Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Southern Spain, Portugal and New York City

For the rest of the blog of Madrid and Barcelona (the beginning of this trip) click here.

Day 9- Seville (walked 5.6 miles)
I'm continuing this blog from where I left off at Day 8 in Barcelona from the previous blog post. Day 9 we woke up and headed straight for the train station. We had an 8:30 train from Barcelona to Seville. We ate at the train station and then because we were in first class (because Jake was "DONE" being a cheap traveler) they also fed us again. Oops. Oh well, both breakfasts were great.

As we pulled into the Sevilla train station I was reading up about the city. I read that it's the hottest city in Western Europe. Also, did not really prepare for that. Oops again.

We arrived at our BEAUTIFUL apartment in Seville. I picked this one because of the private rooftop terrace that overlooked the city. It did not disappoint. But I didn't take into account the 5 flights of stairs any time we wanted to go anywhere. The view was worth it though.

After exploring around our apartment and walking to get some groceries, we headed out for some food. I had a friend from High School that had lived in Seville and recommended some places to us. (Thanks Carrie!) So we started walking toward a tapas bar she had recommended. The walk there was stunning. Tight cobble stone, back alley ways and winding streets. It was definitely a city to get lost in. We found the place and the owners had gone on vacation and shut down for the week! I was sad because it looked amazing. But we Yelp'd (is that a verb now?) a tapas bar close by that had good reviews. The paella was phenomenal!

Mom and Paul were a little warn out from our walk there, so we split up. Jake and I to go get lost and wander around some more. We stumbled across quaint little neighborhoods and Roman ruins. We also headed back to the main square, close to our apartment to see the church and Alcazar.

When we got back we had some drinks on our private terrace while looking down over the city. This place came alive at night! Superb people watching.

Day 10- Seville (walked 7.5 miles)
We started the day near our place again, just wandering. We had some ideas of things that we wanted to do but no time frame. So first we saw a bull fighting arena close to our place. We went in to see it, but I refused to get tickets. I just can't watch it. I don't care. Jake and Paul looked at buying some for themselves, but I think Jake's stinginess got the better of him.

We walked down the the river and the Torre de Oro. My mom and Paul bought us tickets to go on a river cruise. It was a nice way to just relax and look out over the city. It was ridiculously hot and I was 17 weeks pregnant, so it was welcomed to just look out from the shade for a bit.

From the river we headed over to the Plaza de España to explore a bit. The more sites we went to, the more I learned that a lot of Seville was built around the World's Fairs it hosted. The plaza was gorgeous. But again, HOT. So we had to stop and get drinks. More than once. Or twice.

After the plaza, we walked back to the main town area again to eat and shop and just explore. Jake and I tried to go on another free walking tour, as I've really enjoyed these and usually learn quite a bit! But nobody else showed up for it. So instead we explored some more on our own and tried to read up on some more history as we went.

We did find some flamenco dancers in the street. And then of course ended the night again on our terrace.

Day 11- Southern Spain (walked 3 miles)
My mom and Paul were renting a car this day to go to Gibraltar. We weren't really interested in going to Gibraltar but in the end, we decided to tag along. I'm so glad we did! Though we didn't necessarily want to see Gibraltar, we were able to see a lot of Spain that we wouldn't have otherwise been able to. But because we joined along, I convinced them to make a couple stops in places I did want to see.

So first we headed to Cadiz. Cadiz has a really neat history which was part of why I wanted to see it. But also beautiful beaches. So we got there and played on the beach for a bit. It was gorgeous, but after Barcelona didn't necessarily compare. We stayed there a few hours however.

From Cadiz, we started heading towards Gibraltar and on our way came across the a little town called Caños de Meca. There was a beautiful, secluded beach here. I LOVED it. I seriously could have stayed here ALL day and was so sad we had to leave. It really was so gorgeous and relaxing. There were hardly any people, a beautiful lighthouse, old catamarans. I couldn't get enough. But, unfortunately we eventually had to go.

We got to Tarifa, which was an area with a view of Morocco, Africa. Morocco was somewhere I really wanted to go on this trip, (mostly for a camel trek into the Sahara desert) but with ferry schedules and me being pregnant it ended up not working out. But hey! We got to see it from Spain. That's still cool right?

