Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Tapas Fest 2014 - My Spanish Adventure

So last September 2014 I went on an epic adventure back to my (other) homeland, Spain!

I took K and J with me as travel buddies (oh and mum too hee hee) and they're the best travel buddies ever!

We spent 4 weeks gallivanting around the peninsula and even though I was still mega sick with a borderline hangover style depression, I had an amazeballs time and got to reconnect to my old home and reminisce about childhood and meet with old friends and family.
Flying high with Monster Hunter - Achieving G-Rank at 5000 feet!
Mind you, the long flights are horrible, thankfully the Emirates long haul flights we took had a great collection of shows to watch like Community, Brooklyn 99 and some old school friends - awwww 

Finally arriving in Barcelona, tired and excited, we met up with two other travel buds who decided the first meal they'd have in Spain was Burger King. WACK!

No worries, we were situated in a nice area that let us commute easily around the city and were near some really nice taperias.

We also arrived on the same weekend the Catalans celebrate the Diada, which is the National Day for Catalonia.  The streets were covered in yellow and red flags and everyone and they grandma was out on the street showing their nationalistic pride for their erm, province, dukedom, sovereignity, desire for independence which, as someone who was born in Madrid and studied Spain's history as an outsider was weird and fascinating to watch.

But hey, recent news says that Catalunya might go independent and hey, good luck to them, if it works out for them then good, if it doesn't well, you tried.

But Barcelona was lovely, it was warm and humid and my hair got greasy quite a lot.

We went to the Casas Gaudi, Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, the Olympic Parks and ate as many tapas as I could stuff my face with.  I also introduced everyone to the wonders of my favourite cold sausage; Fuet.

Then we headed off to Madrid.  J, K and I took the bullet train and enjoy the super speed scenery while Mum went by car with the others.

And then, I was home!!!!  The first lovely thing to see was not only the amazing weather but that the Madrid Central Station - Atocha still had that adorable turtle sanctuary i

Every day I showed off something beautiful and unique and so very Madrid to my friends, I knew all the corners and haunts and niches as much as I encouraged we visit all the beautiful tour sites.  Eventually we all cut off into our own little groups, as a local there were some things I didn't want to see again and everyone being adults, made their own itineraries.  For one, I didn't go to El Prado art Gallery this time because I didn't want the usual overload migraine.

I caught up with my sis from another miss and my other family. 
The weather in Madrid was sublime and my hair looked quite lovely thank you very much.

From Madrid, we took little day trips to different nearby towns like the always beautiful Toledo and Segovia.  We binged on damascene jewellery shopping and saw the usual plethora of ancient ruins, Mega Churches/Cathedrals and ancient ruins.

Then, we headed south on the wonderful bullet train to Andalucía.  We settled in at Carmona, a small town near Seville where we stayed in an old palace hotel.  I had stayed there once as a child and the memory remains true to its beauty and tranquillity.

We spent a day in Seville because while it may be nice - and the cathedral is impressive, we were there for tapas, wine and Flamenco.  We attended a tablau and even though it is genuinely a touristy thing, we had a hell of a lot of fun. 

Next were my absolute favourite stops in the South of Spain.  Cordoba and Granada.

Cordoba is a delight - I love that town so, so, so very much that I'd genuinely consider moving there if it weren't for the fact that I'd have no idea what to do with myself.

Cordoba's town centre is almost unchanged from the way it must have looked like in the heyday of Andalucía.  The South was once a Moorish kingdom, with a culture based on a unique blend of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.  The kingdom was wealthy, progressive, prosperous and tolerant.  Had the catholic kings not driven the Moors out, we'd have a completely different Spanish culture.  

The Cathedral Mosque is the jewel of Cordoba.  Its origin lay in a tiny gothic church which eventually was built over with the grand Mosque of Cordoba.  The place is enormous and the architecture is sublime.  The Quibla (the corner indicating where you face to point to Mecca) is adorned with semi precious stone mosaic given to the Sultan of the time by the Christian Emperor of Byzantine.

Then, the catholic kings came in and shoved an overly ornate baroque church right in the middle of it.  The architectural disconnect is the weirdest thing you'll ever see and the gaudiness of the Christian décor contrasts with the beautiful and simple décor of what remained of the mosque.

Oh, and by the by, there just happened to be roman ruins next door, and in the basement of our hotel. Just cause... and cats that ambled about on the ruins...

Then we went to Granada where we visited the Alhambra.  The beautiful (read: breathtakingly beautiful) castle fortress of one of the last Sultanates to rule Al Andalus before it became a Christian kingdom.

The architectural style, although Islamic is unique only to Spain, form the way the tiles are designed, to the bas relief of the walls and columns.  But the structure of the building follows a uniquely Islamic home décor style of having a central courtyard with a water feature and having a crap load of trees and gardens to provide tranquillity and shade.

We also ate Tapas all day erry day.  At one point K walked in on me chowing down on a Fuet sausage with some slightly perverse gusto.  I swear to god it wasn't awkward.

We also saw some strange things - like the fact that dancing is not allowed when getting off trains.  And there's actual Fifty Shades merchandise....

But back to the food...

Of course, I had churros....

And everything else. And all the ham you can bust your gut at.

What you're seeing here is the free pile of tapas that you get when you buy a drink at a bar.  Yes, free tapas with every drink.

The measure of love is love without measure.

After our southern romp.  We headed back to Madrid.  By this point my fatigue was getting the better of me and my sleep and eating habits were slightly alarming my family.

Despite my incessant eating of Fuet, I was loosing weight and I was feeling nauseated quite a lot.

J and K took a short visit to Amsterdam, but since I wasn't feeling well and also, I wanted to spend time with an old friend who was also very sick, I stayed behind.  They had an amazeballs time, and I am feeling excessively jealous - but there's always next time.  I'm so glad they loved my other home away from home as much as I did.

Nonetheless, I shopped and shopped and ate and ate and wined and wined as much as by body would let me.

I got to visit old haunts and just generally chill out in one of the most beautiful cities that I've ever loved.

I felt the usual trickles of nostalgia and felt grateful I could show my two best friends the fun and weirdness of my Spanish childhood.  We even watched a Real Madrid Match. 

Needless to say - Madrid won

It was a wonderful holiday spent with wonderful people and even though I wasn't at 100% (and it went downhill when I got back but I got a holiday out of it so yey!) - I had such a great time and was so glad to have shared it with some of my favourite people.

Oh - and I introduced J &K to Gazpacho *pats self on back* - you're welcome guys.

Eventually we flew back to Barcelona for our last night there and flew back to Sydney.  We had a horrendously long stop in Dubai but thankfully managed to get a booking at the corporate lounge.  At one point we all got woken up by the call to Friday prayers, which as tired and as grumpy as we all were, I utterly loved listening to the ululations that called the faithful to pray.

I am heading off on another adventure this weekend and I'll tell you all about it next time.  I know this post is a year late but things really got weird last year and I wasn't going to be in a good writing mood to share the utterly breathtaking beauty of Spain with you. 

But here you go, I hope you're sufficiently jealous and maybe even inspired to go visit by beloved birth country. 

And since I've been gorging on these videos, I'll leave you with a relevant tale about a Spanish guy wrote an amazing book - explained to you by the coolest and knowledge-swollest of homies: