Seville, Jerez & Tarifa, Spain
We said goodbye to Portugal (again) and drove back into Spain (again). We arrived in Seville around midday, only to find we had lost another hour and it was actually 1 p.m. You would think all these neighbouring countries would be on the same time zone. Street vendors at intersections were popular in this area, trying to sell us tissues and air fresheners - a little different to the window washers in Melbourne.
Seville is massive. It took us forever to find a car park, which ended up being about three kilometres outside of town. As the weather was a balmy 25°C, we didn't mind the walk. We breezed past the major sites before finding a tourist office and the location of a caravan park. It was at the tourist office that we encountered the rudest lady in all of Spain. After enquiring about parking for campervans, she slid a piece of paper with minimal details on it in our direction before walking off to chat to the other service staff. She didn't say a single word to us. When I called her back to ask her a simple question, she looked at me as though I was trash and that she couldn't believe she had to sink so low as to serve me. If looks could kill, she would have been six feet under.
So off we went to find the caravan park – not our greatest strength and this case was no exception. All we had was a town name (12 kilometres out from Seville) and a kilometre marking on a main road. We found the kilometre marking (yay!) but apparently but not on the correct road (of course), so instead we drove to the centre of the town and looked for signs. There were none. We ended up stopping at two service stations to get progressive directions before finding the park tucked away down a side street. They obviously didn't need business with their lack of advertising. Once again our power cord didn't fit their electricity outlet; luckily we were able to buy an adapter.
With my laptop almost in laptop heaven, we tried to extract some files off it to put on Danny's new computer. It took an eternity, with our four hands pressing the screen in the only way that would give us a clear picture on the screen, but we did manage to retrieve some of my photos and a couple of movies. This was obviously going to be a multi-day process. Dinner was modified nachos: instead of traditional salsa, it was a mixed veggie ragout and replacing the sour cream was natural yoghurt (the closest thing we could find). Dessert was a 'tarta de queso' (cheesecake) that we found in the supermarket for €1 – it tasted just like a baked cheesecake and was big enough for two people. Good find by us.
We ran out of Vegemite today :(
The next day it hit 30ºC! It was like summer!
I managed to find a bus stop in the morning and make my way into Seville, while Danny stayed behind to play with his new favourite toy (the new laptop). On the way in I stopped at a massive park, which was lovely and peaceful except that only two of their (approximately) 20 fountains had any water in it. The artificial lake was also empty. I guess water restrictions are in operation here. I found the main plaza in the park, which was a semicircle lined with one continuous grand building and a moat that filled in the centre. People were taking boat rides around the moat, which I'm sure only lasted one minute as it really wasn't that big.
Next I walked up to Torre del Oro, which was a naval museum (or something like that) but I was only interested in climbing the stairs up to the viewing platform. Unfortunately, the turret of the tower obstructed much of the view and there was only a tiny platform from where I could get any semblance of an decent photo. The view should not be one of their selling points.
Then I hit the big one – the cathedral. This cathedral was massive. Gigantic. Colossal. I was told that it is the largest gothic cathedral in the world and the third largest of any cathedral in the world. I wasn't surprised. Just walking into the main chapel I felt about the size of an ant. I couldn't get over the magnitude of it or the need for a church so big. Still, it was absolutely mind-blowing. I happened to find a ramp leading up the main tower, which took about 10 minutes to climb but the views from the top were astounding. Ten times better than the Torre del Oro.
From the cathedral I wandered aimlessly around town, got lost, ate ice cream (I am addicted to ice cream at the moment – it was my sixth cone this week) and eventually found my way to Reales Alcazares (Royal Alcazar), another big tourist attraction. The castle itself wasn't anything special, but there were enormous gardens to stroll around. Plenty of orange trees, fountains that weren't on but duck ponds that did have water. I randomly bumped into Danny while I was there and we finished going through the castle together before heading off to get a drink (a cava and a sherry - how Spanish are we?)
After our drinks we headed off to find flamenco. We chose a show that wasn't too expensive, too long or too big. The theatre itself was tiny – I think there were 50 people in the audience, just five rows of chairs looking at a small stage. There were four artists who performed for us and, once we could get past the constipated faces, it was fairly enjoyable. I only had two complaints: no castanets or fans (staples of flamenco in my books), plus the stage had a huge skylight above it. Now that daylight savings had started it stayed light for ages, so there was light coming through the whole time the show was on. I think it would have been better at night. On a positive note, the sangria they served was top notch.
We headed out for dinner after the show and opted to share a pizza. They waiter told us the pizza was not big enough to share, so we ordered "potatoes and aioli" as a side, thinking we would receive fries. Nope. It was a bowl of cold potatoes drizzled with aioli. Not really what we wanted but I guess it was a bit healthier than the deep-fried variety. The pizza we chose was called "pizza explosion", covered in jalapenos and chilli sauce. Definitely nowhere near spicy enough to deserve the name but it was better than the potatoes.
