Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Sunrise to Sunset


Sunrise
Waking up to this. 

Street Cleaners

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.


Tuna

"My big fish must be somewhere." Ernest Hemingway, the Old Man and the Sea

Vitamin Sea 
Keep calm and eat lunch.

Fisherfolk

“Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.” - Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Poetry in Motion

"If all politicians fished instead of spoke publicly, we would be at peace with the world." Will Rogers

Sunset

"The day is done 
and the darkness falls 
from the wings of night." Henry W. Longfellow 

*****

Images by travelswithcharie



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Pueblos Blancos of Andalucia


"My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth's loveliness." Michelangelo 

Plaza de España in Grazalema

In the valley of the Sierra del Endrinal sits a peaceful town of a few thousand residents. Grazalema was our first stop along the pueblos blancos route. We had heard of their "cabello del angel" pastry and were curious about this "angel's head". We picked up some at a bakery off the plaza. They were sweet, as sweet as little angels who lovingly keep us out of harm's way.

Zahara de la Sierra

It's a hairy drive to Zahara de la Sierra through winding mountain roads offering spectacular views of the Embalse de Zahara, a reservoir surrounded by green peaks and valleys. In the center of Zahara is a mirador, a large terrace with a sweeping view of red rooftops spilling down the hill to the blue waters of the man-made lake below.


Setenil de las Bodegas stands apart from other whitewashed villages because many of its houses are built under and inside rock overhangs. It was once known for its wineries, hence the bodegas designation but an insect infestation wiped out the vineyards in the 1860s. The bodegas have since been replaced by manufacturers of chorizo (sausage). Setenil also produces almonds and olives.

Olvera

My most unforgettable memory of Olvera was our drive up to the church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnacion on a narrow stretch of road that wraps around this hilltop town. I was afraid we would meet a car on its way downhill as we drove to the top of Olvera. But as it was siesta time, we encountered no one. I thought that we would probably not find a parking space near the church since the town is packed full of houses and was therefore surprised to find a spacious plaza with a panoramic view of the beautiful countryside. Olvera refers to woodland or olive grove and yes, olive oil is one of its main products.

How to get to the Pueblos Blancos from Ronda:
The best way to see the pueblos blancos at a leisurely pace is by renting a car. Or take a tour offered by a taxi company, Ronda.taxi, to three or four white washed villages for approximately 120€ per taxi. (Rates as of November 2015). Their brochures are available at most hotels or at the tourist information offices in Ronda. 

*****

Images by travelswithcharie


Monday, February 22, 2016

Puerto Rico Restaurant


Puerto Rico Restaurant

We were lucky to have found a really good restaurant in the center of Madrid. So many other people concur by the queue that forms outside the restaurant on most days.

Few tables

There are only 14 tables in the restaurant. And it just takes a few minutes after opening when all the tables are spoken for.

Eggplant Berenjenas

One of my favorite appetizers is berenjena. Puerto Rico serves thinly sliced eggplant dipped in egg yolk. I can eat a plateful and why not? It's only €2.75. I also like the fish soup with rice and a sprinkling of shellfish. The menu of the day is €11 and includes an appetizer, main entrée, dessert and beverage or tea or coffee. (This was the price in November 2015.)

The main entrée is served with salad or two scoops of rice. Bread is extra. I ordered trucha (trout) a la plancha and filet of chicken a few times. These were my favorites from the menu.

Puerto Rico Restaurant is on Calle Chinchilla, 2 near Plaza del Carmen in Madrid. It opens at 1 p.m. and closes at midnight. Metro stops are Gran Via, Sol or Callao.

Buen provecho!

*****

Images by travelswithcharie


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of the Almudena



The statue of Our Lady of the Almudena was brought to Spain by St. James, the apostle. It was hidden for centuries to keep it from being desecrated and destroyed by the arrival of the Moors in Spain in the 8th century. The search for the statue commenced after Spain was reconquered from the Moors in the 11th century.  It was miraculously found on November 9, 1085 during a novena and procession held for the purpose of finding her image. Since then Madrid has celebrated annually the feast of Our Lady of the Almudena, the patron saint of the city, on November 9.

A makeshift altar on the Plaza de la Almudena in front of the Cathedral holds the floral and food offerings of the faithful. The two front portals of the Cathedral are open only on this feast day. (Visitors usually enter through the side doors.) I found long lines of people trying to enter the Cathedral through the main doors to visit the image of Our Lady.

    Cathedral of Our Lady of the Almudena

The crypt is a curiosity in itself. An impressive number of classical columns guide the visitor around the crypt with its side altars and tombs of prominent families. These families decorate the tombs of their deceased relatives with huge bouquets and wreaths on the feast of the Almudena. 

    Crypt

There is also a procession from the Cathedral through the streets of Madrid on November 9. Festivities continue all day long. It's a moving tribute to Our Lady of the Almudena.

