Sunday, November 22, 2015

A brief stay in Córdoba

Sunset over Córdoba

Córdoba is a small town around an hour by train out of Madrid but for such a small city it is packed with history and things to see.

Córdoba was an important city for the Romans, the Moors and the subsequent Christian kings and so it contains historic sites from each of these eras.

Roman temple in Córdoba.
Roman temple in Córdoba
Roman Bridge
Roman bridge
Roman bridge from the bridge gate

However, the main historic feature of Córdoba is the Mezquita. Originally a grand Mosque, it was converted into a cathedral but much of the original architecture and religious iconography was retained.

Archway pointing the way to Mecca
The hallways
Statue of Christ - with the archways from the Muslim period in the background

The mixture of Christian and Muslim iconography and architecture makes the Mezquita a truly amazing historic building. The sheer size and grandeur of the place, its architecture and beauty makes this an absolute must see on any trip to Spain.

But, there are many other beautiful historic sites in Córdoba - including the Castle of the Christian Kings.

The Castle from the tower
Castle walls
Castle gardens
View of the Castle gardens
Statue in the gardens

A half day can easily be spent wandering the beautiful castle gardens and exploring the Castle itself.

Córdoba is a truly beautiful city, steeped in history with a relaxed small town vibe. To explore it fully takes around two days - definitely worth an overnight stay, rather than the day trip from Seville that's recommended in a lot of travel sites.

Córdoba from the river

Farewell, Cordoba, next stop - Seville

Friday, November 20, 2015

A rocky start to adventures in Spain

View from the apartment window, Madrid.
When I arrived in Madrid last week, I thought that I had managed to survive 26 hours travel without too much mishap - however, in the days that followed: terrible jetjag coupled with terrible gastro made the brief trip to Madrid a sightseeing tour of the apartment and the pharmacy at the end of the street.

There was one day not punctuated by illness that enabled some wandering around Madrid's sights, and thankfully the Weather Gods were extremely kind.

The Plaza Mayor was built during the 16th century and is one of Madrid's famous landmarks - architecturally it's beautiful surrounded by buildings of the period. However, being a famous landmark it was also inhabited by enormous tour groups and clichéd "buskers" hustling for a euro or two which ruined the ambiance somewhat.

Plaza Mayor
Phillip III statue in Plaza Mayor
From the Plaza Mayor it was a short walk to the very beautiful (and for some reason less touristy) Royal palace.

The Palace
Palace gardens
Although this brief stay in Madrid was cut very short by illness, at least the weather was good enough for walking this small part of the city.

Thankfully, I intend to be back in December.

Atocha Station
Farewell Madrid.... For now

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Adventure begins...

Probably the best place to start any story is from the beginning, so I have started my year long adventure to Europe and South America back in my home town in Tasmania.

View from the farmhouse

View overlooking a dam

Farm track


Apart from relaxing after the stress of moving all my belongings into storage and all the other hassles of moving, I was able to spend some time wandering around the farm.

I also wandered the tracks that reach deep into the wet sclerophyll and temperate rainforest that surrounds the farm.


Wet sclerophyll forest

View from the top of the track

And the weather was nice enough to bring some of the local fauna out....

The highly venomous Tiger Snake

But the trip wasn't all about nature. There is a local award winning microbrewery in Scottsdale: Little Rivers Brewery - and it would have been remiss of me not to do a tasting at the brewery. 

"Dam busters" mid-strength, Dark larger and Golden ale

Pale ale

The beers didn't disappoint. The Pale Ale was the standout but all of the others were excellent too. The real surprise was the "Dam Busters" mid-strength - delicious and full bodied with an excellent hop bitterness, very unusual for a mid-strength.

Inevitably the sampling of beers led to the local drinking hole: Lord's Hotel.

View from Lord's

A few pots and some pub grub later we called it a day - since our plans for the next day involved cycling the North East Rail Trail.

The North East Rail Trail is a mountain biking trail that follows the old North East Rail line from Scottsdale to Ledgerwood.

Our plan was to ride the 46 km round trip from Scottsdale to Billycock Hill. The trail is extremely picturesque as the trail slowly winds its way up the 345 m to the top of Billycock.

The NE rail trail

Once again some local fauna greeted us.

Echidna on the trail

The trail is reasonably challenging as it is all up a gentle incline and unfortunately the top of Billycock Hill ends at the Tasman highway which wasn't the most scenic spot to end the journey.

The top of Billycock Hill

Although we were tempted to travel the addition 11 km round trip to Ledgerwood, we wisely decided to turn back remembering, despite the downhill run from Billycock Hill, the last 10 km back to Scottsdale was almost all uphill.

It turned out to be a very wise decision. By the time we got back we were exhausted and famished.

The pies from the Cottage Bakery tasted awesome after the exhausting ride - the Australian Olympic cycling team should get on to them, because they certainly worked for us.

With that the first leg of my trip was over - a couple of days to sort out the last of my stuff in Melbourne, then next stop: Madrid.

Farewell Tassie