Sevilla, Cadiz, and Faro…

I visited Spain and briefly, Portugal for an extended weekend. A lot of blogs and pages online boast the beauty of the Andalucía region – and I’m promising you, it’s truly real.

1915381_10154299839148797_5739749941750990359_nFriday, December 18, was primarily dedicated to travel time. After my flight from Edinburgh to Faro, I took a bus from Faro Portugal to Sevilla Spain. At nightfall, I arrived in Sevilla. While the holiday lights that adorned lanterns shed light on the cobblestone streets, I weaved through the festive buzz of people. The rush of the city’s energy was enthralling. I didn’t want to stop exploring the nightlife. While in Plaza San Francisco, children and parents busily darted between the miniature ice skating rink to grab a candied surprise from a nearby vendor, or ride the carousel. Plaza Nueva was donned in lights and hosted a Christmas Market with a variety of artists.

 

On Saturday, I visited the Alcazar Castle complex – the architecture, the detailed tile-work, stonework, and the gardens are impeccable. I spent around 3 hours here, and I can say that I didn’t see everything!

 

I paid to go into Cathedral de Sevilla, saw Christopher Columbus’ tomb and walked around Patio de Los Naranjes. However, I didn’t pay the extra fee to check out La Giralda.

On Sunday, I took a day trip to Cadiz. Although I only spent a day in Cadiz, I saw both the historic and the new portions of the city. The highlights of my trip we’re seeing the Plaza de Mina, Plaza de Espana, the Catedral, and Santo Domingo. In mid December it’s not quite warm enough to lie on the beach in a bathing suit, but I was more than content to have a sweater on, and enjoy the ocean’s breeze on the edge of the pier. Since Glasgow repeatedly suffered through bad spells of weather, I spent most of my time relaxing in the sun. Nearing the end of my time in Cadiz day, a storm rolled in over the coastline.

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11224150_10154299847928797_4590554650208742574_nAfter I returned from Cadiz, I went to Aire de Sevilla. It may be overpriced and touristy, but I wanted to try it! They offer a wine bath – which I didn’t do, but my package was for the typical time in the various types of baths (ice, normal, jets, salt, and arouma therapy) accompanied by a 30 minute massage. It was crowded and full of mostly couples, however I was able to relax. My favorite bath had to be the salt, which is downstairs. It feels as if you’re entering a grotto, and it appeared to be the least popular with the crowd that evening.

Monday morning, when I left Spain to return to Faro, Portugal, I knew I would be back soon, since I want to see Granada and Córdoba in the Andalucía region. In May, I will be visiting Spain again to see a friend from home, who is seeing his sister while she is studying abroad in Madrid. I plan to take the train to Barcelona for a few days too.

 

Faro is a quaint little town with a historic district, and vandalized with lots and lots of graffiti. It’s especially relaxing around the harbor, and I spent some of my afternoon reading down there. I slept at Casa d’Algoa in a 6 person, but lucked out since I was the only one. I’m not antisocial, but a week earlier I finished my first semester as a postgrad student, and was amidst completing two final papers during my holiday; I was undeniably fatigued. I didn’t necessarily dislike Faro, but perhaps I was a little bored. I’d recommend if you visit Faro, you may find Praia de Faro more enjoyable, however due to my timing, I couldn’t.

24 Hours in Copenhagen

On a whim last week, I booked an inexpensive flight to Copenhagen from Edinburgh for 1 day. So much has happened over the past week (my 24th birthday, the death of my grandfather, American Thanksgiving, and handed in 1 postgraduate final paper), that I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, but to be honest – I was due for a much needed a distraction from reality. Copenhagen was perfect for just that. I’m very content with everything I saw – albeit, I didn’t see it all! I left Sunday morning and returned to the UK during Monday afternoon.

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Copenhagen was all dressed up with festive lights and their Christmas markets were open! It cheered me up to see so many happy people. I wandered through the shops on Stroget. It’s the longest shopping street in Europe and there’s something for everyone. I was able to see the Rundertaarn too, but it was closed. I heard there’s a better view from another rounder tower, Church of Our Savior.

The main site I had to see was Nyhavn. It’s the infamous harbor area with colored houses and schooners peppering its canal. I paid 40kroner (around 4£) for a cruise around the canals that lasted an hour. It was worth it and I throughly enjoyed it. Everyone says don’t stop at the first one – which is true! The first one was 80kr. Unfortunately we saw so much I can’t remember it all and the tour didn’t offer any pamphlets. It was chilly on the boat, but I kept switching between seats with an open and shut window for the sake of photo opportunities and warmth. Some of the most notable icons I remember are, the Royal Danish Old and New homes, the Kastellet, the Opera House, the Ship Museum that accidentally blew up some holiday homes a few years ago, Christianshavns, and the Little Mermaid Statue!

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The boat itself was quite long and short, but I was very impressed with the captain’s ability to maneuver through the claustrophobic canals. I remember holding my breath and inwardly cheering whenever we successfully moved onto the next set of neighborhoods.

Please comment and let me know what I should see the next time I return! I spied Tivoli from outside and wanted to walk explore Christiana too. Next time?!

Rebels Camping: A Sicilian Night Under the Stars

Recently a friend asked me if I liked camping. After a lengthy, dead-panned stare I uttered ‘no,’ however I reflected on my answer because something seemed to be bothering me. I realized as a child I detested camping (what was that noise, a thought that would reverberate through my mind in the middle of the night), however my most recent camping experience (recent, as in 2 years ago) was on the eastern coast of Sicily. Of course, it was illegal.

