Stories of 2019 #58: The Train to Cádiz

Whilst we loved the city, the sound of waves crashing on the beach and the sand between our toes was calling our names! Especially, as it was so hot. We needed a dip to cool off.

Before leaving for Seville, I had had a quick look at how far the nearest beach was and how easy it was to get to. There I found Cádiz – an ancient port city in the Andalusia region and only an hour and a half on the train.

So, on the Monday we caught the 12pm train to the Cadíz from Sevilla Santa Justa station.

What we learnt on this trip was that Google Maps lies. We thought the train station was going to be miles away but to our surprise, the train station of Cadíz was literally just around the corner to the main square. Like Seville, Cadíz is a maze and over the next 24 hours we had several moments of thinking, ‘oh we are here?’ after coming out of a narrow street and being stood, once again, in the main square. I tell you, these Spanish cities are not the most straightforward.

With the sun shining, we sat outside a cafe in the Plaza de la Cathedral, where we admired the granduer of the square, whilst drinking large espressos and using all of our brain power to finish our crossword.

But we came here for the beach and a dip in the sea, so that was the next item on the agenda. The coastline is dotted with brightly painted houses and is said to be the twin to Havana in Cuba.

The Atlantic waves crashed against the sea walls as we made our way around the peninsula to Playa de la Caleta, the cities beach. The small cove is sandwiched between two forts; the Castilla de San Sebastían and the Castillo de Santa Catalina. Along the back of the white-shored beach is their mock-Moorish, oriental-inspired bath house, or in Spanish balneario. Fun fact: Bond’s Die Another Day (2002) was famously filmed on this beach, when Halle Berry strode out from the sea in her orange bikini. And, I mean, me and Jessamyn looked exactly like that trying to plunge ourselves into the freezing cold sea! It was quiet uncanny.

Swimsuit – & Other Stories

We had not had anything to eat since our breakfast back in Seville at a cafe called Filo, which was so unbelievably good that I am dedicating a whole post to it (keep eyes peeled), and some crisps and bananas on the train. So, our bellies were starving! The good thing about the Spanish culture is that dinner is always late so you can afford to have lunch at 4pm. We both fancied a sandwich rather than a tapas style lunch and opted to go to the Spar for fresh bread, tomatoes and oranges. This ended up being such a good lunch that we both inhaled and cost us each around 30p…

In Cadíz we choose again to stay in a hostel which we booked through Hostel World called La Casa Morada. At first, we did not think we were able to get in the door or check in with no one on reception whilst we ate our sandwich and oranges in the common area. Eventually the man arrived to check us into our dorms. Phew! We were planning potential sleeping spots on the sofa or the beach. Again, the hostel was in a great location, clean and had all the facilities we needed. A quick freshen up after the beach we headed straight back out to get the most out of Cadíz.

And by this I mean trying the local delicacies. AKA, ice cream! I had seen this place on Instagram called Verde Pistachio and we made it our mission to try it. And boy, was it a good choice. Now as we were on holiday and you know, calories don’t count, we both went for the larger chocolate and nut cone with two scoops each. I had salted (SALTED!!) pistachio and dark chocolate, which was bloody amazing, and Jessamyn had pistachio and vanilla. Quiet possibly this was the biggest ice cream I had ever eaten and for the whole time it took us to eat these scoops of utter deliciousness we either did not speak and simply savoured the amazing flavour or we could not stop laughing at how good it was! Does that happen to anyone else? You just can’t stop laughing when something is so so good? Laughing in disbelief? Or, maybe it was the sugar…

I WANT THIS NOW!!

Cadíz was beautiful and I simply loved the way that no matter what street you headed down, your eyes were busy trying to take in all the detail. The sinuous streets are shabby, yet romantic and you just have to wander in any direction the wind takes you to come to one of the cities neighbourhoods such as El Pópula, Santa Maria and La Viña. All with a different story to tell. Cadíz is said to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, so there are definitely lots of stories to be told in these streets.

Semana Santa continued through the streets here as well and we decided to head to the front to catch a glimpse of the sun setting and less crowds. However, as we had only come to stay for one night and really only one day, we only had the clothes we were wearing. Jessamyn in a short dress and myself in shorts and a top and Cadíz on this day decided to be extremely windy and goose-bump inducing! Determined to see the sunset and probably looking like crazy tourists in barely any clothes whilst everyone else was in jeans, coats and scarfs, we sat on the sea wall and enjoyed the sounds of the waves and the burnt orange sun.

Sunset and us two cold, we sought the warmth of a sweet sangria and dinner. And you will never guess what we found… vegan tapas. Yes! Vegan tapas in a city of fried fish, cheese and meat. We did not even use the Happy Cow app on this occasion, the vegan Gods were simply there for us. We pretty much had the whole menu, with the seitan fillet being the favourite. We both reviewed a solid 8/10!

