Category: Costa Del Sol, Spain 2019

23.05.2019: Review – Pensión El Portillo

⭐⭐⭐

Pensión El Portillo is located conveniently near the Mezquita-Catedral, one of the major tourist hotspots in Córdoba, in the old town. The alleys around the area are small and winding, thus making the place peaceful and quiet, even though there is a road just nearby (with bus routes).

When we made the booking via Hotels.com for the place, we didn’t have a car rented at the moment, so we thought nothing of it, but for future reference – one should inform them before arrival if you are coming with a car; they will try to arrange you a parking spot nearby. Otherwise, there is none. We ended up parking across the river before managing to secure ourselves a spot by the Pensión.

Check in was quick and easy, the lobby was furnished in a typical Córdoba style, very charming indeed. The hotel does not have any lifts as the building itself is believed to be over 100 years old. The lobby is your typical indoor patio and it is clear that the roof has been put in much later than the house itself was built.

The Room

The room was actually really small, however it was very cozy, clean, and comfortable. There was no noise coming from inside the hotel although our room was right next to the staircase, which was a definite added bonus as this was something we were slightly apprehensive at first.

The room has a wardrobe, air conditioner, a dresser, night stands on each side of the comfortable bed, and two chairs to sit on. We used the chairs to sit on the small Juliet balcony overlooking the small plaza just outside the front door, a nice, quiet time with a glass of vino.

As it is with many rooms we have stayed in, there is a lack of power outlets near the bed, so if you are used to charging your phone whilst sleeping, prepare to leave it further away, or have a longer charging cord so you can keep it nicely on either of the night stands.

But as the room was small, it posed logistical problems for our luggage as we had everything with us (including a big suitcase we just bought from Fuengirola), and for me this was a definite downside. Having wheeled the bag around before arriving to the hotel room and then having to place it on your bed is not exacly my idea of keeping the bed clean, but on the other hand, there was a bedspread, so you don’t have to place it on the bed linens.

The Bathroom

The bathroom was clean and quite spacious, but no bidet. The shower cabinet was cleverly designed to take about 1/4 of the whole bathroom space, giving you good space to have a proper shower. The Pensión also provided shampoo and shower gel in sachets, and bars of soap to wash your hands with. This is a small gesture that we both really like over the wall-attached dispensers that you can see in many places around Europe nowadays.

The Verdict

The next time we venture out to Córdoba, the Pensión El Portillo is the first place we are going to check for availabilities. The location makes it perfect base for the exploration of the old town, and the surroundings. Knowing that they have two reserved car parking spots nearby makes it even more enticing (even though I suspect that other hotels around the area offer same kind of service).

Even though the room was small, it didn’t feel claustrophobic. Instead, the size of the room allowed the air conditioner to cool down the room quite fast, and it was kept of a steady temperature even during the night.

Check-out time was convenient, as it is not too early in the morning, but instead allows time to wake up before having to rush out of the door. We, on the other hand, had to depart earlier than the check-out time was as we needed to drive back to Málaga airport to return our car before the flight but that posed no problems either.

 

22.05.2019: The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

Even if you are not into history, the great Mezquita-Catedral is a must-see place in Córdoba. The 14 400 sq meter building has seen it’s fair share of the Spanish history, as it was first built as a small church by the Visigoths during the Roman reign. When the Muslims conquered the Iberian peninsula, the Caliph Abd ar-Rahman I purchased half of the church for the Muslim community’s Friday prayers, and later, in AD 784 purchased the rest of the church to set up a mosque. Over the centuries it was extended twice, bringing it to the form you can see it today.

Patio de los Naranjos

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Even when you enter the Patio de los Naranjos, the outdoor garden area surrounding the Mezquita-Catedral, it is quite obvious that this place wasn’t built to be a church, or a cathedral, but for something else. Even when the hustle and bustle of the daily tourist masses started, the gardens still felt tranquil, and you can easily lose yourself in thought when walking around.

The patio is also the place where, during the time when the Mezquita was still a mosque, the Muslims would perform the ablution (wudu) before going inside the mosque to perform the prayers.

