Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Seville Takeaway Thoughts & Tips



SUN. 
HEAT.
BURN. 
SCORCH.

Do not underestimate the heat. Even if I hail from the sunny tropical country of the Philippines, I’ve only experience up to 38 degrees C. Seville’s hottest was at 42. It was just four degrees higher but felt like so much more. On a good note, the heat is just that – heat. In the Philippines, the heat comes with humidity.

No shade to hide

I got tanned in Seville.  
I had an umbrella with me but I just couldn’t take the heat anymore. I caved in and bought a folding souvernir umbrella which costs €9,50.

There's the umbrella. Had to get it out of the way for this photo.

Taaaaaaaan! Red-orange it is!

Food is a lot cheaper compared to Madrid and Barcelona.



A centrally located hostel can serve as a refuge for travelers during the hottest hours of the day. When I decided to take a break from roaming around, I went back to the hostel and found that all of my roommates are there – seeking relief from the heat. Ah, aircon, the greatest invention ever.



Hostel Review: Hostel Trotamundos, Seville, Spain



Seville is a pretty walkable city. I chose Hostel Trotamundos for its location, and I was able to book a room without a downpayment. I took a cab from Seville Santa Justa station going to the hostel – cost around € 7. The hostel is also accessible by bus, but I didn't feel like walking a lot at that time - I was getting tired from the heat and the whole trip. Read: Nakakatamad.
 


The hostel was just average for me. Stayed here for three nights. A bed in a female dorm with 6 beds costs €16 – with breakfast! Really cheap dorms in Andalucia.




Tripadvisor reviews says that the rooms and big and spacious. I don't know where the big and spacious rooms are but it is not Room #10. I found the room was actually quite stuffy, just average size, but kept clean.

 
The nice thing about the room is having airconditioning. It can get really hot in Seville during the afternoon so going back to the hostel for some afternoon siesta in an airconditioned room is essential. Warning: there is no lift, so prepare to haul your luggage in the 2nd floor using the stairs. I also heard the footsteps and slamming dorms from the other rooms during the night. Well, it is still a dorm.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Food in Seville



Food in not-so-major cities are way better. 

A set lunch in a restaurant in one of the side streets cost me €8,95. Relatively inexpensive, I would say. And very tasty too. This is their version of Adobo. I don’t know if this is authentic enough or what. It tastes like paella and lacks the soy sauce flavor. Then again, soy sauce is an Asian thing.




The desert is some sort of sweet sticky white rice. Like kakanin-ish. I didn't like it.



I didn’t have the energy to go out for dinner during my first night in Seville. The travel stress and homesickness caught up with me. I shopped for some supplies for both snacks and dinner (the loot cost €7,25) and ordered chicken wings at Mc Donald’s €1,90. I assembled my meal at the hostel. Sometimes, you just gotta let the tiredness win over finding the perfect food.

simple "home-made" dinner

A Dance and a Palace: Flamenco and Alcazar



I had a blast with the sunset tour and the morning-lunch tour. I was willing to give my money and time for the Flamenco show. Initially, I did not want to watch one because I felt that it was too touristy. Something like the Aspara show in Cambodia – something nice to do do but you can skip it. I learned that most of the people in the tour were thinking of joining so we kinda felt that we already did two tours together, why not do another one?

Our tour guide gave the name and address of the bar. We showed up there are the required time and someone took us to the alleys of Seville to a small bar. The bar was pretty small and it kinda reeked of alcohol and smoke (well it was a bar, I reckon). There was a small stage and monobloc chairs was set-up for the audience. It took a long time before the performers arrived – we waited for an hour, I think.




The flamenco originated from the Andalucia region of Spain, specifically in Seville – as I learned from the morning-lunch tour. The gypsies settled in Seville and gathered by the fire, and boom…flamenco was born.

The show was long – I think it was more than 30 minutes to an hour – I didn’t notice as I immensely enjoyed it. IT WAS AWESOME.



There were only four performers – and each one rocked their role!

 
Yeaboy!
 

I only knew flamenco as a type of dance, something akin to ballroom dancing with a lot of taps into it. This flamenco performance was mind-blowing.
 
The full effect of that skirt....


Monday, July 29, 2013

Seville Architecture: Streets + Plaza + Cathedral = Sunburn



Here's another photo-packed blog entry.

I arrived in my hostel around 3:00PM. Settled my stuff, got some maps and headed out to the neighborhood to explore the place.

I stepped outside the quaint street of Seville. It was hot.
I know that’s a pretty lame description of the place, but at that time, that’s the most memorable attribute I remembered. 
 
A leaning building
 
I included Seville because I basically followed the itinerary suggested in Why Go Spain (I used the same guide when I planned the Italy leg of my EU I trip). Seville is an architectural delight to the eyes. I knew that immediately when I explored the streets.

 
My main issue now (aside from surviving the scorching weather) is asking someone to take my photo. I’ve had a travel buddy for two weeks so I was able to explicitly direct and review my shots.

 
This wasn't the angle I wanted. But I had limited options.

After a long late lunch and a trip to the groceries for my snack supply, I walked back to the hostel to enjoy some airconditioning before the sunset tour. Do not underestimate the value of airconditioning.

I was the only Filipino in the tour. This wasn’t surprising. I haven’t met any Filipino in any of the walking tours that I’ve joined. I’d be lucky if I meet anyone from South East Asia in the group.  Beware of any “spoilers”. 



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Granada Takeaway Thoughts and Tips



The train from Madrid to Granada costs €20,50 and takes 4.5 hours. The ride had picturesque views, so don’t sleep all the way. I booked via the Renfe website after I got my Schengen Visa from Spain. 


Sights

The Mirador de San Nicolas is the best viewpoint intown. Since it is a viewpoint, it is located somewhere above ground level, which means you have to walk uphill all the way there. Be prepared walking under the sun, bring water and sunglasses, and don’t expect to find a lot of toilets along the way. Expect to somehow get lost on your way up there.
 




I strolled around the streets of Albayzin after my late lunch when I arrived. 




Hostel Review: Granada Backpackers



I’ve learned how to streamline my hostel selection process. As long as the hostel is safe and centrally located, I will consider it. Granada Backpackers was an easy choice because of the raves in Tripadvisor. 
 
Awesome place to hang-out


I stayed in a 6-bed female form for two nights - Cost per night is €20,99. Beds are cheap in the not-so-city areas of Spain. 
 




The apartment had a kitchen. This is actually awesome for a family.




 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Food in Granada: I Tried To Find Tapas and Failed



Two weeks in Spain is bound to take a toll on your digestive tract. The meat made me bloated. Ugh.

Since I was doing Granada alone, I had no food adviser with me and I had to scout around and order stuff for myself. Granada is one town where you order your drink, and the tapas come along with the drink, for free! I did my homework. The hostel did not suggest any specific place to try.

Now, the thing to note is that some placed are closed during daytime (and their daytime is until 7PM during the summer). I tried to find a #1 restaurant in Tripadvisor fully determined to try our their cuisine but I found their place closed at 7PM, they open for dinner at 9PM. Being a slave to my appetite, I settled for a Burger King instead. Hindi ko na kaya maghintay ng two hours. Hindi ako nagtatrabaho para magutom no.

Dinner at Burger King € 3,95. I enjoyed eating all those greens. After more than a week of sampling meat, my intestines can use something healthy. 

I ordered the happy meal for kids. Don't judge me. I had it my way!
 Those are apple bits.



Dessert at Haagen Daz € 4,90. The Haage Daz ice cream parlor already closed in the Philippines. And yes, my dessert is more expensive than my meal.




Lunch at a resto upon arrival €16,70. Nothing worth remembering. The photo did not evoke any memories.

Meh-level risotto


Alhambra at Day, Alhambra at Night



Alhambra is a palace fortress located in the region of Andalusia, Spain. Alhambra is the reason why tourists flock Granada. I learned about Granada from one of the Europe threads in Pinoyexchange. Reading forums is one of my primary sources of adventure planning.

I purchased tickets right after I was granted the Schengen visa by the Embassy of Spain. I bought tickets using this website. There are two types of tickets: the day ticket and the night ticket. Due to the popularity of the Alhambra, I got both: The day ticket costs € 14.30 while the night ticket costs € 9.30.   




Buying the Alhambra tickets requires you to plan your trip on the day of the visit. The Alhambra grounds are vast and it requires hours of walking to go around - you have to plan how to explore this. The most visited and “revered” part of the palace is the Nasrid Palce or Palacios Nazaries. Due to the volume of the tourists, the Nasrid Palace limits the entry of its visitors to 300 per hour to avoid the “depreciation” of the place.

You have to exchange the email confirmation for an actual ticket. You can do this via the La Caixa machines found all over Granada, or go to the Alhambra and exchange the tickets there. I tried to get the tickets using the La Caixa machines but it requires me to insert the credit card that I used - eh I used BPI’s e-card. So I just went to Alhambra earlier (you should be early anyway) and claimed my tickets there.



You can take a bus from Granada Backpackers or walk. I walked. I always prefer walking. It was a 30-minute walk under the sun, with the last 10-minute walk done uphill. There were signs but there wasn’t a lot of people in the ticket line.

