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Spain

Spain, Andalusia - Seville

sunny 33 °C

Seville is Spain's 4th largest city. The Rio Guadalquivir flows gently through the city of Seville which is divided into four separate areas on the eastern side (with a vibrant central shopping hub) and other traditional areas to explore across the river on the west bank. It is easy to find your way. We rented a penthouse apartment for our 3 days in Seville which was within easy walking distance of the main central tourist area.

We started our adventure with a relaxed stroll along the water to get our bearings and take in the atmosphere. Within 10 minutes (or so) we arrived at Seville's famous bullring Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza in the El Arenal quarter. Built in the 18th C, is Spain's oldest. The building certainly has a strong presence as it dominates this area of Seville. While Aaron and Rikke chose to visit it, Chas and I continued to wander quietly, window shopping and looking at the ceramics, beautiful dresses, fans, mantillas and other traditional items for which the area is renown.

In the 13thC Seville was guarded by the mighty Torre del Oro (Spanish: "Gold Tower") a dodecahedron (12 faces) military watchtower, built by the Moors in order to control access to Seville via the Guadalquivir river. It is quite an impressive building which is now used as a naval museum.

Torre del Oro

Torre del Oro

However, it is from the Torre del Oro that the river cruises depart, and that is what we decided to do to get a sense of the city. The river is quite wide but what quickly becomes apparent are the number of bridges which span it. Obviously the river and the bridges have played a big part in Seville's history. It is the only navigable river in Spain, and still navigable up to Seville.

Two bridges of interest are the Puente de Isabel II, built between 1845 and 1852. It is an interesting design, and obviously well built as it is still in use as a road bridge with hundreds of cars crossing back and forth each day. The other is the the Alamillo bridge built in 1992 when Seville hosted the World Expo. The site for the expo was La Cartuja Island, an area of the city previously undeveloped. As a result four new bridges were built of which the Alamillo is the largest and most impressive and is now a symbol for the city. Unfortunately we didn't get a pic of it.

Queen Isabel II bridge, Seville

Queen Isabel II bridge, Seville

Back on solid ground we just wandered through the narrow back streets of the central area enjoying the sights and sounds, looking at the gardens and the houses. The houses open directly onto the street and don't appear to be very impressive until one glimpses the internal courtyards which lie behind the front doors. Cool, colourful and beautiful.

External facade of homes directly onto the street

External facade of homes directly onto the street

Beautiful internal courtyards with external doors open

Beautiful internal courtyards with external doors open

It was 33deg when we were quietly walking through the back streets with interesting restaurants, shops and houses around every corner. I found it quite amusing to see this cafe with mists of water being sprayed onto lunchtime patrons to provide relief from the heat. I had not see this before.

Mists of water sprayed over cafe patrons to provide cool relief

Mists of water sprayed over cafe patrons to provide cool relief

However, the most impressive experience was our visit to Seville Cathedral. It is massive and is the most extensive Gothic cathedral in the world and the third-largest,and also another UNESCO world heritage site. Formerly Seville's Main Mosque in Moorish times, after the fall to the Christians it was taken over with construction work beginning in 1131 and the cathedral consecrated 1218. The visiting brochure indicates 44 points of interest to visit. While it is not possible to cover even a small number of these, I must tell you of two which were remarkable. The first is the main altarpiece. It is an overwhelming work of art which portrays carved scenes from the life of Christ. This was the lifetime work of a single craftsman, Pierre Dancart who spent 44 years making what you see. This photo does not capture the complete work as it is several stories high. It is beyond words to describe. You can see a full-size pic of it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre_Dancart_Alterpiece_Seville.jpg It is worth having a look. The most immense work of art I have ever seen.

Seville Cathedral altarpiece

Seville Cathedral altarpiece

Inside the cathedral's southern door stands the Tomb of Christopher Columbus. It is an elaborate monument dating from 1890s with four bearers representing the four kingdoms of Spain at the time of Columbus' 1492 voyage (Castile, León, Aragón and Navarra) which was financed by King Fernando and Queen Isabel. Interesting from an historical perspective.

Tomb of Christopher Columbus

Tomb of Christopher Columbus

On our second day we wandered through Triana on the west bank where I was able to purchase some ceramics from Ceramica Santa Ana which has sold handmade traditional ceramics since 1870. It was an adventure to browse through the store and see the amazing array of items. We also could not go home without trying tapas in an authentic Spanish tapas bar. We ordered a range of five dishes to try which of course included the Jamon serrano (salt cured ham dried in mountain air) for which the area is renown.

