A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010

Cordoba and Jaen

sunny 33 °C

We did the quick drive to Jaen and arrived tired at the Parador and all slept well. the Parador

the Parador

After discussion we decided to do a bit of driving and we are heading to Cordoba. Got a good park on the river at the end of the roman bridge – don’t know if it was legal but it was good. Over the river and into town. You can see the muslim influence all around the town with houses with patios inside. Unfortunately we have missed the week long party of the patios when people invite you in to have a look at their gardens.Patio

Patio


The main attraction here is the Mezquita – the massive mosque complex built and extended by the Moslems when they were the rulers of the land between the 10th and 14th centuries. They had built it after demolishing a small Visigothic church (because they were not into religious tolerance – according to the guide). The Mezquita Arches

The Mezquita Arches

When the Spaniards got back in, they wanted to preserve the structure of the mosque (as they were not into wrecking things like the Muslims – again I quote from the guide). So they built the cathedral within the structure of the mosque before they expelled the Jews and Muslims from Spain. Anyway, besides the interesting bombastic diatribe in the printed guide, the Mezquita is an amazing forest of arches that seems to stretch on forever. It would have been impressive full of people at prayer. At the southern end of the Mezquita is the mihrab, which points the faithful towards Mecca. This being the focal point is well decorated and has a roof tiled in gold mosaic that was a gift from the byzantine emperor in the 10th century.Mihrab ceiling

Mihrab ceiling

Arches In the Mezquita

Arches In the Mezquita


We went for a walk around Cordoba and saw a few sights, some of the private houses with their patios covered in flowers were great to see. We saw inside the 9th century Synagogue which has been all but forgotten after the Jews and Muslims were chased out of Spain in the 15th century. There were some scraps remaining of the detailed wall decorations with quotations in Hebrew.
Nearby I was looking for the bullfighting museum, but it was closed for renovations (and has been since 2008 according to the guide book) which annoyed me no end as I had dressed up specially.We Love our Kukuxumusu

We Love our Kukuxumusu


We headed back to Jaen and headed into town, but the places recommended were closed on these days. Instead we lucked on a tapas bar on Plaza del Posito where they have a great supply of jamon and salmorejo – a cold vegetable soup. Just wish I could remember the bar's name.We had to climb up that after a drink or two...

We had to climb up that after a drink or two...

Posted by lostagain 16:12 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Granada

With the Alhambra this time

sunny 35 °C

Again we head over to grab bocadillos, but get distracted on the way at a place called Reez. This is a small studio run by Celina and Juan in Placeta Albiada in Albayzin, www.reez.es. Here they make and sell inspired creations in glass and silver. Within two minutes of arriving we were all sold on a necklace for L, and after a few minutes more we realized that they made the necklace we bought for someone else in the centre yesterday! They have a great range of creations and are continuing to challenge themselves in new directions. In the end we get a number of things and have them sent back to Oz as they are too big and fragile to carry.
We get the bocadillos – great again – and head for the Alhambra. Well, first we have to get a Batidos to steel us for the long afternoon. And then we stop at tourist shop where L has to get me another Kukuxumusu shirt when she sees the design and G gets another one too. We are hooked. On up the hill.
We get up and get our tickets – reserved earlier, they spit out as soon you stick in the purchasing cards. Grab an audioguide and then off – in the wrong direction. First stop is the Generalife. These magnificent gardens consist of a 50 metre wide and 500m long terrace with different gardens leading up to the Summer palace built by the emirs of the day. The gardens have rose walks, fountains and pools, framed views of the Nasrid palace, and hedgerows.
Generalife gardens

Generalife gardens

It is a hot day but the temperature drops straight away in here. We enjoy this for a while before we head into the palace. Here there is a mounting yard and reception patio (as far as the likes of you and I would have got) before going up to the Patio of the Water Channel. This is a patio with an arched colonnade around the outside and a pool running down the centre with fountains playing into it. The plantings are quite recent, and if it wasn’t for the bloody tourists the whole thing could be quite relaxing!
The Water Patio

The Water Patio

The water stairs, Generalife

The water stairs, Generalife

We spend quite a bit of time here enjoying the vista before moving on. We are shadowing a couple having their wedding photos done – he is trying not to sweat in the 34 degree heat and coat tails, but not being successful. Wandered through the Medina, then to the Parador (didn’t get into this one – too expensive) where we settle down for a cool restoring drink. Not cheap, but nothing is up on the Alhambra.
Refreshments at the Parador