The next day our train was at 2pm and we wanted to know more about this historical city. We wanted to learn about the culture and history of Cadíz and we decided to join the free walking tour at 10am, which allowed us plenty of time to pack up and also have lunch before going back to Seville. Breakfast of cereal and toast was included in the price of the hostel so before checking out we had a bite to eat and a chat with some of the others staying there also.

The free walking tour was really insightful and provided us with so much information about the city of Cadíz. It lasted for around 2 hours and we weaved in and out of the streets, hearing of stories from the past and learning about the people of Cadíz. Time peeled back down each street as our tour guide lead us from the centre to the beach and we finally gained an understanding of the city. Previously when I have done free walking tours in other European cities, there are normally around 30 people all taking part. But just to show you how un-touristy this ancient city is to English people, only six people spoke English and the English speaking tour was almost cancelled due to the lack of us. The Spanish speaking group was massive! This had its advantages as we got a more intimate tour of the city.

Two o’clock rolled round pretty quickly and we were once again back at the train station. Sad to leave the beach and the beautiful port city of Cadíz but excited by the lure of the city, our train pulled away and we watched Cadíz fade into the distance. Glad we took a mini-trip on our trip to see more of what Andalusia had to offer and only confirmed my thoughts of Spain being a truly wonderful, rich and exciting place to be!

Next stop: Seville, calling at flamenco shows and more cocktails…

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Stories of 2019 #57: The Real Alcázar, Seville

In the heart of Seville, the Real Alcázar is the oldest palace still in use today. Over the 11 centuries it has been in use, it has seen many changes. From being a fort for the governors of Seville to a royal palace for the Spanish royal family to reside when they are in the city. And it is no wonder they choose to reside in this glorious palace – it is utterly breathtaking. Gold ceilings, intricate and colourful tiled walls and lush gardens, I could picture myself wandering around this peaceful palace in my long silk dressing gown and heeled slippers… unfortunately, when I visited so were 200 other people.

A few minutes walk from our hostel, we saw people still queuing for the palace despite the opening times online saying it shut at 5pm? We decided to queue as we had been pre-warned that during the day you can be queueing for several hours! They tell you to buy your tickets online beforehand but the website does not seem to work. Twenty minutes later and closer to the entrance, the palace was now working to their summer opening hours until 7pm. And to top this off, we only paid €3, as we are between the ages of 16-25. €11 otherwise or free is your a Seville citizen.

Walk through the Puetra del León onto the Plaza de Triunfu, where the palace’s beauty truly begins. Take your time to meander at the rich history of the palaces rooms and gardens, taking in its detail. My favourite area of the Real Alcázar is the Palacio Mudéjar. The elaborate interior is unbelievably detailed that you could spend hours letting your eyes work over the tiled walls, carved archways and golden ceilings (especially in the Ambassadors Hall). In some rooms this Moorish interior designs does not leave an inch untouched. With contrasting designs and clashing of colours, you can become almost hypnotised! Adding the golden sunlight, and the palace feels even more magical.

Luckily, the evening we spent in the palace the sun was like liquid gold seeping into the rooms and the blue sky matched perfectly with the iconic Triana-made ceramics.

But the beauty does not just run within. Step outside into the lush gardens and a whole new world awaits to be explored. You would not believe that you are in the heart of a busy city when you are daydreaming around the grounds of the palace’s gardens.

Walk through the different time periods and let your mind wander to who and what has once happened in each. Choose from the more modern English Garden or the Poets’ Garden, or head further back in time to the Cross Garden or 12th century garden. Walk beneath the 170 types of trees, sit on one of the many benches or watch the peacocks roam amongst the visitors.

Mesmerised by the tranquil Real Alcázar, we needed hydrating and a sit down to let the beauty sink in. Walking down the river earlier in the day we spotted a small bar perched on the rivers edge, and with it being such a beautiful evening we both agreed this would be the perfect place to stop. Now, it would not be a true holiday without a little alcoholic beverage and as tradition goes now, for mine and Jessamyn’s trips, an Aperol spritz was in need. The bar was called Manhattan River Bar Cocktails. It had a great atmosphere as the sun set in Seville and cheap drinks with big slices of Seville oranges in!


Not only did the bar have a nice atmosphere but as we were walking back along the river, we noticed the chilled out vibe of the city. People sat on the rivers wall, sipping beers and chatting with friends. There was a buzz as the sun set over Seville.

Back on the Happy Cow app, we headed to a restaurant in the center of the city where we tried sherry and had big bowls of pasta. Not our most authentic meal of the trip but we were so tired after being up since 2:30am and disorientated of not only being in a new city, but also having to navigate the Holy Week processions taking place.

