Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Southern Spain & Southern Portugal - Part 1 of 2

Click here for Part 2 - Portugal

Our friends Rob & Dawn joined Kris and I for a very memorable, picturesque and fun trip through southern Spain and Portugal. Dawn is a Spanish teacher, so she was very helpful as our interpreter in Spain. Our itinerary was as follows over 11 days (includes our travel days):

- Fly into Lisbon, Portugal and drive to Seville, Spain

- Seville for 2 nights and 1 full day

- Granada for 1 day/night (small hill/mountain town with the world famous Alhambra)

- Ronda for 1 day/night (small hill/mountain town with impressive ancient bridges and canyons)

- Lagos (in Algarve region of Portugal's south coast) for 3 nights and 2 full days

- Lisbon for 2 nights and 2 full days (included driving north to see the beach towns of Nazare & Peniche)

- Fly out of Lisbon, Portugal

Some key take-aways & observations:

Our daily itinerary was full of amazing architecture and ancient structures with such amazing artistic detail and work that went into them that dates back many centuries. Not much straight up concrete but instead cobble stoned narrow streets and alleyways. Classic old town European vibes in both countries. Also very beautiful beaches in both Spain and Portugal.

The food & drinks in both Spain and Portugal were super cheap and mostly very good. Most of the meals out that we had would have been 2-3x the cost in Charlotte or Charleston. We enjoyed a mix of classic Spanish and Portuguese fare including tapas and amazing seafood, along with some Asian, Indian and Moroccan cuisine thrown in the mix. Super Bock, Sagres, and Cruzcampo are very good lagers and usually the only beer option available. The house Spanish and Portuguese wines were very good.

Gas isn't cheap. I was quickly reminded that you pay by the liter, not the gallon and the cost was quite a bit more expensive than most cities in the U.S.

We rented a van, which happened to be one of the only automatic options I could find. I can drive a stick shift but I felt that having an automatic would be more stress free given the strange narrow and hilly roads in another country. However, it was a large van. While very comfortable and roomy on the road, we had some difficulty with parking in a couple of towns, particularly in a Seville parking garage. So beware, rent a smaller vehicle if you plan to drive through some of these cities and towns with narrow streets and limited parking. Portugal didn't seem to be as much of an issue with the larger van.

The people were very friendly. It felt more so in Portugal. It was hard to put my finger on it, but Portugal just seemed to have a more laid back vibe to it.

We visited in early March and generally had nice weather. It was very similar to back home in the Carolinas - low 50s to low 70s air temps and we had some rain. 

If you fly through Heathrow Airport in London, there is a 50/50 chance your bag will get lost, particularly by British Airways. It's where bags go to die. I had heard this was a thing before our trip and sure enough it happened to me, thankfully on the way home. My lost bag was delivered to me a day & a half after returning home. I did not check my bag as I almost always carry on for this reason. It's a standard rolling wheels bag that fits just fine in most overhead cabin spaces of most airliners. But the very strict, by-the-rules and rude British Airways gate agent in Lisbon (a big disappointment after having such as friendly experience with everyone else in that country) made me check my bag as she thought it looked big and wasn't taking no for an answer. Do not let them check your bag if you're carrying on a legit carry-on bag. As a result, my bag got lost. If you travel enough, it's bound to happen. It could have been worse. I was super nervous I would never see it again.

We got lucky and I checked a couple of bucket list items off in one amazing day - we got to see Nazare with breaking waves and got to watch Kelly Slater surf in person at the WSL Pro event in Peniche. I would love to return to Nazare when there is a legitimate storm swell and watch the Big Wave Tour Contest in action. 

I would easily return to Portugal and see more of that country. I'd probably pack my own wetsuit, SUP surfboard & paddle, rent a camper van & a bike, and tour all the surfing beaches along the coast from north to south.

I hope you enjoy the photos here in Part 1 and in Part 2 - there are some descriptive captions to go along with it, including some helpful links. Contact me if you have any questions or want to know more about our trip and itinerary. 

Kris & Dawn after we arrived in Seville, Spain after a long travel day.

After a long day of weary travel, we enjoyed tapas at Hijos de E. Morales, one of the oldest restaurants in the city of Seville, family owned going back several generations, and still operating. 

The view out our AirBnb in the downtown heart of Seville in the area of Cathedral-Giralda-Reales Alcázares-Archivo de Indias

Orange trees lined the streets of Seville

Cathedral of Seville

Real Alcazar of Seville - the summer home palace of the royal family of Spain, complete with fountain filled massive gardens, ornate arches, and 16th century tiling.

The detailed tile work is amazing

drapery room - giant detailed artistic carpeted drapes on display

The river that runs through the heart of Seville. We saw paddlers out there on SUP, C1, and crew boats.

Plaza de Espana

A night in Seville that included an authentic Flamenco dance performance, which was fun and very entertaining. 


Lunch patio views in Granada of the snow covered mountains nearby

the Darro riverwalk in Granada

Granada door

We toured the Alhambra, an impressive large medieval palace grounds with both Muslim and Christian architecture and influences. It is a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage site.  

The view of Granada from atop the fort at Alhambra

Alleyways of Granada

Ronda, Spain

our view from the AirBnB terrace

Ronda - an impressive and beautiful small town

Streets of Ronda

a typical Spanish cafe

one of the three ancient bridges in Ronda

The smallest of the three ancient Ronda bridges

Kris, me, Dawn, & Rob

The largest of the three ancient Ronda bridges with a waterfall below it

Doors of Ronda

Can you see the rainbow?

The large bridge lit up at night

Sunrise in Ronda

We drove by the Rock of Gibraltar but didn't stop to tour it since it was a rainy dreary day. We could see Morocco (Africa) across the water from Gibraltar. 

We stopped to check out Tarifa, Spain. It's a well known wind sport destination in Europe. The weather that day was light onshore wind with some rain so we didn't get to windsurf. But the beach there is pretty nice.

Surf Center Tarifa had all the wind sport & paddling/surfing toys for rent right on the beach.

There were plenty of wind sport shops full of windsurfing, kitesurfing, and wing foiling gear for sale & rent. We visited the North shop and they had the newest KT wing foil boards in stock along with the brand new North Sails 3Di technology composite material wave sail (below).

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