Amazing Athens

We took our first ever trip to the Greek mainland in May.

Heading for the cradle of Western democracy we spent a week exploring Athens and the surrounding area.

First up we managed to catch the ceremonial changing of the guards at the Parliament building.

Every day there is a small scale change, but on Sundays at 11am you get the whole choreographed show!

The Evzones are a special unit of the Hellenic Army, also known as Tsoliades, who guard the monument of the Unkown Soldier.

Each solider guards for about an hour and during this time they have to stand completely still.

During the changing they work in perfectly coordinated pairs.

The rather amusingly slow movements are to protect their blood circulation after 60 minutes of standing still.

Their uniforms are full of symbolism, with the white kilt (foustanella) having 400 folds to represent the 400 years of Ottoman occupation over the Greeks. It is made up of 30 metres of cloth!

Other parts of the uniform include; the phareon, the red hat, the phermeli the handmade waistcoat and the tsarouchia the red shoes with the black pompoms which weigh three kilos each!

Dusting off

Been pretty quiet on the blogging front recently – too busy planning new trips and new adventures.

This year we’re heading to Athens – our first time on the Greek mainland, Montenegro – which has been on the list ever since we visited Croatia many moons ago – and then a fortnight exploring the archaeological marvels of Egypt for the hubby’s big 50!

So lots to look forward to – but in the meantime I have been delving back into the archives for some travel memories 🙂

Here’s a few from one of our first ever trips abroad together as a youthful, fresh faced couple.. the beautiful aquatic city of Venice way back in 2008.

This was before my irrational need to take 1000s of photographs took hold – so a few less than usual.

So young – and so beard free . . although I prefer my grizzly grey husband’s facial hair these days tbh . .

It was a fairly grey November that we visited Venice the first time so the photos are all quite muted, plus mists rose off the canals in the evenings – very atmospheric but also quite disorientating!

The waters had risen quite high, lapping over onto the walk ways and flooding parts of the city in some places.

All hail the Alhambra

Ooops Christmas made me forget the most important post of all – the actual Alhambra visit! Full disclosure, the potted history below of this immense site comes mainly from Wikipedia!

The Alhambra is one of the most famous icons of Islamic architecture, and one of the best-preserved palaces of the historic Islamic world.

The building of this impressive complex started in 1238 by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Emirate of Granada which was to be the last Muslim state of Al-Andalus.

It was built on the Sabika hill, part of the Sierra Nevada which had been the site of earlier fortresses due to its long ranging views and imposing stance.

The complex contained at least six palaces, most of them located along the northern edge where they look over the Albaicín quarter of the city.

Below is the Court of the Myrtles (Spanish: Patio de los Arrayanes) the central part of the Comares Palace which forms part of the Royal Palace complex.

Significant changes, which gave the royal palaces much of their definitive character, took place in the 14th century.

After the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella and further alterations were made to the palaces before they fell into disrepair for many years.

The Alhambra was a self-contained city separate from the rest of Granada below.

It contained a Friday mosque, hammams (public baths), roads, houses, workshops and a water supply system.

The architecture of the stunning royal palace complex – the Nasrid palaces (which you need a timed ticket to enter) – reflects the tradition of Moorish architecture developed over previous centuries.

It uses a courtyard as a central space around which other halls and rooms were organized. Courtyards typically had water features at their center, such as a reflective pool or a fountain.

The royal complex consists of three main parts: the Mexuar, the Comares Palace, and the Palace of the Lions. Above and below you can see the ornate Court of the Lions.

The place halls feature some incredible examples of Muqarnas. This is a form of ornamented vaulting in Islamic architecture. Sometimes called “honeycomb vaulting” or “stalactite vaulting”.

The video below captures just a little of this incredible architectural detailing.

There are lots of green oasis to be found scattered around the complex including The Patio de Lindaraja below that was created on the site of a former Nasrid garden just north of the Palace of the Lions.

Below is the serene Partal Palace (Spanish: El Palacio del Partal ) with its tranquil reflecting pond. The name Partal comes from Arabic al-Barṭal or al-Burtāl.

This word was an Arabic version of the Latin word portale (‘portal’) that was used in Old Castilian to mean portico – a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls.

The Partal Palace was built by the Nasrid ruler Muhammad III who ruled the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state in Al-Andalus (the Iberian Peninsula), from 1302 to 1309.

This makes it the oldest remaining palace in the Alhambra today. It was also the first of several palaces that were eventually built along the northern perimeter of the Alhambra.

Below is The Church of Saint Mary – Iglesia De Santa María de la Encarnación – which stands on the site of the former Alhambra Mosque, the congregational mosque of the Alhambra complex.

To the east of the Alhambra and outside its walls is the Generalife, a Nasrid-era summer palace and country estate which was first built by Muhammad II and Muhammad III in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

It underwent multiple modifications under later Nasrid rulers and then by Christian Spanish builders in the 16th century.

It features several rectangular garden courtyards with decorated pavilions at either end as well as stunning views back towards the main Alhambra complex.

The origin of the name Generalife is debateable, varies suggestions include Garden of the Architect, Garden of the Artist and Principal Orchard.

Below is The Patio de la Acequia in the Generalife, a peaceful spot to enjoy the sounds of delicate fountains and the hum of insects.

In total we spent about five hours exploring the Alhambra complex – it is a huge monument that you could spend days visiting.

A brilliant entry ticked off the bucket list!!

Cute cave houses

Today we’re taking a trek to see some of the famous Cave houses that are dotted up high in Granada.

Most are found in the area known as Sacromonte – sacred or holy mountain.

The Sacromonte district is located on the Valparaiso hill of Granada and borders the north-east side of the Arab El Albaícin district.

In the 15th century, a large group of Roma, or the Spanish gypsies (the Gitanos) situated themselves here.

In the Sacromonte Caves Museum there are ten cave houses, where you can find traditional interiors and learn more about the history, traditions and inhabitants of Sacromonte.

Sacromonte is also the the birthplace of Spanish flamenco, a dance created by Spain’s gitano, or Romani, community.

All hail the Alhambra

Next we head for a high up viewpoint so we can soak in more of the fabulous exterior of the Alhambra before our visit.

Mirador San Nicolas is the most well known as it boasts the best views of the Alhambra.

This viewpoint offers a unobstructed and direct view of the Alhambra and is known to be one of the best sunset spots in Granada.

You can also see the Sierra Nevada stretching out behind the imposing fortifications.

This is the spot to come and get those iconic photos – but it gets busy so you’ll be jostling for position with plenty of other people.

But it certainly is worth it to be able to tick this awe inspiring sight off my bucket list 🙂


Hot on the heels of our Indiana Jones style adventure at the Caminito del Rey we’ve jumped in the hire car and headed to the venerable old city of Granada.

Most famous for the incredible Alhambra, this grand old dame is a pretty place full of beautiful architecture and more than a little Moorish charm.

You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the souks of Tunisia or Morocco when you see the colourful shops full of ornate textiles and colourful glass lamps.

Granada Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Incarnation is a Roman Catholic church.

Like many other cathedrals in Andalusia, including the incredible Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, it was built on top of the city’s main mosque after the reconquest of Granada.

The Alcaicería market is Granada’s Big Bazaar and the original Moorish silk market, although much smaller than the original which was destroyed in a fire in the 19th century.

Full of a mix of Spanish tourist tat and fabrics, spices and other Moroccan inspired goods, it will still sate your market itch!

We take a stroll along Carrera del Darro which runs parallel to the small Darro river.

The Romans called it the River of Gold – aurus – because of the panners who scratched out a pitiful living searching for the precious mineral in its bed.

The walk along the river’s bank runs from Plaza Nueva to Paseo de los Tristes – and it is a picturesque one with colourful shop fronts as well as the ruins of a Moorish bridge, stone footbridges, convents and a church.

We also get our first glimpses of the stunning Alhambra.

Caminito del Rey

It’s a glorious sunny day for A) the hubby’s birthday and B) some bucket listing!

We’re off to walk the Caminito del Rey – the King’s Walkway. Something the high octane one has wanted to do ever since he clapped eyes on it about seven years ago during a previous visit!

The total route runs from the town of Ardales to its exit in Álora, about eight kilometres away.

After booking online to take part in a guided walk (the only option available to us – much to his anti social disappointment) we arrive in good time – AKA too early for our time slot – so get to enjoy some cake and coffee at the quaint Mirador Restaurant that can be found at the start of the walk.

