Category Archives: Art
It was on my mind to take my mum to see the Alhambra one day – having seen an offer on flights to Malaga on Ryanair I decided to book it in. Fortunately I had been to Granada before, which gave me the confidence to co-ordinate the trip.
We arrived on a Thursday afternoon at Malaga airport. I had booked coach tickets to Granada with Alsa coaches:
There was a bit of a wait between the flight landing and the coach arriving, we sat down and had something to eat and drink in the airport. The coach took about 2.5 hours to arrive at Granada bus station, and from there it was about 10 euros by taxi to the hotel. We stayed for two nights at the NH Collection Victoria hotel:
This is a really nice hotel and very reasonably priced for its good location. We had a look around at some shops that evening (open til late!) and found a street that had a number of restaurants. We decided to try the set menu at Nuevo Restaurant:
I wasn’t too impressed with this place. It looks nice, but it didn’t feel very authentic, the service wasn’t great, and the food wasn’t really great. My mum was happy though! She enjoyed her fish and the restaurant, I think I expected something that in my mind is more ‘Spanish’. At least it wasn’t an expensive disappointing meal!
We pottered around locally in the morning, past the shops and around the cathedral. There were a lot of market style shops and we had lunch at a Spanish restaurant with Moroccan staff.
I had booked tickets in advance for the Alhambra on Friday, as I heard it is often fully booked:
There is a morning (8h30 – 14h) and afternoon option (14h – 18h), I booked the afternoon option and selected a time to visit the Nasrid Palace. It came to 15.40 euros per person. The hotel had directed us to take a bus to the Alhambra which cost less than two euros. This is definitely advisable – it’s quite a long and steep journey upwards, I would have no idea which way to go on foot. Also, the local bus is much cheaper than the ‘tourist’ bus.
We were able to pick up the tickets from the main ticket office, and they wouldn’t let us enter until 2pm as we arrived a bit early. Once we did get in, it was beautiful. Very grand, spacious and well kept. There was so much to see! And there is a lot of walking – through gardens, buildings and on stairs!
We stayed for about 2.5 hours. We easily could have stayed longer, but being January it was surprisingly cold and my mum had a bit of a cold, so we decided not to cover every inch before heading back. The Nasrid palace was really lovely, I’m glad we took the option to view all areas – since you’re in the hood you might as well!
We took the bus back down to the bottom and visited some of the shops on the way back to the hotel. I was absolutely thrilled to find a big Sephora store for makeup – these are plentiful in the US but sadly they don’t exist in the UK. And I also love shopping in Zara while in Spain.
For dinner that evening, we tried to track down a restaurant that a taxi driver had recommended to us, and failed. We ended up back on the same street as the evening before but in a different restaurant. This one had a bit more of a pubby feel and there were lots of Spaniards dining there too – always a good sign. We ordered a fried fish platter, mainly for my mum’s benefit, which was huge and very good. They also gave us a tapa of fish with our drinks – I was pretty fished out by the end. That’s already my annual fish quota fulfilled!
We ambled back to our hotel after dinner.
The plan for this day was to head back to Malaga for the night, as we had an early flight on Sunday morning. I’d booked the coach for around 1 pm, so we checked out at midday from the hotel and bought some snacks from the local bakery. It was easy to get a taxi to the bus station, and there is a lot of indoor seating at the bus station. The coach ride back was smooth with lovely views. We got off at the airport stop, and took a taxi to our next hotel, which came to about 25 euros.
I’d stayed at the Tryp at Berlin previously, so was looking forward to staying at the Tryp Guadalmar hotel in Malaga. It is a pleasant hotel with nice staff, our room had such a beautiful view of the sea from our balcony. We were right next to the beach.
After a little walk along the relatively short patch of beach, we headed in to town. The good news was the bus stop was just outside the hotel (line 5). The bad news was that it only came once every 30 minutes, and it also took about 30 minutes to get into town! This is not so bad when you’re on holiday and the agenda is to relax and take your time about things.
My highlight, sadly, was the TACO BELL when we got to the bus stop! This isn’t saying anything bad about Malaga town – I just happen to really like Taco Bell and it doesn’t seem to exist in England.
So after a taco stop, we went for a walk along the pier. It’s very pretty and lively.
It was getting dark so we decided to head towards the return bus and had something to eat around there. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was across the road from the bus stop where we arrived, which happened to be the same stop for taking the return bus too. Nice and easy…
This was not an especially memorable meal. We sat outside on the street next to the busy road, there were a lot of smokers on the tables nearby, and the food was just not that great. It was bland and probably heated up in the microwave. I’m so pleased that my mum was not being a fussy eater, she was happy with her slightly soggy fried fish. Thanks for being cool mum!!
Towards the end of our meal, we spotted a line 5 bus but weren’t in a position to leave, so decided to wait a little before heading back, since they were every 30 minutes. Or as we found out the hard way… they were even more sporadic as it got later. **TIP – check the return bus times when you arrive at the bus stop ** I do wish I’d checked this earlier, but it wasn’t the end of the world, we had a walk around as the next bus was about 50 minutes after the last one. We walked along and found a street full of shops and lovely decorations.
We did get back for the next bus, which was then another 30 minutes back to the hotel. The return bus stop is a couple of minutes away from the hotel – easy if you know the way. Luckily a lovely Spanish woman pointed out how to get back.
