Part 2, Spain: Route Tarifa- Seville- Malaga, Destination 3#Seville

The History of Seville:A Free Tour

When in Sevilla, Spain we went on a wonderful history tour around the city, but for those who want to know it’s history but explore it themselves, I have outlined the main places of interest for the Sevilla Tourist. Seville is rich with history and every small statue in the city represents a story. Some stories are facts whilst others remain to be proven, but the myths are still very interesting part of Seville’s history. I believe without knowing these stories, the city is beautiful but the significance of the place can not be fully appreciated.

Seville Cathedral

The Seville Cathedral is one of the main architectural beauties of the city, rich with history of the past. This cathedral used to be a mosque and an idea of its grandeur can be had from the contemplation of its spacious orangerie and the body of its minaret with decorative brickwork. When built, this tower was topped with four golden spheres of decreasing size. Since 1568 however, the tower has been crowned by an airy belfry with a bronze weather vane, El Giraldillo, Replacing the once muslim structure with an ornate christian symbol. The decorative peices of the cathedral still display moorish artistry and dome-like mosque structures. Latter artwork is also hosted showing its medieval details with gargoyles on the shields of the cathedral exterior.

Jardines de Murillo

The Mayor of Seville Conde de Halcon convinced King Alfonso XIII in 1911 to give the city the area for a city garden. The city architect Juan Talavera y Heredia was chosen to design the gardens and then it was named Murillo Gardens to honor the painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo. The garden hosts a mass of different exotic plants, some imported from the Mediterranean. Many trees in the garden are over 80 years old.

In the gardens are a variety of art peices and statues representing different elements of Seville History.

The colours and shapes on the tiles of the bench are linked to the moorish muslim religious background of the city with its design very similar to the middle eastern tiles of Turkey, Morocco and Iran.

The Story of Christopher Colombus

There are various stories about Christopher Columbus, and many hold mythical status due to the fact that no one knows how true it all is.

The first history reports that with the backing of King Fernando and Queen Isabel for his voyage to to the Indies (that prompted the discovery of America). The reasons for their backing were that he would find new trade routes for the spanish monarchy, and if successful, be knighted. A myth follows that the reasons for King Fernando’s sending of Columbus were not as pure as that. A legend says that Columbus and Isabella had an affair, and the King agreed to the voyage thinking that Columbus would not return successfully. The accuracy of this claim is unknown. Additionally, the hanging items off of the ship seem to look like fruit but a story says the king may have died of eating bull’s testicles in thinking that feeding on them would improve his fertility. The fruit starts to resemble something very different.

Nonetheless, the monument stands to show the importance of Columbus’ Voyage and its connection with Seville. It is thought that Columbus is burial ground is in the city.

The City is rich with Jewish history. Many Jews and Muslims were exiled in the reign of King Ferdinand as they encouraged a Christian Country. Many in the middle ages where massacred for their faith if they did not immediately convert to catholicism. The pictures above tell a story of one Jewish girl, who fell in love for a Catholic Soldier, and told him of her escape. Her family was killed because of her naive love, and she is said to have hung herself after the murders. Las Cadenas indicates ‘Chains’ from where she hung herself and a plaque and skull is present at her home.

 Her family was one of many to be murdered at the Jewish quarter of Seville, some mercilessly killed every Jew who fell into their hands and refused to be baptized; many women and children were sold into slavery. A number of Jews, however, managed to escape. Seville was the first to destroy its jewish communities and within three months most of the flourishing Jewish communities in all the Christian States of Spain – Castille, Aragon, Valencia, Catalonia, as well as the Balearic Islands-were destroyed.

Symbols of Wealth and Religious Status adorn the walls of the city.

The Pillars of Hercules

 Hercules  marked with 6 columns the spot where Julius Caesar would later found the city of Seville. The illustrious Roman general called the new city Iulia Romula Hispalis: Iulia after himself, Romula in honour of Rome and Hispalis, according to Saint Isidore in his Etymologies, because many of the buildings had wooden piles driven into the ground as foundations.

