Friday, February 17, 2012


After a long morning of bus travel, our host, Paul, met us in Ubeda to drive the remaining distance to our next destination. Cazorla greeted us with a clear day that offered enchanting views of mountains and endless olive orchards, and we were immediately excited at the prospect of exploring our incredible new surroundings. Moments later, we arrived at Paul's house to discover that we would be living in a luxurious, castle-view room right at doorstep of the town's historic center, and the gateway to the mountains. Paul assured us that if the weather held up it would not be long before we were spending the majority of our days hiking, and a few days later he made good on his promise, as we made a day long trek up steep ravines and across broad plateaus, which afforded us sightings of exotic (for us) wildlife at seemingly every turn. On our very first hike we saw the most well known inhabitant of Cazorla's mountains, the ibex, and moments later with a view of Cinco Esquinas (the older of Cazorla's two castles) it became very clear that we were in an extremely unique place.

Hiking would turn out to be a consistent venture on clear days, and in the three weeks at Paul's we managed to go on some of the most memorable hikes of our lives, which included amazing forays along pristine mountain streams, tempting caves, and even the mighty Guadalquivir. We also managed to see every species of large mammal in the park, including Roe deer, Red deer, Fallow deer, European mouflon, Spanish ibex, and most importantly for Roy, wild boar!

When we weren't hiking, we were doing our best to turn Paul's home into the ideal guesthouse, as he intended to begin renting half of the property out once the spring season came around (bringing with it a flood of tourists). Our tasks were varied, ranging from interior design to finishing work on light fixtures, wall hangings, and curtains. Roy took on the task of turning an old built-in wall cabinet into a display alcove, while Catherine began painting from some of the photographs Paul had taken in his extensive travels around the globe. We also decided to do a series of paintings of the local wildlife to cover some more wall space with a bit of relevant information for future guests. Our evenings were often spent cooking delicious meals or drinking beers and eating delicious tapas at the local meson.

Our three week stay at Paul's seemed to go by at lighting-speed, but we still managed to form a strong friendship with Paul, as well as our fellow workawayers in Lauris and Natasha (who came a week before our departure), and a great respect for his generosity and hospitality in hosting us. As we rushed to board the train departing from Ubeda, we waved quick farewells to him and the girls, hurriedly shouting out intentions to see each other again in the not too distant future.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Madrid, Part 2

It was a full day of driving to get from Granada to Madrid, and well after nightfall when we arrived at our hotel near the Barajas airport terminal. As it was our last night with Judy before her flight back to California, there was melancholy for all of us, but we tried our best to keep the mood cheerful and enjoy each other's company. We decided to stay in and have a hotel-room feast, and went to bed late.

In the morning, we drove the short jaunt to the airport and returned the rental car together before seeing Judy away at the security checkpoint. It was a difficult goodbye for all of us, but made easier by the wonderful week we'd spent together. Once she'd disappeared behind the gate, we boarded the metro and made our way into downtown Madrid, where we would check into our hostel and re-group before planning our final days in the city.

The next day, we met up with Roy's aunt Bethany, as she had expressed interest in showing us around a slaughterhouse-turned-community arts center called El Matadero. We were both amazed by the size of the complex, which featured a number of studios and galleries in addition to event space, a cinema, a playhouse, a cafe, and a public media center. It was an an inspiring example of a successful, large-scale art project, and left us all enlivened and hopeful.

We would meet up with Bethany once more, on our last day in Madrid. After wandering around together, the three of us decided to go see The Artist after hearing a lot of buzz about the new film. It was a great way to cap-off our Madrid experience, and we would go to sleep that night excited by the week we'd spent exploring Spain's magnificent cities, but also at the prospect of another workaway opportunity in the mountains to the south.


After a delicious farewell lunch in Sevilla, the three of us piled into the rental car and set off for Granada. We arrived at our hotel just before nightfall, and decided to take a nap before wandering into the Albaicín to find some dinner. It was almost eleven before we made it to El Mirador de San Nicolas, at the very top of the old Moorish quarter, where we expected to get dinner at the highly-recommended Bar Kiki. Unfortunately, nearly every restaurant was closed, so we began the long walk back to the hotel, and decided to set our sights on waking early to explore.

The following morning, after a hearty hotel breakfast, we walked to the Alhambra - the classic Moorish palace and fortress, and perhaps Spain's most famous site. We spent nearly the whole day exploring the grounds, walking awe-struck from structure to structure with picturesque gardens and courtyards in between. It was a place that could not be comprehended, even remotely, through a photograph - its far-off grandeur only exceeded by its close-quarters intricacy.

Once we'd had enough of the Alhambra, we made our way to the historic center of Granada to walk around, but called it a night before too long and decided to get some sleep before the long day of travel back to Madrid which would greet us in the morning.