We had a very early flight back on the Sunday. We had checked with the hotel who told us that there were usually taxis outside the hotel at all times, and sure enough there was a taxi waiting at the ungodly hour we were up. It cost about 20 euros to get to the airport – all smooth sailing from there back to London Stansted.
Italy had been on my to-do list for a very long time.
A school friend and I decided to make the trip this year, which was awesome, until we started to think about WHERE in Italy we would go to. Rome was top of my list, I forgot that she hates cities, and hence lives in the countryside in France.
We compromised on that holiday and went to La Rochelle together (August), which was a lovely trip, and also another story!
After the La Rochelle trip, I still felt the need to go to Italy, and for my travel plans not to be foiled because it didn’t work out with someone else – so I booked a trip on my own!
I admit, I was secretly hoping that one of my friends would decide to join me at the time of booking. At the same time, I was mentally preparing myself for travelling alone. My biggest question of course – how does one eat dinner alone!? However, after meeting a couple of cool travelers in Berlin (September) I was really looking forward to having some me-time and doing as I please on holiday!
I arrived on a Saturday afternoon at Ciampino airport and took the Terravision coach to Termini station (affordable and easy). From there, I took the Metro towards my hotel.
Hotel – Best Western Hotel President
This was a very nice hotel about a minute from Manzoni Metro stop.
Dinner at the local pizza place – MISTAKE!
I decided to wander out and find some local grub. There weren’t too many restaurants, and I wandered into a little deli style pizza place and eyed up some delicious looking aubergine pizza. The guy working there was Bengali, we had a little chat and I grabbed a couple of slices and a little bottle of prosecco (prosecco to was down my pizza!) and headed back to the hotel room… where I discovered the base of this pizza was pretty burnt! Probably not authentic Italian pizza… however, it wasn’t all burnt and the topping of aubergine and cheese (mozzarella?) and the herby tomato sauce was really good. And I still enjoyed my fine pizza with prosecco dinner.
Inspired by the cool people I met in Berlin who were travelling alone and went out to a pub crawl, I decided to do the same thing.
This was a cool organised night out which started with an open bar. I got talking to quite a few people and spent a lot of the evening with a couple of lovely Australian girls. Ended up partying until the wee hours…
I missed the tour that started at nine, as I was dead to the world. I dragged myself out of bed to get to a tour by midday… and there was no one at the meeting point. I hung around for 15 minutes before having a leisurely walk back to the hotel. Luckily this was a very nice walk past the Colosseum and some other fab buildings – I can’t tell you what they were! There was also a little street market taking place.
I emailed the tour company, who said the tour guide thought the complete group was there so left and I must have just missed them. I was definitely there AT 12 though… grrrr. At least it got me out of bed and exploring Rome! And they did refund the booking fee I had paid.
Lunch at the local pasta place – MISTAKE!
Close to my hotel, I passed a little cafe style restaurant that looked tempting…. I had a seat and ordered a salmon pasta dish with the Chinese waiter. The pasta dish looked nothing like the glorious picture, and it tasted like crap. I’m not an especially fussy eater, but I was really tempted to walk out. I didn’t though, I picked at my food and left soon after.
Lesson was finally learned – find a restaurant run by Italian people!!!
I joined a free tour in the late afternoon led by an Italian guy. He was obviously very passionate about architecture. He kept talking about Bernini and Boromini very emphatically, I found myself switching off on the info but enjoying walking around and looking at the awesome buildings and picturesque scenery. We went into a church which was AMAZING. I have dabbled with painting – it is time-consuming and hard to get something realistic. The beauty and skill was so impressive… We also visited the Trevi Fountain which was under construction at the time, and a whole bunch of other beautiful places. A good tour overall.
I joined a Vatican tour at 10 am:
FYI the meeting point ‘the large column, looking at the Spanish steps on your right’ is referring to the circular column outside the Spanish Embassy, not the big pointy thing at the top of the Spanish steps.
I really enjoyed this tour, passed a lot of beautiful places. We went to the Pantheon – I didn’t realise that’s what it was when I went past it during the tour the day before, which made me realise how much I’d switched off during that! The tour guide was very engaging and provided good information. Very handily this ends near the Vatican itself so you’re lined up for the next thing to do.
Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel – buy tickets online in advance!!!
Fortunately a work friend had recommended that I book the tickets online and I’m so glad I did. I must have walked past at least three hours worth of people queuing around the block – and this was only midday on a Monday! Seriously, book them:
Hotel – Palazzo Montemartini
I decided to treat myself to a 5* hotel for my last night and I was so excited about this one. This hotel is AMAZING. I loved everything about it. Especially the beautiful spa with pool, jacuzzi and sauna. I spent nearly two hours chilling out, which was great after all the walking I’d done. My room was awesome, very modern.
I met up with the two Australian girls at the Spanish steps, after popping in to Sephora, which I was thrilled to find as it doesn’t exist in London. We headed to a restaurant that the first tour guide had recommended to us. Apparently on the ‘pricey’ end, but actually very affordable. I had the spaghetti with anchovy in butter sauce, and it was delicious.
After that we headed to Giolitti’s for gelato:
Very yummy and generous servings!! There was no elegant way of consuming a melting gelato on the street…
After dessert, we went back to the hotel for a drink at the bar, which was very classy and pleasant. I had a great cocktail, freshly made and very fruity. It was lovely to hang out at this beautiful hotel. It’s also just a couple of minutes away from Termini station so it was easy for my friends to get a taxi back to their place.