At one corner of the patio is the 54 meter tall bell tower, where you have fantastic views over the city of Córdoba. Of course this requires you to utilise your leg muscles as you have to climb up to the tower. The cost for this is only 2€ per person, and this allows you to have possibly some of the best holiday snaps of the city. But you have to be “an early bird”, as the tickets usually sell out quite early in the day. And remember to time your visit right, as the church bells toll quite often…
Anyway, it might not come as a surprise to anyone when you find out that the bell tower actually used to be a minaret for the great mosque, and in its heyday this minaret was copied all over the Muslim Al-Andalus.

Inside the Mezquita-Catedral

First things first. When you come to any holy place, such as a church, temple, or a mosque, please be respectful enough to follow the rules of the place. 

The first thing that we noticed when entering the Mezquita was the serenity of the vast place. As we were there shortly after 8.30 on the Wednesday morning, the entrance was free of charge (normally 10€ per person). Despite the early time, there were still many people around, but the size of the place just seems to make everyone disappear (unless you try to take a photo – then everyone seems to congregate in the same spot).

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

During the restoration work of the Mezquita, they uncovered the original Visigoth / Roman era floors and mosaics, which are now visible through a floor window as pictured above. It is wonderful that something as beautiful and intricate has survived for over 1500 years and now that it has been uncovered, it can be viewed in such detail.

But it is not the only place in the Mezquita where there are beautiful mosaics. In the area of the Mihrab, a prayer niche, at the southern end of the Mezquita is more of the beautiful mosaics.

IMG-20190522-WA0010.jpg
The Mihrab (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

These are actually a gift from the emperor of Byzantium, from whom the then Caliph asked for a mosaicist, who could imitate the works in the great mosque of Damascus. The Christian emperor of Byzantium didn’t just send the person, but also 1600 kgs of gold mosaic cubes that subsequently were used to create this wall.

And of course the visit to the Mezquita wouldn’t be anything if you didn’t pay attention to the most well-known feature of the place. The beautiful red-and-white arches that you can see in all the souvenier materials of Córdoba.

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The Mezquita-Catedral is definitely a must-see place. It may not be as grand as the Alhambra in Granada, but at the same time one has to remember that the Mezquita is not a palace or a fortress, it used to be a church turned and rebuilt to be a mosque conquered to be a cathedral, a house of God. But it will still take your breath away and make you feel that one step closer to the Creator.

21.05.2019: To Córdoba

It is time to say adios to the Costa del Sol and head inland, to the historic city of Córdoba, a city which has stood there on the banks of river Guadalquivir at least since 8th Century BC. Slightly longer than, let’s say, Helsinki for instance.

At first we planned to take a bus from Málaga, as ALSA had some really affordable tickets for the routes (Málaga – Córdoba – Málaga Airport) for the dates we wanted. But when we decided to book the car, it changed our plans. This, of course, allows us to take our time to drive to places and gives us a bit more flexibility.

 

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The difference of the landscape between the coastal area of Málaga and when you head inland is very stark, as the mountainous areas seem to start immediately after turning the car towards Córdoba.

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

If you are heading to Córdoba from Málaga area, there are a few options for the roads. And as Spain has road tolls, we of course opted to take the free roads, which add a few minutes to the trip, as A-45 is a free road after all.

Arriving Cordoba

20190522_175900.jpg
The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

After crossing the river Guadalquivir and following the directions from the GSP Lady we get our first glimpse of the building we wanted the most to see here in Córdoba; the Mezquita-Catedral.

And of course the GPS Lady wants to lead us directly to our destination, which unfortunately is located in a pedestrian zone, as our hotel is in the Old Town (conveniently located in the vicinity of the Mezquita). So we end up driving on small streets and trying to find another way to our pad.

So a bit of warning, if you have decided to book a hotel from the old town area; do not try to drive there! You should definitely contact the hotel beforehand and ask how and where to park before you arrive.

We ended up parking the car on the other side of the river and walking the 800 meters to the hotel. But in retrospect, it was worth it. Also, when we checked in, the receptionist lady (who might also be the owner?) advised us that there actually were two parking spots, out of which one was available, allocated for the hotel, so we ended up moving the car there! Which was even more convenient!

