A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

Xativa Castle

Incredible Views

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Seeing pictures of Xativa Castle was one of the reasons I wanted to visit this region. The castle dates from the time of the Romans and has been occupied by invaders ever since. The Moors came, and then the French, the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs and the Aragons. It's been built upon by each invader and it is a wonderful visual history. So much of it is intact and there is so much to explore.

We heard there was a tourist train that takes people to the top, and we saw it up there, but ended up just driving to the base of the castle and parking. The drive up is beautiful and you can see parts of the trail that meanders down from the castle. It looked amazing, but with two little ones, we had to prioritize.

The sun was getting hotter by the minute and the clerk recommended we see the Castle Mayor first and then check out the lower castle before the sun really started to bake. It was an excellent suggestion, and the Castle Mayor has some nice shady picnic areas on the way up. As you climb, the views of Xativa below get better and better. Check out the prison - it's about 15 degrees cooler in there!

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After we checked out the Borgias residence, I left the boys to cool off at the restaurant and climes up the smaller castle. The walk up is tough because it's so freaking hot, but totally worth it. The Castillo Menor is actually the older of the two fortifications, built in pre-Roman times by the region’s original Iberian inhabitants. This is a great day trip from Valencia. The city itself is full of shady streets and happening restaurants. The train station is also very nice.

We stocked up at the Masymas, where I bought a lot of cheese - 3 dollars for Camembert, I was too weak to resist. We drove back home through the orange and lemon groves to feed the feral cats and watch the sun go down. We hiked through the 70 hectares surrounding the house and sampled marcona almonds, dates, and some other fruit they eat in Lebanon that I don't know the name of. It was a good day.

Posted by Restless Mama 12:14 Archived in Spain Tagged xativa Comments (0)

Inland Valencia

Driving Over Lemons (and Oranges)

We arrived at the petrol station in Barxeta and met our lovely hostess, who we followed to our house. Well, it's her house and had been in her family for three generations, along with the surrounding orange, lemon, olive, and almond groves. She and her husband summer here, and during the days they work in the fields to produce organic bounty. The house is beautiful and can be found here - https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p596041vb.

The natural pool is clean and clear and is used for irrigation, based on an old Arabic system. For us, it was just a great place to swim!

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The nearest grocery is down a half paved road and into Barxeta, and it's only open from 6-9. So we sent Husband off to gather provisions. The views are incredible and we are surrounded by a natural park. Our first day, we picked lemons from the grove and I made lemon curd. The kids played with the feral cats and Husband brought home cat food to feed them. And now they wait for us every morning! The sun doesn't set until well after 9, and we've been enjoying the most beautiful sunsets. Tomorrow to Xativa Castle!

Posted by Restless Mama 11:56 Archived in Spain Tagged xativa barxeta Comments (0)

A Night in Toledo

Everything is Uphill

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Toledo is an incredibly well-preserved ancient city perched on top of a hill. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and wandering the narrow streets it is easy to imagine every era this city has experienced- from the Visigoths to the Moors to the Christians of the Spanish Inquisition. The city maintains its walls and gates - walls which kept the city from ever falling (other than to prolonged siege).

We stayed at the Hotel Mayoral, which is outside the walls and within walking distance of the series of escalators that ferry people up to the top. This keeps the city nearly car-free (except for buses, taxis, and early morning deliveries). At the top, it's a short walk up to the main plaza, Plaza Zocodover. The plaza is the center of the city and is the place to ask for when you (inevitably) get lost.

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We got lost. The city was celebrating Corpus Christie, and there were fuschia flowers and decorations throughout. The streets twist and turn and there are so many plazas and churches. We stopped to eat tapas and eventually found our way back to the square. We took the wrong escalator down and ended up walking all the way back down. We ended up at the beautiful Bisagra gate and wandered along the walls back to the hotel.

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We headed back for a siesta and then the kids and I decided to go find a park where we could run and play. At 8 o'clock, it was still light out and the park (across the street from the Bisagra gate), was filled with people. Parents and kids, teenagers and couples strolling along the shaded paths. The restaurants and cafes were full and it was a beautiful night. The kids found some other kids to play with and they put together some elaborate war game while I relaxed on the benches and took in the scene.

When we got home at 10, they insisted they weren't tired. Five minutes after lights out, we were all snoring. In the morning, I woke up my early bird kid and we went back up to the city while the other two slept. In the mornings, there are no people and you have the whole place to yourself. All the vendors were delivering their goods to the stores, and we scored some fresh marzipan from São Tomé, a bakery services by the local nuns. Delish. Though our legs were tired, I really wanted to see the Cathedral, which is reportedly one of the best in Spain. Adam was a good sport - he let me take pictures and then we found chocolate croissants. A great morning in a great city.

