Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Algarve

It is 4:30 in the morning. I have been awake since 3:30. My head hurts and I can't sleep. Jet lag. Over the past three weeks my brain and body somehow adjusted rather easily to a 9 hour time shift between Oregon and Spain. Now back, in Oregon, the shift back isn't going as smoothly. So, here I am, awake at this ungodly hour and it seems like a good time to try to figure out why I was unable to post more than one chimney photo to my blog in the last week of our trip. I left off in Sevilla, which now seems ages ago, so what came next...

The Algarve. Portugal's south coast.

Little white villages, climbing up beachside cliffs. The Algarve is all about kicking back, eating great fresh fish, walking on the beach, looking at the stars and exploring. It was a good change of pace from cities, museums and palaces.

 


 
After taking a bus from Sevilla, we rented a car and set out to explore a bit of the Algarve on our own. Besides its beauty and quaint charm, the area has history. Driving out from Selema, where we were staying, to Sagres and Cape St. Vincent, we were headed to " the end of the world"— the southwestern point of the European continent. Back in the 1300's, for Europeans, this was the literal end of the known world and the point from which eventually the great Portugese explorers would venture out into the unknown. It was here that Prince Henry the Navigator established his school of navigation and dreamed of a sea route to the treasures of India. The drama of the cliffs and vast expanse of ocean can still stir the imagination as you stand at the Cape Vincent lighthouse and walk around the point at the Fortress at Sagres.

 

 

Well, my posting problem seems have been resolved. Perhaps it was simply an inadequate wifi connection in Portugal that was holding things up.

I have more to share—the rest of The Algarve and Lisbon—I have a fear that if I don't record all this while it is fresh in my mind I will forget it! This blog has become my travel journal, so it is actually mostly for myself that I am posting. If you don't mind reading and viewing my vacation photos, I am happy for your company. If you've tired of the whole thing I'll be back to fabric and such in a few days!

And now, coffee and breakfast. It is still way too early, but Ray, my fellow traveler, is awake as well, and has made coffee. We will stumble through the day and hope our inner clocks are rewinding...

 

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

"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.