Cured hams for tapas hanging in cafe

Cured hams for tapas hanging in cafe

Having our lovely penthouse apartment was a bonus as we were all craving 'healthy' food. Yes, even Aaron, Rikke and Chas were looking for a change. We were able to prepare lovely meals, and sit outside on the terrace with a glass of red in the cool of the evening. Fantastic.

Enjoying dinner on our penthouse apartment balcony

Enjoying dinner on our penthouse apartment balcony

On our final day in Spain we left Seville to travel back to Faro for our flight home to Aarhus. We had an awesome time as the number of blog posts show - Ronda, Alhambra, Sierra Nevada, flamenco, fiestas, history, tradition. However I found Andalusia to also be an area of contrasts. It appears not to be economically strong in some areas with run-down, undeveloped sections. These contrast with the vibrant, lavish city centres with exclusive stores such as Cartier, YSL. I even saw Billabong in Seville along with modern 'icons' such as McDonalds Coca Cola, ToysRUs and Ikea. However, we saw several large infrastructure projects funded by the EU which I would expect are providing funds to support economical development.

Muchas gracias for a wonderful time.

Posted by patsaunder 02:51 Archived in Spain Tagged me bridges churches art buildings family_travel Comments (0)

Spain, Andalusia - Granada

city tour, the Albaicin and ... flamenco

sunny 26 °C

We caught the bus into Granada and spent several hours wandering ... coffee in the square beside the Cathedral and window shopping. Lovely stores selling traditional Spanish items. Very relaxed.

A street stall selling spices and teas

A street stall selling spices and teas

Granada cathedral

Granada cathedral


Looking back to Alhambra from Albaicin

Looking back to Alhambra from Albaicin

Granada shops

Granada shops

Streets of Albaicin

Streets of Albaicin

However, our plan for the evening was to take a slow walk up the hill to enjoy the sights and sounds of The Albaicín, which has also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is the old Arabic quarter located on the hill opposite the Alhambra. It is characterised by cobble-stoned streets with white washed houses, lovely little alleyways and inviting restaurants. The imposing structure of the Alhambra dominates. Your eyes are drawn to it as it is visible everywhere you walk. A beautiful area.

Street in the Albaicin

Street in the Albaicin

A beautiful pic of Granada looking out from Albaicin towards Alhambra

A beautiful pic of Granada looking out from Albaicin towards Alhambra

We had reserved a table at a traditional restaurant for dinner and a flamenco concert. Yeah!!! They say that Flamenco started in Andalusia. We were very excited. It was a great show and a wonderful experience.

Flamenco dancing

Flamenco dancing

Flamenco dancing

Flamenco dancing


Flamenco dancing

Flamenco dancing

Flamenco dancing

Flamenco dancing

Posted by patsaunder 23:06 Archived in Spain Tagged me art people parties family_travel Comments (0)

Spain, Andalusia - Granada

Sierra Nevada

sunny -27 °C

Granada sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada (670m above sea level), a range of 14 peaks more than 3000m high only 40km from the Mediterranean. We were fortunate to have these beautiful mountains as the backdrop for our stay in Hotel Cerra del Sol. It felt as though we could reach out and touch them, they were so close. We could not miss this opportunity to experience their rugged beauty.

With directions from our trusty Tom Tom we set off to enjoy the Vereda de la Estrella in the Sierra Nevada range following the Rio Genil (Genil River), approx. 1300m high.

We had only travelled a short distance before we had to leave the motorway and face the challenges of navigating the local roads. A missed turn on one occasion took us through extremely narrow, windy alleyways of one of the villages which caused some consternation. Eventually, through Aaron's determination, and a little luck, we finally found our way and were again on our journey. Whew!!!

However, our relief was short lived as we then realised that the road on which we were travelling into the mountains was not only windy and narrow, but also suited to single vehicle traffic, with only occasional lay-bys for passing traffic, and .... several tunnels!!! With bated breath we continued on, thankfully arriving at our destination without major incident. While one could assume this was due to limited traffic, in fact when we reach the end of the road where the walk commenced there were no spaces in the car park!! We passed many many people who were also walking this beautiful country ..... we even saw a mountain biker!!

I might add we had the same situation on the return trip, but this time we were forewarned... The road on the right of this first pic is the access road to the carpark.