“Raised by Hercules,
Julius Caesar fortified me,
with high walls and towers,
I was conquered for the king
of heaven by Garcí Pérez de Vargas”

So great was the admiration felt by Renaissance Seville towards her mythical founders that their statues, specially sculpted by Diego Pasquera, were placed on two granite pillars with Corinthian capitals in the newly created promenade, Alameda de Hércules, where they can still be admired. The two columns were removed from the ruins of a Roman temple in calle Mármoles where two sister columns remain.

NODO Motto

“NO8DO” is the official motto and the subject of one of the many legends of Seville. The legend has left its very tangible mark throughout the city as NO8DO can be seen on landmarks ranging from the common bike rack, the caps of the municipal sewer and water system, ordinary sidewalks, buses, taxis, monuments, even Christopher Columbus‘s tomb. The motto of Seville is a visible presence of which any visitor is sure to take note.

The motto is a rebus combining the Spanish syllables (NO and DO) and a drawing in between of the figure “8”. The figure represents a skein of yarn, or in Spanish, a “madeja”. When read aloud, “No madeja do” sounds like “No me ha dejado”, which means “It [Seville] has not abandoned me”.

The story of how NO8DO came to be the motto of the city has undoubtedly been embellished throughout the centuries.

After San Fernando’s death in the Real Alcázar, his son, Alfonso X assumed the throne. Alfonso X was a scholar king, hence his title. He was a poet, astronomer, astrologer, musician and linguist. Alfonso’s son, tried to usurp the throne from his father, but the people of Seville remained loyal to their scholar king and this is where the symbol comes from.

Part 2, Spain: Route Tarifa- Seville- Malaga, Destination 1&2#Tarifa & Malaga

Tarifa, Spain

Tarifa is a small Spanish town located off the southern coast of Spain and also main port access for transport to and from Morocco. Daily tickets can be bought there and boats are generally frequent.

We spent 3 days there before heading to Malaga for the feria. The town was small so I don’t recommend spending so much time there. We spent most of our time eating tapas, drinking sangria and tanning. The winds by the beach were so strong that sunbathing wasn’t possible without a mouthful of sand. It was still a nice place to walk around and the strong breeze from the ocean meant the heat wasn’t oppressive.

These are a few snaps in Tarifa, I did not take many images whilst there-known for its kitesurfing, and many other extreme water sports due to the rough waters, this place may be far more appealing to people with an interest in doing sports like these. For us this was a pitstop whilst waiting for our booking in Malaga.

After Tarifa we went to MALAGA

We got there and then settled into our hotel which was quite some way from the city center. Due to the Malaga de Feria, bookings were limited and hotels were expensive. Nonetheless, I heard the festival to be good so thought it would be worth our while so we booked anyway. I immediately loved Malaga as it catered for everything I could ever want. Hot weather, Beaches, Classy establishments, Good food, outdoor seating everywhere.. what more could you want?

MALAGA DE FERIA

Malaga de Feria was a strange celebration torn between Fair and Festival, mainly catered to locals who took the time to spend time with family, or getting drunk with friends (more the latter). The streets were filled with booze fuelled partying, wine bottles everywhere, and dancing in tents. Evening is when partying continued, or people went to the night funfair.

The beginning of the Feria began on the night before the beginning dates, where all gathered in the beach central Malaga for an opening speech by the mayor, a special guest footballer speech followed by music. I had no idea who the footballer was but he was hella goodlooking. Definately more for the espanol’s, all was spoken spanish so we don’t know what the speech was about, but it sounded sexy.

I felt that the festival catered far more to an adult crowd, and with the live music and flamenco, it was like going to a music festival. The atmosphere felt amazing, just cannot be captured by photo.

Party booze fuelled fun in the city centre was great fun, and when one felt like getting away from the crowd, there was an option to go to the fair early, as many bars played flamenco music and many danced festively. More families gathered in these areas for food and drink.

And later when it just got too hot to bear a fountain was near by..

We ended our day at the funfair, After which we were so tired that we slept at 8pm to catch sleep before our bus to Seville the next day..

Part 1, Morocco: Route Marrakesh- Sahara Desert- Marrakesh- Fes, Destination 3#Fes

Fes was very different after coming from Marrakesh. We had become accustomed to the comfort of our cheap and cheerful Riad Massin and came to Fes with expectations of accommodation very similar to that of Marrakesh. What we did not know was how different they would be. Fes was far more chaotic, loud and accommodation far more grubby. The surroundings were nothing like the organised feel of Marrakesh, which for some was daunting but for others it felt like Fes had a charm of it’s own. We stayed close to our accommodation when in Fes because it was busier, people tried to sell stuff to you so it got claustrophobic if you stayed out too long. Also the streets were more steep and hilly than the flat landed Marrakesh.

