Photo info: SONY SLT-A77V, 35mm, f/4, 1/20 sec, ISO640 “Travel Loot” Cedar Park, 2017
こんばんは。How’s it going?
Well, I finally finished up with all my back posts of our trip! The photo above shows a few pieces of the loot haul, and in the dish is a small stone that I picked up from the water at Barceloneta beach. I don’t even know if it is imported or not, but the authenticity isn’t important. It’s the memory that it represents that gives it value. One of my favorite movie scenes explains what I mean.
Anyways, here are a couple lists I made about the trip.
Total miles traveled: 12,905
First trip to Africa – That makes it four continents for me!
Crossing from Africa to Europe by ferry – The so-called Strait of Gibraltar have been one of those mythical things since I was a little kid
Touching the Mediterranean – Again, like something out of a dream. Isn’t this where the Greek gods/heroes used to play?
Boquerones tapas (fried sardines)
Almejas tapas (clams)
Since I posted my trip entries after-the-fact, here’s a list you can use to easily access each one:
One of the major sights we wanted to see is La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s amazing cathedral which has been under construction for well over a hundred years and won’t be completed for another 10 or so. As I mentioned before, I don’t care too much for cathedrals and churches, but this one is truly awe-inspiring. It’s got a modern take, is colorful and the design is intruiguing. That being said, my interest is purely about the design and construction, since I am not religious. Still, there’s enough here for the non-believer to be inspired by the human will to achieve. Amazing.
Next up on the list was to do a bit of shopping – specifically to pick up a suitcase that we saw the night before so we could haul our loot back home. This included the food we would be buying from the Spanish supermarket, the paella pans, and non-breakable souvenirs. Plus our dirty laundy. I that gross to keep that with our canned goods? I wonder… oh well, too late now, right? 😛
Anyways, we bought the suitcase, dropped it off at the hotel, and made our way to lunch, which was on the way to MACBA: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, or the Museum of Contemporary Art. For our third paella of the trip, we visited Paelleria. We learned that paella is not as crispy on the bottom as we always thought, but that it was moister. The first paella we got was moist and we thought it was odd. But after the second and third one, we figured that is the way it is supposed to be. Anyways, the paella at Paelleria was delicious, and we also had to order a few other tapas. And beer. And sangria. 🍺🍷
After MACBA, we strolled to the nearby art supply store to check it out, then caught a taxi to Barceloneta Beach for another one the highlights of our trip: touching the Mediterranean Sea. I was so stoked to dip my feet in! The water was cool, but not too cold, and very clear even though it was a pretty crowded beach. Maybe it is silly, but walking barefoot in the waters was something I was looking forward to the whole trip! 🌊
Near the beach were a lot of really nice-looking restaurants, and by this time, we were getting pretty hungry. We checked Yelp and found a restaurant that looked good, but when we got there, it didn’t seem like our kind of place. So, we tried a nearby restaurant which normally you need a reservation for, but we got lucky (and we were early) so we got a table. The menu at Somorrostro was pretty fancy seafood, and we took advantage of our last night in Barcelona to have a nice, upscale feast. We had skipjack with pistachio and sour cream, black rice with smoked sardine and rabbit, shrimp taco with spring onion and avocado, zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese, and octopus with potato and chorizo. Plus beer, cava, and water, of course! It was kind of funny, but lots of the agua that the kids ordered at the different tapas bars come in uniquely fancy bottles. Never saw the same glass water bottle twice!
Hi! Well, as you may have figured out, we love to eat on our travels. In fact, eating and drinking is one of the main activities that we look forward to and plan for. So, without further ado, let’s get started with brunch:
Just around the corner from our hotel is Alsur Café, where we sat outside and enjoyed coffee, hot chocolate, a smoothie, avocado-bacon waffles, eggs Benedict, and another waffle sandwich of what I don’t remember. I do remember, however, that it was all excellent. A good start to the day!
We made it to the museum and enjoyed the drawings and paintings. The collection is mainly of his earlier work so if you are expecting to see a great expanse of his production, you may be disappointed. But, I thought it was good, and worth the visit.
