Australia and Oceania, Asia, Europe, Africa · 22 Days · 79 Moments · May 2017

Stewart and Lyn's 2017 European Trip - Part 1

11 June 2017

And so ends Part 1 of our European Tour. A photo of Daniel our tour director on the right and Miguel our amazing driver on the left. This is the final few of us being transferred to the airport for our flight to Athens and the beginning of the next stage. Hope you have enjoyed sharing the Journi so far. This one is being closed off and I'll email you all a link to the next one.
The Last Supper. Our final night on tour. Can't believe 17 days can go so quickly. Insight treated us to a fabulous night at a beautiful restaurant. We were seated with good friends we made on the tour. All round excellent way to finish.
A long drive back to Madrid from the winery and a free few hours when we got there. A bit tired and didn't take many photos as we crossed the Sierra Madre high Plains to get back. Here's a photo of the Christopher Columbus statue as we entered Madrid.
A visit this morning to a winery on the final leg of the journey to Madrid. Tastings and a trip down to the underground cave where they store their wine. Wasn't really up to this after too much wine myself last night!

10 June 2017

Dinner with Garry and Jenny, fellow travellers. Garry developed a habit of continually filling my wine glass so was easy to bond. Note Jenny's earring which was a weird serving spoon and Lyn's bracelet
and some more. Not always the best photo choices as it's hard to judge the quality from the thumbnail images but hundreds more where these came from!
After a leisurely start off to Granada to visit La Alhambra. Established as a Muslim township and palace and mosque for the ruling sultan at the time, it was then conquered and claimed by Isabella the catholic (later Queen Isabella of Spain) in the 15th century. Of course she tore down the mosque and built a Catholic Church there instead. The place is magnificent in every sense of the word. Lots of photos which again don't do it full justice. Just a few here.

9 June 2017

Took a day off today. Opted out of this mornings excursion to Malaga to sleep in and catch up on our laundry. Our hotel in the picture. This would be a long way down our list of favourite places to holiday. Took a long walk on the beach and then had lunch in a really nice Sushi restaurant. Afternoon around the pool and Lyn did what she does best and shops! Another 5 tops she couldn't go past. With only another 8 weeks to go we may need to to charter our own plane home to cart all her stuff! Off to Granada tomorrow to see Alhambra - am excited!

8 June 2017

Here we are in sunny Torremolenos. Spanish Blackpool by the sea. A million and one tat shops with fridge magnets and every bit of tourist junk you can imagine. Out to a group seafood dinner last night which was really nice. Salted Cod in the picture.
Three countries in one day today! Left Tangier really early to catch the ferry - quite a rough crossing! (Is it too late to cancel the cruise?). Then over to Gibraltar, part of Britain. Ate steak and ale pie in a pommie pub with a pint of Old Speckled Hen. A tour up the rock with a local guide. Down to see the stalactites in St Michael's cave followed by a photo with one of the monkeys . In the afternoon, on to Torremolinos and the Costa Del Sol. The last photo is of the airport runway on Gibraltar. One of the shortest in the world by all accounts. There are a few incoming flights in the morning and outgoing in the evening. The rest of the day they open it up for road traffic to cross it!

7 June 2017

The final run into Tangier (Tanger) with a bit of a view of a now enormous city with development everywhere. The lighthouse is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean. Brand new apartments from 33,000 Euros! (about $55k Australian). Then at the hotel with a lovely sunset.
and now on to Tangier, but not without a stopover at a once Portuguese area of Morocco on the Atlantic coast called called Asillah. Bit like Santorini with White and Blue buildings.
A stop off (still in Rabat) at the (I think) Hassan tower which is the mausoleum for King Mohammed (? #?). The attention span is starting to wane!
Off back to Tangier this morning via the capital Rabat. Rabat is a nice clean city showing evidence of the Kings wealth. Quick look at the Royal Palace (no photos).

