IMG_4735After two flights and a ferry ride, Fran and I arrived on the beautiful island of Paros, Greece.

I have to say we’re pret-ty busy here in our white Cycladic building in an olive groove with apricot and lime trees and bougainvillaea trellises.

We have a lot of daily struggles such as deciding whether to sit on Fran’s balcony or mine, whether to swim or nap, whether to have a hot cappuccino or a cold one, remembering to drive on the right (well, wrong if you’re from Australia) side of the road and deciding whether to eat a peach or an apricot. I mean these things take time, ya know? We ladies of leisure are busy gals I’ll have you know.

Twice a day we eek out a sliver of opportunity to head to a Vogue living mansion 5 minutes away with a private beach and do a bit of yoga with our favourite yoga teachers Graeme and Leonie. You know, because that’s why we’re here.

Oh and in case you didn’t know, Greece is maybe about to default on its IMF loan and potentially get kicked out of the EU…so there could be some drachma dramas up ahead. Woah.

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Recognise that familiar grin? Fran and I flew out of Spain from Seville to…

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And when you do take my sound advice and go to Granada, Armchair Pilgrims, make sure to go to La Madraza – a 14th century Islamic university. It is painted the way the Alhambra used to be, but it’s better preserved – it’s small, but also quite magical.

It’s also entertaining to check out the Cathedral and the Capilla Real where Ferdinand and Ysabel are buried (you know, the King and Queen who united Spain but more relevantly to us, Armchair Pilgrims, the Kind and Queen who IMG_4613walked the Camino de Santiago!) not so much for the ghoul factor of seeing coffins (no pictures permitted) and imagining dead people, but for the entertainment factor of seeing elderly Spanish people get teary eyed looking at the coffins.

And St Geronimo Monastery and and and … ok, I’ll stop now, but you get the message, Granada rocks and you should go (if only for the free tapas!).

IMG_4594I sat and contemplated the magnificence of the Alhambra on a cobblestoney step one evening (it kind of glows at sunset) for quite some time with this canine friend for company. You might need to enlarge the photo to spot the dog.

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Flamenco! I highly recommend putting Granada on your bucket list, Armchair Pilgrims. I was there a week and I could have stayed longer.

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The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex. Its palaces were built by Moorish emirs. Then in 1492 the Catholics came and built their own palace and converted some of the Islamic areas. The Christian stuff is pretty ordinary…but the Moorish parts are extraordinary. Despite the hoards (and I do mean hoards) of tourists traipsing through, they are still peaceful and tranquil and stunningly beautiful – with water gently trickling and not a pillar too many or a pillar too few. It’s one of the few touristy places that no matter how many pictures you see, or how high your expectations are, the reality matches it.

We took a tour because getting Alhambra tickets is a grave nightmare (they sell limited numbers through ticketmaster(!) or you have to queue for hours with no guarantee of getting in). Our guide was a delight and so enthusiastic and I felt like a very professional tourist because I had one of those earpiece things so she didn’t have to shout at us. She said one thing in particular that really stuck with me – Muslim architecture is built in a discrete way so that the outside is austere and plain and the beauty is on the inside, while the Christian architecture is showy and grandiose on the outside and often ugly on the inside. If there really is no God but Allah, he would be well pleased by the Alhambra.

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Armchair Pilgrims, I know you like to walk…so here’s what I found when I went on a graffiti/street art walk around Granada. Most of the art comes from El Nino del las Pinturas (ie Raul Ruiz) and most of it is the funky Realejo area which was once the Jewish quarter. Cool, hey?

Granada means pomegranate and there are pomegranate images everywhere (from pomegranate-themed door knockers to pomegranate pictures adorning drain covers). Granada’s Albaycin (where we stayed) has a myriad of winding cobblestoned streets – once the Muslim quarter, it has few outdoor spaces because Muslims live(d) their lives mainly inside the home, focused around the courtyard as the open space. Then there is the central commercial area with wide streets, and grandiose colourful buildings, large monasteries and cathedrals and plazas and shoe shops galore.

Granada is famous for free tapas – you buy a drink and you get a free tapa. You can essentially have dinner if you have two drinks! And Granada is also the home of? Churros con chocolate! And of course there’s Granada’s greatest drawcard the Alhambra…

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There is plenty to love about Cordoba, even in the extreme heat – the Alcazar, Roman ruins, an awesome Roman Bridge (as recently seen in Game of Thrones series 5!) – it’s all good.

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I particularly enjoyed living on Jesus of Nazareth Street (just because, you know, you can’t always claim Jesus as your address). I also enjoyed the street entitled He Encontrado un Atajo which translates as “I found a Short Cut”.

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Actually, one thing I didn’t love about Cordoba was the Medina Azahara – it’s an archaeological site about 8km out of Cordoba. The history is fascinating and the (small) museum part is great but perhaps because it was 40 degrees and perhaps because they make you cram on and off buses to get to the archaeological site where the main star attraction is closed for restoration, but I didn’t really enjoy or get much out of it.

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My primary reason for visiting Cordoba was to see La Mezquita – a  mosque-cathedral – something that has always intrigued me. I know this is a common occurance – mosque to cathedral or cathedral to mosque – but this one is enchanting with its Roman columns and Gothic architecture and Courtyard of Oranges. I didn’t, however, plan on visiting it during a heatwave…42 degrees is not prime tourist temperature in inland Spain. But luckily the Mezquita is not only breath-takingly stunning with its candy-cane arches and golden mihrab, it’s cool as well. I could have stayed in there all day.

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Well, I arrived in Cordoba, only to discover that it was the Fiesta de los Patios! Who knew? The patio festival happens in May and participating in it involves wandering the cobblestoned streets and stickybeaking for free in on anyone’s patio – well anyone who has two trees parked outside their entrance’s patio – until 10pm at night. I arrived late (about 9pm) but the AirBnB guy thrust a map of patios in my hand and insisted I go patio viewing (I had planned something a little more relaxing …like a cup of tea and bed) – but I have to confess it was super fun and there were some beautiful patios to be viewed. And sometimes it’s all about the vibe, si? Si!

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