24 hours in Seville

Hi all!

With less than 24 hours in Sevilla (I only reached the city around noon), let me share with you what you can accomplished within this short period in time. I’m thinking of doing this 24 hours series in the different cities I visited, either as a day trip or because I only had 24 hours in them. So here’s hoping this would be a useful guide if you wish to drop by any of these cities and maximise your limited time in them. Unlike the route from Sevilla-Granda which was decorated with sunflowers, the reverse direction took across poppy (?) fields and christmas tree-like plantations. It was a long bus journey (~6 hours)  as we traversed across the different parts of Spain to finally arrive back in Sevilla.

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Once we landed, food was naturally of utmost importance before we even attempt to begin the long walk to the accommodation. Head down to La Paella for an affordable paella meal. Serving a few different types of paella at €5/individual plate, the rice was flavourful and the portion was just right. Here’s the paella valencia, which was cooked with chicken and vegetables. This is an alternative to the typical paella served with seafood if you (like me), are allergic to prawns and you still want to give paella a try. It’s definitely a dish you wouldn’t want to miss when you’re in Spain! I definitely regretted not having paella for a second time before leaving Spain, but this just gives me more reason to re-visit this country in the future 🙂

La Paella address: Calle Albuera 1141001 Seville, Spain

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En route to our hostel, the wheel of my luggage got tangled up in a stringy mess. This begun a mini-op to get rid of it in front of a carpark because I was having difficulties dragging my luggage. It literally felt heavier and heavier with each pull. After semi-rescuing it and praying hard my luggage don’t die on me, we continued on and settled into the hostel where I did my laundry and we settled the online check-in stuff needed for out next Ryan air flight out to Berlin. I would highly highly recommend this hostel if you’re looking for a cheap and comfortable alternative. It has all the facilities you need (at an affordable price) that makes your stay so much more comfortable. Furthermore, the receptionist all speak wonderful English and this place is well-situated (~5 mins walk) from the main attractions.

Sevilla Inn Backpackers Hostel: Calle Ángeles, 11, 41004 Sevilla, España

While waiting for the dryer to complete its turn, we roamed the streets to pass the time. Yellow and white buildings are an iconic feature in Sevilla. It was painted in this manner because the sand used in bullrings originated from this city.

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We visited Terre del Oro, a military watchtower, before heading back to the hostel to collect my laundry load. The entrance fee will cover a museum within its structure and you can get a pretty nice view of the Guadalquivir river bank, but it isn’t an attraction I would recommend entering unless you’re really keen on it.

Terre del Oro – Entrance fee: Students (€1.5), Adults (€3)

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Horses, horse poop and more horses. Sevilla is literally littered with them! You really need to watch your next step so you don’t end up stepping in a poop or a freshly washed puddle of poop-covered floor.

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The Sevilla cathedral, which is the largest gothic cathedral in the world, was constructed to demonstrate the city’s wealth.

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The alcázar, where I had a bit of mishap with my wallet at the ticket counter (the zip broke and all the coins flew all over the place -.-). But this place is HUGE! Aside from the palace, there’s the garden ground which was beautiful. You can easily spend at least 2 hours wandering here.

Alcazar of Seville – Entrance fee: Students (€2), Adults (€9)

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Thereafter, we headed to plaza de toros, where they had a tour of the bullring grounds and museums. It’s a highly fascinating tour, where you understand a bit more about the history of bull fighting, the evolvement of the entire process and how certain bulls are released for breeding even after they were brought into the ring for the bull fight. It’s one tour I would recommend visiting if you’re sick of the typical museums. Although at €16/pax, I would have to think twice about it, haha.  

Plaza de Toros – Entrance fee: Students (€8), Adults (€16)

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The place where the bulls were kept in waiting before they were brought out to the ring.

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Here’s a mini prayer ground for the bull fighters to pray for their safety before heading out

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The place where the horses were kept, which was separate from the bulls.

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After the tour, I grabbed a brown pistachio flavoured gelato (my first one!) from la albuela for €2. They were really generous with the serving and the gelato was fantastic, rich but not too sweet. After that we struggled to find the supermarket and  ended up ‘stalking’ two peeps from our hostel who were headed to the supermarket and we got lost on our way back.