21.05.2019: Review – Hotel Carlos I

⭐⭐⭐

We booked this two star hotel in Torremolinos through Hotels.com as it was perhaps the most hassle-free way to find a place to stay in a convenient location. As with our flights, we try to concentrate longer bookings (as this was a week) into companies, such as Hotels.com, which gives you benefits from making the bookings.

The Review

The Hotel Carlos I did offer us a very pleasant stay indeed. Locationwise it wasn’t hard to find the place, as it is a 10 minute walking distance from the Torremolinos Train Station at Plaza Nogalera. As we had prepaid the hotel during the reservation process, the check-in process was quick and straightforward. The receptionist was very professional and friendly, offering us the needed information concerning our stay, and also giving us handy tips for the surrounding areas as well.

The hotel itself is quite big with 7 floors, and we were given a room on the topmost floor, from where the views were spectacular!

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The Room

The room itself was fairly big. Even with a mini-fridge, a writing desk, a double bed, chest of drawers, a couple of chairs, and a wardrobe the room didn’t feel crammed. Also, the room was clean and bright, which is always important to us. There wasn’t cleaning done every day, in fact the cleaning was done only once during our stay, but as we are not a family with children, it wasn’t needed as well.

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The room didn’t have an air conditioning, but we had a tabletop fan, which proved to work just as well to keep the room cool for the night.

The balcony was wide enough to have a small table with two chairs there and it was partitioned from the next door balcony by a translucent partitioning. For me, the railing was a bit low, so I can understand some parents feeling a tad nervous for letting children into the balcony by themselves.

The Bathroom

Like the main room, the bathroom was spacious as well with a full-size bathtub, a sink, and the toilet bowl. Sadly there wasn’t a bidet, which would have been a grand thing to have.

To our amusement, there were some cleaning items (such as a brush and a mop) at the corner of the bathroom, but the brush proved to be a handy thing to have as there wasn’t cleaning performed every day; after a windy morning it was handy thing to have to brush extra sand from the balcony floor before going out to enjoy the morning sun.

20190521_104956.jpg
(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The Verdict

Even though it is clear that the hotel is not new and posh, the atmosphere is nice and quaint. Service level is what you expect on a two-star hotel, but at the same time the spaciousness does surprise in a positive way. Rooms are non-smoking, but the balconies are not, and if you happen to have a smoker in the neighbouring room, prepare to get the second-hand smoke drifting through the open door into your room.

As mentioned before, we were not bothered by not having a cleaning done every day – and let’s be realist, who cleans their house every day or changes their bedlinens every day anyway.

And as the reception staff (everyone we met there) were friendly and informative, it just added to the experience, and we can really recommend Hotel Carlos I for anyone who travels to Torremolinos area.

If you have problems with mobility, there is a good chance that you can still get a room in here as there are rooms on the ground floor as well. There is, of course, a lift, but it felt a bit small, and if you have to use a wheelchair it might pose a problem if your room is located on the upper floors. So, when making a reservation, remember to mention about this kinds of special requirements.

We definitely enjoyed our week-long stay in Hotel Carlos I and would definitely stay there again the next time we are in the area!

20.05.2019: Visiting Ronda

Guess what. We rented a car and that means we are off to adventures! And first stop, historical Ronda! Ronda has been a town ever since the Roman times. It was in the 1st Century BC when Julius Caesar gave the town rights to Acinipo, a town that later became known as Ronda. The ruins of Acinipo lie about 20 km from the modern day town centre.

The drive from Torremolinos to Ronda is between 1 h 25min and 1h 40min, depending on the road you take. As we dislike driving on motorways, and as there are toll roads in Spain, we opted to use smaller roads. This, of course, resulted in a slightly longer driving time, but as we are on holidays, who cares. Besides, taking the smaller roads gives you the chance to see the small towns and experience the local areas much, much better.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Views on the Road (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Having driven in several European countries before, Spain was, yet again, something completely different. Maybe it is because Spain is warmer than central European countries, so that the plants and the colours are different. Maybe it is because the difference between the lowlands of the coastal areas and the nearby mountains is so stark? And the same thing seems to affect the temperatures as well. Obviously when you reach the mountains and highlands (such as Ronda), the temperatures seem to be on the same level with the seaside, but whilst on the road we noticed that the temperatures were higher than either on the coast or in Ronda.