The Spanish love Halloween and all things autumnal- check out all these seasonal squashes!

Then we’re off – opting to take the slightly shorter 1.5km route to the official start of the walk that takes you through a dark tunnel – exciting!

There is another, longer route that is around 2.7km long but doesn’t involve a tunnel (so therefore inferior on two counts in my mind)The route runs from the town of Ardales to its exit in Álora, about eight kilometres away.

You emerge from the darkness blinking into the sunlight and get your first glimpses of some of the wonderful scenery on route.

The official start of the route is actually at the route’s control cabin where you meet your guide, pick up a hard hat and a radio.

The control cabin is approximately 25 minute’s walk from the tunnel entrance at Gaitanejo dam.

The caminito was opened in 1921, by King Alfonso XIII – hence its name The Kings Walkway.

This almost 8-kilometre path was once considered one of the most dangerous in the world but was made safe, and reopened about seven years ago.

The old walkway was originally built between the waterfalls of Gaitanejo and El Chorro to bring materials and maintenance workers to the local hydroelectric dam

Th first phase of the walk takes us into Gaitanejo Gorge before we approach the leafy woodlands of the Hoyo valley.

The walk takes three to four hours to complete from start to finish – depending on how many pictures you stop to take of course . .

Looking across to the other side of the valley you can see the railway line supported on large stone structures between the tunnels.

Incredibly this railway linking Cordoba to Malaga was constructed between 1860 and 1866.

We’re heading into the spectacular Balconcillo de los Gaitanes gorge now.

Here the walkways cling to the cliff face, a dizzying 100 metres above the river bed.

Below you can clearly see the remnants of the original 1921 walkway and it becomes very clear why it was once considered the most dangerous route in the world!

And again below, the crumbling remains of the original vertigo inducing pathway.

A few awkward poses from yours truly . . . #hurryupandtakethephoto

One of the most iconic, and jaw dropping sights is The Puente Colgante – the hanging bridge.

The 30m-long galvanized steel suspension bridge is suspended high above the river and has a limited amount of people allowed on at any one time.

After the wobbly bridge we’re onto the last leg – the baking Southern cliff side where the heat smacks you squarely in the face!

The final section of the walk is encased in a metal cage in order to protect the railway below.

And that’s it! Caminito completed! Hard to believe that we were mincing along that tiny walkway. Clinging to a sheer rock face. 100 metres above the river . . . #gulp

All that is left to do is hop on the little shuttle bus that takes us back to the start of the walk to pick up our car.

Tourist tour

We’re heading for the package tour hotspot of Torremolinos and it’s a nice walk along the seafront from Benalmádena.

The original plan was to hop on a cable car at Benalmádena but the day is too grey for such endeavors so we’re going to postpone it till later on!

There’s not a great deal of ‘original’ Spain to be found in Torremolinos, but then again, it has been a package tour hotspot for so many decades that I guess that is now its own authentic kind of culture.

There’s still a smattering of hand painted tiles and colourful plant pots to be found though, so I am satisfied!

The following day we revisit Benalmádena for our original cable car plan as it’s a much brighter day.

The trip takes you to the top of Mount Calamorro – the highest point in Benalmádena at an altitude of almost 800 metres above sea level. It take around 15 minutes and invovles swaying out over a busy road before heading for the summit.

Malaga 2022

Back to Malaga for the third time! This time combined with a trip to the historic city of Grenada.

We stayed in the lovely SoHo Centre Apartments – very convenient for all the city’s sights.

Our first evening and day is just spent reacquainting ourselves with Malaga – a place that is starting to feel a little home away from home due to the number o times we have been now!

There’s the usual plethora of colourful wall art to keep me entertained

We manage to nab prime position on a relaxing catamaran cruise from Malaga bay.

Nothing but gentle sunshine and seabirds for a hour – blissful!

As the first day draws to a close we head up to the alcazaba to watch the sun set over the cityscape.


Glamourous Cernobbio is reputed to be the haunt of Hollywood A lister George Clooney.

Sadly we didn’t spot the silver fox while we were there but you certainly see why he might want to live there.

Elegant and stylish, it’s another beautiful lakeside town.

Then we’ve made it to our third and final lake. Maggiore.

Staying in an actual castle in Baveno!

Sadly our only day there was a complete wash out so our epic Italian Odyssey ends here!