Refreshments at the Parador


Next we dive into the Moorish bath (figuratively) before going on to Carlos V’s palace. Story goes that he liked the Alhambra and it’s architecture so much he wrecked a good portion of it to stick his own palace in which was then never finished when he pegged it. It would probably be quite a drawcard if it didn’t have so much to compete with here.
Off to the western end and the Alcazabar. This is the original fortification protecting Granada looking out over the valleys below and linked across to other forts on the Sacramonte side. There is a tangle of cobbled approaches up to the main gates, each protected by another doorway and fortifications. From the main towers there is a view over all of modern Granada, which is growing at quite a rate. The final part of the Alcazaba is a small garden set nicely on the outside wall to catch the sun.
Alcazaba Garden

Alcazaba Garden


Last is the highlight of the visit – the Palacio Nazaries. Visits here are by a system of timed entries, you get in during an assigned half hour slot, and if you are late you miss out. Start by heading through a chamber used to hold low level councils and to deal with the common folk. This has some great mosaic tile work, and was later converted into a chapel. Beyond this was the patio of the Gold Room, where a certain rank would get to and higher ranks would be greeted. Beyond this was the Golden Room, used for top meetings. The patio is marble floored with great plaster and tile decorations. We go through here into the palacio de Comares, built as the residence of the ruler. The main feature here is the use of water and light in the Patio of the Myrtles, with a huge space with a pool down the centre and plantings around the outside (more recent and to stop tourists falling in I think).
Patio of the Myrtles

Patio of the Myrtles


Then there is the Salon de Comares, the great audience hall. It is not huge, but very ornate. It has an detailed marquetry ceiling showing the sky, and fantastic plasterwork on the walls. Plenty of people stare up in wonder until they lose themselves and fall over backwards. This leads through other rooms to the magnificent Patio of the lions – well I’m told it’s magnificent, all I could see was screening, scaffolding and a space where the lions were not. Patio des leones (sin leones)

Patio des leones (sin leones)

Also the room of the kings was closed because they heard we were coming. From the patio we work our way to the Patio de Lindajara (not to much scaffold here) which looks to be a 1700’s planting, and then out to the Partal gardens, with its great pavilions and pools. Out the turnstile and into the remainder of the gardens.
Patio Linderaja

Patio Linderaja

In the Partal Gardens

In the Partal Gardens


Well it is a fantastic place to see, but frustrating that there is so much scaffolding around. The Generalife was much better then I was expecting, and I was hoping for more from the Nasrid palace. So even on the whole. If yo want to spend more time in the ticketed areas, you can see Carlos V’s palace and the Arab baths without a ticket ( or before/after your afternoon/morning session) filling your time in the ticketed areas.
We got a taxi back to the cave but it was 8pm and we had to drive up to Jaen yet.

Posted by lostagain 15:54 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Malaga and Granada

Not the Alhambra yet - here we stay in a cave

sunny 33 °C

Guess where we are staying in Malaga? That’s right a Parador – The Malaga golf Parador. It is new and light and airy and right on the beach with a pool and golf course. It is also on the landing path of the airport so despite the triple glazing we have heard planes all night. They let us stay a little late so we can have a swim in the pool before we leave.
From our room

From our room


Malaga town centre, once you are past the concrete jungle is not too bad. We get a milkshake and get a bike taxi ride around. The roman theatre is behind a fence for repairs. We have a bite to eat and then get on the road to Granada.
Malaga taxi

Malaga taxi

Well we try. As with a lot of Spanish cities, road signs come and go, and a lot are placed behind trees just to help. We are heading out of Malaga and cross over the road we are supposed to be on – not good. Back again, then see where the missing piece wasn’t.
Along the coast and then up to Granada. We have to meet our host in Plaza Nueve, which we find no problems, but there is no place to stop, and the flow of traffic forces us through and up a tiny street next to the river teeming with people out for their Saturday night display. Nowhere to stop still. Then L pulls onto the footpath at the only bit that is wide enough, and we call Carol who comes and picks us up. No worries, we were heading in the right direction anyway. Follow up some of the narrowest roads seen to date and get settled in our home for the next two nights - a cave in the Sacramonte district.

The cave is one of a series dug in the area and a lot are used for tourists but the majority are still lived in. Ours has been a two space cave with an add on at the front with all the plumbing for tourist comfort. Wander a little down the ‘road’ to see the sunset over the Alhambra. We settle in under the blankets as it is naturally cool.
Alcazaba at sunset

