Tag: Two Queens Travel Blog

Salón Varietés Theatre in Fuengirola

This article contains non-paid advertisement for the musical Secret Garden in the Salón Varietés Theatre in Fuengirola.

If there is a quaint gem hidden in the hustle and bustle of Fuengirola – the Salón Varietés Theatre is definitely one of them. The theatre was built back in 1925, so this year it is venerable 95 years old, five years short of being a full 100. It started as a theatre, but over the course of the years became a cinema. Continue reading “Salón Varietés Theatre in Fuengirola”

RELOCATING TO SPAIN – PART TWO: WHAT ABOUT PETS?

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I’m a Star! (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Spaniards, at least on the Costa del Sol area seem to love their pets as much as their children. It is not an uncommon sight to see children – and pets – sitting with their families late in the evening having dinner outside in the multiple restaurants. At the same time it seems to be common to have your four-legged friends having their evening walks with their humans, with or without a leash.

But before you get to that point, when you’ll be strolling down the Paseo Maritimo with your best four-legged friend, there are some things that you will have to consider. We have tried to accommodate this list to include both cats and dogs, but it might be slightly biased as we have a dog. Continue reading “RELOCATING TO SPAIN – PART TWO: WHAT ABOUT PETS?”

RELOCATING TO SPAIN – PART ONE: GENERAL THINGS TO CONSIDER

When thinking of relocating to another country, there are some serious considerations to do before packing your whole life to five suitcases and heading towards the nearest airport. We, the Two Queens, have decided to put up a short series of posts, so that you might avoid some of the pitfalls that might send you to square one.

Why Spain, you might ask. Mainly because we have recently uprooted ourselves from Finland and relocated to Spain’s Costa del Sol. This relocation has forced us to think of the same points which we are going to share with you in these posts.

You should, of course, remember that this guide isn’t all-encompassing and that it has been written from our viewpoint and based on our experiences.

So, let’s get started, or vamos: Continue reading “RELOCATING TO SPAIN – PART ONE: GENERAL THINGS TO CONSIDER”

A visit to Hakunila, Vantaa

Håkansböle Gård (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Early summer is here, and what better time to explore areas near you instead of travelling to here, there, and everywhere. Sometimes it is actually very rewarding to just pick up a place near you and head out to get to know your home town much better.

I spent many years in the Håkansböle Manor House area when I was smaller, but ever since then it has always been “too far away” to go there. Since the Vantaa Town Council bought the manor house and the surroundings in 2005 from the Sanmark family, they have started to renovate the whole area, and also the manor itself.

Håkansböle Manor House (C) Two Queens Travel Blog

This manor house was built in 1908, but prior to that there has been a manor ever since the 16th Century. One of the oldest, still standing, houses is the “Mutteritalo” (Nut House), called that as it is shaped like a nut. This was built in the 18th Century as a summerhouse to commemorate the visit of the King of Sweden, Gustav III.

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Mutteritalo (The Nut House) (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

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Images from the Håkansböle Manor House area (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Ghosts?

Any house or area that has a recorded history ever since the 16th Century is bound to have happenings that cannot be explained, and Håkansböle definitely doesn’t make an exception to this rule.

When I was a wee lad, and my friend’s family was a caretaker of the manor when the Sanmarks were in Sweden, we would sometimes be allowed to enter the manor – just for a quick peek. Once I witnessed a chair moving on its own, and have seen a horse-drawn carriage in the park…

But I forgot about all of these stories and things until I was an adult, and we had the fantastic opportunity to visit the manor during a Halloween, when an manor preservance organisation hosted ghost tours and told about these kinds of events that are said to have taken place in the manor. It was quite scary.

If you have the possiblity, visit the place yourself, but before you do, watch a Ghost Vigil video from a Finnish paranormal group (Paranormal Investigations Group Finland), who spent a night in the manor.

Is the Area Worth Visiting?

It definitely is. The major renovation of the area was completed in 2011 and the whole manor park has now been restaured in early 20th Century look. The area is suitable for strolling around leisuredly, there is a café Ruuna offering drinks, quick bite to eat, and knowledge of the history of the area.

Nearby there are jogging tracks, offering possibilities to further enjoy Vantaa’s countyside scenery, and about 1 km away there is a public swimming hall, and sports park with a skateboarding park as well.

ADDRESS: Kartanontie 1, 01200 Vantaa, Finland.

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Hakunilan kartano – Håkansböle Manor House (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

23.05.2019: Review – Pensión El Portillo

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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(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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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19.05.2019: Enjoying the Sun

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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).

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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.