*****

Images by travelswithcharie



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Córdoba

"To Cordoba belong all the beauty and ornaments that delight the eye or dazzle the sight. Her long line of Sultans form her crown of glory; her necklace is strung with the pearls which her poets have gathered from the ocean of language; her dress is of the banners of learning, well-knit together by her men of science; and the masters of every art and industry are the hem of her garments." Stanley Lane Poole, The Moors in Spain: Introduction 

    Mesquita

One of the most amazing places I've visited in the world is the Mesquita. The Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba was built on the site of the Church of San Vicente from the Visigothic occupation of Córdoba in the 6th century. It has changed ownership a few times since then. Muslims ruled Córdoba from the 8th century through 1236 when Córdoba fell to Christian Spain. The Mesquita which was completed in 976 was left intact until King Ferdinand III converted the mosque to a cathedral within a mosque in the 13th century.

When you enter the Mesquita, do so with your eyes closed. Open them only when you are inside the great hall to feel the full impact of 856 columns topped by two tiers of red and white arches stretched across what was once the Great Mosque. There's something transcendent in this hallowed hall that tugs at my being. It's a sacred place.

    Calleja de las Flores

Córdoba is also famous for its Festival of the Patios which happens annually in May when flowers are in full bloom. We visited in late October and cooler temperatures had permeated the air but there were still traces of the colorful floral displays in the streets and courtyards of the old city. It's so much fun peering through wrought iron gates to catch a glimpse of the beautiful patios. 

The tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption is framed by the narrow alley called Calleja de las Flores. The alley is frequently mobbed by tourists and trying to take a photo could be quite a challenge. It's a lot more quiet in late afternoon.

   Garden of the Alcázar 

The garden of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos is a welcome escape from the Andalusian sun with its fountains, citrus trees, colorful flowers and inviting benches. 

Cypress trees line the path which leads to the statues of Columbus and the royal couple. This grand garden was once fed by the waters from the Guadalquiver River nearby using a waterwheel which is still in existence. The large ponds are 19th century additions.

    Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts in Córdoba is also the birthplace of Cordoban painter, Julio Romero de Torres. He is best known for his portraits of women with expressive eyes. The museum was founded by Rafael Romero Barros, the father of the painter. It's located on Plaza del Potro and has one of the most beautiful patios in Córdoba. 

    Patio of the Museum of Fine Arts

How to get there:
Take the Ave train from Madrid for the two hour journey to Córdoba.

Where to stay:
Eurostars Maimónides Hotel 
Torrijos 4, Córdoba (Across from the Mesquita)
The Maimónides is a very good hotel and reasonably priced. Our room was spacious and included wifi. The hotel is a stone's throw from the Mesquita and is conveniently situated close to many "must see" sites in Córdoba. 

Where to eat:
Ordoñez Taberna y Vinoteca,
Calle Medina y Corella 1
I loved the honey eggplant!

I liked the area of the Plaza Agrupacíon de los Cofradias which is a small square and has less tourist traffic. Found the food at the corner restaurant quite good and the service was fast and efficient. It was relaxing to eat lunch al fresco in this plaza. The restaurant had several kinds of fish dishes on the menu and I ordered the salmon.  I wanted to return that evening for the espada (swordfish) but we decided to stay at the hotel after a long day of walking and sightseeing.

*****

Images by travelswithcharie


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Gibraltar

Rock of Gibraltar
The train service between Ronda and Algeciras is limited. In Algeciras we took the bus to Gibraltar. We knew we had a tight window for sightseeing so we could make it back to Algeciras in time to catch the last train to Ronda. And the rain didn't help at all. But we managed.

The approach to La Línea de la Concepción on the Spanish side of the peninsula gave us the best glimpse of the 426 meter high limestone rock towering behind the beach and harbor. The Rock was a spectacular sight to behold!

Crossing the runway
We waited for an EasyJet flight to take off before the security barricade was lifted and we could safely cross the runway to get to the city center. Cars, buses, trucks and people moved quickly across the tarmac. In the distance we could see a lot of new construction. Gibraltar's area size is only 2.6 square miles but it's home to some 32,000 people. It's pretty crowded.

The runway of the Gibraltar International Airport
This is an active runway and as it is open to the sea on both ends, it acts like a wind tunnel. With intermittent rain showers during our visit, we got a little wet. The wind rendered our umbrella useless.

Winston Churchill Avenue
There is usually a queue of vehicles waiting to cross the runway. It's best to leave the car on the Spanish side of the border and walk across the tarmac. Buses going up to the center of town run a regular schedule if walking is not an option.

Tower of Homage
The 14th century Moorish castle complex can be glimpsed from Main Street. What's left are the Tower of Homage and the Gatehouse which were rebuilt in 1333 when the Moors reconquered Gibraltar from Spain and occupied it for the next 129 years. 

Phone booth
What can be more British than this iconic red phone booth? Remember when we used to close the door of the booth to talk in privacy? 

Tropical Foliage
How to get there from Ronda, Spain;
Our whirlwind trip to Gibraltar from Ronda was achieved using a combination of train and bus to transport us. The Altaria is not a fast train and we left Ronda at 9:18 a.m. and were in Algeciras by 11 a.m. The bus station in Algeciras is conveniently located across the street from the train station. We waited a few minutes to board the bus to La Línea which is a short walk from Gibraltar. After showing our passports to a Customs Officer, we were waved through. Outside the Customs office are tour operators offering a variety of sightseeing opportunities around the peninsula. There is a bus stop a few meters outside the Customs building on Winston Churchill Avenue for visitors who wish to take the red bus across town.

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie