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Getting up early to see the Mezquita

Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 06:15 pm from Spain Spain
Day 166

Never one to turn down a way to save money, I got up early this morning so I could make it to the Mezquita by 8:30am when they open the doors for an hour for free admission. Otherwise, It's 8 euros to enter and walk around the mosque-turned-cathedral.

Getting out early was definitely worth it. First, I went and got a few shots of the tower at sunrise from a few spots and then entered the Mezquita. The original mosque was started in 784 and then in 1236 it was converted into a cathedral. Elements of the original mosque are still present and mixed with the christian cathedral. It's a really cool mix of architecture and design.

The entire cathedral is covered in these really cool brickwork arches that make for some really cool views when you see a bunch of them in the distance. I walked around for about 45 minutes taking photos and admiring the views before heading back to the hostel to eat breakfast and get some coffee.

I hung out at the hostel for a couple hours and then set out to look for a few places I was recommended to see. The first was a local artists coop that sells prints from artists all over Andalucia. I didn't buy anything but I think I'll go back later tonight when it's open again (crazy Spanish hours) and pick up a piece of artwork for home.

I was getting pretty hungry and the map I've been using mentioned a place to get some really good hotdogs. Hotdogs seem to be pretty popular down here and most places sell tiny ones as tapas. This place, Lucas bar, supposedly has the best. I went and ordered the perrito completo (mustard, mayo, ketchup and onions) and a cana (25cl beer). The bun isn't a normal bun, but more like a baguette cut in half and then a hole drilled in the middle and it's jammed on these heating rods. All of the toppings are put in there with the hotdog. It makes for a pretty compact and easy to eat meal. I'm not a fan of mayo or mustard but figured "when in Rome". It ended up being pretty good.

After that I went to a local winery called Bodegas Guzman that sells €1 glasses of their local Montilla Moriles wine. I had a glass then decided to get a small tapa with my second glass. I wasn't really sure what to get so I randomly picked chorizo al vino (spicy sausage cooked in wine). It was really tasty. After those two glasses I left to go back to the hostel. Along the way I made one more detour into another place giving away free tapas with each drink and got a "tubo" (33cl) of beer with some patatas bravas.

Being sufficiently stuffed and a bit tipsy I came back to the hostel for a mini siesta. I showered, answered some emails and watched some shows on my computer. I'll probably head out again in an hour or so to check out the art store again and then get something light for dinner.

I was originally planning on heading to Granada tomorrow but after doing more research yesterday, it's a huge pain in the butt to get everything done in one day. The bus would get me into Granada around noon, but the tickets to the Alhambra are only morning or afternoon, so I'd have to either rush to the Alhambra for the morning admission or feel rushed at the end of the day to get through it and to the bus if I chose the afternoon admission. I'd rather go there when I can spend a few days to explore the city and not feel rushed the whole time.

Now that I have an extra day here, I'm not sure what I'll do. There are still more things to check out so I'll probably just wander around town tomorrow sampling tapas and more wine and drinks. Not a bad way to spend the end of my trip!
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Arches in the Mezquita
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The bell tower at sunrise
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Part of the old mosque in the Mezquita
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Barrels of Montilla Moriles wine at Bodegas Guzman

Cordoba's Jewish Quarter, Giant Tortillas and Tiny Streets

Sunday, December 8, 2013 @ 06:09 pm from Spain Spain
Day 165

The hostel has a bucket of oranges and a juicer sitting out every morning so today I made myself some fresh squeezed orange juice with my breakfast. I mostly worked until around 11:15 when I headed out to do some exploring.

First up was the Pepe Espaliu art center. He was a modern artist from Cordoba who worked with paintings as well as sculptures. The museum was free so I figured I'd check it out. It wasn't too big but there were some interesting works there.

Next, I followed one of the suggested walking routes through the Jewish Quarter. There's an old synagogue there where you can go in for free and see some of the remaining 14th century synagogue. It was a pretty small building but fortunately there weren't too many people in there. Some of the designs were very intricate and looked really nice.

There's also a really cool artist plaza with all kinds of local arts and crafts for sale. I'm going to head back later in the week and possibly get some souvenirs to bring back home. The walls of the plaza are all lined with flowers sitting in blue buckets. It's a pretty cool sight to see.

The walking route went around some of the old walls of the city then I cut back toward the Mezquita since I was getting hungry. I read about this place called Santo's Bar that makes some giant tortillas (the spanish potato omelette). It was way too packed inside to try and take a photo of one of the full tortillas but imagine a slightly smashed basketball and you'll get an idea of the size of them. The slices you order for 2 euros come like slices of cake. I ordered a slice and some vino rioja and ate on the wall of the Mezquita like all the locals do.

After that I went and sought out the smallest street in the city. At it's narrowest point it's as wide as a handkerchief at 74cm (which is why it's known as Handkerchief Alley). It leads back to a very tiny plaza with a small fountain and an orange tree.

I aimlessly walked around some more before heading back to the hostel for a mid day break and to have a small lunch (since the tortilla was pretty filling). I answered some emails and then went back out to check out a few more sights. One was supposed to be a really nice view of the belltower through a small flower lined street but the timing wasn't right and the sun was in the way. I'll have to go back later since it looks like it really will be a good view.

After that I went down to the Puente Romano and walked across it for some great views of the bridge with the Mezquita in the background. The bridge was a little busy but nothing like the Charles bridge in Prague.

I'm planning on getting up early to get to the Mezquita by 8:30am since it's supposedly free entry between 8:30-9:30. Getting up early will save me 8 euros so that's good! Since I'll have to get up earlier than normal I probably won't do much tonight, which is easy since most places are closed on Sundays and people generally don't go out as much.
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Synagogue in Cordoba
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Blue flower buckets everywhere
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Everyone eating their giant tortillas (potato omelette) from Santo's Bar
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Mezquita from across the Puente Romano

Walking all over Cordoba

Saturday, December 7, 2013 @ 07:52 pm from Spain Spain
Day 164

I went out with some people from the hostel last night for tapas and drinks. I was starving by the time we left at 9pm. We went to a few different places and one of them gave free tapas with each drink which helped put some food in my stomach. We got back around 1:30am and I went to bed pretty easily.

Unfortunately this morning people started packing up and leaving starting around 6am and it seemed like a constant stream every 30 minutes of people packing up their bags. I couldn't fall back to sleep so I got out of bed around 8:30 for breakfast.

After eating I went out in search of grocery stores to buy some food for the next couple of days. I ended up getting a few items for lunch and dinner so I won't go hungry for the next few days. I came back and had some pea soup with bread. It was still really nice out so I went and explored some more. Cordoba has a Use-It guide like some of the other cities so I went on one of the walking routes they suggested. It took me through some really nice older parts of town called the Parish of San Pedro.

I came back to the hostel and watched a TV show on my computer then started talking with some of the other people that showed up in my hostel room. I think we'll try to get a little group together and go out for some more tapas and drinks tonight. I wanted to make sure I had something in my stomach so I had some tortellini just to hold me over before 9 tonight.

Checking into Cordoba, Spain

Friday, December 6, 2013 @ 07:23 pm from Spain Spain
Day 163

I didn't sleep too well last night since the guy above me was snoring like crazy and then peoples alarms were going off starting around 7am. I had some coffee with breakfast then hung out at the hostel, ate lunch and then about 11:45 I left for the train station.

I have to say that I enjoyed my stay at La Banda Rooftop Hostel. Even though there was a snorer the last few nights, the hostel itself was really cool. The 4 guys who own it are always around and really helpful with everything. The food they cook is always great and it's an excellent way to get everyone in the hostel together.

I got to the train station a little earlier than I needed to so I just read there for a bit before my train arrived. The trip from Seville to Cordoba only took about an hour and a half and was pretty uneventful. I got a seat facing the wrong direction so it wasn't too exciting to watch out the window.

I checked into the hostel here (the Cordoba Bed and Be) and then went exploring around town for a bit. I went down to the Mezquita and walked through the courtyard which is free. It's full of orange trees and fountains and has great views of the belltower. I'll go into the actual building later in the week.

I've got 6 nights here so I'll have plenty of time to see the city in depth over that time. It's a bit intimidating that all of the guests here speak excellent Spanish in addition to their English. It really makes me wish I had kept up with my Spanish after high school.