When times got stressful we found a haven, a place of solice in ‘Clock Cafe’ in that it was close, Clean, and had indoor and outdoor seating free from the chaos of the streets. We did have to pass a hectic meat market to get inside though, which in the summer heat was quite disgusting. One did not want to look at the meat for you fear that that’s the meat you were eating. The streets were filled with loud but smiley Moroccans until late evening when we were warned to stay off the streets due to fights. Ramadan is hard for muslims but even more so this year for the Moroccans had to do without food and water in peak August. This meant that anger was at it’s peak and hour or two before dinner, when locals could no longer take the hunger and heat.

We stayed in the cool, light and modern establishment of Cafe Clock, feasting on our fresh juice and Camel Burgers. Yes, a Camel Burger. In texture abit heavier than the average beef burger but also packed with flavour. We enjoyed many a days and nights here.

In the evening they had musicians, the had workshops, classes, and even cookbooks. It was a lovely place to eat, drink, and socialise.

It is hard to find as it is through a dark alley. So the first time you go, you may need someone to show you the way.

One of the main attractions I wanted to visit when in Fes were the tanneries. I heard that they were far nicer than the ones in Marrakesh. To find them I was told to walk down hill until someone approached me. The Tanneries are quite hidden amongst other building, accessed via a balcony to watch men at work. We were spotted and asked whether we would like to visit the tanneries. We went up to the balcony where a man explained the process to us.
We were given mint to hold on our nose as some find the leather smells quite strong. After this we were taken to the shop where we were pushed to buy something. Fortunately, I explained I would pay for the talk but not be buying the products, so they kindly accepted this and let us go on our way. I found the smells to not be strong at all whilst my brother said he felt sick. The tannery we visited was the oldest in the city. The tannery was composed of numerous stone vessels filled with a vast range of dyes and various odorous liquids. The man explained the way in which the hides (skins) of sheep and goats, turning them into high quality leather products such as bags, coats, shoes, slippers and other similar products. This is all achieved manually, without the need for modern machinery and with the use of natural dyes such as saffron and indigo.

After visiting the Tannery we spent a couple of hours walking the market place, filled with different items made in the area. Some of the time was also spent getting lost in Souks, walking down alleys to see where it took us..

It was an a really beautiful city, in some ways far more interesting than Marrakesh, and yet I found myself begging to be taken back to the more relaxed Marrakesh in my third day there. If there is one thing I did enjoy after a good day of sightseeing and exploring, it was having a nice hot Morrocan Meal with some Mint Tea. Mmm..

Admittedly if I went to Morroco again I would go in search of good local food. Being placed in the Medina meant that I only found touristy restaurants that lacked quality. I had wished I had the opportunity to find some good authentic places where the locals dined (though I was told most locals cooked and ate at home). This was my favourite dish whilst there. Funny enough, it was a starter not a main but the chickpeas tasted delicious as did the salad. The heat had me craving fresh food and this was just what I needed.

Part 1, Morocco: Route Marrakesh- Sahara Desert- Marrakesh- Fes, Destination 2#Sahara Desert (Tour)

The Sahara Desert Tour

I booked this when I arrived in Marrakesh and it was the BEST decision we ever made. The price of the tour me and my brother booked was the cheapest in town, and we changed our booking from its original because Sahara Expeditions completely cocked up our booking. We had been in contact via email for 2 to 3 months before coming to Morocco and arranged and confirmed on many ocassions our journey to the Sahara Desert. We were limited on time and didn’t have time for it to mess up. The morning of the trek, we were not collected from our hostel. They then said that we were booked for the next day which was not the case. (do not book with http://www.saharaexpe.ma/) So we went in search for a different company. They was a little shop on the way to the Medina that did tours and we ended up booking for a day later with them. They picked us up first in light of knowing how we didnt get collected from the last company and it worked out cheaper at £56 for 3days 2 Nights Marrakesh-Merzouga Tour (770 DRM)

Itinerary was as follows:

First day: Departure from Marrakech at 7:00 am by Minibus /View of the Atlas Mountains / visit the Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou/ Moroccan dinner and evening in the Dades Gorge..