Alcazaba at sunset


Generalife at sunset

Generalife at sunset


The next morning (just) we get up and have cereal for breakfast. We have a wander into the town centre via the narrow cobbled streets of Sacramonte and Albayzin, where the guide book tells us tourists often get mugged. Some great views across to the Alhambra though. What we do get here is some great value bocadillos – 2 Euro each for chorizo tomato and cheese – and great fresh stuff too. Head on down into the centre trough the old town which has been decked out in stores much like the medina streets in Morocco. We wander around but being Sunday nearly no shops are open, except for tourist shops and heladeria. Grab a batidos each to keep us fortified. Head around the streets just taking it in until the royal chapel is open; this was raised for Ferdinand and Isabel but was not finished until after they died. Isabel was the driving force behind the Spanish Inquisition, throwing all the Moslems and Jews out of Spain after they took the keys to the country and sent Christopher Colombus off on his journeys. Anyway, they ended up with a lovely chapel on prime real estate and lovely marble monuments over their lead coffins in the crypt. The very cheeky next generation (whom no one remembers) had their own monuments built there, but a bit higher than Isabel and Ferdinand. Bad form. Some of F& I’s favourite religious paintings and accoutrements are also on display here and worth a visit. We wandered around a bit more but I don’t recall too much. Had an ordinary dinner in Plaza Bib-Rambla –avoid eating in tourist plazas like that.
Next morning we have breakfast, bring in the washing and pack up. We are leaving the bags in the caves for the day while we go to the Alhambra in the afternoon.
Our cave house

Our cave house

In our cave house

In our cave house

Posted by lostagain 16:48 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Cadiz and Gibraltar road trip

Did neither of them justice

sunny 32 °C

Early off today – seriously – as we have a lot to get through. We are heading down to Cadiz as our first stop, a couple of hours away. It seems to go quickly and we are soon driving the 5 km new town approach into the old town. We know where the car park we want is, but with all the rebuilding they are doing for 2012, they have blocked off the usual access. Instead we skirt around for a different way in which means going through the maze of the old town lane ways barely wide enough to fit through. We don’t know where we are, but we are following someone, and suddenly we are out and just around the corner from our park. Brilliant!
healthy breakfast

healthy breakfast


Map from tourist info, then head into the market for a breakfast of churros and hot chocolate sludge. The market has been renovated and is fantastic – the seafood (this being a port) all looks great and fresh. We settle for some apricots, cherries and nectarines, and head up to Santa Caterina fort through all the back streets.
Cadiz market

Cadiz market


This fort looks over the north end of the peninsular, protecting the approaches into the harbour. Now it has been restored and holds exhibitions of modern art.
Street art

Street art

Santa Catalina fort

Santa Catalina fort

Having appreciated this, we head south to the cathedral and some old art, the roman theatre. This was discovered accidentally in 1980 when a new development was started. They must have been annoyed. We head back into the city lanes for a short dose of Cadiz before mounting up and doing another 2 hours to the next stop today, Gibraltar.
Approaching Gibraltar around the bay, it is easy to see how important it was and is. It rises up over 400m and gives views right across the Med to Morocco – it would not be easy to get past. We park the car on the Spanish side and walk across the airport.
Approaching over the runway

Approaching over the runway

Traffic looks light on and the carparks are cheaper than in Spain, should have driven across. Once in we grab a map again and wander up Main street. We are not really sure what to look at – G and I could spend a day or two looking at all the military things, but time is against us. What we do find is the bookshop! We buy five books to keep us going for the rest of the trip.
We have to go up the rock and G has chosen the cable car. There are also people who will drive you up for a touch less than the cable car, and drive you to the sights at either end of the rock too. If I was there again I would take the drive. The cable car cost 26 pounds, you were not supposed to leave the cable car station, the middle station was closed (but you were not told that) and the multimedia presentation was an audioguide that they wanted us to leave our passports for – not happening. Take the car tour.
View down the cable car

View down the cable car

Once up the top of the Cable Car (which is not the top of the rock despite what they say) the view is fantastic – clear over to Morocco, miles into Spain, all the ships going through the straits and other waiting to dock. We also go for a walk and stir up some of the Apes by getting the camera out of the bag – they think it is feeding time and go for the bag!
One for Lisa

One for Lisa


Cable Car back down and then walk around to the 100 ton gun on the shore. Never fired in anger, but the first one cracked a barrel when they double charged it. Then find the bus for a trip back into the centre, whilst i go for a shop at Morrisons Supermarket – ah the memories! We wander round a bit more, and have English fish and chips for dinner before the trip back over the airport and onto our destination for the night – Malaga.
The big one

The big one

The rock

The rock

Posted by lostagain 16:36 Archived in Gibraltar Comments (0)

In and around Seville

And very nice too

sunny 33 °C

In the morning we leave Tavira to head back into Spain. As we drive along the roads, there are stork nests everywhere. They have obviously decided the man made trees are a lot easier than the natural ones as every single electricity pylon has a nest on – some have three. The electricity companies have decided it is easier to encourage them than to have them nest in the more sensitive bits of the grid and in many places have added platforms to the pylons suitable to start a nest on!
Stork's nest in a radio tower