The rest of the day was spent wandering the streets of Barcelona and shopping. Eventually, we landed at our first restaurant, Ciudad Condal. Yet another fun and delicious meal, and even Koa is expanding his palette! He’s becoming a fish-lover. In fact, when we were eating clams in Granada, he had the whole plate in front of him and was powering through those little suckers!
As became our tradition in Spain, we have two dinners… and in Barcelona, that meant going back to Tapa Tapa. I would have wanted to try another place, but Bay is crazy about Tapa Tapa for some reason! Well, he was the main driver for this vacation, so we let him indulge. 😄
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.2, 1/140 sec, ISO200 “Sunset from the Bus” Spain, 2017
Today was a day spent in transit. We took the ALSA bus from Granada to Barcelona, which left at 10:00 and arrived in Barcelona at 00:15, or quarter-past midnight. Yes, 14 hours on a bus! 🚌 But, our preference of traveling by train was impossible since tickets were sold out. The other choice (which wasn’t extraordinarily expensive) was to take a plane from Malaga to Barcelona, but that would involve buying another bus ticket from Granada to Malaga. Plus the transit from between the bus stations/airport/hotel.
So, we sucked it up and prepared for the long bus ride, which would only involve taxi from hotel to bus station, the bus ride itself, then either an 18-minute walk or taxi ride to our hotel in Barcelona. It actually wasn’t too bad because it was a big bus and there was spotty Wi-Fi or slow cell speeds. Plus it was the cheapest of the transit options at about €70 per ticket.
The bus stopped at several places (including a lunch place) along the way to Valencia, where we had a break to pick up some food and switch buses. From Valencia, it was a non-stop haul into Barcelona Nord bus station. We arrived at around midnight, then took a taxi to Hotel Constanza, where we’d be staying the next couple days.
Check-in at the hotel was quick and the room was nice. Koa decided to call it a night, but Bay, Mariko, and I were excited to be in Barcelona so we decided to head out on foot to look for… tapas!
Before going, we asked the hotel staff where we should go, but they told us that most places’ kitchens would be closing soon (it was almost 01:00) so we just decided to head to one of the main streets to check it out. After encountering a couple places that were closing, we found Tapa Tapa, which was open until 00:200. They didn’t have a full menu available but the tapas they did have were yummy, the beer was cold, and the cava was refreshing.
We spent the entire day in the city of Granada, starting with a leisurely 5-minute walk to the Catedral de Granada. It was pretty spectacular inside, and there’s even a free audio tour to enjoy. I’m not really much for churches or cathedrals, but you have to be impressed by how much effort and devotion goes into these monuments. It’s amazing.
After lunch we headed back to our hotel to meet our tour company which picked us up around 13:30 and took us up to the tour office that is next to The Alhambra. I had procrastinated on this part of planning, so failed to buy tickets online beforehand for the “must-see” attraction in Granada, but luckily back in Morocco I sent an email to our hotel to see if they could find any tickets for us. They came through and booked us for the English tour! It cost about €52 per ticket, and included hotel pickup/dropoff, entry tickets to The Alhambra, and an English tour guide. A stand-alone ticket would cost €18.70, so for our visit to one of the top attractions in Europe, it was a no-brainer to go for the tour.
Our guide spoke good English, was funny, and had a ton of interesting information. For instance, we found out about the origin of the dollar symbol. The grounds were spectacular, and very well-maintained. I’d totally recommend the tour to anyone.
After the tour, we returned to the hotel and Mariko had a pedicure/massage, then it was time for an evening stroll and dinner. We ended up exploring the area near the cathedral again, and visited two tapas bars, the first Los Giardinos where we enjoyed pizza, pasta, and potatoes while sitting outdoors and people-watching. The cold beer was just what the doctor ordered!
Next we wandered to Plaza de bib Rambla for some shopping and more tapas! This time we stopped and ate outside at Gran Cafe Bib Rambla. We ordered a nice pitcher of sangria, and I also enjoyed my first gazpacho. Mariko and the kids think it’s gross, but I thought it was good! But, not something I’d order again. I’d much rather have some savory tapas than the veggie smoothie. We also got jamon and queso, and some other yummies that I cannot remember. We enjoyed the pleasant evening weather while sipping on cold drinks… it was heaven!
It was a short walk to the train station, where we bought tickets to Granada. How fun and novel to be able to communicate well with the person behind the ticket counter! Anyways, the train wound its way through some stunning Spanish countryside and mountains, stopping in some truly picturesque towns. It would have been nice to stay for a night! Honestly, that part of Spain reminded me a lot of California.
The train station in Granada is currently under renovation, so no trains can leave/arrive there at this time. Everyone who had a ticket to Granada had to exit the train at Antequera and transfer to buses that drove us to the station. It was all seamless and there were train staff and signs directing everyone to the buses.
After an hour or two on the road, we arrived in Granada and walked to our hotel, the Five Senses Hotel and Spa. I can’t say enough about how helpful the hotel staff was at the Five Senses. They secured tickets and tour of The Alhambra for us on short notice (totally my fault), were able to recommend some great tapas restaurants, helped arrange our bus transportation to Barcelona, and printed out our tickets for our upcoming museum tours. So helpful and friendly!
So, now that we were settled in Granada, it was time for tapas! Our first stop was Los Diamantes, which is known for their seafood. Along with beer and sangria, we enjoyed almejas (clams), pulpo (octopus), and boquerones (fried anchovies). It was all delicious!
After some gelato, it was back to the hotel for some well-deserved rest. What a long day! Waking up in Morocco, traveling by car, ferry, train, and bus, then finishing the day at tapas bars in Granada. Certainly one of the most memorable of my life. 😀 🇲🇦 🚖 🚆 🚌 🇪🇸
Today we woke up early and had a taxi waiting to take us to Tangier Med port to catch the ferry. As previously mentioned, we had our hotel arrange for a taxi at a set price who would meet us at a set time (7:15 AM). This may seem like a normal thing, but Morocco-time is not predictable! So, it was nice to have the opportunity to use a trusted service.
There are basically two ferry routes between Tangier and Spain. One route is between Tangier Port and Tarifa. The other is between Tangier Med and Algeciras. We opted for the second option because we knew we’d have to catch the train from Algeciras to Granada. If we went from Tangier to Tarifa, we’d have to take a bus from Tarifa to Algeciras, then a taxi from the bus terminal to the train station.
On the other hand, the ferry from Tangier Med goes straight to Algeciras, and it is only a 15-minute walk from the dock to the train station. The only problem was that Tangier Med is about a 40-minute drive from Tangier. Being that our hotel was actually on the way to Tangier Med, it seemed like that route was the way to go. Our pre-arranged taxi cost 250 dirhams, or $25 US, which is pretty typical. Not bad for 4 people + luggage. Another option that I read about, was to take the bus from Tangier Ville train station to Tangier Med port, which only cost about $0.70 per person. However, we’d have to take a taxi to the bus, and then be tied to the schedule/speed of the driver. We opted to pay $25 for the no-hassle “door-to-door” service.
Once at the port, we checked in at our ferry company’s check-in counter (FRS), then proceeded to security. The entire terminal was pretty much devoid of people, so we breezed through customs and then had 15-minutes to kill at the waiting area until the shuttle bus picked us up and took us to the actual ferry.
There are a few different ferry operators that run between Tanger Med and Algeciras, and we opted for FRS because we were able to buy our tickets online using our credit card. One of the staff ladies at the hotel said they were the most expensive, but not too bad. She also told us she preferred the Tanger Med port over Tangier because it was less crowded. Anyways, each ferry ticket cost us 230 dirhams, or $23 US. As crossing from Africa to Europe by ferry was one of the things Bay and I really wanted to do, I think this is a reasonable price to pay for a “life experience”. 😄
I’m not sure if it gets a lot busier at Tanger Med, but we could have just bought the tickets there since there were no people at all. But we didn’t know that beforehand… and it was nice to have reservations just for the peace of mind.
When we arrived at the ship, we were led aboard by a staff member, through the vehicle deck, where I spotted a lone BMW F650 GS – the same model as mine! Someone was having a nice intercontinental bike journey. 🏍
Once aboard, we made our way to the snack bar. It immediately felt like we had left Morocco because the air-conditioning was strong, the ship was super-clean, and the staff spoke Spanish. I was actually able to use my 2-years of high school Spanish classes!