Second day: Breakfast at the hotel / Departure for Merzouga, with the highest dunes in Morocco/ stop in Moroccan berber village/ arrival at desert, one and a half hour camel ride at sunset /Berber dinner and sleep under the stars or in tents at a desert camp.

Third day : Views of sunrise in the desert / Return to Merzouga by camel .Ouarzazate/ Valley of the Roses / Arrival at 7h30 or 8h00 pm..

It was the most amazing experience. Day 1 was great because we got to see the diverse landscape of Morocco. We got to see the Atlas Mountains, Gorges and Rivers. It was so beautiful stopping at these sights and also getting to visit an old berber village structure thats seen in so many films.

The Ait Benhaddou is a setting films like The Kingdom of Heaven, The Mummy, Gladiator, and The Prince of Persia. The fortified old city had many occupants still home to 10 families and the fortress citadel hosted royalty when city was under attack. High walls for self defence and close to a harbour, it was a vision of wealth (the water nearby now dried up by the excessive heat). We got to see the rich past of Morocco and the beauty it has left behind.

                                             
             Atlas Mountains
 Monkey Fingers, Dades Gorge, Morocco

                
                 Ait Benhaddou

Ourzazate, Morocco

After all of these sights we headed towards the Dades Valley Gorge where we were staying for the night. Unfortunately, we ran into some problems as the rainfall was so heavy during a 2 hour period that the streets flooded. The high mountainous landscape and claylike sandy environment meant heavy rainfall caused massive issues to roads. We were waiting for a while before we manned up and decided to drive over what looked like a river.

Road Turns to River

After we passed the flooded road we managed  settle into our Hotel. It was lovely and far better quality than I anticipated. When you pay for a package for 3 days, with everything involved you expect the hotel to be very budget. It was nestled in the Dades Valley Gorge so so the view was beautiful from the balcony. We ate a buffet meal followed by musicians for us, it was a lovely evening. We slept early for the next day ahead.

The Second day, we were driven to a lovely Berber Village in the Toudra Valley. The Berber people whilst Moroccan, live a very different lifestyle to the city dwellers of Marrakesh. The Indigenous people of the country vary in culture to other Moroccans in that they do not practice Polygamy and they have a huge attachment to farming, sharing crops with their family. They grow corn, purple flowers for dye, cabbage, Anise, Mint and many other herbs.

A Picture of Me and My Tour Guide, A Berber Local and Farmland

Pictures of the Village: (Starting From the Left) A Village Door with a Symbol of the Family, A berber in the farm, A berber pharmacy

We also saw many different types of landscape on our way to the Desert.

And so we arrived at the beginning of our camel ride into the desert.. Which is unfortunately where my camera died. Some of these images are therefore taken by someone else on our trek. Nonetheless, the view was breathtaking, the pictures just do not do the place justice. We had an amazing evening meal followed by sleeping under the stars. We were going to sleep in the tents but they were VERY hot because of everyone inside that it was cooler and more pleasant outside. We were given a bedsheet and mattress to sleep on and slept looking at the stars.. It was amazing.

Part 1, Morocco: Route Marrakesh- Sahara Desert- Marrakesh- Fes, Destination 1#Marrakesh

This trip was one of my favourite backpacking trip’s because I got to experience it with my brother. He was turning 16 and begged my mum to go travelling because he envied my journey through South East Asia. We needed something that was okay on a budget of£600-700 for three weeks that including seeing at least two countries, various cities and did not cost a bomb to fly to (this budget included flight costs). I immediately started my search and came up with A trip that followed the following route:

Marrakesh (Morocco) – Sahara Desert- Marrakesh- Fes- Tangir- Tarifa (Spain)- Seville- Malaga

This satisfied his hunger for backpacking, stayed in and near to europe, included adventure and experience on a budget. It was the perfect plan. I had never envisioned choosing Morocco as travel destination because of my turkish upbringing I had a vision of it being similar in culture and was not in any rush to see it. I made a very incorrect assumption. The atmosphere was different, the landscape unbelievably varied, and the desert sandy environment something so different to any experience I could take from Turkey. I recommend this route as it was easy, affordable and an amazing experience.