Access road - on right of pic

Access road - on right of pic

Approaching tunnel on single vehicle road.

Approaching tunnel on single vehicle road.

The path was well formed, in parts zigzaging steeply uphill and others gently sloping. We passed over a couple of small streams as the water found its way down the slopes to the river. Through the dense trees we could imagine the Genil river flowing in the deep canyon below.

Rugged terrain

Rugged terrain

Rugged terrain.   Notice the stone building foundations close to centre of this pic.  I wonder what it was ..

Rugged terrain. Notice the stone building foundations close to centre of this pic. I wonder what it was ..


Enjoying the walk

Enjoying the walk


Happy walkers

Happy walkers


Enjoying lunch under the only shade we could find

Enjoying lunch under the only shade we could find

What a wonderful day we had. Fine weather, warm but not too hot, the enjoyment of being physically active, taking time to enjoy our lunch in the shade beside the path, and a sense of satisfaction of having experienced this rugged country - simple but rewarding pleasures. Aaron's only disappointment was that he did not see any mouflon (wild sheep).

The next day we ventured to the highest point we could reach, this time by vehicle, over 2100m. What a sight.

Panorama - Sierra Nevada

Panorama - Sierra Nevada

Panorama - Sierra Nevada

Panorama - Sierra Nevada

Panorama - Sierra Nevada

Panorama - Sierra Nevada


Aaron on top of the world!

Aaron on top of the world!

Posted by patsaunder 23:20 Archived in Spain Tagged me mountains skylines people trees family_travel Comments (0)

Spain, Andalusia - Granada

the Alhambra

sunny 30 °C

Our main reason for choosing Granada was a visit to the Alhambra which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of Europe's most visited attractions.

Its history is linked with its geographic location - on a hill which was difficult to access and protected by the mountains. Originally designed as a military area, the Alhambra became the residence of royalty and of the court of Granada in the middle of the thirteenth century, after the establishment of the Nasrid kingdom.

Commenced in 1248 it was built by the Nasrid rulers and used as a residence for the sultans, military commanders, civil servants and the royal court. The beautiful intricate craftsmanship, and the use of space, light, decoration and water is spectacular. Apparently Arabic artisans, supervised by poets, were employed to engrave poems and various writings and quotations from the Koran onto the walls, arches and pillars in calligraphic decoration and arabic script.

The Charles V Palace (which was built after the city was taken by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492) is also here. There is also an independent palace opposite the Alhambra where the Granadine kings relaxed called the Generalife which is surrounded by orchards and gardens.

The complex is massive consisting of three palaces, the Alcazaba or fortress, the Medina (town area) and the Generalife. It is magnificent.

I think I will just let the pictures speak for themselves, though it is difficult to convey its splendour. Here are several to whet your interest. There are many others in my public gallery.

Example of the beautiful ceramic tiling

Example of the beautiful ceramic tiling


The Arrayanes Courtyard

The Arrayanes Courtyard


Roof of the Abencerrajes Hall

Roof of the Abencerrajes Hall


Detail of the roof of the Abencerrajes Hall.   How awesome is that!!

Detail of the roof of the Abencerrajes Hall. How awesome is that!!


Intricate carvings

Intricate carvings


Detail of calligraphic detail and arabic script on walls

Detail of calligraphic detail and arabic script on walls


Beautiful design

Beautiful design

The Palace of Charles V is also a magnificent building, interesting in that it is built in an external square block, but with an circular internal courtyard. Chas and I visited the Museum of Fine Arts and learned that Granada has a long history of artistic excellence with many artists who have lived and worked here. The museum displayed fine examples of paintings and sculptures portraying the evolution of their art from the Christian times of 15thC to the modern day. Excellent.

Courtyard Carlos V Palace

Courtyard Carlos V Palace


View of Alhambra palaces (left), and Carlos V palace (right) from the Alcazaba

View of Alhambra palaces (left), and Carlos V palace (right) from the Alcazaba

Unfortunately we were unable to see one of the main attractions which is currently being restored. This is The Lions Fountain, a magnificent alabaster basin supported by the figures of twelve lions in white marble which sits in the centre of the courtyard in The Lion's Palace. This alone would be worth another visit!! I do have a postcard if anyone would like to see it.