Since no one in Spain eats dinner before 9, a couple of us from the hostel are going to head out and get some tapas and drinks around then.
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My last day in Seville!

Thursday, December 5, 2013 @ 07:25 pm from Spain Spain
Day 162

After breakfast this morning I went out to see a big open air flea market that some people were talking about last week. It was over by the big mushroom building and took up several streets. The stuff people were selling was pretty much all junk and nothing worth picking up as souvenirs.

On the way back I went through El Barrio de Santa Cruz (the Jewish quarter) and walked around and tried to get lost in all the little streets. I stumbled across some of the points that we saw in the walking tour.

I came back to the hostel for lunch and a shower then went over to Plaza de Espana to read for a while. It was a really nice day so I wanted to be outside and enjoy the warm sunny weather. I came back to the hostel around 4:30 and read here for a little longer before making some dinner.

For some reason I thought my train to Cordoba tomorrow was much earlier than it actually is. I thought it was at 10am but it’s actually at 1:30 so I can take my time getting ready tomorrow. I’m looking forward to checking out a new city. Cordoba is supposed to have some really cool sights to see as well.
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Barrio de Santa Cruz
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Running out of things to do in Seville

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 @ 06:51 pm from Spain Spain
Day 161

I was planning on sleeping in a bit this morning but one of the guys in the room was an extremely loud snorer so I ended up getting up around 8 and starting my day. After a couple cups of coffee I mostly hung around the hostel talking with other travelers.

I've walked through most of the city and seen all the sights I wanted to see so I didn't really feel the need to go out and wander around today. Tomorrow, for my last full day in Seville I'm going to check out a big open air flea market that's supposed to be really neat. I'll probably walk around some of the Jewish quarter in the daylight as well and take some pics.

I'm looking forward to going to Cordoba on Friday. It'll be nice to be in a new city with more sights to see. I'll also take a day trip to Granada when I'm there. Granada is home to the Alhambra which is an old mosque turned into a church. The architecture is supposed to be amazing and something that everyone I've run into says I can't miss.

Less than 2 weeks until I head back to the States! It's going to be quite the adjustment going from upper 70's here in southern Spain to most likely freezing temps in Indiana.

Walking all over Seville

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 @ 11:14 pm from Spain Spain
Day 160

I didn't have any plans again today when I woke up. I had breakfast then worked for a while before lunch. I ran out to the supermarket to get some more food for the next few days here in Seville then came back and had lunch.

I felt like I needed to get out of the hostel so I walked through the Parque de Maria Luisa which is a huge park near the Plaza de Espana. There are plants from all over the world here as well as fountains and buildings that were built for the 1929 expo. The park was really nice even in the winter so I can only imagine how nice it would be when it's warmer out.

A group of people from the hostel were planning on doing the afternoon walking tour so I decided to go with them. This tour covered the old Jewish quarter and more history of the city. The guide was really knowledgeable and really seemed to enjoy what he was doing. I'm going to have to head into the Jewish Quarter again later in the week and get lost. The streets are extremely small and twist and turn all over the place. It's a great area to walk around and get lost in.

The hostel made a really good African dish called Bobotie. It's a minced meat and egg dish served with veggies and rice. I had that and talked with some other travelers for a while. The hostel is kinda slow this week which is nice. Some people just showed up late and checked into my room so hopefully they're not too loud. The other people in the room are all really quiet which is good.
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Fuente de las Ranas in Maria Luisa park in Seville
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Cool contrast in trees at the Maria Luisa park
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A day in Ronda, Spain

Monday, December 2, 2013 @ 08:26 pm from Spain Spain
Day 159

I got up this morning, ate, made a sandwich and then headed to the bus station to catch my 10am bus to Ronda, Spain. Ronda is most known for its Puente Nuevo (new bridge) built in the late 1700's which spans a 100m+ gorge splitting the old city from the new city.

The bus ride was really nice and I got to see some nice small villages and some great views along the way. Ronda is near a big mountain range and the views of the mountains were also amazing. When I got to the city I walked toward the city center then saw some really nice overlooks that looked out at the mountain range on the edge of a giant cliff face.