Stork's nest in a radio tower


As we get close to Sevilla, I notice something we have seen on TV. It is the huge solar array where hectares of mirrors reflect the sun onto towers to capture the heat. We decide to investigate, and get off at the next stop. An hour later, we have circled the installation, getting no closer than 5 kms away. We are about to chuck it in when we see a small sign to Solargeo 1, and head down there. There is no visitors centre, but we can get up to the wire with no issues and see it at close range. The reflected light on the target is so intense that it glows white hot, hurts your eyes to look at and seems to pulse in the heat. Looking closely from the side you can see puffs of smoke as unaware insects have been attracted to the glow and been vaporised in a blink. We don’t know what happens to birds.
We found it!

We found it!

Hotter than Blazes

Hotter than Blazes


We head into Sevilla to have a look around before finding tonight’s Paroador. We park near the Bull Ring, but race past on the way to the centre. First things first - to the Heladeria to get a Batido each. That’s a milkshake.
World's biggest Gothic cathedral

World's biggest Gothic cathedral


We get to the Cathedral with 30 minutes to spare, and so are travelling around a bit fast. Once we get in we are told that one of the main features, the Giralda is closed for renovations. Inside the cathedral is massive, a huge gothic building built over a mosque torn down after the Christians took over the city. A lot of the hall of the cathedral is relatively plain, the decoration is in the side chapels, the choir and the altar. The altar is ginormous and very detailed. In the back of the sacristy it is possible to see some of the original Muslim details behind all the treasures, and there is the council room, where the church bigwigs met. We exit out into the orange patio still preserved from the mosque as where the devout would wash before prayer.
The Patio of oranges in the cathedral

The Patio of oranges in the cathedral


We are staying tonight at the fantastic Carmona Parador. Yes I do love them, yes they normally are expensive, but they can be within reach if you get set price (tarifica unica) deals far enough ahead, or take advantage of other offers. Become an amigos of Paradors and get more special offers! www.parador.es Carmona Parador is an old 14th Century Muslim fortress (done up a bit since then) overlooking Carmona. You have to go up through the winding cobbled streets of the old town before going in the castle walls. Once inside there is a Moorish patio with a fountain in the middle, and an opulent lounge with a view over the fields, away from the city. And there is a pool – which is open! For some reason a lot of hotels will advertise a pool, but they only run it mid June to September – even though we would be in it now, straight away.
Carmona Parador

Carmona Parador


Settled in we head down into Carmona to grab some tapas for dinner. Where we do go has a few interesting looking things so we order. They come out as big serves, and the bill is huge too, so I think we have been taken advantage of and given full sized serves. Make sure you specify raciones (tapas size), or medias (half normal serves) if you just want a small amount. Not happy, we go somewhere else for desert but end up getting the sweetest concoctions possible. Too much!
The next morning we have to be up and away. As usual it does not really happen. But we are heading off to Sevilla at a not bad hour. Our main focus for today is the Alcazar, the seat of the Moors when they ruled. And it is very impressive – but it has been added onto many times over the years by all sorts of rulers as they turned up and wanted to put their own spin on things. Today it remains the official seat of the Spanish Royal Family in Sevilla.
The Mounting Yard

The Mounting Yard


There are some great room and halls with typical Moorish tiles wood and intricate plasterwork. The pool in the patio of the Maidens was great. The Hall of the Ambassador’s was incredibly detailed.
Hall of the Ambassadors

Hall of the Ambassadors

Patio of the Maidens

Patio of the Maidens

As is always the case, the victor made use of the palaces of the defeated. The Spanish added on, their highlights include the council chamber and particularly the ceiling in the council room (where all the loot from the Americas got divvied up) and the tapestries in the Chambers of Carlos V.
Tapestry

Tapestry


From the palace it is down stairs to see Donna Maria’s Bath, a grotto created when a Patio was filled in over a Moorish garden pool. Then the gardens which are a jumble of updates on updates, from the 16th through to the 20th centuries, almost like an attempt at a tour through the ages. It is very relaxing and soothing though.
maria's bath

maria's bath

In the Alcazar gardens

In the Alcazar gardens


Alcazar gardens

Alcazar gardens


We catch a tram to the end of the line (about 500m – they are adding more) and walk to the Plaza de Espana, a huge thing, a bit of a monstrosity from an exposition in the Moorish Revival style – but the important thing was that G recognised it straight away from Star Wars episode II.
Plaza De Espana

Plaza De Espana


Walked back to the car and got not so lost on the way out this time. Back to Carmona and into the Pool for an hour before we head down and stuff our faces for dinner. Roll back upstairs to bed.
Another great Parador

Another great Parador

Posted by lostagain 16:25 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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