Spain

Seville Part 2: the Alcazar

This post is part of a multi-part series on my recent trip to Spain and Morocco. You can read other posts here and here.  Thanks for following along!

Moorish Tile Patterns at the Alcazar

Entering the Alcazar was like stepping centuries back into a beautiful moment in time.  A time when craftsmanship was everything, and every detail was constructed with intention and purpose. A time when beauty was valued, so much so, that constructing a building was a lifetime process.

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What’s pretty ironic is that I just stumbled upon this place, not knowing just how significant it was.  I was completely oblivious to the fact that the Game of Thrones was filmed there. Or that it is still a residence for Kings to this very day.  All this I learned later after we had left Sevilla.  If you remember from my Malaga post, this whole Spain thing was the most unplanned trip I’ve ever done. I did minimal research, so whatever we explored was pretty much by chance.

We hit the Alcazar at the end of our day, about an hour before closing time, after the lines had subsided. One of the first things that caught my eye was the tile.  It was the perfect combination of Spanish and  Moroccan details. Southern Spain is known for its Moorish architecture.  Being located so close to Morocco you can definitely see the Islamic influence and style.

Tilework, Moorish Influence at the Alcazar, Seville, Spain - Vim & Vintage

The palace was the equivalent of a human size maze. Each room was a completely new color palette with surprises waiting.  I pretty much spent the entire time obsessing over the tile patterns.  Although, the door and ceiling details were equally as mind-blowing.

Favorite Ceiling in the Alcazar - Vim & Vintage Blog

This was my favorite room in the whole palace. I struggled to get the perfect shot for a while. With it being so close to closing time, I kept waiting for everybody to get out of my photo.  It was kinda funny because I kept getting irritated that inevitably someone would walk across while I was trying to snap the photo.  Like I own the place. The photo below is the best one I took – with just one shadowy figure in the doorway.  I may photoshop them out.  Clearly, it still bothers me.

Alcazar in Seville,Spain - Vim & Vintage Blog

My favorite exterior space was the courtyard.  Those arches and the relief patterns…*sigh*.  The experience was just so beautiful. I could have spent all night here. I’m pretty sure we were probably one of the last few to leave.

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No palace is complete without a ridiculously maintained garden area.

Alcazar WallsAlcazar Gardens

The outside of the building kind of had this tie-dye effect, which I totally fell in love with.

Tie Dye Building! - Vim & Vintage

I’ll leave you with this view of the ivy and a bench. Because I mean, just how cute is this??

Ivy & Bench - Vim + Vintage Blog

Is Spain on your travel bucket list? If not, it should be!  It never was on mine but now I’m just dreaming of the day I can go back.

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charm + inspiration in Sevilla

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*This post is part of a multi-part series on my recent trip to Spain and Morocco. You can read other posts here and here.  Over the next several weeks, I will be highlighting the different cities I visited along with travel tips.  I’m excited to share it all with you! Thanks for following along!*

After spending my first day in Europe in the beautiful city of Malaga, I went to bed excited because I knew when I woke up it was going to be another adventure.  I arose that Sunday minimally unaffected by jet lag and ready to hit Seville, or as it’s called in Spain, Sevilla.

We hopped in the car and began the 1.5 hour drive north. I was elated.  The rolling hills and lush fields on our drive were beautiful. Again, the Spanish countryside woo’ed me.

Spanish Countryside

I heard such great things about Sevilla. Nate fell in love with the city as it was the first place he explored in Spain. The minute we got into Sevilla I knew I was going to love it too.

Building Detail in Sevilla

It was a different feel than the beachy, upscale parts of Malaga. Sevilla is a place filled with history and old world charm.  A true Spanish city.  Magnificent architecture, flamenco dancing, and tapas define this iconic place. I couldn’t wait to dive in.

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Sevilla

beautiful building in Sevilla

We began our day walking outside the city’s iconic bullring and Cathedral.  Sevilla’s cathedral definitely trumped Malaga’s in size – it was about the size of a full city block! Nate had previously toured it and Christopher Columbus’ tomb rests inside.