Once we left the restaurant we walked towards the bus stop to go home, except that we couldn't find it. We headed back to where we both jumped off the bus in the morning, thinking that the other side of the road would have the bus stop we needed. It didn't. We knew there was a 9:15 p.m. bus then nothing until 11:15 p.m., so we were desperate to catch the 9:15 p.m. It wasn't until 9:45 p.m. that we found the right bus stop. We settled in (as much as you can at a bus stop) for the lengthy wait.
A little while another bus driver came up to us and started speaking in Spanish. We had no idea what he was on about, so he indicated to wait there while he went to talk to someone else. Clearly we weren't about to go anywhere. Ten minutes later he returned and told us to go with another driver who was going past the caravan park (we must really stick out as tourists if he knew we wanted the caravan park). Warily, we (along with another woman) jumped in this other bus that clearly wasn't in service, and miraculously it dropped us off right at the entrance of the caravan park, saving us an hour of waiting. The bus drivers were the first friendly people we had met in Seville.
Big rush the next morning to pack up, wash and dry our clothes and be out of the caravan park before check out time, which we managed by the narrowest of margins. From Seville we drove to Jerez, which means 'sherry' in Spanish: two guesses who was eager to visit here (hint: it wasn't me). We passed several sherry producers on the way, which only piqued Danny's excitement. We found a car park then set off in search of the tourist office, hoping they could offer information about sherry tastings. Not as easy as it sounds. After asking several locals, following signs that led us nowhere and walking around for an entire hour we eventually found the damn tourist office. It was crazy hot and we were not dressed for a walking tour of Jerez. We informed the tourist office that they were not easy to find; they didn't care. What we saw of town was lovely, with tree-lined roads and plenty of pedestrian streets, but we were too tired and annoyed to enjoy it. After reading the map, it turned out our van was parked only 10 minutes away.
It was almost siesta and Danny was desperate to visit a sherry house before everything closed, so he quickly walked to the main one, Tio Pepe (I have no love for sherry - he was on his own here). For some reason he couldn't find the entrance so he gave up, despite the enormous estate being highly advertised with signs all around their fences. Meanwhile, I wandered around the town and bought some groceries, including canned hot dogs. They were everywhere in Europe and thought they must be popular for a reason. Once was enough.
After catching up with Danny we tried to follow the map to drive to a shop that sold sherry and offered tastings but the map was too confusing (we really aren't that bad at reading directions). There were so many one way roads and streets too narrow for our van that it took an eternity to get anywhere. We finally gave up and Danny just walked it. He returned a happy man, laden with sherry.
Later in the afternoon Danny tried another sherry "bodega" but it was still closed for siesta, so he returned to Tio Pepe and waited until it reopened at 5 p.m. I sat on the laptop at a cafe while Danny completed his tour, sitting on a cheesy tourist train that whisked him around the site. As the tour was only supposed to last an hour I headed back to the van at 6 p.m, expecting Danny soon after that. So what time did Danny arrive? 7:45 p.m. His initial story was that the tour/tasting went a bit longer than expected. The glassy look in his eyes told me that wasn't the end of the story. It eventually came out that he ran into some Norwegians who worked in the food industry and he got drunk with them. I wasn't surprised.
I thought it best that I do the driving, so I drove on to Tarifa while Danny finished a bottle of sherry he managed to procure from the tasting (because he needed more alcohol). The closer we headed to the coast the windier it became, until it was at tornado level. Okay, maybe not tornado level but it was definitely the strongest winds I had encountered. It turned out that Tarifa was known for its gale force winds and we experienced it first hand. At one point we drove past a truck and somehow the frame of our fly screen on the sunroof snapped in half, rendering the screen useless. I really thought the van was going to tip over. Not the best night for driving.
On our first morning in Tarifa our first objective was to enquire about ferries to Morocco. We weren't really sure if we were going to go; it was dependent on costs and if we could store our van safely. The tourist office provided us with a map, showed us where the ferries departed from and pointed out where we might find long-term parking. She also informed us that she wasn't sure if ferries would leave today because of the wind (it hadn't dissipated overnight). So we walked to the ferry terminals and found one leaving at 2 p.m., in three hours times, that wasn't too expensive. That ticked the first box. We then investigated the parking lot, which was undercover. That generally never works for us because our van is too tall for enclosed spaces. However, the entrance seemed high enough for our van to squeeze through and there was definitely space for us. It was decided then and there: we were going to Morocco!
Our fridge was full of perishable food, so Danny cooked up a huge veggie and hot dog ragout to eat with bread rolls. We chucked out the milk and yoghurt, quickly packed our bags and drove to the car park. We made it through the entrance with about one inch of space between us and the roof. Then it was over to the ferry terminal, where we found another ferry leaving at 1 p.m.; we jumped on that one and off we sailed across the Strait of Gibraltar. The water was choppy but we didn't notice, as the ferry was large enough to withstand it. It did take us over an hour to get over to the other side though, when the journey usually lasts 35 minutes. But we didn't mind - we had arrived in Africa!