Three Countries in Five Days

After nearly three months of nothing but Toledo (except for the delightful little day trip to Cuenca) I was starting to go a bit stir crazy. The only thing that kept sane was an upcoming trip, which my friend Noelia had organised: Three nights at her friend’s place in Badajoz, Extremadura, just a handful of miles from the Portuguese border. From there, we would invade the neighbouring country and stuff ourselves silly with all the glorious Portuguese food we could cram down our gullets. Then, it was onwards, across the entire country and down to Andalucía for a couple of days, following a kind invitation from one of Noelia’s workmates, who had bequeathed us a lovely flat overlooking the beach.

All you all ready and comfortable? Let’s get started :)

Badajoz has some lovely public gardens

Badajoz has some picturesque public gardens…

...and glorious views.

…and glorious views. The town itself has a very southern Spanish flair, although it’s not much more south than Toledo. The Portuguese influence is keenly felt in the architecture, the colours and on restaurant menus. Salt cod and custard tarts galore!

Moving on to Portugal…

Évora's party piece: A Roman temple from the 1st century

Évora’s party piece: A Roman temple from the 1st century

Roman Temple and moi

Hidden gems

Lots of crumbling gems to discover…

...as well as some modern art. Noelia (left), and our hosts Gracia (right) and Lua (centre).

…as well as some modern art.
Noelia (left), and our hosts Gracia (right) and Lua (centre).

One of Évora's stunning residents turning his back on me

One of Évora’s most glamorous residents turning his back on me

The Almendres Cromlech, a few miles from Évora. A megalithic complex erected 8,000 years ago, and pretty well preserved. We just made it in time for sundown.

The Almendres Cromlech, a few miles from Évora city. A megalithic complex erected 8,000 years ago, and pretty well preserved. We just made it in time for sundown.

We're in Elvas now, another historic town settled since the year dot. Just don't ask me what that thing in the middle is...

We’re in Elvas now, another historic town settled since the year dot.
Just don’t ask me what that thing in the middle is supposed to signify…

Like any Portuguese town worth its salt, Elvas has a castle...

Like any Portuguese town worth its salt, Elvas has a castle…

...impossibly steep, cobbled streets...

…impossibly steep, cobbled streets…

...and plenty of tiles. Everywhere.

…and plenty of tiles. Everywhere.

 

And, of course, FOOD! Here we are, waiting for ours. The desserts at that place were to die for.

And, of course, FOOD! Here we are, waiting for ours. The desserts at that place were to die for.

For one last look at Portugal, how about this cork oak? The souvenir shops are full of cork products. You can even send postcards made of cork.

For one last look at Portugal, how about this majestic cork oak? The souvenir shops are full of cork products. You can even send postcards made of cork.

Cádiz Province, Andalucía, here we come!

Andalucía billboard

BEACH BEACH BEACH

BEACH BEACH BEACH!!!

I was very taken with that umbrella ;.)

I was rather taken with that cheery parasol :-)

Andalucia Castellar

Did I mention the beach...?

Did I mention the beach…?

Noelia and our generous host and indefatigable tour guide, Paco

Noelia with our generous host and indefatigable tour guide, Paco

A cute frog fountain in Tarifa

A cute frog fountain in Tarifa

Soto Grande Boat

 

Gibraltar... that was the third "country" on our trip. We spent the morning there, I made a beeline to M&S, bought as many packs of hot cross buns as I could carry and several boxes of walnut whip. None of which survives.

Gibraltar, the third “country” visited on our trip. We spent a morning there, during which I made a beeline to M&S, heaping as many packs of hot cross buns as I could carry into my basket, as well as several boxes of walnut whip. None of which survives.

Now there’s just one thing missing, one VERY IMPORTANT thing:

Badajoz Cake

 

Cuenca, Cuenca On The Wall…

There seems to be a long-held rivalry over which city is the most beautiful, Toledo or Cuenca. I have learnt to stay well clear of these disputes, especially if my kindly chauffeur happens to be a born-and-bred Toledan, and there’s no humanely dignified way of getting back home to Toledo on public transport.

Instead, I just enjoy the view…

Cuenca's walls are a natural granite formation

Cuenca’s city walls are a natural granite formation

Cuenca View2

 

Cuenca View3

Cuenca View 4

Ewa posing for Maria. In the background, precariously perched on the left, are the famous "hanging houses", dating back to the 15th century.

Eva posing for Maria. Precariously perched in the background on the left are the famous “hanging houses”, dating back to the 15th century.

Cuenca View 5

Cuenca Casco

 

Cuenca Cathedral

 

Cuenca Churches

Cuenca House

Salt cod and roast garlic, all mashed up. (Mental note: Next time, cancel all subsequent social engagements...)

Salt cod and roast garlic, all mashed up. (Mental note: Next time, cancel all subsequent social engagements…)

Miguelitos

 

Cheeeezzzz...cake :)

Cheeeezzzz…cake :)

Winterwonderland Didn’t Last…

The magic is gone. We’re back to drizzle, slush, treacherous black ice and pitiful corpses :(

Nothing but sad remnants remain...

Nothing but remnants remain…

If you want to admire the above snowman when he was still a strapping young lad in his full frosty glory, click here.

To comfort ourselves over the sad demise of the sparkly wintery snowscape, my friend Peggy laid on a festive afternoon coffee:

Note the AMERICAN chocolate chip cookies on the right-hand side, which are a real challenge to re-create in Germany, so I was told. Delicious :)

Note the AMERICAN chocolate chip cookies on the right-hand side, which are a real challenge to re-create in Germany, so I was told. Delicious :)

Here's a close-up, in case you've missed them ;-)

Here’s a close-up, in case you’re not drooling quite enough already ;-)

The snow may be gone, but I caught a nice sunset on my evening walk today:

Sunset

If you’ve missed the Bavarian Winterwonderland pictures, you can see them here and here.

 

 

A Happy New Year… From Narnia!

After days on end of snow, icy winds and grey skies, I could barely believe it when I pulled up the shutters this morning: 2015 got off to a dazzling start.

Not my handiwork, but perfect for a New Year's Day pic :)

Not my handiwork, but perfect for a New Year’s Day pic :)

A walk in the woods was in order, to test out my new boots. Although snow shoes might have been a better choice. I had some fun with the camera, trying to catch the sunlight peeking through the trees.

Gagers

Wald 1

Bach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wald 2

Fichten

Wald 5

Wald 4

Still with me? Let’s finish off with a nice brekkie :)

Breakfast

 

Icicles, Bicycles, Snowmen and Beer Trucks

The snow just keeps coming. These are the winters I remember from my childhood. Here’s a selfie:

These things could kill you...!

These things could kill you…!

You were planning on getting home on that...?

Good luck getting home on that!

 

 

You don't care, do you?!

He doesn’t care!

Things can't be that bad... the beer deliveries are still running! Well, this is Bavaria, after all ;-)

Things can’t be that bad… the beer deliveries are still running! Well, this is Bavaria, after all ;-)