This is an amazing complex with so much to see. I think several visits would be needed to enjoy it fully. As a result we did not have time to explore the villa of the Generalife, but we did take time to wander through the magnificent gardens before heading home. A wonderful day!! I wonder if I will ever return .... I hope so.

Gardens at Generalife

Gardens at Generalife

Posted by patsaunder 23:38 Archived in Spain Tagged me art buildings family_travel Comments (0)

Spain, Andalusia - Granada

exciting detours along the way ..

sunny 30 °C

While very much excited to be heading for Granada, we took time to check out a couple of interesting sites along the way, which also gave us the opportunity to travel through some lovely 'out of the way' areas.

Our first stop only 12 km from Ronda was Ronda la Vieja. This is the modern name for the Roman city of Acinipo which was an important town in 1st C AD. While only a little of the site has been excavated, the remains of the the lower seating levels of the ampitheatre are clearly visible. It makes one wonder "What amazing events happened here?", and reflect on the evolution of our world since that time. The views out to the mountains also made the detour well worth the trip .

Ronda la Vieja theatre

Ronda la Vieja theatre


Ronda la Vieja, magnificent ampitheatre

Ronda la Vieja, magnificent ampitheatre

View from Ronda la Vieja

View from Ronda la Vieja

.

Our next stop, took us through what is termed Malaga's "Lake District", three artificial lakes created by a dam built across the dramatic 200m. high Guadalhorce river gorge, known as the Garganta del Chorro. Very impressive. As you can see there is a small bridge across the middle of the gorge which was built during the construction of the reservoir. It is called El Camino del Rey (The King's Path), as apparently King Alfonso XIII walked along it when the dam was opened in 1921. The walk is closed to the public at the moment but if you really, really, really want to see what it is like (and do not suffer from vertigo as I do) have a look at the video on this web link. Not for the faint hearted!!! http://www.andalucia.com/antequera/chorro/home.htm

Malaga's 'Lake District'

Malaga's 'Lake District'

Garganta del Chorro

Garganta del Chorro


Garganta del Chorro

Garganta del Chorro

Notice the structure to the right of this pic. This is part of a rail network build in the second half of the 19thC with tunnels which cut through the hard limestone. These are still in use today. The skill of engineers constantly amazes me.

To top it off we were able to have a fantastic lunch at the little restaurant right there beside the road, and .... with a delightful English lady to serve us. I was therefore able to ask for, and receive, a lovely vegan lunch. Just goes to show .... We had a very relaxed and lovely time.
Lunch at El Chorro

Lunch at El Chorro

The opportunity to see one of the most exquisite birds in the world took us next to an amazing expanse of wetlands called Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra. One of the largest natural lagoons in Spain, measuring more than 6km long and nearly 3kms wide, the lagoon provides an ideal breeding spot for an amazing array of birds, including the pink flamingo. Since conservation and anti-hunting laws have been introduced, and the area declared a sanctury, numbers are increasing. It was very hot - in the 30'sC - when we arrived. Unfortunately the visitor centre was closed for siesta. Access is very restricted so as not to disturb the birds but it was awesome to see thousands of these beautiful birds.

Magnificent pink flamingos at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra

Magnificent pink flamingos at Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra

Note also in this pic the number of wind farms in the distance. We saw several wind farms and quite large solar panel farms as we travelled through Andalusia. Hopefully this is an indication that renewable energy initiatives are being encouraged in Spain.

Pink flamingos - Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra

Pink flamingos - Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra

Finally arriving in Granada we were thrilled with our accommodation, Hotel Cerro del Sol. Well situated, with everything we needed and more, a little outisde the city, but with a magnificent view of the Sierra de Nevada. Wow!

View from our room to the Sierra de Nevada

View from our room to the Sierra de Nevada


Hotel Cerro del Sol

Hotel Cerro del Sol

Once settled, we headed out to find a nice restaurant for dinner. Not that easy at 7pm as the locals eat their meal later in the evening. Most restaurants don't open until 9pm. However we did find Restaurante Los Faroles and I had a lovely meal - fresh salad with a side of butter beans (very delicious), after an entrée of sliced fried eggplant coated with honey batter. Yum. Note Chas's meal, mussels with mussels!!!

Our first dinner in Granada

Our first dinner in Granada

Now, off to see the sights of Granada - El Alhambra here we come!

Posted by patsaunder 09:45 Archived in Spain Tagged landscapes mountains lakes bridges art buildings people birds family_travel Comments (0)

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