La Albuela: Calle Larana, 10Seville, Spain

But, we managed to find our way and eventually arrived at La Casa del Flamenco just in time for our pre-book show timing. It was a passionate performance by the team and an interesting sight to see. Although, I honestly didn’t know what the entire thing was about and almost dozed off because there was this period where only the guitarist was playing and no one was dancing. But overall, it was an entertaining performance, and something I would encourage people to see when in Spain. ‘Till the next post, bye!

La Casa del Flamenco: Ximénez de Enciso, 28. 41004 Sevilla. Entrance fee: €18

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Granada, Spain

Hi all!

In the early planning stages of our trip, we decided to head to Granada because of a bull fight that was supposedly showing on the day we arrived and my friend was quite keen to witness it. But closer to the date, we realised the bull fight was the day before we arrived and there were none on the day itself. By then, we had already book the transportation from Barcelona to Granada. We took an early morning flight out to Sevilla before we got onto a bus ride to Granada. The flight out was a superb pain in the ass because of the stupid tax (€49.5/pax) you’ve to pay just to get your boarding pass printed if you fail to do your online check-in prior. The whole system on online check-in is pretty screwed up for Ryanair domestic and international travel. Just plain annoying.

Once in Sevilla, we took the aerobus to head to Sevilla Est. Prado bus terminal. While waiting for our departure bus to Granada, we grabbed lunch at Restaurante El Buen Lunto – Casa Ricardo Gutierrez, which was located just behind the bus terminal. The restaurant served a selection of tapas and the waiter there was so funny in the way he spoke to a pigeon that flew in to shoo it out of the restaurant. We had the Tortilla de Papas (potato omelette), salmorejo andaluz (some type of tomato puree) and Espinacas con Garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas). All of which, alongside the complimentary bread, made for a wonderful and affordable meal. The trees of Sevilla were also decorated with purple blooms that makes the place so beautiful!

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En route to Granada, there were also many sunflower plantations lining the road. So pretty!

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Since the bull fight was no longer a plausible option, we signed up for the night adventure tour organised by Play Granada for €25/pax instead. We then attempted to navigate the city by bus to get to our accommodation on the basis of the extremely vague instructions of the lady tending the tourist information center at the bus station. “Drop off at the building with the large Spanish flag, there’s only one, it’s very easy to see,” she said. But there were so many flags everywhere we didn’t know which stop to drop at. We were literally so far off from the city center before we got down and took the bus back in the return direction. Transportation was so NOT our friend that day. The day was fraught with so many transportation related issues. While waiting for the bus to arrive, we noticed so many of the locals wandering the streets in flamenco-like dresses! They were all absolutely beautiful and dashing, but we wondered what the occasion was on that day.

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Once we settled into the hostel, we took the short walk down to the meeting point at Plaza Nueva for the start of the tour. I would say the tour, while interesting and fairly informative, would require you to have gone through a fair bit of European history prior to understand what was going on. Because Singapore’s education system largely focuses on local and SEA history, I was at an absolutely lost as to what the tour guide was talking about when he made reference to the monarchy in whichever country.

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The tour was fast-paced, and unless the group stops at a pre-decided lookout/photo point, there was no time to grab a snap unless you wish to be stranded behind. The start of the tour involved climbing a fair number of steps as we walked about the Albayzin, which is a labyrinth populated by the Arabs. The white-toned wall that demarcated the narrow street from the house are a classic feature in this maze.

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Here’s a water distribution system used in the past to channel water about the living quarters of the inhabitants.

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From a look-out point in Albayzin was the Alhambra that was warmed up by the setting sun and decorated with beautiful snow-capped mountains in the backdrop.

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I really love the burnt-orange hue and warmth of the Alhambra architecture designed in the mudéjar style, one where western element have been incorporated into muslim designs. It’s just so beautiful in its simplicity.

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Unfortunately, the mosque/church was under construction and its structure was covered by all the scald-folding (no picture).