6 June 2017

A really special night tonight with a visit by a small group of us to Rick's Place - an attempt to recreate the atmosphere portrayed in the original Casablanca movie. Now a high class restaurant and really beautifuly done. We had a fabulous evening and were treated to a mini tour of the place at the end of the evening. Great food, wine and company. Best evening of the tour by a mile.
Bustling Casablanca and a visit to the famous Mosque. Third biggest in the world and can accommodate 100,000 at a time.
The wheels on the bus go round and round and round! On the road to Casablanca today. Our turn in the front seat of the bus today. Scary loading of vehicles by some of the locals here. Nice new hotel again.

5 June 2017

Later this morning back in Marrakech, a trip to the Kasbah, a visit to the Palau's de la Bahia and finally a photo of some Storks nesting on a chimney in the square.
Traditional breakfast in the home of a Berber family in the hills. Bread, honey oil and mint tea.
More from the market, donkey Park, got a hair cut, camel rides available.
Today an early morning excursion to the Ourika Valley near the Atlas mountains. The most amazing local market as yet fairly tourist free. This is truly how the other half lives.

4 June 2017

Traditional Moroccan dinner with belly dancers (ugly as...!). Then horse and carriage ride back to the hotel in convoy.
Our hotel, phone towers in palm trees and then out to see Marrakech by night. Onto Jamaa El Fna market to see the snake charmers, etc. Camel testicle for sale. Had to pay them to take photos hence the lack of them! Marrakech has incredible development unprecedented and us probably unrecognisable compared to a decade ago. In a way it's like Los Vegas with more new international hotels than you could imagine a has become a haven for French and other European holiday makers - and nowhere near the coast!
On the road to Marrakech. Long drive today, 5hours plus. Scenery changing rapidly. Our hotel

3 June 2017

Afternoon excursion to Bhalil where we visit a couple of cave homes hewn out of the Atlas mountains. (Troglodytes)
Then on to the ceramic workshop for a demo and another hard sell! Not having too much luck with us so far.!
Then on to the fabric shop. The tour directors starting to rake in the commission!
Fes Medina. The carpet store and the leather tannery and store. Pressure plus here to purchase and not cheap!
Now into the Medina itself. This place is sensory overload. Its Ramadan here so only a few stalls of the many thousands here open at this time of day. It seems like poverty squalor but is in fact the main market place for the whole city. Most stalls are nothing more than tiny holes in the wall. So easy to get lost here in the maze that we have four guides today and have split into two smaller groups for safety. We have so many photos we'll post more moments with others.
More from the Medina at Fes
The Medina (old city) at Fes. 11,000 streets and alleys in which to get lost. The squalor in places is unimaginable but this is the place all the locals come to buy literally everything imaginable. The contrast with satellite dishes on the roof of just about every small building marks present day influence. 2,000 TV channels and they don't pay anything. Note the fresh camel head for sale and the hump meat beside it. Cats are loved and In profusion everywhere you go.
Started the day with a quick look at the Kings Palace followed by a view of the Medina (old city) from the hill top. Amazing place with 11,000 alleys and streets. Again, the fuzzy shots need expanding as are panoramas.

2 June 2017

Big drive down to Fes for our first couple of nights stay (several hours on the coach) . The country side is nothing like we imagined but really nice and colourful. Country of contrasts with orchards, wheat belts and mountains in one. Simple people who buy livestock rather than put money in the bank - a concept they do not have anything to do with.
Travelled from Seville to the ferry and on to Tangier. Farewell Spain for the time being. Beautiful countryside along the way in Southern Spain. Our Moroccan adventure begins today! Tangier has development literally everywhere. Arab money is pouring in from all the rich oil barons in Dubai etc as Tangier seen as the future for North Africa. Will stay here on our way back through to learn more.

1 June 2017

Group photo. It sort of looks like we decided to photo bomb someone else's tour group but not the case. Mostly just a bunch of old farts like us!
On the way to dinner last night got to have a look at the Plaza de Espane. Not that old, (1929) but very impressive. Has been used as a film set in Star Wars (think Princess Leah's palace) and also in Lawrence of Arabia.
A visit to the Great mosque of Cordoba / Mezquita. 1,000 years old in parts. This has to be amongst the most impressive and important buildings we have ever been to and for me made the whole trip worthwhile. TripAdvisor no. 2 place in the world to visit. Over 2 million visitors a year can't be wrong. Impossible to represent in photographs. If they look blurred, click on them as they may be panorama shots. A huge cathedral built inside one of the biggest mosques you will ever see. Definitely not just another church!
Cordoba excursion this morning. On the way some nice countryside, solar towers (showing beams of light reflected from mirrors below. One of these does the same job as a few acres of panels but an eirie effect. And then there's the bull! Like the giant Jumbuck in Goulburn I guess only perhaps bigger picture and more significant.

31 May 2017

The requisite trip to see the Flamenco dancing show. Actually wasn't bad at all. Photographers taking souvenir photos of couples at tables tried to sell your mother this one (I took a photo of it). I couldn't stop laughing. Your mum decided not to shell out the 9 euros for it.
After the cathedral, a walk through Barrio de Santa Cruz. Nice old quarter of Seville with narrow alleys interesting architecture. Designed like a maze to confound any enemies.
Arrived in Seville - there's the bull fight ring. Now straight off to the cathedral. Yes, another one! Supposed to be the third biggest in the world. Home of the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Helluva lot of gold leaf going on in here and that's one big organ!
Nice stop for lunch at Tavira on the Algarve. Camera Municipal is translated by Google as Town Hall! Put some hands on your front door to ward off evil spirits and finally a shot of the local movie complex.
Off we go again. Extra early departure this morning leaving Lisbon for Seville. Photo shows the bridge out of Lisbon which is a replica of the San Francisco Bay bridge. The statue is a slightly smaller version of the one in Rio De Janeiro. All this area of Portugal has heaps of Storks everywhere on power poles etc. Now off for a lunchtime stop in the Al Garve whilst on our way to Seville.

30 May 2017

Night time trip to a Fado performance over dinner at a famous nightspot for tourists just like us. Nice music and singing - love songs apparently. A variety of singers with one who looked like Mama Cass and another her sister. End to a pretty exhausting day!
Then on for a Palace visit at Queluz. Not quite Versailles but a nice if less ostentatious example. A couple of Panorama shots at the end.
An afternoon excursion along the Portuguese Riviera to Cascais where we stopped for lunch. Sardines and Squid some Portuguese specialities. Like to see this little Police car catch anyone in a hurry, mind you, people move pretty slowly here. A view of the most Westerly point of Europe, closest to the US.
Inside the monastery, Vasco de G's tomb, craft beer on sale by a street vendor and a friendly turtle in the fountain outside.
Up and at em! Another Lisbon city tour and off to learn about the famous explorers. Nice Jacaranda trees in bloom. Down to the water front. Rekindling school memories of Vasco de Gmail (lol, that might be Gama - bloody auto correct!) and Columbus etc. Monastery tours, palaces, gardens, forts and tombs aplenty . In the last photo look for the little dot with the white hat at the bottom of the monument to the explorers and that's your mum.

29 May 2017

Late arrival and first glimpses of the city of Lisbon . Nice modern hotel - Altis Grande. View of old castle. Graffiti a problem here so some legalised areas which are cleaned off daily and new graffiti appears magically next morning. Fenicular trolley ride down the hill to first night dinner. Haute cuisine (not), Peri Peri chicken and chips with an endless supply of local rough red wine but oldest traditional restaurant of its kind and apparently famous ( Bonjardim) . It's all about the social occasion we're learning! Followed by a bit of a night tour of the city. Enthusiasm for photo taking flagging by the end of the day!
Off to Fatima looking for a miracle! World's biggest Rosary beads, sort of akin to Aus giant Pineapple or Banana I guess.
Departing Salamanca, yet another early start! Roman bridge dating back to first century. A photo of Daniel our rather anal tour guide. Is he gay or not? Much debate amongst the women on board but the jury is still out. Off to Lisbon via Fatima.