Cathedral in Sevilla

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One of my favorite activities in general is eating, but I just love how special sit-down meals are in Europe.  The relaxed atmosphere at the cafes and restaurants was just so nice. You don’t just go there to eat, but to enjoy the company of who you’re with.  People are laughing, talking, and enjoying life, not playing on their phones, which is refreshing.

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We sat down for lunch at a little tapas cafe called Carmela. It was then that I realized why tapas are world famous.  Perfect for sharing, Nate & I ordered about 4 different small plates and they all were so good.  I didn’t take pictures of the food (probably because I dove in the second it hit the table), but here’s one of the items we had on the menu from their website.

Chicken with Soy Sauce & Honey - Carmela in Sevilla, Spain

Then Nate took me to the Plaza de Espana. Definitely one of the places you have to see if you are in Sevilla. It was gorgeous! And so huge.  Actually, huge is an understatement. Let’s go with colossal. Or monumental.

Plaza de Espana in Sevilla

Plaza de Espana Panoramic

Every single detail in that place was pure money.

Plaza de Espana - ceiling detail

Plaza de Espana - Sevilla

When Nate and I find ourselves in a city, we enjoy just walking around with little to no agenda. Instead of planning up the entire day and frantically trying to get from point A to point B, we try to take in the beauty of the journey.  Ending up in random alleyways was one of my most favorite things about the trip.

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I love the buildings you find when you just wander.

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Blue Door in Sevilla

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The Museum of Fine Arts was probably one of my favorites in the city. I definitely have a thing for pink architecture.

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The Metropol Parasol is the most modern thing you will see in Sevilla.  I later found out it’s the largest wooden structure in the world!  So cool.

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Our last stop of the day was to check out the Royal Palace and Castle, the Alcazar.  Since there are so many pictures, I will do a separate post on this special place. It was phenomenal.  Stay tuned for the next post – it’s a must see!

a day trip to Malaga

Malaga, Spain - Photo by: Nataliya Borener, Vim & Vintage

*This is my first entry in a series of posts on my recent trip to Spain and Morocco. Over the next several weeks, I will be highlighting the different cities I visited along with travel tips.  I’m excited to share it all with you!*

You always remember your first love.  I believe in the same way, you will always remember your first European city.

Malaga will always be that special place for me.

I had just arrived into Rota the night before.  Waking up that first morning in Spain still felt surreal.  I was so freaking excited to get my first taste of European culture!  At the last minute we decided on a day trip to Malaga. (You’ll soon see how this is a trend over the next several posts.)

In terms of Spanish geography, Rota is a small town on the southwestern coast of Spain. Malaga is about a 2.5-3 hour drive east.  One beach city to another.  This is my kind of life.

Rota to Malaga, Spain map.jpg

The drive was beautiful. Most of it was just on a winding 2 lane road.  Just us and the Spanish countryside. Picture valleys that go on forever. Mountain views. Lots of turbines with wind energy being generated. I was surprised by how few of cars we saw on the way.

Spanish Countryside - Vim & Vintage Blog

What was interesting was how among all the hills and fields, you could spot a town from miles away. Just a cluster of buildings together surrounded by nothing else but open land.  Very different from the typical urban sprawl you see here in the US.  Most of the time if you see a building it’s not by itself, but part of a city.  This condensed way of living makes everything very community oriented and walk-able.

Turon, Spain - Vim & Vintage Blog

Once we got into Malaga, it was much different from the easy country roads.  Traffic was noticeably heavier.  Parking took us about an hour to find.  Once we ditched the rental car life got much easier. I’ve always heard about how having a car in a European city can be a hassle. Now I definitely know why.

We had a taxi drop us off on the outskirts of the city where the beach is. It was so dreamy. Reminded me somewhat of Southern California. But not as showy and with minimal plastic surgery.

