Tag Archives: Europe

SPAIN: Al Hambra, Granada and Malaga

January 2015

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.

THURSDAY

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon at Malaga airport.  I had booked coach tickets to Granada with Alsa coaches:

http://www.alsa.es/en/

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:

http://www.nh-collection.com/es/hotel/nh-collection-granada-victoria

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g187441-d584434-Reviews-NH_Collection_Granada_Victoria-Granada_Province_of_Granada_Andalucia.html

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:

http://www.nuevorestaurante.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187441-d1221572-Reviews-Nuevo_Restaurante-Granada_Province_of_Granada_Andalucia.html

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!

FRIDAY

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.

The Alhambra

I had booked tickets in advance for the Alhambra on Friday, as I heard it is often fully booked:

http://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/buyalhambratickets.asp 

http://www.ticketmaster.es/nav/landings/en/mucho_mas/entradas_alhambra/index.html 

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.

SATURDAY

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.

http://www.tryphotels.com/en/tryp-guadalmar-hotel-malaga-spain.html

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g187438-d228654-Reviews-Tryp_Guadalmar-Malaga_Costa_del_Sol_Province_of_Malaga_Andalucia.html 

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.

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187438-d6229818-Reviews-Taco_Bell-Malaga_Costa_del_Sol_Province_of_Malaga_Andalucia.html

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.

DSC_0833.JPG

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.

SUNDAY

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.

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Filed under Art, Europe, Restaurants, Spain, Travel

A long weekend in Vienna – Austria

November 2014

Vienna was on my to do list this year, and I had been longing for another holiday post-Rome, so I practically jumped at the opportunity to join a friend who was going to be there… for a day.  The great thing about this friend is that he’d lived in Vienna for four years so knew it really well, and there’s nothing quite the same as visiting a new place with someone who knows it really well.

THURSDAY

I arrived on a Thursday evening with the joys of EasyJet.  I was a little worried about getting around as someone who speaks no German (except ‘one beer please’) but my friend had assured me that everyone speaks English and it would be easy.  And it was!  I asked at the help desk, the lady directed me to head out of the airport, turn left and go to bay 7 for the coach to Westbahnof.  It was as simple as that.

http://www.postbus.at/en/Airportbus/Vienna_AirportLines/Westbahnhof/index.jsp

The coach cost 8 euros that I paid on the spot, and the trip took about 45 minutes, with a stop at another station.  I had already checked the location of my first hotel which was a ten minute walk away.

Hotel – Stanys Das Apartmenthotel

http://www.stanys.at/en/apartments/

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g190454-d1070961-Reviews-STANYS_Das_Apartmenthotel-Vienna.html

Luckily I arrived at about 9.50pm, I genuinely think I would have been screwed if I arrived after 10pm which is when the reception closes.  The staff was nice enough, although this didn’t really feel like a professional hotel.  Doesn’t matter though, as my room was huge!  I felt like I had my own little one-bed flat from the 80s.  It’s also lucky that I like the 80s.  So the ‘apartment’ was very spacious, with a large living room + sofa, a balcony, double bedroom with fitted wardrobe, relatively large bathroom (completely tiled in blue) and a little kitchenette area with a fridge, sink and double hob electric cooker.  It was basic, but nice.  I  was thrilled that there was a TV in the living room and fitted on the wall in the bedroom.  There is also a tram stop a couple of minutes walk away.  I’d say this was very good value for a spacious room in a convenient location – at one end of the main shopping street Mariahilfer Strasse.

FRIDAY

My friend picked me up from the hotel and we headed towards Ottakring where he used to live.  The U-Bahn subway system is pretty easy to follow if you’re used to any other underground – an advantage of being a city girl:

http://www.wien.info/media/files/netzplan-u-bahn.pdf

I bought a 72 hour (three day) subway pass that cost 16.50 euros.  This includes the tram as well.  I checked out the local Spar and had a schoko-croissant (chocolate croissant) at the  nearby bakery while my friend sorted out some stuff at the bank.  After that the tour began!  We walked past the flat where he used to live and took the tram towards central.  I kind of lost my bearings, this is also one of the joys of investigating somewhere with someone who knows the joint.  I loved following him around and not having to look at any maps or worry about getting lost.   He explained that there is a central district, and surrounding districts around it.  (This reminded me of the Hunger Games, he didn’t get it)  We went past the Town Hall and the Parliament building, and some other beautiful grand buildings.

We stopped at Cafe Centrale for a coffee:

http://www.palaisevents.at/cafecentral.html

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g190454-d1967964-Reviews-Cafe_Central-Vienna.html

This is a really beautiful grand venue with a really nice ambience.  I had a double espresso with a shot of apricot.  I was a little worried I’d be bouncing off the walls as a non-coffee drinker, but I seemed to be OK.  And I wish I had space for cake at the time, but I did not.  So sad.  Apparently there is often a pianist playing as well.

We went in to the Cathedral in town.

We had lunch at a Hungarian restaurant called Ilona.  I really enjoyed the food here.

http://www.ilonastueberl.at/index.php/en/our-story

We walked past the opera and Hotel Sacher in the afternoon, had a good wander around the town.

Dinner was at Fromme Helene, where I ate the most delicious roast goose.

http://www.frommehelene.at/

Dinner was followed by drinks at Voodoo bar which involved a lot of sitting around and drinking.

http://www.cafe-voodoo.at.tf/

SATURDAY

I decided to go to the Zoo, I love animals and it was an opportunity to take my time without boring a companion.  Fortunately I was able to take the tram 58 from my hotel directly to the Tiergarten.  It cost 16.50 euros to enter.  It was a good zoo, well laid out.  I don’t have a major issue with zoos, but it did bother me that some of the enclosures were really small, I remember a particularly large snake that was in a really small enclosure, part-submerged in water.  Oh well, I guess this is the nature of zoos!

https://www.zoovienna.at/en/zoo-and-visitors/visitor-information/https://www.zoovienna.at/en/zoo-and-visitors/visitor-information/

Red panda

Cheetah cub

In the afternoon I shopped on Mariahilfer, had a good look around.  It’s a nice and spacious way of shopping.  The best snack is the cheesey sausages from the sausage stands!

SUNDAY

I was quite surprised that the shops were closed on Sunday!  Fortunately I had no space in my suitcase for shopping anyway.  I visited the Stadtpark which was very pretty but smaller than I expected.  I enjoyed taking photos by the lake.

In the evening I went to see the Romeo & Juliet ballet at the Vienna Opera house.  Fortunately I had booked this weeks in advance, as it was completely booked out the week before I went to Vienna.

http://www.wiener-staatsoper.at/Content.Node/home/Startseite-Content.en.php

MONDAY

This is the day I was leaving.  I had a look around at the shops in the morning before grabbing lunch at an Asian food chain called Akakiko.  I was able to take the coach from the station which was walking distance.  Bear in mind that the ticket is bought in cash – good thing I had some euros left!

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Filed under Austria, Travel