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We headed north of Catania to the base of the active volcano, Mount Etna, to the Gorge Al’Cantara. The Gorge was created millions of years ago from the wearing of volcanic rock. The site is a popular tourist attraction in the summer months, but not as frequently visited in autumn and wintertime. I’m not confident in the traditional way of getting there – as we took a bus, got off at the wrong stop and walked a few miles to the Gorge – only after inquiring from a dinky petrol station.

1470055_10152728115828797_1607500338_n Posted on a short standing fence were regulations about how the site closed at sundown and prohibited to camp. A triangular teepee crossed trough with an ‘x’. Past the fence was a small winding staircase that deposited us in to the heart of the Gorge. If you’re considering swimming, be careful – the river that runs through the rocky walls has leeches.

Albeit it was October in the Mediterranean, the evening air was chilled and the water was icy. We had no tent, but our packs, 1 euro boxed wine (don’t be too envious), and blankets temporarily absconded from the hostel we were worked for. With flushed faces we huddled close wrapped in our draperies. We were exposed to the gulping night sky. I remember the most amazing moment was when I woke during the night to the encumbered sight of the bright moon and the needle tipped stars.1476208_10152728116918797_1059898601_n

In the morning, we were roused awake by not only the sun but tourists excitedly waving to us from a viewing spot at the top of the Gorge.

Ross Castle in Killarney National Park

IMG_8379I spent two days in Killarney (albeit, one day dedicated to the Ring of Kerry, see post here). I made a point of going to see the National Park, and more specifically Ross Castle. The river walk is pleasant too. IMG_8378On the way there, I saw these aching rain clouds quickly racing across the mountains. When I spotted birds flocking in the opposite direction, I knew it was too late to turn back. I committed, and unfortunately, I decided against packing my umbrella. With my rain jacket, it was calming to walk through the misting conditions.The paths are filled with dog walkers, backpackers, families. Horse carriages can be hired.

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The boats at the dock behind Ross Castle didn’t seem to be running regularly, since November trickles into Ireland’s ‘off-season,’ however it may still be possible to hire a boat. If the weather had been a bit better and had more time, I would have decided to do more of the hikes.

Around the Ring of Kerry We Go!

While in southwest Ireland, I visited the Ring of Kerry, otherwise called the Iveragh Peninsula. The landscape boasts the views of the coastline and mountainous terrain. Before the tour I worried over the rain, however I had (the Irish) luck on my side. The rain clouds cleared by the afternoon time. 
Our route traveled from Killarney in a counter-clockwise manner, through Killorglin, Glenbeigh, Cahirciveen, Waterville (Coomakista Pass), Sneem, and Kenmare. We saw a part of the Dingle Bay, the Skellig Michael Islands out in the distance (I remember from my undergrad course in Irish Art History the Islands house an abandoned Monastery), the Black Valley, and the Ladies View in Killarney National Park of the two lakes. There was even a rainbow over one of its lakes.


If you can – drive it on your own. I will warn you that if you’re unaccustomed to small roads or not driving on the left-hand side perhaps you should take a coach tour. As I’m not old enough to rent a car, I opted for the tour. The driver was silent for the majority of the time, and it’s unfortunate because I feel like I saw so much but don’t know what half of it was. As the tour offered student prices, it cost me 15€ (approx 16$). For those reasons I will say it was worth it, but I think it might be nice to do it with friends and on your own schedule.

I find the ocean’s breeze to be so purifying, even if it threatens to whisk you away.

Cobh, Cork’s Cove

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As I finished up the last of my midterm papers, I decided to come to Cork. Today I traveled further south to visit Cobh, a port used by many of the emigrants in the 1800s. One such Cobh emigrant was my great grandfather, Daniel Patrick O’Sullivan. Cobh, Little Island and Fota make up three islands that are situated on the coast of Cork.

Although my time spent wandering around Cobh was very brief, and stayed primarily I. The harbor area, I’m glad that I got to see the historical city. It has the quintessential Irish homes; the colors delicately juxtaposing one another.

I saw the Cobh Cathedral – mass was starting but I was able to sneak a quick peak of its detailed interior. Unfortunately the Cobh Museum was closed when I arrived and surprisingly – I didn’t go into the Queenstown Story Heritage Center. The Cobh train station does have a very small gallery on models and news clippings dedicated to different types of ships like the Titanic, the Britannica, a German U Boat, and well, Vikings.

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Stepping Stones at the Giants Causeway

Long, long ago a volcano erupted and brought about one of the most popular modern day attractions in the UK/EU. In 1986, it was established as a UNESCO World heritage site and is a natural wonder of the world.

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The basalt hexagon rocks are incredible, and incredibly slick. The water swarms through the stacked rocks and can even splash you if you’re close enough. The day I visited was misty and incessantly drizzling.

If you go and it’s raining, be mindful of your footing and don’t be upset with the weather… After all, it is North Ireland ☺…

I went on the McComb Tour, which left from the hostel I booked for the duration of my stay, Belfast International Youth Hostel.

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The tour cruised along the infamous Antrim coast road with breath-taking views of the coastline and its Glens. We even passed by the Game of Thrones set for the Black Castle (oh, John Snow).

We visited Bushmills Whiskey Factory, Carrickfergus Castle, Dunluce Castle, and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Early in the day it was clear at the rope bridge in Co Antrimand, and I could see Rathlin Island and Scotland’s silhouette across the water.

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The view from Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

There is a legend detailing how the heroic Finn McCool created the Giant’s Causeway as a defense mechanism against his enemies, the Giants from Scotland. The gist of the story is about how Finn and his wife tricked a Giant through self-infliction and deception. As the Giant was weakened, Finn McCool successfully rid NI of the menace. More stories about Finn McCool are found here

If you would like to find out more about the McComb Tour experience, click here