Travel to Spain and Italy, with our last night in France - September 2003. This was a five week trip and we had a great time. We visited many places: Seville, Jaen, Granada, the Costa del Sol and then on to Tuscany, Vineyards, San Gimignano, Siena, Impruneta, Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare and a castle in Umbria overlooking Lago Trasimeno and Tuscany.
We met a lot of people, as we usually do, with some we shared a drink, some a taxi, some a meal and some a table. Some we just met and talked to. To all of you, thanks for including us in your holiday.
All of the photos on this trip were taken with an Olympus C-700 Digital Camera. In five weeks we took over 900 photos, some were actually good. We haven't yet had many made into prints and that is one of the bad things about digital cameras, you have to make an effort to get those prints made, it's not enough to just look at them on the computer. We usually upload them to Wal-Mart to have prints made for 29 cents US each. The digital photos were 1600x1200 and saved in the Olympus HQ Mode resulting in a file size of about 400-500 kilobytes. I used Photoshop to reduce the size and resolution of the photos on these web pages to about 10% of the original size. We no longer carry a 35mm camera with us. I had about 712 megabytes of SmartMedia with me. I had an international voltage charger for the 2 sets of 4 NiMH AA batteries and never had a problem even after days of shooting with the same set. The C-700 seems to be easy on the batteries. I carried the C-700 in a small "fanny pack". Because the size was small we carried it everywhere. I have now "upgraded" to a smaller Canon S400, 4 megapixel camera. It's the size of a pack of playing cards and uses Compactflash memory. One of my complaints about the Olympus C-700 was the size. With the Canon I can put it in my pocket or carry it in a small carrying case that attaches to my belt, it looks like a small cell phone. It takes good photos but I miss the 10x optical zoom on the C-700. I have not decided whether to carry both cameras on our next trip. My main problem was going out to dinner at night, I didn't want to have to carry the larger camera. I've taken the Canon on several trips to Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, and it is much easier to carry around, especially at night.
September 2, 2003. Our trip started out in fine style as we were flying Business Class on British Airways, Chicago to London. We were using frequent flyer miles. It's not worth the money to pay for it but it is nice. We used the Executive Club lounge at O'Hare airport in Chicago. British Airways has those real nice Business Class seats that recline into a bed and you can sleep flat without anyone seeing you. There were a lot of Harley Davidson fans flying back to England after celebrating the 100th anniversary of Harley Davidson Motorcycles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so we were glad not to be flying in coach.
We arrived quite refreshed at Heathrow and had to transfer to Gatwick Airport. The transfer process requires that you go through Immigration, pick up your luggage, pass through Customs and go outside the terminal to a kiosk where you pay to take a bus to Gatwick. The bus fare was £17 each one-way from Heathrow to Gatwick but the nice lady asked me if I was 60 years old and I said "next year". She kept looking at me and I finally said "yes". The fare was £24 for the two of us. They never asked for our tickets when we boarded the bus or while we were on the bus.
At Gatwick make sure you know ahead of time whether you have to get off at the North or South Terminal. Go directly to the "Fast Bag Drop Line" and drop off your check through bags. We found the Executive Club lounge as we were still flying "Business Class". I took a shower and we sat around an relaxed until our flight. The "other half" lives quite well.
We arrived in Seville around 3:30 PM and took a taxi to our hotel. Our driver was very nice and pointed out many sights as we went into the city. We took the west route and then came in from the south so we probably drove out of the way a little and the fare was 18.80 Euro. I've gotten a little easier with taxi drivers and as long as they are nice, I live with the little diversions they take as long as the cost doesn't get ridiculous. This driver was very nice and gave us some recommendations on what to do. We had booked a hotel on the Internet, the Hotel Simon, it was only one block south of the Cathedral. The Hotel Simon was very nice with a nice indoor courtyard another photo(Courtyard View 2), an old Spanish style building, air conditioning, double glazed windows, heavy drapes, very nice shower. We had a street room but the street was one lane, had very light traffic, mostly people walking and with the double glazed windows and heavy drapes it was very quiet. The staff was friendly and we would highly recommend this place. The price was 70 Euro for two without breakfast. They served breakfast but that was an extra 4 Euro each.
