An unexpected road trip with friends exploring Spain 

I believe the last time I wrote about Askari it was with a little tinge of sadness as we waved goodbye to Andrew Carolyn and James at anchor in Faro seriously thinking that it may be a few years before we would have the opportunity again to have our two boats in the same harbour. Well the boats may not have come together but we did.

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Askari was sitting in Lagos Portugal waiting for some parts whilst we had made it to Almerimar Spain and were also now waiting on parts - specifically for our generator which had failed and without which anchoring, that we enjoy, becomes a little more tedious. So what to do with two boats 650 km apart - waiting - join forces and go on a land tour.

So Carolyn and Andrew set about driving the 650km to spend a night onboard Katherine in Almerimar and from where a very loose travel plan was conspired. 

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The Alhambra

Day 1 & 2 - Off to Granada 139km Region Andalusia

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First Stop Granada where we wandered the narrow maze of one way streets in the city from our quaint Hotel for two days. The major tourist attraction in Granada is the Alhambra, a mix of palaces and fortification that commenced construction in 1232. It is recorded that at the height of the season Alhambra is visited by over 6000 people per day and getting tickets is no easy feat. We were lucky that Andrew of Askari managed to find tickets for the the last tour of the day from 8pm - 10pm. Though we could not visit the gardens, this ended up being a real bonus as the crowds were less and the lighting superb.The Palacio’s Nazaries with its patio’s, Salon De Embajadores (Throne room) and the ceiling of the Sala de Los Abencerrajes inspired by Pythagoras’ theorem are all beautifully restored and intricate in design. Throughout water is featured everywhere bringing a calmness to the place even with the traipsing of so many feet and camera flashes.

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Outside of the Alhambra on the opposite bank of the Rio Darrio is The Albaicin area. This area had the strongest feel of Moorish history according to the guide book and it was here that we visited the El Banuelo or Moorish baths from the 11th Century, walked up many a hill to get a great view of the Alhambra and found a delicious Moorish Restaurant tucked up an alley way for dinner. 

Without a doubt Granada was also the place to purchase your fresh spices, never before had we seen so many spice stores in such a small quadrant of a town. 

Day 3 - Heading North West to Cordoba 208km Region Andalusia

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The Roman Bridge, Mesquita and Old Town of Cordoba from the rooftop terrace of  our Hotel 

Team Askari did well again in Cordoba booking a hotel that although feeling a little like a bus route hotel inside, turned out to have the best bar terrace on the roof from which to take in the view of the old town at night. It was just a short walk across the Roman Bridge to the highlight of Cordoba The Mesquita or Great Mosque built between 785 and 787. The first thing that captured your eye as you entered the Mosque were the Arches and Pillars formed by over 850 granite columns. In the 1500’s part of the Mosque was destroyed in its conversion to a Catholic Cathedral. The huge Cathedral with its Italian Dome was situated in the centre of the Mosque and took over two centuries to compete. It was hard to comprehend the placement of such a Grand Altar within the Mosque which in itself was a work of Grand Architecture. 

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The Grand Altar in the centre of what was the Mosque 

Day 4: Heading further north to Merida 247km Region: Extremadura

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Diana’s Temple 

Definitely the historical highlight of our road trip. We had no idea really what we would find in Merida except perhaps a few roman ruins. What an understatement. We did our best but in one and a half days to visit every thing in this town was not possible though we did our best.

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- The Roman Theatre built between 16 and 15 BC that is still used in summer for for drama festivals and has a seating capacity for 6000 people was simply stunning.

- The Aqueducts built between the 1st and 3rd Century. The engineering feat from so long ago defies understanding at times.

- The ruins of The Roman Amphitheatre dating back to 8bc and with a capacity in its time for 14000 people. Information boards surrounding the Amphitheatre gave an insight into what battles would have been carried out here. 

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- The Circus Romano where it didn’t take much to imagine Charlton Heston racing around in his chariot. 

At night a lot of the historical monuments were illuminated providing a special opportunity for both photography and viewing. 

Perhaps the other reason we enjoyed Merida so much was because of the Plaza at the front of our Hotel. Here on the Saturday night families gathered until late in the evening (early morning). Children of all ages ran, skated, rode bikes around the fountain and plaza. There was little English spoken if any and it felt very relaxed and local for us. 

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Day 5 & 6 - Still going north - heading for the mountains - Hoyos del Espino - Region Castilla y Leon 

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Having now overdosed on architecture and historical artefacts it was time to head for the hills and to enjoy a little peace of nature. So we headed for the town, village perhaps is the better description, of Hoyos del Espino and took up residence in a quaint house overlooking paddocks and out to the Sierra De Gredos Mountains. 

With hiking boots on and under the guidance of our Queens Scout Leader (the other AB) we headed off for the Laguna Grande walk on the Sierra  De Gredos Mountains. Some six hours later, having traversed 18km, met several goats, taken in some stunning scenery and dined on a baguette with Jamon we returned to our home for dinner by a roaring fire. 

Simply the best day out. 

So came to the end of this road trip. Parts having arrived for Katherine we left Andrew and Carolyn to tackle a few more walks, whilst we hit the road in our trusty Berlingo Van back through some stunning scenery and serious switchbacks to Almerimar.

We have given up saying goodbye to these two. It’s now just see you next time.

Hasta Luego!

(Click for more photos) 

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain