
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The second was our kiwi friend Renee. We did a lot of walking around the city and up to the viewpoint by the old Moorish walls. We enjoyed free flamenco dancing in the evening as well :)
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Posted by Kev n' Ariel 09:29 Comments (0)

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