Saturday, September 27, 2014

This is a test

This is a Potuguese chimney. I have many more photo so post, but I seem to be having a problem.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014


"Sevilla" = what in the English language we call Seville. It has always seemed odd to me that in English we change the names of some cities and countries and not others. If I ruled the world we would only use the place names that the people living there use, regardless of our own language. Say-VEE-ya Is such a much more lovely sound than Suh-VIL, in my opinion. And it is such a lovely city, it deserves to be sung, if all things were equal.

Where to begin? So grand, so rich, so charming—Sevilla has my heart. First off, just look at these accommodations.

This was our Airbnb apartment, just a few blocks from the cathedral and almost everything we wanted to see and do. It was beautiful.

Here's the cathedral—the largest in Spain and very old and historic. It was built on the ruins of a mosque after the Moors were driven out. The bell tower was the minaret, with bells added.

We were not able to tour the cathedral itself, but climbed to the top of the bell tower and took a gazillions pictures from every level. It was stunning.

One morning we took a walking tour with our terrific guide Alfonso, and got a great feel for the spirit of the city.

Cervantes statue

Moorish influence in the architecture

This is the symbol of Sevilla. It is a kind of rebus that means "Sevilla has not forsaken me" and is attributed to King Alfonzo X, in thanks for Sevilla's loyalty. The character that looks like an 8 is a skein of wool.
On our own, we visited Plaza de Espana, a grand plaza that was built for the 1929 World Exposition.

And we saved a full afternoon for the Alcazar, the beautiful Moorish Palace and gardens. It is still used as a part time residence for the Spanish royalty and is closed to the public when they are in residence. We were lucky to be there at a time it was open. Incredibly beautiful and peaceful. If I were the queen I would live there all the time.

Ray lost in the labyrinth garden at the Alcazar.

I took so many photos in Sevilla, I hardly knew what to share here. It is a wonderful city. Put it on your list! It is a city of quiet, peaceful mornings and evenings filled with wine and music and glorious food. A rich past and a vibrant culture. People seem happy here! I think they have it figured out.




Monday, September 22, 2014

The Alhambra

In Granada, this was the nighttime view from our window of the Alhambra, the ancient Islamic fortress just up the hill from us. I had ordered the tickets for our visit before we left home. There would be no chance we would miss seeing this.

The Alhambra was built sometime in the 14th century by the Moorish (Muslim) rulers of that part of Spain, as a fortified palace. The Moors were driven from Spain in 1492 and the Alhambra became a palace for the Spanish royalty. It was here that Columbus made his pitch to Ferdinand and Isabela, for his plan to find a new route to India. Today it is a well-preserved World Heritage Site.

It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. A real paradise. I won't give you a lot of description or history. The Alhambra is best experienced visually, and truly photos don't begin to tell the story. Just know this is but a small sample of architecture, details of floors, archways, tile, carving, walls, fountains, gardens...


Even surrounded, as we were, by hoards of visitors, the beauty, the sense of peace and the aura of history are quite overwhelming. It was a very special day.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Granada—Flamenco and Pomegranates

We have had such a wonderful time in Granada! It is an incredible, beautiful city, with a rich and fascinating history. My daughter, Emily, spent a term studying in Granada when she was in college, and it has fascinated me ever since hearing her descriptions and seeing her photos. It is here that the Moorish influence in Spain is probably strongest, giving it a different flavor from the other cities we have visited.

One thing Granada is famous for is Flamenco—the dance and the music. Last night we went to a Flamenco performance. You never know, when you buy tickets for something like this, whether you will be seeing the real thing or something hokey that has been trumped up for tourists. What we saw seemed pretty great and authentic (but what do we know...?)

It was a very exciting, very intense performance. Nothing dainty about Flamenco. We loved it.

As we have walked around this city I started noticing a lot of images of pomegranates, including on this street cover for city water access. I was curious and learned that "granada" is the Spanish word for pomegranite. The city was not necessarily named for the fruit. It may have come from an Arab word that sounds similar, but nevertheless the city has adopted the fruit as its emblem. Once I noticed them, I started seeing them everywhere.

On the sidewalks

Carved into the pews in the Cathedral

On local pottery

Sidewalk barriers

On a fountain

And today when we visited the gardens of the Alhambra, I saw actual pomegranates growing on trees.

Today's visit to the Alhambra was incredible and will be a post of its own one of these days. I took so many photos I really need to carefully edit and select.

Tomorrow we head off to Seville.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Travel day—to Granada

After our fun night last night, I didn't sleep. I tossed and turned and couldn't get comfortable. I was grateful, but unrested when morning arrived. So getting on a bus for a 5-hour ride wasn't a bad thing. I slept on the bus. I'm sure I had my mouth hanging open and I had my goofy blow-up neck pillow, but I was unashamed. The only person I knew on the bus was Ray and he's seen worse. This is the way of the traveler. Somehow I often sleep better sitting up on a bus than in a comfy, but unfamiliar hotel bed. It's a mystery.

We arrived in Granada mid-afternoon and found our Airbnb in the historic Albayzin area. It is pretty great. The building, much like the one in Barcelona, is ancient on a narrow little hillside street, but this one is much cozier, with furniture and a well-appointed kitchen. It even has a washer and we are doing some laundry tonight. We did a little walkabout earlier, checked out the neighborhood, had a cold beer in the plaza, bought groceries and retired to our little home away from home for the evening. Our place has two balconies and the views knocked us out. I will leave you with tonight's views.

Looking down toward Plaza Nuevo
Looking up at The Alhambra.
Pinch me. I think I'm dreaming. . .


Monday, September 15, 2014

Last day in Madrid

Today we took in the Reina Sofia Museum, which houses the works of the more modern masters, including Picasso's Guernica. When we were in Europe in 1972 we saw Guernica on exhibit in Paris. Franco was in power at that time, in Spain, and Picasso, a Spaniard by birth had declared that he would not exhibit his work in Spain as long as Franco ruled. Both are, of course, now dead, the monarchy was restored in Spain and Picasso's work has returned to his native country.

Along with Picasso, the museum's collection includes absolutely wonderful works, including many artists from Spain, but from around the world as well. Here are a few pieces that stood out for me.

"inspiration" by Josefa Tolra. I was not familiar with this artist, but this spoke to me. A Google search turns up much more by her.

"The Goring of the Woman Bullfighter" by Jose Caballero. Reminded me of the wonderful Almodovar movie "Talk to Her" about the same subject.

"Antonio and Carmen" by Antonio Lopez. Something very touching about this double portrait.

And what a treat to see good old Rothko in Spain and such good Spanish colors!

When my brain could absorb no more and my feet were rebelling, we stopped and had lunch in the museum's space-agey cafe.

This evening we met up with Keiko, an old work colleague of Ray's who has been hiking the Santiago de Compostela trail and was in Madrid today—Would not have connected at all except that she posted where she was on Facebook. The three of us went to the fabulous San Miguel Market where you can pick up small plates of prepared food to eat on the spot, or shop to take home.
You pick up your little plates and a glass of wine and find a spot at the crowded little tables in the center of the market. As luck, or fate, would have it, we ended up sharing a table with a couple of delightful guys—American Craig who is an IT guy (like Ray and Keiko) for the US State Department, and his French friend, Patric, who is a restaurant owner in Paris. The food was delicious and the company and conversation was great. At one point Patric, in his charming accent, gesturing around our table and then toward the multicultural throng in the busy market, said, "why can't the world be more like this..."

Tomorrow we are off to Granada.