Destination 1: Marrakesh

We were in Marrakesh for a duration of 3 days in mid August. We booked into a hostel-like Riad in the Centre of Marrakesh called ‘Riad Massin’. Finding our hotel took at least an hour due to the maze like structure of the Souk’s. Unlike hotels we are used to with large signs and open doors, the hotels in the souks are merely one door with the beauty of your accommodation very much hidden until opened. We knocked, and were greeted by a lovely Moroccan family who greeted us with Mint Tea and then showed us to our room.



Me in Riad Massin, Marrakesh

                          Marrakesh has much to offer for the adventurous child who wishes to get lost in the maze of the city (with the parents watching), the sunseekers, and the backpackers. I found myself enchanted by the city. Architecturally there were some beautiful buildings near the centre and we were lucky to be visiting during Ramadan. This meant that we saw the hundreds of locals gathering at the central Mosque for prayer. So many that many prayed on the street outside the doors in a flood of white.

                                       

More Photos of the Attraction we visited:

Marrakesh has so much to offer as you can see the images above are of me visitng the Saadien Tombs and various other attractions in the City. The image on the left is of the ‘La Koutoubia’ Mosque which attracts hundreds of muslims for prayer everyday.

Both of these images do not even do the real thing justice.

I also have many images of the Jemaa Al Fena Center of Marrakesh displayed below:
The City is beautiful and I found 3 days was not enough to take it all in. If I came here again I would not miss the gardens, The Bahia Palace, Spa and Hammam and maybe a nice little resort sunbathing. The weather was gorgeous and tanning is needed!

How to Survive South East Asia

Now many of you may have read Lonely Planet or have spoken to people who have already backpacked Thailand. Some of you are thinking about going yourselves, and you must. These countries whilst open to tourism and very much tourist friendly, still retain their unique culture and natural beauties. They are by no means untouched by tourism but have a good medium between natural life, and easy travelling for tourists. I loved my trip through South East Asia and would recommend it to anyone but it is becoming increasingly popular due to its great attractions, nightlife and cheap travelling options.

As the tourist population increases, locals are becoming more and more sly in the way of increasing profitability, even if it is immoral and at the stake of us. It is good to know the tricks, cons and things that can go wrong, so you can travel at ease. Below are some hints to help.

 

Tuk Tuk Con’s

Tuk Tuk’s are the asian Taxi, they don’t always run on meters, and they are quite run down, but they give a true cultural experience and can be very cheap and useful ways of getting around. They are also the worst people for taking your money.

1. They can overcharge.

In Thailand, Tuktuk’s usually cost a maximum of 2OBAHT with short journeys as little as 5BAHT. Many will try and charge you 40-50minimum and so it is in your benefit to agree a price and haggle it to below 15BAHT (unless your travelling a long distance in which case it could be a little more, but as a rule this should be enough). This price once agreed, you can always give them more at the end of the journey out of kindness, but it is good to play hard to get at the beginning so that they know not to take you for a ride. They have lots of competition so there should be no difficulty in finding a Tuktuk that will take you for the price you want. At worst, walk away.. they will always call you back. Also, in Thailand some places give Tuktuk’s money for their petrol, so it technically doesn’t cost them petrol money to drive you, just their time.

2. They can try and change the rate at the end of the journey.

The nice tuktuk drivers don’t pull this crap and hate to stereotype but as a rule the older male drivers are far kinder and fairer with their rates and tend to be more honest. Unfortunately not all are so nice. We had a situation where we were driven 5 minutes down the road, and he demanded 50BAHT instead of 5BAHT. He attempted to bully us into paying it and we refused. We handed him 10 BAHT and said you either let us get out here or we pay you nothing and can take us back we will find someone who will take us fairly. He stubbornly took us back to our start point, by which point we realised we had learnt the route to walk there in 10 minutes. Another time this occurred the guy took the money we offered without argument. (We would have given him more the normal rate anyway had he not tried to scam us).

3.They will take you for a ride (around the whole of town).