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beach views at Malaga - Vim & Vintage

Here was their version of Muscle Beach. And yes, we all did play on the workout equipment.

workout equipment at Malaga Beach

We ate lunch on the beach terrace at El Cachalote.  Nate’s co-worker, Dave, had heard that Malaga was known for their grilled sardines, and so we ordered a plate for the table. Woof. That sounds about as appealing as eating Spam straight from the container.  But when in Spain, you gotta experience the culture. So I tried them.  I must say, they were actually really good. For my meal, I ordered the fried Red Snapper and it was the best I’ve ever had.

Grilled Sardines in Malaga - Photo by: Nataliya Borener

On our trek from the beach back into the city, we visited the Gibralfaro Castle.  Another interesting tidbit about Spain I observed: Each city, large or small, has its own iconic Cathedral and a Castle. The larger cities almost always have a bullring in addition.

Since castle was used for protection of the adjacent palace, it was at the highest elevation of the city.  Homegirl practically hiked a mountain to get up there, but it was so worth it. The best views of the city were waiting for us.

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Castle views - Malaga, Spain

The castle was built-in the 14th century, which is mind-boggling to me. It’s hard to imagine how something this massive was constructed without modern machinery!

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Inside the Gibralfaro Castle - Malaga,Spain

After that we went into the downtown area. I was just blown away by all the architecture.  The amount of attention paid to even the tiniest of details was just incredible. Each alleyway had a different marble, stone, or paver. Pretty much every surface was marble or natural stone. I have never seen anything like it.

Alley shot in Malaga, Spain

Door in Malaga, Spain - Photo By: Nataliya Borener, Vim & Vintage

Pebble Floor in Malaga, Spain - Vim & Vintage Blog

Doors in Malaga, Vim & Vintage blog

View of Cathedral from alley - Malaga, Spain

One of my favorite things about Malaga was the different patterns of marble in the alleyways downtown.  Yes, that is all marble!! It’s absolutely insane. The city had such an interesting mix of old architecture but also at the same time had a newer, more cosmopolitan feel.

Malaga downtown - Vim & Vintage blog

Here’s the Cathedral, in typical massive fashion.

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We walked around the city until about 9-9:30pm and then decided we should call it a day. These day trips always leave you grateful you got to see so much in such a short period of time, but also yearning for more and wishing you could stay longer.

I later found out that Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga. AND there’s a museum with tons of his work.  I MEAN, NO BIG DEAL. I about kicked myself for not doing any research beforehand because I would have loved to go. I don’t get FOMO very often, but when it’s Picasso, it’s a different story.

But as my first European love, I’m sure I’ll return to Malaga again someday.

My next travel post will be on Sevilla.  Such a charming Spanish gem of a city.

Where was your first city you visited in Europe or abroad?  Was your mind blown?

 

 

 

 

 

 

checking off that bucket list

Since the last time I’ve posted (about a month ago), I’ve been in 4 different countries.

I started off April with a spontaneous trip to Mexico, came back to the US for less than 48 hours, then left for the last minute and highly unplanned trip to Spain & Morocco.  Going to Europe has been on my bucket list for the better chunk of my life, so to finally be able to check that one off was a phenomenal feeling. And Africa too?! I still can’t believe it. What’s equally as incredible is how all of this came together in such a short period of time.

sevilla

I’ve always been fascinated by the “just book a ticket” mentality.  When I was younger, I used to have a pretty fierce spontaneous side, but over the years that has been replaced by my more rational, responsible side.  So just randomly booking a ticket to Europe about 11 days out with no real plan was, umm, just slightly out of the comfort zone.  But now I know why they say you don’t really live until you push yourself outside of it.  I felt more alive than I have in probably months, maybe even years.  It’s like I went from one euphoric experience to another. No, I didn’t do plethora of drugs. I’m talking just being completely high on life.  That’s the feeling you get when you put all other thoughts aside and do what’s best for your soul.

quit your job, buy a ticket - island company.jpgThe perfect analogy I have for making the trip is in reference to my love of breakfast tacos.  When I moved to Texas and had my first breakfast taco, I was so blown away by the amazingness that just hit my taste buds, all I could think was, “How did I go my entire life not experiencing this?!”  And that’s exactly how I feel about Europe, times like 10.  It’s that feeling of instant unexpected satisfaction, where something you knew would be great was even better than you could have imagined. As soon as I stepped foot out of the train in Jerez, Spain and looked around at the amazing tile-work at the station, all I could think is, “Why haven’t I did this sooner?”  In this life our biggest regrets come from the things we didn’t do, and wished we had.