We got to Gibraltar, which was basically a tiny little island, though not technically an island, that is British. Right after we went through customs we were stopped, on the main road mind you, to let an airplane take off. There's literally no room to do anything there, but most of the world's cargo ships go through Gibraltar, so I doubt the UK will release it's claim any time soon. But since we were in the UK, I HAD to have fish and chips.

We got food and then drove around the island. We came to a lighthouse and you could look out and see all the ships. Way more than I expected. As we continued around, we actually drove through the rock. There's a giant tunnel that goes through the middle. Kind of neat. I'm also convinced that the whole rock of Gibraltar is actually hollowed out and full of secret meeting rooms and military secrets.

We eventually drove back to Seville for our last night at our apartment. We topped it off on our terrace.

Day 12- Seville / Lisbon (walked 4.5 miles)
We took a flight from the Seville airport into Lisbon, Portugal. I must say though, we got flights on TAP Portugal. I was expecting a nickle and dime airline but I was super impressed with their service. On our hour long flight they brought around, drinks, water, wines, a sandwich and dessert for everyone.

We landed in Lisbon and took a subway train to near our last apartment of the trip which might have been the best one yet. Again, I picked one with a view, but didn't take into account the 5 flights of stairs with no elevator and all our luggage. Sigh. But the apartment was KILLER with balconies overlooking the bay.

We Yelp'd another greatly reviewed restaurant (Portuguese food this time) and decided to go. It was right close to us and the church was along the way. The roads were steep and at times rather difficult. But my goodness. This restaurant. It was just a bunch of meat and vegetables, but it was all so good. From there what else do we do but wander and explore the area.

Day 13- Lisbon (walked 7.4 miles)
We got public transport passes for a day and had read all about the tram 28 line that you just HAD to take around Lisbon. So we headed to the first stop, which was said to be the best stop so you could see. The line was ridiculous! Like and hour and a half. But everyone RAVED about this, so we apparently had to do it. We were only in Lisbon once right? The nice thing is we had two couples. So we each took turns wandering around, shopping, getting food, while the others waited. Finally, we got to the front of the line, went to get seats and we couldn't even sit by each other. Jake had to sit next to some guy that just blocked the whole window the whole time so he couldn't see anyways. And then I was just by myself. (We asked the guy if he wanted the single seat alone so we could sit together and he said no.) It was a joke. And the line was so long because everyone was waiting for a tram with seats, so like 10 people would get on at a time. But then, we got the the very next stop and there were literally 3 people that got on. Why did we wait at the first stop the whole time!? If you do it, just go to the next stop and settle for standing. Your view is probably better anyways.
As we went through the city on the tram, it got more and more crowded, to the point that I was just getting smashed into my seat. I will say though, it was a neat experience and cool to see the city through the tram, especially all the winding roads Tram 28 took. But not worth that wait.

Seats finally cleared, so I got up to sit by Jake, only to find out it was the last stop and we had to get off. haha! When we got off, we were at a neat little farmers market. So we had a look around. We bought some artwork from local artist, and there was a man giving 20 minute massages for 10 euros. You bet I got one.

We split for lunch. For some reason, my pregnant self really wanted pho! At this point I was 18 weeks and finally starting to somewhat get over my nausea and because of that, really wanted spicy. It was SO good. I don't even care that I got Vietnamese food in Lisbon. It worked.

Jake and I walked around again on our own after our pho. We found amazing squares, look outs, churches. I fell in love with this city quickly. As far as the city went, I think this was my favorite place on the trip. The hills of Lisbon make look out points really breathtaking. We found a tower over the middle of the city that was a euro to go up so we gave it a try. It did not disappoint. The views were incredible.

That night, with the transport passes we bought, we decided to take a ferry to the other side of the bay just to check it out. It was party central. And remember how I said I was finally not nauseas? Yeah that didn't last long. Before we left, I kind of threw up on a construction cone at the bus stop, while a bus full of people was pulling up. That may be the most belittling moment of pregnancy. (Though I haven't pooped on a delivery table yet)

When we got to the other side of the bay, same thing, I was nauseous and not feeling well. Not to mention, before we took the ferry I REALLY had to pee. I paid 40 cents while and attendant watched me and then said, the bathroom is closed and REFUSED to let me in. So finally I asked for my change back and he said he couldn't work the machine. So when I got to the other side, there was a public restroom it was 20 cents. Guess who didn't have any more change after spending it on the first restroom? That bathroom attendant still pisses me off to think about. Jackass.

We didn't stay long on the other side of the bay because I wasn't feeling well. So we headed back on the ferry and went back to our apartment.

Day 14- Lisbon (walked 7.7 miles)
We got up with the intention of going to yet another beach, but this time in Portugal! We headed to Praia de Carvavelo on the train. It was an okay beach but nothing close to Spain. There was a neat castle at the end. But the water was freezing! We stayed a couple of hours and played and ate a delicious lunch on the sand.

After the beach day, we headed back to the city. We split up again and Jake and I found the most amazing Italian restaurant! This time I was craving Italian, yes. But I think I can honestly say this is the best Italian food I've ever had outside of Italy. And that wasn't just the pregnancy speaking. Jake agreed!

We yelp'd a dessert place after this. A Portuguese dessert place came up with 5 out of 5 stars. We had never seen reviews like this. So we decided we had to try it, despite the fact that it was a couple miles away. So we headed on our way, just for our 5 star dessert. Of course we explored on the way. We also stopped for our Portuguese Harry Potter book since we buy one in every country we visit. Finally, we arrived at Manteigaria, which as it turns out only sells coffee and pastel de nata, the traditional Portuguese pastry. So we each bought one plus a spare. Lets just say, we went back for more, plus more to take home. They were to die for! I did not expect that. My mouth is watering thinking about it!

We headed back the miles to our apartment and enjoyed the view of the sunset along the way.

Day 15- Lisbon / NYC (walked 4.8 miles)
We had a layover in NYC that landed late (and because we booked from NYC and not Salt Lake, there were no connections to SLC) we decided to make a day of it and leave late the next day from New York. Jake and I have an IHG (hotels) credit card which is probably my favorite card that we never use. It's $49 a year, but also comes with one free nights stay anywhere in the world each year. So we booked our free night at the Intercontinental on Times Square. The night we were there, the hotel rooms were running for close to $500, so the $49 annually is WELL worth it. Plus when you're a member, they spoil the heck out of you at every hotel you stay, like free drinks, food, etc. Like I said, we never use the card, but we use the perks.

So we got to our hotel and checked in. We went out for pizza and walked around Times Square, then headed back to the most amazing bed I have ever stayed in. That's no exaggeration. It was 10 times better than sleeping in my own bed after a long day. We even called them later to ask what sheets, pillows and comforter they used on their beds. Well done Intercontinental.

Day 16- NYC (walked 7.4 miles)
This day was pretty jam packed considering we had to leave for the airport at 6 that night and we had New York City to see! Jake had never been in the city before, so we fit as much as we could. But first we had to start with breakfast. Our hotel included it for only an extra $30 a person. But for some reason we decided to try our luck at finding it cheaper. There was a little food court place by us that was selling breakfast so I went and got a delicious French Toast plate. Jake ended up with Subway. Don't even ask. We went back to our room and ate and then met my Mom and Paul.

First, since we were right there, we walked around Times Square again, but this time in the daylight. From there we walked to Central Park down Broadway. I had never been to Central Park so this was something I wanted to do.

From there we took the Subway to the 9/11 memorial. This was definitely Hallowed ground. The last time I was in New York was 2006 and it was all still complete rubble. So it was really neat for me to see the transformation and the difference that now 11 years made to that site. We also happened to be there as pipers came and played for the memorial and then walked off.

After the memorial, we walked to Wall Street and passed the grave of Alexander Hamilton by mistake. We also walked past a misogynist, narcissistic, chauvinist shrine, but paid it it's due respect.
After Wall Street, we took another Subway to the Bronx where Jake HAD to see Yankees Stadium. He was in such aw. And so thrilled. We had originally planned to stay in New York another 2 nights for when the Yankees were to play the Red Sox, but as you can tell. We had already been gone for a while and Jake unfortunately had a business to run and couldn't extend any longer. I also was starting work again that Monday and really needed to prepare my classroom. So we decided we're going to have to fulfill that bucket list at a later date.

After the stadium, we took the Subway back and got a Taxi to Newark Airport. From there we caught our flight and headed home. This trip was amazing.
*Over the 16 days we walked 92.7 miles.