And because the Alhambra is one of the most coveted tourist spots, I got an audio guide. The audio guide costs €6,50. It wasn’t really worth. I had to change audio guides thrice when I was exploring because it continuously died on me, the battery wasn’t fully charged. Better download an app and have your phone as guide during when exploring Alhambra.




I researched on the best way to explore the vast space of Granada. Forums and Tripadvisor advised that I start out with the Gardens in Generalife, then enter the Nasrid Palaces at around 1 or 2pm. I got a slot for 1pm. I had enough time to cover a lot of ground before that. 


Trying to cover that hideous audio guide


Friday, July 26, 2013

Sunbathing in the Streets of Granada



I had an entire afternoon and more than six more hours of daylight when I arrived in Granada. Granada a 4.5-hour train ride from Madrid. I had to ride a bus going to the town center and locate my hostel – cost €1.70. Riding the bus was easy, getting off the proper station was easy, but I had a bit of trouble trying to find the street. Granada Backpackers is located in Padre Alcover, a short walk away from Puerta Real.




I wanted to climb in bed and rest for a bit but it was too hot and the sun shining is just beckoning and calling me not to waste the day indoors. After getting acquainted with a couple of house rules, I grabbed a map and searched for a decent restaurant. The guy at the reception recommended that there are nice restaurants all around but none in particular. I ended up in a Tripadvisor-stickered restaurant which was just “ok” for me – for €16.70. Basta may laman ang tiyan.






I walked around to get a feel of the place before I enter the Alhambra the next day. I read trip reports that the town was pretty small and it can be covered in an hour. NOT. Not in a hot day and not when the cobble-stone paths are uphill.



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Madrid Takeaway Thoughts and Tips


Shopping in Madrid.

I bought a lovely pair of brown boots from one of the shops around Palacio Royal. The pair costs €90. The purchase qualifies for a VAT refund so I requested for a form. The lady spoke limited English, she really struggled with explaining me how to claim the VAT refund at the airport.



I tried shopping in Mango and Zara, the ever-so-popular clothing lines. I found their stuff still expensive. Sure, it is a tad cheaper if you buy in Europe vs. buying in the Philippines, but still expensive. I scored a faux leather jacket in Lefties for 20 euros.  


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hostel Review: U Hostel in Madrid, Spain



I chose the top-rated hostel in Tripadvisor at that time: U Hostel. A 4-bed dorm room, shared bathroom costs €21-23 per night, depending if it is a weekday or a weekend. 
  
The hostel has this bright lobby that welcomes guests. Our rooms were not yet ready when we arrived so we left our luggage and got some lunch first.  



It comes with a small amount of breakfast. You can upgrade to a full breakfast for and additional (€3, I think) but don’t bother. You can go get your breakfast somewhere else too.


 

We took the metro from Madrid P. Atocha station. Some metro exits have no lifts. Bummer.


Have patience. Sometimes, the lobby is so full of that you have to patiently wait for your turn to talk to the receptionists. They were always very kind and accommodating with our requests and questions. There was a lady who recommended us really good restaurants around the area.

The floor had six shower stalls, six toilet stalls and six (or more I think) sinks. Stalls are marked if for male or female. Water pressure and hot water supply are both excellent.
 



Be warned that this hall will be flocked with girls painting their faces and doing their hair a couple of hours during pubcrawl nights.  The hostel is famous for their pubcrawls that last until the wee hours of the morning. If that's your thing, you'll have the entire floor as your new friends.

The showers have ample room where you can hang and change your clothes. Before using the restroom, do check that there is toilet paper (sometimes, it runs out in the morning although they keep them well-stocked during the afternoon and evening).
 




The hostel has a drinking fountain per floor. I found this particularly convenient, I could save up on bottled water.



The hostel has a kitchen. You can put your food in the fridge and heat it up in the microwave. Label your food. Cooking is actually a good idea when you are travelling for an extended period of time. Cheaper, and your palate gets a break from all the oiliness of the food that you buy. Especially in Spain. The tapas can be “nakaksuya” (what’s the English of this?).









The rooms are well-lit and kept clean as well. Spacious too! Each bed has a personal plug (important!), reading lamp, and some shelf. The beds are also sturdy, so they don't squeak as much. The pillows and comforter are very comfy and cozy. Bring your own lock for the locker.



 



The movie room. We didn’t watch any movie, but I found this cozy. At night, the backpackers hang out here.





Wi-fi was weak and wonky during two afternoons and nights. I didn't like the "No food in the room" policy. I like munching at random hours. 





Overall, a pretty decent hostel centrally located in Madrid.
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