After a long busy day, once we had dinner we climbed up into out top bunks and fell into a much needed sleep.

Stories of 2019 #56: The Streets of Seville

Winding narrow streets lined with flower covered balconies and yellow painted walls, tapas bars packed with people sipping carveza and eating small plates of fried fish, and a grand gothic cathedral which looms over the city – Seville is bound to seduce you with its authentic charm and passionate spirit.

As the capital of Andalusia, set on the plain of the river Guadalquivir, Seville is the fourth largest city in Spain, as well as one of the hottest metropolitan areas in Southern western Europe. A fact me and Jessamyn liked!

People asked, why Seville? Well, neither of us had the answer to this either, which I think is why we both loved the city so much. We had no expectations, no understanding of what was there or what it would be like. We simply booked one night and a few weeks later, we were off. That is the beauty of unplanned travel – you never know what is around the corner.

We arrived late morning after the extremely early start of 2:30am to go to the airport (thank you Jessamyn’s mum and dad). Once we had landed and made our way through passport security, we caught the airport shuttle into the city centre (€4, single fare). Opting for a cheaper and more social scene, we had booked into a hostel called The Black Swan in Seville’s historic centre. Excellent hostel actually and I would highly recommend to anyone off to Seville. It was clean, friendly, great location next to Plaza Nueva and had all facilities you would need (even a hairdryer! Which annoyingly I had packed also). We were not allowed to check into our dorms until 2pm so we left our bags there and got lost in the maze of the city.

Turning right out of our hostel, we found ourselves by the river and crossing the bridge over to the area of Triana. Lined with cobbled streets, bustling coffee bars and ceramic tiles, the area of Triana is said to be more real in comparison to the city. We stumbled across the Real Parroquia de Senõra Santa Ana, a historic 13th-century catholic church. Many people were coming and going from the church with handfuls of flowers and all in their Sunday best. Giving it no thought, we seated ourselves outside of the church entrance at a bar called Santa Ana, where we had our first sips of Spanish espressos. Whilst Jessamyn was ordering our coffees, a swarm of people turned round the corner holding huge silver crosses, incense, flowers and dressed in white gowns. My table and I were swallowed up by the crowd and by the time Jessamyn returned, it had been spit back out! I could not believe what I was witnessing. This was our first (and least extravagant) sighting of the iconic Holy festival in Seville and one we would then continue to be followed by.

Perfumed by incense and buzzed by strong coffee, we walked further down the river or otherwise known as the Calle Betis towards the Parque de Maria Luisa and the Plaza de España. We wandered down the avenues which were shaded by hundreds of exotic trees and orange groves, as horse and carriages rode past with excited tourists sitting inside. The gardens are beautiful and with the sun shining, the park felt even more magical as we smelt roses, admired the mosaic tiled benches and watched the birds bathe themselves in that ponds.

Half a mile long, the parks centre is the hugely magnificent, Plaza de España. Known by the locals as the ‘Venice of Seville’ as the opulent semi-circle building has a 500-metre canal perched in-front, where you can rent small row boats and admire the granduer of the building and its four bridges from the rose lined canal. Brightly coloured ceramics feature heavily in the square, from the lamp posts to the floors, with pops of yellow and blue. And, if that was enough to squeeze into this lavish square, they also have 22 brightly coloured, uniquely designed benches that represent the 22 provinces in Spain. So, not only does the plaza encapsulate the spirit and beauty of Seville but also the entirety of Spain. (Also, we were so lucky with the weather. How beautifully blue is the sky)

Be sure to also keep your eyes peeled and ears out for the floor stomp of a flamenco dancer here in the square.

With our bellies rumbling after not eating since Stanstead’s finest restaurant, Weatherspoons, several hours ago, our taste buds were itching for their first taste of a true Spanish tapas. Unsure where to go as veggies in a city of fish and meat, we took to the Happy Cow app (something we came to rely on) and sourced a great Lebanese/Spanish tapas called El Rincon de Beirut along Calle San Fernando. We had hummus, tabbouleh, pitta, and falafel. It was also a great people watching spot! Especially with their Semana Santa festival unraveling around the city, so many people were gathering to see the processions.

On the way back to the hostel to finally freshen up, we caught our first procession of the hooded brotherhoods and marching bands! An amazing but eerie spectacle to witness. It was incredible to see such huge city come together and we both said we could not imagine anything like this happening at home. Honestly, thousands of people descending to the streets of Seville until the early hours of the morning. We also noted how many people in Spain could play an instrument?! I only know Hot Cross Buns on the recorder and even that is a push. Still confused (me too)… I will do a whole blog post on Holy Week, don’t you worry.

Through the maze of Seville’s streets, we arrived back to the hostel, showered and changed into our more weather-appropriate clothing. But the night is young and our next stop is the Royal Alcázar of Seville…