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From the Albayzin, we moved on to the “illegal” areas of the Sacromonte. I simply  loved how the guide went “others find this route dangerous, but with me here, it’s okay but keep very quiet.” Er…isn’t that such a juxtaposition? Regardless, we climbed up this hill, through the living quarters of the gypsies for a panoramic night view of the city. I’ll admit, I had my hesitation and worries after all the stories I’ve had about gypsies, and this place had a strong resemblance to a scene in DOTS, lol, that freaked me a little. The climb was a little tiring, but manageable…my fatigue was also in part of all the travelling I’ve done since 4 in the morning that day. But the view up there made it all worth it.

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Unfortunately, this was the mild part of the tour. There was an additional segment (no pictures available since I was trying to survive and not fall to my death) that I shall attempt to recount with words. Here is where I came to the firm conclusion: never to go hiking with caucasians! Maybe, it was because my group comprised largely of people at least 170 cm and above, and they looked to be (and were) very fit individuals who frequently hiking back in their home country. The entire hike was so intense and memorable, it’s really a night adventure tour.

So when we started the climb, in absolute darkness, along a supremly narrow (about 70-80 degrees inclined) path covered with shrubs, thorny flowers, I literally wanted to cry for help. The entire non-stop and fast-paced hike for an hour plus, without water breaks mind you, was called a slow and okay one in the eyes of our French tour guide, Canadian and Norwegian tour mates. I wanted to die literally, and I think I almost did with how breathless I got just climbing up the “steps”. Even when I could finally lift my legs high enough to reach the next footing, I simply had no energy to push myself up. I just had to step aside and let the rest move forward while I catch my breath. The path was so narrow and sandy that it’s sometimes hard to get a good footing without slipping. It was scary now that I think about it. I was just too tired and thirsty then to think about anything other then when was the bloody climb gonna end, haha.

The mildest (and possible the most tiring part for the rest) was when we entered the tunnel cave. Because I was short, I could just walk through a majority of the pathway without bending my back, while the rest of the tall peeps had to do so. Of course, me being me, crashed into the bum of the guy who suddenly stopped in front of me to grab a picture in the cave (I was watching my steps), lol. Once we got of the tunnel, it was back down the hill. This time, I lost sight of the front and the back of the group. I had lost the tour guide and the rest of the faster ones some time earlier because I was just slowly and carefully making my way down with my jelly legs. But because the path was still quite clear cut, I was not too worried. That was until I came to a fork road and had absolutely no idea which path to take. Stranded in the darkness on a hilltop, I waited for the group at the back to make their way down as they were stuck trying to find the headlamp my friend dropped on her way down. Fortunately, someone in the group managed to roughly figure the correct route to take and we joined back with the guide.

The last part of the climb was a steep downslope that I decided to just slide down on my butt since I couldn’t give a f anymore. But then my jeans got dirty, and I brilliantly decided to hand wash all my dirty laundry (including those form the day before) at 1am. Worst decision ever. Besides having difficulties trying to hang them, I ended up dropping and re-washing them repeatedly. Good job me. I ended up attempting to use the hair dryer to blow dry my clothes (didn’t really work), which I laid out on the bed until 4.30am before giving up and crashing because I had to wake at 6am that day to get to the bus station. The only thought in my head as I slept – “I’m just going to wash /dry my clothes with a washing machine and dryer the entire trip. Not gonna hand wash them anymore, never”. ‘Twas a tiring day but till the next post, bye!

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The Barca adventure – Part 2

Hi all!

If you’ve an extra day in Barcelona to spare, here’s a day trip that I would highly recommend. We headed to Montserrat for some hiking at around 7am, intending to reach the place via the cable car route. But we missed the stop for the cable car and got off at the one for the funicular (which was the next stop). So we had to wait an hour for the next train to come. Missing trains and barely making onto the last transport  seemed to be an on-going trend for this trip.

It turned out the missed stop was indirectly a blessing in disguise, since the employees at the funicular station told us the cable car ride would start only at 10am (it was only 8.30am then). So we took shelter from the strong and chilly winds in the white building on the left (there’s FREE toilet there too!) as we awaited the arrival of our train.

TIP: Get the cable car ride up to Montserrat instead of the funicular, the view is so much better! Note: the end-point for the cable car and the funicular differ. The cable car is only a short 5 mins walk up to the town area while the funicular is located directly at the town center. 