There was an information desk nearby so I went in and got a map of the city and set out for the bridge. There were all kinds of Gran Turismo (the video game) 15th Anniversary spots all over town. They had some fancy cars and video game booths where people could play the latest version of the game. It was then that I noticed that the front part of the bridge had these incredibly massive Gran Turismo banners hanging down it. The banners completely destroyed what would have been some great photos.

I hiked down to get a better vantage point and enjoyed lunch there. There are some really nice waterfalls under the bridge. If I had more time and it was a little warmer I would have liked to do some hiking around there as well. It looked like there were several trails in the area and some of them would have had some great views of the bridge as well.

From there, I hiked back up and went through the old city and walked over and saw the two older bridges. There were some gardens on the other side of the river so I walked through those and found a really nice viewpoint of the back side of the bridge, which fortunately wasn't spammed with banners.

I walked around a little bit more then found a quiet spot to read with a view of the bridge then about a half hour later a group of 30 school kids came up and started making all kinds of noise. I ended up leaving after a few minutes and found another nice spot overlooking all the mountains to read.

It started to cool down a bit so I started searching for a place where I could get a beer. I found one little bar that had several people in it and got a beer for 1 euro. I hung out in there for a while then walked around some more and found a McDonalds where I went in and used their wifi for a bit. Outside the McDonalds was another bar that had 1 euro beer so I had another one there before heading back to the bus station.

After being outside all day and walking around, plus the beers, I was pretty tired on the ride home. It was dark so I couldn't really see any of the nice scenery but we made it back to Seville pretty quick. I hurried back to the hostel and signed up for dinner. Apparently they're making some kind of paprika chicken which sounds pretty good.
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Puente Nuevo in Ronda Spain
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Puente Nuevo with obnoxious Gran Turismo banners
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Sunday, December 1, 2013 @ 07:07 pm from Spain Spain
Day 158

Not really much to report today. It was just a lazy Sunday here in Seville. I went to check out a big open air art market in the morning but I got there a little too early and they were still setting up. There was some nice work from local artists but of course it was all pretty expensive.

I read by the river for a while before heading back to the hostel for lunch. After lunch I read here at the hostel and then went out for a mid-day snack and beer at 100 Montaditos. I got a few tiny sandwiches and a beer then came back here.

I'm excited to head out to Ronda tomorrow. All of the photos make it look like a really cool place. It'll also be good to get out of Seville for the day. I've been here long enough where I'm starting to run out of things to do. It's not like when I was in some of the UK cities for long periods of time and could go on warm morning runs and then relax on the beach. It's just a little too chilly here to relax outside for too long.

A lazy Saturday in Seville

Saturday, November 30, 2013 @ 07:50 pm from Spain Spain
Day 157

I didn't really have anything planned for today. I did a little work in the morning then went out and did some grocery shopping since all of the shops will be closed tomorrow. Back at the hostel I ate lunch and then started researching some day trips for next week.

I wanted to make sure I got to Ronda, a cool city on cliffs with a big bridge spanning between the city, and found a bus that gets there and back every day. I bought a ticket and will be visiting Ronda on Monday. When I tried to pay with my credit card, my card went into theft prevention mode and I had to call and get everything sorted out. Fortunately it wasn't too big of a deal. I'm also planning on visiting Granada when I'm in Cordoba. The buses have better schedules and the travel time is a little less. Everyone says that I have to go to Granada so it'll be a good way to get out and see a new city for a day.

After that, I went out and walked around for the better part of the afternoon. I've come to realize that Spain is a very social oriented place. All of the bars, cafes, squares and shops seem to be built around people going in groups and hanging out. It's a really cool way of life but it sucks a bit when you're a solo traveler without a firm grasp on the local language.

I made some pasta for dinner instead of doing the big group dinner here. There were about 30 people up for dinner last night and it's a bit too many people all trying to eat at the same time for my liking. It sounds like after the weekend the hostel is going to empty out a bit so I'll probably do some more dinners then. Another crappy thing about weekends are, once again, all of the groups of 3-5 people who show up and don't talk with anyone but their group and do their own thing. It makes it hard for solo travelers to meet people.
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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.


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