Tuktuk’s have alot of time on their hands, they have alot of competition and therefore no rush when they pick up a customer. They actually earn more profit the longer they keep you even if you pay the rate you agreed. Many have arrangements with Carpet Shops, Jewellery stores, and other businesses in which they are handed petrol tokens for free petrol if they manage to take tourists there. You may ask to be taken to a temple, but find your route lengthened by drop off points where they tell you to browse mindlessly for 5 minutes. In this 5 minutes store managers attempt to coerce you into buying items from them.

If you are in a rush, politely inform the taxi driver that you cannot afford to loose time and that you are aware of the arrangement but will not accept it. Some will respect you and take you on the route you asked, otherwise you may have to pay them a little extra to keep them on course (bribery works well). Otherwise you could just see and if you find them messing you around, get out and look for another ride.

One one occasion we had a very kind Tuktuk who took us to at least 7 different sights and told us about the agreement rather than tricking us into shops. He said he doesnt have a lot of money and it saves him money if we could pretend for 5 minutes. He apologised and understood if we didn’t want to go. Understanding his financial situation and that appreciating his honesty, we accepted.

4.There are no such thing as ‘OFFICAL’ Tuktuk’s.

If someone of the street acts like a kind local, trying to assist you with not getting scammed.. unfortunately they are sometimes scamming you. Do not believe them if they tell you that some are unofficial and some are official and show you how to identify them. They are ALL privately owned. None will scam you less than the other.

5. Don’t let TukTuk’s Take you to the ‘Official Tourist Information’ Stop.

Again, there is NOTHING official about this place, and don’t feel that because 5 people have pointed on a map to the same place they is honesty to it. They all are aware that it is a scam and they are in it together.

We fell for this and boy did we pay big, it was in actuality a tourist agency. We were reeled into believing trains were hard to book, peak season was hard to deal with and the well spoken agent, and his charisma had us charmed into it, even though I knew never to pre book. even the most well prepared can fall into a trap when they see what they think is an honest face. We ended up pre booking tours and our trip all the way to north of thailand from bangkok and all the way through the laos. In some ways it did make life easier but later when writing down figures, we realised we had been massively overcharged. When going on all the prebooked stuff, we also found everyone with us had fallen into the same trap but had actually been conned out of far more many (we counted ourselves lucky!).

Do not believe the smiling agent, the Tuktuk, or the man that put you on the Tuktuk: THEY ARE ALL LYING. Refuse to go in if the Tuktuk drops you there, or you may find it hard to get back out. Oh and don’t be fooled by the feeling that it must be legitimate because there are so many people in there booking things.. you are all being scammed together you just do not know it.

Other Useful Tips

  • Never prebook tours and tickets. There is an abundance of transport (buses, trains.. ) and do not let people convince you otherwise. Tours are cheaper when you go into tour agencies and haggle instore. do not do it through agents. It also means you can read reviews and ask others before making your purchase rather than being swindled into a crap one.
  • Do not believe people who stand by maps or near maps. They prey on lost tourists, sending you to the wrong places or scamming you out of money. If they are wearing uniform, they can be fake police ect.
  • Temples have not closed the day for a ‘national holiday’. Thats what people say so you get driven around in Tuktuks waiting for it to open when little did you know.. it was open the whole time.
Laos Pink Eye

Now many do not know of this, and many do but don’t get what it is. If you have watched south parks pink eye episode you may get some idea, though it isnt really someone farting in your eye. It is an Bacterial Infection they causes the eye to swell itch, and you guessed it.. turn pink. Some have it lightly whilst others can look so bad that you have to wear sunglasses to hide it.

Many get it in Laos whilst tubing in the Mekong River. I recommend Tubing, it s great fun.. but what we aren’t aware of is that the Mekong River is one of the dirtiest in the world and the bacteria in the water causes Pink Eye. Pink Eye is contagious.

Me and my partner were lucky to survive it. We were the only ones who didn’t get it. Due to shared hostel rooms and beds where linen is washed in cold water even if supposedly ‘clean’ the bacteria can catch.

I recommend wrapping your pillow with a scarf or towel or something you own so that you arent sleeping on the hostel pillows. When you get pink eye don’t panic, its like a club, everyone in the area is a member. Just go to the doctor who will give you drops that should clear it within 3 days.

If you have any questions about the trip or need advise help comment, i would be happy to help!

HAPPY TRAVELLING!