But the roads, they are mainly in excellent order, and what we noticed is that the speed limits actually go lower when the surface of the road is worse. This was also something that we haven’t really paid attention anywhere else. At least in Finland it is more typical to notify the drivers that the road conditions are worse, so you know to alter your speed accordingly, but at least on the way to Ronda, it was controlled with the speed limits.

20190520_175452.jpg
View from Ronda (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Ronda is one of those old towns that has very narrow streets, so if you are arriving there by car, please remember (which we didn’t) that one usually should park outside the old town area as that might be nigh impossible to find a parking place anywhere inside the old town.

 

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

But the sight to go to Ronda to see, apart from the Old Town, is of course the Puente Nuevo Bridge, which you can of course see in the Old Town, but the best way to see how high it actually is, is to go down. The bridge itself was built between 1759-1793 and it connects the two parts of the old town over a chasm. That chasm was one of the reasons why it took the Reconquista such a long time to capture Ronda from the Moors, as they also had access from the mountaintop town to a fresh water source at the bottom of the chasm.

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

19.05.2019: Enjoying the Sun

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

If you are in Spain, on the Costa del Sol, it is almost mandatory to be on the beach at some point. Some people spend the whole holiday on the beaches here, and it is no wonder! They used to have the Blue Flag standard on about every beach from Málaga to Marbella, but some of the beaches lost the accreditation, and depending on the sources, it was because of bad planning of the local infrastructure and waste water management (official reason) or delayed forwarding of the submitted application (local reason).

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The definitive good thing is that nowadays you can rent a beach lounger that is actually of a good quality. The prices might be a bit steep, but at the same time, some of them come with lock box and everything, so that all of you can go and swim at the same time without having to hide your phones and all in the sand under your towels.

Ponytails! (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

But have to say that the temperature of the Mediterranean water wasn’t still very warm. It was ok for walking there and letting the waves crash on your legs, but going for a swim.. in about a month for me.

17.05.2019: Málaga Cathedral

The Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga is definitely one of the most well known landmarks of Málaga, so of course we had to pay a visit to it. And I really mean pay as the entrance to the cathedral itself costs 6€ and if you, like us, want to stretch your leg muscles and climb to the rooftop of the cathedral, the price is 10€ per person. With the ticket you do get a free audio guide which we do think makes the entrance fee a bit more understandable. At least you get some concrete with your money.

Please note, however, if you have difficulties walking, the rooftop tour is not for you.

Even though the entrance cost is a bit steep for our liking, it is always a good thing to visit such grand places and admire the history of it, and the amount of work and worship that has been built into the very stones of a place such as this.

The Best View In Town?

During our last trip to Málaga we visited the Castillo de Gibralfaro and Alcazaba from where the view was spectacular, but as the Cathedral is inside the city, the views from here are somewhat different. The climb itself is done in two parts, and even after the first flight of stairs it is clear that the views are going to be good. And from certain points of the climb you can actually stop and take a photo to the inside of the cathedral as well. Assassin’s Creed much?

After the first flight of stairs one can stop to take photos, and even at this point it is quite clear how high up that one climb actually took you.

From the top of the Cathedral’s roof you have a 360⁰ view over the city of Málaga! Something that you cannot get from the the Castillo, even though the fortress is on a higher ground.

Views From The Top (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Summa Summarum

If you are visiting Málaga, and you have time only either for the Castillo or the Cathedral, we cannot really tell which one you should pick. Both of the places are completely different, and both require a good amount of foot work.

But Malaga Cathedral in itself is a good place to visit, it is after all a landmark inside the city.

The Málaga Cathedral (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

17.05.2019: Antigua Casa de la Guardia – Taste the Málaga Wines

One of the places that is a must-see in Málaga is the Antigua Casa de la Guardia, on Calle Alameda Principal 18, which concentrates on selling the local Málaga wines. We have visited this place before, during our last trip to Málaga last year, and this time it was clear to us that we have to come here again.

Wines, wines, wines! (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

As we have been here before, the system is already familiar. But for those of you, who haven’t – there are not many tables, and no chairs, so prepare to stand around. You should try to get a spot by the counter, as it is fascinating to see the way the tabs are being kept here, and also, you can observe how the staff go about on filling the glasses of the thirsty locals and tourists.

