TUNE!!! Anyway…. Suuup?! Back in Spain, Madrid this time around. After cheap-skating our flights again, we got to our airbnb late at night, dropped our bags and went in search of food to satiate our paining appetite. Entering a local tavern, we (happily) misunderstood the menu and ended up with our meals plus four bottles of Red for the 6 of us. A full bottle of wine included with most meals, WHAT!? We were kicked out, at closing time, much later that night with 6 empty bottles and a pile of free baileys shot glasses on the table. Wandering the streets of Madrid looking for somewhere open, we engaged in a fierce couples piggy back race, uphill. Calf Burn City!!
A tad sorry for ourselves, and one camel down, we dragged ourselves out of bed the next morning for a free walking tour. The walking tour took us through major historical sites of the city as we learnt about the Moorish settlers and the Spanish Inquisition. There is a similarity among the German and Spanish cultures to ‘not give life to’ the darker parts of their pasts, but for different reasons. Though so much has come before those battles, lost and won*, it is the younger generation, in both countries which are addressing the ‘avoidism’ mentality and trying to move the country forward by accepting and talking about the past. And also, they both LOVE the Pork. Racks upon racks at supermarkets, legs hanging in every tavern or bar (black-toed at the better bars). Pork became a sign of Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. Any good catholic (converting was non-negotiable) ate a lot of it, hung it outside their house and had a pocketful for fear their faith would be questioned. Basically, pork was used to prove how ‘un Jewish’ or ‘un Muslim’ you were.
Pintxo or Tapas? Still not 100 on what the difference is but we think it might be this: A pintxo is typically a small selection of ingredients on a slice of baguette. These can be simple or (even though small) extremely detailed and extravagant. We came across these fancier pintxos later on in San Sebastian so more on those later. They paid for when you leave, according to the type of stick placed in it. Tapas was originally any small plate of food which was required to be given for free with an alcoholic drink. Tapas is no longer free unless you venture South to Granada. Tapas can be anything from patatas bravas, to a stew or even a plate of nuts or marshmallows.
Tapas Bar crawls are the way to dine!! Elbowing our way to the bar and gaining highly converted bench space we crammed in with the locals yelling orders across the bar. It’s definitely a ‘You snooze you lose’ type situation. Each bar had it’s own unique specialties along with the crowd favourites. People spilling out into the streets, wine and vermut flowing. It is that strange kind of ‘functional chaos’ that permeates much of Europe, and is something of which we have become quite fond. What better way to chillax after the madness then in a basement bar with a mojito in one hand and a matching watermelon and mint shisha in the other! #novapeskills #lookmumimadragon
A bit of a controversial view but, Ronaldo is not that great…. before anyone gets too offended I can only base that on the Real Madrid vs Eibar game we watched stadium side. Gareth Bale is a beast!! The stadium is an alcohol free area but that doesn’t stop everyone getting a skin full before the game at the beer sellers on the streets outside. The hardcore Real Madrid supporters or ‘Firm’ (thank you, green streets hooligans) were sectioned off into one area but their chants echoed through the stadium all game.
I finally got to live 45 minutes inside a video game when we played our first Escape Game. If your not down on the 411, you get locked in a room full of puzzles which you have to solve before you can ‘escape’. We made that room our bitch! Escaped with 7+ minutes to go. Booyah!! What misspent childhood?!
We picked up our blacked-out beast of a van, okay okay it was a black soccer-mum people-mover, but it WAS a beast. Fully loaded, we got snacks and supplies*, we headed south out of Madrid for my first drive in Europe. From not driving for a couple of months to hammering down the freeway doing 130kph on the wrong side of the road, navigating multi-lane multi-exit roundabouts in a possibly overloaded van was a headfuck!
We arrived in Granada bingle-free but maybe a touch stressy (court might say different). Staying in the old gypsy grotto area of Sacromonte, we couldn’t not go to a traditional flamenco dance. In true camel fashion, we started the night with a relaxed slow dinner, so slow that we had to run from the restaurant up the winding hill road to the flamenco cave to not miss the show. I implore everyone who visits the south of Spain to get to experience this. The flamenco guitar, chorus of clapping and stomping, harmonising and complimenting chants with the acoustics and intimacy of the room culminated in one of the most surreal auditory experiences I am yet to have. Leaving the show on a massive high we found a bar that was still serving and had open-air courtyard seating to now let us drink the stars*. Sharing nothing but a bottle of wine and some late night conversation (a highly intellectual game of “What would you rather?”, which i copped most of the brunt).
After experiencing only a piece of Granada we got back on the road and made our way South again. We drove through the Sierra Nevada and attempted to get the van to the lookout at the top, but were hampered by overloading fuel consumption and the crazy thin winding roads up the side of the mountains. Retreating we made our way to a deserted beach at the sleepy town called Motril. The beach endless and empty, the promenade manicured and deserted, the ocean calm and just a mirror for the sun*. While exploring the town we happened across a restaurant that was serving locally caught seafood so we stopped in to refuel. We left, bellies content and Talz with a mouth full of squid ink.