train station jerez de la frontera

I have so many pictures and memories from the trip, but perhaps the insight gained from the whole experience has been the most rewarding.  While I was there, I felt so removed from my daily life, and I loved it. Travel has this way of helping me clear my head, and I had so many revelations being able to view my own life from the outside.  I can’t wait to share everything I’ve learned, observed, and experienced.  I will be doing a series of travel posts, highlighting each place I visited.  I just can’t wait to show you how amazing it all is, maybe it will encourage you to book that ticket to your dream destination too. 🙂  Now is the time.

 

my heart is in Spain

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Some of you may have wondered if/when I was going to return to this blog. I have also wondered that too lately. There’s so many thoughts and ideas that pop into my head, but I never make the time to just sit and write anymore.  For the better part of my life, I would journal each day. It’s like a lost art to me now.

As my intention for this blog has always been to create a forum for self-expression with life, design & creativity, I tend to want to avoid super-personal posts. Well, this is one of those I’ve avoided for awhile now.

You know how every once in awhile you begin to feel like you have it together – that you have a plan formulated, goals to achieve, and a path to follow – and then Life comes in pulls the tablecloth out from under you? Well that happened to me back in January.

I started the new year making a list of goals:

  • Self discovery
  • Slowing down and embracing the moment
  • Living each day fully present
  • Read a book each month
  • Give freely
  • Go to Europe
  • Follow my dreams

It all sounds good, right? It totally is. And I know I’m destined to do each of these things. I just wasn’t prepared for the means to get there.  Let me explain.

On Martin Luther King Day, I got an email from Nate telling me about a work trip he was approached with and to give him a call at work. He never wants to talk on the phone at work. Really he can’t even bring his cell phone into his workplace.  He got news that morning that he could sign up to travel across Europe for his job. For up to 6 months. And oh, by the way, they would like to leave in the next few weeks. Gulp.  I felt like I had instantly gotten sucker-punched. I don’t deal well with change and this wasn’t exactly part of the plan for this year. He told me I had veto power on the decision, but they needed an answer pretty quickly. I asked him what he wanted to do. He said, “I think it’s the trip of a lifetime. I want to go.” And so I said, “Then that’s what I want you to do”.

The thoughts that followed over the next hours and days fell into pretty much every emotion category. Sadness. Excitement. Fear. Anxiety. Worry. Awe. There were moments I’d think: “Wahhhh. What about ME??” Then the next day was like, “Wow, what an amazing opportunity for you! I’m just so happy for you.” Yup. All over the place.

After saying goodbye became a reality, flashbacks of 2009-2010 entered my mind. Straight back to that time when he had just gotten back from his last tour in Iraq. Anyone who knows our story knows about the 2 year time period of us being apart while I was at college at Michigan State and he was in Florida in the Air Force from 2006-2008. And then us finally being in the same spot again and him getting deployed to Iraq in 2009. His re-enlistment was up in 2010 and he wasn’t staying in the military, so all I could think about was how we’d NEVER have to do the long distance thing ever again! Hooray!  Well, HA, the irony. Never say never.

He left four weeks ago today.

I haven’t wanted to disclose that to the world. Really, just my close friends and family know. I guess I didn’t want people to know I was alone. Furthermore, I didn’t want people to feel like they have to do anything out of the ordinary for me. It’s kinda crazy how reserved I’ve become in comparison to the very open person I once was.

I think that’s about to change though. I’m going to make the time to start blogging again. Writing and sharing ideas is something I really do enjoy, so I owe it to myself to do it. I’ll also share the journey with you. That way I won’t feel so alone, right?  Plus you can see all the phenomenal places Nate’s visiting.  And of course all the super cool things I’m doing with my life too ;).

Here’s to a life changing year of personal growth!

xo