28 May 2017

Tapas dinner in the Plaza Mayor. Stunning square. First shot is a panorama shot. You need to expand it.
Dog owners protest rally and a funeral march through the town. Never a dull moment.
Arrived at hotel in Salamanca. Nice place and a step up from Madrid. Huge room.
Salamanca cathedral, one of the best examples we've seen. Old and new side by side. New one from the 1500's (took 200years to Build) and the old one from the 1100's
Off to Avila for lunch and a quick tour. Nice old medieval town with old church, big city walls etc. Lyn having a grope of the bronzed mayor. I just missed her hand straying lower down!
Off we go on our bus for the next three weeks! (yikes!). First off a quick zip around Madrid and then to the statue commemorating Don Quixote. Then on to the Pardo museum for some culture and to look at things hanging on walls.

27 May 2017

Hotel in Madrid. Evening restaurant where we get to meet the rest of the group and bond with them. Lyn panicking again as she can't find the clothes she was sure she'd packed but which are clearly not there until she finds them again of course!
Off to Madrid. Relics of the once famous Concorde at Paris Charles De Gaul Airport

26 May 2017

The afternoon was better and we toured the Gothic area known as Le Marais. Flooded with tourists but a nice spot to have a beer and a coffee.
A not so successful start to the day with a plan to cruise the canal St Michel. The boat was fully booked so we walked half of it and a bit unimpressive to be honest. Had some baguette in this ok bit of park.

25 May 2017

Dinner at Eric's place around the corner. Much more successful. You just have what he makes on the night. Fantastic antipasto followed by Tortellini and a bottle of Rose. Eric has a wonderful dry sense of humour and made for a memorable evening.
Luxembourg Palace and Gardens. What an amazing place. The French know how to look after their citizens with their parks and gardens. I want to know why all these people are not at work! It's been absolutely perfect weather. Another 14000 steps today!
Montmartre, tourist rip-off heaven!
Sacre-Coeur! So many steps to the top!
A street market set up overnight outside the apartment. Fantastic foods, so much fresh cheeses, fish, meats, fruits and vegetables. By the time we got back this afternoon there was no evidence it had been there at all.

24 May 2017

Exhausted and hungry so a quick tourist pizza and beer on the Champs Elysee. Another 13,400 steps today!
Then on to the Arc De Triumph built by Napoleon in 1805. He promised his army they would return to arches of triumph so built the place. We've been here before but this place never fails to impress. It's massive! Inside there are 285 steps up a spiral staircase to the top. Surprised l made it to be honest, the muscle burn in my legs was phenomenal. Great views over Paris from the roof top.
I see dead people! This morning a visit to the famous Cemitaire du Pere-Lachaise. First on the list is a visit to Jim Morrison's grave. Rather unassuming bit clearly somebody still cares. Then we looked for Oscar Wilde's tomb but unsuccessfully. This place is huge!

23 May 2017

Our French definitely needs work. Last night we mistakenly ordered a plate full of steaks. A bit too rare for your mum so she went hungry. That's a lot of Euros we won't see again.
Took the BatoBus hop on hop off boat along the Seine to quickly tick off half a dozen must see sights for the day. Despite that we walked 14,000 steps today. Now completely knackered!
Notre Dame and Ste Chapelle knocked over in record time.
Musee D'Orsay. We really are crap tourists. By half way through the first floor of exhibits we were looking for somewhere to sit down. Bloody exhausting this sightseeing stuff
Quick nose extension for mum!
Tour Eiffel, compulsory visit. Still pretty amazing up close. Plus lots of little Eiffel's for sale from these gentlemen.

22 May 2017

This view is 10 metres from our apartment front door!
Our Paris apartment for the next few days

21 May 2017

almost away, bye bye Melbourne . Mum checking out her seat for the next 10 hours!. At long last we've managed to use all those air miles for something worthwhile!