Have a sip! (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Although the prices are steep for the amount of wine you get, it is still more than the cost. This place is about the experience, and also about the tasting of local produce that you might not otherwise go and taste! Especially if you have to buy a whole bottle at one go.

 

 

 

 

17.05.2019: Mercado de Atarazanas, Málaga

There is a lot of Moorish influences in the older buildings in Andalucia, and Mercado de Atarazanas, the central market in Málaga is definitely one testament to the Muslim architecture.

One of the surviving original entrances to Atarazanas (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

We have been to Mercado de Atarazanas during our previous trip to Málaga as well, but didn’t quite remember how fabulous the place actually is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Views From the Mercado de Atarazanas (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

What makes Mercado de Atarazanas a great place for us is the fact that, unlike in many other places we have visited, the Atarazanas market isn’t actually that much more expensive than the supermarkets! And with some vegetables Atarazanas was actually cheaper! And what is a definitive added bonus to the prices is the atmosphere inside (and outside). There seems to be a constant hustle and bustle of the local people as well as tourists going around, and the sales people trying to make sure that everyone knows that their wares are the best ones.

The Food

Light snack at Atarazanas (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

If you are in the middle of Málaga and wonder what to eat, go to Atarazanas. There are some really good eateries inside, and they also offer (packed) seating outside, so our suggestion is to stand by the counter and eat there. Of course this has other issues, like looking at all the dishes going out and simply having to order some more, and then some.

The foods are tapas like, and the prices are not, surprisingly, sky high.

With out two experiences of Mercado de Atarazanas, we still do feel that this is a must see place every time you are in Málaga.

16.05.2019: Flamenco @ Taberna Pepe Lopez

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

As it is the Eurovision week, we have a question for you all. What has more costume changes and more drama than the Eurovision Song Contest?

Well, a proper flamenco show of course! And this is just what we witnessed in the evening at Taberna Pepe Lopez! You get to read all about the show a bit late because my voice is hoarse from crying out olé so many times and from clapping my hands more effectively than Miss Nicole Kidman at the famous Oscar’s event.

The Venue

Enter The Taberna (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

According to the staff, the has been a flamenco performed here at Pepe Lopez since 1965, which makes the place a must see and experience.

The Taberna Pepe Lopez is conveniently located on Plaza de la Gamba Alegre, near the central shopping street of Calle San Miguel. On the Calle San Miguel you can find such places as Sabor a España, which we visited earlier.

Entry to the Taberna is by steep set of stairs with no wheelchair access, so unless you can walk stairs, this venue is out of your reach. I actually helped to carry a motorised wheelchair up the stairs for an elderly lady, who could do stairs but not walk much further.

The Show – Flamenco Dress Extravaganza

The showtime is at 10pm and the ticket, which costs a whopping 30€ per person includes a drink. At first I was slightly hesitant to purchase such expensive tickets, but after reading the reviews from the TripAdvisor I had a bit more confidence that the show might be more than to lure tourists in with a promise of a free glass of sangria. And luckily I did!!

The show itself is 2 hours long with a 12 minute interval for gathering yourself before the Grand Finale. And the level of artistry during the show makes you completely lose the track of time and the chairs you are sitting on.

The level of emotion carried by the live musical performances, some combined with the dancers’ movements is fantastic. I am still left at loss of words to describe all the feelings I felt during the show. The last time I felt this was when watching a theatrical play, The Quartet. The songs, the dances, were so intimate and moving.

The Verdict

If you come to Andalucia and have just one thing you want to experience, we recommend you spend the 30€ to see the flamenco at Taberna Pepe Lopez. We have experienced flamenco before at Malaga’s MIMMA, and that performance was also good, but nowhere near to this experience. The MIMMA show was like a trailer for this.

The chairs at the venue are not the best, but you are not there for the chairs. They don’t accept cards at the venue (if you want another drink during the show), so you need to carry some cash with you. But again, this is not the venue to come to drink yourself merry. Having just that one drink was enough for this Finnish Queen to melt his frozen tear ducts during some points of the show.

And yes, the goosebumps were not there because of the air conditioning but because of the show.

And as writing about this is difficult, we will let the flamenco speak for itself, enjoy.