19 November 2006
Penny & Greg's Spanish Siesta - Part 1
Donna, bless her, sent us a very sweet e-mail just before we left on our expedition to Spain wishing us an enjoyable break and commenting on how lucky we were to be able to travel to such exotic sounding places within a couple of hours’ flying time of the UK. Seville, Cordoba, Granada; they just roll off your tongue.
What Donna failed to take into account is that we don’t live thirty-seven seconds from Gate 15B at LAX and so therefore we were obliged to rouse ourselves from our beds at 2.15 am(!!!) to make our way from beautiful downtown Byfield to London’s third airport, Stansted, for our 7.00 am flight to Malaga in southern Spain. Stansted is, in fact, not in London at all but rather in the middle of the Essex countryside and just about as far from Byfield as one can get without actually being obliged to undergo customs and immigration formalities upon entering a foreign country.
Fortunately, at that time of day there are very few others on the road, apart from a considerable number of lorries (trucks) and just the occasional other poor befuddled fool who is probably on his way home from a late night out rather than setting off on a new adventure.
The two hour journey from beautiful downtown Byfield to Stansted took only about an hour and a half and, after shedding the car at the Bishops Stortford Football Club ground (they clearly raise much needed revenue by allowing travellers to park their cars on the football pitch - what they do on match days I'm not quite sure) and a short coach trip to the terminal we were in line when check in opened at 5.00. After the usual formalities we were on our way to the gate and lift off just after 7.00.
The plane was about two-thirds full of Brits mainly from Essex to judge by the accents who were off for a few days to the Costa Brava, that part of Spain which encourages the Brits to exhibit their worst characteristics - loud, obnoxious, drunken louts who make no effort to learn the language and simply shout louder and louder when they are misunderstood. Mind you, I think the Spaniards are well used to them and get their own back by pretending not to understand any English at all.
So, Donna's couple of hours had, by now, become nearly eight hours by the time we landed in Malaga. Again, the usual formalities and then in to the hire car and off wandering the streets surrounding the airport looking for some road which would take us vaguely in the direction of Seville. Surprisingly, after only one false start, we were on our way and two hours later we were negotiating the traffic and narrow, narrow streets of the centre of Seville trying to find the Hotel Don Paco which had been recommended by one of the books or internet sites we used.
After negotiating the road works (why is it that every major city in the world is continuously undergoing road works? Seville’s consisted largely of an enormous hole in the ground seemingly immediately in any direction we wanted to travel at every turn). Eventually, thanks to Penelope’s diligent and competent map reading, we found Don Paco, checked in and then made our way by foot in a somewhat circuitous route toward the Cathedral and the Giralda.
Clearly, Ms Playchute’s map-reading skills had been exhausted in navigating our way through the Sevillean excavations to the hotel. Either that or it was as a result of my interference but, for whatever reason, we found ourselves utterly unable to negotiate a street map illustrating the route from the hotel to the cathedral. Still, this proved no handicap and, while a more distinguished navigator might have taken a more direct route to the attractions, ours was no less enjoyable, I assure you.
The Cathedral is spectacular, as one might expect. It is according to one guide book, the largest cathedral in Europe (and whilst visiting the cathedral we saw, proudly displayed, a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records alleging the same which takes pride of place near one of the doors). On the other hand, another of the guide books suggests that St Paul’s in London and St Peter's in Rome are larger and you really have to imagine that at least St Peter's must be bigger. Still, it is stunning and a climb up the Giralda tower was repaid with splendid views over all aspects of the city.
By this time, as you can imagine, we were feeling somewhat peckish and, as you will know, Spain was invented for someone like me who likes nothing better than to graze on a variety of food stuffs most day and night. The Tapas bars are the perfect solution and one can sample a seemingly endless variety of dishes whilst sipping a glass or three of Rioja.
The Spanish, of course, don't really start their evening until about 9.00 but we were both knackered by about 8.00 and so, after indulging ourselves in a couple of Tapas bars and a wander through a most picturesque (and one might even suggest romantic) part of town, we stumbled back to the hotel and into bed at the ashamedly early hour of 9.00. We'll be more refreshed and ready to make a day of it tomorrow, I promise.