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Posted by Restless Mama 14:05 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Granada

So many expectations...

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Husband has been driving so much - 1400 kilometers so far! Although Granada is only two hours from Cartajima, we decided to take the train to the famed city. The train station is, like most of the Spain I've experienced, clean and efficient. The kids hadn't been on a train like this and Husband wanted a chance to enjoy the scenery without bracing for oncoming cars. We set the alarm at 6:30 to catch the 7:53 train and parked for free in the lot at the station. Honestly, they make it so easy to enjoy this country. Once on the train, we realized that it would only take us to Antequera where we would have to transfer to a bus. It was ok though, because the bus was very comfortable and we pulled into Granada early, at 10:30. The views of the countryside from the train were so beautiful, it was so relaxing to lean back and just enjoy.

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Once in Granada, we grabbed a taxi to Plaza Nueva (only 7 euro!), which was going to be our base of operations for the day. We started with the obligatory pastries and coffee and then set off along the river at the bottom of the Albayzin. While in the Plaza Nueva, we met a Seguay tour guide who let Husband take it for a spin. There are so many pretty spots along the river and looking up to the Alhambra that it would be impossible to put words to. I love the pace in the city - there's time to meander and enjoy. Husband was happy to see all the Arabic food vendors, and I promised we'd return for lunch. I stopped at a small art fair and bought a print that appealed to me.

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I was determined to get to the vista at St. Nicholas. From there, you can see across the gorge to the Alhambra, but it's a long walk up. There was some complaining and we lost each other for a little while, but we were eventually reunited at the top. Totally worth it, and not just for the views. There's a beautiful shaded plaza with a restaurant and on the wall, people sit, dangling their feet over the edge. Guys with guitars play Gypsy Kings and vendors sell jewelry. Next to the church is the mosque which had a beautiful courtyard garden. On the way down we followed random streets through the Albayzin, down streets so narrow, the sunlight was blocked out. Noah was fading, so I carried him down part of the way while balancing carefully on slick cobblestones. This is another inevitable part of traveling with children!

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We found a Moroccon restaurant off of Plaza Nueva and settled in for lunch. We got lucky - Harira, fried eggplant with pomegranate molasses, and the best, most authentic Moroccan mint tea I've ever had.

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We had purchased tickets for the Ahambra ahead of time, but not for the Palace. I don't do well with things that have to be committed to far in advance, and the palace tickets are those kinds of things. Granada in a day also means a lot of walking, including the Ahambra itself, and so I didn't think we could manage the Palace on top of everything else. People also say that it's a "must" but the whole Alhambra is incredible in and of itself. From the bottom of the hill it is a very long walk to the top. It's beautiful and tree shaded, but it's a hike. I loved the Generalife Gardens - perfectly manicured trees and walkways, wild flowers, orange trees, and fountains. They say that the gardens are almost exactly like they originally were, based on the paintings from the time they were designed. It's an incredibly well preserved and peaceful place. The kids played hide and seek, which worked out for everyone involved. Back to the bottom of the Alhambra, we visited the castle, but the last train was at 5 and we still had to get a cab back, so we didn't get to see as much as we would've liked. It's a place I'd love to go back to someday and spend the whole day just in the Alhambra.

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Posted by Restless Mama 07:04 Archived in Spain Tagged alhambra granada albayzin Comments (0)

Ronda

The Jewel of the Andalucian Mountains

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Ronda is a fantastic little city - there's so much going in but there's very little traffic and plenty of good parking. We drive right into the city center on the Mercadillo side and parked for 8 euro in the underground parking lot there. It's like a little miniature Piazza Navona. Our first stop was the pastry shop for Adam to peruse the glass displays and decide exactly what chocolate treasure he'd be sampling this afternoon. This vacation has pretty much been a sugar free for all for that kid.

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Ronda is a great walking city. Right off of Plaza del Socorro is the paseo Espinel, which is closed to traffic and extends several blocks. It also connects to the Plaza de Espana where the bullring is. Everything is close by and explorable. Along Espinel we sampled Churros and chocolate and bought some shoes. It's a great place to people watch - from tourists to local families and packs of kids just let out from school.

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We wandered to the Alameda del Tajo, a beautiful tree lined park that leads to the edge of the cliff that marks the edge of Ronda. The cliffs are the nesting grounds of many different kinds of birds and you can see so many of them soaring over the valley and hunting. The kids found a playground, and by the time they were done, it was too cold to cross over the famous Ronda bridge. That and the fact that I have a terrible sense of direction that prevented me from finding it in any reasonable amount of time. But we'll be back!

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Posted by Restless Mama 06:33 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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