As is our custom on the first day, we showered and then went out into the sun. The hotel gave us a good local map. The Cathedral was already closed. We stopped several places for water and then as the afternoon got later we started with a little local wine at some outdoor cafes around the Cathedral and the Street of Portugal. The prices were very good and you could sit at a cafe with two drinks (a beer and wine or water for two with some snacks like chips, olives, etc.) for 2.50-3.20 Euro. Here are two photos of a cafe we stopped at in the area around the Cathedral and the Alcazar.The local house wine was very good, slightly sweet, chilled. We walked to Triana, south of the bridge, nothing really open until 8 PM except a few outdoor cafes. We saw a lot a small hotels with courtyards, some served wine in the courtyard. We stopped at the Hotel Alfonso XIII for a glass of wine at a bar they had in their courtyard, upscale very nice place. All wine is served with snacks. We make a habit of visiting upscale hotel bars, it's worth the extra money. Two wines at the Hotel Alfonso XIII with snacks was 7.50 Euro.
We were getting tired so we found a place for dinner, small cafe north of the Cathedral, and had some tapas, we had salads, wine, water, some very sharp cheese, one paella and one pasta for 32 Euro. We were in bed by 9:30, the night life of Seville had not even gotten started yet.
Thursday, September 4, we struggled to get up with the alarm at 9 AM. We had breakfast at the hotel, coffee, juice and Rice Krispies, 4 Euro each. We caught a taxi to the market on Calle de Feria, the driver wanted to drive us to Cordoba, we said no.
Here are some photos from the Calle de Feria Market.
The next day we took a tour of the Hospital de los Venerables. This place was built for old and sick priests. The Hospital had a very peaceful and cool courtyard, nice fountain below ground and water pressure kept the fountain flowing (the courtyard was lowered and the fountain was lower than the courtyard). They also had a very ornate church with balconies on the second floor of the church that connected to the balcony surrounding the courtyard of the main building. This was for sick priests to view the Mass without climbing up and down stairs. Here are three photos of the inside of the church, Photo One, Photo Two, and Photo Three. We walked to the Casa de la Juderia Hotel on Dos Hermanis street. Christine read that it had a nice courtyard and it did. We sat in the courtyard and had a glass of wine, it was quiet, peaceful and cool. We walked over to the river, found another cafe and had more wine. back to the room to shower as it was very hot in Seville.
At 8 PM we were ready to go out again and explored several tapas bars just north of the Cathedral. Here we stopped at the Bar Giralda (named after the Cathedral Tower I guess) on Mates Gorgi and tried 4 different tapas with wine, all very good, stuffed musrooms, stuffed peppers, cammebert cheese with lobster and some cooked cod fish. We then sat for awhile at the plaza just north of the Cathedral. The plaza is the Virgin de los Reyes but we called it "horse poop plaza" because this is where the carriage rides originate and there are many horses around. There was someone playing guitar music, Christine thought he was the same one from Ronda last year, she had bought his CD. We watched a little girl dance until she fell down, then she wanted her mother. Another tapas bar for some pork sausages and some sort of shrimp salad. The town was coming to life, it was 10 PM, and we were getting sleepy. Stopped at the bar near our hotel, the Horno de San Buenaventura. By the way, you will see hams hanging everywhere with small paper cones tied at the bottom to catch the drippings. We actually saw a store that sold these in many sizes, there is a store for everything. Back to our room for bed, it was a nice bed, nice hotel, good shower and good air conditioning.