Driving the coastal road West from Motril we stopped, late afternoon, in at a shopping centre to buy supplies (candy) and to use the free wifi to book our accommodation for the night. After reading about public wine fountains (water bubblers but with wine!) we decided to head there for the night. After a treacherous drive up rocky mountain roads and a magnificent parallel park we were informed, devastatingly, that the wine fountains are now in a museum. Oh well, when it sounds ‘too good to be true’… you have to give it a crack.
Before sunrise, it was time to leave this town it’s time to steal away*. We headed down the backroads to Gibraltar with the occasional stoppage by locals herding their goats. We parked the van at La Linea and walked from Spain to Great Britain (about 300m). Worrying about passing through customs and our visa’s was wasted, we were waved through by a man glued to his phone with his feet on the desk. Zero Checks Here!! The only crossing from Spain to Gibraltar is across what some may describe as an extreme intersection. Pedestrians and cars travel in and out of this British Territory by a four lane motorway. This road however has an international airport landing strip that crosses directly through the middle. OH&S standards of Australia, I am sure, would melt down at the site of a single polite sign asking pedestrians to walk briskly and one small boom gate to close the road…The road and footpath is closed when a plane has to land or take-off.
We had only a couple of hours before we had to be back on the road again so we grabbed a local, Jackie, to drive us around. He had a British accent with a Spanish twist, which is not unlike Gibraltar itself. The Gibraltar Rock sticks out into the strait, which is so narrow at this point you can see across to Africa from the tip. The ‘Rock’ was one of the most important strategic locations for the British because whoever controlled the ‘Rock’ controlled the strait. Exploring the hundreds of metres tunnels in the Rock you could see where the rock had been chipped away by hand using large crowbars and hammers. Cannons and lookout rooms still scatter the rock face.
Anyone who has been to Thailand knows about cheeky monkeys, the Gibraltar monkeys are no different. They were brought over by the Moores but now have become a British icon. The local saying is that as long as their are monkeys on the ‘Rock’, Britain will control Gibraltar. This is believed so much so, that when the monkey numbers dwindled the British Government sent over supplies to ensure of their survival. We unwillingly taxied some monkeys around the ‘Rock’ before we did a spot of spelunking through Saint Michaels Caves. The cave system is made up of several chambers walled by stalagtites and stalagmites built through thousands of years of mineralization. The largest chamber has been retrofitted as an amphitheatre with a spectacular light show that pulsates across the textured walls. A DJ set in an futuristic underground cave, OH YES PLEASE!!
The main attraction of Gibraltar though, seems to be as a duty-free shopping haven. The place is lined with high-end designer shops, tobacconists, jewellers and bottlo’s. AU$8 for a bottle of 42Below, sweet jesus!! We wandered the streets passing red phone boxes and Pubs to a chorus of “Y’alrigh?!”. There were British ‘economy-tourists’ everywhere. I say ‘economy-tourists’ because the only flights in or out of Gibraltar are to the UK and seems like they were all there to get their monthly/yearly supplies.
Running late to get the van back to the company in Seville, Matt and I did a drive-by drop-off of the camels at the new digs for the night and raced off.’ Caution narrow road’ signs in Seville should no be underestimated. Two or three centimetres clearance either side of the van to stone walls of businesses and homes. This was with folded-in side mirrors and the mounting of sidewalks, all the while getting mad side eye from locals and horns galore from taxis banked up behind us. We circled the drop-off location several times unaware of where to enter, with each revolution meaning passing through a crazy multi-lane ‘no rules’ round-about. Paying the exorbitant amount for not refuelling was definitely worth it that day. I reached a whole new level of stress that I didn’t think possible for a ‘Seadreamer’.
Seville is one of our two favourite cities in Spain, San Sebastian is the other (but again, more on that in another post). It is SO beautiful. It is the Spain you think of when you close your eyes, colourful, vibrant and electric. Unlike other cities we visited, looking at you Barcelona, it had a pulse. The city is brimming with beautiful architecture, picturesque streets, Jamon and wine delis, traditional dancing on sidewalks and musicians in bars. As with every city we visited we left our apartment with the intention of lets go get lost* in the streets. We stumbled across a local deli/sherry brewer who taught us about what is true ‘Jamon’ during a tasting of his wares. It is really specific, only a 100% pure bred Iberian black pig that has been fed acorns it’s whole life, which makes the toenail go black, is considered true Jamon Iberico. The night ended in the typical fashion, multiple empty bottles of red and tapas plates. #livinlavidaloca #livingthecrazylife
Up next, Campervaning along the coast of Portugal!!
* For those counting I got 7 RHCP Roadtrippin’ lyrics in this one!