Directions: Switch to the Montserrat train line (R5) at the Placa Espanya station in Barcelona. Depending on your plan, get the train pass most suited for you. It would save you more.

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Just look at how beautiful the view is from the cable car! Although, it fascinates me how dogs can just roam freely in Europe. By that, I mean into public transports, shops, restaurants etc. It’s so dogs friendly that I wonder what happens if there’s someone who’s afraid or allergic to them. Do we give way to dogs or do dogs give way to us?

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Here’s a look at the short walk from the cable car station to the town center.

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Starting from the town center, which is where the monastery is located, we hiked up to Sant Miquel and continued upwards to the Sant Joan (by following a marked path). This hiking route (~1.5 hours) was tiring but doable. Here’s a cat basking in the beautiful sun rays while I took its picture before scaring it off the next second after this was taken because I dropped my lens cap. Lol.

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On the way up to Sant Miquel, the wind blowing against us was so strong it literally threatened to blow us off the mountain. Haha, so each time when the wind starts to show its might, we would freeze and crouch our body in the middle of the path until the wind settled.

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A well/spa (?) located at the edge of the mountain…this is literally relaxing with a view

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Part of the route up to Sant Joan was akin to no man’s land. It looked like we were  stranded in the middle of nowhere.

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Finally! We reached the upper station of the Sant Joan funicular. There’s also a free museum depicting the different stone formations and the wildlife in Montserrat.

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From Sant Joan, we took the funicular down to the town center, before taking the Santa Cova funicular down to hike the ~30 minutes walk to the Santa Cova cave. We also had some tomato spread bread and a juice box we got from the supermarket the day before for lunch before we started the walk. It was in the funicular ride down to the lower station of Santa Cova where we met the funniest old ladies. Seriously epic, their conversations…it makes me hope that when I’m old, I’ll be able to have such a friendship that’s filled with laughter with my friends.

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Legend has it that the image of Virgin Mary was sighted in the Santa Cova cave, or the Holy Grotto, and so this placed has become an area of worship in Montserrat.

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Back to the town center, we headed to the monastery, where we queued for ~45 mins to go up the basilica floors to catch a close-up glimpse of the Black Madonna. It’s literally a glimpse because you enter the area where the statue is in a single file, snap a quick shot or a prayer, before quickly making way for others to have their chance. It’s so rush that I’m not sure if it’s really worth the wait since you can actually see the Black Madonna from the lower levels of the chapel.

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The floor design outside of the chapel that’s said to mimic the design from the Vatican city.

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The beautiful ceiling within the chapel as we walked up the stairs to see the Black Madonna.

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Once you’re out from seeing the statue, there’s the Cami de l’Ave Maria, a path where visitors have the opportunity to pay their respect. You can then re-enter the chapel through its front doors, without queuing this time around.

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The grandeur of the chapel in its full glory

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After that, we slowly made our way back to Barcelona and headed to the same tapas bar near our hostel where we had our lunch the day before. Our last meal in Spain, we decided to go for the potato omelette (which is really a MUST try, the texture is just incredible), mixed patatas, a fish croquette (the longer and darker brown ones in the last picture) and circular flour balls that I’ve absolutely no idea what it was. Do give the fish croquette a try, the thick and generous amount of fish paste within the croquette was seriously good and fresh. Absolutely no fishy smell to be spoken of, if you’re worried about that.

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With this meal, it marked the end of our actual journey in Spain (Granada and Sevilla would be in a later post). Spain was definitely good to us, despite the confusing bus routes, the people were friendly, funny and approachable. The weather was good, the food was lovely and everything about this country just makes me want to return to discover more of its hidden gems. While I had my initial reservations about this place, mainly the pickpocketing and safety issue, it was quickly debunked once I was there.

Barcelona gave us the greatest concern, in comparison to Sevilla and Granda, though all 3 places were fairly safe. Just be aware of your surroundings and belongings. Don’t leave them unattended, don’t flaunt your money, do your research on sketchy places to avoid at night (especially if you’re female travellers) and ALWAYS trust your gut feeling. But really, all these advices hold true when you’re travelling anywhere and even in your home country. Just behave as you would at home, though with a higher level of caution, and simply enjoy yourself. Spain is a beautiful country with so much to offer. Till the next post, bye!