Friday, we slept until 12:30PM, we must have been tired. We missed breakfast at the hotel so we went to the corner bar, Horn de San Buenaventura for cafe embasso, coffee in a glass. Christine had an espresso. We were too late for morning toast. We walked to the Alcazar, the entrance was 5 Euro and the audioguide was 3 Euro. We both liked the Alcazar and the gardens were very impressive. We found a cafe later and had Coca Cola Light with a salad while we talked to an English couple who had a timeshare in Spain. They told us to be careful of our camera equipment as on previous trips they had lost some to quick thinking and sticky fingered locals. They were still carrying several cameras and a video camera. They were not into digital yet. By now we needed a shower, you need a good shower frequently in Seville. Here are few more photos of our hotel, the Hotel Simon, Photos One, Photo Two, and Photo Three.
After a shower we were out again, back to the Casas de la Juderia for a drink in the courtyard. Here are three photos of this hotel, Photos One, Photo Two, and Photo Three. We met Robert and Joanna from England. They were staying at the hotel, we discussed the hotel and found out they had little water pressure and the showers were not good. I was happy we were staying at the Hotel Simon for half the price. The Hotel Casas de la Juderia had a "happy hour" and our second glass of wine was free, of course they gave you snacks too. We left and went to the area north of the Cathedral because there were so many tapas bars around the area and stopped at the Bar Belmonte for wine and a good salad. From the Bar Belmonte we went to the Bar Geraldo again for more tapas. They don't seem to mind how much you eat or how fast. Just a few feet south from Bar Geraldo is horse poop plaza so we took a carriage ride. By now it was dark and the ride was very nice. We drove through Maria Luisa Park and the buildings were all lit up, our driver and another man gave us a running commentary and then we saw a weeding party in the park. It cost around 30 Euro, I don't really remember. Back at the plaza we stopped at the Bar Belmonte for another glass of wine and started back to our hotel only to discover that a bar near our hotel that we thought was permanently closed was open and full of people. We stopped in for drink at the bar and I had a ham sandwich, actually several very small tapas sandwiches, thin cuts of ham from one of the hams hanging around the bar. Back to our room.
Here are some photos we took as we walked around Seville.
Saturday, walked to the corner for cafe embasso and toast for breakfast, checked out of our hotel, took a taxi to the train station and found our car rental agency, the Crown Car Hire Office, it was about one block away. Thank heavens for wheeled suitcases. We got a nice VW we had booked through Carjet, the cost was about 20 Euro per day including zero deductible collision coverage. We've used them before, a great deal. We found our way out of Seville and on to Jaen and the Parador where we were going to stay. What a place, way up on a hill overlooking Jaen, it's a very old castle with some newer rooms with great views. The whole complex is on the hill and is about one-half mile long.
We did a lot of walking in Seville and felt very safe. We were quite surprised how few people were out but it was hot and more people came out as it got later. As I mentioned, we walked by this boarded up bar several nights on our way back to the Hotel Simon and the last night we were walking a little later only to find the bar opened and packed. We stopped in and had a glass of wine and I ordered some ham sandwiches which were thinly sliced ham (the hams you see hanging everywhere) on small pieces of bread, open face. They were good. I think you might have a good time if you were "night people". We don't stay out as late as we used to and besides, we were a little jet lagged the first few nights. The carriage ride was worth the 30 Euro. We wlaked over to the Triana area, across the river, but there wasn't much happening. I'm sure we were too early! Our Hotel Simon was very good and in an excellent location one block south of the Cathedral. The Plaza Virgen de los Reyes area is great for Tapas bars. A good idea is to sit down and order the Tapas and share. The park area, Parque Maria Luisa, (the carriage ride went through the park) has many cafes and the prices for wine and water was very reasonable. Look around the streets Avenida de Portugal and Avenida Maria Luisa. If you catch a bus it will probably stop at the Plaza Puerta de Jerez. The circular bus routes are C1, C2 and C3 and they go in small and large circles around Seville so you always get back to the Plaza Puerta de Jerez.
Overall, Seville was much nicer than I anticipated since it is a big city. Additionally, it was friendly and reasonably priced. I would go back again.
Before we leave Seville, Here are some more photos:
At this point, to make loading faster, I will close this page. We will continue in Jaen at a Moorish Fortress which is now a very nice Parador.